The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

HOW MUCH DO TWO POUNDS WEIGH?

Moving into my first apartment was a great thrill for me.  Finally, life in a college dormitory was at a merciful end.  No more waking up at three in the morning because a fellow student was inebriated and decided that it would be fun to pull the fire alarms that appeared in several places on each floor.  Of course, as exciting as this all was, there was a daunting challenge ahead.  Furnishing this new space.

Fortunately, as the organist at the local Roman Catholic church, I had connections.  A number of the parishioners were kind enough to lend or give me some of their old furniture until I could afford to upgrade.  One of these gifts was a double bed frame which came without either box spring or mattress.  So I bought a futon and laid it on the bare frame.  This proved moderately uncomfortable so I soon placed the futon on the floor where it belonged anyway.  But I did make the decision to buy several pillows, slip covers and pillow cases – leaving the purchase of sheets for a later date.

I returned home with my bulky pillow purchase, removed the contents from the large bags in which the store had placed them and began putting the slipcovers on the pillows when I made a discovery.  On both of the standard size pillows there was a tag which had been machine sewed into the welting.  The tag contained information on the content of the pillow, the content of the ticking, the place of manufacture (this was the early 70’s so it naturally said, “Made in the USA”), and then followed an ominous warning which read:  “DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG UNDER PENALTY OF LAW”.

Reading this warning naturally caused me to wonder what law I would be breaking should I choose to disregard the warning and what was it intended to prevent from happening?  For the life of me, the only logical danger I could see might be that if I were not careful cutting it from the pillow I might accidentally incise into the pillow and expose the duck feathers that were inside.  Well, I decided not to chance bringing about the apocalypse so I slipped the pillow cover over the pillow and then put them into the cases, artfully arranging them on the futon.  Then I stood back and viewed my handiwork, looking forward to a comfortable night’s sleep.

Well, I did get a good night’s sleep that night and for the next several weeks.  But after not too long a while I found that those little tags were getting bunched up from the pressure of my head and were ratting up into annoying little wads.  So I made the major decision to get out my best scissors and eliminate them.  But I took precautions.

I still had not been able to afford window coverings in the living room so I decided that removing the tags there would merely invite government intrusion into my illicit operation.  We were all a little paranoid back then, thinking that the government was spying on us.  Little did we know what the 21st century would bring in that regard.  I retreated to my bedroom, excluded my Irish Setter, Finney from the room as I did not want him to be implicated should this matter ever come to trial.  And I lit a housewarming candle which was dedicated to St. Bonaventure and had been given to me by the parishioner who had donated the somewhat delapidated couch which was the focal (and only) seating in the living room.

I gave the candle a moment for the wick to burn down to the wax and searched my memory to recall what St. Bonaventure was the patron saint of – pardon the grammar. I wasn’t sure which saint was responsible for interceding for those of us who broke laws here on earth – but I was sure that St. Bonaventure would know the correct department to which he would forward my case.

With the skill and adeptness of a brain surgeon, I cut the tag from the first pillow.  I held the wadded up label in my left hand and looked around the room to see if there might suddenly be a water leak or any cracks in the ceiling, caused by my defiance of the regulations prohibiting what I had just done.  I breathed a sigh of relief, quickly grabbed the second pillow and dispatched the other label in the same way.  Still, no signs of structural damage to the apartment and no seismic shaking.

I quickly cut the two labels into a myriad of pieces and flushed them down the toilet in four separate batches over several days so that whoever was in charge of  investigating the removal of labels from pillows would find it difficult to trace this crime back to me.  I also put a portion of the two labels in two separate kitchen garbage bags so that even if the remainder of the labels were retrieved from the sanitation system and pieced back together, a portion of each label would be missing.  I was fairly comfortable that I had covered my tracks and was about to blow out my St. Bonaventure candle when suddenly it hit me.  My fingerprints were all over those two labels.  So I decided to make a novena to St. Bonaventure over the following eight days and I hoped that would save me from arrest.

Well, I ended my novena, much to my relief no one came knocking at my door nor was there any police tape indicating that my apartment was a crime scene.  But it was a full two months after my deed before I began to breathe a complete sigh of relief.  I had gotten away with it.  These days I think of this as my Hillary Clinton moment – but, of course, on a much smaller scale.

Being a curious sort, once my angst had abated, I thought about why this pillow regulation existed in the first place.  That seems like a rational question, don’t you think?  I mean, if there is a rule or a law, it should have some basis in common sense.  When I was in school it was forbidden for us students to run on the stairways.  The faculty explained that doing so could result in a student’s tripping and injuring her or himself. That made sense.  But the only thing that I could see as a result of the “Do Not Remove” tag was that it caused me, and I presume others, to have less than a restful sleep.

It took half a century for me finally to come up with the answer to that question.  These regulations are not intended for the most intelligent of our citizens but for our least bright.  And as sad as that admission may be, I do believe it is the truth.  Had I questioned that hypothesis before, it was completely confirmed by a shopping trip to Target a few days ago.

I had intended to order some Pupperoni for my companion dog, Gracie on the internet.  However, I received a new debit card from my bank and within a week it was already frozen because it had been “compromised.”  So much for the latest and greatest in technology.  As a result, I was low on this favorite treat of hers and I decided to go to Target to replenish our stock until I got my replacement card.  I would bite the bullet and pay a little more than I would have to spend from an internet provider.

Much to my surprise, Target was running a sale on Pupperoni.  The two pound price was reduced from $13.99 to $9.99.  And, by buying two packages, Target was offering a $5.00 gift card on a future purchase.  As I browsed through the numerous flavors that were available I noticed that the product was also offered in a 25 oz. size at the same $9.99 price – except that there was no gift card offer on the smaller size.  I wondered, why would anyone purchase the smaller sized product?  It wasn’t long until I had my answer.

As I was surveying the shelf, a woman I put in her middle thirties came up to the dog treat aisle with a rather full shopping cart.  She walked up to the Pupperoni area and grabbed a 25 oz. bag of the product.  Being the helpful person I try to be, I pointed out that if she purchased two of the two pound product, she would pay the same price as for her smaller package and get the $5.00 gift card as well.  Her response surprised me.

She asked, “How much does two pounds weigh?”

Fortunately, my right knee was paining me fiercely and my long journey through Target to the second to last aisle in the store where dog treats were housed did nothing to ameliorate that.  Otherwise, I would have impishly responded, “Well, it depends.  As you know, feathers weigh less than lead – so it sort of depends.”  But instead, I recovered from the stupidity of the statement to respond, “Two pounds.”

She then followed up with another question which also surprised me, “How many ounces are there in two pounds?”

Forgive me but if you’re over forty years old you probably knew the answer to that question when you were in second or third grade.  Maybe fourth – I’ve forgotten.  Nevertheless, I took a deep breath and answered, “Thirty two.”

Fortunately, mankind is blessed with having five senses, one of which is feeling.  A reasonable person doesn’t even need to know the answer to this shopper’s question.  One could pick up both similarly priced products and determine which is the heavier and therefore the better value.  I felt as though I were on an episode of Watter’s World on the O’Reilly Factor.  You probably know the segment where Jesse Watters interviews people who are so thoughtful that they think that George Hamilton is the president on the one dollar bill.

Despite the pain I was feeling in my knee, I couldn’t leave this alone.  Call it a weakness on my part.  So I followed up with the statement, “You know, you look like the kind of person who is probably voting for the same person as I am for president and that’s the reason I wanted to point out the better value so you could save some money.

This woman responded, “Oh, you’re voting for Hillary too?”

I answered her, “How could you think anything else?”

So she picked up her 25 oz. package of Pupperoni, put it in her cart, and wished me a good day.  I remember shaking my head, picking up my product and leaving the store after I had gone through the self-checkout and getting my gift card.

And so the lesson to be learned here is an old aphorism.

“There’s no fixing dumb.”

“Deus in adjutorium meum intende.”

Margaret Mitchell’s Tara has faded from the landscape and the memories of most, but the pre-bellum plantations of the South have moved northward.  The plantations of enslaved people have migrated to our inner cities, festering with drugs, violence, ignorance, squalor and with as little hope for escape as the slaves, mired in the deep South had, before President Lincoln emancipated them.

Slavery had then and has now in the countries in which it was and is still practiced one fundamental reason for existence.  It’s the economics of it, stupid.  Free or virtually free labor is a better deal for the farmer or manufacturer than paying people a minimum wage – whatever that amount might be.  Slavery has nothing to do with racism.  It’s all about the almighty dollar or dinar or rupee.

In some ways, life was safer and better for blacks in America under the dreadful old slave conditions, as horribly violent as some slave owners were, than what they have on the new plantations of our inner cities as presumably freed people.  As “property” they had economic value.  They could be bought, sold or bred to create more property and increase the slave owner’s balance sheet.  Even the most heartless slave owner realized that destroying his own property, other than to make an example for others, was a poor economic decision.

When Europeans traveled to Africa and abducted or bought subjugated people from other tribes who had vanquished them, it was because they had developed a taste for something called sugar.  More bodies were required to harvest the sugar cane and sugar beets to satisfy the ever increasing demand for that product.  And if blacks could harvest sugar cane they could do the same with cotton and tobacco.  In an agrarian society there was no better source of labor than that which merely needed modest upkeep by way of food and housing and which could reproduce itself.

The South may have lost the Civil War but they had not given up the fight.  The newly freed slaves, many of them grateful for the political party whose head had freed them from their bonds, became Republicans.  The slave owners were Democrats.  And they were organized.  And so the KKK was born in the late 1860’s – originally as an effort to overthrow the state Republican governments in the South where blacks now sat as freed men and legislators.  It was squelched in 1871 to be reborn around 1915, this time with a hate agenda primarily devoted to a program of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism.  This incarnation also died out only to return in the 1950’s, both of those agendas still in mind, but with a primary focus on anti-black terrorism.  The cross burnings and black murders which most Americans think of when they think of the KKK comes from that third incarnation.

Inherent to maintaining slavery wherever it exists is perpetuating a culture of ignorance among the slaves.  A law passed in North Carolina’s 1830-1831 legislative session is fairly typical of how the slave states dealt with the potential of educating slaves:

Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this state: Therefore

Be it enacted by the General Asembly [sic] of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that any free person who shall hereafter teach or attempt to teach any slave within this State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, Shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in the State having jurisdiction thereof, and upon conviction shall at the discretion of the court if a white man or woman be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned and if a free person of colour shall be whipped at the discretion of the court not exceeding thirty nine lashes nor less than twenty lashes.

Be it further enacted that if any slave shall hereafter teach or attempt to teach any other slave to read or write the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace and on conviction thereof shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.

Two decades after the North Carolina law was enacted, in 1852 Massachusetts became the first state to pass a bill mandating the education of all children.  In 1918, Mississippi became the last state to adopt similar legislation.

But passing laws does not effectively dictate morality – or the Ten Commandments would get more respect.  Blacks may have been freed but their former owners merely looked at them as property which had been purloined from them.  And they weren’t afraid of showing their disdain for these former slaves whom they believed should never have been granted freedom, let alone citizenship.  So in that climate, many of these blacks migrated north to former free states to resettle themselves hoping to find an environment with a more welcoming, understanding populace.

For the most part, those hopes were not fulfilled.

I apologize to my readers who anxiously awaited part two of this piece for my delay in posting but sometimes life not only imitates art – but it gets in the way of it.

In response to the recent and ongoing terrorist attacks carried out by people who are Muslim throughout Europe and the United States among other places, the news media has found a new go to buzz word that they have nearly succeeded in beating into the ground.  That word is “radicalized”.  It’s as though they feel they should be able to pinpoint that psychotropic moment when a perfectly happy, normal individual suddenly has an internal button pushed by some external entity or event and they suddenly enter a different world with a personality totally antithetical to their previous one.  That is nonsense and hog wash of the first order.

Of course, the present administration has bent over backwards with the limberness of a double jointed gymnast to avoid calling Islamic impelled terrorism what it is, despite the fact that every one of the three acronyms we give it, IS, ISIL, ISIS all start with the word Islamic.  The official, politically correct reason is that using that term disparages a religion and brands all Muslims with the same broad brush strokes of hatred which is essential to the makeup of those who blow themselves and others up with a religious zeal that can be described as nothing other than Islamic.  The holy book of Islam, the Koran, encourages this behavior.

I find it hard to understand how those on the left proclaim that we should have understanding and respect for one of the world’s largest religions – yet they do not see what it is that Islam actually is and what it teaches.  The throw away phrase that it is a “religion of peace” is belied by the facts of history from its inception until today’s most recent atrocity in a parish in France.  Islam is both a religion and a political entity which teaches that it should be the exclusive faith of every human on earth and those who fail to convert should be killed. That is Islam at its core.  In it’s political aspect it is no more or less totalitarian than Hitler’s Third Reich or Stalin’s Soviet Union.

For a moment, let’s consider the left’s premise that those who drive trucks through crowds with the intent of killing as many as possible, carry out beheadings of people of other faiths, throw gays from buildings, stone to death women accused of adultery and perpetrate “honor killings” should one of their children marry outside her or his parent’s determination of who should be their spouse, are really only lost souls who have gone mentally AWOL.  Their Islamic faith had nothing to do with their behavior.  But the fact is that Sharia Law, the codification of behaviors and punishments set forth in the Koran and in the Hadiths (sayings) of Mohammed preach exactly those forms of punishment and dictate that exact behavior in Islam’s adherents, the truck and flying planes into buildings being modern improvements, of course.

For an administration that considers the luxury accommodations at Guantanamo Bay to be cruel and unusual punishment, it is somewhat difficult for an intelligent person to understand how it dismisses, or more exactly, totally ignores the pernicious punishments which Sharia Law so generously hands out with the sanctity of what they believe is their holy faith.  Most Westerners would consider Sharia Law to be an exact description of the term “radical”.  And while the left so quickly dismisses these horrific acts as mere aberrations of the mentally challenged, let’s see how many Muslims actually believe in the sanctity of Sharia Law.  To that end, we’ll spend a moment with Ben Shapiro, one of the most brilliant people I know and see his analysis of this issue.

https://youtu.be/g7TAAw3oQvg

So according to Mr. Shapiro’s presentation there are (or were a few years ago) 680,000,000 “radical Muslims” in the countries he analyzed.  And while I have the greatest respect for Mr. Shapiro, I think he (and most others) are missing the point which is that by the very nature of Islam, any true believer is “radical” – at least as we in the West think of civilized conduct and behavior.  But even if we accept Ben’s analysis of “radical Muslims” and were to assume that while “radical” most of these are not “motivated” to perform radical deeds, let’s say one out of one thousand, that means there are 680,000 Muslims worldwide who might strike out against what they perceive as the enemies of Islam – which is to say the entire non-Muslim world.

While some may consider that a slam against a religious faith, Islam of the three great “faiths of the Book” is the only one which has both a religious and political agenda.  And it is that political agenda to which I am referring.  By contrast, Christian missionaries try to convert those who are non-Christian through preaching and example.  By contrast, Judaism discourages people from converting to that faith.  It is only Islam that views all infidels as worthy of contempt and in the failure of conversion, worthy of death at the hands of the devout Muslim.

It fascinates me how the left, so pre-occupied as they are, with “diversity” can be so defensive of Islam which preaches nothing other than religious and political homogeneity.  It amazes me that the left that so decries the “racism” inherent in the pre-amendment Constitution, valuing a black person as only three fifths of a white person for purposes of census and apportionment of Congressional seats, can be so supportive of Islam which states that a woman’s inheritance shall be only one half that of a male relative’s.  It astounds me that the left, so intent on equal justice for the bathroom rights of transgenders should be so silent when it comes to Islam’s imposing the death sentence on men who are involved in homosexual sex acts.  But then, one has to be logical to be astounded – and that has never been a core principle of the left – and most likely never will be.

The American apologist in chief, President Obama, has led this country and the Western world down a dreadful path with the “Iranian Nuclear Deal.”  The mullahs in Tehran must be laughing and drooling in their beards.  This is a bad deal, not because of the terms which they essentially dictated, but because there can be, as holy followers of the Koran, no deal whose terms they must honor because one of the parties is not a Muslim state.  According to both the Koran and Mohammed’s own actions in dealing with non-Muslims, any requirements imposed on them cannot be enforced as Allah allows, in fact, invokes faithful Muslims to agree to anything that will advance the furtherance of Islam in the world but in no way penalizes the faithful if they default on their end of the bargain.  It’s not unlike negotiating with an extortionist who has your entire family hostage and threatens to dismember each one of them if you don’t agree to his terms.

In light of this admittedly negative view of political Islam, Donald Trump’s much denounced statement about a “religious test” for admitting Syrian “refugees” is, perhaps, not so terribly outrageous.  The fact that every intelligence branch of our government has acknowledged that there is no way we can possibly corroborate the backgrounds of those who wish to migrate here should, of itself, be sufficient reason to oppose letting potential Trojan horses into the United States.  But there is a way out – one that would allow us to fulfill our welcoming outreach to the downtrodden and which would provide those who are already here with at least a moderate sense of security.

Let us open our arms to those few remaining Christian Syrians whose population has been so genocidaly reduced by ISIS.  They are people who most desperately need our help.  And they are people who are most likely to assimilate and be thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of the American dream.

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(See Part II)

History has given us our share of great speakers.  Pericles and Winston Churchill come to mind.  By almost nobody’s evaluation does Ms. Hillary Clinton make the list.  Well, we all have different gifts – and oratory, sadly, is not one of Ms. Clinton’s strong suits.  So being the fair person I am, I thought that it would save the delegates in Philadelphia and the viewing audience the experience of an extended period of her cacophony and  would offer her a ready-made speech which not only is short and to the point, but might help diffuse the moniker that Donald Trump has applied to her.

But before you see the speech, let me give you some background on Ms. Clinton.

As some of you may know, she started out as a Republican.  But the ethics that party officially endorsed proved to be too much of a hurdle and Ms. Clinton felt there would be greener pastures – fields of lettuce – in the other party.

As a newly minted Democrat, Ms. Clinton served on the commission that investigated the Watergate intrusion which ultimately brought down President Richard M. Nixon.  This proved to be a pivotal moment in Ms. Clinton’s political development because from it she learned that when you have power you can get away with almost anything – as long as you don’t get caught doing it – a lesson that Nixon learned the hard way.

Like Clinton, controversy dogged President Nixon throughout his political life.  Like Clinton, a large number of Americans either distrusted or disliked Nixon.  You be the judge of whether or not either of them deserves or deserved that opprobrium.

But in a karmic moment, I thought I would offer you one of President Nixon’s more famous speeches – which I believe that Ms. Clinton should appropriate and plagiarize in its entirety.  And it is mercifully brief.

Of course, the only problem with giving this speech is that she is a crook.  But that’s a small matter – and what difference does it really make now.

 

(Background:  Revolving spot lights and victorious loud music.  Trump enters to thunderous applause from the crowd).

He speaks:

Dear friends, fellow Republicans, fellow Americans:

This election is not about me.  This election is about you and your children and your grandchildren and it is about the greatest country that has ever been known on planet Earth in times ancient or modern. Our 240 year history as the guiding light based on rock solid principles of justice and freedom is now at risk because some of us have acquiesced to convenience and self-interest rather than truth and selflessness.  This election is, in fact, a time for deciding.  And what we have to decide is crystal clear.  Do we want to make America Great Again, not only for the benefit of our own citizens but for people who yearn for freedom and safety around the globe – or are we willing to sink into mediocrity putting both ourselves and others on the planet at risk and jeopardy?

Let me be honest – something you will hear infrequently from my prospective opponent, Ms. Clinton.  I never sought this office.  I never had political aspirations.  I loved doing what I have done all my life – building buildings and helping others by employing them.  But I decided to enter this fray for one reason and for one reason only.  The only way in which I was able to accomplish what I did was because I lived in a country which recognized and rewarded people who were willing to take a chance and to build something where there was nothing there before.  I lived in a country which allowed people to prosper based not on some assumed privilege of genetics but because they took the time, sweated the tears and refused to give up until the finished product was brought to fruition for all to marvel at.  I was only able to do what I did because I lived in the United States of America. And because of an accident of my birthplace I am both grateful and humbled.

Now over the course of the next few months, you may expect to hear the continuing drumbeat of the largely liberal media, lambasting me for this statement or that, for everything they consider a faux pas or a violation of their sacred rules of political correctness.  I will be portrayed as little more than a blow hard and a showman.  Well, I view this as a great departure from the status quo of , “Too much talk and not enough action” which is customarily what we hear from our elected officials.  And beause I am going to be honest to myself, a quality that may be sorely lacking in my opponent, I don’t anticipate changing.  But these charges reflect on style and are, at most, cosmetic.  They are distractions to which we will all be subjected because they divert from the real and only important issue, that being, who has the best interest of the country and its people rather than personal ambition and self-aggrandizement at heart?

We should expect that I will be unfavorably compared to my prospective opponent, Ms. Clinton for lacking in “experience.”  It is certainly an undeniable truth that I have never held elected office, let alone the most important one to which any American could aspire whereas Ms. Clinton has been a United States Senator and Secretary of State.  She certainly has more public service experience than I do.  But what has her experience done that has been to the benefit of the United States of America or its citizens?  To speak of experience without speaking of the results that experience has brought with it is as foolish as to extoll the extraordinary experience of a bank robber who has pulled off twenty successful heists.

Let me be clear that what I lack in political insight, I more than make up for, if I may say, in common sense and good judgment.  It doesn’t take a bureaucrat to realize that keeping, sending and receiving classified information on an illicit, non-secure personal server jeopardizes the people of this country and our remaining allies throughout the world.  That is something I would never do.  Furthermore, I would never lie, obfuscate, or evade with legalistic answers having done it should I ever have taken leave of my senses and actually committed those felonies.

Early in life, I realized that I was blessed to be a bit brighter than your average bear.  But as smart as I might have thought I was, I realized there are always people who are a little bit smarter – at least in some particular field of expertise.  If I have any genius at all, it is in admitting that there are people who know more than I on this subject or that.  And the true trick of becoming successful is in identifying those people and building a team with them as the keystones, relying on them for their exceptional insights and keen understanding of the area in which they are uniquely qualified.  The Trump/Pence team will do exactly that – and the result will be that we will again find our path that will lead to Making America Great Again.

But this can only occur if something happens on November 8, 2016 and the American people elect us to office.  And it would be foolish for me not to admit that this is an uphill battle.  Some political pundits have called this an election between whites and minorities.  Perhaps there is some truth in that – perhaps not.  But let’s take a moment to examine that issue.

First, to those American citizens who are of Hispanic background.  We thank you for your contributions to the American melting pot, for the cultural enrichments you have brought to the United States and for your diligence and strong work ethic.  You bided your time and waited with the longing shared by all immigrants to come to a land where the most you could achieve was how high you set your sights and how hard you were willing to work to achieve your goals.  You looked to find a new home, free of government oppression in a country where you could and should deserve the protection of the law just as every other citizen, irrespective of race, religion or national origin.  You came to America – the only country on earth that gladly welcomes one million newcomers a year.

But the safety and security that you sought is now threatened, not only for you but for every other American.  Porous borders which ask nothing of a person’s background have brought with them an onslaught of people, some of whom have dubious backgrounds and potentially dangerous futures.  I affirm my earliest comments in this campaign, to strengthen our borders, to deport those who break our laws and who are here illegally not for the security of just a particular segment of the American people but for all Americans, including our Hispanic friends and citizens.

To our black citizens – well, you may be the hardest nut to crack not only for me but for any Republican presidential candidate. For decades you have voted to elect Democrats to local, state and national office with a ninety to ninety-five percent solidarity – as though Democrats were the great emancipators and not Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. The question is not how the Republican or Democrat parties view your lives.  It is how YOU view your lives.

Chicago, now becoming the murder capital of the country, has been run by Democrats since 1931- eighty-five years; Baltimore has been run by Democrats since 1967 – forty-nine years; Detroit has been run by Democrats since 1962 – fifty-four years; Philadelphia has been run by Democrats since 1952 – sixty-four years.  So to the black citizens in these and other American cities, I would ask these questions:

“Have the Democrats served your interests – or have they merely used you as a tool to elect themselves and serve their own?”

“Should your children have the same right to attend the schools of their choice, not some inner city institution where they will receive an inferior education just as Hillary Clinton was able to choose for her daughter – or are you willing to accept the status quo and settle for inferior education and inferior opportunity for your kids?”

“Are you content to live in overcrowded, run down public housing in neighborhoods where the gangs, rather than civil law, rule the streets or would you like to live in a community where going to the corner grocery store doesn’t involve risking your life?”

To our black friends and citizens, overwhelmingly a bastion for the Democrats, perhaps now is the time to rethink your options.  Because if nothing has changed in your neighborhoods for decades – in fact has gotten worse – why would you think that electing Hillary Clinton is going to do anything other than pound the final nail in your coffins?

The Republican party and I welcome all those black Americans into our cause who believe that life means more than just surviving.  It should mean having the opportunity for all people of dignity and conscience who want to do better for themselves and their children to be able to act on that opportunity.

If Governor Pence and I are found worthy of your vote and we are elected to the highest offices in the land, I give you my solemn word that you will have that chance – something that has been denied you for decades.

In closing, let me take a moment not only to thank my family for their support and patience during the amazingly difficult ordeal of the primary – but most especially, to thank the millions of voters who saw something in my candidacy and offered their enthusiastic support at the ballot boxes through out the land.  I cannot sufficiently express my heartfelt gratitude.  I am humbled by your confidence.

But this is only the beginning of an even more challenging climb that will culminate with the general election.  I do know that if the good men and women of this country see what is at stake and are willing to take a chance on a political outsider who has nothing but the interest of the country and it’s people at heart, than we will set ourselves firmly on the path and be prepared for the journey to Make America Great Again.

 

 

 

Dorm life at the University of Chicago included endless reading lists, study groups and a twelve times a week food contract in the building’s cafeteria.  As one of my fellow students whose epicurean background was similar to mine put it, “They should put out a contract on whoever had the gall to call this food.”  Fortunately, we all got to enjoy a respite from this gastronomic abuse.  It was called Sunday and the cafeteria was mercifully closed.

This, of course, forced us students to fend for ourselves for sustenance.  As I was the organist for the Episcopal Church services on campus at Bond Chapel, Father Pyle and his wife had established a Sunday supper program for us poor waifs who had nowhere else to turn.  I wished that the program were a nightly event as I would greatly have preferred the fare at Brent House to that in my dorm’s cafeteria.

Hyde Park had only one establishment that could be referred to as a “supermarket”.  At the time I moved into the neighborhood it had been operating for over thirty years, having been founded during the Great Depression in 1932.  It was called the Hyde Park Cooperative Society.  But the “Co-op” as it was generally called was two miles from my dorm, far too long a journey on foot to buy a piece of fruit during the depths of winter.  So until I moved out of the dorms in my fourth year I was constrained to buy provisions from the two small mom and pop stores that were within reasonable walking distance.

My fourth year in college brought with it two major developments.  The first was that I paid for driving lessons and set to inflict myself on the general automotive community by purchasing my uncle’s two year old Dodge Monaco.   I also moved to the east side of Hyde Park and was only a few blocks from the Co-op which was the anchor tenant in Hyde Park’s largest shopping center – though by comparison to today’s mega centers it was really quite small.

Now that I was freed from the bondage of a dorm food contract, I naturally turned to the Co-op as my preferred choice for grocery shopping.  I walked into the store for the first time and wanted to find out how to become a member – it was, after all, a co-operative society.  I went downstairs to the membership department, picked up a brochure and couldn’t help but notice the photo montage that was on the walls showing the growth of the store from its original founding when four people got together and decided that they could help out people in the neighborhood if they banded together, bought food in quantity and passed along the savings to their customers.  In other words, the original founding motivation was based on a social philosophy – and the implementation of that happened to take form as a grocery store.  This philosophy continued to permeate the Co-op when I joined.

Now I must admit that I might not have been imbued with the same desire to help out the poor and downtrodden – but I was motivated to purchase a share because for ten dollars, I was going to receive a five percent return on my small investment while the banks were only offering four percent and I was promised a rebate on my annual purchases based on the store’s profitability.  Sounded like a decent deal to me.  I unfortunately made the small indiscretion as I signed up to refer to myself as a shareholder in the Co-op.  After all, I was purchasing a share so that seemed like normal terminology.  The person who accepted my ten dollars and signed me up explained that I was not a shareholder – but a member in the Co-op.  Well, shiver me timbers, apparently political correctness was floating around even back in the late ’60’s.

As I came to find out when my first year of membership had passed and the Co-op sent out its annual accounting, I apparently was not a “full member.”  My statement arrived showing my fifty cent credit on my one share investment.  In addition, I had received a 2.3% rebate on my purchases during the year.  So I was entitled to a distribution of just under three dollars.  But rather than sending a check for that amount, it had been re-invested in an additional partial share.  The explanation included in the letter indicated that until a person became a “full member,” which was to say owned ten shares of stock, that procedure would continue. And it did for many years.  I was moderately offended that the Co-op in the finest tradition of socialist organizations everywhere dictated, through it’s infinite collective wisdom, what its members should do.  Nothing could be more apparent to demonstrate that than what I will next relate.

Perhaps you will remember Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers’ Union.  If not, Chavez organized the farm workers to protest the poor conditions under which they labored.  He effectively called for a boycott of farm workers from picking lettuce and grapes.  The Co-op, always mindful of its social, primary mission, aggressively concurred with this policy and refused to carry either of these products during each of these boycotts.  (Those two mom and pop stores saw a significant increase in their sales while the Co-op refused to allow its patrons and members to purchase lettuce and grapes).  Apparently their customers didn’t completely subscribe to the collective wisdom.

As years went by, Chicago saw a significant increase in the number of chain grocery stores.  While the Co-op might have been the biggest fish in a small pond, it’s original concept of saving money by purchasing in bulk could in no way compete with much larger grocery stores with hundreds of outlets throughout the country.

The share dividend decreased regularly to the point where there was no dividend at all and the rebate percentage declined precipitously as shoppers found themselves with far less expensive alternatives.  On May 5, 2009, The Hyde Park Cooperative Society filed a petition of bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in the Northern District of Illinois.  The store was subsequently taken over by one of the smaller, multi-store chains, Treasure Island and is still operating under that name.  Seeing the writing on the wall, I had divested myself of my interest in the Co-op a decade earlier.

There are several points I hope that my readers will take away from this story.

The first is that when ideology, no matter how well-intentioned, is the driving force behind making business decisions even though that philosophy flies directly in the face of economic reality, that business is, sooner or later, doomed to fail.

The second is with regard to bankruptcy law – and the presidential campaign.

Much has been made, particularly by the junior senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren about the horrible things that Donald Trump has done to people because of his using the bankruptcy laws to his advantage.  She has painted a picture of his using those laws to “stiff” small companies and “cheat” them out of monies that were due to them.  So a word on bankruptcy law is in order.

If you’re familiar with the novels of Charles Dickens, you already know that he was a crusader for social justice.  One of the most egregious evils he identified was the existence of debtor’s prisons.  Yes, back in Dickensian England, a person could be imprisoned for failing to meet his debt obligations.  Bankruptcy laws came about as a reform to this form of societal punishment, recognizing that sometimes people found themselves in situations that were out of their control and the law was formulated to allow that person to make a fresh start.

As I mentioned, the individual who has most aggressively inveighed against Mr. Trump for following the law is Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  During her less than stellar career, Sen. Warren, prior to her election was a professor at Harvard Law School, among other venues. While there she gained a reputation as one of the nation’s foremost experts in and exclusively taught students – you probably guessed it – bankruptcy law.  It’s a bit hard for me to comprehend why a person who has spent a career teaching and representing clients in bankruptcy cases would hold such a negative view of that very law.

But then, I did sell my interest in the Hyde Park Co-op – before that very liberal organization had to resort to that same law.  Just saying …

 

T

 

 

 

 

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