Category Archives: deep thoughts

Woke-ness, cancel culture, and zero-tolerance-for-intolerance in the digital age

Alexi McCammond. Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

A disclaimer: before I start, I should let you know that I am with many Americans referred to as a bleeding heart liberal. Some describe me as “woke”. Others Mays call me politically correct. Others may see me something of a social justice warrior. I believe in equal rights for all, and some conservative, white Americans tend to look at me and wonder why.

Having said all that, last months parting of ways between Teen Vogue and its newly-hired editor Alexi McCammond still rings fresh on my mind.

For those of you who don’t know, or didn’t bother to click on the link , the twenty-seven-year-old McCammond resigned from Teen Vogue for a handful of tweets she made 10 years ago. The tweets in question have been deemed offensive to Asians. I will not repost them here, but a quick Google search will lead to screen captures of them.

Just to be clear: McCammond was 17 when she made these tweets.

Personally, I’m glad that I am not a kid in the age of social media. The truth is, I said a lot of stupid things when I was a kid. Things that the 47-year-old me of today would not agree with. Things that would probably be considered inappropriate, offensive or even racist altogether. Just to be clear: I never uttered any of these things to other persons, but I would be lying if I said that such words didn’t pass my lips. The thing with me is that I’ve grown and changed a lot over the last 30 years. I’m willing to bet that Alexis McCammond has changed a lot in the last 10 years.

As humans, we are creatures capable of evolving and changing. With time and experience often comes wisdom. The problem with The Internet is not that it’s written in ink; it is written in concrete. McCammond‘s tweets were deleted from Twitter about two years ago, but people who were savvy enough to create screen captures have them forever preserved. Make no mistake about it: Alexi McCammond was fired from Teen Vogue for things she said as a child.

While I think being culturally sensitive is important, I think we also need to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are capable of growth and change. In today’s ultra politically and socially sensitive climate, we tend to hold people in contempt for the dumb things they said or did a lifetime ago.

I’m not making excuses for McCammond‘s tweets. They were inappropriate then and they are inappropriate today. but I’m also willing to assume that she’s not the same person she was as a highschooler. I’m sure today, McCammond would not utter, let alone tweet, the things she did as a 17-year-old girl.

Has cancel culture gone too far? Are we to appoint that in preaching compassion and tolerance, we have become completely intolerant? Do we no longer allow people the opportunity to learn, evolve and grow? Are we to be forever condemned for things that we say in ignorance or with a lack of understanding; never to be allowed the opportunity to change?

Given the choice, I would much rather allow a person and opportunity to grow and change their ways, rather than condemn them forever for some thoughts or words they uttered as an ignorant child.

My final thought on this matter for anyone even considering a life in the public eye: for the love of God, scrub, scour, and sanitize your social media accounts! Or better yet, and delete them altogether, before you become famous.

What are they fighting for?

A few things you should know about me:

I am a white man living in America.

Whether I know it or not, whether I fully comprehend it or not, I am a recipient of white privilege. I was raised in a very middle-class suburban largely Caucasian neighborhood. And while my family was far from wealthy, we didn’t struggle either.

               And as a white man living in America, I’ve probably received the “benefit of the doubt” far more often than I realize. I’ve never been pulled over by a police officer because I fit a suspect’s description. I’ve never been pulled over by a police officer because I was in the wrong part of town at the wrong time of day. And other than wealthy people, I’ve never had anyone look at me and tell me simply because of who I was or how I was born, that I was less than them.

By all expectations, I should be politically conservative. I should be proud to be an American. I should place my hand over my heart and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” with due diligence and reverence. I should like country music. And anyone who doesn’t put their hand over their heart and sing the “Star Spangled Banner”, I should deem unpatriotic and disloyal to this country.

My problem is, I’ve never really been good at fitting into certain molds.

As a white male school teacher in inner city Detroit, I am the minority in my professional community. I have never voted for any other political candidate than a Democrat. And I do love my country.  The only thing I believe to be greater than this country and the constitution upon which it was built, are the individual rights of our citizens that are protected under that same constitution.

Our Pledge of Allegiance uses the phrase “with Liberty and justice for all”. I am one of those people who sided with Colin Kaepernick when he chose to take a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner performances at NFL football games. Family members and friends thought I was disloyal, disrespectful, and didn’t appreciate the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have served this country.

What people tell me, And I do know that this much is true, that the men and women serving in our armed forces and our law enforcement officers, are out there every day defending our freedoms and protecting us. For that I am eternally, truly grateful. An attempt to suggest otherwise is simply untrue.

My father was one of those people. He served as a police officer for 25 years. I know that every single day he worked as a police officer, every routine traffic stop he made – anytime he interacted with the public – he was potentially putting his life on the line for the people of his city, his community, and for my family. I didn’t always understand that as a young boy, but as I got older I came to truly appreciate it.  Before my father was a police officer, he served in the United States army. If one doesn’t understand that being a serviceman potentially means putting your life on the line for this country, then they simply don’t understand the profession.

My father and I never agreed on politics as I became a young adult. In fact, there were times where we would disagree and even argue in some instances about certain presidents, certain international policies, and certain armed conflicts. But I also happen to know then my father believed in his work. The ideas of law and order and justice. As I think that most police officers actually do. But, like any profession, any walk of life, there are dirty cops; just as there are dirty teachers, dirty doctors, dirty lawyers and dirty accountants.

America is not a perfect country. Even the founding fathers knew that. Otherwise, they would not include the phrase “in order to form a more perfect union” in the Preamble of The Constitution. To suggest that America does not have a race problem is naïve at best and not in tune with reality at worst. America has had a race problem going back to the earliest settlement of this land

We, as Americans, like to think that we talk about race. We like to say things like “we need to have an open forum discussion about racial matters in this country”.  On the contrary, we like to talk a lot about talking about race; We just don’t really like to actually say a whole lot about racial matters in this country. And we almost never do anything to address racial issues.

Right now, it is simply impossible to ignore the inequalities that Americans of color have endured for decades, even for centuries. There are certain imperfections in this country that can no longer be ignored. Certain inequalities that people have been fighting to change that must be addressed.

George Floyd was neither the first nor the last black person to be killed in this country under highly suspect circumstances by a police officer. He is neither the most innocent, nor the guiltiest criminal threat. Sadly, there will be others after him. To be honest, I don’t even consider his death to be the most egregious act of police brutality or systemic racism ever perpetrated in this country. However it is appearing camera with every passing day, that Floyd’s may be a flashpoint moment in our society.

As a teacher of young black men and women, I am preparing them to enter the “real world”.   I encourage them seize on the opportunities that are available to them. But I also realize the streets of our country simply aren’t as safe for them as they are for me. They grow up in a community that presents far more dangers to them than my hometown presented to me as a young man. And I know the stark reality that – no matter how hard they try – some of my students are socio-economically predisposed to a life of crime, drugs, and death – either ad a victim or as a perpetrator. For some of my students, the challenges they face will be too difficult to overcome.  Many of my students are two or three years academically behind other students at their grade level. That is the uphill battle that I face every single day as a teacher in an urban school district.

But I have to believe in America. I have to believe and the notions of liberty, justice and opportunity. I believe that we have the potential within us as a society to be the greatest civilization in the history of the human race. But we’re not there yet. We have issues we must address here at home; skeletons in our own closet.   America must look in the mirror and recognize its faults, it’s warts, and address them.

I have to think that if my father and countless others before him  – and those who will come after – him are fighting to protect my rights, that they must have also been fighting to protect the rights of my students, my coworkers, people I’ve never met, all Americans. If we have such glaring problems here in America, if we as a nation cannot guarantee the rights and freedoms of all of our citizens, then what are they fighting for?   What are they dying for?

“…and the children shall lead.”

Student Gun Protests

Pennsylvania Ave, Washington D.C. during Saturday’s March For Our Lives.

I would be disingenuous to myself if I didn’t say something about the recent school shootings, the #neveragain,  #enough movements and yesterday’s March For Our Lives events held around the world.

As an adult, a parent, a member of the so-called adult demographic, I feel like we’ve let our kids down.  I think every generation of adults feels its their collective obligation to leave the world a better place for their children. In regards to school safety, we have failed to do that.  Although it was far from the first mass shooting in this country, Columbine happened nineteen years ago.  Nothing has changed since then.  Dozens of other mass shootings with scores of casualties have taken place since then.

Enter Parkland, Florida.  Something is different this time around.  Kids are leading the fight and they are not taking no for an answer.  They have utilized social media and made sure the events of Valentine’s Day 2018 have not left the collective mindset of this country.  Be honest, was ANYONE able to go on even one of their social media accounts and not see a single story, pic or status update about guns in America.  It was all over my feed, that’s for sure.

When you stop and think about it, maybe this should not come as much of a surprise. History is littered with stories of children heeding the proverbial call to action.  Children have fought wars.  Children have built nations.

And yet, this still feels different.  I was reading earlier today, and a writer far more talented than I made some excellent point about the millenials and the so-called Generation Z in particular. To paraphrase, Generation Z has lived their entire lives in the shadow of Columbine, 9/11, ongoing and seemingly unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Some call these kids “snowflakes” when in reality, they are war-hardened.  Some blast them for being attached to their smartphones and yet they are hard-wired to a media that may very well be even more powerful than the Almighty Television itself. In some respects, I believe young people are as addicted to the electronic devices as they are in order to escape the harsher realities of today’s world.

We, the grown-ups – Generation X, the Baby Boomers before us and earlier generations before them – have failed the youth of today.  And they are taking it upon themselves to bring about change in this country.

And yesterday was the rally in Washington D.C, known simply as “March For Our Lives”.  My big question is:  What happens next?  Will anything come out of all of this? The next few days and weeks will be critical for this movement.

Their music still sucks though.

picking up the reins

detroit-panorama

Downtown Detroit.  Photo courtesy of The Auteur

Yesterday, as part of a belated Valentine’s Day celebration, The Auteur and I went to an Extreme Midget Wrestling show and stayed the night in the city.  We had a great time and it was a much-needed, albeit brief, break from the day-to-day grind. We probably didn’t really have the money to do something like this, but this was one of those time in life where we had to be a little selfish and splurge on ourselves just a little. It was the kind of thing that we don’t do enough of and need to make sure we do more often.

Our hotel room had a spectacular view of downtown Detroit.  That alone was probably worth what we paid for the room.  From our window, I could see Comerica Park – the home of the Detroit Tigers and a place where I spent many an afternoon – and a few evenings – with my Dad watching our favorite baseball team.

The morning after the wrestling show, as we were getting ready to check out, I got a little emotional standing on the 26th floor of the casino hotel overlooking the city.  Seeing Comerica Park made me think of the Old Man and I started to cry a little.

It’s weird because I didn’t attend a single Tiger game in 2016. I would have to check back on this, but  last season is probably the first time in 20 years I didn’t attend a single game all season – including my time down South. Last season was also the first season in which my family did not have season tickets to the Tigers since at least 1997 (or 1996?). And while I went to a few games after The Old Man passed in 2015, I think I was a little apprehensive to go back to the stadium last year. Had we still not had his partial season-ticket package, I doubt I would have gone back there at all in 2015.

Some people feel weird to go back into a parent’s bedroom – seeing where they lived and their most personal belongings –  after they’ve passed.  The reality is that during my college and early adult years, I probably spent more time with my father at Comerica Park than I did in his house.  In a lot of ways, going back to Comerica Park is not unlike seeing his bedroom again; going through his belongings; or his man cave.

But here’s the thing that I do know:  It’s my turn now.  It’s my turn to be the dad, to take my kids to the Tiger games,  to teach them the game, and bask in those lazy summer days, weeks, months and years and pass that great family tradition on to my kids.

It’s time to become the man that I was born to be (and yes, that made the list…)

 

my landslide

8dc8ac53de3477066bc9ff689a0e1c09--getting-older-fleetwood-macForgive me if this sounds familiar. But some things have happened lately and some familiar thoughts are racing through my mind.  That, and I really used to make some pretty good posts and I’m hoping to get back into it.

I found out the other day that a guy with whom I graduated from high school died of cancer.  Notice I don’t call him a “friend”.  We were school friends, I guess.  That is to say that we spoke to one another.  We never really hung out or anything.  Then, graduation happened and I haven’t seen him since.  And of course, high school ended 25 years ago.  This guy isn’t the first person I graduated with who has died, but it still hit me surprisingly hard; at least, it got me thinking about my own mortality once again. I think a lot of these feelings are coming to light since plans are in the works for my 25 year high school reunion.  (For info on my 20 year reunion, click here).

At times like this, whenever I’m forced to think about my own mortality, I think of Captain Picard’s line from Star Trek:  Generations:  “I’ve become aware that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind…”

The Old Man died at 67.  I’m about 60 days shy of 43.  If I am to die at the same age as he did, that means I’ve got about 24 years left on this rock.  And unless I live to be 85, there really are fewer days ahead of me than there are behind me.

I’m doing what I can to make myself a better person.  The List of Rob was a huge step in that direction.  I’m actually crossing some things off of that list as accomplish them.

“But time makes you bolder // Even children get older //  And I’m getting older too”

getting longer in the tooth

Wednesday night, The Auteur & I attended the Marilyn Manson and Smashing Pumpkins  concert when they made their stop in our area.  I haven’t seen either of these artists live in over twenty years (I’m not even 100% sure I’ve ever seen Manson live before) but the fact is, concerts simply aren’t as fun as they used to be.  There are probably several good reasons for this, but there is one that I keep returning to:

We are all getting older.

I’m 41.  According to wikipedia, Marilyn Manson is 46 and Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan is 48.  I don’t know about those guys, but sometimes I feel a little too old to be in the crowd at a rock concert.  to me, the typical concert-going crowd is in their late teens or early twenties and has the disposable income to spend as many concerts as they can attend- as I once did.  Those days are certainly behind me.   Granted, I wasn;t the oldest person there.  There were people there who looked older than me, as well as other who definitely were older than me, but they’re just kinda pathetic.

Also, at the risk of sounding prudish, there’s a lot of smoking of tobacco – and other indulgences – that goes on at most shows.  I’ve never smoked.  The Old Man smoked for as long as I can remember; so it never fazed me much growing up.  But I really have no patience and no tolerance for it anymore.  The alcohol doesn’t really faze me, but then i do still like the occasional beer or three.  In fact, the older I get, the more I appreciate the art of tailgating.

I don’t feel like there’s as much energy at these shows as there once was.  Again, I think this is because the bands are older, and therefore the crowd is older accordingly.  Older crowds don’t sing along nearly as much.  They don’t pump there fist (or throw up devil horns).  They don’t head-bang and they sure as hell don’t tear up the lawn at an outdoor amphitheater and throw it toward the stage.The truth is, I have changed, the musicians have changed and the crowd has changed somewhat – although not enough for me to feel comfortable among them anymore.

This reminds me of older athletes who try to come out of retirement and return to their respective game.  Sometimes they still think they’ve got something left in the proverbial tank.  Other times, it’s because they love the game and don’t want or know how to do anything else.  Usually when they do, they realize that either their desire to play – or their ability to play – are gone.  That’s where I feel I’m at with this whole post.

At least until they next time one of my favorite acts comes to town and I go on this rant again.

a proper eulogy

My father AKA The Old Man died of cancer on February 4, 2015.  I spoke at his funeral, but it was completely unscripted and straight from the heart.  I could hardly keep it together.  This is a long time coming (I’ve had it in my head for nearly three years ) but now I’m finally going to try to give him a proper eulogy:

Good Morning.  And it truly is a “good morning”.  Sure the weather sucks and we all wish we were together under better circumstances, but it truly is a good morning.

 Dad is going home today.  He now gets to rest in peace after fighting this horrible disease for the last two-and-a-half-months.  He’s going home to see Grandma & Grandpa ****** and all his other family members and friends who went before him.

I have to say, right off the bat, that this Cancer thing is getting very personal to me:  This disease tried to take my mother from me:  now it has succeeded in taking my Dad.  I want to get involved in this fight and I encourage any of you within the sound of my voice to do the same.

What more do I need to say about my Dad than to say that he was the most important male role model in my life?  He taught me EVERYTHING I know about being a man:  how to treat people, how to talk to them, how to take care of your family  and committment to your children.

My dad did gave everything he was to my mom and us kids.  He would have given me the proverbial shirt off of his back, and probably did more often than I realize.  Let me give you a scenario:  let’s say you called my dad to ask him to help move some furniture. He’d tell you he could be there in two hours, but he would show up in an hour and-a-half with a moving truck, two guys to help, refreshments, money to get everyone dinner and a full set of tools – just in case you needed them.  He was THAT guy.  And for his children? Even more so…

I remember back to 2012 as my then-wife and I had decided to separate and divorce.  I was talking to my parents abour me coming home, of course.  My plan was to simply pack a car full of as many of my belongings as I could and head up to Michigan.  My dad was having none of that.  He would not let me go through that alone.

I was moving out on a Saturday.  He called me the Tuesday before.  He said that he had office hours on Friday but he would hit the road as soon as he got out of the school.   We talked a few hours later and that turned into him skipping out of office hours for the day, but he had to teach a Thursday class and he would head down after class.    After another phone conversation, that turned into him gettimg a sub for Thursday and getting some sleep before hitting the road Thursday night.

I got a call on Thursday afternoon, I remember being shocked that it was Dad,  thinking he was going to sleep before hitting the road after dark.  He’s calling me from the road –  wind in the background and all  – to let me know that he was already in Cincinnatti and that my brother was with him.  Typical Dad: coming to help earlier than he promised, with reinforcements and a mini van full of food and supplies. In one of the darkest moments of my life, there was my dad, making sure to catch me before I fell once again.

My then-wife came home from work that afternoon.  She asked me what was going  – in that ridiculously irrelevant small-talk way that people talk to each otherwhen a relationship has ended.  I told her that I talked to Dad and that he was on his way down to help me get my stuff out of the house on Saturday. 

She freaked out. “Your dad is coming HERE?”  she asked.  (Jabba will tell you that she respected my dad, but she was actually afraid of him.  She’s never learned the difference between respect and fear, but I digress)

“Well, yeah”  I replied.

“Why?”

“Because…that’s what families do for each other.”  It seemed like such a stupid questions and that was the only response I could make.

Dad was always the voice of reason.  Sometimes he would come across as something of a wet blanket, being so sensible all the time, but Dad was always in the calm eye at the center of every storm. No disrespect to my mom, but Dad was the glue that held everything together.  Its not unlike The Old Man in “A Christmas Story” who ultimately gets the Red Ryder BB gun for Ralphie.  He seems almost disconnected from the kids; only to swoop in and do something monumental.  That was ny Dad.

Dad never had to tell us kids “no”.  His version of no was more of a “I don’t think that’s a good idea”. I didn’t notice the until I was a teenager, and didn’t think about what it meant ’till I was older still.  Eventually, I realized that I trusted and valued his opnion so much that he didn’t have to tell me “no”.  His reservations about something I wanted to do were enough of a red light to keep me from doing it.

Going back even a few years earlier to my wedding day.  I was in my parents’ basement getting ready for the big day…and wigging out.  Dad was the one who came down and talked me off the proverbial ledge.  He reminded me that Jabba and I had been already living together for years and that anything we do that day (i.e getting married) would not change our day-to-day lives one bit.  When he said that, it seemed so obvious, but made so much sense that I said “ok”  and went to the church.

Walking into his house, or more approrpiately his presence, was like walking into a hug. As his son, I knew he always had my back.  With all due to respect to my uncle and his eulogy given by my cousin, whenevever I was talking to or with my Dad, I knew that things were not only going to be okay, but they  already in fact were okay.

As a child, I feared my Dad.  As young man, I respected him.  Now as an adult and a father myself in the hour of his passing, I revere him.  I’m not even sure if I even believe in God anymore, but I can assure you that when I look to the heavens at night and pray, I will be praying to him. “My father, who art in Heaven…”

I was a really damn lucky guy to grow up with a father like mine.  If I am able to be HALF of the father to my kids that my dad was to me, then they’ll be be just fine.

I love you Dad.  I want you to know what I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do on my “list” so far. I did it, and I never would have gotten through any of this without you.  I will miss you forever and I look forward to seeing you again someday.

The Human Bomb

No explosive punches here, but sometimes i feel like a Human Bomb of sorts too.

No explosive punches here, but sometimes i feel like a Human Bomb of sorts too.

I haven’t written much lately.  Frankly, I  haven’t had a lot to say.  But the other day, I was in a weird funk; something I’ve written about before but has weighed heavily on my mind:

I turned 41 about a-week-and-a-half ago.  I lost The Old Man two-and-a-half-months ago.  Needless to say, it has me thinking about my own mortality. A LOT lately.

I am The Human Bomb.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that I am the World War II era comic book character, or his modern day successor.  But like Captain Picard says in “Star Trek: Generations”  I’ve come to realize that I most likely have fewer days ahead of me than I have behind me.  And that sucks.

The Old Man was 67 when he died.  That means if I live no longer than he did, I have about 26 years left on this Earth.  That scares the hell out of me.

I’m not dying or anything.  Hell, I’m not even sick.  I feel better than I have in a long time.  Aside from the time I was working out a couple years ago, I probably feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life.  The truth is, I feel like I’m just getting started.  Divorce is the great reset in 21st century American society and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.  i want A LOT more than 26 more years with The Auteur and the family that we’re building together.  There’s just so much I still want to do in this world.

I’m reluctant to use the expression “mid-life crisis”.  I’m not about to get a sports car.  I’m sure as Hell not about to leave my family.  But maybe it’s time I start on my Bucket List and crossing things off of it.

better with age?

Last week, The Auteur told me that it looked like my hair was starting to thin on the top of my head.  I pulled out a mirror and saw exactly what she was talking about.

Losing my hair.

This is not going to sit well with me.  I will shave my head before I get a bald spot.  My hairline has managed to outlive those of my closest friends and I refuse to allow it to wither away now.  A Scorched Earth Policy, indeed.

I mean, it’s bad enough that I notice myself gradually getting nearsighted…

Can he walk at all?

Okay, he not Iron Man, but he's not that far off.

Okay, he’s not Iron Man, but he’s not that far off.

THE FOLLOWING POST WAS WRITTEN 1.14.15

The Old Man had another surgery yesterday.  The cancer has spread.  The tumor in his shoulder has gotten bigger.  There were also tumors in his femurs, which he had replaced with titanium rods yesterday.

I learned more about bone cancer through my dog, Worf, than I ever hoped to need to know.  Phred told me Sunday that if the Old Man didn’t get the surgery, there was a good chance that he could have broken both his femurs – had he tried to walk.

This is getting very personal – this cancer thing and me. This disease tried to take my mom from me.  Now it’s going after my dad and it looks like it’s going to get the job done.  But not without one hell of a fight from The Old Man…

I want the Old Man to come home again.  I want him to meet my unborn child.  I want to take him to one more Tiger game.  I want The Kid to be able to see him again.  He is too young to lose both grandfathers.

One More Day

When staring in the face if death, I think its normal to think of these things.  I can only imagine what’s going through The Old man’s mind during all of this.

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