The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘children’ Category

MOTHER, MAY I?

Virtually every American city which has what we euphemistically call an “inner city,” (translation being an area of urban blight and poverty, overcrowding, under-education and where single parent families are the norm), has one thing that provides some constancy.  That is that “progressives” (translation Democrats) have been in control for the better part of half a century or longer and have created the perfect conditions for all of this human tragedy.  While I can’t personally speak to the conditions throughout the country, after thirty-six years of living in Chicago I do feel qualified to address the disaster that city has become.

Moving from Manhattan at age seventeen was not only a nine hundred mile geographical relocation.  I felt as though I had moved back in time by a century.  Truly, I had the sense that I was now living in the Wild West – with all the disadvantages that entailed and few of the benefits of modern 1960’s society.  Perhaps those feelings came from snobbery.  But as involved as I was with classical music, I was shocked that the classical radio station WFMT went off the air at 10:00 p.m., the Chicago Symphony at that time was a mediocre ensemble and Chicago’s “opera scene” was only ten years old.

To usurp a Robert Heinlein title, I felt as though I were A Stranger in a Strange Land.

Well, I adapted.  I found a local store that sold used vinyl and the broadcast void was filled with recordings of all the masters, bought on the cheap.  I became used to the fact that in Chicago you couldn’t buy meat in the grocery stores after six in the evening, even though it was sitting there pre-cut in the display case.  (This was a concession to the butcher’s union).  And I later became aware that on “Days when members of the Illinois General Assembly were being elected, it was illegal to buy a drink at a bar or buy a bottle of liquor in a liquor store during the hours that the polls were open.”  As I was under the legal age to buy liquor at any time and didn’t drink it, I found that law amusing – because as I later came to view the Chicago political process, it seemed to me that the only conditions under which one would voluntarily vote for the hacks who held office for decades was if the voter were completely inebriated at the time of casting his ballot.

I’m not sure how my thirty-six year long experience with crime compared to that of other Chicago residents.  One mugging; one near mugging (rescued by my Irish Setter); one car stolen (twice in six months – the second time permanently); one car vandalized twelve times in sixteen months so the thieves could steal the Blaupunkt radios.  As I said, I don’t know how that experience compared to that of your average Chicagoan.  Nor was any of this the basis for my reason to move to Nevada.

It occurred to me that I was paying the State of Illiniois three percent of my income (now four and one half per cent) for the privilige of residing in the state.  Notwithstanding all the monies that Illinois extracted from its citizens, the state’s budget was completely out of balance, has only gotten worse and Illinois now finds itself right behind Puerto Rico in terms of defaulting on its obligations.  But that was not the motivating reason for moving.  The City of Chicago was.

I had been giving some thought to relocating and felt that I needed a change.  As most of us, myself included, fear change, after thirty-six years this was a big decision.  But what decided me was looking at the City of Chicago’s budget for the year 2001.  Included in that budget was a line item for five million dollars.  The expenditure was for something called an anti-graffitti campaign – to purchase equipment and pay for the manpower to remove the graffitti the city expected would be applied to public buildings in the following year.

Consider the thinking behind this one item.  Rather than attack the problem at its source, apprehending people who applied graffitti, the city’s solution was to tolerate the application of paint to its buildings and then return the buildings to their original appearance – at the taxpayer’s expense.  This “solution” is so typical of government’s approach to problem solving at all levels.  And it is infuriating.

It is akin to a man walking into the Emergency Room of a hospital with a gun shot wound, the bullet still embeded in his abdomen.  The attending physician, rather than removing the bullet, gives the man a narcotic based pain killer to remedy his discomfot.  If that were to happen, you can bet that the hospital and doctor would be served papers as the defendants in a medical malpractice law suit.

Many who self-apply the misnomer, “progressives” to their political philosophy view government intervention as the first step toward creating a paradise on earth.  But with the sort of thinking that treats symptoms rather than addressing the underlying problems, what they and their political minions do is ignore problems to the point that they fester – perhaps beyond repair.  And that is precisely what has happened in Chicago and other major cities.

This being the Memorial Day weekend, Chicago started off last Friday with several murders to give us more people to memorialize.  The first death was a fifteen year old girl and was what inspired this post.

Veronica Lopez’ was the first of four murders last Friday in the Windy City.  She was in a car on Lake Shore Drive and at 1:30 a.m. was gunned down when a car pulled up to the vehicle in which she was riding.  Her car was being driven by an unidentified 28 year old male, the presumed target of the attack.  Veronica was apparently an unintended victim of what the police believe is a gang related shooting.

Those who believe in the efficacy of “nanny government” should be inspired by how effective this form of overseeing our citizenry proved to be in this case.  You see, Chicago, like many other cities passed curfew laws regulating when juveniles might be out on the city’s streets when they are not accompanied by a legal guardian.  In Chicago’s case, all juveniles under the age of eighteen are prohibited from being out after 11:00 p.m. on weeknights.  That law has been on the books for over seventy years.

Veronica Lopez’ death would have been avoided if she merely had obeyed the law.  Her mother, Diana Mercado was understandably distraught at learning of her daughter’s death.  “They took my baby,”  she said.

Well, fifteen year olds don’t always exhibit the best judgment.  But sometimes parents don’t either – as in this case.  Ms. Mercado should ask herself, particularly if she has other children at home, if she is enforcing the sort of discipline that a parent has the right to command of her offspring.

Why did she allow her daughter to violate the curfew law?  Even more to the point in these days when acts of predatory rape are as common as grains of sand on the beach, why did she allow her daughter to hang out with and go driving with a twenty-eight year old male?

As a kid, I used to resent what I viewed as my parents’ over-protectiveness.  If a friend invited me to a party at their apartment, my parents wanted the phone number where I could be reached.  And while I could walk there by myself if it were light out, my father would pick me up if it was dark when the party ended.  This was back in the fifties when it was considerably safer for children than it is today.

But the important thing was that my parents strictly regulated what I could do.  I don’t remember going out more than a few times during my time in grammar and high school years on a school night – and then only after I had completed my homework.

The usual response I received as I requested to go out and asked, “Mother, may I?” was “No.”  I wonder if more parents today exercised their authority, laid down rules for their kids and enforced discipline for infractions of those rules, how many more fifteen year olds might be alive in Chicago – and elsewhere.

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HYPOCRITICAL HIPPOCRATS

“With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.”

– The original Hippocratic Oath – third paragraph.

Teddy Papadopoulos and I met during Orientation Week at the University of Chicago.  He was one of the few students among us who was a native Chicagoan.  A lifelong resident of the university’s Hyde Park community, he was brilliant and was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics.  In any event, we met over what passed for a typical dormitory dinner and both of us had equally unkind comments about the cafeteria’s culinary output.  Naturally, we hit it off and became very good friends – a relationship that exists still today.

Nikos Papadopoulos, Teddy’s father, was an extremely congenial man who was one of the partners in Café Hellas, one of the many restaurants on Halsted Street that comprised Chicago’s Greek Town neighborhood.  He could be seen there six days and nights a week greeting and seating the busy restaurant’s customers, treating regulars and newcomers with the same obvious joy that they had decided to patronize his establishment.

Nikos was an immigrant from Thessalonika who came to the United States when he was eight years old.  He met his wife Diana here.  She was the daughter of a green grocer, one of seven children, six girls and one boy.  They married when he was thirty and she was twenty-six.  Besides Teddy, they had two other boys.  Teddy, by the way, was named for Theodore Roosevelt.  Nikos admired the former president as a person who said what he meant and meant what he said..

Diana was typical of many women in Chicago’s Greek community.  She was, to use an out of date phrase, a homemaker whose enjoyment came from keeping the house neat as a pin and making dinner for her children and on Sunday for her husband when he wasn’t at the restaurant.  She made sure that the kids all looked their best for the lengthy Sunday services at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral which they attended.  She was a warm and very loving person who enjoyed nothing more than giving everyone a hug and if they were short enough like her, a kiss on the cheek.  Although it was never official, I thought of her as a foster mother.

During my third year in school, Diana was hospitalized.  She was in her late forties.  She was, I think more concerned about being away from her family than she was for her own condition.  But she tried to wear a happy face and joked about getting out of the hospital so that she could cook her family dinner.  “By now I’m sure the house is not fit for pigs to live in,” she said on one of my visits.  That was the visit when she got the news.

Teddy and I were in her room when a specialist whom she had not seen before came in.  He had the results of the tests and the lab work that had been conducted over the previous ten days – and had an analysis.  His name was Dr. M., an oncologist.

Without so much as a, “Hi, how are you,” he introduced himself.  Perhaps you’ve heard of bedside manner.  Well, Dr. M. had obviously cut that class.

“I have reviewed your tests and your lab work and I need to tell you that you have cancer of the pancreas.  It’s inoperable and there’s no treatment.  Based on the progression of the cancer I estimate that you have at most four to five months to live.  I’m sorry.”

And he turned on his heel and left the room.

Diana burst into tears and Teddy rushed to his mother’s bed, sat down and put his arms around her.  I was so shocked, my mouth wide open at the ruthless way in which this physician had delivered his news that I didn’t know what to do.  But in a few second my shock turned into serious anger.  I have only been really angry three times in my life – and this was one of them.  I rushed from the room to find the doctor, half intent on slugging him.

When I caught up with him I grabbed his arm and said, “Excuse me.”   By now my blood pressure was returning to only twice its normal range.  “I can’t believe that you as a trained medical practitioner who is supposed to try to help people could have told that poor woman her prognosis in such a cold and uncaring manner.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He replied, “Why?  She’s a dead woman.  If I waste my time on her I might be putting someone at risk whom I could actually help.”  And he walked off.

I remember standing there for a few minutes, totally numb, completely shocked and feeling the tears run down both my cheeks.  And then I returned to Diana’s room.

Well, Dr. M. was fairly correct.  But Diana lived seven months from that date and the outpouring of love and grief from her friends and members of the closely knit Greek community was amazing.  There were well over four hundred people who attended her funeral that September.

“Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.”

– The original Hippocratic Oath – fourth paragraph.

The original Oath has been changed many times.  Obviously, were the above portion of it still in effect there would be no abortions performed by any physicians who swore to it nor would we have things such as the “morning after” pill.

This week a pro life group released an undercover video in which Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Deborah Nucatolo discusses in a very off handed, dismissive and clinical manner the method of performing abortions so as to “extract the most tissue which can then be furnished for research.”  The link to the video and a CNN piece on what has become a very controversial issue can be found below.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/15/health/planned-parenthood-undercover-video/

One of the counter attacks by those who are Pro Abortion is that the video was edited.  So is every movie that is released by Hollywood and every news story that appears in print.  Many years ago I had two separate three hour conversations with a Wall Street Journal staff writer and when the piece on which she was working, appeared in the paper she had reduced our conversation to two lines.  Editing is not the issue.  Nor is the motivation of the group that produced it – so long as the facts presented are actually the facts.

What really is the issue, something about which people who are both Pro Abortion and Pro Life should be concerned, is the level of ethics – both in our society generally and by extension among our medical practitioners.  In a self-centered, self-absorbed society that is a serious question.

Presumably, most of us would have no question about returning a guilty verdict in the case of a mother who suffocated her three  year old Downs Syndrome child because she couldn’t handle the stress of dealing with a youngster with this disability.  So why then would we applaud the woman for aborting that child as a fetus if it were clear the child would be born with this genetic defect?  Or for that matter, a child who would be born with Cystic Fibrosis?  Or for that matter, a child who was a female when the parents wanted a boy?  Or a child whose hair color would be red when they wanted a blond?

Today, whatever your philosophy, this is a choice that is purportedly left to the parent.  But those who press most strongly for further government entrenchment in our lives may not fully perceive where their efforts, if successful, may lead.

Because the truth is that government might one day decide that the right to reproduce is not a right but a privilege and it is they, (in the interest of the greater good) who should determine to whom that privilege should be granted and to whom it should be denied.

After all, the right to have children is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, that venerable document that receives as little attention from those on the left as some members of the medical community pay to the original Hippocratic Oath.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

If you don’t know who Dana Busbiber is, by the time you finish reading this post you will.  She happens to be an inner city public school English literature teacher in Sacramento, CA who believes that we should no longer educate our children by teaching Shakespeare because he is “a long dead British guy.”  Ms. Busbiber goes on to say that the only reason that “Shakespeare is great is because ‘some white people’ declared him to be.”  That’s an interesting thesis which unfortunately fails to reflect the fact that themes such as young love as set forth in “Romeo and Juliet” and honor and betrayal as written about in “King Lear” and “Hamlet” are as meaningful and important as they were four hundred years ago when the Bard first penned those plays.

A brief example of the “relevance” of Shakespeare comes from his play of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.  The play is, of course, the inspiration for the 1957 musical, “West Side Story,” written by Arthur Laurents with musical score by Leonard Bernstein.  Without that “long dead British guy,” would these artists have ever thought to create a story about the Jets and the Sharks and would we have those liltingly beautiful songs, “Maria” and “Tonight?”  Quite possibly not.  And, for that matter, would I have the title of this post, lifted unflinchingly from that same play?

Now that we’ve dispensed with the Busbiber bimbo, let’s turn our attention to the real subject and the title of this post, what is in a name?  Apparently, quite a lot.

Whether it is Judaism, Hinduism or a number of other religious traditions, having the power to “name” things is to give the person possessed of that power control over the thing so named.  In Genesis, God gave man the power to name the animals, and that power conferred the ability to have dominion over them.  And mankind has been busy naming things ever since – including our offspring.  Sometimes with unintended but fairly predictable dire consequences.

One of my classmates at the University of Chicago had the first name, Nimbus.  A nimbus is a luminescent halo or gray rain cloud and we all thought that Nimbus’ name was a good source for a chuckle.  Until we learned that he had a brother by the name of Zippo.  Apparently their father had served in the U. S. Army during WWII and attributed his survival to the unfailing ability  of his lighter to light, allowing him to escape through a pitch black corridor of a burned out building and avoid a platoon of Nazi troops.  But on the scale of 1 – 100, by today’s standards, Nimbus and Zippo barely register.

Twenty-five years ago, I had gone to my bank to cash a check to replenish our small petty cash fund.  Because this was a “business” transaction, I had to wait in the far shorter line for business customers than the regular long line to which the hoi poloi were consigned.  This was a good thing.  Furthermore, wanting to cater to its business customers, the bank regularly assigned its best tellers to the business line to provide those customers with a better experience.  As I waited my turn I happened to notice that the window was being manned by a new teller whom I had not seen before.  I glanced at his nameplate which rested to the side of his window and restrained a deep-seated laugh as I read his name, “Epluribusunum.”

Normally, whether it is a bank teller or a wait person, I try to pay attention to their name tag and use their name in addressing them as a way of acknowledging them as an individual.  That just seems to me a matter of common courtesy.  But I knew that before I got out the last syllable of Epluribusunum I would be laughing and that would be rude, so I conducted my business with this very efficient young man and just wished him a good day as I left his window and the bank.  While I was in line I was trying to think what an appropriate nickname for him might be, which further added to my sense of laughter.  But then I still have difficulty understanding how we turn Charlie into Chuck or Elizabeth into Betty.

You don’t need to be an Einstein to know that when a person is named “’Nshaquetha” or “Latonyethia” or “Epluribusunum” there is greater than a 99.9% probability that she or he is darkly complected.  And while I applaud their mothers’ originality in coming up with these monikers, I really do believe that these uniquely individual names serve as a hindrance to many of these children in their growing up and in their adult lives.  There is a reason that in many countries, including France, Germany, Japan, China, New Zealand and Iceland, among others, names must be selected from an approved list or a name which is not on that list must be submitted for approval before the child can be called by that name.  The United States has few if any such restrictions.

While most of the western world uses a system of naming using surnames as an identifier, the Icelandic people use a rather different system which was common throughout Scandinavia and is again being reintroduced in several of those countries.  It seeks to provide family connection by using a patronymic and in some cases a matronymic system.  That is to say, there are no surnames but a child is identified as his or her father’s son or daughter (or mother’s) by adding either “son” or “dóttir” to their father’s (or mother’s) first name.  Thus, if Jón and Birgit had a boy whom they named Eifur, he might be called either Eifur Jónsson or Eifur Birgitsson.  In the case of a girl named Helga she would be either Helga Jonsdóttir or Helga Birgitsdóttir.

There is a charming simplicity both to having specific names which we may confer on our children and to the Icelandic system of providing relationship attribution through the use of one (or in some cases both) the parents’ names to the newborn.  But as I think about it, with the growing number of unwed mothers and hard to find fathers in the United States, it probably wouldn’t work here.

To those of you have earned it, “Have a Happy Father’s Day.”  And to those of you who contributed in that effort, enjoy Dad’s day as well.

POETIC POLITICS

OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on the lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shortly after the 2008 Presidential election I called my cable provider to ask whether I had been “auto-subscribed” to an expanded package which included the Obama station.  It seemed that scarcely a day went by that the new president didn’t have a news conference in which he would announce matters of great importance – such as, “Today’s Tuesday.”  It didn’t take long to identify a pattern that would repeat pretty much throughout the next four years.  Sadly, through no choice of my own, I was forced to watch these interruptions of regular programming – a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s interdiction against cruel and unusual punishment.

With the 2012 election the regular appearances continued, although at a blessedly slower pace.  And as we headed toward the 2014 election Obama had even less to say on air – perhaps taking a hint from his Democrat buds who certainly didn’t want him to campaign on their behalf – and in some cases refused to acknowledge that they either knew or had ever voted for him.

There are probably as many ways to interpret the results of this year’s election as there are people with political perspectives.  Despite the fact that all politics are supposed to be local, the nation swept Republicans into office in greater numbers in the House, switched control of the Senate and entrenched state governments with yet more GOP governors, including the states of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois which have been Democrat strongholds for years.  For the first time in my voting history, I actually cast a ballot for a candidate for Congress – who won – defeating a freshman Democrat in a district that is, at the least, liberal leaning.

Perhaps the results stemmed from the fact  that the majority of Americans, in poll after poll, believe the country is heading in the wrong direction; have antipathy to President Obama; or generally reject the climate of uncertainty and ineptitude which have been either tolerated or promulgated, depending on your political affiliation, during the past six years.  Even during the turmoil of the Vietnam War, as divisive as that was, I don’t remember a climate where Americans felt as hostilely towards one another as they do today.  What should be most disappointing for those who voted enthusiastically for Obama is that, rather than serving as the president of the country, whether intentionally or otherwise, he has set himself up as the president and leader only of those Americans who accept his philosophic view – and that in a rather imperious manner.

Yesterday’s post-election press conference offered the president the opportunity to recognize that he and his party were thoroughly repudiated by the electorate and that it was perhaps time for a sea change.  Instead, he took the time to point out that two thirds of the eligible electorate didn’t bother to go out and vote – as though that proved that his policies are just fine – it’s just that two thirds of us were too busy getting tattoos or having their nails done to express their opinion.  This does not bode well for the next two years.

When we’re children it’s understandable that not having developed a solid sense of self-worth, we might, if confronted with the fact that we’ve made a mistake, deny either that we committed the offense or find an excuse why it wasn’t our fault.  It’s “the dog ate my homework” syndrome.  Most of us, however, realize that we can only push those excuses so far and so often.  And ultimately, like the little boy who cried wolf, at some point people, even the most generous of us, will simply cease listening either to the speaker or the excuse.  And we categorize people who continue that behavior with a term – pathological liars.

This is not a new phenomenon.  St. Paul addressed the issue in I Corinthians 13:11:

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Maybe it’s time we all grew up.

SPAY AND NEUTER

With a lifelong passion for companion animals, primarily dogs although a few kitties worked their way in, I heartily support the effort to act humanely and control the animal population so that fewer of them are inhumanely treated or are euthanized.  While I personally value these critters more highly than at least a couple of the people I’ve met on my journey, I realize that the prevailing thought among most people is that we, as top of the food chain (momentarily), are far more important than the most wonderful of our four footed friends.  So let’s go with that line of thought for a moment.

I’ve previously written about an explanation I received from a Russian Orthodox bishop as to what the “unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit” was.  For those who missed it let me recap.  God’s love and forgiveness is limitless.  But unless the person who needs that forgiveness asks for it, God does not impose himself on the sinner.  The way most of us know this is by the label, “Free Will.”  But if a person is so hardened of heart that he refuses to ask for forgiveness, it is denied him.  That is not by God’s choice but is a function of the individual’s decision.

While I am not a theologian, from a lay person’s perspective I have come to the conclusion that certain specific acts or crimes are manifestations of the person who has reached a point where he or she is incapable of asking for compassion – because that person is unable to understand compassion and feels no guilt about inflicting violence and brutality against others.  The three crimes which I view as examples of this are crimes against children; crimes against the infirm or elderly; and crimes against animals.

We send our children to school to be educated in the fundamentals they will need to make it through.  We trust that when they go there they will be provided a safe environment in which to learn.  The most recent shooting spree by a jilted boy friend in Washington state is garnering only slightly more attention than the hatchet attacks against two rookie New York City policemen, probably because the shooter, a Native American, doesn’t fit the left’s agenda that virtually all violence is committed by white males and the NRA is responsible for all our ills.

But this piece is not about school shootings.  It is about something at least as tragic and even more widespread.  It is about sexually predatory teachers.  And it seems, based on recent arrests, that there is an ordinate number of women, not men, who are the guilty parties.  That doesn’t work well with the “War on Women” meme that abounds in the liberal media.

I recently read several stories in which female teachers took advantage of their position and had sexual relations with their students.  One was committed by a twenty-two year old substitute teacher on her first day teaching at a school in Washington, D. C.  The student was a seventeen year old male, on whom she performed oral sex.  Perhaps as disturbing as the story were the comments on the story, many of which referred to her attractive appearance and left remarks like, “Wow, she’s a looker.  I wish I had her teaching my class when I was in high school.”

Another story from a few days earlier detailed the fact that a thirty-four year old teacher had been arrested in California and charged with having an inappropriate sexual relationship with one of her students.  In this case she was married and has several small children at home.  That in itself is a scary thought.

In New York City, a gym teacher was charged with thirty counts of statutory rape for allegedly having sex with one of her male students on a regular basis over a period of many months.  In addition, she faces four charges for “criminal sexual acts”.  Apparently, predators are not restricted to any geographical area.  All they need is a classroom.

My parents had many concerns that they pondered in my rearing.  I am, however, confident that worrying about one of my teacher’s molesting me while at was at school was not on their list of worries.  If I had kids in school today I suspect I would feel differently.

Now I realize that there are those on the left who adamantly oppose the death penalty, suggesting that the argument that executing someone does not really deter others from committing similar executable crimes.  Perhaps they’re correct.  And the argument that if we made a mistake in arriving at a conviction and then execute the person, well that decision is irreversible.  That’s definitely true.  So I would like to promote a compromise punishment for people who are found guilty of sexually predatory behavior – whether teachers or otherwise.  Spay and neuter.

Should the reader think this is “cruel and unusual punishment” I would draw their attention to the children who are maligned and how they are likely to suffer a lifelong struggle to overcome their abuse.  And, unlike a lethal injection or a firing squad, having to live the rest of your life as an asexual person might indeed prove to be a deterrent for others contemplating engaging in similar activities.

As to the argument that the death penalty is final – well, I’d admit that this too would be irreversible should someone be wrongly convicted.  But I have faith that in the near future, science will have developed a way for us to clone ourselves – so for those few who were innocent, there would still be light at the end of the tunnel.  That might be a brighter light than the one that will ever shine on the victims whom these predators have abused.

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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