Monday, August 18, 2014

Respect . . . and some rough ways to get some.

     A Facebook friend posted a video this evening. It runs about one minute and forty seconds, and it shows an African-American man of probably thirty-something, dragging a young kid (probably a teenager, also African-American) off his bike in the middle of the street and pretty much slapping the crap out of him. City and State unknown.
     It's kind of hard to tell just what the kid on the bike said to the guy to have teed him off so badly, but it had to be an insult of some proportion, as the older guy was no way amused. The video has engendered some comment, most of it negative toward the older dude, and I understand that. But as I watched the drama unfold, I also realized something else. That is, that the older guy could have killed him if he had wanted to, or he could have beaten him nearly to death and done a great deal of physical damage, again, if he had wanted to. He could have put him in a wheelchair, if he'd wanted to do that. It wasn't even a contest.
     He didn't. He pretty much just slapped the little wise-butt around and thoroughly embarrassed him. After putting the kid on the ground, I didn't see a closed-fist hit, and there was no visible blood. The kid finally got up and walked away, largely unhurt.  Lucky.  It could have been a whole lot worse.
     Probably not a real smart thing for the older man to do in this day and age, as in a day or two, the kid might very well return with a car full of gang-bangers and drive-by shoot the guy to death.
     Not smart . . . but he did make a point.
     Used to be that respect was taught in the home. No more. In so many cases, there isn't even a good old-fashioned home for a kid to learn things in.  And many time when there is a home, it is a single-parent running it, without a father present to be a role-model for his own children.  Someone else does the teaching, and sometimes not nearly as gently as the man in this video. This is not restricted to any particular race or culture. It is simply a fact of modern day life. It's one of the many things wrong with us these days. And it's why we are where we are--in a society that has little respect for anyone or anything anymore. Not among the races, or churches, or the left or the right, or political parties. We didn't learn it as kids from the grown-ups. And we're not getting it from our fathers.
     The sad fact is, that if respect in not taught in the home, by a father, and at a very early age, someone, somewhere along the line, may very well teach it--sometimes someone that has no regard for life. It is part of the problem we see every day, reflected in the grim murder statistics of any large city, or even the bullying statistics in the local schoolyard. There's an old saying, that if you can't have respect, you might as well have fear. This day, the kid learned fear. With luck, that might morph into something close to respect.
     So, I'm sorry that the older guy totally lost his cool, and I'm (kinda) sorry the kid got a good butt-whuppin', but the truth of the matter is that the next day, he is probably going be a little wiser and probably going to have a little more respect (or at least fear) for his elders, and a lot greater sense of his own mortality. He knows now what it feels like to be helpless on the ground, and he knows what it feels like to be humiliated. Maybe, just maybe, by some miracle of miracles, he will grow-up a little. Maybe he won't play the knock-out game with an eighty-four year old woman in a walker, or a pregnant lady innocently walking down the street and minding her own business. Maybe even, saints be praised, he won't pick up a gun.
     And at the risk of being politically incorrect (which I almost almost always am) that's not such a bad outcome at all.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Race-Relations inTwenty-first Century America

     Having just attained the grand old age of sixty-five years, I can now look back on a fair-sized piece of American cultural/societal history.  I remember when I was a callow youth in high school, I thought that by the time I was an old guy, things would be probably pretty well straightened out. It certainly seemed that we were going in the right direction anyhow. But that was back in those good old halcyon "happy days" of the fifties, now tinged with golden edges, as most of the memories from our youth seem to be. Granted, everything about the good old days wasn't all that great.
     One of the things that wasn't so good at all, was race-relations. The KKK still held sway in the south, and folks of color were still routinely being denied voting rights, and a whole lot of other rights as well--things we take for granted now. Things like being able to use whatever water fountain and lunch counter you wanted to. Or be able to sit at any damned place on the bus you felt like. Or gain admission to the best schools and neighborhoods. Or throw a football or pitch a baseball for the bigs just like any other talented athlete.
     The list could go on.
     But we got better. At least I thought we did. Martin Luther King Jr. made the biggest difference, along with the Kennedy brothers and Lyndon Johnson. The civil rights struggle was a just one, and it seemed to come out right. But somehow, things just haven't seemed to change all that much. Or at least the perception. There still seems to be a huge gulf between the races in this country, and I'm not exactly sure why that is. Back in the bad old days, it was easy to find examples of discrimination. Today . . . not so much.
     So--I dunno.
     Enter the recent shooting in Missouri. Who's to blame? Which side is right? The investigation into the shooting has only just begun. No one seemed to be waiting for the results of that investigation, and I'm not too sure that either side will accept it, whatever it is. It's all emotional now--and all political.  It's pretty hard to find voices of reason out there in the wasteland anywhere.
     Or is it?
     I found this video on Facebook today. It is making the internet rounds. It is one man's opinion (and an African-American man as well) about what is really wrong today. About what the true cause of the riff that still exists between the races is. And what (in his opinion) is to be done about it.
     It is about personal responsibility and accountability. What he has to say I believe to be very germane. And not just to the black community either. You could change the rant to one about whites by a white man, and he would still be making a lot of telling points. The fact of the matter is, we ALL need to buck-up quite a bit. We  All need to act more like adults and less like spoiled little kids. We need to start being grown-ups again.
     Anyway, here it is, for what it's worth. I would be interested in hearing reactions to it. Please feel free to leave a comment. As always, thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Below is the link. If clicking on it doesn't take you directly to the video, it might be worthwhile to type the address in your browser bar. A good six or seven minutes--well worth all of our time. Take care now until the next time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

David and Goliath, or-- Cats and Mice and things . . .

     I understand lot of young inner-city "gansta" wanna-bes are playing "the knock-out game" these days. They walk down the street looking for an unsuspecting victim, and then knock them out for no apparent reason. Usually it's an old person--sometimes in a walker (these "ganstas" are really brave don't you know). One of two have fought back. There-in lies a story.
     Someone posted a really cute seven-second video on Facebook a couple of days ago. A rat (most likely a pet one) sneaks up on the family housecat and jumps on the cat's tail. The cat, scared out of it's wits, runs off. End of video. I guess it is a seven-second cautionary tale about how some things just don't turn out the way you expect them to. I saw another this morning. In this video, a cotton-tail rabbit chases away and eventually trees a rattlesnake. Again, most likely the rabbit (probably a momma) had little ones in the area. Or maybe not. It may only prove that some little critters you just don't mess around with. The same, I guess, is probably true for people. Some of the smaller ones I have know have been the most dangerous. And some were pretty old. Been around a while. And not used to taking a lot of crap.
     Anyway, it brought to mind a story that old Willis Netz used to tell. Willis was a transplanted South Dakota farmer. He came to Spokane, Washington to live nearer his children in his old age. He has since passed on. I met him there, many years ago. A very nice man. But he was full of stories, among other things, and some of them were really funny. And some could even be repeated in mixed company.
     One he told about a neighbor farmer, from back in the days when Willis was young. An old German guy, according to Willis. And as mean as a snake. The old farmer resented (among other things) the fat, and mostly useless housecat that belonged to his wife. He complained that all the damned thing did was sleep on the sofa, except to get off every once in a while to eat or use the box. Then, right back to the sofa. Kind of like some of the above mentioned "ganstas."
     One day, the old farmer is out in the barn getting some firewood out of the wood-box. When he pulls the last piece of wood out, he discovers a tiny mouse in the bottom of the box. It has no way to get out. So, the old farmer gets an idea, since his wife is not home at the moment. She had gone to town to do some shopping.
     He goes in the house, collects the fat old housecat from off the sofa, and carries it out to the barn. There, he unceremoniously dumped the cat in the wood-box with the mouse--slams the lid shut, and sits down on the box to await what happens next.
    According to the old farmer, all hell breaks loose. For the space of a couple of minutes, the contents of the box erupts into the full-blown fury of a life and death struggle. Squeaks from the mouse, hisses from the cat.  Round and round the two beasts go. Finally it's over. Total silence. Not a peep from the box. Figuring the cat is now probably enjoying lunch, the farmer opens the box.
     To make a long story short--the mouse is still sitting there. Unharmed. The cat however, is dead. The victim of an apparent heart-attack.
     What's the old farmer to do?
     I asked the same question of Willis.
     "What do you think he did?" Willis said. "The wife was probably the only thing on Earth that the old farmer was really afraid of. So, first he lets the mouse go--probably figuring he earned his freedom, having neatly vanquished a foe many times his own size. Then he collects the dead cat, smooths down it's rumpled hair, carries it back to the house, and puts it back on the sofa where he got it from--hoping the wife will believe the cat died of natural causes."
     "Did it work?" I asked, with bated breath.
     "Must have," Willis replied. "The old farmer lived to die of natural causes himself."
     Moral of the story? . . . Either, don't mess with your wife's housecat--or, You just never know how a story is going to end. And, oh yeah, never underestimate the little guy (or gal) . . .they might just put you in the ground.
     I recommend this story as required reading for any hoodlum out there considering playing "the knock-out game."
     Have a nice day everyone!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The World Just Got Poorer . . .

     A short post tonight.  It been a tough few weeks for the Earth. We lost three great ones. Style, Grace and Talent. And Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, and James Garner

 each had plenty of all three. Comedian Dennis Miller, a personal friend of the incomparable Mr. Williams, made an interesting observation when he said that "Robin may have seen more smiles than any person that ever lived." Rarely have three more utterly respected and loved entertainers passed so nearly to each other, and left the World a much darker and less funny place.
     Our thanks to you all. For entertaining us, inspiring us, making us laugh, and for the time when our attention was focused on you and your incredible talents, making the World, our World, a much, much better place.
     No goodbyes . . . just, "We'll be seeing you."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

On Turning Sixty-five . . .

     Well, I suppose it finally had to happen. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, sooner or later you're bound to get old. Now just where past forty old is, is pretty much anyone's guess, and is certainly open to interpretation, but I think most would agree sixty-five is pretty much it. In other words . . . you ain't just getting up there anymore, you've officially made it. This realization came home hard to me a few days ago, when I received a little birthday present from President Obama. Not exactly Obamacare, which of course doesn't dates back to the Lyndon Johnson administration like Medicare, but somehow it feels like it nonetheless. So what's left after age sixty-five and before the eventual end of the road? I dunno. Got about five more years to slug it out in the employment trenches (Dad retired at age sixty--but that was then and this is now) decent health be willing. And of course I'll be working on getting my late-life fiction writing career off the ground. I guess I can probably do that until I plow face forward into the keyboard. After that, it's just a matter of sticking around until I finally find out if the mystics of old, or the skeptics of today are right about what waits beyond the final door. I lot of wonderful memories to look back on, and a whole new adventure up ahead. I hope I'll be like good old Bilbo Baggins, as he waited to board the elfin ship bound for eternity . . . "Well,. I think I'm quite ready for another adventure!"
     Having spent the last six and a half decades wandering the Misty Mountains looking for the meaning of life (and never quite finding it, I might add) I hope I'm ready for another adventure too.  Thanks to all my friends for making this milestone day, not one of sadness, but of joy. Take care now. Talk to you all again in a couple of days.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

First They Came . . .

     A few of my Facebook friends have been asking me why I have started posting political things. For a long, long time I didn't.  Nothing political, nothing religious, just going along to get along, and not offend anyone. Strictly PC all the way.  Matter of fact, it wasn't simply on Facebook, but in my everyday life as well.  Offend no one. That was the mantra.  Then one day, out of nowhere, the words of the famous Martin Niemoller poem occurred to me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I simply couldn't stay silent any longer. We live in a world fraught with dangers, and in a Country we are losing.  Simply put, in my humble view, the greatest danger to the United States right now is the swarming of illegal aliens into this Country. A virtual invasion. Even if one discounts the incredible damage done in terms of the crimes, drugs, disease, terror, and so forth that comes with this flood, the balance of power between the two major political parties is going to be forever upset. Given driver's licenses, cash, housing, and voting rights, this segment of the population can pretty predictably be counted on to vote for the Democratic Party - the party of "free stuff."
     Sadly, it is also the party of liberal thinking; a combination of lemmings and ostriches--only taking their heads out of the sand long enough to jump off a cliff.  One thing for them to make the leap, another for them to want the rest of us to make the jump with them.  Conservatism equals common sense, and it is one of the most uncommon things in the world.
     The other great threat to the World today, and indeed to our survival as human beings in the rise of Islamic terror. By this I do not mean the millions of peace-loving Islamic American citizens.  I mean the ones that want to blow us up, cut off our heads and raise their Islamic flag over the White House, as they recently promised to do in a video.  The ones that want to exterminate every single living Jew on the globe, and the ones that to kill Christians as well.  This is an army of Orcs, and unless we do something, one day soon they will be in the streets of every city in America. It is a coming war between the West and an enemy with a mind-set and world view of the middle-ages, combined with the weapons of the twenty-first century.
     First They Came . . . is a statement and provocative poem written by Niemoller (1892-1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis' rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group, after group (from Wikepedia).
     It goes like this:
                                   First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
                                   Because I was not a Socialist.

                                   Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
                                   Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

                                   Then they came  for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
                                   Because I was not a Jew.

                                   Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

     So . . . sorry Facebook friends, and other friends as well.  Unfriend me if you will.  The time for speaking out is here--and indeed long past.  When my day comes, I don't want to leave this World never having spoken out against Evil--because make no mistake, that is exactly what it is.

     No more middle-of-the-road.

     Because, walking down the middle of the road . . . well, that is where you get killed.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Talking Trash . . . or, (Dazed and Confused)

Remembering back when I was a kid (In the fifties. Yes, that WAS a long time ago) trash was a real simple deal.  Dad brought home an old fifty-five gallon used oil drum from the place he worked, set it up in the back-yard, and we burned the daily trash and garbage.  The drum would last for about a year or so and then it would get holes burned through and Dad would bring home another one. It was kind of fun, especially if there was a big load and you could get a real nice fire going.  In the winter you could warm your hands by it while you waited for it to burn down (which we always did for safety because we weren't a bunch of morons). When I was old enough Mom and Dad trusted me to do it on my own.
     There was even some life lessons to be learned by a kid standing alongside the burning trash.  My pet hamster (Herbie) died one day. When Dad got home from work he gave me two choices.  One, dig a hole in the frozen ground to bury Herbie or burn him with the trash. To tell you the truth, I'm kind of lazy and never was a real big Herbie fan, because he was a biter, so I chose the Viking method of disposal.  I even added some old scrap wood to make him a real nice pyre, and up he went.  I watched the whole thing until the furry little guy turned to hamster toast, and then crumbled into dust.  It was a good demonstration of the fragility of life and the remorseless nature and finality of death, and all that jazz.  It was a sad day when trash burning was outlawed, but I guess it was bound to happen.
     Next the City made everyone buy one or two of those nice shiny aluminum garbage cans.  It was about time to become a little more green.  I guess they were right about that, but I sure missed the nightly fires. You stuffed everything you could into them and once a week hauled them out to the street (Tuesday night if I remember right) and Viola!, the next morning the garbage man made them disappear. Everybody back in those simple times just called them garbage men. "Sanitation Engineers" hadn't been thought up yet. It was a good system. It worked.  Since it worked, it had to be done away with. That's evolution I guess. Darwin's theory of survival of the trashiest. Kind of like a lot of stuff you see on TV.
     The next step was the recycling craze that began in the seventies.  Again, pretty straight forward and easy to understand.  Garbage in one can, recyclables in the other.  It was a big leap - but hey, I'm a smart guy. I figured I could deal with it.  And I did - for years.
     Enter today.  I'm house sitting over in Seattle for some folks on vacation for six weeks.  That means six weeks of setting the trash out on the street.  This time it's Monday nights.  That's not the only change either. I haven't got it right yet.  I've failed garbage inspection every time.  The won't pick it up because I NEVER GET IT RIGHT!  So I have to haul the darned stuff by car over to Bellevue and throw it in my apartment's dumpster (which is still a system I understand).
     What am I doing wrong?  You tell me . . . cause I dunno.  I tried reading the lids on the three different cans.  Food waste in one. Yard waste in another. Compost in one of them, but I'm not sure which one.  Recycled in another, but only clean and washed out, and of course with no lids or caps. There's admonitions concerning harzardous waste - stuff that can be included (although I'm still not sure exactly what can that goes in) and numbers to call to find out the locations of places where I need to take the stuff that doesn't go into ANY of the cans.  Some stuff can be in plastic bags - some, that's a big no-no. Is it any wonder I'm confused.  My step-daughter understands it, but then she's been to law school.  They need a college course for this stuff - honestly.  The term "Sanitation Engineer" is finally really appropriate.
     By the end of it all, I was ready to jump in the can myself, but can't because it is not at all entirely clear if I should plastic bag myself first or not.
     I give up.  I gonna starting looking around for a nice hamster to incinerate, but I'm pretty sure that's illegal now too. Good thing for the environment I guess - not to mention the hamsters.
     Okay - I'm done talking trash now.  See you all in a couple of days.