The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

WHITE PRIVILEGE

Now that the “War on Women” campaign has gotten somewhat haggard, the Democrats have found a new slogan and are actively campaigning on it.  That latest diatribe is “White Privilege.”  Presumably this is the reason that minorities (translation black Americans) are at the bottom of the socio-economic pile.  It seems only prudent that we should examine the issue and try to separate fact from fiction.

In one respect I have to say that I agree with the premise that it’s easier to make a go of it in America if you’re white.  It’s also easier to make it in Hollywood if you fit the stereotype that we have developed that calls a person handsome or beautiful.  But the fact that you’re either white or beautiful or both hardly insures a successful and meaningful life.  Take a look at all the Hollywood celebrities, replete with success and adulation who have met untimely, early death, often because their success allowed them to develop habits which overwhelmed their ability to cope with their fame.

At the heart of the “White Privilege” scenario is the assumption that America only affords real opportunity to whites – and more specifically male whites.  They are the ones who are purportedly in control of the socio-economic structure and their ultimate goal is to maintain their power position on the totem pole of life, subjugating all who are not members of their exclusive club to a life of servitude, or at best, mediocrity if not downright poverty.  Well, it’s a theory.

The continuation of that theory is that the world would be a much better place were it not for those white men who have, through their philosophy caused events in history to transpire, which not only negatively have impacted people of color in the United States but worldwide.  Were it not for this self-aggrandizing view and execution of life, the world would be a wonderful Utopia.  Surely anyone with even the smallest modicum of historical perspective would reject this idea out of hand.

The current movement to sanitize the American conscience, promulgated as part of the ideology of the left by eradicating the NFL team name “Redskins” is an excellent example of how the manifesto of “White Privilege” exerts itself in a practical way.  To those enrolled in the movement, the Italian or German, Irish or Bohemian immigrant who came to this country at the turn of the 20th century and never set foot west of the Hudson River is still bound up in the collective “wrongdoings” of those who ventured west and encountered Cochise and Sitting Bull.  This narrative also conveniently overlooks the fact that in pre-Columbian America there were numerous conflicts between warring Native American tribes to which the white man simply wasn’t a party.  And many of those conflicts continued after the paleface got here and in which he played no part.

It is not altogether surprising that those who view history as beginning with the second Bush administration in 2000 have missed most of what has transpired since man began recording his activities on cave walls and papyrus.  And being able to sandwich thousands of years of man’s history into less than two decades serves the purpose well for those who are slow readers and for whom the outstanding literature may appear a bit overwhelming.  The interludes into “ancient history” since the founding of America is only something into which they delve in order to try to make their case.

But the real complaint of “White Privilege” has very little to do with the indigenous people who lived here before Europeans set foot on North America.  The actual focus is on black people and the circumstances under which they came here and in which they lived and now live.  The reason for that is quite simple.  They, unlike the descendants of the Cherokee, the Apache and the Zuni’s represent a very significant bloc of voters.  Sadly, black Americans do not have casinos to supplement their incomes.  And with an unemployment rate twice the national average, many are reliant on government for their subsistence.  That, of course, is a theory but one that I believe is plausible.

But let’s play a game of “What If.”  I used to amuse myself with this when I was a child and I still play that game today from time to time.  So, what if the indigenous tribes in Africa did not war against each other and enslave those whom they conquered; and what if Europeans didn’t buy those who were already enslaved and continue their condition, brining them to the New World or predatorily subjugate additional black Africans to satisfy their manpower needs?  Since the theory of “White Privilege” also includes a component known as racism, America would have been an almost exclusively white society and would have had no reason to invite or encourage the immigration of blacks.  That a “civilized,” first world society would uniformly hold such a racist view is not surprising and we find an excellent example of a modern, industrialized society with just such an attitude towards exclusivity.  It’s name is Japan.

Given our scenario, those who came to the Caribbean, South and North America would have remained in Africa as would their descendants.  If we had an “inner city ghetto” it would be composed of people whose skin color was white.  So given the racism we’ve postulated, would those who grew up in Africa have had a better life than those whom the left purportedly advocates for in this country?  The answer is, probably not.

The quality of life for most blacks in Africa is something that our most despondent black American would immediately reject out of hand.  There is absolutely no measure whether in terms of life expectancy, economics or having access to conveniences which we take for granted by which the typical African black can compete with his American black counterpart.  The recent outbreak of Ebola in several African nations and their mortality rate is an excellent example of how much anyone in this country, irrespective of color, is advantaged over those blacks on most of the African continent.

While the left goes on about “White Privilege” it ignores one very important point in its railing against racism.  That is that, unlike their counterparts in Africa, American blacks have a modern infrastructure, access to education and health care and happen to live in a country where it is less important “what you look like” than it is “what you do with your life.”  It may be that some of us have a tougher row to hoe than others.  But nothing is impossible and people have overcome great challenges throughout mankind’s history.

Perhaps it’s time for those black Americans to get off the “rhetoric bandwagon,” take stock and then take steps to improve their situation.  No one ever said it was going to be easy.  But that statement applies to people of all colors.

THE FLOOD

In the small town of Crawfton the city fathers gathered together.  The alert that they were to be in the path of a torrential downpour during the next several days had come in from the National Weather Service and they were deciding the most appropriate action the town’s residents should take.  Finally, they decided the safest thing would be to ask all residents to evacuate to the high school which was on the town’s highest ground and they took steps to set up a shelter with food and bedding in the school’s gymnasium to accommodate them.  They, the town’s one policeman and the members of the volunteer fire department went door to door to warn the residents and help them move to their new temporary shelter.

It happened that the mayor knocked on the door of Elder Burt Timmons, one of the community’s most well respected residents.  Elder Timmons came to the door and invited the mayor in.  But the mayor, aware of the urgency of the situation declined and explained the situation at Timmons’ doorstep.

“Please gather what you will need for several days for you and your family and come over to the high school.  We would appreciate it if you would assist in volunteering to help organize the rescue effort when you’re there.   Perhaps your wife, Marcie could help the other women in the cafeteria and your kids could help supervise some of the younger children.”

“Well, Mayor,” Elder Timmons replied.  “Marcie and the children are visiting Marcie’s mother.  And I have faith in the Lord that he will spare me from any danger.  In fact, moving to the high school would, in my view, be a denial of that faith.  So I’m going to stay here and wait it out.”

Despite the mayor’s insistent pleas to reconsider, Elder Timmons remained adamant and the Mayor finally went on to his next call.

As predicted, two days later the skies darkened and the rain began falling.  The intensity of the storm increased and the volume of the downpour gained strength.  All of the town’s residents but for Elder Timmons were warm and safe in the school.  And as the water pooled up and grew higher, it began seeping into the Timmons home.

Undeterred by the rising water which ran freely on the first floor, Elder Timmons held to his faith and prayed for deliverance when Jimmy Anderson, a high school senior came by the house in his row boat.  He could see Timmons through the front window and yelled at him, “Elder Timmons.  Get in the boat.  I’ll row you over to the high school.”

But Timmons shouted back, “No need to worry Jimmy.  I have faith in the Lord and he will save me from any harm.  Thanks for stopping by.”  And Timmons returned to his prayers as Jimmy rowed away.

The following day the water had risen to the point that Elder Timmons had to abandon the first floor of his house, taking refuge on the second floor.  Jimmy’s father came by in the row boat and again offered to row him to the school.  But just as he had done the previous day, he declined the offer, citing his faith in God’s goodness and provision.

The water continued yet the next day and the second floor of the Timmons home was completely inundated from the deluge, forcing Elder Timmons to seek refuge on the roof of his home.  Although he was clad with a slicker, the torrential rain and the wind made its way into his clothing and he was feeling cold and wet, but his faith was unperturbed.  So when the FEMA helicopter flew over and threw down a ladder for him to climb, he refused their assistance.  Several hours later, the water engulfed his roof and Timmons was swept away.  He had never learned to swim and as a result drowned.

But Elder Timmons’ faith had not gone without its reward.  At his passing, Timmons’ soul was immediately taken to the pearly gates where St. Peter himself greeted him and then quickly ushered him in to see God himself.  One would have thought that with the promise of eternal happiness fulfilled, Timmons would have been overjoyed.  Yet he seemed downcast and troubled.  God saw that and asked him the source of this sullenness.

“Lord, You know that I’ve always been faithful to You since my baptism.  I’ve never broken one of your commandments or missed a Sunday service and tithed with joy.  Yet, in my most trying moment as I prayed to You to save me from the flood, You abandoned me.  I don’t understand how I might have done any more to keep to my faith and be deserving of Your compassion.”

“My son, you are mistaken,” God replied.  I sent you two row boats and a helicopter to rescue you.  What more did you expect of me?”

This old story reminds me a great deal of the 2014 election.  Sadly, the GOP has decided to take on the role of Elder Timmons.  At this point, we should not be wondering whether the Republicans are going to take control of the Senate but how much of a majority they will hold.  That is not the case and those of us who hope for positive change find ourselves with a nail biter that may not be resolved until January.

Potentate Obama handed the GOP the absolutely most convincing argument that he could (he was off teleprompter) when he said, “This election is about the Obama administration’s policies.”  Amen.  If you liked what you have seen over the past six years, and most Americans do not, then it is clear that you should go out and vote for the Democrat hack who is running for office.  If not, you should be calling your neighbors who feel as you do and urge them to get out and make a real change – a change for the better and one that is long overdue.

Elections are not won other than at the ballot box (and subsequently the counting of those votes in the canvass).  That fact is not lost on the Democrats.  That is the real reason for their opposing voter ID laws.  That is the reason for their supporting an open immigration policy.  That is something that is still not apparently clear enough to Reince Priebus and the Republican Party.  Otherwise, there would be a nationwide ad campaign that asked the following:

“Are you tired of hearing about a new scandal and example of incompetence every week?  Fast and Furious; Benghazi; the IRS; the NSA; the Veterans Administration; ISIS; and now the Ebola outbreak?  If so, we welcome you as a new or returning Republican voter.  It is time for a change – a change to get America back on track – a change for the better.  Vote Republican – and vote proudly.”

I wonder if there’s a job waiting for me at RNC headquarters?  I think I’ll wait to apply until after the flood waters have abated.

CALLING A SPADE A SPADE

 

There are those who claim that poker is a game of skill.  Usually, those are people who have just taken down a big pot or won a tournament.  There are those who claim that poker is a game of luck.  Usually, those are people who have just taken what is affectionately known in the poker world as a “bad beat.”  My personal view is that poker is a game of luck combined with an element of skill.  I base that on the fact that if poker were simply a game of skill, each of the sixty-five events at the World Series of Poker would see the same faces at the final table.  That is simply not the case.  Even the greatest marksman is not going to be able to show his stuff if he does not have a supply of bullets.

Back in the days when I played a great deal of live poker I noticed that there were certain days that I could do nothing wrong.  It was as though I were a magnet for the winning hand.  Sadly, those days were few and far between.  More often the rules of random mathematical probability held sway (whether poker is a game of luck, skill or a combination of the two, there is no question that it is a game based on math), and I would receive my share of good, bad and indifferent starting hands.  Then there were the times that I would sit at the table for hours without having a hand that had any high probability of being the best when then final card was dealt.  For some reason, those slumps seemed to last for an inordinately long period of time – once for over a month of daily play.

As I was in my “slump” period, I began wondering why I subjected myself to this sort of abuse.  Anyone who has experienced the phenomenon of consistently bad cards has probably asked the same question.  I was about four hours into the session and nothing had changed when I picked up my cards and saw the six of spades.  I slid the bottom card to the right, keeping my cards sequestered from the player to my left who had a habit of staring over to see if he could make out what I had been dealt when I saw the corner of the top card, a black ace, the ace of spades.  If you don’t play poker you might think this was a good hand – but it isn’t.  In fact, A – 6 is the worst holding with an ace that you can have.  The fact that it was suited only slightly improves the hand.  But as my stack of chips had dwindled through four hours of antes, I decided to play it anyway.  There were four callers so that gave my hand some improvement through what is known as “pot odds.”

The dealer removed the first card from the deck, placing it on the discard pile and turned over the first three cards of the hand, otherwise known as the “flop.”  Much to my delight, three spades came up, the queen, eight and deuce.  I had, at that moment, what is known as “the nuts,” in other words, the best hand that could be held at that particular stage of play.  I kept my poker face and showed no reaction to the cards on the table.  One of the players to my right made a moderate bet and three of us called.  I presumed he held a queen and was betting top pair.

The next card, the “turn” was dealt.  It was the seven of hearts.  Unless you were holding a seven or two of them, this didn’t improve anyone’s hand.  The original bettor made a more aggressive bet, which another player raised.  I figured the raiser either was holding a pair of sevens or a seven and another card that had already appeared on the board.  At that point, I called with all my remaining chips and the original bettor called.  Then the final card, the “river” was dealt.  It was the three of diamonds.  I had survived and my “nut flush” had finally broken my long run of terrible cards.

The first bettor turned over his cards, A – Q for a pair; the second player turned his cards up and, as expected had three sevens; and with glee I turned up my cards, only to discover that what I had taken for the ace of spades was in fact the ace of clubs.  I had mis-read my cards and had nothing.  So I picked myself up from my seat, went home and took a month long sabbatical from playing poker.  That improved my attitude – a great deal – if you’ll pardon the expression.

Was it wish fulfillment that I saw a spade where a club existed?  Was I simply tired and misread the card?  Perhaps it was some combination of the two.  But this episode reminded me of the turmoil in which we in the United States now find ourselves – primarily because we are being fed a line that says that a club is a spade – if it’s more opportune to call it that.  While some call that “political correctness” my name for this form of communication is deceit.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve used the term “senior moment” from time to time to explain why I lost my train of thought or forgot the reason that I went into the cupboard.  Fortunately, those moments are relatively rare and only affect me.  But there is a more pernicious lapse afoot that I have named “an Obama moment.”  Should you wonder what that is, here’s my definition:  Diddling around while a solvable problem festers into a crisis and then, finally, making the wrong decision on how to handle it.

During the past month or so I’ve begun many posts.  But almost as soon as I began, a new issue has arisen which distracted me from my original writing.  This is, clearly, a fast paced world and we no longer have to wait for the evening paper to find out what has been happening here and abroad.  While many hope for their five minutes of fame, that fame has now been reduced to the length of a nanosecond.  It’s almost as though there is a concerted conspiratorial effort to so overwhelm us with “news” that we are being distracted from what is really happening and what events are truly important.  As I am not a fan of “conspiracy theories” I dismiss that – with a modicum of reservation.  So what are the real “crises” that President Obama has allowed to reach their present state?  They are immigration; ISIS and Ebola – although I can’t blame him for inventing Ebola.  More importantly, might these three be potentially interconnected?

The vast majority of Americans support legal immigration and a path to citizenship for those who want to come here.  They also support our having borders that are secure.  While charges of “racism” are lobbed because the vast majority of illegals (or “undocumented people” per Ninny Pepperoni, a/k/a Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi), are of Mexican or Central American origin, there are documented cases of people from Iraq, Iran, Syria and other middle eastern countries where ISIS has grown exponentially, who have also made it across our southern border and were apprehended.  At least some of them were apprehended.

Virtually everyone who has seen the acts of terrorism which ISIS regularly employs would agree that it is an organization based on consummate evil – and something that the rest of us in the world who do not subscribe to its tenets – would be better off without.  Certainly those who have been victims would, if they were still with us, agree with that statement.

Yet while ISIS grows in size and controls a greater amount of territory almost on a daily basis, this administration and its supporters engage us in a debate about whether using the term “Islamic” is a term of racism.  It hardly seems like a worthwhile argument since ISIS or IS (or in the administration’s preferred variant ISIL) uses Islamic as the first word in its acronym.  While we engage in that meaningless discussion, we see the focus of the liberal left applauding the speech that high school dropout Leonardo DiCaprio gave as he waxed eloquently before the UN about the evils of climate change.  Unfortunately, Mr. DiCaprio and his cohorts in Hollywood would have little to fear from climate change as, if ISIS were to prevail in its objective of theocratic domination, they would be among the first to face the executioner’s sword.

Then, of course, we have the West African Ebola outbreak.  We should all feel reassured that the president went on record that no cases would be spawned here – other than the fact that we now hear there may be several people who are  currently under observation for the disease.  Politicians, and the rest of us for that matter, should refrain from using the words none or all, since one exception makes our statements incorrect.  But to the average Joe or Juwanna, making sweeping statements is very reassuring – until the exception manifests itself.

Now what do all three of these issues have in common?

We know that ISIS’ members are so fanatical that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for an assured place with Allah in the afterlife.  I applaud their devotion and wish them all a speedy trip.  One of the ways to make that dream a reality is dying while killing the infidel – namely any or all of the six plus billion people or so who do not subscribe to Islam – and, for that matter, many of their Islamic brethren who do not adhere to their exact interpretation of that faith.

Given the porosity of our borders, the ease of international air travel, what is to prevent these zealots from sending a contingent of their fellow jihadists to West Africa, purposely infecting themselves with Ebola and then travelling to the United States and dispersing among many of our cities?  Purportedly, we have five medical centers nationwide which are equipped to treat patients who are affected by the Ebola virus.  How would we handle hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of such cases?  The answer is that we couldn’t.  And, sadly, that’s true no matter how much Obama, his cronies and supporters claim otherwise.

The nation has endured nearly six years of an administration that is either ineffectual, indifferent or incompetent.  It’s hard to imagine suffering through another two more years of the same.  Should President Obama decide that the greatest contribution he could make to the country is taking an early retirement and heading for the golf course, I’d be willing to chip in to help pay his greens fees.  And while gaffe stricken VP Biden doesn’t seem much of an improvement, at least he would provide us with a little comic relief.  And just about now, based on the pessimistic view most Americans hold of the future, we could all use a good laugh.

And that’s calling a spade a spade.

AND JUSTICE FOR NONE

Mom was a very bright woman.  Perhaps the greatest bit of wisdom was her statement, “There are three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth.”

While I prefer to believe that most people are basically honest, there is no doubt in my mind that some people will do or say anything simply to advance their own agendas.  And all of use have, at some point or other, told a fib, a lie or an outright whopper.  Most of those are relatively harmless – but there are times when they can have serious consequences – not only on our own consciences but on others.

Many years ago I found myself in a legal conflict with a person whom I thought of as a friend as well as a colleague and competitor.  This fellow had an executive search assignment and was having difficulty filling the position.  He asked me and my firm to help.  As it happened, we already knew of the position and the office which specialized in IT had been working on it themselves for several weeks.  I was unaware of that until I spoke with my manager in that office.  As I said to my colleague, I would only enter an agreement with him after I had discussed this with the manager of that office since ultimately I left those sorts of arrangements up to the individual office manager.

Without going into the sordid details, we did fill the position and collected the fee.  Contrary to the facts and despite several conversations with this fellow, he decided that he was entitled to half the fee and filed a law suit to collect what he considered his due.

At the bench trial, my colleague’s attorney called one of his employees to testify to the “facts.”  He did so, and I thought his testimony was compelling.  He specifically referred to a conversation that his boss and I had in which he specifically stated that I had agreed to “splitting the fee” which was the very question at issue.  There was only one problem with his testimony.  He was not present at this meeting or any other I had with my friend and his testimony was totally fabricated and fraudulent.  With that “testimony” the plaintiff rested their case.

When I heard him testify, my heart sank and my mouth opened wide.  I could not believe that someone would have the temerity to bald face lie – particularly under oath.  I was about to turn to my attorney and tell her that this false testimony was totally untrue when suddenly she jumped up and moved for a verdict of “immediately dismissal” since the plaintiff had not proven their case.  I didn’t see how, after listening to this damning piece of “evidence” the judge would possibly rule in our favor and grant this request.  But he did.

As the plaintiff had called their various witnesses, I noticed that the judge seemed a bit bored with this case, as though he had an assignment to read a book for school but had no interest in the subject matter but was obligated to read it anyway.  While he rendered a correct verdict, I thought that might be less because he had sorted through and sifted the facts (we had not yet presented our defense) than because he was late for a lunch date at a fancy restaurant.  Perhaps my mother’s statement about the three sides to a story should be revised to, “Yours, mine and expedience.”

There are a number of corollaries between the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and another, earlier case – the murder trial of O. J. Simpson.  In that case, of course, there was a black alleged perpetrator and two white victims.  But that the sense of public opinion was very neatly divided, primarily on racial lines, suggests the comparison.  If you were a black American there was nearly a ninety-nine percent likelihood that you believed O. J. innocent.  If you were a white American you were eighty percent likely to believe him guilty.  And most of the white twenty percent who believed that O. J. was being railroaded were Buffalo Bills fans.

Another similarity between the two cases was that in both instances, the media, sensing the smell of blood in the water and huge ratings, provided us with never ending coverage of the two events.  And they had rightly gauged that they would develop an audience for this story.  The day by day events of the Simpson trial were the subject of more conversation in the office than I would have preferred.  It’s hard for a person to do his job when he’s discussing issues that are totally unrelated to it.

These two trials bring an important point to the foreground.  During the O. J. trial, there were fears among the white community that if he were found guilty, rioting and looting would erupt countrywide.  When the jury voted to acquit, there was a sigh of relief and a groan of disbelief that came from many of my white friends.  In contrast, my black friends almost universally were of the opinion that “justice had been done.”  A later wrongful death civil suit which O. J. lost, suggested that the criminal verdict was not one that was correct.  Subsequent actions on O. J.’s part further suggest that he was not the American icon in which many of us had come to believe.

In Ferguson, MO we are receiving nearly as much coverage by the media as in the earlier trial.  Sadly, we are primarily hearing only one side of the story.  Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown has yet to be heard from.  But we have the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon (D) joining the chorus of “justice for Michael Brown and his family” with the release of a video calling for justice to be rendered swiftly.

Perhaps that is a disguised call to quell the violence that has been occurring in that community.  Perhaps that is a political statement to appeal to a black electorate that is crucial to his political aspirations in a very purple, even Republican leaning state.  Whatever the reason, the governor’s statement is totally inappropriate.  Should we not have justice rendered to both Michael Brown and his family as well as Officer Wilson?  If we predetermine what “justice” means without having all the facts in evidence, there is likely to be none for any of us.

Reminiscent of the Simpson murder trial, a black female Democrat state representative is on record saying that “If the grand jury (which convened today) does not return an indictment, the violence we have seen in Ferguson will be dwarfed by what will ensue.”  How does a statement like that do other than inflame an already tense situation?  And, more importantly, if one of those grand jurors hears that statement, how might that influence his or her judgment as that person attempts to evaluate the evidence which will be presented?

Thomas More was convicted because of perjured “evidence.”  As a result, he was beheaded.  The following scene from “A Man For All Seasons” briefly describes how he as a lawyer, viewed how laws should be enforced, irrespective of who was involved in the disputation:

 

If we are willing to allow the subversion of what has been the fairest legal system in the world, albeit imperfect, for the purpose of achieving some immediate personal gain, we are inviting disaster on our heads.  That is true whether we do so and justify our actions because of race, religion, sex or for any other reason.  And then, as More asked, when the last law has fallen, where will we take refuge?  We will bring in a state of anarchy of our own making, there will be justice for none and the Devil will have his due.

COLOR BLIND

Chan’s Chinese Laundry & Dry Cleaning was a small store, about a ten minute walk from my apartment.  The proprietor, a lady who was in her mid-fifties when I first began bringing my clothes there was a Taiwanese woman who spoke very little, broken English. Her name was Chan Mei.  I used her services for a very long time.

When I say a long time it was over a period where I saw her son Peter grow from a toddler, playing in his play pen in the store; watch him grow old enough that he would help out with the ironing; graduate from the University of Illinois with a degree in electrical engineering; get married and have his first child, a daughter whom he named Doris.

After Doris was born I asked Peter how he had decided on her name, thinking this was perhaps a close approximation of a Chinese name.  He answered me, “She has no Chinese name.  We’re Americans, so she has an American name.  Besides, I like Doris Day and her movies.  She seems very nice and very happy.  I want my daughter to be very nice and very happy.”

Every Saturday between noon and twelve fifteen I would show up at Chan’s, armed with a bundle of soiled clothes and some wire hangers which I was returning so they could be reused and would pick up my clothes that had been expertly cleaned.  It got to the point when Mei was so used to my schedule that she always had my clothing up front shortly before noon so that I didn’t have to wait for her to find them among all the hanging clothes that were ready and waiting for pick up.

When my mother passed away, I left Chicago and spent four weeks in New York, dealing with all the things one has to do after a family death.  Needless to say, my last load of clothing languished in Chan’s until I returned to the Windy City.

When I came in that next Saturday, Mei sighed as though in relief and said, “I worry about you, Missee Juwanna.  I thinkee maybe something happen you – no see for long time.”  I explained what had occurred and the reason for my absence.  A look of great concern and sadness came over Mei’s face.

“You fatha die and now you motha die.  You orphan now.”

With that statement, Mei raised the wooden hinged board in the front counter that allowed access to the back of the store, came over to me and gave me a big hug.  “I be you motha now,” she said as the tears welled up in both our eyes.

After a few minutes in this embrace, Mei released me and before giving me my clothes which I could see waiting in their usual place, she said, “You waitee here.”  She went in the back of the store and I could hear oil sizzling in a wok.  About ten minutes later she came to the front of the store with a little plastic lined white Chinese food takeout box and presented me with my lunch.

I thought that was extremely sweet but was completely taken by surprise when the following Saturday I was again presented with a take out container.  That continued  every Saturday for the next twenty years.  This loving woman had voluntarily taken on this responsibility and never failed to deliver on her commitment.  When she finally returned to Taiwan at the age of 78 to take care of an older brother who’s wife had passed away, I could tell that Mei was concerned that I would be able to carry on without her.  But I assured her that I would be okay – and she hesitantly seemed to believe me.

About five years after Mei began making my Saturday meals, I walked in as usual and could see that she was very upset.  I asked her why she was so distraught.  She said, “Man come in and wavee gun at me – steal money.”  I was so angered that someone had stolen the little amount of money this woman had and who worked so hard to earn it, I was determined to do whatever I could to see that he was apprehended.

I asked Mei, “Was he tall or short; fat or thin; black or white?”  If I happened to see him while doing my Saturday shopping, I wanted to be able to flag down one of the police cars that regularly cruised the neighborhood.

Mei looked at me and said, “Missee Juwanna.  All you black and white people lookee same to me.”  I had to bite my cheek to prevent an involuntary smile from spreading across my face.  I did not want her to mistake my genuine amusement at her statement to be mis-interpreted for minimizing the seriousness of what had happened.

I thought about Mei and Chan’s Chinese Laundry & Dry Cleaning the other day because of what has been happening in Ferguson, MO.  I wondered to myself whether Ferguson had a Chinese laundry there.  And I asked myself, “If they did have a Chinese laundry in Ferguson, after all the protests, looting and rioting, is it still standing?”

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

It was the year 1957 – 57 years ago.  The scene was Little Rock, Arkansas.  The governor of that state was Orval Faubus (D), a name that may be unfamiliar to younger readers.  The nine male white Justices of the Supreme Court had struck down desegregation in public schools in the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision.  The governor of Arkansas disagreed with that decision and militarized the Arkansas National Guard to prevent black students from attending Little Rock Central High School.

The nine black students who had enrolled in Little Rock Central High School initially were blocked from attending by the Guard.  The Mayor of Little Rock, Woodrow Wilson Mann appealed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) who intervened, sending in the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to escort and protect the students.  Eisenhower ultimately federalized the Arkansas National Guard, taking them out of the control of Governor Faubus.

Particularly during their first year attending Little Rock Central High, all of the students were subject to derision and abuse by their white counterparts.  One of them, Melba Patillo had acid thrown in her face and several white girls tried to light her hair on fire when she was in the rest room.  Others were spit on as they walked the school’s hallways.  That was the way it was in America in 1957 – at least in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The state of Arkansas elects its governor for a two year term.  Orval Faubus was elected to six successive terms by the citizens of that state.  Notwithstanding what transpired in Little Rock in 1957, Faubus won his final election as governor in 1964 and carried more than 81% of the black vote in that election.  What were the black voters of Arkansas thinking back then?  What are they thinking today?

There was something refreshing about Orval Faubus.  He made the list of the “Top Ten Most Influential Men in America” in 1958.  He was either loved or hated.  There was no parsing your position when it came to the governor.  You knew that Faubus was a strict segregationist.  He made no bones about his position and made no excuses for his beliefs.  Whether you agreed or disagreed with him, it was impossible to say that he was not honest.

I thought about Little Rock as events in Ferguson, MO are unfolding.  To say the least, the way in which the Ferguson PD has managed this has been far from perfect.  Suspicion has arisen because of the failure, until today, to release the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown.  The governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon (D) took charge and by appointing the head of the Missouri State Police,  Captain Ron Johnson took a big step in the right direction.  Johnson is well-spoken and is a calming influence, helping to diffuse a situation that was at a boiling point and is now at a fast simmer.

The family made a statement and appealed to the community to keep calm, to continue to demonstrate but to do so in a peaceful manner.  That is admirable and is what should happen.  But in today’s release of the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown, it was also revealed that Brown was caught on the Quick Trip video security camera, robbing the store.  His identity and participation in this theft has now been confirmed – as well his manhandling the short owner of the store who is dwarfed by this 6’ 4”, 292 pound “gentle giant” as he has been characterized.  And then the attorneys for the Brown family, headed by Benjamin Crump who represented the Trayvon Martin family, released the following statement:

Michael Brown’s family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piece mil (sic) information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight.

There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender.

The prolonged release of the officer’s name and then the subsequent alleged information regarding a robbery is the reason why the family and the local community have such distrust for the local law enforcement agencies.

It is no way transparent to release the still photographs alleged to be Michael Brown and refuse to release the photographs of the officer that executed him.

The police strategy of attempting to blame the victim will not divert our attention, from being focused on the autopsy, ballistics report and the trajectory of the bullets that caused Michael’s death and will demonstrate to the world this brutal execution of an unarmed teenager.

Benjamin L Crump, Esq.
Anthony D. Gray, Esq.
Daryl D. Parks, Esq.

If I hadn’t read the signatures at the end of this statement, I would have guessed that it had been written by Al Sharpton or one of the other race baiters who regularly stir the pot when these sorts of incidents occur.  And just for once, it would give all of us some real reason for outrage if the “victim” as Michael Brown may have been, did not engage in possibly illegal acts, such as the store robbery, which only muddy the waters on what happened.

I didn’t know the late Michael Brown.  Losing your life over fifty dollars worth of stolen cigars is mind numbing.  But I do know that good kids don’t steal from convenience stores.  And if there is one lesson to be learned, it is one that is generally ignored by our black citizens.

In 1964 when black Arkansas voters cast 81% of their ballots for the segregationist/racist Governor Orval Faubus, the overall unemployment rate in this country was 5.2% and for black workers was 6.1%.  Today the rate for black teenagers, kids like Michael Brown is nearly 25% – and black Americans voted for another Democrat, Barack Obama giving him 95% of their ballots.

It makes me long for the good old days.

WHO INVENTED TOAST?

As a kid I realized that my interests were different from those of many my age.  The boys were interested in speculating about whether the Yankees would make it into the World Series.  The girls wondered whether they could make their Barbie even more alluring if they put some of their mothers’ lipstick on her.  I didn’t understand why kids were interested in either of those subjects.

I had been taught by my parents  that one of the first responsibilities of being a civilized person was listening to others, no matter the subject matter or what their opinion was.  This resulted in several occasions where I had self-inflicted wounds to the palms of my hand, caused by my nails digging into the flesh as I tried patiently to wait for the subject to change to something in which I had an interest.  There were some days that never happened – many days.

At a fairly early age, I realized and started to accept the fact that I was “different” from other kids my age.  In fact, I could readily picture myself growing up and being “different” as an adult.  This was not a judgment about who was better but merely an understanding that I had an alternative path to follow than others.  I thought that path might not have many fellow travellers on it – and that has proven to be the case.  And I longed to be transformed somehow so that I could change my route and find myself happily treading the road that so many others followed and with which they were content.  That never happened either.

One of the manifestations of my self-realization came in the form of a nightmare which repeated itself over several nights.  I was buried in Times Square in a glass coffin.  I could look out and see people walking over me on their way to work or one of the girlie joints that existed at that time – or perhaps rushing to the Automat to grab a quick bite to eat.  I remember crying out, “I’m here.  Somebody help me get out.”  But no one seemed either to hear me or to care enough to make an effort.  Fortunately, that nightmare went away, although mentioning it these many years later still sends a shiver up my spine.  Years later I realized that the line from “Cool Hand Luke,” ‘What we have here is failure to communicate” was pure plagiarism.  But not being a litigious person, I have no plans to sue the screenwriters.

One morning at breakfast one of the great questions of all time overwhelmed me.   Two eggs over easy, hash browns, three strips of crisp bacon and a couple toasted slices of Grandma’s homemade bread.  (I had already drunk the small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice – with pulp included).

There I was looking at breakfast. and it hit me as I cut into the yolk of one of the eggs and tore off a piece of the bread to soak up the yellow liquid.  “Who invented toast?,” I thought to myself.  This seemed to me, at the moment, to be the most profound and interesting question that anyone had ever posed.  Even though I was really hungry, I was tempted to set down my fork and walk over to “The Encyclopedia Britannica” and read about the history of how toast had come into existence.  But based on previous experience with eggs over easy, eating them cold wasn’t very appealing.  So I ate breakfast quickly, forgetting to enjoy it, and then, after bringing my plates into the kitchen, stood on the couch so that I could reach the “T” volume.

I thought that all the knowledge of the universe was contained in my encyclopedia.  I anxiously thumbed through the “T” articles, “Th,” “Ti”, “To” finally I was almost there.  Finally, I came on the entry.  The EB described (briefly) what toast was – but there was no reference to what I’m sure must be a very dignified pedigree belonging to the individual who invented it.  What a let down.  I already knew what toast was.  The book was absolutely no help.  So I turned to Grandma, my go to backup source.

“Grandma, who invented toast?”  She always looked at me very lovingly.  But somehow I felt that I had an insight into her mind and after I asked that question, I could see her thinking, “What a special child.”  She always liked to keep her inner thoughts quite charitable.  “Sweetheart, I really don’t know.”  A lesser person might have had a different thought after being asked that question by a ten year old.

Frustrated at being left in the dark, I gathered my books and went to school, making sure that my homework was ready and with me.  Sometimes, when I was in the middle of solving one of life’s mysteries, I had a tendency to leave things behind, absorbed, as I was with my great thoughts.

I didn’t pay much attention at school that morning.  How could I?  I debated whether or not I should ask my teacher, Mrs. Bounds my question.  She was a very wise person and very nice.  But a couple of times she had mentioned how she and her husband were going out to dinner at this restaurant or another – so I didn’t think she cooked very often and probably wouldn’t know the answer.  So I waited for lunch.

When we all filed into the lunchroom, I grabbed a tray, the silverware, a napkin and a container of milk.  We had beef stew that day and I helped myself to two slices of bread to soak up the gravy.  Mrs. Johnson served my stew and handed me my plate.  She was quite elderly and obviously she must have cooked or she wouldn’t be handing out beef stew to little kids, so I blurted out, “Mrs. Johnson, who invented toast?”  As I read her inner thoughts, I saw that they contained little of the gentility that I had experienced when I had asked Grandma the same question.  They were more along the lines of, “Only two more years of this and I’m going to retire.”  But she replied quite politely, “I really don’t know dear.”  And she smiled somewhat dismissively, suggesting that I was holding up the line and should move along.  So I did.

I asked several of my classmates and my friends my question.  But the boys were more interested in speculating about whether the Yankees would be in the World Series and the girls wondered if putting their mothers’ lipstick on Barbie would make her more alluring and I could tell they really weren’t interested in discussing my question – since they told me so.

More than a half century has gone by and I still don’t have an answer to my question.  Fortunately, I only think about it once in a while so it’s not a source of great emotional distress.  But, if you’re reading this and know “Who invented toast,” I would greatly appreciate your getting in touch and telling me.  And if you have the answer, you’re just the kind of person who must be walking my somewhat lonesome path and probably can answer my next question.  “Who invented butter?”

Let’s walk along together.  I’m sure we will have a lot to discuss.

 

 

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