Category Archives: Culture

#Berkelly

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So the “Berkelly” thing happened on the day I announced on social media that I had been accepted to UC Berkeley. My friend Greg tagged me as “Berkelly” in my Instagram post. I’m honestly not one to toot my own horn or draw attention to myself–yes I know this is a personal blog, thank you very much–but somehow the tag felt…right.

Much like the decision to finally commit to Cal. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let’s take a leap back–

Agoura High School, 1979. I’m graduating from High School and all my friends are going to UCLA. I felt a nagging urge to join them, but dreams of becoming a firefighter pushed aside the ache–for a while.

My first college class was my senior year at Agoura HS. I took an EMT class at Los Angeles Pierce College.

Fast forward, Spring 2013. After a career in the fire service, I’m looking for another direction. As documented elsewhere in this blog, I thought a career in drug and alcohol treatment would be rewarding. I enroll in the Addiction Studies program back at Pierce. Shortly thereafter I start working in the field, and while your mileage may vary, I find the industry to be long on financial outcome and short on actual treatment. I’m disillusioned.

What I’m surprisingly inspired by however is my US History class at Pierce. After decades away from academia I need to write a research paper. Throat tightens, sweat glands on overload…I get this:

IMG_0036 This was it. This was all it took. Validation. The fire was lit. These words from my instructor changed the course of my life and resulted in the picture you see at the head of this blog post.

I immediately sought the advice of a school counselor and began my transfer program. Since the ache to attend UCLA had never quite subsided, I set my sights on transferring. The next two semesters found me enrolling in english and history classes. My transcripts were reflecting all A’s. I eventually started the university enrollment process and my counselor advised me to make some other choices beyond UCLA.  I decided to add UC Irvine and UC Berkeley in as whims. Irvine has a world-class english department, but Cal is recognized as having the BEST english program in the country. So naturally there was no chance of me being accepted. In fact I embraced that thought so firmly, I took absolutely no prep courses at Pierce for the major, clearly still under the impression that it was a wasted enrollment fee (an academic price I am paying my first semester at Cal).

I also applied to USC (my girlfriend’s alma mater) and Stanford (and was told by my counselor that this was truly a long-shot as their acceptance rate for transfers is only one percent).

Along this path, my counselor introduced me to a recruiter from Columbia University. He encouraged me to apply. I did.

My last year a Pierce was characterized by the loss of nearly $800 in application fees, documents, tests, and materials. Yes, Stanford made me take the SAT again–that experience could easily be a subject of another blog post in and of itself.

Lots of work on my UC personal statement ensued. I had to take the english-only portion of the 2013 SAT for Columbia.

Decisions were due in April of this year. But Columbia was notifying in February. On the day of their notification, I opened the web page…I read the words from the dean saying that he would like to congratulate me on my acceptance to Columbia University. I was reading this to my girlfriend over the phone. This was as far as I could get into the first paragraph before I broke down into uncontrollable sobbing. I had been accepted into an Ivy League. My life had been a series of struggles and opportunities to overcome adversity. These words put me down. I was so proud. The inspiring words of my US History teacher paved the way for my acceptance. I had been mentored. I had been inspired. Education matters. Teaching matters. I am a living and breathing example of the power of education and mentor-ship.

Now thoughts of moving to Manhattan danced in my head. The music ended on that dance when the reality of the cost of attendance intervened.

April came. I was accepted to UC Irvine. Awesome! If UCLA doesn’t come through, I’ve got an option.

April 26. 5 p.m. UCLA is set to release their announcement…I got in!!! I immediately donned the UCLA cap that I purchased a year prior and put it squarely on my head. I had vowed that it wouldn’t touch me until I got in…that day had arrived. I was over-the-top! My nagging ache since 1979 had been satisfied…I was finally a Bruin.

Almost as an afterthought, 48 hours later I opened Cal’s admission page to see that I had been accepted. I was incredulous. This wasn’t part of the plan! And their offer of financial aid was highly competitive.

Less that a week later my mom died. She was in the Bay Area so I decided to at least make a campus visit to Berkeley so I could justify my decision to attend UCLA…

I set foot on campus on a Friday morning. I sat in Sproul Plaza by myself. It was overcast. It was quiet. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t know right then and there that I was home. I took a guided tour later that day and attended the Chancellor’s welcome the next day, but honestly, it was a formality. I was home. I felt it in the core of my being. UCLA had always been my dream, but I was walking on the campus of my reality…my future…my home.

Berkelly was home…

I was awaiting 2 more acceptance notifications. USC had requested my spring grades from Pierce prior to making their decision, which I found odd since I had carried a 4.0 GPA throughout my tenure at Pierce, but nonetheless I provided them (4.0 cumulative) and found out three days ago that USC had indeed accepted me.

But Stanford was the only significant roadblock…I received a letter from them stating that although I was highly competitive, and they wished they had more space, I did not receive an offer of admission.

Within two minutes I committed to Berkeley.

I’m a Golden Bear. My girlfriend and I move to Albany in July. I’m about to enter a buzz-saw of grade-deflation and challenges that I’ve never experienced. But I’m beyond excited. I plan on earning by BA in English, possibly double majoring or minoring, and then finding a doctoral program upon completion.

I’d love to steer the focus of this blog towards my experience as a non-traditional/returning student at Cal. But we shall see…I will do my utmost to report from the front lines AFTER I get all my assignments completed.

To those of you who have patiently followed my adventures, I thank you. You are all part of the community of inspiration that has made me a Bear.

#gobears

#berkelly


I Can’t Even…

As I enter the twilight of my junior college career–getting ready to embark on my final push towards my bachelor’s degree at an as yet undetermined university–I find myself paralyzed. Dumbstruck not by the variety of academic choices that lie in front of me, not by the awesome responsibility of choosing just HOW much debt I intent to incur over the next seven years (2 years BA, 5 yrs PhD program), and not by the use of the Oxford comma (see what I did there?).

No, indeed since November 8th of 2016 I’ve been awed…metaphorically frozen by the, and I use this word judiciously–“reality”–of just who has been sworn in as President of the United States. I guess, like any victim of trauma, I’ve used self-delusion as a defense mechanism. But tonight, while doing laundry during a break from studying The Iliad, I heard an NPR announcer say the phrase: “President Trump.” Obviously, I’ve heard this before, but for some reason, tonight, it hurt. It was surreal. A moment of panic set in and I literally wondered if I had either died, or was suffering from some form of parallel universe awareness. This simply can’t be…

Today, the director of the FBI stated, in no uncertain terms (Don, this means NOT fake news), that the administration of the sitting President of the United States is under criminal investigation for his alleged campaign ties to a foreign government. The Russians. As a child of the cold war, this chills me to the bone. But perhaps the most chilling “reality” is the seeming lethargy with which this news has been greeted by my fellow countrymen.

Let’s review: the republican nominee, and eventual electoral college victor, our now sitting President, is the subject of a criminal (read: treason) investigation for alleged collusion with the Russians to, among other things, affect the outcome of the presidential election.

I’m not going to parse this with anyone, nor do I intend to build a case against him. I believe the investigation alone speaks volumes.

What I do demand is an immediate, and serious examination of the evidence to begin articles of impeachment of this man, and, pending the outcome of the FBI’s (and hopefully a special prosecutor’s) investigation, a constitutional evaluation of the propriety of the last election by our Supreme Court. The buck has never stopped “here” with Trump and it’s pretty clear that the dysfunction has metastasized within his government. I’m calling for the Court, again pending satisfactory evidence of duplicity and criminal wrongdoing, to call for another election.

There is simply too much at stake to allow this narcissistic, impending indicted criminal to continue to govern. Consider the ACA and the wide-ranging effect Trump’s Federal Judge appointee’s can have on our country for decades to come. We can all see the writing on the wall here…let’s quit pussy-footing around the issue and stop calling this man our lawfully elected “President.” Bill Gates visited Trump today to discuss “the internet” today. I was outraged. It’s time for people of conscience to let the emperor know his fat ass is naked for all the world to see.  Government leaders and those in power need to stop entitling this man and his corrupt machine. Call a spade a damn spade.

“President Trump”…I can’t even.

 


How 2 Wheels Changed Everything…

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Dec. 21, 2007 is my sobriety date. I haven’t found the need to ingest any alcohol or other mind altering chemicals since that date. I’d love to claim that this occurred because of a personal epiphany or that I was suddenly struck with an urge to get healthy, but that would not be the truth. The truth was, as I was sitting handcuffed in the back of a CHP car, I decided to change my life…enough was enough. I had somehow contracted the disease of alcoholism (funny how that happens…I thought everybody blacked out and drank as much and as long as I did), and as a result of my actions while drinking…I had picked up my second DUI the night I was fortunate enough to be in that CHP car (as opposed to the Coroners van).

The State of California decided I needed to be without a driver’s license for 365 days. Damn. That was inconvenient. I had a life then. How the hell am I going to get to work, pick up my kids…do life?

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The answer took the form of 2 wheels. For the next year, I did life on 2 wheels. Entertaining my kids, work, grocery shopping…life was done on 2 wheels.

In a million years, if you would have told me I’d be a cyclist now, at age 55…I would have genuinely laughed. And I did at the spandex laden freaks I saw on the side of the road. Until I became one…

As I spent that year on 2 wheels, something clicked inside me. Every single time I set forth…those first few pedal strokes invoked a sense of freedom and youth in me I hadn’t felt since I was a kid on my Schwinn. And that feeling remains today.

Last year, I rode over 3500 miles. On the bike pictured above, I’ve ridden 12,602 miles. And I’ve become a cycling addict. Every climb calls to me like another challenge awakened…every long ride instills in me a sense of accomplishment and…well…life.

I’ve lost 30 lbs cycling and for the first time in my life, all my lab work at my annual physical was normal…hypertension: gone…high blood sugar: gone…routine labs: normal.

So it was with this justification that I decided to spend some money on my health and my future. I bought a “real” road bike. A carbon fiber dream that I’d been coveting for a few years.

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I haven’t even taken it out on the road yet. It just didn’t seem right until I eulogized my 2007 Gary Fisher Mendota…

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The two wheels that got me to the market, got me to work, to my meetings, to my kids…the two wheels that helped keep me sober and helped me quit smoking–the two wheels that profoundly changed my life and my health. I didn’t see it coming. Sometimes the best things in life work that way.

I hate to part with you my friend. And although you’ll be my campus bike when I get into UCLA in 2017…you’ll no longer be my daily rider. My daily meditation. My daily savior on two wheels…

 

 


It’s Time for Moderate Republicans to Act…

Just as it has been extraordinary helpful in the court of public opinion for Islamic leaders to condemn the actions of Daesh as neither aligned with the tenets of their religion, nor in fact, Islamic in any real way, shape, or form, it is also important for moderate Republicans to distance themselves from the present state of their party.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced today that the Senate Republicans would take the unprecedented step of failing to even consider any Supreme Court Nominee proffered by President Obama. In other words, strictly in the name of partisan politics, the Republicans are picking up their ball and going home. They are acting childishly on an issue of great, indeed constitutional, importance. Last time I checked, the sitting president is president until he is not.

This “leadership caucus” is refusing to do their job. Out of spite. Plain and simple.

And yet…it’s seems that this egregious behavior is simply a symptom of a party in crisis. Witness the lack of cohesion in their ability to field a “real” candidate. What predictably filled the void is a carnival showman with no real allegiance to their party or core values, whatever those may be these days.

So they are left with impetuous men, so frightened by their ever loosening grip on power and influence, that all that is left is to make headlines; governance be damned.

In my estimation, the cracks first appeared in the Reagan administration, when, drunk with political power they began to dismantle some of the conventions of decorum that had existed for generations. When President Clinton was elected, they dropped any hint of propriety and Newt Gingrich became their rhetorical henchman. Finally, the Bush (not the good one) era brought us to fruition with the simply evil likes of Karl Rove.

And throughout this descent into madness, they were urged along by the burdening communications wing of this new Republican Party–Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and its mouthpiece, Fox News.

Think I’m exaggerating? Listen to this hot mic conversation of the Donald instructing the Fox “journalists” on how to best present his brand. I’m not so naive to believe that Democrats and other more liberal news organizations don’t also abdicate their fourth estate responsibilities, but in toto, I believe that even a man I truly despise, the Great Communicator, would take issue with the path they find themselves on.

They have forced a paradigm shift in the way our country is governed, and this Supreme Court power play has forced me to rethink who I will support in 2016. Do I stick to my ideals and vote my conscience, or am I forced to support the candidate that I know will go in the trenches, fight dirty, and hopefully humiliate these idiots. Not a choice I want to make, but one I may need to consider in this age of playground politics.

So I plead with you…the voices of moderation in the Republican Party: SPEAK UP…BE HEARD; don’t be afraid. There may just be some folks in the center and left that are willing to support your efforts at maturity and reconciliation.


He Whose Name Shall Not be Mentioned…

Of course I’m referring to the train wreck otherwise known as Donald Trump and his infantile pursuit of the title “Leader of the Free World”.

If you have seen the Mike Judge movie Idiocracy you may want to stop reading; you know where I’m going. If you have not, I implore you to view this masterpiece that, tragically, is playing itself out before our eyes.

At first viewing of the movie, I reasoned that it was plausible, indeed likely, sometime in the distant future. Trump, in his “bull-in-a-china-shop” manner, has hastened this demise of culture and politics.

In fairness to “The Donald”, he is simply the catalyst of a broken media system that relies on titillation rather than reasoned analysis and evaluation…formerly known as “news” and “op-eds.”

It’s been pretty well documented by others that Trump is simply reflecting a certain (and I PRAY, remote) segment of our population that is generally uneducated, or otherwise unwilling to analyze and research the complex issues affecting our society. Some are educated but simply lazy in that they, understandably, want change–someone “to stir things up.”

Yes, a Trump presidency would certainly do that–that we could recover is quite another question.

His ascendancy to front-runner status in his party amazes me. But then again, I dumped cable about a year ago and have received my news largely through various sources online and on the radio (NPR, PRI); but the other day while taking a break at work, I had occasion to see a TV in a nearby shop that was tuned to CNN, and for the entire hour that I ate my lunch, some sort of “panel” was discussing what I assumed was the topic of the “crawl”…that “The Donald” had engaged in playground name-calling of Ted Cruz. I don’t remember the exact specifics, but it was pedestrian and child-like at best.

30 years ago, the topic of the CNN crawl would not have even been a blip on the radar of CNN, or any self-respecting news organization. But today “if it bleeds it leads” has morphed into a mine field of political persuasion that infects the minds of ignorant voters (see Fox and MSNBC).

That a schoolyard bully (and I hesitate to call him that, as today he called his earlier sexual liaisons his own “personal Vietnam”) can garner the attention that a generation ago would have been appropriately ignored is deeply disturbing to me.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m that old guy yelling at the kids to “get off my damn lawn”, but I think not. I still believe in propriety and decorum. And the deadly seriousness of the issues affecting our country call for an adult, not a child.

I still hope Idiocracy is a few generations away, as I don’t think I can bear to watch…

 


In Search of Compromise…

“For man seems to be unable to live without myth, without the belief that the routine and drudgery, the pain and fear of this life have some meaning and goal in the future. At once new myths come into being–political and economic myths with extravagant promises of the best of futures in the present world. These myths give the individual a certain sense of meaning by making him part of a vast social effort, in which he loses something of his own emptiness and loneliness. Yet the very violence of these political religions betrays the anxiety beneath them–for they are but men huddling together and shouting to give themselves courage in the dark.”

Alan M. Watts, The Age of Anxiety, 1951

“…for they are but men huddling together and shouting to give themselves courage in the dark.”

This line broke the wall. The wall that has divided me from expressing anything other than contempt for those that would support a presidential candidate like Donald Trump.

When I envision these folks, frightened…alone…huddled in the dark shouting for courage…I am able to set aside my incredulity, derision, and anger. I am able to feel empathy for my fellow man.

For I too am that man huddling together in the dark with my tribe…holding onto my ethos with a sense of triumphant superiority. And it is at this intersection that I have lost all ability to compromise. To seek consent. To reach out and experience life as another does.

I cannot call on others to share or even respect my point of view until I am willing to understand and embrace the motivation behind theirs. And until we are both willing to take this leap of faith, not only is consent impossible, progress is virtually shut down. The democratic political system becomes mired in gridlock.

Sound familiar? It should. We are experiencing exactly this discord at the present political moment. I challenge you to seek to understand your rival/enemies motivation before you dismiss him out of hand. Seek the motivations behind the rhetoric. Understand that the 300 pound armed gorilla you are arguing with is, fundamentally, a scared little boy screaming in the dark for his mommy. This doesn’t diminish the man. It humanizes him and it empowers YOU to do the right thing. Explore your empathy and seek compromise rather than dissent.

I watched the democratic presidential debate tonight. Up until now, I have been undecided about which candidate I would support. I was enthralled at the political mastery that Sec. Hilary Clinton displayed. There is no doubt in my mind that she is, as she claims, the most experienced candidate/politician to occupy the White House come January. And it is also precisely why I cannot support her. As I’ve previously documented my disappointment with our current President, I’m willing to let faith and hope have another go at it. I’m willing to take a shot on Bernie Sanders. If for no other reason than to support a candidate outside the norm. And yes this is the same ideology leading several of those on the right to support Trump. But let’s be honest. A reality TV star is not the man I want running my country…especially one who plays fast and loose with the truth and appeals to the fears of those huddled in the dark…


The Obama Conundrum…

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But at the end of the day we couldn’t.

I voted for President Obama in both elections. I like the man. I believe he is genuine and his heart is in the right place.

But at the end of the day, his presidency is a failure on many levels. Not the least of which are the broken promises. The promises of change. The inspired campaign speeches that rallied a post-Bush nation.

Very little of it came to pass.

Mr. Obama’s tears discussing Sandy Hook during his Executive Action announcement on gun control were moving and no doubt heartfelt. But they represent everything that was wrong with his administration. Too little. Too late.

True gun reform is within reach, if the deal maker’s in Washington are willing to make the political sacrifices necessary. A reasonable compromise can be struck between the second amendment and those demanding a ban on all weapons. I won’t bore you with the details, but it can be done.

My point is that, yet again, President Obama’s actions in this area are weak and ineffective. Certainly not the actions of Candidate Obama. Not the president I voted for.

The president I voted for would not allow the egregious violation of civil right this administration has displayed. The unprecedented intimidation of journalists and whistle-blower’s by this Justice Department is truly stunning. Certainly not what I expected from this president nor what was promised.

The lack of foresight and action on the Ukraine and Syria demonstrate just two of the administrations catastrophic foreign policy blunders. Don’t even get me started on their complete lack of leadership in dealing with the despot Netanyahu and how our relationship with that failed government has threatened our national security.

At the end of the day, there were some wins. The economy, jobs, and most notably the Affordable Care Act. But if these wins came at the price of the aforementioned disasters, they were certainly not worth it in my estimation.

Here’s what really scares me: I believe in Obama the man. I believe he is decent and truly wanted to do the right thing. But he was clearly outmatched politically. And this doesn’t bode well for any idealistic outsider running for our highest office.

It appears that the entrenched/corrupt insiders (read Hilary) will be the only liberals able to affect change, albeit within the framework of the current plutocracy.

I would love to sit down with Mr. Obama someday and ask him what happened. How did his grand vision come apart. Alas, I don’t think we will ever know…

 

 

 


After Further Review…

President Obama discussing the tragedy in Charleston.

Guns.

I have previously posted my position on guns and gun control. I maintain my core belief that firearms are a tool and that the tool is not the source of evil or the inherent problem. This is, in my opinion, a fundamentally logical argument.

It’s also an argument that I am now willing to abandon.

After further review, I believe it is time for comprehensive and aggressive changes to our gun control laws. This is a position that I have, for the majority of my life, been against. However, in light of recent events and in the absence of any other real substantive solutions, I am willing to argue for a constitutional amendment to dramatically alter the Second Amendment.

I don’t do this lightly. Although I have been painfully disappointed with several of President Obama’s decisions during the course of his presidency, I believe at the end of the day, he is a decent man, albeit severely lacking the fortitude to accomplish the many things he promised as candidate Obama. But on gun control and his speech after the massacre in Charleston, he got it right. This is the Obama I voted for.

It’s time. We as a nation must enact sweeping gun control legislation to limit the availability of firearms in our country. It must be done. Eliminating military grade, so-called “assault weapons” is a start, but sweeping legislation must be immediately enacted to control and restrict firearm purchases. Money must be spent to upgrade the background check process. EVERY firearm needs to be accounted for.

I hear the hue and cry from the right already and as a staunch opponent of giving the government any more of my information or usurping any more of my liberties, I have to say that I’m willing to take the proverbial bullet on this one.

It’s the only way.

We need to have the political fortitude to stand up to the N.R.A. and the right-wing fear mongerers and say enough is enough. Too much of our precious human capital has been reduced to so many police blotter statistics.

The killing must stop and I’m willing to compromise my core beliefs in an attempt to make this happen. How about you?


How Us against Them became Them against Us…

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I’ve been sitting on this post for the last several months. Not quite sure I could coherently articulate the confusion and rage I’m feeling about the current state of law enforcement in our country.

Here’s my story as it relates to my interaction with law enforcement.

I wanted to be one. As early as I can remember, I wanted to be a cop. I watched “Adam-12” religiously and yearned for the day I would be the one upholding all that is good and decent in our society.

As a young man, I bought a scanner and became immersed in police culture. When I turned 15 I decided I wanted to be an Explorer (Boy Scout program) for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. My dad drove me to the local sheriff’s station, I met with a deputy and learned about the program. I was on fire….

As we drove home, my dad was unusually quiet, but finally said this. “Son, I’ll support whatever you want to do, but I think you are too smart to get into this line of work. Not only that, but cops tend to develop an ‘Us against Them’ mentality that I’d hate to see you become part of.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I respected my fathers opinion a great deal and I eventually turned my interest to the Fire Department (goodbye “Adam-12”, hello “Emergency”) and it seemed that dad was reluctantly more accepting of this decision.

LONG story short: I became a Fire Department Explorer with LA County Fire…became a Paramedic in my early 20’s and ultimately served 16 years with a Fire Department, retiring in 2003 at the rank of Fire Captain.

Here’s how this ties into law enforcement. As a firefighter/paramedic…I was one of “Us”.

We, along with law enforcement, were on the front lines of saving lives and property and protecting the public. Those that would hinder our efforts were “Them” and they were to be mistrusted and dealt with as the threat to the fabric of our society we thought they were.

In my 26 years in public safety, I witnessed a great deal of illegal and often abusive behavior towards citizens at the hands of law enforcement. And I did nothing. In fact, I supported it. These were “bad” people and they were deserving of the street justice meted out at the hands of the cops. That’s just how it is when you’re one of “Us”…

Then I left that field. Prior to leaving I sensed a paradigm shift in public safety after 9/11. Suddenly public safety folks…cops and firefighters were “heroes”…and what I saw before I left was an unrealistic change in self-awareness in these fields. Cops and firefighters were becoming caricatures of themselves…they began to buy into the invincible, hero-worship syndrome and became increasingly arrogant and dangerous. Not all, but some…and as an institution, for me, the shift was undeniable.

Here’s the disclaimer before I go further: I’m painting with a broad brush here, and my exit from the fire department was the direct result of a (now resolved) problem with alcohol that, while not directly affecting my job, led to my employer asking me to resign. So take that into consideration as you evaluate my thoughts. Not all cops and not all firefighters are bad, or are anywhere near the way I’m portraying some in my experience. They both do an incredibly difficult, and yes heroic, job under quite difficult and anguishing conditions. Sadly, they have become victims on their respective institutions…

Here’s my beef. It’s the culture…the institution. It’s changed.

Us against Them had become Them against Us…

We, as taxpayers in a civil society, create law enforcement institutions to protect our communities. They are our employees and they work for us. At some point, the institution of law enforcement has forgotten this basic fact…

When two NYPD officers were killed, the rank-and-file openly showed their disgust for their boss, Mayor DeBlasio at the funeral services of these officers. They can disagree with the Mayor’s policies all day long, but the level of disrespect they showed the mayor is equal to the level of disrespect they show the taxpayer…their employers.

They’ve become entitled with an Us against Them attitude that literally leads to a “shoot first and ask questions later” mentality. We, as their employers, have allowed it to happen.

To be clear, this is not a 9/11 response syndrome. Police brutality and misconduct has been widespread for generations. The paradigm shift in recognition has been the direct result of technology…specifically cell phone cameras.

The officer that shot and killed an unarmed black man is the sentinel example. Here’s a case where a white officer shoots a black motorist after a traffic stop. The official story, a story that has been repeated countless times for decades in this country, is that the “suspect”…the black man, reached for the officer’s gun/taser. The reality, as caught on video, is quite different. We see the officer shooting a fleeing man in the back, then planting his taser on the man. If not for the video, the officer is back on patrol instead of facing murder charges.

If not for the video…

Law enforcement personnel have for years been allowed to cross the line, break the rules, stretch the truth. They have collectively lost all credibility. They have been allowed to be the alpha dog and escalate otherwise non-violent encounters into fatal and tragic events. A man is killed for selling cigarettes in New York. A 12 year old boy is shot for having a pellet gun in a park in Ohio.

And now this. Feras Morad…an honor student from one of my local high schools and community colleges, decided to try mushrooms one night in Long Beach. A dumb decision for sure, but one which was punished by the death penalty in Long Beach.

The African American community has dealt with this racial genocide for years. And we didn’t listen.

If the cold blooded murder of Mr. Morad doesn’t provoke outrage, then we deserve the fascist law enforcement that we have allowed to exist for far too long.

RIP Mr. Morad. I’m so so sorry, you became one of Us…


Why Truth Matters

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Stop what you’re doing right now and tell me which way is north.

Not sure? OK, grab your smartphone and access your compass app…this should do it.

What does this have to do with truth? The question: “Which way is north” refers to a baseline or default direction from which we measure the other elements/directions within that world.

In other words, within our socio-political world, the abrogation of truth has led to a warping of our moral compass…a dangerous precedent.

Without a frame of reference, the short shrift we increasingly give truth is denigrating our ability to hold ourselves, our society, and our leaders accountable to the truth; to that element of our existence that allows us to judge right and wrong. To that precious commodity that allows us, as a society, to call out those who would harm us and declare “this is wrong”.

When we play fast and loose with the truth, we lose the moral high-ground.

Case in point:  the political assassination of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.

It doesn’t take an individual with a degree in international relations, criminology, or Soviet history to surmise that Putin is holding the metaphorical (if not literal) smoking gun.

In another era, our government, our media, our so-called political “leaders” could, in good faith, call out the modern day Russian Czar Putin on this travesty of justice. While Putin is many things (among them sociopathic) he is not stupid. He must realize the American government, media, and Congress don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to claiming the moral high-ground. In fact, he’s already spun the assassination as the work of American agents.

Sigh.

Let’s take our government first. Yes, we’ve never been fortunate to have a completely transparent government, but as the heroic revelations of Edward Snowden have illuminated, our government is actively and aggressively lying to the folks that empower and employ them…you and me.

And what of the media? The fifth estate formerly occupied by luminaries such as Murrow and Cronkite…

Those luminaries have been replaced by America’s most trusted news source, Fox News.

If this doesn’t cause you concern, stop reading now and return to whichever reality show of the moment or televised pursuit you are watching and please increase your cholesterol intake. If it does concern you, take heart. When was the last time those individuals who are truly curious, consumers of real news, watched network news anyway. I’m encouraged by the fact that there is a large portion of the country that was not included in this poll. At least I desperately, if not naively, cling to this hope.

And finally, what of our most precious representatives in Congress? You know, those individuals whose very existence is based upon their ability to accept corporate donations and spew whatever soundbite adds to those campaign contributions. Still not with me? These are the folks who are currently walking the razor’s edge of treason by undermining the constitution and the executive branch with respect to the Iranian nuclear enrichment talks. Fine upstanding individuals who wouldn’t know a moral compass if it hit them in their fat coffers.

Those who live in glass houses simply can’t throw stones and we are quickly becoming the inhabitants of the largest glass mansion in the (and I use this word cautiously) “civilized” world.

 


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