Monday, August 29, 2016

A man must stand up

Have you ever thought about the posture one takes during the National Anthem at public events?  A quick look at the crowds, and you will see some still wearing their hats or not placing their hand over their heart, or even sometimes not standing. Nobody usually is critical of these folks. When a celebrity or a star player doesn't stand, it's a different matter, and everybody is talking. In the past few days the talk has been about Colin Kaepernick. Folks have been critical in the past of his playing on the field and of his numerous tattoos, but this is different. Kaepernick has refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner, and yesterday said he will continue to remain seated.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," said Kaepernick. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Most of what I am hearing about his action claims he is disrespectful. Do you agree? Is there a time when you should stand up (no pun intended) for your principles? I know a politician who would not say the last line of the Pledge to the Flag, because she said there was no "liberty and justice for all." Many said she showed no respect for her country, but was that really the case? When should you risk your reputation? When should you go against what most others do, in order to bring about change for the overall better?  ALWAYS.  A person should always stand up for what is right.  A person should always try to make positive change!

In his autobiography, baseball great Jackie Robinson told of when he did the same thing Colin Kaepernick is now doing. "There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made."

I happen to agree that we should not be looking the other way - that we should take a stand. I agree with Jackie Robinson and with Colin Kaepernick. In fact, I think we need to do a lot more than just refusing to stand for the National Anthem, but at least that is a start!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Good cops

So many stories this year about police officers abusing their power, breaking the law, and killing people during stops. One might begin to think that the police are all bad, but that isn't the case. As horrible as the bad stories are, we need to also look at the good, and the vast majority of actions by police are positive things that make a difference for the better.

This week, two Kansas City, MO police officers, discovered a little boy standing on a street corner waiting for his bus to school. He's been waiting a long time though, in fact he had missed his bus. They got him in their car and then found out he hadn't eaten breakfast, either, so they took him to McDonald's. Then they got him safely to his school, got him a hall pass, and walked him to classroom. I'm thinking that this little boy will long remember his help from the police this week!

I actually hear stories like this one in Kansas City all the time. It's a shame that more of them are not made public. Please feel free to share some of your knowledge of good cops, in the comments section below.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nature's Wrath

With huge flooding devastating Louisiana (which has been called by the Red Cross, the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy four years ago), the world turned yesterday to numerous other examples of nature's wrath. Early in the morning, a powerful 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocked central Italy, killing at least 247 people and causing massive destruction, and uncountable injuries. Later yesterday, central Burma was hit by a powerful 6.8-magnitude causing more destruction and loss of life. Closer to home it was storms that would cause damage. Multiple tornadoes struck the area of Kokomo and Howard County, Indiana Wednesday piling cars on top of each other as if they were toys, as well as damaging homes and leveling buildings. Although there are reported injuries from yesterday's twisters in Indiana, no deaths have been reported.

With so much natural disaster going on around the world, it is hard to zoom in on just one. Any destruction is life-changing. When it involves personal injury or loss of life, this is even more life-changing. In times of emergency, we hear tales of heroes spring up everywhere you look, and that is indeed a heart-warming thing. Sadly there are also those who take advantage of situations like this - the price gougers and swindlers and those who loot damaged homes and businesses. Fortunately the bad guys are not the majority. Fortunately there are a lot more givers. At times when a major event happens, donations are welcome and the best place is always a known charity - the Red Cross for example. Also, sometimes volunteers are helpful. The best thing is to follow instructions that you find through local media.

We never know what tomorrow may bring. We do know though that together, we can always do better than all by ourselves. Whether we know folks in Louisiana or central Italy, or in and of the many places where natural disaster hits, or whether we don't know anyone there at all, is not important. The important thing is to remember that these are human beings - just like us. In times of trouble, would we want others to reach out and help us? Of course! Let's do the same thing for others in need. We might not all have a lot of money, but we can pray for the victims, or help collect blankets (when appropriate), or spread the word, or donate blood, or any number of things that might make a difference. When nature's wrath attacks, we should all come together and give, each in our own way - and make a difference!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Love, not hate

Rarely does anyone post a comment here, although they are certainly welcome. I will post opposing viewpoints, are long as they are stated with respect and do not contain speech that would be offensive to most people. Yesterday someone tried to post an objection to what I had written in the morning. The vile and hateful comments were totally inappropriate to a blog where I try to focus on love and making a positive difference. I deleted the comment.

The point of my post here yesterday was that Michael Brown should not have been shot (numerous times) and killed in Ferguson, Missouri two years ago. I was trying to point out that this is still happening all over our country, and that we don't seem to be learning a thing. I urged readers to "Take a moment today to remember Michael, and commit yourself to making sure this kind of thing stops." I also asked "Two years later, are things any better?" Sadly, the answer seems to be no.

We need love, not hate. That's what it comes down to. So many lives cut short simply because of hate. It doesn't make sense to me. How can you hate a person because of their race? (Or because of their age, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or ethnicity)? I don't get it. I really don't. And for everyone who wants to change Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter, you still don't get it. Of course all lives matter! Nobody is saying that isn't true, but ALL lives are not under attack.

I'm going to ask once more, and please take this seriously, because it is important. Our future depends on it. Focus on all those who were shot and killed because of their race. Remember them. If there is any hate in your heart, let love come to take its place, and then - let's do something. Seriously folks! We need to show love, but we also need to stand up against hate. I am talking largely to white America.  It is past time that we threw away our stupid white privilege and our contempt for anyone who is not just like us.  We need love, not hate! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Two years later

It was on this date, two years ago that Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests and civil unrest erupted as a result. This was not the first shooting of an unarmed Black person by police, and sadly it was not the last.

It was said that Michael Brown had committed a crime just minutes before he was stopped and shot. That however is not at issue. It is our courts that decide punishment, when it is appropriate, not our police officers. He had no prior criminal history, but again, that is not relevant. Michael's life was taken out on the street, and that can never be given back.  Michael never had a chance to appear before a jury.  Take a moment today to remember Michael, and commit yourself to making sure this kind of thing stops.

The shooting has received a lot of attention, as it should. Brown had no gun, so why was he shot? Also, why so many shots? (In three autopsies performed on his body, all noted he had been shot at least six times, including twice in the head). This is what we should be looking at. This an the numerous other incidents of unarmed people being shot in cold blood by police.

Was Michael Brown targeted solely because of his race? Two years later, are things any better?   Did we learn anything from this incident in Ferguson? What do YOU think?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Honoring Randy

The Rainbow Honor Walk in San Francisco's Castro district, honors deceased LGBT luminaries, and includes this tribute to Randy Shilts, who would have turned 65 today. Randy, whom I have written about several times before, was one of the very first people I met when I moved to San Francisco. He touched many lives, and I am convinced that he really made a difference in this world.

When I first met Randy, he worked at KQED, San Francisco's public television station. In those days, that station produced a nightly news program and a national magazine (I think it was Time), wrote that Randy Shilts was the first openly gay television reporter. Having never been in the closet, I challenged that title. All of my tv and radio co-workers had known I was gay. It was never an issue. Anyway, when I mentioned that to Randy at our first meeting, we both chuckled and expressed hope that such designations would someday disappear. He wanted to be known as a good reporter, not simply the gay one. Belva Davis, who had anchored those KQED newscasts, devotes a lot of space to Randy in her book Never in My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman's Life in Journalism.

After his television work, Randy was hired by The San Francisco Chronicle, but became better known outside the Bay Area as an author. Three books (and a fourth planned one) showed that Randy could tackle difficult subjects. Those books are The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk; And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (which was made into a tv movie); and Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military.

I don't want to give the wrong impression.  Randy Shilts and I never became close friends.  We would see each other occasionally and say hi, but I was always aware of his contributions.  His death, especially at a very young age, brought be great sadness.  These days, when I go back to visit San Francisco, I always visit The Castro, and stop at the plaque honoring Randy. By the way, 24 additional plaques will be added later this year honoring other lgbt heroes from our past.