The following was sent to U.S. Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina:
I just listened to your interview on NPR, and I was struck by how rude you were to the journalist interviewing you—noting how many times you interrupted her before she could even complete her question to you. I just sat there shaking my head in disbelief. Your interview seems especially cringe-worthy knowing you have a master’s degree in journalism and mass media. Obviously it must have been a “participation degree” instead of anything associated with earning the degree.
Further, you indicated how almost every problem in this country is on the current President’s lap. It was ridiculous and all I could think was, “Yeah, she must represent all those dumbed-down, knuckle-dragging racist of South Carolina. All you accomplished in the interview was throwing out the usual red meat like Donald Trump and the nightly Fox News line-up.
In short, you are what’s wrong with this country… full of yourself arrogance, disrespectful toward other professionals, self-centeredness, and unquestionable stupidity.
Brittney Griner is finally free from her Russian captors. Although many Americans are happy about this, there appears to be just as many who are not—including some tool-turned-psuedo-journalist named Benny Johnson.
Benny and his ilk think Griner should still be in Russia instead of former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan, who has been painted by Johnson as a patriotic Marine who loves his country.
If we look deeper into the character of Paul Whelan, we’ll find he’s not all that red-white-and-blue—certainly not a “John Rambo” as they’d like us to believe.
For one, Whelan is a citizen in three other countries—Canada (his birthplace), the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. Secondly, although he did serve in the U.S. Marine Corp and was part of two tours in Iraq, he was ultimately discharged from the Marines for bad conduct on larceny—writing bad checks and stealing Social Security numbers.
He’s hardly a patriot, certainly not a hero by anyone’s definition. Yet, Benny Johnson and company will always choose a White dude over a Black woman, an obedient member of the military over an outspoken athlete, a straight guy over a lesbian—even if that straight, White, member of the military is a swindler.
Simply put, Whelan is another grifter who once wore a Marine uniform. Further, the other countries where he holds a passport aren’t making much noise over his Russian detention either. The truth is Griner is a much greater asset, an inspiration to all young women, an activist, and a great athlete.
Lastly, if Whelan is truly the patriot that Benny Johnson says he is, surely Whelan is good to know that Griner went home before him. That’s what military people sign up for—to serve, protect, and sacrifice if needed. Besides, trading Whelan for the Russian gun-runner Viktor Bout would truly have been a bad trade.
Lorie Smith of “303 Creative” somewhere in Colorado is a graphic artist/designer who specializes in websites, graphics, social media, and marketing. No doubt, she is one of several hundred businesses in Colorado who offer such services. So, to get herself more noticed, she has decided to take a different approach to promoting herself rather than the usual, good-old-fashioned hard work method.
Here’s her plan: Smith doesn’t want to do wedding websites for same sex couples because according to her faith, she doesn’t believe in same-sex marriages and is afraid the State of Colorado will force her to do such. “I want to design for weddings that are consistent with my faith,” Smith said. So, before any same-sex couples even ask her to create a website for them, she is going to the Supreme Court and challenging this possible scenario before it ever materializes.
Yeah, right… Smith is just another individual to add to the growing list of pollyanna, look-at-me, attention-needy whores who believes that her hang-ups and her problems should belong to everyone else—think cake decorator, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop (also in Colorado), or the Kentucky County Clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage license to same-sex couples because of her faith.
You know, I don’t want to do graphic design for asshole politicians like Donald Trump or any of his cronies because I want to do graphic design for projects that are consistent with my ethics, my morals, or my faith. Yet, I’m not going to the Supreme Court and asking them to excuse me from working for such people should they ever come calling. I don’t want to do family portraits for brainwashed, evangelical families who attend churches run by snake-oil salesmen like Joel Osteen or Kenneth Copeland because I want to do graphic design for projects that are consistent with my ethics, my morals, or my faith. Yet, I’m not going to the Supreme Court and asking them to excuse me from working for such people should they ever come calling.
Good God, Lorie Smith must think she’s the only web designer in all of Colorado—possibly the entire country or world. Talk about a needy and over-inflated ego.
There’s a simple solution to Smith’s problem that graphic designers, artists, printers and other businesses have been practicing for years when it comes to not taking on jobs that are of no interest to an “artist” like herself—and surely she knows it too (unless she really is that stupid).
You don’t want to do a job for a same-sex couple? OK, just tell them you’re really slammed with other work and you can’t take on any other jobs at this time. You don’t want to do work for a known White supremacy group, tell them you’re working on a huge project for the Southern Poverty Law Center (if you want to add a little spice to the conversation) and you’re not sure when you could get to their project.
Whether right or wrong, ethical or unethical, businesses have been turning down work for years—and for all kinds of reasons. Yet, Smith seems to insist that her business “ethics” be put out there for the entire country to know about. Lorie Smith is the epitome of a drama-queen, dime-store martyr.
Most business operations avoid being too political, too religious, too anything because they typically want as much business as they can get. But, there are those customers who are undesirable for whatever reason—some reasons more legit than others. Maybe they don’t pay their bills on time, maybe they aren’t pleasant to work with, maybe they own a bar or a strip joint, maybe they are a lawyer, or maybe there is simply something about them that you don’t like as soon as they walk into the room. The great thing about being in business, you don’t have to be bluntly truthful in turning down any client that seeks you out. You can simply decline a job because you’re busy, and (in making them feel good as they walk out the door) suggest someone else who might be a good alternative for their project.
Of course, those like Lorie Smith like to wear their values, their ethics, their religion, and whatever else you can think of on their sleeve for the whole world to see. Lorie Smith’s faith and morals are as sickening sweet as Masterpiece Cakeshop’s wedding cakes.
If only someone would set up another marketing/graphic design operation next door or across the street from Smith with a banner that says, “We Welcome Same-Sex Wedding Clients.”
The other day, I put together a list of things I needed to accomplish for a trip into town—you know, errands.
Most important was a visit to Costco and to have a meander in some of the Fairbanks charity shops. I also considered finding a new place to have lunch and perhaps consider an early afternoon movie.
It’s a little over 20 miles from the house to Fairbanks, so I always put a list together to make sure I get as much bang for my buck—especially when gas is well over five dollars per gallon.
After driving all the way into town and making it to the Salvation Army thrift shop, I realized my wallet wasn’t with me (but my phone was) and I had only been in the store for a couple of minutes. I was dead in the water as far as achieving the goals for my excursion into town. In short, my jaunt into town was a total failure resulting only in a waste of precious time and fuel.
So, home I went thinking I would just get an early start on the second part of my day—weeding the garden. I couldn’t bring myself to return to the house and retrieve my wallet and then do it all again. I felt as if a little self-imposed punishment was needed. Besides, when I do this back home, it usually relates to forgetting something that is work related, but in those instances, we’re only talking about getting back on my bicycle and riding the one-third of a mile back to the house to correct my forgetfulness.
So, one might be saying to themselves about now, this seems like a pretty innocuous event to even write about here; and perhaps it is. However, the following day I made sure I had everything I needed and made the drive again—successfully completing all of my objectives (sans lunch and a movie).
Coming home, I started thinking about the previous failed trip. Anytime I do-something-for-nothing (as I like to call such events), I start thinking about everything that transpired and challenge myself to find something that might have been meaningful in my folly… you know, a message or lesson that perhaps the universe was attempting to convey to me that I initially didn’t note.
All I could think about was the Fresh Air story on the radio coming home. Terry Gross was interviewing Kelly Lytle Hernández discussing her new bookBad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands. It was very engaging as I drove home—making me forget my forgetfulness—and realizing this was a bit of American history that I’d never, ever heard about in any of my history-related formal education courses. Here I was, almost 62-years-old and I was learning about something that we should all know.
Without getting too much into it, I’ll just say here for the reader, that Hernández’s book is about Ricardo Flores Magón and his magonistas that played a pivotal role in early days of the Mexican Revolution that started in 1910, including the role our government played in the event’s outcomes and the impact it had on our country.
So, upon realizing what that non-productive round-trip was really about, I purchased the book and have added it to my growing summer-reading list.
All I can say is that the next time you “drop the ball” regarding some task or objective you’re out to complete, look around you, there might be something else there worth picking up.
What a time to be alive in America—to believe in America.
Having just celebrated Dr. King’s 80th birthday, swelling in the background for the entire week was the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about the business of celebrating on that pseudo-double-barrell holiday. Dr. King and President Obama reminded us about the importance of public service, but I couldn’t help but reflect on those of African-American descent who have touched my life over the years. Too bad for me that such individuals are so few. Yet, I’m the only one to blame for such an abbreviated list.
It was only a couple weeks ago that I remembered Mrs. Brazil, and because of these recent events, for the first time I saw her in a new light.
I never gave much thought about her as an African-American. And, to be sure, no one in my family let it be known to me that (in 1966) my foundation for reading and writing were being shaped by an African-American woman. Yes, I owe my humble beginnings in reading and writing to my first grade teacher, Mrs. Brazil.
Up until now, I’ve been rather oblivious to the unique scenario that had shaped my early years—especially in light of those tumultuous times. Only three years earlier the racial atrocities were recorded regarding the 16 Street Baptist Church in Alabama and not long after 1966, Dr. King was gone.
So, folded in between all of this racial strife, a bunch of young White kids growing up in an all-White neighborhood of East Akron, Ohio, were given the first tools of reading and writing by an African-American woman—tools that have defined the inner core of any civilization.
What a contrast from Kindergarten with Mrs. Scheatzle to the first grade with Mrs. Brazil. Mrs. Scheatzle was a petite and attractive Anglo woman who spoke calmly and evenly. When I walked into Mrs. Brazil’s class on the that first day of the first grade, I knew I had graduated. She was a smart dresser, but she was big enough to play linebacker with Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers (or so it seemed). In short, she was no Mrs. Scheatzle. Mrs. Brazil was gentle with us to be sure, but her voice was capable of booming across the room and she had a great, uninhibited laugh. Occasionally, when we started to become unruly she would settle us down by reminding us that we weren’t in Kindergarten anymore. She conducted that class as if she were holding court.
In reflecting on that time, the other day I called my mother to see if there was anything she remembered that may have been too harsh for a first grader like myself to comprehend. She only remembers the surprise to hear about Brazil’s assignment as a teacher at Ritzman Elementary where I was entering the first grade. Both of us suspect that she may have been the first non-White to teach there—and long before any African-American children attended as students. Regardless, my mother couldn’t recall any controversy regarding Mrs. Brazil at Ritzman and only remembers her as a caring and friendly teacher who would call the house to check on my status when I’d been sick and away from school.
I hold a certain sadness today in that I don’t know what became of Mrs. Brazil, nor do I know how many years she actually taught at Ritzman. I suspect it wasn’t very long because I don’t recall being aware of her presence by the time I was in the fifth grade—the last year I attended Ritzman. Like many of my former teachers, I truly regret not knowing what paths she pursued after sharing the 1966-67 academic year with her. I never learned her given name either.
Today, I find myself wondering what pressures and anxieties she experienced as a teacher working at a school that was 100% White way back then? I can’t imagine it was as innocent and uneventful for her as it appeared from my first-grade perspective. How did such an assignment even come about? Whatever racial tensions she may have experienced, tolerated, suffered, it never showed. Yet, I have to wonder what would a first grader really notice? For me, she was competent, effective and influential as a first grade teacher. What more has ever been required?
Perhaps even more perplexing is that I don’t recall any of the kids from the other classes saying anything about Mrs. Brazil while on the playground or in route to and from school. And the kids attending Ritzman were hardly angels—many used the various inappropriate and offensive names for those of colour and other nationalities. In fact, I remember hearing more jokes about Poles than any other race or nationality.
The fact that my first grade experience with Mrs. Brazil was racially uneventful is probably a credit to my parents who never demonized Blacks or used any of the derogatory, popularized-by-Whites terms for African-American people, although several members of our extended family did—and probably still do to this day.
I’ve told many people over the years about Mrs. Brazil—not because she was African-American, but because she always called me “Tyree”—my surname. I thought that was cool because my brother and his friends in high school always called each other by their last names and suddenly, my teacher was as cool as they were.
As it turned out, sometime later in the year, she pulled me aside and apologized when she realized that my given name was actually “Morgan.” I’m pretty certain I told her it was OK, but had I a little more courage, I would have told her I preferred to be called “Tyree” all along.
On this week when we’ve celebrated the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the swearing in of Barack Obama as our 44th President, I’d like to look her in the eye and thank her for being such a powerful and influential force in my early years. Maybe I could even have her read this essay and offer me a little feedback on my writing one last time.
I said goodbye to John a few hours ago at the bus station in downtown Auckland. John was one of the first Kiwis I came to know here in New Zealand. We met up in the TV room of the hostel where we were both staying at the time. We connected as a result of our mutual interest and humor found in professional wrestling.
In some ways I feel as though I’ve known John for years and in other ways, he still seems a stranger to me. Perhaps we never came to know each other’s peculiarities as good friends often do, however I think there was an understanding between us that such details weren’t that necessary. All we needed to know is that we both enjoyed professional wrestling and movies—good and bad ones alike.
As we were walking to the bus station this afternoon, I still felt a need to know more about John despite his knack of evading questions that revealed too much information about himself. So, I asked him to tell me about a favorite childhood memory. He spoke of a cousin that came to visit his family one summer when he was eleven. She was from Australia. He told me how he developed the biggest crush on her and acted like a typical goofy kid—trying to be interested in the things she was interested in just so she’d be impressed. He never saw her again although he still hears about her through his family. He recounted a Saturday afternoon when they attended the local movie house—“Jaws” was showing. He hid on the theater floor during several scenes because he was so squeamish despite her ability to watch the entire film without a blink. His voice was sincere and confident when he told me that there was no better place to grow up than Nelson—his hometown. We compared notes of our childhood and once again found we had other things in common as we recounted our earliest memories.
John kept odd hours at the Ponsonby Backpackers. Most of the time, he would stay up well past 3:00 a.m. and he didn’t think it unusual to stay up until dawn. I think he was disappointed that I could never make it too far past midnight before I felt the need to retire. As a result of his late-night TV vigils, John was never seen during the normal breakfast hour around the kitchen—not even during the later morning hours of the day. He usually appeared after 1:00 in the afternoon. I would often join him in the early evening hours for a walk to the market where he would often purchase a box of Choya tea and Watties Baked Beans for his evening tea. John told me that he probably drank up to 12 cups of tea per day—always with milk.
John’s knowledge about America was impressive. I don’t suppose it is that unusual for a Kiwi to be fairly informed about the United States due to its high profile in the world, but John seemed especially interested in America and my life as an American—as if he was comparing the things he learned from me and my life with what he knew (or thought he knew) about the States. A couple days ago, I was stunned when he made a reference to Montgomery, Alabama, as the capital of that state. Less than a year ago, I couldn’t have told anyone whether Christchurch was on the North or South Island of New Zealand.
I suppose John doesn’t have much money. Although he is staying in places that are associated with travellers, he only appears to be living day to day with little resources—doesn’t have the look or the talk of a true traveller. During my days spent with John, I only saw him in one other pair of pants, which was a ripped up pair of jeans—he would wear them when he was washing his regular pair. John always wore the same sweater too but he never appeared dirty as I’m sure he bathed and shaved almost everyday. Not long before he left, his sweater had ripped where the sleeve meets the chest-area of the pullover. He struck me as odd in his determination to have it repaired as opposed to purchasing a new one. I would later learn that such resolve in resourcefulness is a common and admirable trait in many New Zealanders.
John’s shoes were also very worn and when he had them on, they were seldom laced—or only half laced—as if he was never going anywhere too far. However, today when we left the hostel for the train station by foot, his shoes were as they always were—half laced—just as if he was going out the back door to have a cup of tea or going down to the market at the bottom of the hill.
Because I suspected he was on a tight budget, I bought a six pack of beer on occasion and shared it with him—opting for Mac’s Ale, one of the domestic beers that is brewed near his hometown of Nelson. He was always grateful anytime I “shouted” him a beer or some other treat like a Ponsonby pie or a Memphis Meltdown ice cream bar. Upon handing him one of these items he simply responded, “Cheers.” I’ve never known anyone to express their thanks so well and so simply as John. For this reason alone, I’m grateful to have known him.
John expressed having mixed feelings in leaving. I’m not sure why he had to leave or if he even had to leave at all. I didn’t press him for more information, I just accepted it from him. He caught one of the busses going north toward the Bay of Islands. He would go as far as Orewa for the $7 bus fee and then hitchhike farther north to Whangarei. From there and further north, he told me he would be looking for work at one of the many organic farms found throughout this country that hire general laborers for four hours per day and in return supply them with free room and board. I think John will do well since he is a man of simple means and requires little to keep himself going.
I don’t know when or if I’ll ever see John again. I’m hoping to catch up with him someday—maybe up on the North Shore before I make my way South; and if not there, perhaps down in Nelson when he returns home, whenever that is. More than anything, I hope John will have the opportunity to visit me in Wyoming. I think deep in his heart, he’d like to visit America and now that he has a friend there and in—of all places—Wyoming, I suspect it is even more desirable for him to travel there.