WAKE UP AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

During the past two and a half years, Garry and I have logged endless hours watching the current political nightmare unfold. I can’t count the number of hours spent analyzing “millennials,” folks approximately my granddaughter’s age. How disaffected they are. How they aren’t going to vote because “this has nothing to do with me” — a direct quote from my granddaughter.

I love my granddaughter with all my heart, but that just pissed me off to a fare-thee-well.

The world into which the now oft-dismissed “baby boomers” were raised — despite maudlin memes on Facebook — was very far from a perfect world. Classified advertisements for jobs were divided into “Help Wanted: Male” and “Help Wanted: Female.” It was legal and enforced. As for people of color and immigrants, their help wasn’t wanted on any page.

help-wanted-advert-1892

70 years later, the Help Wanted advertisements looked pretty much the same as they had in 1892. Photograph: Library of Congress Archives

Jim Crow laws were legal. Inter-marriage between races was illegal in all southern states and many northern ones. There was no Medicare. No Medicaid. If you lost your job, or your job didn’t offer medical benefits — and employers were not obligated to provide benefits — you were out of luck.

People reminisce about the 1950s and early 1960s as if they were perfect days for everyone. A world in which jobs lasted forever. Spanking kids was totally cool. No one was hungry. True-ish — but only if you were triple white.


Triple white = White collar. White skin. White picket fence.


If you were anything else, you lived a very different reality.

civil-rights-bill-passage-nytimesheadline

Did I mention that abortion was illegal? Illegal abortions were frequently fatal and effective birth control hadn’t been invented. It’s not that we didn’t have sex outside of marriage. Of course we did. Hormones, boys, girls, love, and passion were never different than now, but acting on these urges was far more dangerous. The ramifications of “getting caught” were perilous and possibly illegal, so we were sneaky. We had sex in cars, not beds.

We hid our social lives from “the grownups” who were also “the enemy.” Child abuse was not illegal. It was ignored or absolutely approved of. Beating your kids was “discipline.” Which is why I get enraged every time I read one of those Facebook “nostalgia” posts about how great it was to be able to hit your kids.

Hitting kids doesn’t make them better people. It just informs them it’s okay for bigger, stronger people to hit smaller, weaker ones.

January 22, 1973 woman could finally breathe a sigh of relief. We thought the days of back room abortion were finally over. Maybe yes. But maybe it was just a temporary reprieve.

January 22, 1973 woman could finally breathe a sigh of relief. We thought the days of back room abortion were finally over. Maybe yes. But maybe it was just a temporary reprieve. Photograph: New York Times archive

My generation — we old people — were out there manning the barricades. Marching for justice.

We changed the world. Not as much as we hoped, but some. We certainly tried. We fought racial and gender discrimination. While waiting for the law to change, we hid our homosexuality or trans-gender identities. Not doing so might do us in. We never gave up the fight, but time has had its way. We got old and most of us have put down the signs and stopped marching.

It’s your turn.

Selma alabama 1965 resized

The world got so much better and now it’s getting so much worse again. Looks like the stuff we fought for is going down the tubes.  I know you feel the world has failed to live up to its promises to you. Life is hard. Good jobs are scarce.

The truth is that life — real life — has always been hard. Good jobs were always hard to find. No one told me life would be easy. Did someone tell you that? If they did, they lied.

It’s time for your generation to step up to the plate. Put down your phone. Go fix stuff. Fight for a better life and a better world. Vote! That’s how change happens. If you don’t care enough to stand up for yourselves and your future, no one else will care. All the work we did will vanish. It will be the real 1950s all over again. I don’t think you will like it.

Then, as my mom used to say, you’ll really have something to cry about.

DON’T TAKE THE BAIT – RICH PASCHALL

Keep Right On Going, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


If you are a fisherman, and perhaps even if you are not, you can understand the frustration that comes with the sport. That is, you go out knowing fish are swimming all around you. Maybe a lot of them and you are ready to reel them in.  You bait the hook and drop it in amongst all those lovely fish and you wait … and wait. Nothing happens.  It is as if Charlie Tuna or some holy mackerel was there, warning off all the others to avoid your bait.

“This is good bait,” you may think.  “It is big and tempting and the sea creatures should flock to it,” but they just smirk and swim off to visit other old timers to see if their little fishes are off in schools somewhere else.

Avoid the bait

This is how we should be too.  We should stop taking the bait, but sometimes we do anyway. The consternation begins.  I am talking about social media and social conversation.  There is always someone lobbing bait in the water. It’s up to us to keep swimming.  No good comes from getting hooked.

It would appear that many throw out the bait on Facebook or Twitter — or whatever platform they prefer — knowing they will start an argument amongst friends and acquaintances.  In this politically charged “us versus them” environment fostered and encouraged by 45 and his ilk, there are always those waiting for someone to take the bait. Their posts can be filled with political arguments.  None are worthy of the time, but some play it like a sport.  It is almost like taking your boat out on Lake Michigan hoping to land a big one.  You are likely to end up with carp or alewives, of course.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Whether you are posting something in favor of POTUS or against, there is someone ready to take the bait and tug on the line.  While an astounding number of people are not in favor of the current pretender to the throne, he still has some rabid supporters who are willing to dangle the bait or take it themselves and the battle is on.  These battles of back and forth with the fish can get rather rowdy and sometimes Facebook or whoever has to step in and stop the battle from going on.

Soon after the terrible display of hate in Charlottesville, I posted a brief piece I saw about how the USA helped defeat the Nazis in World War 2.  I thought it was important to remember (or to learn) what that was all about.  I know exactly what my parents would have thought of recent events.  My father fought in World War II.  It is terrible, in my opinion, that people would carry the Nazi flags on our streets after the 1940’s but perhaps some forgot.  I had no idea I was dangling bait for the alt-right.

What followed my post was a long series of comments by a few people who conducted a mean-spirited, name-calling “debate.”  I could not keep up with it or monitor the frequent comments, which apparently turned threatening.  After someone complained, Facebook stepped in and removed the most egregious comments.  At my first opportunity, I removed the post completely.  History really is not debatable nor is it worth threatening someone, but that’s the road we’ve gone down.

Due to my stance on some topics, or my willingness to take the bait on a few occasions, I guess I have lost a few friends.  I can’t say it really bothers me.  If you are that bigoted, whether your opinion is based on some misinterpretation of history or the Bible or some other religion, I guess it’s best I swim on by. I’m too old to have this stress in my life.  Be careful. You never know when some fish might pull you into the water.

Until recently, I used to get together a few times a month with someone I have known since childhood. He’s a bit right of center politically, but we had mostly avoided political arguments. That changed in the current social climate. He has taken to dangling bait.  I was playing along for a while, but I now see the futility of this endeavor.

It will start with my friend saying something about 45 or other right-wing topic.  I might respond, “As a former military man, how do you feel about 45 making comments about North Korea that also seem to give up military secrets?”  It is a reasonable question, I think, but it only proves that I have taken the bait.

“What about Obama?” he might reply.  “You never said anything about Obama when he was in office.”

“Yes I did,” I usually point out.

“I never heard it.”

“You never listen to my side.”

“And what about Rahm (Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago)? What about that?” He will say in a voice somewhat louder.

“What does this have to do with 45 and North Korea?” I may inquire to try to steer the conversation back around, but it’s too late.  I am already on the line.

IF TELEVISION WAS REAL – BY TOM CURLEY

I watch a lot of TV. Probably too much. I’m fond of action shows. I’m really fond of all the various comic book shows.


The single thing these shows have in common is they all have at least one computer genius. A girl or guy geek who’s the best hacker in the business. They always have at least a half-dozen computer monitors in front of them. Each one has 10 or more windows open with lines of data scrolling by at about a hundred miles an hour. They can do anything and everything. Instantly.

falcontradingsystems.com

falcontradingsystems.com

BOSS: I know this is illegal, but I need you to hack into the CIA, NSA and FBI servers. They have the most secure and impenetrable firewalls ever designed. Can you do it?

COMPUTER GENIUS: I was into all three 15 seconds ago, sir. The ones that work for the FBI can find anything in 10 seconds or less.

FBI BOSS: Our serial killer is male, early thirties, white, and probably living in a two square mile region south of Albany, Georgia. He’s left handed  and likes string cheese. We need to narrow our search …

FBI COMPUTER GENIUS: Found him! His photo, home address and a copy of his permanent High School record have already been sent to your phone.

Not the real bad guy

Probably not the real bad guy, but this got me to thinking. What would these shows look like if they were happening in the real world?

BOSS OF SUPER SECRET GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION TASKED WITH SAVING THE WORLD FROM SUPER BAD EVIL DOERS:  OK, listen up. You two are the world’s best black hat and white hat hackers. We’ve brought you here because a Super Bad Evil Doer has stolen software that will allow him to access all the world powers’ nuclear codes. He is demanding 1 trillion dollars in ransom or he will launch all the missiles at once and destroy the Earth. You each have a whole bunch of computer screens in front of you with dozens of boxes open scrolling lines and lines of stuff. You have less than 10 minutes to somehow find our Evil Doer and figure out a way to block him from launching those missiles. Can you do it?

HACKER #1: Yes, but we will need to write some specialized software, at least 10 to 20 thousand lines of code.

BOSS: My God!  Can you do it in time???

HACKER #2: Already done sir. Now all we have to do is upload it to the Evil Doer’s computer. Ready to send in 3, 2 ….

HACKER #1: NO! NO! NO!

HACKER #2: What’s wrong? OH GOD NO! NO! NO!

BOSS: What’s happening?!

HACKER #1: My computer is shutting down!!

HACKER #2: MINE TOO!

BOSS: Are you being hacked? Have your computers been infiltrated by some kind of malicious software? Does the Evil Doer have a genius hacker of his own???

HACKER #1: WORSE! Windows just installed updates! It’s rebooting so the updates can take effect!

windows shut down

BOSS: Can you stop it!??

HACKER #2: It’s too late! Look! It’s already started rebooting and configuring the updates!

windowsupdateinstalling_40853_l

BOSS: There’s nothing you can do???!

HACKER #2: No sir. Look at the screen. It says “Please do not power off or unplug your machine while updates are in progress”!

windows updates 1

BOSS: How long will it take to reboot?

HACKER #1: God only knows! Look! It’s still installing update six of ten! This could take an hour! Even more.

BOSS: We have less than ten minutes before nuclear Armageddon! What are we going to?

HACKER #1: Wait! I’ve got it! I can use my smart phone!

HACKER #2: Yes! We will have to adapt about 15 thousand lines of code but …

HACKER #1: It’s done! OK now all I have to do is input and send the kill command. “NEUTRALIZE ALL NUCLEAR LAUNCH CODES”. And … done!

BOSS: Thank God!

HACKER #2: Oh NO! You entered “NEUTRALIZE ALL NUCLEAR LUNCH CODES”!!

HACKER #1: What?! Damn you AUTOCORRECT!

autocorrect

BOSS: What do we do now!!

HACKER #2: You know what? Pay the ransom. I’ve had it with Windows. I mean look, it’s still on update 6 of 10! We’re going to be here all day!

HACKER #1: I agree. Pay the money. This is just too much trouble. I’m telling you, ever since my phone updated to iOS 9.0.1, nothing works right.

HACKER #2: Tell me about it.

ios-9-overnight-update

As the two hackers walk off into the sunset discussing whether or not upgrading to Windows 10 would make the situation better or worse, small mushroom clouds appear in the distance.

doodleordie.com

doodleordie.com

Yeah, that’s pretty much how it would happen. Here’s the actual TV show.

 

OMG!

Have any of us ever calculated the number of posts on Facebook, Twitter, and even WordPress that start out with OMG or something to that effect? The sentence which follows might — or might not — have anything to do with the opening OMG. My personal favorite is when the author tried to fully engage the excitement, shock, horror, fear, loathing, and paralyzing awesomeness of whatever event has occurred.

A friend says she has seen ones that start with “OMG! I’M 25! That’s so OLD! What can I do NOW?”

Photo – Garry Armstrong

I would expect, given that she or he has lived 25 years of life to its fullest, it’s time to make burial plans. Surely any time spent living life past 25 would be a waste. Really, hasn’t she done it all? Anything from this point on would be repetition, right?

While we were out on the water with Tom and Ellin, there was an emergency in progress. A man had fallen in the water and apparently was “swept away.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense as the water was dead calm. It was low tide with water running in to the shore — not out to sea. But we’ll skip all that for now. I’m pretty sure Garry has much more to say about the story and he took a lot of pictures, too. Garry can do news and quite probably never said OH MY GOD in all his years of reporting.

What we saw were people on jet skis closing in apparently desperately hoping to find … what? The live guy? A dead guy? If you find a floating corpse while zipping around on your jet ski, what’s your next step? IS there a next step? Can you call the Coast Guard from your jet ski? Do you watch him float away while you zip back to shore to Tweet your friends about how you saw the totally OMG coolest thing in the WORLD in the WATER?

However much we may feel that the news doesn’t do the news like it used to do it, when you think about how the news would get done without the pros? It is mind-boggling. It also makes me nearly collapse with laughter.

NO MORE FAKE NEWS! I AM SAMOAN! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I’m a Samoan. It’s something of an inside joke in local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early 70’s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was a very ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe. “The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, and politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It means (to me) that I was on the right side. One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also know as “Southie” — which was where all the action was taking place.

A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. Moving in for a serious tune-up. It was then that I had a Mel Brooks moment. An epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best, soothing voice.

“Hey, I’m not a nig__r. I’m a Samoan!”  

My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously somewhat confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.

“Guys, I’m not a nig__r, I’m a Samoan!”  

A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered.

“He’s not a nig__r. He is Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there ASAP. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

A SHADE OF DIFFERENCE – RICH PASCHALL

What are your colors? by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Everyone has favorite colors. You can probably tell which ones by the walls of their homes.  The wall coverings were likely chosen not just by color, but also by shade of color. Big home improvement stores will mix and match colors for you so you have just the right shade. They stock color palates and have little colored papers you can take with you while you stare at the walls and envision how they will look. Some will even give you a little sample so you can stare at a brush stroke you put on the wall and dream of a whole room in that color.

Blue is a nice color to me, but I would never paint the walls a dark blue, only pastels. As a matter of fact, there would be no dark colors in my home decorating, if you can call it that. Purples and dark greens certainly are too harsh anyway, but maybe they would appear on your walls. That’s fine for you. Who am I to judge you by your color selection?skin-colors-cropped

I like Hunter Green in kitchen accessories, but not on the walls. Does that seem strange to you? For a number of years I found it the color of choice in Tupperware and kitchen utensils, but I would never paint with it. Never. Does that sound a little biased? If I found the sea green of your bathroom just a little too garish, would you hold it against me?

At a past place of employment, I had a manager who wanted to paint his office a nice shade of lavender. If it was good enough for his bedroom, soothing and relaxing, then perhaps it would be good for his office. After all, the company said he could have any color he wanted. Unfortunately, there were those who did not like lavender, especially on office walls. He was derided for his choice of color. Some snickered behind his back, while others openly pointed out the folly of associating with such colors, and at work no less! The color of choice around the building was rather bland. You know the one, an off white that looks about the same no matter how long it is on the wall. The shade of lavender was…well, rather gay according to some people.  What does that say about a new manager? He was judged, but he was certainly straight (or as certain as I can be). Anyway, it was a nice shade.

This prejudice against color is not limited to the walls at home or the office. It goes well beyond the choice of furniture and carpet. It is not just the accessories in your house or your life. It has to do with all your color choices. “Are my friends really judging me by the colors I choose?  If I chose white am I boring? If I choose black am I too Gothic? If I choose lavender am I too gay?” Perhaps this sounds a bit ridiculous.

Yet, people choose their friends this way. They make instant judgments of people they do not know by their shade of color. Some can look across a crowded street and when they spot a person of another color, they formulate an instant opinion. Perhaps an “olive shade” looks like a gangster, and you should avoid crossing the street. Then there are those who are a certain shade of white that is different from my shade. Many people will quickly decide they are crooks, or they are greedy or they are shiftless.

This is not just an issue between races, but also within a race. White people judge other white people and black people do the same. You do not think so? Ask around. Many have color palates for race that are far more discriminating than their choices of wall color.  Recently I was watching the FOX Sports 1 show MLB Whiparound and immediately noticed that baseball analyst Frank Thomas was a distinctly different shade than the other analyst, Dontrelle Willis.  I am not sure what Thomas said, but I instantly decided I liked his opinions better!  Crazy, no?

When the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960’s appeared to tear down color barriers, society was pleased with the progress. While some laws now prohibit color choices, the fact is that color choices are as pervasive as ever. These prejudices are perpetuated by social media and Fake News reports that are meant to push people to the left, right, middle and anywhere else that can separate one from another. “Progressive” radio, “Patriot” radio, “Conservative” radio, “Liberal” radio all highlight the difference between us and “them.” If you don’t think “them” frequently means another color, listen more closely. If you think that many of these talk and Fake News shows hated the last President of the United States because he is black, you may be on the right track.

The proliferation of these judgments by everyone from politicians and so-called newsmen to the average person on-line demonstrates that the color scheme of society today is more divided than ever. We may no longer be segregated by law, but we are now segregated by personal choice. Many can not find it in their hearts to celebrate the different shades of life. They only want certain colors to be approved for the walls they put up in their own existence. Perhaps this sounds just a bit ridiculous, because it is.

So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs.
It’s obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you so what could I have done?

For 10 Song About Racism That Don’t Suck, check out all the videos on flavorwire.com  You won’t see some of the hip-hop songs of today that deal with race, but you may recognize some of the rock songs of other eras.  The 10th song on the list is the harsh vision of the old South by Billie Holiday performing Strange Fruit.

FORSETTI’S JUSTICE- THE DARK RIGIDITY OF FUNDAMENTALIST RURAL AMERICA –

An Insider’s View: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America. In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king.

This post was written last November, shortly after the election. It’s a long piece, but worth reading. It is what many of us have been thinking: that we are not building our own party the right way. As intelligent, educated people, we need to be that. We can’t meet these people because it’s a bad place and it needs change.

Are we wrong to not try to ‘get down’ with the people who don’t believe in anything in which we believe? These are not people who will ever, under any circumstances, understand us. They believe what they believe because they believe it.

We can’t believe what they believe. And we don’t want to. We don’t think it’s a mere “difference of opinion.” We think they are terribly wrong in every way that matters to us. We need to go a different way, to do the right thing. Even if everything doesn’t work go the way we’d like, we need to keep trying. That’s who we are.

If we can’t be ourselves, what are we?


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Shane Trotter

As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”

Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem.

The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is, in large part, because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.

I grew up in rural Christian white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the country with a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on their rural farms. I dated their calico-skirted daughters. I camped, hunted and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.

In deep-red America, the white Christian god is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, or change. When you have a belief system built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t that coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans. The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.

At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are against quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to a certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning. For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time. For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief systems. If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer needed to pass an exam.

Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.

Another problem with rural Christian white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white god made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.  (MORE)


PLEASE SEE THE REST OF THIS STORY AT: AN INSIDER’S VIEW on ALTERNET