I’ve often been subjected, during heated debates on matters related to this or that current event, theory or ideology, to the fingernail-on-blackboard sound of this non-descript, undefined thing called Common Sense. It is the most insidious, pedestrian and reductive rhetorical device ever to have been so desperately imposed on me.
Those who resort to this flagon of verbal bile do so, typically, when cornered by having made an argument which cannot be convincingly defended by anything that remotely constitutes information, much less fact. The refrain, “Of course, it’s Common Sense!” is the final bastion of vacuous retort, indicating an argument sustained and supported by nothing.
Common Sense is the orifice into which one slides his hand, down to the elbow, and grabs on to whatever excrement encrusted detritus is within reach, victoriously pulling it out like a three-year-old pulls a handful of candy out of a Halloween trick-or-treat sack. Then, brandishing this fist of oozing slop he holds it up high, as if a death-inducing rejoinder to your question, “Where did you get that information from?” believing he has rendered your query forever moot with his adolescent verbal rim-shot. He proudly holds it aloft as it drips, unbeknownst to him, down into his armpit, staining his shirt, the self-satisfied grin betraying his guileless belief that you have been dispatched.
I once knew a man who was the most patriotic American I had ever met. The flag went up in front of his house every Memorial day, every July 4th, President’s day and every other day when he could find an excuse to do so.
He stood up and put his hand over his heart whenever he saw the flag. He teared up at patriotic events in person and on TV. His love for this country was profound and he was never afraid to show it. He voted for Goldwater, Nixon, Ford and Reagan before he died. He was a true Patriot in every sense of the word. He was my father.
In 1944, while he was serving his home country as a Chief Engineer in the Greek Merchant Marine, his ship docked in NY Harbor. He got off the boat (it was called “jumping ship”) and never went back. He had no visa, no work permit, nothing but his clothes and his last paycheck-in what was the Greek currency at the time-Drachmas.
He spent some time in Chicago, going from job to job, trying to make his way in the US. My father was, in every sense of the word, what is commonly referred to as, “an illegal”.
After about 20 years or so he was able to become a citizen. He started a small machine shop in NYC, ultimately employing over 200 people. This illegal turned out to be a pretty good citizen and what most people would call an asset to this country.
Unfortunately he, due to his conservative views, came to view other immigrants as interlopers and intruders. He died a bigoted man, believing himself to be a true American, but not wanting to offer that chance to others. He figured that we had enough immigrants now, and it was time to close the borders. That was just before he died in 1985.
Knowing which groups to hate is relatively easy. Fox “News” and it’s ilk is there to tell us. It’s easy to pick a group and decide that they’re not entitled to the same opportunities as are you.
It takes genuine thought and reflection to know when to be compassionate to those who are less fortunate than us and need our help.
The Zimmerman jury did the right thing. They took the case as presented and made a decision. Based on the information in the trial, I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have felt compelled to decide the same way. This was a hard case to prove, and the defense won. Finito…
The sadness, to me, is the fact that those who carry bibles in one hand and guns in the other, who fear their own shadows and see boogy-men and terrorists around every corner, don’t understand the damage being done to our morality.
It is time for an amendment, not to the Constitution, but to the Ten Commandments. I propose amending the Sixth Commandment to read:
“Thou shalt not kill. (Unless you are in fear of bodily injury, even if that fear is the result of your own actions. The only requirement is that you are scared of getting beaten up, even if you started it. Then its OK to kill)”.
At least then we’ll all know where we stand…
The real issue surrounding the Trayvon Martin case has been obfuscated by those who are convinced that this trial erupted out of something other than what it really did. Many are blaming that catch-all villain, “the media” for what some believe to be a routine murder (yes, we apparently have those) having been brought to national attention. Their memories and/or ability to think logically are apparently lacking.
This episode did not start with some local reporters looking for a news story with a racial tinge. This was not some black racist organization’s attempt at “’stirring the pot” once again with a made-up race-card event.
The reason this story is in the news is the fact that the chief of police in Sanford Florida, a city well-known for its racial intolerance, elected to let a shooter go free, and hoped no one would notice.
George Zimmerman, after being detained and questioned following the shooting of Trayvon Martin, was released, with no charges against him. Bill Lee, the Sanford police chief at the time, says that he did so due to a lack of evidence against George Zimmerman. Apparently a dead body and a smoking Kel Tec 9 is not enough evidence to arrest someone in Sanford, Florida.
Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, found out his son was dead when he went to the police department to file a missing person’s report. When he asked for the details of the event, he was informed that no charges have been filed against the shooter. His protests and demand to see the mayor went unanswered. He was told that the police chief made his decision based on his understanding of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Tracy Martin and his ex-wife, Sabrina Fulton, hired a Tallahassee attorney, Ben Crump, who then proceeded to file complaints with the state Attorney General’s office, contact the media and set up on online petition to have Zimmerman arrested and brought to trial. Al Sharpton and other black leaders converged on Sanford, protesting and demanding only two things-arrest and trial. Nothing more.
To those of you who think that this is simply a “black thing”, of no real importance other than to those who use race as a weapon, you must realize that this media storm was caused by one event: A mother and father learning that their child had been gunned down, and the local police deciding, with no trial, that the shooter could just go home and forget the entire thing. It is Tracy Martin’s and Sabrina Fulton’s love for their teenaged son, and their refusal to accept his death with no explanation that is causing this firestorm, as it should have.
Whether George Zimmerman acted within his rights that night will be decided by a jury, again, as it should. Whatever their decision is, we will have to accept it, irrespective of whether or not we agree. But that’s all Trayvon’s parents wanted. It was their unwillingness to go away quietly that made it happen.
No matter what the outcome, every parent should be inspired by the willingness of Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton to invert every aspect of their lives to ensure that their boy gets justice. They have missed months of work, their income has dropped to near zero, and they have lived with death threats for over a year, to say nothing of having to relive the pain of the loss of their son by listening to a recording of his last seconds on earth, over and over.
Now, some will say that George Zimmerman’s life has not been a picnic either, and they’d be right. The difference is that George Zimmerman made a series of decisions that night for which he must answer. It was his actions that set this entire opera in motion.
Add to this the fact that Bill Lee admitted on the witness stand yesterday, in a teary-eyed confession, that George Zimmerman was HIS BEST FRIEND! The chief of police in the town where this occurred, the one who released George Zimmerman with no charges, cried over the fact that his friend was on trial for murder, yet apparently had no tears for the dead kid…
And some of you have the nerve to suggest that is was stirred up by attention getting news hounds?
Trayvon’s parents pulled no triggers. They attended no police training classes. They did not appoint themselves as neighborhood watch patrol. They didn’t study Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws in a college law enforcement course (Zimmerman got an A in that class.) They, and their son, had no control over what was to transpire that rainy night in February of 2012.
They were simply sitting at home watching TV when their son was taken from them, and they had the nerve to demand to know why.
I can only hope that my parents would have done the same for me.
I’ve had numerous conversations regarding how racism is defined and, by extension, what constitutes racism. As a white man, I can tell you that many white people I know define racism as a test of how one treats black people, hence the old irony, “some of my best friends are…”. That test of racism is irrelevant to the point of imbecility.
Based on my experience and research, racism is best defined as the act of relying upon race as a determinant in situations when it is not. This works with all races in every direction.
He who automatically assumes that any specific gain made by a particular person is due solely to his or her race is a racist. She who automatically assumes that negative actions by a particular person are reflective of the presumed deficiency of his or her race is a racist. It’s rarely more complicated than that.
Racism can be manifested in actions, but it is not defined by them. Racism is always defined by internal processes. It occurs in the heart and mind, well before actions are carried out. What you do has little to do with racism. What you think does.
So, how can you tell if you’re a racist? Here are some examples:
1. Although you never say the word “nigger”, you wish you could. You use the shop-worn excuse that black people use the word, (proving that you have already rationalized its use), yet don’t do so purely out of political correctness. You believe that your non-use of the word proves your beneficence.
2. You are offended by the word “cracker”, even though there is no historical context of oppression for white people related to that word. You use it as an excuse to justify your unfulfilled entitlement to say “nigger”. One is not the intellectual counterweight for the other. There is no white version of “nigger”, since there is no history of black oppression of whites in the United States. It stands alone in offensiveness to those to whom it is directed.
3. You are offended whenever you find a group with their own TV station, newspaper, social organization, or political party. You complain that there is no such exclusive group for your race, religion or political party. You miss the point that those in the majority are already in charge, and so rarely need groups of these types. An example is parades for various nationalities and other groups. If your nationality is the dominant one in a society, then there are few reasons to remind others of your heritage, since it is on display all the time.
If you are not missing out on opportunities for jobs, housing and societal advancement due solely to your race, you have nothing to complain about.
4. You complain about advancement programs for minorities, referring to these practices as “reverse racism”. This is a pet peeve of mine. Calling anything “reverse racism” suggests that there is some kind of “forward” or “regular” racism. This sounds conspicuously as if one kind were normal and the other one abnormal. All racism is racism. It doesn’t go forward or backward. Regarding the justifications for the aforementioned advancement programs, refer to the last sentence of #3.
I will conclude with one example that is not in the numbered group, since, to me, it stands out among them all.
Your race is clearly in the majority and yet you worry that it is descending to minority status, as members of other nationalities and races increase in number. The fear that a group other than your own will someday take over is the most telling form of racism.
It betrays the cowardice of those who fear that the new, coming majority will treat you as badly as you’ve treated them.
An eighteen year old man, black in complexion, strolls his neighborhood one evening, carrying a Kel-Tec 9 mm semi-automatic gun. While walking, he spots another man, this one white, walking through the neighborhood. This black man knows that white people walking around after dark is usually a sign of impending trouble. After all, why is this white man walking around after dark in a nice neighborhood like this one?
Why doesn’t he just go back to his own neighborhood?
He calls the local police and tells them, “there is a white man walking around my neighborhood, and he looks suspicious.” He then states, “these fucking assholes always get away”, suggesting that white people who walk from one place to another after dark are “fucking assholes” who, presumably, get away with things.
The armed black man follows the white man, for the purpose of protecting the neighborhood-even though the police told him that it was not necessary. But the black man persisted, because, well, you know, you’ve got to keep an eye on white people.
The white man, seeing that he is being followed, stops and has the impudence to question the black man as to why the black man is following him. This white man is disregarding the fact that black people are usually allowed the privilege of checking up on white people, since the motives of black people is rarely questioned and white people are, well you know…
An altercation ensues and, although details are sketchy, the black man ends up killing the white man, claiming self-defense. The local police chief, having heard the above details, does not bother arresting the black man since, hell, we all know that young black men carrying guns and walking around at night in residential neighborhoods is quite a normal, everyday occurrence. We don’t want to discourage it because it helps protect us from, well you know…
We should encourage armed, young, black men walking around in our neighborhoods at night to report any unauthorized white people, and protect them even if, every now and then, a white guy has to die. Hey, these things just happen sometimes.
I hope that your incredulity regarding the above narrative would inform your opinion of how we should react when the colors are reversed.
From the Huffington Post this morning…Kirk Douglas wrote an op-ed that I quote below:
Rodgers and Hammerstein dealt with the subject of learned prejudice when they wrote the highly successful musical comedy South Pacific. South Pacific was a hit on Broadway but when they started the tour in the Southern states they ran into trouble. The state of Georgia introduced a bill outlawing South Pacific because it contained “an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow.” The claim was based on one song, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” Here are the lyrics:
“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” (Lyrics from South Pacific)
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
I don’t usually quote writings of others, but this is one hit home for me.