Browsing Category The Way I See It

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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Booking the Book Deal: First You Have to Write It

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things.” Words of wisdom from award-winning horror genre author Stephen King

The first book I wrote was for my mother. I took my time researching and writing it and gave mother some of the first draft’s initial chapters to read. Several months later, we learned that she was terminally ill. I rushed to complete the book, but death won the race. Mother died 11 months before Legacy was published.

Not long ago, I reread the book and discovered what I perceived as some editorial shortcomings. The downside of being a perfectionist is that you want everything you produce to be flawless. There are times when I contemplate updating the book, but then I imagine mother reiterating what she used to say often throughout her life, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

I’ve been working on my second book for a while. But procrastination is my nemesis. I can create a blog post in a few hours, but writing a book is ten times more challenging, as anyone who has attempted it knows. As passionate as I am about writing, it is a time-consuming and tedious process, and I have to be in a creative frame of mind to tackle it.

I was a bookworm long before I learned Stephen Kings’ advice about reading to improve writing. However, unless you are fortunate, like some renowned authors, to have a secluded retreat where you go to ply your trade, your writing time could be hindered, as mine often is, by constant interruptions. And interruptions aside when it comes to writing books, time is not our friend.

For instance, I am currently reading The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X. It is a fantastic five-star worthy publication. It clears up factual disputes and provides the reader with significantly more details about Malcolm X than the autobiography. The author, Les Payne, worked on The Dead Are Arising for 28 years. Sadly, in 2018, he died of a heart attack before he could finish the final draft. His daughter Tamara Payne, her dad’s research assistant, completed the book with their editor Robert Weil’s help. It was published last year.

Speaking of time, who hasn’t read The Catcher in the Rye? J.D. Salinger took ten years to finish it.

Writing her book was also a decade-long journey for Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.

Alex Haley co-authored The Autobiography of Malcolm X and later wrote the acclaimed, 704-page Roots. Factoring in research time and intercontinental travel, it took Haley twelve years to write that book. And boy! It paid off in numerous ways.

Aware of the truth that time waits for no man (or woman), it is inspiring to know that some people don’t hit their literary stride until they are senior citizens.

J. R. R Tolkien took 16 years to finish The Lord of the Rings. He was 63 years old when the book was published.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Frank McCourt, was 66 when he wrote his bestselling memoir Angela’s Ashes.

And the oldest debut novelist on record award goes to Lorna Page. She was 93 years old when her first novel A Dangerous Weakness, was published.

The time it takes to write a book depends on many things, the book’s length and genre, the period spent doing research, and the author’s day-to-day writing routine.

Occasionally, one of my friends will ask my advice on how to publish their book. Here is my two-minute rudimentary pitch.

There are two methods of getting your book in print: self-publishing or traditional publishing.

Self-publish, and you maintain ownership of your book and can keep much of the profits. However, self-publishing necessitates that you do a lot of leg work after writing your book. That means everything from producing a professional product (editing, cover, format, etc.) to marketing it. If you have money to spare, you can pay professionals to help with those things.

Traditional publishing is more costly than self-publishing. It involves hiring a literary agent. The agent will help you put together query letters, a book proposal, a contract, a  marketing plan, book tours. He or she will be your overall pitch person. Literary agents charge a commission (about 15%) on any money that you earn. For every amount they get you in advances or royalties, speaking engagements, or other perks, they will take their cut. They will handle the heavy lifting. You may get an advance, but you’ll give up rights to your book, and everybody makes money off of it.

When I self-published my book, I had to learn the ropes through trial and error. I am still learning, but this time I am a little bit wiser.

Unless you have name recognition (say Terry McMillian or Walter Mosley), self-publishing is the way to go. The investment in self-publishing could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. How much you want to spend on your book is your call. For Legacy, I hired a fantastic copy editor before sending my book to a premier (POD) print-on-demand service for self-publishing authors. Comparing the royalties earned from self-publishing to traditional publishing could be like equating a child’s piggy bank filled with pennies to a five-gallon jug filled with quarters and greenbacks. But everything is relative.

With determination, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, any well-written book could mean the difference between a mediocre publication and a Pulitzer Prize-winner. There will be time for learning the ropes of getting your book published, but first, you have to write it.

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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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