Wednesday, November 26, 2014

After The Fire

There is something inherently wrong in Ferguson, Missouri.  The undercurrent of racial tension, hatred, and discrimination that festers for all to see is no longer a nasty little secret…..just look at how Monday night’s ruling and its aftermath played out.  In a town where 67% of the residents are black and 90% of the police force is white, blacks have been significantly over-represented by traffic stops, stop-and-frisks, and arrests for years.  For weeks all of Ferguson as well as most of the nation waited cautiously for the grand jury to issue its ruling.  Like coastal residents in the Carolinas preparing for a slow moving hurricane making its way up the Atlantic seaboard, Ferguson officials had time to prepare, and Ferguson officials had a choice to make Monday when the ruling was issued – who to protect, how to protect them, and where to deploy police. 

No loss of property compares to a human life.  No loss of business compares to the loss of a family’s son.  But whose property Ferguson officials protected says a lot about whose life is truly valued in that town – on Monday night, militarized police brutalized protestors but did not protect a vulnerable business community.  And Ferguson officials made the same decision they have made for years: protect white residents and ignore black residents while trampling on their First Amendment rights.

This is the world that Michael Brown lived in and the same one Officer Darren Wilson worked in.  A world where long-simmering racial tension is the norm and an unarmed 18 year old teenager can get gunned down by the police the same way Cary Ball, Jr was gunned down by cops a year earlier.   
There’s an evil in Ferguson that’s worse than something out of a Stephen King novel.

         Much has already been written about Michael Brown’s death and the grand jury’s failure to return an indictment against Darren Wilson.  But some other things to consider:

  • People who say “don’t commit a crime and you won’t get shot” don’t understand what it’s like to be repeatedly harassed because of the color of your skin. They just don’t have a fucking clue.
  • This movement by some to sit during recitals of the Pledge of Allegiance (because we’re not “one country….. indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”) has been done before.  If you want to make a something happen be the change you want to make….nothing great was ever accomplished by sitting on your ass.  Get involved.  Vote out incumbents.  Make a difference.
  • It’s not often that I agree with Supreme Court Justice Scalia, but in 1992 he clearly explained the role of a grand jury:   It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be]            denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor.” In contrast, Officer Wilson was allowed to testify before the grand jury, presenting them with every piece of exculpatory evidence available. In his press conference, prosecutor Robert McCulloch said that the grand jury did not indict because eyewitness testimony that established Wilson acted in self-defense was contradicted by other exculpatory evidence. What McCulloch didn’t say is that he was under no obligation to present such evidence to the grand jury. The only reason someone would present that kind of evidence is to reduce the chances that the grand jury would indict Darren Wilson.
  • I have a world of respect and admiration for police officers.  My grandfather was a cop, we grew up around cops, and my son is six months on the job and heading to the police academy in a few weeks.  But we need to train our police officers that the first response in any situation is not to pull their gun and open fire.

 And finally – it’s Thanksgiving again. That time of the year when people who can afford it, gorge themselves and then race to the mall where they can push, shove, and trample their way down the aisles to buy things they cannot afford and that they really don’t need.  There’s something about the concept of Black Friday being a national holiday – one more important than just about any other on the calendar – that makes me bat-shit crazy. Especially when there are still way too many kids who go to bed hungry every night.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I Think The World Should End

If you haven't seen this video by Prince EA yet, it's a powerful statement on change.

"Instead of trying to change others we can change ourselves
We can change our hearts"

Memorize this like it's an 8th Grade Civics lesson and repeat it every day to everyone you meet. 

Like Robert Kennedy once said:
"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all these acts will be written the history of this generation".


Tuesday, September 9, 2014


This is where we are on domestic violence. 
Ray Rice hit his fiancée in an Atlantic City casino elevator last Valentine’s Day, and after a tearful confession got a two game suspension from the NFL .  The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey accepted him into a pre-trial intervention program that will expunge his arrest record once he completes specific conditions and undergoes counseling.  Like it never happened. Life for Rice went back to normal because he was “sorry” and a “good guy” with no history of violence (except on the job - the industry he competes in features at least a dozen violent, felonious assaults on every play as part of its DNA).  He married his fiancée who apologized for her role in the “incident”, and some around the league even offered how it was a private matter - that they were both probably at fault.

Except video footage surfaced that shows Rice hitting Janay Palmer with the same kind of punch Tommy “Hitman” Hearns used to bang into his opponents in the ring and everything suddenly changed.  The Ravens terminated his contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL claimed it did not see the video footage when it imposed its two game suspension but that’s a lame excuse.  Why does it take a video to suddenly increase the awareness of domestic violence and its brutality?  It happens whether it’s on video or not.  Millions of DV victims don’t have video footage to back up their claims – does that make the crimes committed against them any less brutal or vicious?

What about the facts?

The NFL had a chance to act swiftly months ago and send a message to its players and fans that domestic violence will not be tolerated.  No excuses.  No reasons.   When Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Ben Roethlisberger a six game suspension for sexually assaulting a 20 year old he wrote, “The Personal Conduct Policy makes it clear that I may impose discipline even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime, as, for example when the conduct imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person”.

Michael Vick got 2 years for his involvement with a dog-fighting ring and Josh Gordon was suspended 16 games for repeated marijuana offenses.  Hell- Plaxico Burress got 4 games for shooting himself in the leg.  Initial penalty for hitting a woman: 2 games.

What Rice did was terribly wrong and the NFL needed to take a stronger stand much earlier.  They blew it and have been scrambling to get it right ever since.

I hope Rice’s indefinite suspension was done for the right reasons and not because this is a public relations horror show for a business filled with too many employees – players, coaches, and owners alike- committing criminal acts.  That it was done to send a message to players and fans that DV is wrong – not to send a message to advertisers and TV partners that their financial investment in the league is safe.

We have a lot to learn and a lot to change before the issue of domestic violence disappears.  We need to take a hard look at the way we treat women in music, literature, and film, and change that narrative.  We need to change policies and procedures that allow pre-trial intervention for violent acts, no matter who commits them or what the circumstances.  The same kind of policies that reduce felonies to misdemeanors.  One in Four women are victims of domestic violence or dating abuse.  We need to stand up and protect each other – we can’t keep turning away.

There is no reason for domestic violence.  The NFL is finally recognizing  that fact.  We as a society – and mostly men in particular – still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

O Captain! My Captain!

I never knew Robin Williams.  Never met.  Never spoke.  Never crossed paths.  Sadly, I never even saw him in concert or in a comedy club (unless you count all those HBO specials and hundreds of talk show comedy bits).  But this one hurts, the same way it hurts when you lose a friend.
If there was one person who lived life on the edge and made that okay – someone whose acceptable insanity stretched the limits and boundaries, and by doing so made you believe it was okay to be different, it was Robin Williams.

Sometimes as a kid (and as a teenager, and even as an adult), life didn’t work out the way it was planned.  It was overwhelming and it hurt.  Laughter was an escape.  Laughter provided comfort.  Laughter allowed you to take a deep breath, take a step back, then take that step forward.  Laughter made it better.  Comedians like George Carlin, Sam Kinison, Redd Foxx, Chris Rush, and Robin Williams were my gods.  They pushed the limits and changed my perspective.  They allowed a kid from a fucked up family with a world of hidden insecurities and pain, learn how to laugh and find humor in life (especially at the things that sometimes kicked my ass).  It hurts that those monsters inside many of us – the fears, insecurities, and things that go bump in the night – got the best of him.  It hurts that he lost the ability to find the laughter in life, especially when Robin Williams created so much of it for others.
I will remember Robin Williams – not for the way he chose to end his life, but for the way he made me laugh, and the way he helped me live.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


So Elliott Rodgers writes a hate-filled manifesto blaming women for his own failures.  141 pages against women and the lack of sex in his life.  His writing would have been comical if not so tragic: “I was giving the female gender one last chance to provide me with the pleasures I deserved from them.”  Then he killed six people before turning the gun on himself.
In response,  #YesAllWomen exploded on Twitter. 
Millions told stories of sexual violence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual fears.  The stories are real – painful, brutally honest, and powerful pictures of life for too many women in today’s world.  I can empathize and try to understand how they feel, but I’ll never truly know what it feels like to walk in a woman’s shoes. Not when it comes to something like this.  But I am reading the Twitter feeds because I have daughters and sons, and I’m taking steps to end sexism as well as the attitudes/actions against women for those same reasons.  I want them to live in a world where equal is truly equal – free from harassment and violence.
I worry about my daughters – I worry more about the actions of men against them than I worry about them being caught in something like a gang shooting or bitten by a shark (A little perspective – last year in the US there were roughly 1,100 accidental shootings and 16 shark attacks versus 237,000+ documented victims of sexual assault).  I worry that a man will harass or harm them, no matter how strong and intelligent they are - that they have to live their lives looking over their shoulders, holding car keys like weapons when they walk through a parking lot, or being harassed when they turn down unwanted attention from a guy.  I worry that rape is no longer a strong enough word to convey the physical and emotional impact sexual violence creates.  I worry that too many people don't get that.
Sadly, some men were quick to point out that “it’s not all men”, but that takes the focus away from the problem.  The bottom line is that men who are not the problem need to do something about the men who are.   If you have women in your life who you care about -  if you have children (daughters and sons) - if you give a shit at all about ending hatred, violence, sexism, and misogyny against women, do something.  Forget excuses.  It starts with respect. It starts with action.
Be that change.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

76ers Sign Player With Down Syndrome

If you haven't heard or read about this story, check it out here.

A great move by a classy organization - sometimes sports isn't just about winning or losing, but doing something exceptional. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mansions In Heaven

            A few years ago I wrote a Father’s Day post blasting my biological father for walking out on me when I was a kid.  It was a post filled with rage, bitterness, and pain, and I still stand by every word.  Time won’t heal that wound.
            My father’s disappearing act created a need for role models in my life.  Men who could show me right from wrong, teach me how to be a man, understand the things you were supposed to do, and occasionally kick my butt when I got it wrong.  Good men I could admire.  I was lucky - my Uncle Dom, Uncle John, Uncle Walt, and my grandfather selflessly stepped into that void to become role models to provide the kind of love and guidance I needed.  This past week we buried my stepfather, Cecil.  I was already a father myself when he married my mother and came into our lives, but Cecil was as important to me as the other men who influenced my life.  He had been in the military for over twenty years, serving his country in Korea and Vietnam with honor and pride the way his generation did.  Cecil was an unassuming man with solid values and a strong work ethic, and like many soldiers and sailors, did what needed to be done without complaining.  It was a commitment he made with no strings attached and no expectation of an obligation attached to it.  Everything about him said strength, integrity, and patience.  He loved my mother and gave her a life filled with the kind of happiness that had been missing for years.  Even though nobody asked him to fill the role, he happily became a grandfather to my kids – he had a gentle and quiet way of showing them how to do things patiently, correctly, and completely.  Cecil was everything a man is supposed to be.  I probably never told him I loved him enough times, but I think he knew that.
            I hope I can be the kind of man he would be proud to think of as a son.
            RIP Cecil.

A few other things to consider:

  • Addiction is not a disease.  Cancer is a disease.  Leukemia is a disease.  Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are diseases.  I have empathy for addicts and their struggles to find sobriety, but disease is not some kind of label we can slap on things to excuse our behavior or choices.  Labeling addiction (in any form) as a disease takes away responsibility for a choice that somebody made.
  • I guess it’s understandable that many don’t accept climate change when they get weather forecasts from a rodent somebody yanks out of the ground every year on February 2nd.
  • This marks the first update in over a year.  Sorry about that – it’s not that I haven’t had anything to say or that I enjoyed sitting on the sidelines.  Expect more on a regular basis.