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Take the Shot – or Not

This is a touchy subject, so Dear Journal, let’s keep this between you and me and my numerous blog readers.

I recently read an article written by Gene Weingarten, my favorite humor columnist at The Washington Post. He put a light spin on a serious subject, the COVID-19 inoculation process. As we know, health care workers, first responders, and people over 65 are among those who have first dibs on receiving the COVID vaccine. As a senior himself, he was indeed joking when he cited the priority arrangement as “some weird national system that seems to give preference to people who are already half dead.”

Before receiving his shot, Weingarten kidded about having “vaccine envy.” I do not. First of all, I hate getting shots. Just looking at a needle causes a full-blown anxiety attack. Secondly, I do not follow the crowd. If I do something, it’s because I want to do it, not because I feel persuaded by the CDC or universal acquiescence, or as some might call it, herd mentality. My rebuff was formed decades ago after reading Bad Blood by James H. Jones and studying other publications about the Tuskegee Study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service and the CDC. I was young and naïve when I learned that our government would betray the public trust by sponsoring something so hideous. Though I’ve since learned of other shady events that are said to have been orchestrated by the government throughout my lifetime, I have never been able to erase the mistrust planted by the Study. It settled in my mind the way a leech burrows under the skin and it stays there.

Confession aside, clarification required. I am not saying that I will never take the shot. That’s something else I’ve learned during my journey to seniority. Never say never. But I will say that you won’t see me cutting the line or concocting methods to cheat to get ahead of other people who fall into the most vulnerable category. I’ll wait.

If – I said IF – I get the shot, I’d prefer the Johnson & Johnson single dose. However, it is my understanding that people being vaccinated don’t get a preference. You take what they give you.

I have read reports of people having severe allergic reactions to the vaccine and of at least four people who died shortly after taking the shot, including a woman in California and a Florida doctor. As expected, the public was told that there is no apparent link to the shot and those deaths. That may be true. Maybe it was just their time. We are all going to go, sooner or later, one way or another.

Of course, numerous people have been inoculated or will be, who will suffer no ill effects at all. God bless ’em!

I’m not kidding when I say — I don’t do shots. I haven’t had a flu shot since I was in grade school; haven’t had the flu either. (She said knocking on wood.) My doctor’s suggestion that I get the pneumonia, shingles, and any other vaccines recommended for older adults has also fallen on deaf ears. Don’t think that I don’t know that I am as susceptible as anyone else to falling victim to any of the illnesses mentioned above and some that aren’t. I also know that getting coronavirus could land me in the hospital or worse yet, in the Big Sleep. A heart attack, aneurysm, car accident, even a nasty fall could also be fatal.

Anyone who takes the COVID vaccine, I say more power to them. Far be it for me to try and dissuade people from doing their thing. As I said, I never say never. I may take it one day.

Sorry to continue on what some would deem a morbid subject, but there is only one certainty in life, and it is death. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Longevity has its place.” Most people want to live as long as possible. Undoubtedly, some folks wish they could stay here indefinitely. The fact is, no matter how many precautions we take, whatever great physical shape we think we are in, or how many shots we take, it’s not our call. When the Almighty places a checkmark beside our name, calling foul or time out won’t mean a thing.

In the meantime, the best we can do is make the best of every moment we have. And if taking the shot gives reassurance, then, by all means, people take the shot.

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Warriors for Justice

The following post was written by Guest Author, David White.

Think 1955 in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. The murderers of Emmett Till are on trial, and everyone – everyone – black and white knows that the outcome of the case is a foregone conclusion. The prosecution team does the best they can. Till’s Uncle, poor Mose Wright, under immense life-threatening duress, identifies the culprits in front of the crowd in the courtroom, and the murderers still get off scot-free.

Fast forward to 2021, and put yourself in the House Managers’ position at the 2nd Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump. Imagine the demoralizing effect of knowing that you face a group of Senate jurors who are as intractable and oppositional as those in the Emmett Till case. The Managers did an excellent job. They certainly inspired me to want to do more to ensure that we preserve the ideals they so eloquently and fervently advocate.

Their opponent was the personification of autocratic nihilism, a man who would gleefully watch the destruction of the beautiful Capitol building, a structure erected with immeasurable toil, blood, and tears. A man who would encourage an insurrection because voters spoke and he could not find enough accomplices to help implement his devious plan to invalidate the election results and maintain power.

The word that perhaps best sums up what I witnessed from the former president’s defense would be “absurd.” Of course, when your client is the 45th president of the United States, you expect nothing other than absurdity.

Look at some of the imprudent and sometimes humourous outbursts from the trial (with a few personal interpolations).

“Mr. Chairman, the prosecution is being unfair, they’re bringing in evidence that implicates my client, and I feel that is prejudicial and so….uh, wrong”.

“Mr. Chairman, they’re using his words as reported by the media and as promulgated on social media platforms, and how can that be fair? After all, they’re only reports, and who would ever be prosecuted or found guilty on mere reports, even if they are his own words?”

“I declare ‘reports’ to be hearsay and inadmissible and totally unfair”.

“I say they should present their case without reports, without incendiary video, and simply go about fixing the pandemic and racial inequity.”

“Mr. Chairman, we reserve the right to imply that their presentation is fraudulent and hypocritical because we say it is.”

“And we reserve the right to present statements into evidence that are mere assertions and assert them as facts, because – the prosecution is partisan.”

“And we know they’re partisan because they identify as Democrats, except Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, the numerous other Republican congressmen and women who declared the trial valid along with the over 100 legal scholars of all political persuasions who determined my client was guilty of inciting insurrection. So, this whole trial should be declared a sham, and let’s all go home in the name of unity.”

“Oh, and by the way, the videos they showed with my client appearing to egg on those pre-meditated incursionists didn’t tell the whole story. They forgot the part, somewhere after about the tenth time he said fight, that he dropped in the word peacefully in a totally non-sarcastic manner. As we know, my client does not have a sarcastic, insincere bone in his body.”

“Since they can doctor up videos let me show you some totally out-of-context videos, for several minutes, of numerous Democrats, many of them in this chamber at this time, using the word ‘fight,’ which of course I will present in a nonpartisan manner because we on this side don’t believe this should be a partisan matter.”

“And while I’m at it, let me show some gratuitous videos of violent street incidences involving a lot of people of diversity with the implication that these are Black Lives Matter and Antifa members; not Trumpers acting violently, though not put in any contextual framework because – somehow this is really a trial about Antifa and BLM, and we really shouldn’t be partisan.”

“So, in conclusion, Mr. Chairman what I’m saying is, you can’t find that my client, who called those well-known violent thugs, racists, anti-semites and kooky conspiracy theorists to the Capitol for a ‘wild’ day as Congress was certifying the election that he legitimately loss, but which we don’t have to admit, guilty of incitement, just because he sent them there to fight like ‘you know what’  or they would lose their country.”

“Oh, one more thing, can you call a recess so that I can consult with the jurors as to how to go about assuring my client’s acquittal?”

I brought up the Till case to push back on this notion that I’ve been hearing from pundits that I generally respect, like Ari Melber and Joy Reid, that the House Managers were derelict by not demanding witnesses to “look those jurors in the eye” and tell them about the pain and suffering they’ve endured. Presenting witnesses may have produced more tearjerking drama, but in my opinion, it would not have brought more conviction votes from naysaying Senators who had already – over three days – seen proof of criminal acts.

Just as an affidavit, handwritten by Emmett Till and certified by God, would have been rejected by the Mississippi court, no truth or proof that anyone else could have provided in that Impeachment Trial would have swayed any of the Trump loyalists.  Furthermore, the trial would have descended further into their nihilistic trap and turned into a comedy of errors.

Lawyers for the Defense:  “Mr. Chairman, if they call this witness, I demand that Kamala Harris be called…VP Harris, are you now or have you ever been a member or associate of Antifa or BLM?”

House Managers: “Objection.”

Lawyers for the Defense:  “You can’t object. This isn’t a real court of law, and the chairman is not a real judge. Mr. Chairman, they are being unfair in not allowing me to question my witness as I see fit.” (Moments later) “The defense now calls Rep. Maxine Waters to the stand.”

Back to critiquing the trial, I loved how Chaplain Barry Black designed his opening prayer to touch the conscience of anyone who was listening who had a conscience. He was precise about what the trial was supposed to be about (truth over falsehood, courage over cowardice). And I imagined his majestic voice and prayer emanating from above, delivering a message about good battling evil, and lies versus truth to souls that need saving.

House Managers Jamie Raskin, Joe Neguse, and Stacey Plaskett’s presentations were uplifting, and I was especially impressed by their impassioned, principled exhortations to righteousness. Raskin’s citings of Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and the Bible were also profoundly inspiring.

Although most Republicans clung to their false prophet, there were some courageous living testimonies on that side, too. Burr, Romney, Cassidy, Murkowski, Collins, Sasse, and Toomey sought and will find salvation in the truth.

Following the Emmett Till trial, Wright and the two other black men who testified against the killers had to relocate away from Mississippi. The fate of the courageous seven Senators in the 2nd Impeachment Trial, along with the previously insufferable Liz Cheney, may not cause them to be run out of town; still, it is not unreasonable to think that a megalomaniacal sociopath and his disciples will try to punish them in every way possible. They are to be commended for their courage.

The “fight” for justice continues, and righteous warriors carry on.

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Contemplating Normalcy

Today I should be happy. Since I wrote my last post, the orange man lost his job. It was the first time I’ve seen people after a presidential election rejoicing over the defeated incumbent by dancing in the streets. In addition to the national celebration, folks in places worldwide joined enlightened Americans in jubilation. After four years of what many of us considered purgatory, we went – as my cousin Anita cleverly expressed it – from “hell to hallelujah.”

In a couple of months – 62 days to be exact – let’s hope that things will return to normal. WAIT a minute! There is that word – normal. It’s a red flag pop up for me. I don’t like using the word, but sometimes it slips into my vocabulary surreptitiously. There is nothing normal about normal; even the definition is complicated. In my opinion, the word should be banned from the English language.

Speaking of opinion, I am reminded of a Washington Post article where esteemed author and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates said, “The need to have an opinion on everything at every moment corrupts thinking.”

Coates may be right. However, I don’t have an opinion on everything (Surprised?), but I have plenty to say about normal. If the word surfaces in my mind while I’m composing something or slides off of my tongue during a conversation – my awareness screeches to a halt like tires on asphalt.

Normalcy is like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder. What some people consider normal, others do not. Opinions differ. Sometimes I want to climb up on the rooftop and scream, “Somebody tell me what is normal!” And someone is sure to point to my dark silhouette against the light blue sky and say, “That’s not normal behavior.” Do you see what I mean?

The concept of normalcy is complicated. We all have different ideas and viewpoints on what we consider normal.

Five will get you ten that if a news reporter randomly stopped adults on the street and asked them to define normal, even the most intelligent ones might rack their brain to come up with a sensible answer. Some might say that normal is an acceptance of societal and cultural standards defined by the general public. Others might say that normal means average and widely accepted. A smart-aleck (sometimes spelled ass) might say that “Normal is whatever I say it is.”

The smark-aleck’s answer may not be too far from the truth. We live in an anything-goes society where some people believe that normal is overrated; others will tell you that there is no such thing as normal.

Carolyn Gold Heilbrun, an American academic and author of numerous books, was said to have strong opinions on many things and was considered brilliant by those who knew her. Her friend Judith Resnik, a Yale Law professor, described Heilbrun as “a person who was inventive and energetic and gutsy.” Heilbrun, wife, and mother of three grown children, once said, “Normal is absolutely my least favorite word.” On October 9, 2003, the septuagenarian who had no known physical or mental ailments committed suicide. Do you think that what she did was normal?

I don’t know how many times I have heard people say things like, “Normal people don’t act like that.” “There is no such thing anymore as a normal day.” And here’s my favorite, when my doctor says to me that something is “normal for your age,” I bite my tongue to keep from telling him, “Dying will also be normal for my age at some point.”

Wry humor aside, just as many of us grown folks believe we have a handle on the old normal, a paradigm shift in the social order propels us into a so-called new norm.

I wish that we could all get on the same page and determine a precise definition of normal.

I would close this entry with a traditional greeting, “Have a good day.” But as sure as I do some cynic would ask, “How would you define a good day?” That would be easier for me than defining normalcy. But everything is relative.

 

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Soul-Searching with a Cup of Java

It’s overcast outside. Grey clouds are threatening a downpour at any moment. On autumn days like this one, I like to put on some easy-listening music, grab a cup of coffee and sit and think.

I call it quiet introspection.

People who know me say that I am transparent. I admit that I am also opinionated. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Holding my tongue not only belies who I am; it agitates me like an itch that gets worse the more I scratch it. There are some things – not many – that I will not speak openly about unless I am asked, and my answer may be brief but candid. Depending on the topic, my advice is if you are not prepared to hear the answer, then don’t ask the question. It’s a play on the axiom, “Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it.”

Someone else’s viewpoint about an issue is their opinion, and mine is mine. They may argue that my perspective is wrong, but I will not change my mind to appease them. By the same token, if someone disagrees with me, I won’t try to change their mind, but I will let them know that I feel differently.  Everyone has an opinion (though, but some folks would never admit to it). The best thing for strengthening an opinion is having reliable information to support your position. For instance, if I say that over half of the people in this country drink coffee every day, that is my opinion. If I say that a Reuters study shows that 64 percent drink it daily, I’ve backed up my opinion with data provided by a verifiable source.

I try to be open-minded to suspend judgment and to accept without condemnation things with which I don’t entirely agree. I am no more perfect than the next person, and I wouldn’t think of casting the first stone. But what I am not – is a hypocrite.

This nonconformist does not follow the herd. I will not pretend to believe that day is night, left is right, and what I perceive to be wrong is right just because society may dictate it or because everybody else thinks it’s okay. Nevertheless, my doctrine is simple – live and let live.

My mother was dutifully religious. I consider myself more spiritual than religious, but the disadvantage of being a child imbued with a strict religious upbringing is that it sticks with you through adulthood. Mother has been dead for six years; however, in my mind, I still hear her quoting Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

I don’t know how many times I heard her say that when I was growing up.

Sometimes we deviate. That doesn’t mean that we forgot the lessons. God bestowed us with free will, and fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we make a conscious choice to choose the other of the two roads in our path instead of the trail we were taught to follow.

Since the scriptures prophesize that we “all have sinned,” sometimes I think that trying to walk a righteous path is futile. If I could say that to mother now, she would immediately remind me that the Bible also says that each of us will be judged according to our deeds.

So, I reiterate that I will live and let live. But I refuse to be fake. Sometimes even when I go along to get along, I feel like a fraud. Anyone who wants me to accept them for who they are must, in turn, take me for who I am. Because we disagree doesn’t mean that we have to be nasty about it. It merely means that we have a different point of view.

Indian philosopher Krishnamurti said, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” I haven’t reached that peak. Maybe I never will. But I don’t worry about it, because I have plenty of company on the concourse level.

It takes an extraordinary person to look at something – anything – in a completely neutral manner. Can someone be open-minded and critical at the same time? Is it feasible to think that even the smartest person can observe something and not draw a conclusion? I wonder. Because someone doesn’t publicly express an opinion, but that doesn’t mean that he or she has not formed one?

There is nothing like relaxing to some easy-listening music, a cup of coffee, and quiet introspection – in my opinion.

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Getting It Off My Chest

Have you ever had something bother you so much for so long that you finally decide to get it off your chest? Although I’ve been retired from the workforce for years, this letter is one that I’ve wanted to write ever since I left corporate America.

I’m doing it now because recent news stories concerning systemic racism have resurrected suppressed feelings. Although throughout my working years, my experiences in the workplace were overall pleasant, and I had an excellent working relationship with the majority of my managers, there were a few exceptions. There were a couple of places I worked where the racism of the person for whom I worked was as evident as a massive zit on the nose.

One manager was a pretentious, conniving woman. She reminded me of the lead character in the film The Devil Wears Prada. The other was a short, balding, overweight man who reminded me of the Pillsbury Doughboy. It is to him that I address this letter.

Greetings You,

I know that it is customary to include dear in the salutation of a letter, but there is nothing dear to me about you.

Years ago, for several months too long, I worked indirectly for you, under the supervision of an upstanding man who was everything that you were not. He was kind-hearted, polite—a gentleman. I often felt sorry for my boss because you came to be his boss as an accident of fate.

Before your arrival, we had a well-run, pleasant office. To my knowledge, there was little or no office drama or backstabbing among the staff members. If there was, I never saw it. And then you arrived on the scene. It wasn’t long before the milieu of the office changed, for worse. Perhaps you fooled some of the other employees and associates, but you didn’t fool me. You soon showed who and what you are.

At first, I tried hard to get along with you, but my effort didn’t last long. I am not easily fooled by covert racists. Closet racists – as I call people like you – are much more dangerous than apparent racists who do not attempt to conceal who they are. And you, in my opinion, were and may still be, a closet racist.

For whatever reason, you never approached me directly with your concocted critiques. You assigned others to do your dirty work for you. Did you think that I did not know the source of sudden criticisms that did not begin occurring until after you arrived? I treated you with respect as I did everyone else in the office, but because I did not kowtow to you as some did, I think you perceived that I did not fear you. You were right. I didn’t. My mother raised us to be decent, friendly, respectful people, but not bootlickers.

The tension between you and I got so bad sometimes that I imagine that when you looked in my eyes, you saw the stereotypical angry black woman (I doubt if anyone else did. No one else ever brought her out.) If that is what you perceived, then we are on equal footing, because whenever I looked at you, I saw Bull Conner, David Duke, and a white robe wearing, pointed hood, Grand Dragon. Not only did I learn about snide remarks that you made about some other black people in the office, I also noticed that you treated black staff members differently. Your racism may not have been evident to all, but it was to me. Sometimes I think you had every staff member there – black and white – shivering in their boots for fear that one misstep with you and they’d risk losing their job, but I did not fear you. Some people have a higher tolerance for racists than I do.

The thing about closet racists is that they think that they are good at concealing their hatred. It would take an apocalyptic change to salvage people like you. You may doubt it, but I was as happy when I left there as you were to see me go.

Understandably, a lot of people remain silent about racism in the workplace because they value their jobs. If I were not happily retired, I might maintain my silence, too. After all these years since I left corporate America, systemic racism still exists, and people like you are still the head fish.

Today’s younger generations are the civil rights era soldiers reincarnated; only they are more outspoken. They are less timid, stronger, stout-hearted, resilient, challenging, and if necessary – although I believe the majority are peaceful protesters against the system – they will fight back. I have seen on tee shirts worn by many young people the ominous statement, “We are not our grandparents ….” What’s more, other people, brown and white, even your children and grandchildren, are allies. They cannot purify racists, but they can and are fighting systemic racism along with the old soldiers who are still standing.

Well, I’m glad I finally got that off my chest.

Sincerely,

Your nemesis.

One more thing, have you ever heard Sam Cook sing A Change is Gonna Come? Take a listen, watch the video, and think about it. Significant change may not come in my lifetime or yours, but it’s coming.

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