The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘college’ Category

READING, WRITING AND TAX FRAUD

There has been a lot of negative feedback directed at the White House for its omission in not sending a higher level individual to the rally that took place last Sunday in Paris.  Surely, we could have spared Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry to attend.  If, God forbid, something had happened, they could easily have been replaced by someone equally incompetent.

While White House spokesman Josh Earnest, acknowledged that this was a small faux pas on the part of the administration, he preceded that with a variety of other explanations which bore all the validity of the explanation that “The attack on our facility in Benghazi occurred as a result of a spontaneous attack, caused by an offensive video.”

Let’s see,  “The President only found out about the rally as a result of hearing about it in the media and there wasn’t a sufficient amount of time to ensure that the proper security measures would be in place to guarantee his safety.”  So let’s think back to the funeral of Nelson Mandela which the president did attend.  There were several more days which intervened between his death and burial – and there was probably previous planning about security which would have been tethered together since he was an elderly man and his death, at some point, was expected.  So, despite what must have been greater security, do you remember the mentally ill man who, while Obama gave his eulogy, was gesticulating a translation in a pseudo-sign language style of his own invention?  Was the entirety of the Secret Service detail off in the red light district during the ceremony?

“The president was not invited to attend.”  If that is true it might speak volumes about the real state of Franco-American relationships – though it is surprising considering the fact that Presidents Hollande and Obama are both socialists.  Perhaps the French simply didn’t want the nation to be snubbed in the same way that the British were by Obama’s failure to attend Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

While it seems unreasonable to expect this or any other president to expose himself to unnecessary personal risk, that didn’t seem to deter Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter being a much more likely target, from having the gumption to show up and march in the front line, arm in arm.  One could argue that with or without any American security, Obama might well be viewed by the Islamic radical terrorists as an ally rather than an opponent and would have been the safest of all world leaders present at the rally.  After all, he’s been busily freeing Guantanamo detainees and sending them back to the homeland where they can rejoin the fight to eradicate Western Civilization from the face of the map.  Well, at least we taxpayers are saving money since we spend three times more per year on one of the enemy combatants in Gitmo than we do on your basic murderer or rapist in one of our federal penitentiaries.

Now that several days have gone by since the Paris demonstration of solidarity, I think I may have hit on the real reason that Obama couldn’t bother to make it to France – other than the obvious that he was watching the playoff  games.  It is that he was fleshing out his latest idea that we should offer everyone the opportunity to attend community college, maintain an “average” average and have the taxpayers fund their education.  This may surprise some long time readers but I have to say that this might be the brightest idea that has sprung from Obama in the last six years – or perhaps ever.  Which is not to say that I am in complete agreement with it.  But let’s set aside partisanship and review this proposal on an objective basis.

I’m going to begin with an assumption that while an associate’s degree might not carry with it the potential earnings benefit of a four year bachelor’s degree, it should at the least offer its recipient at least half the potential of the more advanced parchment.  We’ll set aside the fact that about thirty percent of those holding newly conferred bachelor’s degrees are unable to find any work and more than sixty percent are holding positions for which they are overqualified for lack of suitable opportunities which would require their newly acquired expertise.  Those are mere anomalies.  There are at least a few examples of how acquiring a four year degree – or at least working toward that goal – can bring with it financial rewards.

The feds recently apprehended seven student athletes who attended the University of South Dakota who were involved in a tax fraud scheme which reportedly diverted $1.1 Million in fraudulent tax refund claims and which netted the group $400,000 which they withdrew from ATM’s before they were arrested.  Of these, six were members of the USD football team and one was a member of the university’s track and field team.  (He was probably the runner for the group).  So to those of you who criticize the quality of education that our kids get in college, I can only say, “Pshaw.”

As I write this, it occurs to me that perhaps the explanation that Obama was watching the football playoffs is indeed the real reason for his notable absence at the Parisian rally.  He might have been scouting for promising football players to add to the administration’s staff who could come up with innovative ways to pay for his community college proposal.  After all, most of those guys have four year degrees – and a fairly large percentage have felony convictions to round out their resumes.

SEX AND THE SINGLE COLLEGE STUDENT

Once upon a time the height of sexual titillation was the “strip tease.”  That was when we were sexually repressed, believed the normal order in which life proceeded was courtship, marriage and then children and generally confined our sexual activities to the bedroom with the person who was our life partner.  As one person put it – “The strip tease is intended to tantalize but not to reveal all.  It leaves that to the imagination of the viewer.”  Things have changed – and arguably not for the better.

When I was in college, the focus was on trying to get an education.  While this was in the rebellious ‘60’s, getting laid was probably something that some of my fellow students hoped for (and in some cases were able to achieve), but it was not something in which the school participated through “educational” curricula on the subject.  Well, officially the University of Chicago is a school founded by a Baptist – John D. Rockefeller.   Perhaps that’s the explanation.

The recent “Rolling Stones” now discredited story about the female rape victim, Jackie at the University of Virginia, brought this to mind.  Rape is a dreadful crime.  As we know, it’s not about engaging in sex so much as it is about overwhelming the unwilling person, forcing him or her into doing something in which they do not want to be involved.  It is, in essence, an act of bullying – which like all bullying can carry with it both physical and psychological damage.  And that is something which all of us should find offensive and reprehensible.

We might have fewer rapes on our college campuses or elsewhere throughout the country if people simply applied the rule of common sense to the way in which we conducted ourselves.  Some of the things we could do or advise our children to do is to avoid places where excessive partying is expected to be the order of the evening; avoid excessive amounts of alcohol; don’t accept beverages from people whom you don’t know; have a companion with you who is looking out for you and for whom you are looking out; don’t smoke dope or take any pills while you’re out at the party.  While that will not eliminate the possibility of rape, following those simple rules might reduce the likelihood that it would occur.

But part of the problem I suspect, at least in some cases, is there can be a fine line between rape and consensual sex.  Naturally, if the “victim” willingly over drank and engaged in sex, buyer’s remorse might set in the following morning and perhaps the recollection of the events of the previous night might be blurred.  And part of the problem might be that while our colleges and universities are busily involved in investigating incidences of alleged rape on their campuses, many of them are promoting an agenda in which the lines between propriety and libertine behavior are aggressively blurred.  Allow me to offer a few examples.

To my recollection, during my time in college, I don’t recall anyone “streaking” the campus.  That might be because the weather in Chicago is cold and is well-described as having two seasons – winter and August.  But in some of our finer universities, not only is streaking commonplace – it’s evolved to the point of being an athletic event.  Among the schools that have nude athletes competing are Rice University; Williams College; the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill); Dartmouth College, to name only a few.

Without making a value judgment about public nudity, I think it is safe to say that if you are wearing no clothing or other accoutrements, it becomes more difficult to carry your Pagan Symbolism in Native American Basket Weaving syllabus to class along with your cell phone, your change and your lunch.  But nudity is merely the tip of the sexberg which circles our colleges’ ivy walls.  There’s “Sex Week.”  I’ve posted the calendar for Harvard University’s recently concluded 2014 Fall program below:

Sunday, November 2

Brown Girlz Do it Well: a Queer Diaspora Remix

2:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

Join Harvard South Asian Association and SHEATH for a creative workshop by Dark Matter and a discussion on explore our own narratives of family, queerness, and diaspora. The intention is to situate our personal narratives within broader systems of racism, casteism, classism, islamophobia, and imperialism.

DARKMATTER is a trans south asian art and activist collaboration comprised of Janani and Aloo. Using poetry & polemic, tweet & tirade DM is committed to an art practice of gender self(ie)determination, racial justice, and movement building. DM has been invited to perform and facilitate workshops across the world. you can follow their antics at www.darkmatterrage.com or @darkmatterrage.

Monday, November 3

SEXY AND I KNOW IT: Sex Ed 101

5:00 pm, Sever 202

What’s an internal condom? How about a dental dam? If you’re looking for a sex-ed primer, this is the place to be. Sex educator Shira Cahn-Lipman will interactively teach us about the do’s and dont’s of safer sex practices in an inclusive way. All genders and sexualities are encouraged to join us for a primer or a refresher on how to safely enjoy sex!

Losing Your (Concept of) Virginity

6:00 – 7:30 pm, Harvard College Women’s Center (Canaday B basement)

This event aims to explore the myths, stigmas, and popular ideas surrounding virginity. Through documentary clips, activities, and group discussions, we will consider the historical context of virginity and its different social, political, personal, and religious meanings. All are welcome to attend and share their thoughts, though no sharing of personal experience is required, and no identities are assumed. Does virginity matter? How does a person lose their virginity? What does virginity really mean? And what does it mean to you?

Tuesday, November 4

What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101

5:00 pm, Sever 113

Come learn everything about anal sex from the experts of Good Vibrations, a sex-positive store located right in Brookline! They will dispel myths about anal sex and give you insight into why people do it and how to do it well. They will cover a wide variety of topics, including: anal anatomy and the potential for pleasure for all genders; how to talk about it with a partner; basic preparation and hygiene; lubes, anal toys, and safer sex; anal penetration for beginners, and much more! Learn the facts about this exciting yet often misunderstood form of pleasure, find out the common mistakes people make, and get all your questions answered!

#SellingSexy – How our social culture is shaping the future of entertainment

8:00 pm, Sever 113

Cosponsored by the Radcliffe Union of Students

Wednesday, November 5

#HearOurStories: A Digital Story Screening

7:00 pm, Fong Auditorium

An exciting event on sexual rights, social justice and young parenthood. In partnership with the UMass Amherst Hear Our Stories project, the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and the Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective are proud to host a youth-led screening of digital stories created by young mothers as part of Harvard Sex Week. This event will illuminate the multi-layered identities of young parents and intersection of issues faced by young people including violence, discrimination, and homelessness. Following the screening will be a panel with some of the young women who created the digital stories.

Cosponsored by the Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective

Thursday, November 6

Sexual Health Career Panel

4:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

The annual Sexual Health Career fair will highlight opportunities available to students for careers in sexual health, reproductive justice, BGLTQ advocacy, and other related fields. Come speak to representatives from a wide range of organizations, including the Aids Action Committee, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Planned Parenthood, and Global Protection Corps, and hear about summer internships and post-grad job opportunities. The event will feature a panel discussion on career paths in sexual health, followed by a meet & greet career fair. Hosted by SHARC (Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors) in partnership with Sex Week at Harvard.​

Cosponsored by Sexual Health And Relationship Counselors (SHARC)

Jungle Fever: On Exotification

6:00 pm, Ticknor Lounge

Have you ever said or heard the following?

I love [insert racial or ethnic group here] because they always [insert stereotype about said racial or ethnic group]!

If so, then you have either experienced or participated in exotification. Exotification means objectifying someone’s racial or ethnic identity, treating that identity–and that identity alone–as what defines them or makes them desirable. To learn more about exotification and its problematic nature, come to the exotification panel on November 6th from 6-8 pm in TIcknor Lounge.

Cosponsored by the Harvard Asian American Women’s Association, Latinas Unidas, and the Association of Black Harvard Women

Friday, November 7

Fifty Shades of False: Kink, Fantasy, and Fetish

4:30 pm, Sever 106

Fifty Shades of False: Kink, Fantasy, and Fetish will explore supposedly “taboo” topics in sexuality, namely the kinky. Munch, Harvard’s Kink and Alternative Sexuality group will run a presentation on kink through the lens of the ever popular Fifty Shades of Grey. This presentation will attempt to expose and attempt to correct inaccuracies in the book’s portrayal of kink.

Cosponsored by Harvard College Munch

Open Mic Night

8 pm, Dudley Co-Op

Join SHEATH and Speak Out Loud, Harvard’s only spoken word poetry group, at 8pm on Friday, November 7th for an open mic! Poetry, food, and friendly faces will populate this casual Sex Week event while providing an open and relaxed space to consider the other topics addressed throughout the week. Following the open mic will be the annual Sex Week party (more food!).

Cosponsored by Harvard College Speak Out Loud

Saturday, November 8

Love @ First Swipe: Online Hookup Culture

4:30 pm, Sever 113

Grindr? Tindr? whats the technique? whats the upside/downside?

Cosponsored by Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, CONTACT Peer Counseling, Response, and Sexual Health And Relationship Counselors (SHARC)

Given our younger generation’s liberation from society’s repressive view of healthy sexuality as evidenced in part by the contents of Harvard’s Sex Week program, it does give me pause to wonder why rape is such a problem for these kids.  After all, isn’t the rapist merely expressing her or himself in a way which is meaningful to that person?  Shouldn’t a permissive and inclusive society accept that person’s right to be that person?  Why all the noise about rape on campus – or elsewhere?  Bill Cosby, stand up and take a bow.

California has certainly got the vision since they are in the process of passing a law which would define a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student of at least fourteen years of age as being “consensual.”  Way to go California Teacher’s Union.  You certainly have the best interests of your young students at heart – preparing them well for a continuing education in our institutions of higher learning.

Now I realize some of my readers might consider our current views toward human sexual expression as being – may I use the word – perverted.  That just goes to show how old-fashioned you are – and you need to enroll in a class immediately which will help you evolve from your antediluvian views.  But even you, I think, will have to admit that there has been at least one positive development that has come out of our current sexual enlightenment.

We are all familiar with what was once considered a rather coarse expression,  “GO F*CK YOURSELF.”   Now there’s a college course that explains how to do that.

TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY

A little over a year ago I wrote a piece that was part of my “comedy” posts.  It was entitled, “On Thinking You’re Important” and I’ve provided the link below as the introduction to this post.

https://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/on-thinking-youre-important/

I hope you enjoyed that little vignette into our perception of ourselves.

Most of my readers, I hope will agree that when examining various issues, I try to take a balanced and a fair approach.  Perhaps I don’t always achieve that standard and I would be the first to admit that each of us has certain predispositions which influence our thinking.  But I believe that an intelligent person owes it to her or himself to try to arrive at a logical answer to every question based only on the evidence, not on pre-formed personal opinion.  It is for that reason that I consider myself a libertarian conservative.  I was not always so.

Frankly, whether the label we apply to either a movement or an individual is Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal probably is inadequate to completely define a person or a group.  Some of my conservative friends and I disagree on the way to address a specific problem and I agree with others of my liberal friends on certain issues.  But it would be fair to say that it is far easier, if I had to describe myself, to identify with one camp rather than the other – even if that means that we disagree on the fringes.  Conservatism offers me the right to form my own opinions – something I see lacking in the liberal camp.  Furthermore, while my views might evolve over time, they don’t juxtapose themselves from one side to its diametric opposite overnight with no rational reason to explain this change.

A liberal reader might find it easy to disagree with his conservative counterpart.  I understand that.  But the reason for the disagreement stems from the fact that most conservatives have a clear and stated position to which they adhere.  They have a world view which might be incompatible with the view of others.  And that is exactly the point.  You know where most conservatives stand on any given issue and it doesn’t change on a daily basis or because it is politically expedient to alter the view to garner votes in the next election.

That is perhaps my biggest difficulty with taking liberalism seriously.  What is today in liberalism is just as likely to be what it isn’t tomorrow.  How can a reasonable person take any ideology seriously if it is subject to change without notice?

I believe most of us would agree that President Obama has a “liberal agenda.”  So as I look at him as the current titular head of the liberal movement in America and review his positions, I wonder how anyone can play follow the leader with him at the head of the Conga line.

Gay marriage – opposed as a candidate – now embraced as the Holy Grail; opposition to increasing the deficit as a U. S. senator – now nearly doubled during his administration; stating that we should close Gitmo during his first campaign – that facility is still open; anger and outrage at the IRS scandal and the promise to get to the bottom of it – now over a year later his administration setting up barriers to those who would investigate it; and, of course, there is Obamacare, touted as the best thing to happen to America since the invention of sliced bread – now in its 35th changed iteration.  This list is far from complete.  Which brings me to the current rage in liberal talking points – “The war on women.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali woman who is an author and filmmaker.  In her homeland she was subjected to genital mutilation and left the country when she refused to become a wife in a marriage her family had arranged.  She has written extensively on the way in which Islam treats women and has made a documentary detailing behavior that, if it occurred in America, would subject the perpetrator to  a long jail term.

Most Americans would consider public beatings, execution as a result of “honor killings,” even something as simple as the refusal to allow women to drive cars or be seen in the company of male non-relatives to be far more serious than issues of whether women earn the exact same rate of pay as their male counterparts.  But apparently, that is not the view that the liberal cause has currently chosen as a basis for their most recent crusade.

A fatwa has been issued against Ms. Ali for her writings and the documentary on Islam that she produced.  This gives any faithful Muslim the right to assassinate her should the opportunity present itself.  That in itself ought to give any person, liberal, conservative or independent a reason to speak out about this barbaric culture and its proponents.  But do we hear that from our liberal friends?  Quite the contrary.

Brandeis University, one of the most self-identified “liberal” schools was going to offer Ms. Ali an honorary degree – until a significant portion of its faculty signed a petition opposing the award.  That in itself is somewhat confounding since Brandeis has a long history as a school with a large preponderance of both Jewish professors and students.  Perhaps they’re unaware that Islam speaks of the Jews in the most derogatory terms and has vowed that it will bring about the end of Israel.

When it comes to the “war on women” there are real issues.  And while there may be some inequity in this country, compared to a significant portion of the rest of the world, I fail to understand why there is no outcry from our liberal friends about the sort of medieval behavior to which Ms. Ali and other women in the Muslim world are the victims.  Frankly, their focus is similar to that of a doctor who is treating a patient with terminal cancer and is focusing his attention on the fact that the patient has an ingrown toe nail.

That is why, although they speak with fiery rhetoric and great passion, I find it hard to take liberal views seriously.    Methinks they do propound too much.  But in fairness, I might change my opinion.  After all, in liberalism, what is today may not be tomorrow.  And tomorrow is another day.

MINIMUM RAGE

Later this week the Prez is going on a bus tour to promote the idea of making college affordable for students.  That sounds like a great idea – although a person has to question the value of the education that a student receives when there is a limited market for whatever skills they receive in their four years at their alma maters.

Well, there’s the NFL – and McDonald’s.  At least in the NFL we are able to answer that question that was posed by the late Clara Peller, made famous in her Wendy’s commercials by asking, “Where’s the beef?”

And there is a lot to beef about – particularly if you are a college student and happened to have been chosen as an intern – in the White House.  You see, while the administration has been actively campaigning to increase the federal minimum wage, it pays these interns exactly – nothing per hour.  In addition, the interns must provide for their own housing.

Most internship programs are designed to offer promising students who are majoring in the field, the opportunity to get an introduction to the employer and the industry’s business.  Of course, some of these positions are awarded not by merit but by influence.   You know – the “good old boy system.”  Actually, those internships awarded by the White House go to those who are the kids of big contributors to “the cause.”  So it’s not as though these kids are going to have join the ranks of the homeless in our nation’s capital to beg for their next latté.

So consider the ingratitude of some of these young upstarts who feel that they should actually not only enjoy the privilege of learning about the finer points of obfuscation, but should actually get paid for their efforts.  Boy, are these kids working for the wrong administration.

Considering the fact that if the girls could just go out, have two kids and apply for welfare benefits (oh they’d have to move to Hawaii – so how tough is that) they could collect in cash and food and healthcare benefits the fairly decent amount of over $60,000 per year.  That’s way more than twice what we pay a starting teacher in Washington, D.C.

If these students learned anything from their internship this summer, hopefully it’s a grasp of economic realities – and how the administration for whom they worked for free just doesn’t get the concept that if you pay people enough in welfare and other benefits, you kill the incentive to work.  Or maybe they do understand it and its part of a master plan to keep the uneducated in subjugation.

With the bleak job outlook looming ahead of them, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these kids decided not to return to those ivy walls.  In fact, they might just decide to hang out with the many homeless who reside on the streets of Washington.  The weather is pretty good there year round.

But it’s a little hard for me to understand why, the cherry blossoms, notwithstanding, D.C. has so many homeless.  After all, Washington has a minimum wage which is 14% above the federal standard.  Can you just imagine the influx of additional homeless to the District if we – well, let’s say – just doubled it?

Some of our angered interns might even find out that, if they stay,  they qualify for some benefit package or other.  Even if it was a small pittance – it would be more than what they earned while working for the president.

THE PENN STATE SCANDAL

As the alleged cover-up of sexually inappropriate behavior on the part  of Penn State’s football coaching staff deepens and widens, one can only ask how could something like this happen at one of America’s premier public universities.

The answer comes to us from this song from the film version of the musical, “Cabaret” released in 1972.

INVICTUS

I remember the trepidation with which I faced taking my SAT exam.  As I saw it, my whole future depended on how I performed on this test.  I was truly fearful – wanting to do my best – and not wanting to disappoint my parents and grandmother.  This was a lot of responsibility for a 16-year old.

I was to take the exam on Saturday.  I realized that I had a decent vocabulary – one of the things that would be tested – and that my math skills were excellent.  I simply had to put aside my fear and allow the years of quality education  to flow through me and on to the answer sheet.  I needed to calm down – confident in my abilities.

So I decided that rather than spending the day worrying about what tomorrow would bring I should do something to relieve my anxiety.  I found an anthology of poetry among my parents’ library and happened to turn to the following poem:

INVICTUS

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

The Friday that I read this poem I knew nothing about its author.  I do remember a sense of overwhelming comfort and confidence about my exam the next day as I read and re-read it.  I went to my Encyclopedia to find out a little about the poet who had penned this beautiful piece.

Henley is best remembered for this poem – supposedly written after his left leg was amputated – the result of the tuberculosis of the bone from which he had suffered since he was 12 years old.  He was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson and was purportedly the basis for that author’s character Long John Silver because of the peg that was inserted in place of his missing limb.

At a time in which there were handicapped people but no handicapped accommodations to assist them – I can only imagine the difficulty of getting through the day to do day challenges that each of us faces.   After learning more about the author, this poem took on even more significance for me.

I cannot say whether it was because I had received an excellent education, reading the poem, “Invictus” or both, but I did very well on the SAT exams.  And to this day I hold strong to the belief that,

“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

“CASABLANCA”

 

It was a few weeks into my first year of college when I met Tim and Joe.

We were all from the eastern part of the country. Tim was from New Haven. He was of moderate height and had a somewhat brash demeanor. Joe was from Newport and looked like a blond version of “the Hulk.” However, despite his impressive size he was one of the most gentle and soft-spoken people I have ever known.

The three of us got along well and started spending what little extra time we had exploring the city of Chicago which was new to the three of us. One of those trips took us to the Clark Street Theater – a movie house that was in Chicago’s loop that specialized in running classic films.

The theater was open twenty-four hours a day and its standard schedule was to run double features back to back. It was a highly affordable evening of entertainment as the price of admission (with student ID) was only one dollar. The following Friday, they were going to start a Bogart festival. The two features that they were showing to kick this off were “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon.” We decided to check it out.

We asked another classmate, Georgia who was a native Chicagoan, if she would like to accompany us. But she had plans to work on a paper. She did, however, warn us, “Whatever you do – don’t sit in the balcony. Strange and unusual things happen up there.” We were intrigued about her statement (to which she refused to add any details) but decided to follow her advice.

When we arrived at the theater, the main floor was tightly packed with movie-goers. We were unable to find three seats that were together. So we glanced up at the balcony which appeared to be sparsely populated. So of necessity, we took the stairs to the second floor and found three seats in the front row, Tim on the left, me in the middle and Joe on my right.

If you’re old enough you may remember that movie theaters frequently employed ushers. The Clark Street Theater was no exception. These young men were equipped with long-handled flashlights – but the purpose of this equipment was less to guide patrons to their seats than it was to wake up those street people who had come in to escape the fall weather and sleep overnight in the theater. The cost of general admission was two dollars – but the nearby flop houses on Harrison Street charged three dollars or more for a night’s rest.

Both Tim and Joe had seen Casablanca before but this was my first viewing of the film. I settled back hoping that it would live up to the enthusiastic reviews I had received from my two classmates.

We had gotten to the point in the film where Victor Laszlo goes to Rick’s office to ask him for the “letters of transit” so that he and Ilsa Lund can leave Morocco. At that point, a man wearing a raincoat (which he kept on) sat in the seat to Joe’s right.

Within a matter of seconds, timid Joe whispered past me to Tim, “Tim, there’s a hand on my leg.” Tim whispered back, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”

The movie continued with Laszlo and Rick exiting the office and standing at the top of the stairs of the cafe. The Nazi colonel had begun leading his troops in a militaristic march extolling the virtues of the fatherland. Laszlo looks at the bandleader and says, “Play ‘La Marseillaise.’ Play it.” At this point, Joe whispered with a lot of intensity and a certain desperation, “Tim, the hand is moving up my leg.” Again Tim responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

The free French in the cafe take up the singing of “La Marseillaise,” drowning out the Germans. At the conclusion of their singing the anthem, cheers emerge from the crowd and then there is a moment of cathartic silence.

At this point, at the top of his voice, Tim yelled out, “Hey, you. You take your hands off him. I saw him first and he’s mine!” As the man in the raincoat quickly ran from the balcony the entire theater burst into laughter. We watched the remainder of the film without event. When it ended we saw that seats were available on the main floor and we decided to watch “The Maltese Falcon” downstairs in the relative safety that it provided.

Casablanca” continues to be one of my favorite movies of all time. Because of what took place my first time viewing it I can say it holds a special place among my lifetime experiences.

The three of us formed a deep bond which has lasted many years – and to paraphrase Rick’s line to Louis in the movie’s final scene, “It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

 

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