Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017--the year that was

I wish I had something poignant (or happy) to say about 2017, the year that was. But I really cannot think of much that speaks kindly to the days that passed. 

This year gave us Donald Trump (I still refuse to call him by the title he thinks he earned). He is an utter embarrassment to our nation every single day, and his GOP has proven to be as cruel and heartless as we all feared they would be if ever given the key to both houses and the White House. 

I dread watching the daily news fearful of what he has done "this time."

One bright spot in our government has been the courts which have steadfastly provided a beacon of hope against many of the draconian exercises the Donald has attempted to foist upon us.

Earlier this year the Donald tried to forbid transgender people from serving in our military. The courts said, "now, just wait one damn minute,' and even better,  the Pentagon demurred, basically telling Mr. Trump to go screw himself, and starting next week, the military will permit openly transgender citizens to enlist--much to the consternation of the bigot sitting in the Oval Office.

Robert Mueller has been another bright spot in this past year. He has been whittling away to make the case that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence--nay, steal the 2016 presidential election.

2018 brings us midterm elections and it is my hope that the Democrats will be able to capitalize on a number of incredibly unpopular legislative actions the GOP has unleashed upon the poor and the middle class. Karma, baby!

On a more personal note, this year has been equally brutal. My son's job ended two days ago and one of my closest, dearest friends lost her job earlier this month. I honestly do not understand why a company would fire someone within eyesight of the Christmas holiday. 

Also earlier this month, some Grinch came to my home in the dark of night and cut down and stole a fir tree that my son and I planted 20 years ago. I don't understand how someone could do something so brazen, so wrong.

My neighborhood has had its share of ups and downs over the course of the 22 years (in May, that is) since I moved here.

I have long resisted the urge to escape. It irks me to no end that I am even considering this. I own my home outright, and to be faced with the prospect of having a house payment again, frankly, makes me ill. AND at this point in life, quite impossible.

The true bright spot for this year has been my family... my parents' health has been relatively good for someone in their mid-70s. My friends (who I find are more my family than blood) constantly give me the support and laughter needed to make life more than just existing. I honestly cannot imagine life without any of them.

This year was a milestone of sorts. For my birthday this year, I celebrated the last year of my fifth decade. I honestly don't know what 60 is supposed to feel like, but all I know is don't feel 60. I think the young'ns I work with on my job keeps me on my toes. My dearest and closest friends and my brother Bryan and sister-in-law attended a small celebration at one of my favorite downtown haunts and it was a blast.

So, with this year to be a mere bygone in a few more hours, I want to remain guardedly optimistic. I continue to hope for changes for our nation and also those of a more personal nature. 

I bid 2017 a less than fond farewell. If I were a praying man--and I am not--I would wish that the year ahead smiles favorably on us all.

Instead, I believe the changes we need and that I want (and also need) require we all roll up our sleeves and get down to it.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Remember the ghosts of Christmas past

One of the joys of Christmas for me, when I was younger (pre-27), was the Christmas tree my Dad erected in our home every year.

Dad ventured into the cold to scope out a tree and cut it down himself. Funny thing is, and this was a point of humor for my brothers and sister and me, Dad all too often brought home a tree that might have looked better had it remained in the wild among its sister trees.

One year, the tree stood in the corner (barely) in the living room and it had to be secured to the wall from the two walls lest if tumble over. Another year, the short squat tree would not stand on its own so we leaned it against the wall. 

Good thing Dad was a good sport because we had some good laughs with this annual tradition.

No matter the tree, however, it was decorated with love and that is really what matters. Not the gifts that sat beneath it but when we gathered on Christmas Eve to be together, that was the joy of Christmas.

I haven't put a tree up in more than 15 years; I kinda miss enjoying Christmas.

I definitely miss my Dad.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A lost opportunity

I am kicking myself over a lost opportunity tonight. While I was standing in line for Veteran's Day dinner, I turned and noticed the elderly man standing behind me. I asked if he served in Korea or in World War II. He told me he served in World War II.

As we waited, I noticed he stood there with his discharge papers in hand (in case the restaurant needed proof he was a vet). As we chatted, I found out he joined the U.S. Navy in 1944. "I graduated from high school on one day and I was in the Navy the next," he told me.

He served on a small boat with a crew of 13 men in the Pacific theater. I would have loved to have heard more about his service.

As we went our separate ways, I, too late, realized he was there alone. I am now kicking myself that I didn't invite him to join me as we dined. Dammit all to hell!

(I won't make that mistake again, if the opportunity were to arise)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Octogenarian Mappin

On this day in 1937, Douglas Robert Mappin, my father, was born to Robert and Valda Mappin.

When I was younger, I always wondered why Dad was an only child; I didn't learn this detail until just a few years back, but Grandad and Grandma considered Dad their "miracle child" as they had been trying to conceive for quite some time and were almost ready to give up on ever having children.

In a day when home births were not all that unusual, Dad came into this world on the family kitchen table in their Royal Center, Indiana home. It was the only home Dad ever knew until he graduated from Royal Center High School in 1955.

Dad was well loved by his neighbors and his parent's friends. When I was a child, being the first born, I often stayed with my Grandma so that she would not be so all alone and the neighbors often regaled me stories of Dad growing up.

Even though I knew a lot about him, it still never seems to be enough. Dad was active in high school like so many young men, although I don't think Dad considered himself much of an athlete, like so many before him, Dad joined the Army not long after high school... and he later joined the Indiana National Guard.

He met my Mom at a local drugstore in Logansport, Indiana, and they married in October 1956.

If I could impart to you one thing it would be this: When you are young, don't be so self-absorbed with your own lives that you don't ask lots of questions about your family background. My Dad died young and I, to this day, wish I had asked him more about his parents. I know very little about my Grandad, sadly.

I think my Dad felt the pangs of being an only child... or maybe it was just the way things were back in the late 50s and early 60s.... Dad and my Mom had four kids, three boys, and one girl.

Things I remember: Dad yanking me by my arm and pulling me out of his Chevy II when I, my sister Teresa and really young brother Bryan snuck out of the house to smoke a cigarette one early Sunday morning. I can imagine Dad looked out of the living room window and saw his car's passenger cab enshrouded in a white cloud of smoke before tearing out of the house to find us in there. Yes, I got my bottom tanned. And yes, I remember it still.

When President Kennedy was assassinated, I remember how somber how our house was. Dad was a lifelong Democrat (like his Dad and Grandad before him). Dad (and Mom too) made sure that we kids knew the significance of what was going on.

I remember Dad teaching me to put models together. We shared a number of hobbies. I mentioned this the other night, but I recall one night in 1964 while watching "The Outer Limits," being so scared that I hid between Dad's legs. My hero!

Skipping ahead, after Mom and Dad divorced in 1966, we four kids, naturally saw less of our Dad. He did his best to see us as well as include our lives with his new wife Wanda, and as the years passed, four more brothers.

When I decided to go to college, I called him to let him know my decision. When I saw him later that week he and I went out for a beer and he told me with four boys still at home he would not be able to provide any financial support for my education. I knew that bothered him so I quickly let him know that I, being out of high school for nine years at that point, had no expectation that he owed me that. But I was touched by his support.

When I was a (first semester) freshman in college, now 27 years old (and Dad 47), he had a heart attack. It was decided that he would need to undergo a quadruple heart bypass and unfortunately his doctors misjudged Dad's condition. If we had only known they (not he) were not up to that challenge we would have acted differently and gone to a different hospital.

On a personal level, Dad and I had unfinished business when he passed. Dad didn't know me the way I would have liked. Additionally, Dad never lived to see any of his Grandkids, except my son Wes. 
There are so many more memories of Dad but needless to say I, and my siblings, all feel robbed that he left us so young. I do not think it farfetched to say I have 'father issues' that can never be resolved--at least not in life.

Dad was our rock, but to use an old cliche, no man is an island. I wish my younger brothers had had more time with Dad. My brothers Scott and Matt--as well as my son--were too young to have many memories of him.

Earlier this week, my friend Tom, after the death of his sister, made an observation that I find myself in agreement. Take lots of pictures of your family members. Lots. I have very few photos of Dad. My brothers do have more (and I need to get with them to scan them and add to my meager collection).

Photos or not, Dad is in my head, and in my heart... always.

When I served in Afghanistan in 2008, Rochester journalist Ann Allen interviewed me (via the internet) for my childhood hometown newspaper, the Rochester Sentinel. One of the letters to the editor said, "my Dad would be proud and that I sounded JUST like him."

I will be honest here, I cried when I read that letter. Every son, I think, always wants to hear those words. He was and is my hero.

Dad would be 80 years old today. I know I speak for my siblings when I say how much we miss you.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lois Schreckengost

In my youth, I married my high school sweetheart. We both were young and pretty naive. Today is my late Mother-in-Law's birthday. Lois Schreckengost was a great Mom and Mother-in-Law. I was the son she and Abe, her husband, never had. She was a good woman. She would give you the shirt (or blouse) off her back for anyone in need.

Lois led a very harsh life and she suffered greatly for it in her later years. Lois was stricken with a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis. When I met her in 1974, her spine was beginning to curve and because of it, she was always in a great deal of pain. By the time she passed, the curvature of her spine was quite pronounced.

I have quite fond memories of her. She had some of the oddest quirks, and Phyllis (her sole daughter and my wife), Abe, myself and later my son Wes, loved taking advantage of them. Sweet torment might seem a harsh word, but she also gave as good as she got.

Lois could not watch the old TV show 'Bewitched' without going into a flurry of facial tics every time Samantha twitch her nose. We learned to make certain faces that would launch her tics. She would have to cover her eyes to avoid them.

Lois had a penchant that her house would be spotless, but because of her illness, she relied on others to do this. One of our favorite tricks involved her pet Chihuahua. One day Phyllis and I were out shopping and at a local Spencer's gift we found a pile of fake doggie doo. We arranged (with Abe's help) to place the fake pile somewhere she was sure to find it. She did... and initially, she lost it until we confessed.

In payback, one day Lois was sitting in her chair when she jumped at me and informed me, "I am going to kiss you." I ran down the hall to their bathroom and locked myself in.

Next thing I knew, she, Phyllis and Abe stood outside the door dying with laughter. I asked what was so funny. Lois invited me to come out of the bathroom. I refused. Then Phyllis and Abe told me to come out. When I tried, I discovered I was locked in and the doorknob fell off. I was trapped.... and I had been had!

One of the best things about Lois was the love she had for our son. She adored Wes (she quite called him Adam, Wes' middle name). She lived for Wes and she spoiled him. Now mind you, Wes probably doesn't remember much about her. He was, after all, very young. 

But if there was one word that described her, it was 'Grandma.' She loved being his Grandma!

Lois was his babysitter for the last two years of her life. One cold winter's morning, their mobile home's furnace caught fire and Wes, even as a four-year old made sure they both got safely out before the flames spread. He loved his na-na and she, him!

She loved her daughter and her husband and while there were times she was very difficult to be around, we all knew it was her pain that was speaking, not her.

When Lois died in 1981, our family doctor told us she would never have lived as long as she had if not for her love and devotion to Wes.

Anyhow, today is her birthday. She would have been 80 years old today. I think of her often and especially today, on her day. I don't have any photos of Lois but I can see her as clearly today as if she were standing here beside me.

Lois, I think of you today with fondness and with love.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jeffty is Five

I am currently reading Harlan Ellison's anthology "Shatterday." I have to give a shoutout to his astoundingly moving, nostalgic and disturbing fantasy short story 'Jeffty Was Five.'

In the opening pages, the narrator and Jeff Kinzer, known fondly as Jeffty, are five-year old boys and best friends.

In the opening pages, the narrator's parents are hit upon hard times and it is decided to send him off to live with a well-to-do aunt. When he returns home, he is seven. Jeffty is five.

Jeffty is a special child. He is not developmentally delayed, not mentally challenged... he is just five and his world time seems to have stood still.

When the narrator is ten, he is sent to military school and he returns at age 14. Jeffty is five.

By tale's end, the narrator is well into adulthood while Jeffty remains five.

Ellison's tale won the prestigious Hugo Award in 1978 for best short story. In an online poll for Locus magazine, 'Jeffty is Five' was voted as the best short story of all time. Mighty high praise, huh?

I will tell you this is an incredibly moving story. And I will not lie; a great deal of mystery and sadness infuses 'Jeffty is Five.'

Through the years. a great deal has been made about how moving Ellison's "Star Trek" story "The City on the Edge of Forever" is. 'Jeffty is Five,' in my opinion, is far more moving.

Through the years. a great deal has been made about how moving Ellison's "Star Trek" story "The City on the Edge of Forever" is. 'Jeffty is Five,' in my opinion, is far more moving.


As a side note, while doing research I learned the story was partially inspired by a conversation Ellison overheard at a party at the home of actor Walter Koenig (best known as Lt. Pavel Chekov).

"How is Jeff?"
"Jeff is fine. He's always fine."
Ellison perceived this as "Jeff is five, he's always five." Ellison then based Jeffty's character on Joshua Andrew Koenig, Koenig's son.

I cannot recommend this story enough. Seek it out if you can, I think you will find it as moving as I.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Kevin Spacey, gay pariah?

To say I am disappointed in Kevin Spacey would be an understatement. Damned angry would be more appropriate. Actor Anthony Rapp's bombshell announcement yesterday certainly raised eyebrows everywhere in the gay community.

Why? It's been a pretty open secret for decades that Spacey has played for our team even if he has refused to acknowledge it. He has, for years when asked if he was gay, hemmed and hawed saying he has known the love of men and women.

Fine, his own sexuality is his own business.

My disappointment runs double. Yes, yesterday Spacey publicly apologized for his transgression--those he said he does not remember doing. And then today, Spacey publicly came out as a gay man. My question is this: Why did it take allegations of sexual misconduct to force him to come clean?

Yes, I am disappointed that he hit on a (then) 14-year old Rapp. Creepy, yes, and depending on what occurred, criminal even. If the allegations are true, and it seems they are, I am also disappointed that Spacey lacked the character to know better--drunk or not, as he claimed--to come unto a minor.

Lastly, in the past, the gay community has been ecstatic to welcome celebrities into the family, if you will. But why in the hell would we have any desire to accept Spacey while he has this hanging over his head?

I can just hear Pat Robertson, all giddy saying, "see, I told you so!" Every fundie out there who has claimed gays cannot be trusted around our kids have now a very visible face to use as ammunition against us.

I wish there could have been a way this news could have broken more quietly, but the current "me too" movement has made that harder, Our community has always been quick to point out that unhealthy sexual relationships between adults and minors have statistically rested on the shoulders of the heterosexual community, not ours. 

And that still is true. 

Spacey has made that a little harder to argue. He's just one man, but it takes just one to taint the argument for those looking with a closed mind.

But, I guess if we're going to be true to our convictions, we must own up to our own as well, yet
 I am also wont to sweep such allegations under the rug. To end these kinds of behaviors, we must, as Rapp said today, "shine a light on the problem." 

Dammit, I hate having ethics sometimes--and damn you, Kevin Spacey.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Star Trek grows up

So, 'Star Trek - Discovery's' episode "Choose Your Pain" crossed two thresholds last night. One, not exactly welcome and the other, a "it's about time!" historic moment.

The first, I alluded to last night. Cadet Tilly unleashed the f-bomb. If that wasn't enough. Lt Paul Stamet did so as well.

No judgment from me. It would be disingenuous for any of us to pretend we've never said it ourselves. Hell, I am a Sailor; you've surely heard the adage "cuss like a Sailor." In the past, 'Battlestar Galactica' got around it by saying 'frak.' But let's be serious, we ALL knew what they meant.

Some Star Trek fans have expressed their displeasure about the new series (for a variety of reasons). I will be the first to admit 'Discovery' is "not your father's 'Star Trek." In my opinion, this is a good thing.

By the time that 'Star Trek - Enterprise' met its untimely and unwarranted cancellation a lot of Trekkers (or if you prefer Trekkies) seemed to have grown weary of a continued presences of TREK for 18 years non-stop. Today's TREK is a bit more brusk, a bit darker, and now, a bit more adult.

The second threshold was one that 'Star Trek' has struggled with for a least three decades. In the 1980s, Gene Roddenberry himself promised that 'Star Trek's' inclusivity meant everybody, yet for gay Trekkers that promise seemed pretty hollow.

At a 'Star Trek' convention, Roddenberry promised fans that yes, gay people are valued members of the Federation and serving in Star Fleet.

Rick Berman, producer of the series, and torchbearer after Roddenberry's death in 1992 pretty much refused to let that promise see the light of day.

In 1991, 'Star Trek - The Next Generation' aired "The Host." In it, Dr. Crusher fell in love with Odon, a Trill mediator. In this story, we are 1) introduced to the Trill race and 2) learn they are a symbiotic race where the body plays host to sentient intelligence that is transplanted from one host to the next. When Odon, the host's body is damaged, an emergency transplant is performed to save the Trill symbiot.

Riker acts as a temporary host, but when a "permanent" host is delivered, the Trill host is a female, and this is a bridge that Dr. Crusher could not cross. No judgment here. A person is who they are, something Crusher rightly points out.

In subsequent years, TREK flirted with gay themes, always as a metaphor. They almost, almost, crossed the bridge in a DS9 episode involving Lt. Cmdr Jadzia Dax. BUT we have never seen an actual gay human on Star Trek. That is, not until last night.

Berman was always quick to point out that the TNG episode "The Outcast" was really about homosexuality. Thing is, we fans did not want a metaphor. We wanted TREK to boldly go.

Even we gay fans have wondered how to broach the subject and not do it in a way that smacked of tokenism. David Gerrold, one of my favorite authors, wrote an unproduced (at least on the "official" show) script entitled "Blood and Fire" that Roddenberry promised would be filmed. When Roddenberry died, Gerrold and his script found themselves "handed a hat" and walked unceremoniously out the door, not to return to the series again.

"Blood and Fire" included a gay couple.

Last night, we saw Lt. Paul Stamets and his mate Dr. Hugh Culber in a perfectly right-at-home moment in their quarters while brushing their teeth. Their conversation made it perfectly clear to us they are a couple. Hell, who knew that Star Fleet personnel wore pajamas in their off-duty hours? It was a ...

Perfectly innocent, perfectly human moment.

It's about damned time!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


9/11 is over. I purposefully did not post anything about the anniversary of the attack yesterday. Why not?

We are all aware of the events of that tragic day. It was a horrible day and deserves remembrance, but I think, and I sure don't have an answer for this, I think our nation is grieving--and rightly so--but it seems to me every year on this date we rip a band-aid off of a physical and psychic wound.

I do not see how we can possibly heal as a nation when we do this. Maybe it is too soon. Heck, we still remember Pearl Harbor Day, 76 years distant, so what do I know?

I certainly am not suggesting we forget the events of that day, nor do I lay fault for any who feel a need to express their grief. What I fear is people using the day as a political soapbox or to raise a dagger of fearmongering.

All I am saying is I think we need to find a different way to honor and remember those we lost. 

What do you think?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What moral equivalence?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I felt a sick feeling in my stomach as I watched all those men (and a scant few women) marching, chanting with their arms raised in a fashion best reminiscent of the Nazis. I am certain you share my feelings of horror watching these thugs marching down Charlottesville's sidewalks, torches in hand, chanting "my land, not yours. No more Jews." 

What the hell? My paternal Grandfather Robert Mappin answered the call, served, fought and was injured in WWII's Battle of the Bulge. My friend Beth's father served as well. My ex-wife's father joined the Army at age 15. Like so many of our parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents--and millions of others--they served to defend the principles we have long held dear. 

Equally galling was listening to Mr. Trump's saying "both sides are the same, both sides are to blame." Instead of calling out the Neo Nazis and white supremacists, he called some of them "good people" defending their beliefs. A President's duty is to take a stand against hate and intolerance. 

Our men and women fought against the Axis Forces, the ultimate tool of death and hatred. For Mr. Trump to compare white supremacists and Neo Nazis to freedom fighters is beyond outrage. 

A moral equivalence? 

After being pressured by Congress and thousands of Americans to say more, to take a firm stand, it took Trump two full days to denounce the homegrown terrorists. 

All was good, right? No. Mr. Trump took a stand against hate... And then, the next day, he practically retracted it all, repeating his original rants, laying the blame on both sides. 

I think every man and woman who has served in our Armed Forces felt incensed seeing these behaviors displayed by these thugs in Charlottesville. Is this what we fought for, served for, to see such an insidious movement gaining a toehold here on our very shores? Makes me ill.  

Have we learned NOTHING? 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The voice of our childhoods

June Foray died yesterday.

She was 99 years old, just two months shy of being 100. For the younger generation, who will surely say, "who?" I feel a little sad for you all.

For those who remember Tweety bird's grandmotherly owner, yes her (June). For those who remember the "Flintstone's" first Betty Rubble (I do not), yes, that was June. Duddley Doo-Right's girlfriend Nell? Yep, her too! 

BUT her main claim to fame was her voicing the classic Rocky the Flying Squirrel--of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fame... oh, and she was also the voice of Rocky's Russian nemesis, Natasha. AND she was the voice of Cindy Lou Who in the classic animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

I imagine Ms. Foray did more voices than any of us can remember. In her 2009 aptly titled autobiography “Did You Grow Up With Me, Too?” she detailed her lifelong love of animation and film.

Foray was married to Bernard Barondess from 1941 to 1945. She was married to Hobart Donavan from 1954 until his death in 1976.

The world will be a little sadder knowing Foray is no longer with us.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Twitter? Or is it Twit-in-Chief

I find it a mixture of amusement and horrifying disdain that so many people are willing to side with the current inhabitant who is destroying our White House... and our country.

This morning, the Donald's twitter feed announced the military's new policy that would turn out or away transgender citizens wanting to serve in our nation's Armed Forces. 

Why should I even be surprised? The Donald has diligently worked to undo every policy from the Obama Administration.

1) What could a man who had five deferments from military service during the Vietnam War possibly know about serving one's country? Sorry, Donald, but going to a military academy as a youth does not make you an expert on serving one's country.

2) A lot of people are arguing that the military should not be subject to a "damned liberal social experiment." Hmmmm, I am sure a lot of people used that very argument when President Harry "the buck stops here" Truman desegregated the Armed Forces back in the 1950s. In retrospect, that seems to have worked out pretty well for us. I have a good many friends who benefitted his foresight.

3) 18 other countries have wrestled with AND resolved this issue long ago, so why do we always have to be the last nation to come to our senses?

4) I have a good friend who served our Navy well who joined when he was 19 years old. The Navy drummed her out of the service when they discovered he was a transgender woman. His Commanding Officer, his Lead Petty Officer and Chief all testified what a good Sailor she was. 

Didn't matter, regulations are regulations. The thousands of dollars spent on her training was all for naught and the Navy lost a good Sailor... Point is, there are a lot of good people serving OR who want to serve who now are looking at this prospect as a dim dream (in my humble opinion, the only confusion here should be the pronoun disagreements).

5) For obvious reasons, I have a strong belief that minorities, be it women, transgender, gay, lesbian, Muslim faith, Blacks, Hispanics and anyone else who want to serve our country should be allowed to do so.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our history refined... truth be known

I am watching PBS' American Experience: The Great War. I used to think President Wilson a pragmatic pacifist, and a horribly racist man. While watching part II, I have discovered his administration was most expert at public manipulation that I suspect the Trump administration has emulated closely.

Prior to America's involvement in World War I, public sentiment was overwhelmingly against U.S. involvement. Once it became clear that mindset could not survive, Wilson's administration launched a public affairs effort to change the hearts and minds of Americans' attitudes.

Almost overnight, our government's stance changed from its isolationist, pacifist to one of aggressive participation. Propaganda posters and millions of leaflets were posted everywhere. To maximize the effort, the leaflets were published in English and 18 foreign languages.

Worse, President Wilson acted aggressively to squash public dissent with the passage of anti-espionage and sedition laws. Wilson would not permit public opinions that would endanger his efforts to bolster our military's ability to wage war.

It became clear to Wilson a strong effort to grow our military would be necessary. At the time, prior to our involvement in the "war to end all wars," the U.S. Armed Forces was ranked 18th in military might.

Conscription laws (the draft), long unpopular in our country (look at what happened during the Civil War--riots, imprisonment, and even public hangings were used to force those who wished not to fight or succumb to government policy).

Wilson's racist beliefs visibly manifested itself on the military registration card. The bottom left-hand corner had a tear-off section with the instruction that it be torn off IF the applicant was of African-American descent, thus formalizing (for the first time) a strictly segregated Army.

Blacks were seen as a problem. The thinly veiled belief was the fear made clear in a statement made by a US Senator from Mississippi that "once you draft a Negro man and give him a gun and tell him to fight with it, it is one short step for him thinking he should fight for his rights at home."

Pacifists and Conscientious objectors were characterized as unpatriotic and called "slackers." A movement to demonize Americans of German descent, even those whose ancestors had lived here as far back as the Revolutionary War, was put for both in public sectors as well as in government housing. German-Americans were forced to register letting the government know where they resided, worked and worshiped.

Encampments were created to house people who the government considered a threat to national security.

Does any of this sound familiar to today's readers?

The documentary is sobering. History books all t often white-wash our nation's past. One group shot photo showing the first battalions look like a lot like today's GOP (all white, all male).

I find all of this very troubling because 1) History classes in elementary and high school have not taught these events (or spent much time focusing on these particulars. 2) The documentary shows how easy we have been steered into war, and 3) How easy nationalism has shaped our behaviors and how we have treated minorities in times when our nation faced adversity.

The documentary is available for purchase... or go to your local library. I strongly urge you to watch this documentary to see our involvement in WWI and to see just how easy our government has found it to manipulate the public into going to war.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Vir has gone to the stars

Actor Stephen Furst Stephen Furst has died. He was a favorite of mine based on his performance as Vir Cotto on the science fiction program Babylon 5, but his career far predated that with his part in the movie Animal House and later on NBC-TV's St. Elsewhere.

Furst loved his fans and I have a funny story about Mr. Furst that will I forever hold dear. Ten years (or was it 15?) ago, my friend Sherri and I went to a Star Trek convention in Chicago. Furst was one of the scheduled guests. Back then I used to run nearly every day. Early that particular morning I slipped into the hotel gym and was running on the treadmill for about 15 minutes when Mr. Furst joined me on the treadmill next to mine.

I kept looking at him, thinking "I know this man, but from where?" ... and I could not figure it out... This went on for about 45 minutes. Silently, I left and went to my room and showered. After Sherri and I had breakfast we joined our friends from USS Magellan (a Star Trek group of which we were members at the time).

Later in the day, we went to the convention hall and spent our time listening to the guests speak. When Stephen Furst came on stage it dawned on me who he was.

Now here is why I did not recognize Mr. Furst, something he discussed while on stage, he had lost approximately 50 lbs. in an effort to better his health. He looked very different than his persona on B5.

At one point when he was taking questions from the audience, I stood up to ask him one and he stopped and pointed at me, "You! You're the dude that was running with me at the gym this morning!" When I nodded in the affirmative, and said, "Yes, that was me." He replied, "damn dude, you're a speed demon!"

I loved Mr. Furst on Babylon 5 and mourn his loss. He was a warm, personable comic actor. My condolences to his friends, colleagues, and family. He was 63 and passed away due to complications from diabetes. Rest in peace, sir.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Surprise, surprise, surprise

Sometimes, homophobia and racism (not to mention being thin-skinned) raises its ugly head in the most surprising of places.

I have been a long-time member of the science fiction FB page Science Fiction Multiverse. Its moderator is a bit of an egotist and likes calling himself "emperor of his domain (or something silly like that)." Heck, recently he was mad at Facebook for forcing him to use his real name instead of his self-title.

Today, he posted a story about George Takei--that's Mr. Sulu to you non-TREK fans--who called out some trolls who have been making scenes complaining the new Star Trek series isn't "white" enough, isn't "male-led" enough.

Now mind you the series has yet to air and already there are some fans... the fringe elements, if you will, who are loudly complaining about things for which they have no clue... and George rightly called them out.

The moderator of the SF group called George an idiot and I raised the question, "idiot?"

In his next post, he went on an on ad nauseum about how liberals, Asians, gays, etc. are ruining SF filmmaking. I merely replied, "Funny, I thought this was a page about science fiction films."

Next thing I know, I am cast out and blocked. Now (said in my best baby voice) "waaaaaah, I am so hurt."

I guess "his majesty" doesn't like it when people disagree with him, something I already knew to be true as I have seen him bragging about banishing other [former] members for "their transgressions."

I guess I was a little bit surprised, and maybe I should not have been. I tend to think--and it appears I am wrong about this--that science fiction fans, and especially Star Trek fans, are more forward thinking and less biased.

Anyone who follows TREK faithfully knows of the show's concepts of IDIC and respect for all things different. I remember the firestorm a few years back when the web series Star Trek Phase II - The New Voyages dared to air an episode written by David Gerrold that included two gay characters (Peter Kirk, no less).

Let's just say a whole lot of the comments were pretty base... okay, vile. So, I really should not have been surprised today.

I'd rather not have a debate going on about this... so please, if you have any comments, I don't want to read any incendiary comments belaboring the evils of conservatism (or liberals, for that matter). 

My point of even mentioning this incident was this: Upon noticing I was blocked, I immediately was struck by the words, "can't we all just get along?"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where is the outrage?

Where is the outrage? What in the hell is wrong with the GOP? 

Imagine if you will this scenario: Madame President Clinton knocks out executive order after executive order that clearly benefit the rich. 

Pretend Madame President invited the Russians into the Oval Office and forbade the American press from being present, BUT invites the Russian press instead (because you know, "that mean bad fake press has been mean to me"). 

AND imagine if Madame President invited the Russians for tea, cookies AND states' classified secrets? Sorry, no launch codes today, maybe the next time. Raincheck?

Now tell me, what do you think would be turtleneck O'Connell's reaction? WWPRD (What would Paul Ryan do)? 

You can bet your ass they'd be building the gallows and firing up the legal writers drafting up documents for impeachment. Hell, they probably had a version drafted the day President Obama took office... and for a President Hillary Clinton, all they would have to do is change the names and dates.

And what about GOP supporters who all voted for "anybody but Hillary (like my family members)?"

They'd be hanging Hillary in effigy. Right?

So again I ask, where's the outrage?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The great pretender

Did you watch Mr. Trump's address to Congress last night? I saw but a scant few minutes.

I did not watch or listen to most of his speech--and I wouldn't have listened to any if I had not needed to see the severe weather warnings scrolling across the bottom of my TV screen (my hometown was in a tornado warning at the time). 

My impression of what I heard? If I wanted to take the easy road, I would say he seemed more residential than in any time since he assumed office, but I am not so easily fooled. He certainly did a good job of pretending.

Again and again, he said all the right things and meaning none of them. How do I know that? He made so many claims of what he planned to do and in the short time since his inauguration did just the opposite. Drain the swamp, he said. Hardly. I think he meant the septic tank.

He has and surely will contradict his previous promises. Yes, I know, a lot--heck, most politicians do that. It's called pandering and man, did he serve up a deep dish of cheese last night. In any case, I needed my wading boots while reading his speech today.

A family member, someone who I respect, but rarely agree with, told me last night I need to give him a chance and that sometimes if we elect the wrong man (or woman), we'll get the chance to correct things four years down the road.

Thing is, what damage can this man and his political comrades unleash in four years? I shudder to think. If the GOP has their way, they are going to wreck everything just to appease their corporate masters and to the rest of us, screw you!

There is an old maxim that respect is not given but earned. Resident Trump has not yet crossed that chasm in my book.

Let's not mince words. I don't like Mr. Trump. I don't believe a word he says. I don't respect him. As such, he is merely the man occupying the Oval Office, but he has done absolutely nothing to deserve that honor (The same goes for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. None of these men have shown me that they share one concern for the people they claim to represent).

With no disrespect intended to Jackson Browne, he is the great pretender. I pray we don't suffer for it.

Another friend told me to knock it off by calling him "not my president." Sorry dear, but you do not get to tell me who shares my values AND this man definitely does not share mine. How could a man whose home is adorned with gold covering almost every inch? What can he and his billionaire cronies possibly know about you or me?

So I ask the question again, did Mr. Trump look presidential last night? Does it matter? He sure did a good job of pretending to look and sound like it. His supporters will lap it up with oohs and ahs, he's our savior. The press, still embarrassed that they built him up, will scramble to say he did, all the while he has yet to prove he has one single iota, one single shred of empathy for the average American...

For the foreseeable future, RESIST is my mantra.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Subversion in plain view

I'm not paranoid. Normally, that is. But I tell you we must stay aware, stay focused. I think our government--without mincing words, the GOP--is up to something. In the 10 past days, announcement after announcement has been made, multiple rushed hearings, and with more than 17 executive orders issued, and I tell you something is up.

And to be frank, I do not like it.

Operations in the Capitol are happening with lightning speed and you can definitely see how the GOP slowed things down to a snail's pace during the past eight years.

With each passing day, the Republicans' movements have been eliciting reactions that moved many of us to outrage to "now what?" And to "again?" and if we're not careful, indifference. I swear, the government, again the GOP, is planning on sneaking things through while no one is watching.

Don't believe me? In the past two weeks, the GOP tried to sneak a bill through late at night that would have limited the powers of the oversight watchdog committee while they thought no one would notice.... and they got their hands smacked for it.

But mind you, the party of no, who practice the maxim of "tell a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth," are up to no good.

The party who found 50 some odd ways to attempt to repeal the ACA is now sitting on the perch salivating as they pull the rug out from millions of Americans, leaving them without health care. 

"Trust us," they say. "We have a plan, but no details." This sounds suspiciously like a move right out of Donald Trump's playbook.

And they are hoping you and I are not watching what they are doing.

It seems DT and the rest of the GOP seem intent on digging a hole deeper one shovel load at a time, I am wondering how long the Not My President is going to be the Resident of the United States? Or if the party will go too far and alienate the American people. And I
find myself hoping, not long.

We must keep our eye on the ball. Our freedoms depend upon it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a change

I know many friends who do not call themselves Democrats... or Republicans. There are many who say that neither party is any different than the other. For the most part, I disagree with that assessment.

BUT one thing that is apparent AND vital if the Democratic Party is going to gain ground after the 2016 elections, changes are are essential,,, imperative even.

We Democrats MUST prove we are different. We MUST hold the Republicans accountable for the policies and wholesale changes they are working so feverishly (in the dark of night even) to implement. 

We MUST get lobbyists' hands out of our pockets. Yes, I know that sound idealistic. We all know politics is not cheap.

We MUST build a unified message and stick to it. If we are to prove we are the party of the people, especially those who are in need the most, we must show them that. 

We MUST not let the Republicans divide us. And when the Republican policies hit the sh** fan as we know they will, we MUST not let them divert attention or blame us for their stupidity. 

Obviously, the Democratic Party has not done a good job getting our message out, but we MUST prove to the American people we are better. We must build a party that has roots, not only on the east and west coasts but the center of our country too.

My friend Matt says we must get as down and dirty as they have. One thing is certain, we cannot always play nice, but even when not, we MUST hold the moral high ground (you know, when they go low, we go high). Matt would say being nice has done nothing to promote our cause. He feels getting in their face is the only answer. Usually, I am a bit more pragmatic, but in this case, I wonder if Matt is not right? And I think he is.

That's a lot of ifs and we MUST start looking at the lower end of government appointees. We Democrats have gotten caught with our pants down all the while the GOP quietly took control of our school boards, our local city and county offices and our statehouses. It is going to take a long time to get ourselves back on equal ground. 

My hometown's mayor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, is a candidate to serve as the Democratic National Committee chair. Mayor Pete is young, focused, charismatic, smart and very perceptive. The DNC would be well served to elect him. He has been a godsend to our city and has a lot of ideas to rebuild the party.

They always say change is hard. This is true even for political parties and completing these tasks is not going to be easy. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cutting their throats

Today the N.Y. Times ran the article "Why rural America voted for Trump." Illuminating, disturbing, disheartening are three words I would use about rural attitudes.

From the article: "People in red counties resent the attention cities get - and [they] don't care for liberals."

My first reaction is we don't like them much either. From our viewpoint, they'd rather cut their own throats than accept any views differing from their own. But that is my first reaction. I don't like saying I do not like someone. I really don't. 

BUT I do not understand the "convicts." I jest about the nickname. Sort of. I look at one my brother's Facebook page and the word libtard is hurled around dozens of times. The venom is staggering.

To be honest, I cannot visit his page for all the bile. I suppose he might view my bleeding heart liberal stances just as offensive.

Second reaction: reading that sentence from the article, and I cannot help to detect an element of jealousy.

If the article is correct and rural folk think we city denizens get all the attention, they surely must know that their attitudes drove a large number of us to cities they claim to hold in contempt.

I know many conservatives think liberals are stupid. Just like many liberals think their opposites are backwater and ignorant. Do I think that? I'll be honest, some of them, I do.

It appears to me, that neither side wants to get to know each other AND listen to one another. It's easy to dismiss the other side; it's easy to dismiss minorities; it's easy to dismiss gays, lesbians, it's easy to dismiss Muslims; it's easy to dismiss lowly women; it's easy to dismiss [fill in blank] because no one is willing to get to know those they disagree with.

THAT is why we are in this boat we are in in Washington.

Bob Dole, not a man I have the greatest love for (but I do respect--at least before he endorsed the great divider, the Donald), once said something that pretty accurately describes the climate in Washington. He said in his day in Congress, members of both parties thrust and parried against the other side and when the day was done, they went out and had drinks, dined together, worked out at gyms together. He continued by saying none of that happens in DC anymore.

So we are polarized. We don't know one another. We don't trust one another. We don't hang out together. We don't talk. We don't listen. Which makes it so damned easy to say, "I don't like you."

Sad thing is: As a gay man, demonize me all you want, but I work. I pay my taxes. I pay my bills. I struggle to get ahead, just like a whole lot of us Americans, AND I put on my trousers one leg at a time. Just LIKE my conservative brothers and sisters do.

So until this happens. Democrats will be dismissive of Republicans. Republicans will do everything they can do to smack down members of my party. Conservatives will call us libtards (which, as I said is probably my brothers favorite insult) and liberals will view conservatives as dumb rednecks.

AND nothing will get done. Ever. We'll spin our wheels. We'll deny a President his chance to appoint a Supreme Court Justice and the new resident-elect will most likely find a Democratic Party taking the same tact that the GOP did with President Obama.

One conservative Navy Senior Chief with whom I have the utmost respect and I talk constantly. He has pointed out on numerous occasions that both parties treat (or mistreat) the others much like the old childish chant "you started it." We disagree often. We talk often but I think we have a golden rule. We LISTEN to one another.

Both conservatives and liberals... and let's not forget the moderates who are punished by both sides for straddling the fence... I believe want the same thing. We want security. We want peace. We want the best for our children and families and friends. We rarely agree on the means "of getting there," though.

My brothers went out of their way to torment me about the election. One wanted to tag my page, mentioning I felt butthurt (his words); another said they'd miss me at family gathers; another threatened to disown me. Odd thing is, my conservative Navy friends went out of their way to console me, even though they were happy with their candidate/party's victory.

The difference? I hate to admit it, but I am not close to my family. My Navy colleagues practice a long-held maxim: We in the Navy ARE family (I imagine the other services act accordingly). We may disagree but we respect each other and opinions are cherished.

When I mentioned to my brother Scott that Trump followers liked him because "he speaks his mind," I said I would appreciate if I was afforded the same courtesy. His response was he would if my opinions made any sense. Yeah, I just love the respect there.

THAT is why conservatives and liberals rarely get along. Even though we both harbors fears about the future, both sides would rather focus on differences and weakness and attack than work together.

While these are words I preach--believe me--I find them just as hard to practice.