The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘people’ Category

BILL CLINTON AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICA

There has been quite a lot of head shaking among my fellow Baby Boomers at the current state of affairs in America both political and cultural as though they are thinking, “How could things ever have reached this low?”  Well, for them I have some good news.  We’ve been there before – about 50 years ago.  And we made a comeback.  Perhaps the core of our problem is that we think of things in a linear manner.  We would be better served if we adopted the Mayan view of time and events and thought of them as circular and recurrent.

That is not to say that as I watch the idiocy, misinformation and shear ignorance that is the stock in trade today of today’s younger generation brought about by an educational system that has largely failed them and turned it’s attention to creating “safe spaces” for these poor, shrinking violets rather than educating them in the classics and history, I do not wring my hands with despair and despondence.  I do.  But then I remember embarking on my college career as the country was highly polarized both by race relations and the Vietnam War – and I think to myself, I’ve seen this movie, well at least the original version if not the remake.

The college at the University of Chicago was left leaning since long before I started there in 1964.  The only place on campus one might find conservatives was at the Business School and, to a lesser degree, the Law School.  But for those of us who were undergraduates, we were generally immersed in a culture of the left – whether we wanted it or not.  Notwithstanding the political orientation of our teachers, we were exposed to a wide variety of thought – often thought which directly conflicted with our instructors’ own political or social viewpoint.

One of the mandatory courses was Sociology 101.  The reading list was extensive, almost unmanageable because of its volume.  But among those books which were required reading were the works of J. J. Rousseau, John Locke, the Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville.  These authors could hardly be described as proponents of the philosophy of the left.  Despite the fact that my professor for this class was a good friend of Saul Alinksy (Rules For Radicals) who dedicated this work, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s 1969 college thesis, to Lucifer, his approach to dealing with this material was to present it and, because he believed he had a superior mental ability either to the authors or his students, attempt to debunk what they had to say.

Consider that last line as a sign post of the difference between then and now because it is crucial.  The material was presented and debated – or at least it was.  Today’s universities do not exercise the same intellectual honesty because they present only one side of the story, pretending that is the only side to be told.  And this manifestation of intellectual dishonesty extends everywhere into the culture where freedom of speech merely means, freedom to speak but only in the manner that the vocal left minority deems appropriate.  The late Chairman Mao would be proud of them – as would have been Adolph Hitler.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

De Tocqueville was sent to the fledgling America by the French government to study her prison system and went on to write his classic two volume work, Democracy in America.  There are many profound observations which he made in that work and over the next several posts I will be using several of them to illustrate my point.

But let us move on to the subject of this post with the assistance of another of his quotes:

“The greatness of America lies in the fact that her laws are applied equally to everyone.”

There are two separate but equally important points to be taken from these quotes.

First, de Tocqueville recognized that moral behavior was an absolute thing.  That there was right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood and that God, not man established those things which also gave rise to the Founding Fathers’ exclamation that “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”.  Truth, right and good were ordained as such by God and no matter how man might convolute these to suit his own personal needs, were immutable. There is no clearer expression of this than in our legal system where the person testifying is required to take an oath, pledging to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But to whom is this oath sworn?  To God.  As de Tocqueville points out in the first of these quotes, morality is dependent on faith.  So if we set God aside, then the only concern of a deponent in a jury proceeding is not in testifying truthfully but in testifying in a manner which best serves his purpose if he is confident that he will not get caught lying.  And the sad truth is that there are few cases of perjury which are ever prosecuted – thus reinforcing this self-serving behavior.

During President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial our then Chief Executive clearly lied about his sexual liaisons.  Frankly, I could care less about them and would have had more respect if he had said, “Yes, I had sex with that woman in the Oval Office.  So what?” Clearly there have been other presidents who had dalliances outside their marriages including FDR and Eisenhower to mention just two who come quickly to mind and those relationships didn’t seem to impact their ability to govern.  Instead, Clinton chose to take the low road with a series of legalistic responses to avoid the embarrassment of public revelation about his numerous sexual relationships.  And his punishment for this perjury – a fine and the revocation of his law license.

Second, let’s consider the concept of “the equal application of the law” which de Tocqueville lauds and review the case of Martha Stewart.

On December 27, 2001, Martha Stewart disposed of her interest in Imclone stock based on inside information she had received.  This helped her avoid a loss of about $50,000 as bad news on the company was about to break.  Ms. Stewart was arraigned and her trial took six weeks, resulting in her conviction on nine felony counts.  But the bulk of her penalty – a six month imprisonment followed by five months of electronic monitoring and an additional thirteen months of supervision was the result not of insider trading, for which she paid a fine but because she had lied to the FBI while being interrogated under oath by them.  As an aside, until 2014 when the law was changed, the insider trading activity in which Stewart engaged and which was illegal for any American to participate in – was fully legal if you were a Member of Congress.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that so many congressmen and women enter the Rotunda poor and emerge as millionaires.

In my view, the penalties meted out to Clinton and Stewart were hardly comparable.  If anything, Clinton’s should have been the more severe because he held the highest of public offices and Stewart merely saved herself some money – an insignificant amount considering her net worth.  But both of them have returned to the limelight in society, their past transgressions forgotten and forgiven.  To this day, Bill Clinton is one of America’s most admired politicians.  And de Tocqueville has an explanation for that in our closing quote:

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

DIVERSITY

It was a late fall day as I waited for the elevator in our apartment building.  Several floors below from the open stairwell,  I could hear two of the tenants having a conversation and I realized that one of them was holding the door open.  If they didn’t finish their confab quickly, I ran the risk of being late for school.  Finally, I heard the door close and the gears begin to move the old elevator – but it was headed down to the lobby.  I would have to wait for its arrival there and then its return up nine floors for me to board.  I looked at my Mickey Mouse watch with the red plastic wrist strap and realized that I would have to hustle if I were going to keep my perfect on time record intact.

When I opened the building’s front door, I could see a gentle snow was falling.   I hadn’t gone two feet when a flake landed on the left lens of my glasses.  It seemed that eyewear was a magnet for snowlakes.  This had happened before – and I learned from an earlier experience that it was better to let the flake melt rather than trying to wipe it off with my sleeve.  So I semi-ran the two blocks to school trusting my familiarity with the route to get me there despite the waterfall through which I was looking.

I opened the school door with three minutes to spare and slowed down to the acceptable pace which we were supposed to use when we were in school and calmly walked up the flight of stairs to my classroom, passing the older kids who were stowing their outerwear in the lockers which were in the hallway.  It would be two years before I would have one of those – with my very own combination lock.  I was looking forward to being in fifth grade with all the priviliges that came with that achievement.

I opened my classroom door and saw that Mrs. Bounds was writing on the chalk board.  She turned and welcomed me with her usual warm, “Good morning.”  So I went to the rear where I hung my coat in the communal locker and took my seat.  We were starting the morning with math – one of my favorite subjects.  I was ready for a busy day of learning.

We had previously learned how to count by ones all the way to one thousand.  That was a heap of counting.  And my father, seeing how much I seemed to enjoy it said, “You know, you can count to one thousand by twos and threes and fours as well.”  I decided to take him up on this tidbit of information and I managed to count myself up to one thousand by twos.  Not to anyone’s surprise but mine, this took only one half as long as doing the same exercise by ones.  So I thought I would try threes.  And when I got finished, although this took even less time than twos, I thought I had done something wrong.  I got to 999 instead of my expected one thousand.  I couldn’t wait for my father to come home so that he could show me what I did wrong.  But then instead of just deciding to speak the numbers, I thought I would write them down to see if that made a difference.  It didn’t.  But I did get an interesting lesson on fractions which gave me a head start when we started learning about them later.  And I also learned that one thousand was not the end of all numbers.  That inspired me to count to two thousand, which I started doing that night.  But I fell asleep well short of my goal.

As Mrs. Bounds took attendance and we raised our hands when our name was called, I noticed that the small flurry of snow I had encountered on my way was growing in intensity.  In fact, it was falling quite hard.

Mrs. Bounds looked out the window and commented, “You know chidren, there are no two snowflakes that have ever fallen that are exactly alike.”  This statement had as much impact on me as learning that one thousand was not the top number.  And I believed Mrs. Bounds because she was originally from Canada where it snowed all the time – or so I believed.  While I was, of course, unfamiliar with the words millions or billions, after all it was third grade, I started thinking about how many snowflakes must have fallen since snow started falling.  And although I couldn’t express that unfathomably large number with a word, my mind reeled as I thought to myself, “That’s probably more snowflakes than there are stars in the sky on a clear night.  Way more.”  I was awestruck.

After one of the  Republican presidential debates, I caught an interview with the Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  I’m not sure if she’s related to the person who invented the Wasserman test to determine if a person is syphilitic, but I’m quite certain that she missed the science class in which she would have learned that standing in a pool of water through which an electric current is flowing is likely to have devestating effects on your coiffure – perhaps even beyond the ability of the finest hair stylist to cure.  If you’ve not already guessed, I’m not a big fan of hers.

Ms. Schultz went on her usual frontal assault about one of the earlier Republican debates, striking what I’m sure to her was the most damning condemnation in her claim that there was “no diversity” among the candidates.  Diversity is a very big talking point for the left.  But I wonder if those who espouse this principle really understand it – or, more importantly, really care about it.

Long before diversity became such a big PC bell ringer, I was introduced to it when I read some literature about how thousands of species were dying off in the South Amerian rainforests every day.  And I already knew that the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon had gone extinct.  Well, of course, so did the dinosaurs.

But do we really want diversity?

Last year there was a huge brouhaha about those parents who did not want their children to receive a measles vaccination.  Rubella is a virus, as are ebola and polio and smallpox and our now most current virus poster child, zika.  Yet, apparently, humans would be very content if all of these viruses passed into oblivion.  Do they, as part of the ecosystem as much as are elephants and puppy dogs and snail darters and humans not have as much right to exist?  Wouldn’t fighting on behalf of these and other harmful viruses be advocating for diversity?

Several millenia ago, Christianity happened upon the scene.  One of the principles of that faith is that each person is unique and special.  I don’t see how you can get more diverse than uniqueness.  And, finally, science has caught up, confirming what religion has taught for centuries.  The proof of that is, of course, the fact that we now use DNA evidence either to exculpate or convict people of criminal activity – relying on our scientific understanding that each person’s DNA is unique. Who says religion and science can’t get along?

If we proceed from that standpoint of uniqueness, why then do we not view diversity within that framework?  Any crime against any other person should, in today’s context, be considered a hate crime or, at the least a crime against diversity.  That is true irrespective of whether either party is male or female, of the same or different races, whatever their religion and irrespective of sexual orientation – or whatever moniker we concoct further to divide, partition and pigeon hole ourselves.

And while we tend to focus on the negative and express real or imagined outrage when people act disrespectfully towards one another in any of the myriad way we express that, it might be useful to consider how our world might benefit if we actually embraced diversity in its truest sense and demonstrated that in simple acts of kindness or charity or, at the very least, in expressions of common courtesy to everyone we encounter.

The latest flare up in the war for diversity stems from North Carolina’s recently passed law regulating who may use which public facilities including bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.  Opponents of the law claim this will disenfranchise those few citizens who are trans-gendered, restricting them to using those facilities designated male or female and requiring them to use those which correspond to their genital equipment rather than their inner emotional sense of identity.  Proponents claim this will protect people from those who might be sexual predators.

Not meaning to sound dismissive of those who are trans-gendered, people with that condition represent, I suspect, a very small percentage, perhaps less than one percent, of our entire population.  Is it reasonable, by any logic, to inconvenience ninety-nine percent of the population to accommodate such a small minority?  And to ask a question, which I have never heard brought up in the debate, does that small minority have a responsibility to respect the vast majority’s concerns?  Isn’t that, after all, what a democracy is about?

It’s interesting to me that with the furor over this issue, I have heard the loudest voices coming from an amorphous collection of left wing people who themselves are not trans-gendered – but nothing from those who are trans-gendered themselves.  On the one hand I suppose one might look at these righteous crusaders as just that – people pursuing a magnanimous quest on behalf of the downtrodden.  On the other hand, one might argue that they believe the trans-gendered don’t have the verve, perspicacity or capability of speaking for themselves.

It always troubles me when there are those who, under the ageis of pure philosophical conviction, take up a cause and point out the injustices in society which are many and pervasive.  They, of course, are not affected themselves by the presumed inequity as they seek to wipe from the face of the earth any malevolent regulations or behavior.  So I thought to myself, what if we were to find a solution that would accommodate every person and see how that worked?

My solution is simple.  Just allow people of either sex to use whatever restroom facilities are handiest, irrespective of gender.  I suspect that within a week or so the outrage would be so loud that this issue would soon be buried in the footnotes of the annals of history.  But that’s just my opinion.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to this coming winter and hoping to catch a glimpse of the unique miracle of the diversity we find in snowflakes.  And, I anticipate just kicking back and chilling out.

Perhaps we might all benefit from that approach to viewing life.

 

 

 

THE WELCOME MAT

The Las Vegas Valley Water District has a motto, designed to remind us that each of us has the responsibility to conserve water.  “It’s A Desert Out There.”  The casual visitor to Las Vegas, had he been here last week, might have shaken his head incredulously at that slogan as we had a three day substantial rainfall.  It reminded me of being back in Chicago.

The rain continued for long periods of time throughout the day, would pause for perhaps ten minutes and then resume.  Because of the precipitation and the ominous and gloomy clouds which brought it, I decided to skip Gracie’s normal evening sojourn to the Dog Park and walk her through the neighborhood instead.  At least we could scurry home quickly should the downpour resume.

While Gracie is one quarter Golden Retriever, apparently the gene that accompanies fondness for water is missing from her DNA.  True, she does love to hit the fountain of the lawn sprinklers for a refreshing drink, but the stuff that falls from the skies doesn’t, in her estimation, have the same appeal.  Perhaps that is because the lawn sprinklers are a regular and predictable phenomenon – and rain is such a sporadic event.

In any case, we were meandering around the block and I happened to notice that, without exception, every home had a door mat at the front door.  And interestingly, most of those doormats had the word “Welcome” on them.  Gracie and I are the exception.  Our doormat says, “Please Wipe Your Paws.”  But for some reason, looking at these doormats caused me to think about both the issue of immigration and the allegations of police oppression which have become so rampant in some sectors of the media.

The United States accepts over a million people a year who want to immigrate to the country – more people than the rest of the countries of the world combined.  The process of gaining legal status here is onerous and rather Byzantine – but apparently enough people worldwide are willing to endure both the wait and the process to ensure that a continuous stream of newcomers arrives on American shores every year.

These people have a somewhat different view of life in America than some of us who are here legally by reason of birth.  I mean, who in his right mind would want to go to the trouble and expense of moving to a country where there was a high probability that when he got there he would be “oppressed” by those in law enforcement?  Basic logic would suggest that would be a place to avoid rather than one to which a person would seek admittance.

Now just because a person has a good heart and is welcoming to friends and guests, it does not follow that his kindliness would extend to everyone who presented himself at his door.  Most of us would probably call 911 if we saw a hooded man, brandishing a gun, rather than welcoming that person in for tea.  And while most of us who are here as a result of immigration reflect on our own and our forebears’ experience in coming to America and want to extend that same courtesy to others who are similarly motivated, that does not imply that we want to do so in an indiscriminate manner and open the door to anyone who presents himself.

If we look at the historical waves of immigration that occurred in America, we need to put in perspective that while we gratefully welcomed low wage people in the first and early part of the country’s second century, that in large measure reflected that the country and its infrastructure were under construction and needed those workers to build railroads and dig ditches for sewers.  Their arrival did not displace workers who were already here.  But the infrastructure, notwithstanding its deteriorating condition, and the railroads have been built.  No such need exists today.

Our manufacturing sector has greatly diminished and Wall St. no longer waits with baited breath to hear the U. S. Steel quarterly report as it did in the 1950’s.  Rather, the financial markets are moved by whether or not Google or Apple made their number for the most recent three month period.  Of the thirty stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average , only nine are purely involved in manufacturing and of those, two manufacture drugs.  The other twenty-one companies are primarily involved in providing services.

The problem with a stagnant, albeit slightly improving economy, is that those Americans who are at the bottom of the economic barrel face increased competition from illegal aliens (or if you prefer “undocumented people”) and nowhere is this more evident than within the inner city communities predominantly occupied by blacks.  That, at least in part, explains why the rate of unemployment among blacks consistently runs twice the “official” rate of unemployment – and among young black men runs twice that, nearing twenty-five percent.

If we truly want to face the issue of why there is unrest and despondency among certain groups of our population, racism is a convenient but dishonest explanation.  Let’s face it – the automobile dealer who is selling Ferraris doesn’t really care about the race of the person who buys his vehicle – and cares even less how that person obtained the cash to close the deal.  It isn’t a matter of race – rather it’s a matter of economics.  And the economic outlook for those in our inner cities is very bleak.

Riots and lootings solve nothing but in fact create additional problems for the business owners who are directly affected and potentially can lead to the arrest and incarceration of those who participate.  In truth, some of those who participate are simply out for ill-gotten gain – and any excuse will do to set them and their malicious intentions in motion.  Others probably have a sense of their own helplessness but see no path to extricate themselves from it.  And then there are some ideologues who believe that America is the most racist, despicable country in the world.

To those in the third category, remember that once there was a Berlin Wall – designed to keep the citizens of East Berlin from making their way to freedom.  America has no such barrier in place to prevent any willing person from leaving.  And there are countries which apparently are willing to give anyone, irrespective of background, an opportunity to start over.

The recent committal of five more Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay suggests that country might provide a more nurturing venue for them to spend the remainder of their lives.  And given the generous way in which our federal government spends taxpayer dollars, there’s probably a program in place to help facilitate their change of address.  Take advantage of the opportunity – please.

Via con Dios.

OLD FOLKS

Perhaps it was the fact that I was so devoted to my maternal grandmother but I have always preferred the company of people older than myself rather than those my own age.  After all, two sixteen year olds have only the perspective of life that they have gleaned in perhaps ten truly cognitive years – and that might be a stretch.  But a thirty year old to my then teen age mind, well that was someone who had really lived.  And a sixty year old.  A sixty year old to my thinking was a venerable shrine of living history.   I viewed elderly people as true treasures.

When I purchased my condo in Chicago I was in my mid-twenties and by far the youngest owner in the building.  Before I could complete the transaction, I had to appear before the condo board and get their approval.  The board had the reasonable responsibility of trying to make sure that new owners would observe the condo’s rules and would be an asset to the building and its owners.  Naturally, I approached this meeting with a great deal of gravity and seriousness and received the required imprimatur.  (While I chalked this up to my professional presentation and polite manner, as I learned later, this was a mere formality as a rejection meant that the association would have had to purchase the unit itself – and there was at that time no reserve fund to accomplish that).  Nevertheless, I took my approval as a reminder to be a good, polite and caring neighbor.

Several years went by and a few of my new neighbors urged me to run for election to the board.  I really didn’t have an inclination to do so as I was putting in eighty hour weeks at my business and didn’t want the distraction.  But after a considerable amount of arm twisting by one of them in particular I agreed to throw my name in the hat for one of the openings.  I prepared a brief resume so that the owners could have a more in depth look at my background and that was included with the bios of the other candidates.

The night of the annual meeting and election finally arrived.  There were three vacancies and six candidates for those positions.  And when the votes were finally tallied, I had come in dead last.  I must admit that while I was ambivalent about serving on the board, losing was rather irksome.  I thought to myself, “What have I done to offend people?”  My ego was bruised,  so when the friend who had pushed me into running came over to console me with the words, “Don’t feel bad – everyone loses the first time they run,” I didn’t accept that as graciously as I might.

Well, things have a way of working out.  I did not choose to participate as a candidate in the elections the following two years but thereafter, as a matter of self-interest, (I wasn’t happy about the way our funds were being spent), I decided on my own to seek office.  This resulted in my serving on the board for eighteen years, six of those as president.  One of my fellow board members was a man then in his late seventies.  I had gotten to know Harold and his wife Viola because of my work getting out the Republican vote in the precinct.  They were two of the very few registered Republicans to be found in the neighborhood.

The bio I had submitted had included the fact that I was one of the principals in an executive search business.  I had no idea what Harold had done for a living since he had summed up his life experience with the word, “Retired.”  But after our first board meeting, he approached me and said that he had devoted his life and his career to being the owner of an employment agency – so we definitely had something in common.  He offered to share some of the stories about his and his wife’s experiences running what, as it turned out, was the very first employment agency that received a license from the State of Illinois in Chicago – back in the 1940’s.

Originally, the employment agency business was dominated by companies that charged the applicant if they found him or her a position.  Later, as labor became more scarce and business expanded, employers began paying those fees.  But in the old days, it was customary for the employee to pay the agency that secured his employment – an amount that was dictated by the Bureau of Employment Agencies at 84% of the first month’s salary, payable in three monthly installments.  That was how Harold and Viola had built their business.  They had a specialty.  They placed domestic help.

Several months later I ran into Viola as I was leaving for work one morning.  She invited me to join Harold and her for dinner the following Saturday.  I gratefully accepted their invitation and rang their doorbell promptly at six thirty that night. We had a delightful dinner and although I offered to help clean up, Viola said that wouldn’t be necessary – she would take care of it.  Harold invited me to join him in the living room for a brandy.

As we sat on their comfortable sofa, I noticed that there were large volumes, at least thirty of them, on their library shelves.  Two of these volumes were on the coffee table.  Harold reached for one of these and said, “You might find this interesting.  I took pictures of all the people who Viola and I put to work.”

He reached for the first book and opened the cover.  There was a picture of a large black woman with a young, smiling Harold and Viola, their arms around her and a caption that read, “Jewel Samson – March 8, 1941 – Cook – Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Feingold, 538 North Dearborn Street.”  Page after page, book after book contained these pictures with the titles Washer Woman, Assistant Cook, Housekeeping, Driver and the names and addresses of their employers.  The pictures had one thing in common.  Every one of the new employees was black.

I was impressed at the sheer number of people for whom this couple had found employment.  And perhaps I was even more impressed that Harold had the presence of mind to document his many years in business in this manner.  I told him as much.

He said to me, “You know it was a struggle.  There were a lot of times that I wasn’t sure we would make it or be able to keep the doors open.  But somehow, something always happened and we got over the hump.  But you know what the biggest challenge was?  In those days, a lot of black folks didn’t trust “’ol Whitey’ as they used to phrase it.  So let me show you the pictures that saved our business.”

Harold got up from the couch and reached for a much smaller photo album.  He sat down next to me and opened the book.  On the first page was a picture of Harold as a child with his parents and on the second a picture of Viola and her family.  Despite their extremely light skin, both Harold and Viola were black.  I would never have guessed that, despite knowing them for quite a few years.

So Harold hung blown up copies of these two photos in his office and pointed them out to all new applicants who came by for job interviews.  That gained the trust of those who might have had qualms about working with a white-owned business.  And that business grew and prospered for more than thirty years until the couple retired.

Old folks.  You can learn a few things from them if you take the time.  They’ve been around.

COLOR BLIND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ROBIN WILLIAMS

For years you made me laugh – and now you’ve made me cry.

Rest in Peace, Robin.  I’ll miss you.

HOLLYWOOD’S WAR ON WOMEN

While I hate to reveal my own ignorance I figure that if you’ve been following along for awhile it’s already abundantly clear to you.  As you know, I seldom go to see a movie in a theatre designed for cinematic display and selling junk food.  And because my interest in the latest tripe that comes out of Hollywood is nil, I don’t keep up with who’s who or who’s doing what in that liberal paradise.

It just happened that I saw a news story yesterday about a law suit that is proceeding that involves one Bryan Singer.  I didn’t recall even vaguely ever hearing that name so I had no idea who he was or what he did.  I read the story.

I learned from the story, Mr. Singer is a movie director.  Without going into the somewhat sordid details of the lawsuit, suffice it to say that Mr. Singer has allegedly apparently been employing a version of  the casting couch but has transformed it into an after-parties venue where friends and associates apparently recruit young gay men who want to mingle with the rich and famous director.

Okay, this isn’t a post about morality.  But I was curious if Mr. Singer had ever directed a movie that I had seen.  As it turned out, while he has many credits in his portfolio which I have not viewed, one of his efforts, “The Usual Suspects” was a movie that I saw several years after its release when it appeared on cable.  I rather liked it but remember it as being a little strange.

But it occurred to me that as unfamiliar with Hollywood directors as I am, I would do a little investigation into who directs the movies which cause hearts to flutter every Friday when something new is released.  And I was very surprised.

In the entire history of the Academy, there have only been four women nominated for the Best Director Oscar.  And of those, only two – Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow – were Americans.  None of the four won the coveted award.

So here we are, in the absolute epicenter of liberalism and is there a more discriminatory, anti-feminist environment in which a woman could find herself?  Let me be blunt.  In Hollywood, women are getting screwed right and left (and yes I did intend that pun).

I’m really hoping that the Huffington Post (which I’ve affectionately renamed the Huff and Puff Post) will carry a story soon in which the Democrats create a stink over the “War on Women.”  I plan on using some version of this post when it appears.

Of course I will have to do a bit of editing – first to get it by the censors and then to conform to their comment limit of 250 words.  But inspired by Hollywood, I will be able to pare this down to size, leaving the excess on the cutting room floor where it will keep company with the hearts and hopes of Hollywood’s female directors who are ignored and overlooked while their male counterparts talk about how life has been so unfair to them and others of their gender.

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