Wednesday, April 22, 2015

As Obama Administration comes to a close, racism takes center stage in politics

President and Mrs. Obama with their children
As President Barack Obama nears the end of his second term, and the end of his presidential administration, it marks a historic period.

It is clear to me, as an American, that he saved our republic at a time when it was in dire situations, on many fronts, when he entered office.

For a core of white Americans, there were two primary problems with President Obama that would never get solved: the first, he was black and was not acting as anyone else's agent in serving in this nation's highest executive office; and second, he would not back down in the face of sheer bigotry.

There are legions of people who will tell a neutral party that they hate the president because of his policies or due to his general world view as a more liberal president than a Republican might be. Yet, such arguments would simply be a lie.

An early GOP bumper sticker
In America, I was never taught that a president, or any office holder for that matter, should be white or a man. I suppose I naively thought that wasn't an issue. But, I was wrong where it involves some whites who have not quite gotten over the fact that the Civil War is over (and has been for about 150 years) and Blacks are no longer second-class citizens, at least in theory. I say 'in theory' because there is a sentiment, I believe stirred by the very rich in this nation, that Blacks in offices of high responsibility should not happen and, now that it has, should never happen again. Reasonable people, born and raised in this era, do not believe such things. Yet, the rich target the ignorant, racist whites, largely damaged people looking to place blame on someone for something in their lives and they have found a way, via FOX News, to stir that pot to the point of near armed insurrection in this nation.

Indeed, these racists, whom identify themselves as "Republicans," "Conservatives" or "Tea Party Patriots" are neither Republican, nor Conservative in any sane way and they certainly are not patriots of any kind. They are simply racists. Try as they might to sound reasonable, they cannot because at the root of all of their arguments is always a grain of evil that cannot be undone by verbal diversion.

If America can be undone because of racist determination, then this is not the America I learned about as a boy, or the America whose uniform I served in my youth. I always believed America was grander than hate, bigger than the small minds of evil people and defiant in its acceptance to those from any background. I understood that if anyone came to these shores wanting to make a better life for themselves and their family then that was all that was required for citizenship. In some ways, I am sad to say I was wrong because obviously I didn't know that so many hateful people, who unhappily share my race, are so enamored of themselves they believe others who are not white to be inferior in some way. This is a revolting philosophy in every way, and another tragedy is that this nonsense occurs in our world's 21st century. In some ways our nation has come very far in its commerce and technology and, in other ways, it is no better than 150 years ago when it comes to attitudes.

And, he says this with a straight face
All of this hate is focused simply on skin pigmentation, which is the most superficial thing included on people, by design. The belief that one race, regardless of which one it is, has some innate quality over any other is preposterous by any definition.

There are good men and bad men, good women and bad women. But, there is no race of evil people put here on earth by God. Mankind was given free choice to make this world a garden or a new hell. The choice was and is ours, so there is no one to blame if it becomes some tortured plain hallmarked by the perceived differences of humanity by the unbalanced among our population.

President Obama has braved a perilous journey in office, and it has made something very clear to me: Those who are sane will never be convinced of racism by those who are unbalanced and evil. I believe there is no such thing as Republican and Democrats anymore, there are simply people who strive for good and those who strive for evil. There can be no good done by those who seek to punish the poor, fight wars of indulgence, focus national effort into keeping the riches 1 percent as rich as they can be, while at the same time advocating for the dissolution of Social Security, the working man and woman's only friend in retirement.

Propaganda from so-called "patriots"
So-called American elected officials in the United States Congress and Senate have actively planned to usurp President Obama, at the cost of outright treason in conspiring with a foreign country, namely Israel. And, the world has watched as this nation has gone through its racist fits at home. The most progressive nation in the world, which is what the U.S. used to be known as, is no better than a howling kindergarten class thanks to the self-ascribed "patriots" who weaken our country every single day.

If I had a wish, it would be for these so-called "patriots" to leave the U.S. and make their own dictatorial, repressive state somewhere far away -- where everyone would wear a gun, no minorities could vote, the poor would live in gutters and in the woods, while the rich build themselves luxury towers and housing. But, it will not happen. So, it is up to common people, armed with sense and humanity, to make the firm decision to vote against this outbreak of evil in the ways that are at our disposal -- in ballot boxes throughout this country.

So-called American lawmakers have resorted to treason
Make no doubt about it, I am not saying that the Democratic Party or its legion of professionals, candidates or office holders are the ultimate answer to the safety of this nation. I am saying, though, that in this difficult time, the Democratic Party is the last vessel of safety in a sea swarming with parasites, predators and vermin of every make and model. Democrats are people, and fallible as any, but they do not represent a clear and present danger to the welfare of the American people as these modern "patriots" who are out there.

Yet, there is a difference between handing over our country to a bunch of Democratic politicians over handing it over to those with demonic, unwholesome goals and plans that would cripple our nation, perhaps permanently.

I do wish that as many people as can vote against the craziness of our age and instead vote for flawed, but local and human, successors to our last president. Asylums run so badly when the inmates are running the place.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Won 2nd Place Honors in VA Competition

Today, I received a letter from the 2015 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival -- New Jersey Committee that my story "On the Road to Yesterday" won second-place honors in this year's competition. The awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, May 28th. I am really grateful for showing in this competition. As a journalist, I had won several awards, but had not as a fiction writer before now. Every journey begins with the smallest step.

There are a lot of people who really root for me, and I want to say thank you very much. It does mean a great deal to me. There are really no words adequate for those who showed me support through this. 

Inspirational Essay Submission

On the Road to Yesterday
There are moments in time that can echo forever, telling new generations about the greatness or the lack of it in the abilities of men and women. This is a true story about a generation’s greatness.
I was a 21-year-old Corporal in 1987, when REFORGER ‘87 was taking place. I was an Intelligence Analyst serving with the S-2, 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, which belonged to the 2nd Armored Division (Forward). My unit was based at Lucius D. Clay Kaserne in Garlstedt, Federal Republic of Germany (when that still existed).
My battalion had been deployed for a few months point when the heart of the story happened. I occasionally joked with my friends then that we weren’t deployed as much as we were homeless now. The joke even brought out a laugh now and again.
During the deployment, the battalion traveled to unfamiliar ground for us. Normally, we were located in Northern Germany and only came south of Hanover to perform gunnery qualification with the M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. When the unit traveled south, it usually went to the gunnery range at Grafenwohr, in Eastern Bavaria, and then, afterward, went on to be evaluated at nearby Hohenfels, which was a training area used by Allies from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. At Hohenfels, the unit would usually go through an Army Training and Evaluation Program to be judged about its efficiency. It was hard soldiering, but the “Iron Deuce” was a great old unit and drew some pretty staunch soldiers.
This REFORGER was different for a lot of us younger soldiers. We traveled through towns and saw the faces of ordinary Germans we were protecting. It was the Cold War in those days, and so many of us soldiers believed it might become a shooting war while we were there. Still, as we passed through several towns, driving down German highways and byways in our armored personnel carriers, trucks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, it sunk in about what our job really meant. It made it real to me.
What truly brought that sentiment home to me, though, occurred in Drensteinfurt, in the Northern Rhine-Westphalia region of the country. As normal, the unit pulled in and, in my case, soldiers from the S-2 (the Intelligence and Security Section), parked our M577 Command Post Carrier right next to the S-3 (Operations) M577 and we went about the business of unrolling large, bulky canvasses and making our Tactical Operations Center, which a Fire Support Team from the Field Artillery, as well as an Air Liaison Team from the U.S. Air Force, hooked into with their vehicles.  This is where we our Commander, at the time Lieutenant-Colonel John Voessler, and his primary staff officers communicated with and controlled the 700-soldier (or so) task force that was 4/41 Infantry.
Well, it was hot and sweaty work in the middle of August, and everyone who took part in making the TOC, as it was called, was dirty, tired and thirsty. However, the one good thing about operating in towns is that soldiers were occasionally allowed to patronize little cafes in the immediate area, if everything was on schedule, as it was this bright and sunny day.
My good friend, Private Bruce Fogle, and I received permission to go grab ‘some local chow’ and return. Fogle and I were wearing camouflage face paint and I was carrying my M-16 and he the bulky M60 machinegun he was assigned. Our helmets were on and chinstraps firmly in place and our uniforms looked like they were supposed to in the field or when deployed.
This was a natural thing for us. But, as he and I passed German civilians, I became aware these accessories might very well be disturbing. I put myself in their place. So, I tried to do some smiling as we passed people, and Fogle did the same. I couldn’t imagine how it would have felt seeing foreign soldiers strolling down my hometown street in Howell Township, New Jersey.
Well, this older woman, perhaps in her late 70s or so, was accompanied by her Granddaughter (as I came to find out later) down the little cobblestone street where the cafe was located. Upon us approaching, she became visibly shaken and muttered something emotionally to the granddaughter. I thought we must have upset her and tried my broken German to explain we were only having a wargame here and that my unit would leave soon.
Yet, her Granddaughter explained her Grandmother’s reaction: “No sir, that patch you and the other man are wearing is the same as the patch of the men that freed my Grandmother from the Nazis in 1945. She wants to thank you soldiers still.” Then, the old lady reached out and took Fogle’s dirty, gloved hand and placed it up to her face and said in heavily accented English, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Tears immediately rose to my eyes, which I thought was very ‘un-NCO-like’ of me, but Fogle had the waterworks going too.
My Dad was a soldier back then, in World War II. He fought in the Rhine. He could have easily been one of the soldiers that helped her back then. It all came around for me -- why we were there, what we were supposed to be about and the very big shoes we filled.
I asked her Granddaughter to translate, because I didn’t want to screw it up. Then, I said that ‘there are always going to be evil people in the world. It was a privilege to be associated with the men she knew, if only by our patches. Both my friend and I, and the rest of us, would try and make sure neither she nor her family ever had to go through anything like the Nazis again.’

This moved me and still does. The old lady had tears in her eyes and looked up at me with real gratitude. Right then, I figured out what it was to be an American soldier.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Willie Randolph: The best Mets manager ever the way I see it. 
There are a lot of ways to talk about burning bridges, but I will talk about it in the light of the Mets firing manager Willie Randolph in 2008, which was probably one of the top 10 mistakes of the franchise (somewhere between trading Tom Seaver and giving Bobby Bonilla a huge contract).

Baseball is America's game, and it has been said that baseball mirrors life, in general. One can find all the components, every color of the spectrum, where it involves the human condition. So, to discuss 'burned bridges,' I can think of no one better than Willie to use as an example.

Willie played baseball for 18 years and was an amazing second baseman and clutch hitter. He was and is a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee and New York sports legend. During his career, Willie batted .276, knotted 2,210 hits, 687 runs batted in, and garnered I cannot remember how many Golden Gloves for impeccable fielding. As a manager, Willie managed 555 games,earning a winning percentage of .554 (nothing to sneeze at).

Well, Mets General Manager Omar Minaya was Willie's boss, not to mention a damn fool at that too. In a terrible scene that surely stung, Manaya unceremoniously fired Willie while the team was on the road -- out of nowhere. This was despite the fact that Willie is one of the winningest managers for the Mets ever (right there with Gil Hodges and Davey Johnson). He brought the team to the 2000 World Series and Mets Baseball had done nothing but flourish under Willie's stewardship.

Minaya humiliated Willie for no good cause, and under Manaya's leadership the Mets, in the ensuing years, became the biggest joke in four states and a laughingstock in their own city. Thanks, Omar, you bite.

If you were to ask Mets fans if they want Randolph back, I'd really doubt you'd have anyone say they didn't want Willie as skipper again. But how? The bridge between a deal and Willie is in rubble. Even if the Wilpons, who are the worst owners in Baseball, could get Willie's attention -- Wille could never trust them or the organization again. The relationship between the Mets and Willie Randolph is as dead as Disco after the Shea Stadium bonfire.

It's like in life. There are times when relationships are blown apart and, despite all the kings horses and all the kings men, no one can put that bridge back together again; not even that bunch from "Bridge over the River Kwai." The emptiness that happens between people because of ridiculous arguments can turn a relationship into a barren wasteland. And, as much as that was unwanted or regrettable, there are times when moving on is just better for all concerned.

Yet, where there is life, there is hope. I will never get done hoping that Willie (who is only 60), will come back. Meanwhile, in our own lives, maybe time can heal wounds enough to start rebuilding that bridge that came down between you and someone else, or even me and someone else. It may take years, but all the good things are worth the effort.

Things change in life: sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. But, things surely change.

Who's perfect? Only a few pitchers in baseball

Love this shot. I took it in Jamestown, Va.
Donatists: Ever hear of them?

They were a Christian sect that existed in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. in, primarily, the Roman provinces in Africa. Alright, now...why should anyone care?

Well, the Donatists considered themselves the "true Church" because they had a zero-defect philosophy that was nearly impossible for anyone I know to ever come close to living.

If someone was a priest within the Donatist faith and...say...they lied or cheated, stole or somehow did something wrong; the Church would refuse to allow any marriages, christenings...anything that priest did to stand. So, let's say you were married by Father Joe when you're 18, but 20 years later Father Joe is caught stealing from the poor box. The way it went would go something like this: Father Joe is defrocked (unmade as a priest), then everything he did as part of his office for his entire career is unmade with him.
This was the home of a zealot in Lincoln, NE I shot.

Remember when Father Joe married you 20 years ago, and you had children and they might have had children and Father Joe had done all the marriages and christenings? Well, none of them took place in the eyes of the Donatist Church. That was a real, live problem for people.

The Donatists lived in a Christian world of black and white with no gray in-between.

On a certain level, that is admirable. But, it's just not the way Jesus taught, to my view. Who knows anything about perfect loyalty? Lots of people would raise their hand, knowing they were lying like a rug. I'm not perfect, you're not perfect in life. It's possible to be perfect, I guess, if you're a baseball pitcher.

The only thing I do perfectly is being a New York Mets fan. Why? They demand nothing from me. I don't have to do a thing to just love the Mets. It's easy to love a sports team because there is no way of being unfaithful to them (other than rooting against them, I suppose).

Love has a lot to do with a lot. I think it is something at the core of our spiritual journey. But, being perfect in love is a lot harder than it might seem at first. So what am I jabbering on about if no one is perfect? Well, that's just it -- no one is perfect.

People try and stumble, try and stumble again. Then they try and they don't stumble, but they are hit in the face with a tree limb (how'd that get there?). I don't know how anyone else feels about it, but I'm going to keep trying to get it right. Maybe we're not measured in perfection by God (for those who believe). Maybe, we're just measured by how many times we can stumble and keep trying to get up.