The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

THE LONE RANGER

Back in the 1950’s when television came in two versions – “black” and “white” and was promoted on only three portals, ABC, CBS and NBC – a program was broadcast, based on a Zane Grey novel.  It was “The Lone Ranger,” starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as his faithful companion, Tonto.  One of my favorite shows, I was allowed to take a break from homework to spend a half hour watching the program.

There was a bit of a ritual surrounding watching the show in my house.  Five minutes before it was to air, my father would open the doors to the large sang de boeuf colored Chinoise cabinet, revealing the relatively small Dumont television it held.  He would turn on the power and the hum of the tubes warming could be heard from behind the set as it got itself ready for this week’s episode.  I remember holding my breath, hoping that the set would spring to life and that none of the vacuum tubes had failed.  And then the set would spring to life (usually).

There was no doubt that we were about to see yet another riveting episode when the stirring theme song for the program, the final, allegro portion of Rossini’s “William Tell” overture blared forth in pure unfettered monophonic sound and the announcer pronounced the Lone Ranger’s iconic words as he sat astride his almost equally famous horse and said, “Hi-Yo, Silver!”  And then they would dash off in a full gallop in pursuit of evil doers.

Back in those days it was always easy to tell who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” were because the good guys wore white and the bad ones wore black.  (It was a simpler time and nobody thought this was racist – or at least we didn’t have umpteen million chat room participants discussing that possibility – but then our chat rooms back then were found either in our schools or at the supper table at home).  Stick ball occupied a lot more of our time than discussions about surreptitious bigotry.

Television and media in general have evolved and now have the ability to represent our world in full panoramic colorization.  There are probably few of us, even those of us who hold a certain nostalgia for the olden days, who would want to return to them – at least in respect to how we watch our entertainment.  But the precision with which we could once identify good and bad, right and wrong has been blurred if not completely lost, perhaps because of our ability to see things in so many different shades.  That might explain, at lest in part, our present philosophy of “relativism” which essentially bastardizes principle and finds countless arguments to mollify wrongdoing.

The good news is that there are still some fundamental truths in which we might find security – if we may call it that.  One of those truths is as relevant today as when I heard my father promulgate it a half century ago.  “It is your responsibility to vote in an informed manner – and because you have taken the time to weigh the merit of each person’s candidacy and background, to cast your ballot for the one who will steal the least.”  And with that in mind, I will turn my attention to events that developed this week in my native state of New York.

New York’s Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver (D – NYC) was arrested and indicted on five separate federal charges of corruption.  If convicted, each charge could carry a twenty year prison term.  The charges allege that Silver used his position as Speaker to obtain payments from various law firms who benefited from his influence in directing public policy which directly benefited their practices.  Silver was reported not to have performed any services yet was rewarded with paychecks from one of the firms which amounted to $800,000.  In total, the federal government is alleging that Silver received a total of $3.8 Million over a period of several years and has seized the eight bank accounts in which the monies were deposited.

At his arraignment, Silver was released under a $200,000 personal recognizance bond but was required to surrender his passport.  This might put a crimp in his upcoming plans to participate in the foreign “economic development” tour which he, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Senate Majority Leader were to take, presumably for the purpose of attracting more businesses to open their doors in the Empire State.

The arrest comes at a time when Gov. Cuomo is under a great deal of criticism from the Republicans in the state’s two houses over closing down the Moreland Commission, a body which was looking into what is reported as widespread corruption among state legislative members.  Cuomo formed the commission in March, 2013 and abruptly closed it down eight months later which gave rise to the U. S. Attorney, Preet Bharara’s involvement.  He further suggested that this investigation has not concluded and there may be other indictments in the offing.

Silver’s supporters including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio advised a “wait and see” attitude, the mayor rightfully pointing out that we have a judicial process which we should allow to play out and praising the Speaker as “a man of integrity.”  Others have made comments about the culture to be found in the state’s capitol, suggesting that “no matter how virtuous a person is before election to the state legislature, there seems to be a corrupting influence which takes hold of even the most virtuous.”  That might be supported by the number of state legislators who have been forced to resign after their convictions on varying corruption charges.

Speaker Silver, of course, maintains his innocence.  But based on the scathing press conference which Bharara gave subsequent to the indictment, it would seem that he is confident that the facts he has uncovered will result in a conviction.  Since this is a “white collar” crime and the defendant has a long history of “public service,” it is unlikely that he would receive anything akin to the maximum sentence should he be convicted.  But it does seem likely that he would spend at least some time in the “Big House.”  And as we did on the Lone Ranger, we might hear the judge cry out, “Hi-Yo, Silver – away.”

THE BUTTON BOX

It held a quiet place of honor in our apartment, subtly nestled on one of the lower bookshelves in the living room, quietly waiting its time to be called to service.

The button box was a cube, approximately twenty inches on each side, crafted out of a smooth, dark green cloth material.  It had three drawers filled with all sorts of threads, wrapped tightly on their wooden spools, threads in a myriad of colors.  There were orange and fuchsia and blue spools, each of the same size though some had less thread on them than others as they had previously been used to repair various garments.  The largest spools held white and black thread – those colors being used most frequently.

In addition in the drawers filled with thread, a special place was reserved where there were sewing scissors and needles of all sorts of thicknesses and several simple thimbles, one made of brass, the other of silver.  But the top of the button box was where the true treasure existed.  It was a large hoard of buttons that had been painstakingly removed from garments that had been retired from service after long years of use.

Before old clothes were turned into rags with the pinking shears inside the button box, each button was carefully severed and added to the collection.  Of course, many of the buttons which came from my father’s shirts were simple white ones, but they had their own personality and individuality.  Some were pure white and as simple as they were, the ones which had formerly been used to button the shirt front were larger than the ones that fastened the collar.  Even among the white buttons there was variation.  Some had two holes for sewing and others had four.  And while some were resplendently devoid of color white, others were more of a bone shade.  The truth of this dispels the notion that, “All white buttons look alike.”  They don’t.

One night after dinner, our little family sat in the living room to watch that week’s episode of “The Milton Berle Show.”  Dad swung the doors open on the cabinet which housed our Dumont television and turned the dial to on, waiting for the set to warm up and readying himself to fiddle with the rabbit ears antenna on the top should the picture need adjustment.  But after several minutes, the familiar sound of the tubes warming up, getting ready to do their job and bring us an evening of entertainment was singularly absent.

Dad clicked the set off, waited a few seconds and then turned it back on again.  Sadly, no line appeared on the television, letting us know that the set was sufficiently warmed up so that we could soon expect to see Mr. Berle in all his zany madness.  The set was dead.  My father made the pronouncement, much to all of our regret.  So we played a game of Monopoly instead and I got to be the banker.

The following morning my mother called Gerhardt Schrader, the TV repairman.  I had only seen Mr. Schrader twice before when he had previously come by to fix our set.  He was a very pleasant man who seemed to know his craft quite well.  I liked him but I was particularly fascinated by the large mole which he had on his lower left jaw.  Mother told me, “Don’t stare at Mr. Schrader’s mole,” which only made my eyes gravitate towards it more anxiously.  In any event, he was booked up much of that day and asked if he could stop by between seven o’clock and seven-thirty or if that would interrupt our dinner.  (We normally ate at six so mom said that would be very convenient).

True to his word, our downstairs buzzer rang just at seven and we buzzed Mr. Schrader and his tool boxes in.  He promptly arrived at our apartment and headed directly for the set.

Like a skilled surgeon, he gently swiveled the cabinet away from the wall, pulled out a screwdriver and removed the pressed wood backing which protected all the tubes from exposure, set it aside and began examining the tubes in the rear of this most wonderful piece of entertainment.  He quickly identified the tube that was at fault, pulled it from the set, went into his tube box and found a replacement and swapped this new tube for the one that had burned out.  Before reattaching the rear panel to the back he switched on the set and much to our delight, the picture came on and everything was right as rain once again.

While Mr. Schrader was engaged in his surgical procedure, Grandma had gone into the kitchen, cut a large slice of the apple pie she had made earlier that day and returned with it and a cup of coffee to give Mr. Schrader as a special extra, “Thank you.”  Mr. Schrader apparently liked apple and other pies as well since he had quite a little extra belly on him.  And as she offered him and he gratefully accepted this treat, Grandma noticed that one of the buttons on his blue shirt, just above the navel, had been lost.  Through his pale blue shirt, Mr. Schrader’s undershirt was quite visible.

Grandma asked him, “Mr. Schrader, are you still a bachelor?”  He said that he was.  “Well, no wonder you have a button missing on your shirt.  No woman at home to take care of you.  You can’t go around like that.”  With that admonition, Grandma went into her clothes basket which contained the day’s load of clean wash, awaiting ironing, and pulled out a white terry cloth bathrobe.  She handed it to Mr. Schrader with the admonition that he was to go into our bathroom, change into the robe and hand her his blue shirt for repair.  Mr. Schrader didn’t have a moment to object before Grandma commanded him, “Now go.  Go.”    Mr. Schrader, sensing that this old woman meant business, dutifully took the bathrobe and I showed him the door to our bathroom.  He exited a few moments later, decently attired in the robe with his shirt in his hand.  Only then was he permitted to enjoy his pie and coffee.

While Mr. Schrader was changing, Grandma had whisked the button box from its resting place.  She had opened the lid and had assembled an army of white buttons so that she could commence her repair job as soon as the patient was presented to her.  Mr. Schrader handed her his shirt and she immediately began sorting through the buttons she had assembled, diligently looking to find an exact match.

After discarding a few she found one that was perfect and she began threading her needle.  On went the brass thimble and in no time at all she had fixed Mr. Schrader’s shirt, faster than he had been able to eat his pie or drink his coffee.  As I looked at Grandma I saw a sigh of contentment come over her.  It was as though she was relieved that she had been able to right an irreparable wrong and that gave her a great sense of peace.  Mr. Schrader finished his desert and complimented Grandma on her pie.  He waived his normal charge for making a “house call” and only charged my father for the tube he had replaced and went on his way after changing back into his work shirt and returning the bathrobe to Grandma who promptly put it in the hamper with clothes that needed washing.

Several months later, one of my friends named Betty, the girl in the building next door, saw my mother on the street and asked if I would be allowed to join her family for an event that was being held at the Bierhaus about a half mile from our apartments.  There was a wonderful band that was coming all the way from Leipzig and her parents asked if I could join them for dinner and an evening of traditional German songs.  My mother agreed – knowing that these were very nice people – and wanting me to experience music in its many expressions.

The night of the event came and I was all dressed up for the occasion.  Mom delivered me to the Knecht’s and Mr. and Mrs. Knecht, Betty and I began our fifteen minute walk to the Bierhaus.  It was a beautiful late September evening.

The Bierhaus was full of people – all speaking German.  I was glad that I had the Knechts as my guardians because I couldn’t understand a thing that people were saying, other than them.  And then, over in the corner, I spotted Mr. Schrader.  Like everyone there he seemed to be enjoying himself, actively engaged in a conversation with another man while he swung around his half full frosted beer stein, managing to keep all its contents inside.

I remembered my mother’s admonition, “Don’t stare at his mole.”  That turned out not to be difficult, because my eye was fixed elsewhere – on the missing button from his dress shirt under which I could plainly see his white undershirt.  It was in the same place as the missing button which Grandma had repaired.  I began to think, perhaps there’s something about Mr. Schrader’s shirt and his belly which just don’t get along.  I still hold that opinion.

Mr. Schrader came over to our little group.  Apparently he knew Mr. Knecht quite well.  As I later found out, the Knechts used Mr. Schrader when their television needed repair.  He was apparently the television repairman to the neighborhood.

The two men began speaking in German and having a very good laugh together.  Fortunately, Betty translated for me.  She told me that Mr. Schrader told the story about how Grandma had repaired his button when he had made his house call to us.  When he had finished telling Mr. Knecht the story, he turned to me, noticing that my eyes kept gravitating to the space where there had once been a button and said, “Please don’t tell your Grandmother about my missing button.  Let’s just keep this our little secret, okay?”  And I never did because I knew it would have broken her heart.

WAS “SEINFELD” A CELEBRATION OF INTOLERANCE?

Jerry Seinfeld is a comedic genius.  The weekly sitcom bearing his name had a successful run for nine seasons – topping the Nielsen ratings in two of those.  From 1989 to 1998 Americans rushed home to catch their weekly dose of the comedy and catch up on the most current phrases of Seinlanguage that the show invented.  Rumor is afoot that there is going to be a reunion of some of the cast for a one time reprise of the show to be forthcoming soon.

The cast over those nine seasons was so large that Cecil B. DeMille would have been envious.  Many of those who were engaged for the show played only in one episode.  But I wanted to look at those actors and actresses who were featured in two or more episodes.  There were a total of 212 of them.

Now as late as the end of the show in 1998, being “out” as a gay man or lesbian woman was not much in vogue, although Ellen DeGeneres might have broken the ice in 1997.  But that openly gay people worked in the entertainment industry and that industry had no problems employing them because of their sexual orientation had most likely been going on since Hollywood rolled the cameras for the first time.

Estimates of the number of our population who are members of the LGBT community suggest that as many as ten percent of our population may be sexually oriented this way.  Although my feeling is that it’s neither of interest to me nor is it any of my business what a person’s sexual preference is, it seems that there are many gay people, now including at least one pro basketball player and one college football player, who feel that they need to announce their orientation to the world.  That is, of course, their choice.

For years the straight population made certain assumptions about gay men –deciding that  because of an effeminate demeanor a particular man was gay.  In many cases these assumptions proved to be correct.  Add to that certain professions in which these men engaged such as florist, interior designer or hairdresser and without further need for additional evidence, some people would quip, “Fritz is as queer as a three dollar bill,” or, “He’s a little light in the loafers.”   Perhaps the one industry that could have cared less was the arts.  That would include the movies, television, theatre, opera, ballet, and the symphony.

Returning to our cast of 212 multiple episode actors and actresses who played on “Seinfeld,” you can imagine my surprise that only two of those have “come out” and are openly gay or lesbian.  Considering the fact that the industry often attracts gay men and lesbian women if for no reason other than its acceptance of their lifestyle, this truly surprised me.  Naturally, in an age where any and everybody seeks out a niche where they can view themselves as a minority and thus are persecuted and demand justice, I did not expect that result from my research.  This, of course, lends itself to the question, “Was there anti-gay prejudice employed in the casting of the ‘Seinfeld’ show?”

There is an element of intolerance written into the sitcom.  Who can possibly forget “The Soup Nazi” who refused service to anyone whom he didn’t like?  I’m frankly surprised that the FCC hasn’t already looked into this – considering their recent decision (subsequently deferred) to investigate whether our news programs are “properly serving the public” in the eight categories of news that they believe are sufficiently important to be part of those stations’ agendas and regular broadcasts.

Governor Jan Brewer (R – AZ) currently has on her desk a bill that would allow the owners of a business to deny service to people with whom its owners chooses not to do business.  Proponents say that it merely defines an owner’s rights in the same way that, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” does.  Gay activists make the claim that it is an open invitation for businesses to deny them access simply because they are gay.  I haven’t read the bill, but from the discussion that I have heard, both interpretations are possible.  So here’s a thought.

If I were an Arizona business owner I would simply disregard the fact that my clients are male or female, black, white, Hispanic or Asian, straight or gay and pretend that they were all – let me think – okay, they are all vampires.  Several television programs and a number of recent movies have been devoted to members of that group – and no one seems offended by them.  And I have yet to hear of a vampire filing a class action suit against anyone for discrimination.

I’m going to be sure to catch the Seinfeld reunion special when it airs.  I just hope it’s broadcast after the sun goes down.

THE DUCK THAT QUACKED

Phil Robertson and “Duck Dynasty” have developed one of the most successful franchises in reality television.  The show, aired on the A & E channel, holds a first place rating among viewers.  Or, at least it did until Mr. Robertson’s interview with GQ magazine was printed.  In that interview Mr. Robertson expressed his personal view on homosexuality which runs contrary to the current cultural trend of acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.  His opinion was an expression of his fundamental Christian beliefs.

A & E responded to the interview almost immediately by “indefinitely suspending Phil Robertson” from his own show.  They went on to make a statement that, “They (A & E) have always supported the gay community.”  Apparently this has not completely quelled the issue as A & E is getting push back from a large number of their viewers who believe they did not respond appropriately and who are threatening to boycott the network.

There are a number of important issues that this whole controversy raises.

The first, and probably the least consequential, is whether or not a business has the right to conduct itself according to self-imposed standards.  My response to that would be, “Yes it does and A & E made its decision based on its well-established philosophy.”  Of course, if we accept that premise, does that not imply that a company such as Hobby Lobby has the right to refuse to purchase health insurance which mandates that it provide abortion, prophylactics or abortifacients in contravention of its religious beliefs?

The second is whether Robertson’s opinion is protected by the First Amendment and whether A & E is essentially abridging his right to state his beliefs and therefore violating his constitutional protections.  Certainly if he had made his statement in the course of filming an episode, A & E might have the legal right to edit out the comment if if offended their policy.  But to take an interview in a different medium as the basis for their action seems to overreach their authority and to be an infringement on Mr. Robertson’s rights.  We would do well to remember Voltaire’s statement, “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Whether Mr. Robinson made the statement or withheld it, no doubt it reflects his beliefs.  If we invoke cloture on free speech, whether or not we agree with what is said, what is next – restriction of what a person is allowed to think?

Perhaps the most important point this raises is that proponents of PC thinking are engendering the very thing that they purport to correct.  They define people not as individuals but as mere subsets of some larger group – whether that is based on race, sex or sexual orientation.  Their activities perpetuate all the “isms” and “phobias” which they seek to extinguish.  They presume that all gay or straight people, all men or women, all blacks or whites think and act identically based on the way they perceive the group to which the PC police have assigned them think and act.  That is ludicrous on its face and obviously untrue.  This philosophy strikes at the heart one of their most precious principles – allowing for diversity among members of society.

Whether or not I agree with Phil Robertson is irrelevant.  But I believe that those who see this issue only as a matter which pits one individual against a vocal group are missing the point entirely.  If we are willing to throw someone under the bus because we might disagree with his beliefs, the question is how much faster are we heading toward the point where our own opinions, however mainstream they might currently be, come under fire and we are told to recant – or else.

THE POWER OF ONE

Recently an ad aired on television which asked the question:

“If every American household replaced one incandescent light bulb with one Compact Florescent Light bulb, how many homes could be powered by the electricity that was saved?”

The answer was 3 Million.

As there are about 100 Million households in America that would represent a three percent reduction in the amount of energy we use to light our homes.  I did a quick audit of my house and discovered that I have in excess of sixty old-fashioned bulbs sitting in various fixtures.  So, in theory, if everyone had as many bulbs in their homes and replaced all of them with CFL’s we would be able to make all American homes energy independent – in fact we should produce a surplus of electricity.  As I looked at my conclusion I realized that there was a flaw in this logic.

Long before we became concerned about conservation on a national level, my parents taught me that it was important.  Perhaps they didn’t think of their admonition to “Turn the lights out when you leave the room,” as something of global importance.  But they knew and taught me that using less electricity reduced the bill which dutifully arrived monthly from Con Ed.  And it was obvious to me that if we sent less to the electric company, that meant there was more to spend on something that was even better than lighting the apartment – like food on the table or putting one extra dime in the Poor Box at church.

Returning to the ad which I at first thought was sponsored by some governmental agency such as the EPA, I was surprised to learn that it was presented by Exxon Mobil Oil.  It is one of the more successful ads that I have seen as it got me thinking.  If we could save a lot of energy by switching out one of our lamps to a CFL, what else could we accomplish by making other small changes?

What could we do to conserve energy if we walked to the store once a week instead of driving our cars?

What could we do for our health if we substituted one glass of water for one of the sodas we consume?

What could we do for the environment if we didn’t charge our phones and tablets as often because we used them to play games one hour a week less?

What could we do for our minds if we watched one less hour of television a day and read a worthwhile book?

What could we do for those we meet if we withheld one criticism and instead found one thing about that person to compliment?

This list is far from complete so feel free to add your own thoughts to it.  But in a world consumed with a craving for energy, perhaps we are looking in the wrong place.  The real power to transform the world is in the power of one.  And each of us is that one – or at least we may be if we so choose.

 

 

 

 

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WHAT WOULD GROUCHO SAY?

One of the shows that we always watched as a family was “You Bet Your Life” starring none other than Groucho Marx and his sidekick, George Fenneman.  This little quiz showed debuted on radio in 1947 and transitioned to television in 1950 – running until 1960.  (I only caught the later episodes if you’re wondering).

This quiz game which took a variety of incarnations during it’s 10 year television span allowed randomly selected members of the studio audience – normally one of each sex (in those days there were just two) – to compete by answering some questions of varying difficulty.  The game itself was, however, secondary to the amusing repartée that Groucho had with his contestants.

At the beginning of the show, before bringing on the contestants, Groucho would show the studio and television audience the “secret word” – worth one hundred dollars if the contestants happened to use it while they were on the show.

After Fenneman brought them onstage, Groucho would chit chat with each of them to find out about their background.  During this conversation, he held a large cigar in his right hand and waved it around.  The cigar never went out – perhaps because it wasn’t lit – and was more of a prop than anything else.  And at the conclusion of the interview, Groucho, before launching into the questions, would tell them, “Say the secret word, the duck will come down and you’ll win a hundred dollars.”  He would give them a general hint as to what the word was such as, “It’s something you find around the house.”

Now I know that if there are any young readers out there, I’m sure that you’re not impressed with a one hundred dollar prize.  In fact, the most a contestant could win was twelve hundred dollars plus the “secret word” bonus – and that was split two ways.  But to put it in perspective, in the ‘50’s when the show was extremely popular, one hundred dollars would cover more than a month’s rent in a nice area in Manhattan.

The show was broadcast live, as most TV programs were in the early days of the medium.  So what was said by the star was heard by the audience.  And that resulted in the abrupt cancellation of the program in 1960.  Like Paula Deen, Groucho said something that the TV station and the program’s sponsors considered “off color.”  No, wait a minute, I stand corrected.  Apparently Ms. Deen said something that was “on color.”

One of the guests on the final broadcast was a man (I honestly don’t recall his name so we’ll call him Tom Smith) who was from Canada.  Groucho first interviewed the female contestant and then turned his attention to Mr. Smith, asking him what he did for a living, that sort of thing.

Then Groucho asked, “So tell me Mr. Smith, do you have any children?”

The man smiled and looked down at his feet and grinned.

He said, “Yes, Groucho.  My wife and I have eleven children.”

Groucho paused for a moment, and then said, “Eleven children?  That’s a lot of kids.  Why do you have so many, Mr. Smith?”

The Canadian responded, “Well, Groucho – I guess it’s because I love my wife.”

The live audience laughed at this response.

Groucho took a dramatic pause, removed the cigar from his mouth and stared at it for a few seconds before responding, “Mr. Smith, I love my cigar too but I take it out sometimes.”

End of show – cancelled – final episode.

Last night I was, as usual, up late, trying to put some ideas together and they just weren’t co-operating.  So I decided to stop trying to force it and take a break.  And there’s nothing less challenging mentally than watching a little television.

So I turned on the set on my office desk and a show called, “The King of Queens” was being aired.  Actually, I thought it was a new show and I wondered why they were showing it at midnight.  Not much of an audience us night owls.  So I googled it (I refuse to use a capital G for google – so I’ve had to add “small ‘g’ google”  to my spell check’s vocabulary) and found the show had run for ten years – though from the ten minute snippet that I saw I couldn’t imagine why.

Well the point here is not the show – rather it was one of the ads.  Here I am, trying to relax and what do they have on but a provocative ad (I could be wrong as I was in a mild state of shock) but I think the advertiser was Durex.  Depicted in this ad was a mostly unclad couple, cavorting and rolling around in bed while the sexy female-voiced announcer touted the company’s “condoms, lubricants, massage gels and so much more – available everywhere.”

I turned off the TV, passing on watching the remaining portion of “The King of Queens” episode, and went to bed.  And as I lay there getting ready to head off to slumber land I couldn’t help wondering, if he were alive and caught that ad, “What would Groucho say?”

MEAN, OBSCENE, PAULA DEEN

As Jesus was writing in the sand, the Pharisees brought to him a woman, taken in the act of committing adultery.  They told him of her sin and asked, “Should we not follow the law given us by the prophets and stone her to death?” 

Without looking up, Jesus replied, “Let he who among you is without sin cast the first stone.”

At that point, a rock went flying over Jesus’ head and hit the woman squarely in the stomach, knocking her over backwards.

Jesus looked up and said, “Oh really, mother.”

Pardon the minor irreverence, but that joke if you are a follower of either the teachings of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches is theologically correct.  Mary, is unique in being conceived without sin (The Immaculate Conception) – but as for the rest of us, we’re all in the cesspool of sin and wickedness and moral turpitude – some of us more deeply, perhaps than others.

And now cometh Ms. Paula Deen – the press’ most currently in vogue whipping person (I was going to say girl but that would probably be construed as sexist).  A woman who is so low and venal that she can’t even see high enough to look at the scum of the earth.

Ms. Deen, as you’re probably aware, has had a successful career promoting her Southern style of cooking – which if it were Yiddish food could easily be mistaken for the kind of cuisine that killed more Jews than Hitler.  She’s had a good run promoting her artery clogging recipes (which have gotten  a bit more healthful in later years).  It was not for the bill of fare that she presented that I was not a frequent viewer of her program.  It was because of her very heavy twang that always reminded me of two cats on the back fence in heat.  Sorry, fingernails running across a blackboard sounds more melodious to me.

Well, at some time in Ms. Deen’s past, apparently she uttered the “N” (or is it the “n”) word?  She is, after all from the South where the term was frequently used – often in a descriptive rather than a disparaging way.  But there is no question that it was also used frequently in the latter context.  How Ms. Deen used it is probably only known to Ms. Deen.

And so, whether because of sincere remorse at having used the “n” word in the past or, perhaps for fear of losing her lucrative financial enterprise through backlash, she broadcast what appeared to me to be a very heartfelt apology.  It seemed genuine enough to this viewer – but even if it were not, I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Apparently, those at FNN, which hosted her television program and those at Target who carried her line of cookware and cookbooks had greater insight because they have both divorced themselves from any further dealings with this woman and have held themselves up as gleaming examples of “responsible corporate citizenship.”

I cannot help but think of their actions in the same light as I did of Captain Louis Renault in “Casablanca” who, as he is closing down Rick’s Café says, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that there’s gambling going on here,” as he receives his roulette winnings from the croupier.

Let’s make a leap and say that Ms. Deen and her video were staged and melodramatized simply to keep her business enterprise afloat and that Ms. Deen truly holds feelings of disdain for our darkly-complected citizens.  While I, and I am sure most of you who are reading this would find that unfortunate if not personally insulting, does she not have a right to harbor that attitude?  Isn’t difference of opinion – even if it is only one person’s view and no matter how noxious we personally might find it – permitted in what we have billed as an “inclusive society?”  Or is inclusion so narrowly interpreted that only those who hold the currently popular view may determine who is to be allowed membership and who excluded?

Perhaps you are familiar with the “comedy” of the late Redd Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock.  Frankly, I find all of them to be extremely offensive because each employs the “n” word along with “ho” and “mo fo” and “b*tch” among other terms of endearment.  And they are restrained by comparison to today’s Rap “artists”.

So tomorrow I am going down to my neighborhood Target and browse through their CD’s to see if they have pulled all of the works containing these “lyrics” in accordance with their defined policy of corporate “responsibility.”  And if not, I am going to ask the Manager why not?

I’ll let you know what I find out.  But if I am not satisfied with their response, I will no longer choose to do business with Target and will explain to my neighbors why they shouldn’t either.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

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