ARE YOU A DECENT HUMAN BEING, OR ARE YOU A DICK? – BY TOM CURLEY

I listen to the various pundits on all the news stations and newspapers going on and on about what Democrats need to do to win the midterm elections. They all have a variation of the same theme. They must have a “message.” They can’t just say “Hey we are better than that asshole Trump and those fucking Republicans.”

They need to be for something, like universal health care, a 15-dollar minimum wage, not ripping innocent children from their parents for the crime of trying to come to America for a better life.  But here’s the thing.

That’s bullshit. I completely disagree. We have moved far beyond arguing about political policy. We need to run on what kind of human beings we are in this country.

It’s really simple.


Are we, as Americans, decent human beings? Or are we dicks?


It turns out that over the last two years we have found out there are a frighteningly large number of Americans who are unimaginably horrible dicks. 

If you think ripping a baby from a mother or father and then sending it to another state without any way of keeping track of who the baby belongs to or where it went is OK, you’re a dick.

If you are horrified by this and you didn’t believe such a thing was possible in America, you’re a decent human being.

If you think white supremacists and Nazis are good people, you’re a dick.

If you think a white supremacist running down innocent protesters with his car and killing at least one is bad, you’re a decent human being.  Side note: NAZIS ARE BAD.

If you are a white person who calls the police because

1 – A black family is barbecuing in a public park
2 – A black fireman is doing fire safety checks in his own neighborhood
3 – A black state representative is going door to door talking to her constituents
4 – A black woman is at a community pool to which she belongs
5 – A black man is wearing socks at a public swimming pool

you’re a racist dick.

Oddly, most of the dicks who called the police on these people were women. Turns out


You don’t need a prick to be a dick.


That might make a pretty good bumper sticker or tee-shirt.

racist white women
One of dicks who actually did one of those things.

If this stuff both surprises and appalls you, you’re a decent human being.

I’ve been covering elections for CBS since Nixon. In every election, both sides always say the same thing. “This is the most important election of our lives.”

And we all go, “yeah, sure, whatever.” But this time, for the first time in my life, I agree. We, as a country, are at an honest-to-God existential crossroad. We are being governed by the largest group of horrible dicks in modern history.

And we are being led by the biggest dick of all, the twidiot-in-chief.

So, please, get out and vote this November.

Be a decent human being.

Don’t be a dick. There are way too many of them out there already. 

ALLOWED AND FORBIDDEN – Marilyn Armstrong

Are we still free?

As our “freedom” seems to be becoming increasingly less free with each passing day, I have to wonder about a lot of things I always accepted as true. Or close to true.

I never believed Americans were quite as “free” as we said we were, but we were freer than most places I could live. Americans were under less scrutiny than most places. Our press was stronger — and freer — than most other places.

A friend told me a long time ago that one of the major differences between Europe and the U.S.A. was how we see our “freedom.”



Is that still true? I have a feeling it isn’t. You think?

Just a little note here:

The U.S. was explored by Europeans.

Spanish, Italian, English mostly. French. Portuguese. The people who didn’t “explore and settle” were the Natives whose land it was. So if a lot of what came with those original “explorers” stuck, you guys stuck it here. It didn’t get born in this soil. It was European. Brought here by the greedy guts explorers who showed up in ships and did their worst. We are your descendants. YOUR descendants. You might consider that in the midst of your condemnation.

You brought it and this is what it became.

WHO ARE WE? WHAT ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

HOW DID WE GET TO THIS PLACE?

Just like other countries, we’ve hidden our ugliest history in the backs of closets. We wrote phony history books and made sure our kids read them.  Now we wonder how come they don’t understand history. We could start by teaching them what actually happened. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Andrew Jackson President of the good old U.S.A. wiped out entire tribes of Natives. But that was only one part of the slaughter. They kidnapped children and beat them until they were “American.” More to the point, too terrified to be anything else.

Does that sound familiar in some strange way?

Then, of course, there was slavery, over which we fought the bloodiest war ever in this country, followed by a never-ending cruel inequality that still remains and continues — with the help of our disgusting president — to grow.

In an image provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants taken into custody at the border sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection / AP)

And let’s not forget interning Japanese citizens — many of whom were born here — during World War 2.

So yesterday, when it looked like at least 70% of surveyed Americans thought this was a terrible idea, Trump (theoretically), backed off. Note that 30% of Americans didn’t think it was a bad idea. I try not to think about that 30%. I hope they aren’t my neighbors.

He didn’t really back off. He said was that we are going to keep the kidnapped, interned kids and do who-knows-what with their parents. They probably didn’t keep proper records about which children belong to which parents. Reuniting the kids and adults may not be possible, especially if they already deported the parents.

So what are they going to do with all the kids they’ve locked up? Keep them interned forever? Secretly murder them? Is that entirely out of the question? It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

We’ve always felt we were morally superior to Those Other Countries who slaughtered and mass murdered people for whatever idiotic reason they held. Here we are, doing the same thing. We haven’t started killing them yet, but hey, who knows? Trump is just being Trump, so if he thinks it’s a great idea, I’m sure his sycophants will step right up and follow his orders.

You can bet Sean Hannity will be explaining how it’s not even happening anyway. And 28-30% of all Americans will smile because mass murder sounds like a good idea to them. They will volunteer for jobs in “the camps.”  A job is a job.

With a president who has so little conscience that he thinks kidnapping foreign children is good politics, does killing foreigners if it seems that might help him get reelected sound too far out? If it really might help get him re-elected — assuming he isn’t planning to bypass that whole annoying election process — why not?

What are you planning to do about it? Has it come to a point where evil is our inability to do anything about a world spun completely out of our control?

This morning, he said (who knows what he is really saying?) we are returning to the old-fashioned method we’ve been using for the past 50 years. We’ll stop refugees at our border and say “Sorry, no room. Go home.” This is what we used to before you-know-who moved to the White House. It may not be very nice, especially when you consider how desperately many of these women and children need someplace safe, but it’s nominally better than locking them up and kidnapping their children.

Someone — Tom? — asked me why we can’t make room for them. I don’t know. This country is built on the sweat of hungry immigrants, but we’ve lost our way. As long as we have borders, we seem to feel we are obliged to keep track of who comes and goes across them.

I’m too far down the line of brilliant thinkers who have turned our world into whatever it currently is, but don’t you wonder ever what would happen if we didn’t have artificial lines around “countries” and lived in a single world? Then we could just hate each other for personal reasons.

The authorities released this image of illegal migrants inside a large cage – reporters said they saw unaccompanied children in similar conditions.

If we accept this living nightmare of “Trump being Trump,” then we’re as bad as any other mass murderers. It’s easy to be morally superior when no one is testing your fiber

Now that our fiber is indeed being tested, where and how do we stand? Do we refuse to cross that line after our consciences scream NO? Do we refuse, even if we are threatened?

At what point is it too much? When is enough really enough for us?

INHERIT THE WIND AND THE SCOPES TRIAL – Marilyn Armstrong

INHERIT THE WIND AND THE SCOPES TRIAL

Because the words spoken by Spencer Tracy in his summary to the jury are truer now than ever before, it’s a good time to remember “Inherit the Wind” and the Scopes Trial during which the future went on trial.

When the jury was polled, the future lost.


scopes trial image 2The Scopes Trial, officially The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and typically referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was a famous trial in  1925. In it, a substitute high school teacher — John Scopes — was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school.

The trial was deliberately staged in the town of Dayton, Tennessee to attract publicity. Scopes was unsure whether he actually had taught evolution, but he purposely incriminated himself so the case would have a defendant.

William Jennings Bryan argued for the prosecution, Clarence Darrow for Scopes and the defense. The trial publicized the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. This pitted Modernists — who believed evolution and religion were reconcilable — against Fundamentalists, who believed the word of God (as revealed in the Bible) was the encapsulation of all human knowledge.

scopes trial image 1

Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, though the verdict was overturned on a technicality. Despite all the publicity and hoopla, the issue was never truly settled and remains a political, religious and emotional issue today, which doesn’t say much about our ability to advance our society.


Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding.

It’s a great line from a great film based on an historic trial that settled nothing and left the controversy between science and creationism alive and well, as much of a political hot potato today as it was 100 years ago.


Inherit the Wind (1960), was directed by Stanley Kramer. Much of the script was taken from the actual transcripts of the 1925 trial. With a few minor changes of name, fundamentalism has morphed into creationism. We are stuck in the same conflict today.

FLAGS BLOSSOM IN THE OLD CEMETERY – Marilyn Armstrong

The cemetery is in the center of the town, across from the dam and just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. It’s up on a hill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers. And flooding. They picked a beautiful spot, but dry and safe for the bones and memories.

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries, fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.

Every Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained. They bring bouquets of wild flowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.

At the library

Maybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. Remembering is what we do in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 17 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok … from tiny villages in Ireland and the West Indies and the shtetls of eastern Europe.

Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.

Newcomers, like us, aren’t quite as rare these days, and anyway, we’ve lived here 18 years, so we are no longer outsiders. Nonetheless, we have no ancestors in this cemetery.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in this town or in a nearby villages for three, four, five generations.

“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning as long as anyone can remember. If gently prodded, they may recall at some point, long ago, they came from somewhere else … but some can’t remember when or if it’s true.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if a long time since. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young. Hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.”

We nod, because it was a long time ago. Before we could remember anything, surely.

So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town. It’s a nice thing they do. Remembering.

42 – THE STORY OF A LEGEND. THE STORY OF AMERICA – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

42

We meant to see this one in the theatre, but time slipped away and by the time we were ready to go, it was gone. But that turned out to be fine, because we have a wide-screen television and surround. I bought the movie and we got a private screening. Time for baseball and history. Not only baseball. Not only history.

The integration of sports is taken so much for granted today, younger generations can’t imagine when it was any other way. This is the movie that shows how it happened. It’s a movie about many things.

It’s the story of how and why Jackie Robinson became the first non-white player in Major League Baseball. How this began the integration of all professional sports. It was the beginning of modern baseball as well as the first significant move toward real integration.

That it was our original home town team, the Brooklyn Dodgers makes the story more personal for us. Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, decided it was time to make a difference. Because he could, he changed the world. Harrison Ford as Mr. Rickey mumbles. He’s also real, touching, human. He actually made me cry. Harrison Ford is not known for nuanced performances, but he gives one in this movie.

JrobinsonI commented that Harrison used to be President, not to mention Indiana Jones. Garry pointed out that owning the Dodgers was far more important. I agreed. Because Garry and I agree: there’s nothing more important than baseball. Especially right now.

Chadwick Boseman bears a strong physical resemblance to Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t sound like him, but that’s quibbling. Nicole Beharie is a pretty good likeness of Rachel Isum Robinson. Who, as Garry pointed out, is even today, old as she is, one fine-looking woman. It was no accident Rickey chose a good-looking couple. He knew what they would be up against and it would be hard enough. Any small advantage they could gain by just being attractive … well, they were going to need it.

It’s hard for people brought up after the Civil Rights Amendment to understand the intensity of the hatred, anger and rage bringing a Black man into baseball caused.

It was 1947, the year I was born. The big war in Europe was over and returning Black soldiers were appalled and enraged that the service to their nation had done nothing to alleviate the oppression of Jim Crow laws. Segregation was not merely as bad as it had been. It was worse. Returning Black soldiers made racists all over America nervous that their position of supremacy was being threatened.

It would take 20 years to make get a civil rights amendment to the Constitution. Twenty more to make it real and twenty-five years more to get a non-white President into office. It will probably take another twenty before people stop noticing race … if indeed they ever do. Race and the judgments we make based on skin color are so ingrained, so automatic, so very American.

More than apple pie or the flag, we the people love to hate. It’s the most universal of all human behaviors. Not our ability to love but our willingness to hate.

Chadwick Boseman not only looks like Jackie Robinson. He has his swing. I assume they taught him the swing, but they did it very well and really got that gritty baseball “feel” into the movie. Everyone plays their part with authenticity, as those of us old enough to remember the real guys can attest. Maybe that’s the problem with many of the critics: they never saw the real guys, met them, cheered for them. Lived and died with them through the long season of baseball. They don’t remember, but we do.

The cinematography is great, moving smoothly and naturally between wide and close shots to give you the feeling of the game and more. Nice, tight segues. What is even better captured is the intensity of the abuse Robinson was forced to put up with, to swallow without complaint while simultaneously playing at the top of his game. I’d like to see any modern player survive this.

In many ways, Robinson didn’t survive it. He lived through it, but it killed him from the inside. He blasted open the door of the future and it cost him dearly.

Why did Rickey do it? There was a strong moral component. Rickey believed it was the right thing to do and the right thing to do for baseball. But above all, it was a sound business decision. There was a huge pool of talent out there and the Dodgers needed all the help they could get. By bringing in first Jackie Robinson while simultaneously planning to bring up more Black players, Rickey figured he was going to do some serious winning. He was right.

Leo Derocher
Leo Derocher

Christopher Meloni, ex of Law and Order: SVU, nails Leo Durocher, the crazy, quirky Brooklyn Dodger’s manager. He actually looks like Durocher.

If you love baseball, see it. Even if you don’t love baseball, see it anyway. See it for the history, to remember how hard the battle for equal rights was, is and will continue to be. How much baseball, the American pastime, has always been at the center of the American experience.

And finally see it because it’s the story of a genuine red-blooded American hero. In every sense of the word.

From Garry Armstrong:

I have to admit I was tearing up in places even though there’s no cryin’ in baseball. Critics aside, this was no pleasant Hollywood fable but a fairly authentic account of Jackie Robinson, the man and the player and the times that swirled around him.

Much of this is first-hand recall for me. I was 5 years old and already a budding baseball fan in Brooklyn in 1947 when the young player wearing number 42 became a household name. I remember all the excitement in my neighborhood. Some of it I understood. Some of it I didn’t. The newspapers and radio were full of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson and how what they were doing would perhaps cause problems all across the country.

I remember angry things shouted by White people we encountered. I recall some very nice comments offered by White people who frequently said Jackie Robinson was “a credit to your people.”

I followed the Dodgers very closely over the years. I knew their lineup by heart, could emulate their swings and could recite from memory details of their personal lives along with the baseball stuff. In later years, I’d have the good fortune to meet many of the Boys of Summer including Peewee, Campy, Big Newk, Ralphie Branca, Gil Hodges, The Duke (My hero) and Jackie Robinson.

Later, as a reporter, they gave me their own first hand accounts of what it was like – that memorable year of 1947. I would also hear from Red Barber, the legendary sportscaster who called almost all of the games during the ’47 season for the Dodgers. One poignant memory involves a conversation with Campy (Roy Campanella) and Jackie Robinson. I was now a young reporter and a familiar face to many of the aging Dodgers. Campy was always “the diplomat”, pleasant and smiling.

Jackie always seemed angry. I thought he was mad at me sometimes until Campy said he was just “Jackie being Jackie”. The conversation was about how young Black people conduct themselves. Jackie thought many were irresponsible. Campy said they were just kids doing what kids do. Jackie glared at Campy and then smiled at me saying. “You get it, don’t you?”. I just nodded.

Sorry I strayed from the movie but it evoked so many, many memories. And, thanks Harrison Ford, for a splendid portrayal of Branch Rickey!

THE YEAR THE DOOR OPENED – Marilyn Armstrong

I have often written that 1969 was my favorite year … and explained why.

As a start, it was epic from a news viewpoint.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it. I had a baby that year and it might not have made the networks, but it was big news at my house.

English: Neil Armstrong descending the ladder ...

So, as a new mother, I got to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. A real live guy walking — leaping — on the moon! We viewed it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement. He was nearly in tears. Me too.

The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic news event. Neil Armstrong died a couple of years ago, an honorable man and a true American hero.

How I envied him his trip to the moon. I always tell Garry that if the Mother Ship comes and offers me a trip to the stars, I’m outta here. Maybe there would be room for him, too and we could travel together to the stars. Our final vacation. I hope the seats have better leg room than what we usually get.

Woodstock was a 1969 event too. Rumors were flying about this rock concert which would totally blow up the music world. I had friends who had tickets and were up, up and away. I was busy with a baby and wished them well.

There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I was happier that year than I’d ever been before. I didn’t need to be in San Francisco. I was entirely okay with being right where I was.

I was young, healthy. I was sure we would change the world. End wars. Make the world better — for everyone. I was young enough to believe that our beliefs were enough make the changes and those changes would last forever. All the changes would be permanent.

It never crossed my mind that 50 years later, we’d be fighting the same battles again. I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as happy had a realized that nothing is permanent. No legislation is forever.

I figured we just needed to love each and it would fix everything. I still think if we had all learned to love each other, it would have fixed everything. For some strange reason, I thought the people I knew and cared for were all the people.

I never realized there were so many other people who hated everyone. People who loved no one, not even themselves. They would never be happy. Or allow anyone else to be happy either. 

I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now.” The song made a great wonderful lullaby and also, it made my baby boy laugh. 

It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. New York went crazy for the Mets. A World Series win. 1969. What a year!

I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.

Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything. The world belonged to us. I just knew it.

Decades passed; youth was a long time ago. The drugs we take control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. Today’s drugs aren’t much fun, but along with replacement heart valves and implanted breasts to replace the pair that tried to kill me, they keep me alive.

1969 was my year. But in its own weird way, all the years have come around again and today’s young people are fighting the same old battles — again. Fighting to get the assault weapons out of the hands of people who kill kids in schools and trying to make the world right. I want them to do a better job than we did.

Often, these days, I wonder what we accomplished. I’m sure we accomplished something. We probably brought the close of the Vietnam war, but so late and so many were dead by them. Maybe this group of kids who seem so determined and seem to get that voting is going to be how they will make the system work — maybe THEY will  make things change and somehow keep the change alive.


Nothing lasts forever. Freedom is not free.

Regardless of how hard we work and how much we change the world, like a rubber band,  “the world” will go back to where it was. The generation that follows change will forget how they got their freedom, so the next one will have to fight again. Freedom is the thing we fight for. Not once, but over and over and over again.

Freedom doesn’t come for free.