Barking Backward

A Blog by Jameson Parker

The Span of Life

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

- Robert Frost

Another Reason for the Second Amendment

October 18th, 2017 10 Comments

Two recent atrocities came together in an unlikely nexus.

The first was the horror in Las Vegas. The second was the horror in Hollywood with disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein.

The unlikely nexus is Dana Loesch (pronounced “lash”), the very beautiful conservative talk-radio host and NRA spokesperson. Since the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Ms. Loesch has received so many threats that she has been compelled to sell her home and move. The context of the nexus is that these threats are not just the usual death threats of the extremist looney-tunes on the far left to shoot her (no irony there), though there were plenty of those, but that there were apparently also many sexual threats, primarily to rape her to death.

Sexual abuse such as Harvey Weinstein’s, whether groping, masturbation, or rape, is not about sex. It’s about power, and I find it fascinating that the very sickest of the sick peaceful anti-gun types would use sexual threats in an attempt to intimidate Ms. Loesch.

Rape has been used by men as domination device since the dawn of time. It makes no difference whether it’s by sick and sleazy individuals like Harvey Weinstein, or by armies as a weapon of war, or by male convicts against other male convicts: it’s not about sex; it’s about power. And with that in mind, to find that the radical far-left would be so completely blatant is very revealing.

Radical progressive college professors and students have said, and proven, they consider violence acceptable if it prevents other people from saying things and presenting ideas the professors and students do not want to hear or see presented, First Amendment be damned. But to add the threat of such a crude and disgusting form of dominance, in an attempt to silence ideas and beliefs anti-gunners do not agree with, provides very effective proof of precisely why we need the right to keep and bear arms.

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Oh, Yes!

October 10th, 2017 9 Comments

Darleen (above) as the stewardess of my dreams.

A friend of Darleen’s sent a link (http://dustyvideobox.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Horror%20at%2037000%20Feet%20%281973%29) to a British blog about a movie Darleen made back in 1973. The blog is very entertaining and has a lot of very enticing photographs of my beautiful wife. You tell by glancing at the photo above just why the blogger was so smitten by her.

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NFL Sponsors

September 28th, 2017 12 Comments

On another site where my blog gets posted, not this one, I received an ad hominem attack in response to my blog about the NFL. Curiously enough, the attack had more to do with my having once made my living as an actor than anything else, the implied reasoning being that because of my charmed life (and perhaps, indeed, compared to many, my life has been charmed in some very important ways) I couldn’t possibly know or understand what it is like for black people in black communities to be targeted by law enforcement.

I made it abundantly clear in my post that I have no interest in anecdotal evidence, neither mine nor anyone else’s. Anecdotal evidence can always be found to support any side of any argument, and your individual experience is no more valid as universal evidence than my individual experience. The conclusions I have reached are based on statistical evidence from our nation’s most highly regarded impartial source. But let me ignore the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and I will instead quote findings of The Washington Post, the newspaper that runs neck and neck with The New York Times for title of most liberal paper in America.

According to the Post, out of 963 people shot by police in 2016, 233 were black and, again according to the Post, the vast majority of those were armed. Sixteen black males who were shot were classified as unarmed. In 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be shot by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be shot by a police officer. In the past ten years, black males have constituted 42% of all cop-killers, even though they represent only 6% of the population.

If you don’t trust the Washington Post, a number of recent academic studies have produced similar results. I am referring to Harvard, to Washington State University, to an independent economist, and to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), which describes itself as “…an independent, nonprofit organization merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to create solutions that improve the health, safety and well-being of individuals, communities, and nations around the world.”

The PIRE found that a civilian’s chance of being shot by the police following an arrest or traffic stop is unconnected to race; the chances are equal for both black and white.

The economist, Ted Miller, also found the chances of lethal force being used are equal for black and white.

The Washington State University study found that whites were three times more likely to be shot than blacks.

Harvard economist Roland Fryer found that police officers were 24% less likely to shoot a black suspect than a white one, 47% less likely to fire their sidearm without first being attacked if the suspect was black rather than white, and that black and white victims of police shootings were equally likely to have been armed.

The Center for Policing Equity, a 501(c)3 think tank, found that with violent felony arrests, white suspects were more than twice as likely to be victims of lethal force by law enforcement as black suspects.

Those are some studies that present one point of view, but there are also at least as many studies that seem to come to the exact opposite conclusion. However, I will not cite most of them, because:

—there was clear and explicit bias in some; e.g., citing a Black Lives Matter study would be like citing Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety on Second Amendment issues;

—some studies were clearly skewed by deliberately ignoring readily available evidence to bolster a specific point of view, or by opening or closing valid parameters, used in other studies, to alter conclusions, e.g., classifying anyone under the age of 21 as a child, or ignoring racial crime disparities;

—or because the focus of the study was so narrow (a single small-to-medium sized town) that it is not applicable to establishing a nation-wide trend.

But I will mention three in particular.

A UC Davis study found “significant bias” in the killing of unarmed black men versus unarmed white men, particularly in large metropolitan areas with low median incomes, high black population, and high financial inequality.

The same Roland Fryer cited above, found that although police were less likely to shoot a black suspect, they were more likely to use non-lethal force.

And the New York Times carried a story about a study by the same Center for Policing Equity cited above, that reached the exact opposite conclusion cited above, this time stating, “African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police, even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account.” (I am quoting the NY Times there, not the study.)

Perhaps the reference was to non-lethal force, but I have neither the expertise nor the time to do the research to explain why the same organization could find completely opposing conclusions, so you pay your money and take your pick. But again, I emphasize that none of these contradictory studies reflect any nationwide trend, or plot, or coordinated form of discrimination or oppression, and disrespecting the symbols of an entire nation seems a poor and offensive way to register displeasure over the actions of individual towns or police departments.

I would also point out, that according to the FBI, while blacks commit most of the violent crimes, their victims are predominately other blacks, which does not speak well of local law enforcement in “large metropolitan areas with low median incomes, high black population, and high financial inequality.” Chicago leaps to mind. But it does not reflect badly on the nation as a whole.

But all of that is beside the point that I was trying to make. My primary argument, as I stated in my original post, is not the facts of law enforcement, nor the perceptions of football players black or white, that I object to. Rather, I object to a double standard by the NFL, a sort of cherry-picking, if you will, of the right to freedom of expression. Contrary to a popular email making the rounds of the internet, there is no rule on page 62 or 63 or any other page of the NFL rule book dictating etiquette for players during the national anthem. There is, however, a separate “game operations manual” that does cover etiquette during the playing of the national anthem, but it is phrased in terms of “may” and “should,” not “will” or “must,” so there is no basis for anyone, including President Trump, to call for the firing of players.

There is, however, a basis for disagreeing with the injection of divisive politics into any game: football and other sports are meant to be unifying events, with all the players striving for a common goal of victory for their team, and all the fans routing for victory for their favorite, and that can rightly be considered a paradigm for the unifying common goal of love of country. Beyond that, for the NFL to align itself with a divisive action by certain players, while forbidding other actions (honoring murdered police officers, honoring the victims of 9/11) by other players, is not only wrong in its support of division, but wrong in its inequality. It is very akin to the moronic anti-thought of Antifa and certain extreme college progressives who claim the right to freedom of speech should be open only to them. It would certainly seem the players kneeling on the field in protest of inequality should be able to recognize the inequality of their organization’s decision on this matter.

Here, for those of you who believe in America more than football, is a list of the NFL’s major sponsors. Profits drive the NFL, and lowered revenue will accomplish more than angry words.

Anheuser-Busch

Includes anything named Budweiser or Bud. Also Michelob, Rolling Rock, Busch, Shock Top, Natural, Johnny Appleseed, Landshark Lager, as well as the micro-breweries Goose Island, 10 Barrel, Blue-Point, Elysian Brewing Company, Golden Road Brewing, Four Peaks Brewery, Breckenridge Brewery, Devils Backbone Brewing, Karback Brewing, and Wicked Weed Brewing. It also includes the malt liquors King Cobra, Hurricane, and Spykes.

Barclaycard USA

A credit card company that is part of Visa, and partners with Mastercard and American Express in ways I’m not smart enough to understand.

Bose

Bose is a privately-owned company, so short of boycotting its products (easy for me to do), it might be hard to bring financial pressure to bear on them.

Bridgestone

Actually a Japanese company, Bridgestone also owns Firestone, Bandag (a re-treading company), and manufactures bicycles and golf equipment.

Campbell’s Soup Company

Campbell also owns Pepperidge Farm, Wolfgang Puck Soups, Garden Fresh, Prego, Pace Foods, Arnott’s Biscuits, V-8, Swanson, Bolthouse Farms, Franco-American, Plum Baby, Raguletto, and many other brands overseas.

Castrol

Castrol includes Penzoil.

Courtyard Marriott

A division of Marriott International. There are other hotels.

Dairy Management, Inc.

Proving that even farmers, who are basically the salt of the earth, can get hooked up with the wrong people.

Dannon

The yogurt company makes a variety of yogurts whose names either begin with “Dannon” or have some variation of “Dan.”

Extreme Networks

It’s a networking company based out of San Jose, CA, that builds, designs, and installs ethernet network computer products. I have now exhausted my intelligence about the company and the ethernet.

FedEx

Send your package via UPS

Frito-Lay

The snack food company is owned by Pepsi, and they manufacture a slew of snack foods such as Lay’s, Frito’s, Dorito’s, Ruffles, Cheetos, Sun Chips, Tostitos, Rold Gold, and Funyuns.

Gatorade

This is also owned by Pepsi (what food product isn’t?) and sells a range of drinks and energy bars that all have some variation of “Gator” in their names.

Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai also owns Kia and Genesis Motors.

Mars Snackfood

Oh, boy. They own the Wrigley Company (chewing gum) as well as a huge selection of candy products, including, but not limited to, 3 Musketeers, Bounty, Lifesavers, M&M, Skittles, Snickers, Twix, Uncle Ben’s Rice, Milky Way, pet products such as Eukanuba, Iams, Nutro Products, Pedigree, Whiskas, Sheba, and a lot more stuff I’ve never even heard of.

Microsoft

Yeah, good luck avoiding that one. I suppose, if you’re more computer-savvy than I, you could switch to Apple.

Nationwide

The insurance giant, another vast conglomerate that owns more companies than you can shake a stick at, and certainly more than I can list.

News America

This is a marketing company that is owned by News Corporation (News Corp), which is in turn owned by Rupert Murdock, as in the Fox News Rupert Murdock. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Murdock’s conservative beliefs outweigh his desire for profit.

Papa John’s

The pizza company. Make your own.

Pepsi

The mega-conglomerate that owns just about everything you can put it your mouth, including Aquafina, Tropicana, Lipton, 7-Up, Propel, Mountain Dew, Stolichnaya, California Pizza Kitchen, as well as Wilson Sporting Goods, North American Van Lines, and scores of other products. Pepsi also has some kind of partnership deal with Starbucks.

Procter & Gamble

Everything that isn’t owned by Pepsi is owned by Proctor and Gamble, including a bunch of the stuff you will need after eating Pepsi products, stuff like Crest, Oral-B, Fix-O-Dent, Scope, Pepto-Bismol, Charmin, Pampers, Tide, Head & Shoulders, Gillette, Bounty, Olay, Pantene, Mr. Clean… The list goes on and on.

Quaker

Among a slew of breakfast cereals, including Mr. T Cereal, Quaker also owns the Aunt Jemima brand.

Verizon

Yeah, that Verizon.

Visa

It’s always better not to use a credit card anyway.

USAA

This is the financial service, banking, and insurance company that bangs the drum in its commercials for its support of military families, in part because it was founded by a group of Army officers, and in part because it targets military families in particular. It will be interesting to see if NFL-related profits outweigh the company’s conscience (not likely) or, more importantly, its image. It’s hard to wave the flag while you’re disrespecting it.

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NFL

September 25th, 2017 18 Comments

 

I’ve been thinking about the NFL players disrespecting our flag and our country. Apart from the fact that I find their chosen form of protest extremely offensive, I have several other problems with it.

I decided to do some research about what precisely they are protesting, and by precisely, I mean something more than vague references to racism and oppression and police brutality. Obviously, as an all-American slice of Wonderbread, I have no way of knowing what it means to be a black man in America today, or what day-to-day issues black people face, so I decided to rely on what the players themselves had to say. Unfortunately, there is very little to find.

Colin Kaepernick has a website for his foundation that has the following mission statement: “The mission of the Colin Kaepernick Foundation is to fight oppression of all kinds globally through education and social activism.”

While that is laudable on the face of it, it is unfortunately so childishly and hopelessly vague as to be completely meaningless. It’s like saying you support world peace. Who doesn’t?

Other public statements I was able to find by other players are also equally vague, so I fell back on an article from Sports Illustrated that condensed Mr. Kaepernick’s stance down to protesting racism and oppression and police brutality, which left me very little better off than I was before I tried to do my research.

I’m not going to address the racism because these days it works both ways and I find both equally offensive. The white people who feel, show, or express racism are just as crude and moronic as the black people who feel, show, or express racism, and both manage to create their own belief support system to carry them on, so nothing I might say is going remedy that.

Oppression I have a hard time taking seriously (to “oppress” means to persecute or subjugate by unjust use of force or authority) in the wake of eight years of a black president, and with three black incumbent US Senators and forty-five black incumbent US Representatives in Congress, especially when that word is used by men with an average salary of $2,000,000.00 per annum.

So that brings us to police brutality, which I what I suspect the NFL players mean when they use the word “oppression.” Again, I have no way of judging what it means to a black man or woman in America today, but I am not interested in anecdotal evidence. We all have our various personal experiences, pro or con, that color our view of the world, but personal or second-hand stories do not equate to reality or to society as a whole. So what we all have to fall back on are the statistics for law enforcement compiled by the FBI and available to all in their Uniform Crime Report.

The percentages break down into 68.9% of all arrests, for all crimes, are white people, while 28.3% are black people, with native American, Asian, and “other” making up the negligible rest. In fact, in all categories of crime, with the exception of violent crime, whites comprise the majority of arrests. Since, as of 2016, whites are still the majority in America, with blacks being the largest racial minority with 13.3% (Latinos and Hispanics are considered a white ethnic minority) that isn’t too surprising. Unfortunately, the paradigm shifts when it comes to violent crime, with young black men accounting for 52.2% of all arrests for murder and non-negligent homicide and 56.4% of all arrests for robbery. However, when it comes to police shootings, almost twice as many white men are shot by police than black men. If you adjust for population percentages only, yes, a greater percentage of black men are shot by police, but if you also adjust for violent crimes by race, it skews the rate back again. Police go where the crime is.

But apart from the disparity between perception and reality by black football players, what really bothers me about this is the NFL’s reaction to the protests. In 2016, when five police officers were murdered in Dallas, Texas by a black racist who stated he wished to murder white people and white police officers in particular, the NFL ruled that the Dallas Cowboys could not honor the five murdered officers by wearing decals on their helmets. Yet now, they deem it acceptable for players to kneel or sit or otherwise disrespect the American flag and the men and women in the service that flag represents, who have given or risk their lives for all of us, including football players black and white. The reason given by the NFL is the First Amendment right of freedom of expression. What happened to freedom of expression when the issue was honoring five murdered police officers? I would like someone to explain what nicety allows one form of freedom of expression, but not another, because either the NFL must decide expression ends in the workplace for everybody, or it is allowable for everybody.

Until then, as I follow sports specifically to get away from the constant hateful and divisive political ranting and posturing that has invaded every aspect of life in America, I will boycott the NFL and go back to watching nothing but boxing.

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Reasoning with Evil

September 21st, 2017 15 Comments

 

Many decades ago I read an account of the Charles Manson murders that included the horrifying revelation that of all the people in Sharon Tate’s home that night, only one, Wojciech Frykowski, fought for his life. Mr. Frykowski had witnessed the tender mercies of the Nazis in his native Poland and was able to recognize evil when he saw it. All the rest tried to reason with their murderers, with poor Sharon Tate repeatedly saying, “Can’t we talk about this?” even after she had already been stabbed in her almost nine-months pregnant belly. Too many rational people are unable to recognize irrational evil when they see it, and they die as a result.

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Sharon Tate Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

I thought about this as I watched President Trump’s speech to the UN. Unlike Barack Hussein Obama, who appeared to enjoy blaming America, Christianity, and Western civilization generally for all the troubles of the world, there was no wringing of hands, no apologizing for actions past or present, and no smarmy, we’re-all-in-this-together conciliation by Donald Trump. Instead there were plain, blunt promises to protect and support America and her allies, and the plain, blunt naming of names of bad actors. (Sometimes plainer than one might hope for from a United States president, but I’ll take plain courage and plain belief in America over articulate apologies and eloquent conciliation any day.) North Korea, Iran, and Syria are not our friends, and there was no attempt to pretend they were. Socialist dictatorships like Venezuela, and communist dictatorships like Cuba, have never given a damn about their citizens, with the predictable results of extreme poverty, privation and abuse. Donald Trump made no attempt to say anything nice about any of those regimes. It was, as Benjamin Netanyahu said, “…the boldest and most courageous speech I’ve ever heard at the UN,” and Mr. Netanyahu, unlike our previous president, is a man who knows a little about courage and boldness. Unfortunately, the mainstream media that has banded together to portray President Trump as dangerous and unfit for his position, also seems shocked and horrified by courage and boldness. The criticism has run a wide gamut, from Hilary Clinton’s “dark and dangerous” comment, to more measured analyses by people who (on the surface, at least) understood what the president was saying, but rejected either the language or some parts of the message.

But it was the mainstream media’s reaction that really went over the top.

In particular, Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, went out of his way to portray Donald Trump as “mentally unstable” by comparing him unfavorably to President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. O’Donnell chose to carefully ignore, or is more likely ignorant of, the facts that:

1] John F. Kennedy was a dangerously compulsive serial womanizer (that would disqualify him today as mentally unstable) who

2] was having an affair at that time with Mary Meyer (that would also disqualify him today) who

3] introduced him to LSD (think that might disqualify him today as mentally unstable?) and—most importantly—that

4] despite O’Donnell’s insistence that Adlai Stevenson’s speech at the UN is what caused the Soviets to back down, the truth is Kennedy had a secret direct line to Khrushchev (OMG! Throw that man in prison for collusion!) and it was their direct, private communication that resolved the crisis, not anything anyone said at the UN.

Winston Churchill, who experienced some of the horrors of war, was roundly condemned and vilified by the House of Commons for his bellicose attitude toward rearming Great Britain prior to World War Two, and for opposing Neville Chamberlain’s groveling appeasement of Hitler. God knows Trump is no Winston Churchill, but like Churchill, and like poor Wojciech Frykowski, Trump seems to be able to recognize evil for what it is when he sees it, and like both of them, he knows better than to waste time trying to sweet-talk or appease people who only want to kill.

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Child Abuse!

September 18th, 2017 9 Comments

 

When the news reported that an eleven-year-old kid had been given permission to mow the White House lawn, I immediately told Darleen that President Trump would be accused of violating child labor laws. My bride appreciates her lord and master’s wit, and we both had a good chuckle over my droll little nonsensical quip.

In fact, it turns out Darleen’s lord and master is a hopelessly naïve schmuck who consistently underestimates the sheer mindless idiocy of the progressive left, the mainstream media, ivy league education, and the kind of people produced by those entities, the lovers of safe spaces and the nanny-state concept. What I had thought was a silly little joke to go with the morning’s coffee turned out to be an absolutely accurate (and, I suppose in hindsight, completely predictable) forecast.

Here, word for word, is the tweet of a reporter named Steven Greenhouse: “Not sending a great signal on child labor, minimum wage & occupational safety >> Trump White House lets a 10-year-old volunteer mow its lawn.”

Ten, eleven; no matter.

Steven Greenhouse is a journalist who specializes in labor and workplace issues. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and the New York University School of Law. He was a correspondent for the New York Times, for thirty-one years, but he has apparently taken some sort of early retirement to work on his own projects. Let’s be fair and presume that Mr. Greenhouse has his own brand of cynical humor and enjoys (to paraphrase the title of a Tom Wolfe book) mau-mauing the conservative right and is now enjoying the hysterical reactions of, well, people like me. Let’s hope so. Let’s sincerely hope so.

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Gerald McRaney

September 11th, 2017 15 Comments

He did it! I sent Mackie the following message:

“Congratulations! Kudos! Bravo! Well done! Felicitations! And richly deserved, my talented friend!”

It’s only the first one; there’ll be more to come!

(I got so excited, I forgot to mention that what he did was win an Emmy!)

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Columbus Day

September 1st, 2017 20 Comments

 

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

It’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies. It is putatively an ad lib made by Orson Welles during the filming of The Third Man. There are a number of things factually wrong with the statement (it was the Medici, not the Borgias; the Renaissance is normally considered to have begun at least a hundred or more years earlier than the time frame referenced; and the cuckoo clock is a product of the Black Forest region of Germany, not Switzerland), but that’s not the point. The essence of the statement is spot on: certain elements contribute to the creativity and productivity of a culture, and tasteless milk-and-honey-peace-love-Woodstock-can’t-we-all-get-along is not one of them.

Any person or society that cannot or will not learn from and adapt to new ideas, new technologies, new ways of thinking and being, is doomed to stagnate and perish. On the other hand, any person or society that embraces every new idea and every new technology, every new way of thinking and being that comes along, will be in constant flux and chaos, and will therefore never be able to devote the requisite energies to creating and growing. What is needed is a dynamic tension between stagnation and evolution; not stasis, exactly, but rather an active sort of ebb and flow that invites and promotes creativity. What is most emphatically not needed is the kind of society that embraces every flabby, overly sensitive, overly protective, overly politically-correct piece of idiocy dreamed up by stupid people with too much free time. We emphatically do not need the moronic and completely unrealistic attitude that somehow some kind of mommy-government can make all hurts go away, make everyone feel good about themselves, and do everything for everyone so that we can all live on the dole and, to quote that towering intellectual giant Nancy Pelosi, write books and paint with all our free time.

Which brings me to Columbus Day and Los Angeles City Council’s decision to eliminate that particular day from its calendar. It brings me to the tearing down of statues of Confederate icons, the changing of names of streets and parks, the whole ridiculous, dangerous attempt to rewrite history because someone might be offended. Sportscaster Robert Lee, of Chinese descent, was yanked from his spot because his name is similar to you-know-who. The horse that is one half of the symbol of the USC sports teams is no longer to be named Traveler, because that was the name of you-know-who’s horse. Robert Avrech, Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and author of the blog, Seraphic Secret (http://www.seraphicpress.com) predicted Gone with the Wind would soon be targeted by the morons who are targeting everything that offends them. I thought Mr. Avrech must have had one Margarita too many the day he wrote that, but he was right: it’s been done in Memphis. Some pastor in Chicago wants Rahm Emanuel to rename Washington Park, and I have heard some other idiot wants Washington, DC to be renamed. (That may be a piece of satire, but these days, who can tell?) What’s next? Do we ban Huckleberry Finn, The Sound and the Fury, Uncle Remus, Othello, The Nigger of the Narcisus, My Sweet Charlie, The Defiant Ones, The Emperor Jones, all history books in general, and then execute those of us who remember or know history? It’s a sort of mind-boggling attempt to erase the past à la Stalin and certain Chinese emperors and other remarkably stupid despots, all in an attempt to do—what? Not hurt someone’s feelings? And what names should we use to ensure that another, future generation won’t be offended? Or shall we just rename everything to reflect a completely passive, gender-neutral, non-temporal, non-offensive, non-denominational, non-racial, non-ethnic, flavor-free, all-embracing, one-big-happy-family kind of existence, a sort of Pablum-like, cream of wheat, Care Bears world?

It won’t work. Someone will always be offended. I, for one, would be deeply offended to have to live in such a smothering, creativity-killing, soul-killing, passion-killing world. I will vandalize all the Care Bear statues.

I sincerely hope I’ve offended someone with this post.

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Jerry Lewis

August 21st, 2017 20 Comments

 

I met Jerry Lewis on several occasions, but it was a time before I met him that lingers most vividly in the rapid access file.

My youngest daughter was born with muscular dystrophy. For those fortunate enough not to be familiar with this most exquisitely horrible disease, there are many different forms of muscular dystrophy. The term, muscular dystrophy, refers to a wide group of muscle diseases, all of which result in irreversible and progressive weakening and breakdown of muscle tissue over greater or lesser (depending on the form of the disease) periods of time. Some forms present in early childhood, some in adulthood, some are considered fatal, some not, some forms result in severe disability, some in more manageable degrees. There is no cure. It is thought to be inherited, but occasional spontaneous genetic mutations arise, as is the case with my sweet Katherine.

My ex-wife was the first to notice something was wrong. Several times she told me she thought Katherine was having trouble hearing. Each time I would walk into whatever room Katherine was in, stand behind her and say her name. Each time she heard me and so I dismissed my ex-wife’s concerns. I had forgotten that my voice was much deeper than my ex-wife’s, so when she insisted on taking Katherine to a local doctor for tests, I went along more to keep the peace than because I believed anything was wrong.

Pain, as much as joy, is the acid that etches the copper plate of our memories. I remember standing in the room of the little clinic our doctor sent us to down in Lebanon, New Hampshire, not far from where we were living in those distant days. I remember it was a pair of doctors, a man and a woman, who broke the news to us. I remember how my head and ears started buzzing even as I wondered why the words—muscular dystrophy—meant nothing to me.

We drove home, Katherine and my ex-wife and I, my head still buzzing, as I kept thinking, I’ve heard those words before, I’m not an idiot, I should know what they mean, but unable to attach any meaning or significance to them. It wasn’t until we got home and I looked up muscular dystrophy in the Encyclopedia Britannica that the buzzing stopped and the reality set in.

The feeling I was left with was a sensation I can only describe as hollow, as if something had been cut out of me. The loss of a child is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to anyone.  To be told, as we were at the children’s hospital in Boston where we went for further tests (in the back of your mind you believe that if you go to enough doctors, have enough tests, the diagnosis will change, and everything will be right again) that your child may die, or may not, no one knows, leaves you in a state of turmoil as horrible and incomprehensible as death, and yet somehow almost worse, because you try to mitigate your despair with hope.

I used to put the children to bed at night. They would gather in my office and I would read to them, a different story for each child, and then put them in bed. And then, later, I would go into each room and sit and watch them sleep. There is nothing more wonderful than a sleeping child; in sleep, they belong completely to you in a way that they never do awake.

After the diagnosis I would sit and watch Katherine, face like an angel, perfect little mouth open, breath sweet, hair splayed on the pillow, and the reality of her disease would ebb and swell, so that at times I could almost make myself believe there was nothing wrong, that our world would go back to what it had been, and at other times rage would rise up in me, swelling my throat until I thought I might choke, rage at something I could neither kill nor fight nor even change. No one can understand helplessness who has never been unable to help his child.

Those first few days after the diagnosis were completely unreal, and time has kindly wiped many of those memories away, but I do remember my ex-wife reaching out to friends of hers in Los Angeles, calling people, talking endlessly on the phone.

I assume that what happened next was the result of her telling someone who knew someone who knew Jerry Lewis, but one evening, only a few days after the diagnosis, the telephone rang. I was in the kitchen when I picked it up and I knew instantly who it was, before he had even identified himself, the famous voice being as singular and distinctive as his particular style of comedy.

Nor do I even remember now what he said. What remains is the kindness of his voice, the gentle encouragement of his words, and the sense afterward that we weren’t alone.

That gesture, that act of kindness coming from a total stranger, unleashed something in me. After the call, I took Max, my magnificent Chesapeake Bay retriever, out for a walk and for the first time since we got the diagnosis, I wept, though “wept” is a most inadequate word. I howled and roared and raged, distressing my poor friend terribly, causing him to keep bumping up against my legs until at last I could calm myself enough to kneel down and bury my face in his fur.

A year or so later my ex-wife and Katherine and I all appeared on the famous Labor Day telethon, and Mr. Lewis was as gracious and kind as he could be given the constraints of trying to do an exceptionally long and difficult live show.

I have no idea how many countless millions upon millions of dollars Jerry Lewis raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for “Jerry’s kids,” his kids, but his telethon was considered to be the most effective fund-raising effort in television history. Mr. Lewis also lobbied private donors, sponsors, Congress, and civic organizations, raising more funds, appearing at countless public functions, giving speeches, and reaching out quietly to private individuals, including a distraught family in New Hampshire. He never revealed why he was so single-mindedly devoted to putting an end to muscular dystrophy, and he may not have lived long enough to see a cure, but he accomplished more than any other humanitarian, more than twenty other humanitarians, and he lived long enough to see the discovery of the DNA involved in the process, which is a giant step closer to someday finding the cure. He deserves every accolade, all the accolades, all the honors, all the gratitude, all the love.

I write this as the eclipse is occurring. In a simpler time, a simpler culture, it would be possible to believe the sun is hiding his face in sorrow and respect for Jerry Lewis.

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Trump Blew It

August 16th, 2017 32 Comments

The Trumpster blew it.

The KKK and the Neo-Nazis and any other white supremacy fruit-loops have a perfect right to spout their ignorant, hate-filled rhetoric, no matter how offensive it is to people like you and me—more right, in fact, than the fruit-loops who try to shut them up with violence; there is, after all, something called the First Amendment—but there are no good people there. Good people do not hate Jews or blacks, or indeed any segment of their fellow travelers on this earth. Good people do not espouse or use violence to make their point, so while Trump is perfectly correct in assigning blame on both sides, neither he nor anyone else can defend the indefensible, and the white-supremacy fruit-loops are as indefensible as ISIS or any other totalitarian group of evil-minded morons. Not naming them and condemning them for their evil is as troubling as Obama’s refusal to name radical Islamic terrorism for it’s evil. And even more divisive, because this is America. Trump blew it.

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