The Freedom to Sit

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
–Voltaire

Class, today’s civics lesson is: Colin Kaepernick.

The quarterback of the San Fransisco ’49ers created quite the stir last weekend with his act of protest, refusing to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to a preseason football game.

(Mind you, he didn’t stand for it in the two preceding games, either, but he was in street clothes for them. I guess it only counts if you’re suited up.)

The reason for his protest, Kaepernick said, was the unfair treatment of people of color in the United States. Being a white dude, I can’t personally relate to this problem, but I hear about it, and read about it, all the time. These people are being treated unfairly, and it’s been a problem ever since one person on earth looked different from all the other people.

Kaepernick meant to call attention to a societal issue he deeply cares about. Unfortunately, most of the attention seems to be on what he did, rather than why he did it. He has been berated, vilified and assailed, mainly on Twitter, being called everything from “idiot” to “disrespectful punk” to “disgraceful piece of shit nigger.”

Want my opinion? If not, you may stop reading, now. Thanks for coming; see you next time.

 

Still with me? Okay, then let’s look at a few of the things being said to or about Mr. Kaepernick:

1. What he did disrespected our men and women in the Armed Forces.

Could not disagree more. I submit to you, he honored them by what he did. (Full disclosure: I say that as someone who never served.)

Throughout our history, men and women have deliberately put themselves in harm’s way, some at the cost of their own lives, in defense of freedom. Colin Kaepernick chose to exercise that freedom in a very public, peaceful manner. You may not like his method, (neither do I, incidentally) but you don’t have to. He is perfectly within his rights, guaranteed by our Constitution, defended by our servicemen and women.

2. If he doesn’t like how things are here, he can just go somewhere else.

Ah, yes… America: Love It Or Leave It. If you have the gall to complain about it, you can just move on down the road.

Really? You can’t love your country if you point out something that’s wrong with it? Seems to me that those are the people that love it the most, the ones who try to call attention to the worst parts of it in an effort to bring about change, to make this country better. Otherwise, why would you care? (Unless, of course, you’re a self-serving Presidential candidate, pointing out all the problems only to offer yourself as the one and only solution, but I digress.)

3. He’s a rich NFL quarterback, so he should just STFU and play ball.

Okay, that’s what’s rich. So, what you’re telling me is, no one should take a stand (or a seat, in this case) for poor, oppressed people but other poor, oppressed people.

How much attention do you think that’ll get?

Kaepernick recognized the opportunity afforded him as a high profile athlete, in a high profile sport, with a sizable audience, to maximize the reach of his message. As I said before, though, that message is largely getting lost in all the chatter about his actions, mostly from all the “patriots” out there who’d rather address Kaepernick’s “unpatriotic” act, because they don’t want to face the much larger question of race relations in their precious America.

Well, guess what, folks: it’s a problem, a BIG problem, and we’ve got to have some honest conversations about it, sooner rather than later, or continue to ignore it at our peril.

Do I consider Colin Kaepernick a hero? I’m not going that far. But, he’s no villain, either. He’s simply a concerned citizen who believes it’s time for us all to work on righting some serious wrongs, and this is how he chose to bring attention to it. I, personally, do not fault him for that.

Will more people sit for the National Anthem now? Who knows? I suppose some will as a show of solidarity, but that won’t move us any closer to the goal. (no pun intended)

Instead, let’s do what Mr. Kaepernick has asked us to do, and have a thoughtful, reasonable, honest conversation about race relations in America, and work towards fixing them, and stop wasting our time castigating Colin Kaepernick.

Colin took a seat. Time for all of us to stand up.

This is what freedom looks like.

Class dismissed.

The King and The Kid

Brace yourselves, Baby Boomers. Two milestones occurred this week that might just stop you in your tracks:

The 39th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.

And the 80th birthday of Robert Redford.

I’m just gonna give y’all a minute to let those last two statements sink in.

Now, tell me, how old do you feel?

 

The first Elvis song I ever heard, courtesy of my brothers’ old 45 RPM records (Google that, kids) was Jailhouse Rock. Gotta be honest, it didn’t set me on fire. I was just a little kid, in elementary school; rock and roll wouldn’t sink its hooks in me for a few more years, yet. I mean, he seemed like a perfectly nice young man, and he had a lovely voice, but no, I didn’t become an instant convert.

Like some of my relatives did. You know who you are.

And I certainly wasn’t aware we would all go to Hell for listening to him.

Now, of course, I have much more of an appreciation for just how influential a figure he was, not just in music, but show business, in general.

Elvis’ career, as I see it, had three phases: the rock-n-roll rebel, the movie star, and the Vegas sensation, with the silk scarves and the brilliant white sequined jumpsuit. Everybody has his or her preferred way of remembering Elvis, and my way is as the young rock-n-roller, with the onstage gyrations that earned him the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis”, making black music safe for white audiences and changing the world in the process, as all the girls screamed, cried and fainted at the sound of that one-of-a-kind voice.

The King may be gone, but the legend lives forever.

Poor Groucho Marx. The comedy movie icon died the same week as Elvis, but who remembers?

 

And now, let us praise the Sundance Kid. (The Sundance Geezer?)

I have always been a Robert Redford fan. He brings to all his roles a certain intelligence that conveys the message, don’t try and outsmart me; I’m onto you. He’s got that disarming smile that conceals the spark of danger just underneath. You get the impression he could be a great friend, but a fearsome enemy. Even the Sundance Kid’s best buddy, Butch Cassidy (played by Redford’s real best buddy, Paul Newman) knew enough to be a little afraid of the guy.

It’s hard for me to decide my favorite Robert Redford performance. The Sting is my all-time favorite movie, but that’s not his best performance, in my view, though it is a good one. I like some of his earlier work, like The Candidate and Jeremiah Johnson. From later in his career, Brubaker, The Natural and The Horse Whisperer are favorites.

Oh, yeah, and from very early on, Barefoot in the Park, with Jane Fonda. The guy has a great sense of humor, and it showed here.

Happy Birthday, Sundance.

The great thing about these two icons is that they each have a body of work that has made them immortal. We can enjoy them over and over, anytime we want, and appreciate the contribution each has made to our culture. Both these guys have marvelous legacies.

Thanks for sharing, fellas.

 

 

A Simple Proposal

From The Guardian, 8/10/16:

“A University of Colorado student convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman will not have to serve a prison sentence, a judge ruled on Wednesday with a decision that has sparked outrage from victims’ advocates and closely resembles the case of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

“A jury convicted Austin James Wilkerson, 22, of sexually assaulting a “helpless” woman on 15 March 2014 when prosecutors say he “isolated and raped the half-conscious victim” after he had told his friends at a St Patrick’s Day celebration that he was going to take care of her.

“Wilkerson – who eventually admitted that he “digitally and orally penetrated” the woman while he “wasn’t getting much of a response from her” – was potentially facing four to 12 years in state prison for the felony offense.

“The law, however, gives judges discretion to issue lighter sentences, and in Boulder County court on Wednesday, district judge Patrick Butler (italics mine) ruled that the former student should not serve any time in state prison. Instead, he ordered Wilkerson to serve two years of so-called “work release” and 20 years to life on probation…

“The attack and the light sentencing echo the high-profile assault case at Stanford University in northern California, which launched an international debate about sexual violence on college campuses and rape culture in America.

“Turner, who was convicted of multiple felonies, including assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, was sentenced to six months in county jail. Even though a jury determined that he had assaulted an unconscious woman by a dumpster after a fraternity party, Turner has continued to argue that the incident was consensual…

“The judge who issued the lenient sentence is now facing an intense recall campaign.”

The judge in the Turner case, just to remind you, was Aaron Persky.

I think I see the problem here, and I would like to offer the following solution:

All future rape trials should be presided over by a female judge.

Seems to me, the guy judges might be showing a little too much sympathy toward these poor, unfortunate young perverts.

Something to consider, anyway.

 

Rome is Burning (a set of lyrics)

Lord, have mercy, I declare,
I sense changes in the air.
It’s getting warmer, I believe,
Yet, what a tangled web they weave.
The boardroom boys say it’s okay;
It all can be explained away.
But, while they got their blinders on,
Another graceful glacier gone.
The earth is melting as it’s turning.
Pick up your fiddle; Rome is burning.

Now, our fine Reps and Senate-whores
Are throwing down on the Capitol floor.
It’s that side wrong, and this side right,
With compromise nowhere in sight.
Who cares what Joe the plumber needs,
Since Wall Street is who they all heed?
When re-election is the main goal,
They legislate to Gallup polls.
You say, you don’t find that concerning?
Pick up your fiddle; Rome is burning.

Our Race to Hell is gaining speed
Propelled by selfishness and greed.
Been lots of talk, but not much change;
Just Titanic deck chairs rearranged.
You’d think by now, we’d all be learning.
Hand me my fiddle; Rome is burning.

Take it away, Nero…

Last One Picked

Today, friends, Mr. Peabody and I have set the Way Back Machine for the 1960’s, to travel back to the halcyon days of my childhood. Those carefree days when my friends and I would get together to play some team sports: football, kickball, global thermonuclear war…you know, the usual.

Two kids would immediately call out, “First captain, first choose!” and “Second captain, second choose!”, staking their claim as team captains, which afforded them the right to select their teammates. The rest of us would kind of fall in line, like contestants on “The Bachelor”, and anxiously wait for our names to be called, to join that captain’s team.

Naturally, I wanted to be among the first ones chosen, because it meant the team captain recognized what a valuable commodity I was for his team, what with my athletic prowess, and all. (ahem)

Instead, I stood there…and stood there…and stood there. Name after name was called, kid after kid was selected, and I began to get the strong impression, given my keen powers of observation and deduction, that neither captain actually wanted me on his team.

And apparently, neither did his teammates, who began to give directions on who to choose next: “Pick David!””Pick Sammy!””Pick Mrs. Ainsworth! I know she’s 83, pick her!”

Finally, when the Second Captain sadly realized he was completely out of options, he motioned to Yours Truly to come over to his team, looking at me like he wished he could have picked a disabled slug, instead.

What an incredibly proud moment that was for me, knowing I was not chosen for my ability, but simply because there was literally no other choice.

Which brings me to this year’s Presidential election.

 

 

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(Note: The following opinions are my own. And maybe, a couple of other people’s.)

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen.

I keep hoping this turns out to be a well-planned, well-executed, elaborate and exceptionally cruel hoax. Or, perhaps, a long and terrifying nightmare from which I will awaken any minute, awash in the relief that it was nothing but a feverish dream.

I mean, these just can’t be the two leading candidates for President of the United States.

The polls – the altar at which all politicians worship – have spoken: these are the two least liked Presidential candidates in the history of modern polling.

Has it really sunk to this level? Is this truly what we wanted for our choice? What in the name of George Washington is the matter with us? President Hillary Clinton? President Donald Trump?

We…are…so…screwed.

So, on one side, we have…Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

One certainly can’t argue her experience; she’s been in politics for what, like, 80 years now? So she knows how things work (or, more appropriately, don’t work) in Washington.

And yet, with a resume as fully loaded as hers, she still needed help from the Democratic National Committee to secure the nomination, (See Wasserman Schultz, Debbie, emails) as Senator Bernie Sanders, and his followers, proved far more formidable an opponent than initially forecasted.

Know why? Cause we know Hillary so well, from years of observation. And many of us do not like what we see.

Put it another way: What does it say about her track record when a key element of her campaign is convincing more people to trust her?

Besides all that: who really wants to see him back in the White House, as First Bubba?

 

And then, there’s …(gag reflex)…Donnie.

Honestly, where do I even begin?

If that isn’t proof of how pitifully, woefully, historically lame the rest of the field was on the Republican side this year, I sincerely don’t know what is. Even when the Repubs had approximately 50 people running at one time, this guy was still the top choice.

Just think about that a minute.

You know, if he doesn’t win, he’s going to sue the United States for not electing him, you know that, right?

If you’re ready to be led by this bigoted, misogynistic, thin-skinned, vindictive, dozens-more-derogatory-adjectives megalomaniac, well…

I genuinely pity you. You have truly scraped the bottom of the barrel, and this is the disgusting dreck you’ve extracted. He’s on your hands.

 

So…there we are. Your Presidential candidates for 2016. To borrow a phrase from Larry David, curb your enthusiasm.

…um, yeah. More like, I dare you not to puke.

There are, of course, other choices, but our two-party system doesn’t exactly accommodate those interlopers. (Full disclosure: I have a cousin who threw his hat in the ring for President this year. The less said about that, the better, I think.)

And, just for the record, and for what it’s worth, if Bernie Sanders was the Democratic Presidential nominee, I’d cast a thousand votes for him, if it was allowed. I believe he has more integrity in his thumbnail than those other two in their whole bodies, combined.

You’re the team captain. Who ya gonna choose?

I guess that somewhat depends on what game you want to play.