I’m Tired Of Feeling Guilty

Personally, I’m done with CRT (Critical Race Theory), and African-American history in general. You know why? All those stories about a system that pushes down, holds back, screws over, and beats up Blacks is just… they make me feel guilty! 

And because teachers which my taxes pay for told my kids about slavery, going back to well before the Civil War and even before the Declaration of Independence, it makes them feel guilty, too! Saturday night dinners are morose affairs, now. 

Why do their teachers do that! 

And some of the Black kids in school, who didn’t know how screwed-over Black people are until their teachers told them- they’re getting angry – over stuff that happened years and years ago!!

And that’s not all. 

I am sick and tired of hearing about Native Americans and how badly White Americans – the early settlers treated them. And how badly we treat them now. They teach that in history classes, too and have for years.

That made me feel guilty when I was in school, learning about the Trail of Tears and The Indian Removal Act and other things the my forbearers did to Native Americans. As I grew older I got over the guilt. But then my kids came home from school one day and told me about those things and more – and guess what? I started feeling guilty all over again!

That did it! It’s one thing for me to have to carry guilt because of some stupid history classes. No way my kids should have to. That’s just not right. Those things happened well before I or my kids were born. Why should we feel guilty? My great grandparents may have used the “N” word, but I don’t.

Then I started thinking about all the other ethnic groups in this country that make up what we call “the melting pot”. 

These are the dash Americans. You know: Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and the others, first from Europe, and more recently from Asia and Central and South America.

They make me feel guilty too. You know why? Because they have to struggle with language, customs, jobs, and most of the time, they’ll never get to where I and my kids are.  

It just doesn’t seem right. I work hard. I’m a good father. I take care of my kids, pay my taxes, and follow (most) rules. So how come I have to feel guilty? 

And you know what else? I can’t make fun of them any more. I can’t call them names.

Why should I feel guilty? Why should my kids? I didn’t do anything. It’s not fair. I wish someone would just stop teachers from teaching facts that make us feel guilty. 

Here’s the problem. History. We have stop teaching it as it happened. That’s just stupid. We have to teach it the way we wish it had happened. The way Stalin did. The way Kim Jun Un does. The way Putin does. Those guys didn’t feel any guilt, at all. 

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What’s Cool About Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is one of the few national holidays that isn’t a national holiday, like say Lincoln’s Birthday or George Washington’s birthday. Remember those holidays, before someone got efficient and combined celebrating them and all presidents as President’s Day?

Oops, they weren’t national holidays either. They were state holidays.

But there is, for example, a lot of agreement on the importance of Lincoln and Washington. For example, both have a lot of cities, counties, and streets named after them. And the Lincoln car. 

Car dealers don’t want to sell a car named after “Washington”.  With that name how could they, in good conscience, rip off their customers?  It’s hard enough selling a car named after Honest Abe.

Valentine, as a name, is very popular, too, although not as a destination. (Valentine, Nebraska?). 

It’s popular for Italians, especially Italian Americans. For example, there’s Valentino Rossi, the motorcycle legend, and Rodolfo Pietro Filiberto Raffaello Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla, better known as Rudolf Valentino, the world famous 1920’s Hollywood lover. 

Actually, a number of men named Valentine are credited with inspiring Valentine’s Day, all religious types, of course.

One Valentine was a priest in Rome in the year AD 269. Valentine of Terni became a bishop, and martyred in AD273. And I don’t know when, but another Valentine  was martyred in Africa a few millennia later. I guess it went with the name.

One of the most famous Valentines encouraged Roman soldiers and their lovers to marry, despite Emperor Claudius II forbidding it. The last thing Claudiius needed was lovesick and spent solders. They had wars to fight and people to enslave.  So he had Valentine beheaded.

Valentine wasn’t a fighter. Legend has it that while in jail before the beheading, he cut heart shapes out of parchment and gave them to some of the lovers. I guess that contributed to his becoming a Saint.

Like all of the old Valentines, none of this is really provable through history tomes, which is why the Catholic Church won’t designate Feb 14th as a religious holiday. (Of course, knowing what lovers do on Valentines Day and how strict the Church is about being married first and consummating second, I doubt verifying popular lore was the only reason).

But the lack of an official holiday, religious or secular, hasn’t stopped the popularity of February 14th. Smitten boys and girls, lusty men and women, as well as old farts short on hormones, we love sending symbols of love to each other on that cherished day.

According to The CandyStore.com, 58 million pounds of chocolate are bought in the seven days leading up to Feb.14. In 2020 the National Retail Foundation estimated Americans shelled out $27.4 billion for Valentine’s Day, an average of $196 per person.

No, I will not tell you what I spent. (I don’t want you to feel bad).

I don’t have statistics on how much Americans spend on Presidents Day. But I’ll bet it doesn’t come close to what we spend on Valentines Day.

Which is another way of saying we seem to value love more than presidents. 

Which is pretty cool, don’t you think?

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My kids know so little about me

Recently they have called to delicately offer advice about aging.

Because they are young and unwise, I react with patience, a sign, I might note, of maturity and wisdom.  

So, I decided to address each of their suggestions in writing, because they left the nest years ago and I don’t see them that much. Also because I won’t see their raised eyebrows.

“Hey Dad! How about walking a few miles everyday? Great exercise!” 

Really? I get in several miles a day walking around the house, up the stairs to the second floor bedroom and back down to the first floor, downstairs to the laundry and back up to the first floor looking for the glasses I put down… somewhere….or the iPhone which always rings when I’m out of the room… or the car keys…my morning coffee… the dog…

“Have you tried Wordle? Or Memozor!  Great for memory!”

I exercise my memory almost all day every day: remembering and retracing my moves over the last hour to find my glasses.. iPhone… car keys… computer… my morning coffee… your names (just kidding!)

“Or Sudoku for mental acuity!”

Not necessary. There are many mental acuity games for seniors, but the best place to keep your mind sharp is a daily dose of media – separating the fact from fiction in news, ads, cable, politics, just about everywhere. And, unlike games, which can get old, there’s always an abundance of new material.

“Are you a member of a gym?”

Don’t need it. Life keeps me strong: Unsticking the jelly jar that got stuck in the refrigerator… taking out the garbage… moving books from the couch to the coffee table so I can sit, then picking them up again so I can decide which one to read, then deciding to watch TV and read tomorrow and moving them to the table again so I can lie back and assume the TV position…walking the dog and holding onto the leash for dear life when he leaps in the air and barks at EVERY SINGLE DOG that goes by!

“Now Dad…remember what you taught us: patience is a sign of maturity…”

Really? Guess who listens to friends (old like me) tell jokes (even older) in painful detail…over and over and over…? 

“Yeah. That happens with old people. They can’t hear or remember well, so they repeat things.”

What I haven’t told them is I’ve been faking interest in conversations for years. You see, I need hearing aids, but hearing aids are for old people and I don’t want anyone to know I’m old. Especially my kids.

Lucky for me they haven’t picked up on it yet.

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Shocked! Shocked! A politician lied!

Here are just a few of the lies George Santos, newly elected Republican Congressman from New York, told voters about his qualifications for Congress:

He’s Jewish. (He’s Catholic…and “Jew-ish”-  not “Jewish”)

He went to the upper crust Horace Mann prep school in Manhattan. (Nope)

He attended Baruch College in NY (not for so much as an ethics class)

His mother came from Belgium (Close – Brazil)

She died on 9/11 (Actually Dec 23, 2016)

He worked for Citigroup (Never)

He worked for Goldman Sachs (Ditto) 

Everyone is shocked! Seriously!

Actually, seriously? And you know what else?  He apologized, not for his lies, but for his  “embellishments”.  

Remember Trump’s famous “I call it truthful hyperbole”.

Santos: “I ran for Congress because I thought Donald Trump, if he made it, it was time for everyone to have an opportunity.“

Of course, inspiration and achievement are different things. Even if Santos isn’t thrown out of Congress the day after he votes to make Kevin McCarthy Speaker of the 2023 House, I doubt he could match Trump’s 30,000 lies in 4 years. 

You see, lies are frequently illegal whereas embellishments or hyperbole are usually legal. Most people call them acts of enthusiasm. I call them “legal lies” – Disinformation, misleading, misinformation, untruths, misstatements, misrepresentation, etc… are just lies wrapped in multi-syllabic BS.

But before we all get ginned up about political lies, let’s remember: Republicans didn’t invent them. Neither did Democrats, although they’ve never had someone at the 30,000 level.

You know who does? Advertisers. If you were able to count the legal lies told by advertisers in four years, the number would dwarf the Don exponentially. My current favorite is Prevagen, the capsule that is touted to strengthen your memory. If you Google it, the actual proof is… well, it might not win Jeopardy for you.

My guess is the last really truthful advertising slogan was coined in 1941: “M&M’s melt in your mouth, not your hand” by advertising creative legend Roy S. Durstine. 

When Forest Mars (of Mars Candy) used the phrase in describing M&M’s to his advertising guy, Durstine (the D in BBDO), Durstine was smart enough to see the genius in that simple line. So have been generations of candy eaters whose hands remain free of chocolate smear, which might explain why it’s considered the number one advertising slogan today.

You know who specializes in legal lies? Lawyers. Think O.J Simpson. Think D. J. Trump.

And think real estate developers. Think Big Tech. Think Big Agriculture. Think… 

…Big Pharma. They convince all of us to walk into our doctors’ offices, the people with a minimum of 10 years of medical training, and tell them what medicine to give us.

…Insurance companies who take your premiums and then do their best not to pay your claims.

…Car dealers. – the American standard in legal lies.

Think of almost any area you can and you’ll find legal lies are the secret sauce that undermines faith in our institutions.

We can be shocked! shocked! at Trump’s fanboy, Santos. Or we can be shocked! shocked! that it doesn’t happen more often.

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The Other Great American Experiment

I look out the window. The last few yellow and orange and red and brown- even green – leaves flutter down, waving at me as they search for a place to land.  This fall they have been brilliant, especially in the early morning and late afternoon sun. 

Each spring I fertilize grass to perfection. Each summer I kill weeds and cut grass.  Each fall, nature nonchalantly covers my hard-earned grass with her leaves of many colors. She effortlessly merges them into one color – brown – and leaves them to nurture next years’ grass. I respond by raking them into piles to be hauled away by the town.  And wait for next spring when I will pay Lowes for bags of the same stuff I just tossed. 

Maybe, instead of sparring with nature,  I should just sit on a rocker with a glass of something and watch nature do its thing.

Speaking of politics, I don’t know about you, but I was pretty worried until last week. Portugal or Spain or Canada – anywhere out of reach of the MAGA cult – had become destinations of interest to me as I waited for the Red Wave. 

I know from history books, personal stories told by older generations, and current events, what can happen to a country run by a cult leader. From Italy’s Mussolini, to Hitler and Stalin,  and Russia’s Putin, authoritarians with charismatic personalities can demolish everything around them. 

They ferret out fear in their populations, fear of religion, skin color,  any “otherness” and fan it with big lies. Then they use that fear to cull the imperfect ones of a society, like weeds in the grass, until only perfect ones are left.

My worries faded with the red wave. 

Democracy can sure be a comfort. It is, by nature, inclusive, full of imperfect as well as perfect people. Its strength comes from the merging of those two, because the imperfect in one situation, can be perfect in another. Together, they always overcome all challenges. 

Well, until now.

In 1882, Emma Lazarus, wrote a poem to help raise money for the pedestal that would hold France’s 1884 gift to the US of the Statue of Liberty. It celebrated France’s recent freedom from monarchy and America’s recent ending of slavery.

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” 

Today we brag about this early tribute to “diversity” as the core of our Great American Experiment: we are a Democratic Republic based on the value of the individual. 

We pat ourselves on the back every day for being a nation of immigrants, for our diversity.

But we’re wrong. The diversity of the early settlers was hardly the diversity of today. It was diversity of White Christians only, who came to the new land to escape European Christianity and  practice their own version of Christianity. And, starting with the Salem Witch Trials, their version of Christianity quickly became as authoritarian and stifling as what they had escaped. Today Catholics and Evangelists dictate what a woman can do with her body – in some ways a dictate even more barbaric than the hangings in Salem.

But we’re also right. Our pride in the diversity we didn’t have is leading to a diversity we never expected. As a nation we are now trying to blend people from cultures and beliefs across the world: all colors, all religions from Christianity to Muslim to Hindu to the atheist down the street. 

Imagine a country where fear of others simply doesn’t exist. It has never been tried by any country. Never. 

We’re trying it, by connecting each other through democracy and the rule of law. It is quite an experiment.

It is not easy. The MAGA cult and others are fanning our fears – of immigrants escaping climate change and gangs, of Jews doing, well, just about anything. The Anti-MAGA’s point to the foreign names behind US success against COVID and the foreign accents of your local mechanic, teacher, or bank teller. People of different colors are appearing in everything from schools to TV shows to grocery stores to Boards of Directors. 

Are there challenges with this great experiment? Of course. Challenges are part any experiment.  

Maybe, instead of sparring with each other, we should just vote, then sit on a rocker with a glass of something and watch democracy do its thing.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)