Photo by Robert Phelps
1 November 2017
An Elder’s Curiosity
Take-A-Knee Syndrome and The Black Panthers
I do not follow professional football. The flurry of teams and scores and rankings is not among my priorities (no offense to my Chicago chums who still follow the Bears with heroic tenacity).
However, I have lately noticed one troubling item: the increasing number of professional football players now part of the mind-numbing, deliberately provocative ritual of knee-taking during the National Anthem.
The plague of knee-taking protesters seems to be spreading like an ugly rash, resulting in fans defecting, revenues dropping, and schismatic conflicts amongst players, owners, League officials and sporting ethicists.
The First Knee-Taker who inspires this fad is an unemployed, multi-millionaire named Colin Kaepernick. Mr. Kaepernick originally took-a-knee ostensibly to protest injustices against black and minority people in America. His logic suggests that knee-taking will bring attention to the smothering racial and ethnic oppression which plagues our country and will, one infers, lead to the resolution of oppressive evils resulting in greater equality, harmony and peace in our time.
Inarguably, his cause is admirable – on its face. Similar moral themes have been pursued by historical notables, such as Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.
I mention Messrs. Newton and Seale because Mr. Kaepernick has integrated their Marxist-inspired ideas for social change into his own purposes and programs.
In 1966 Messrs. Seale and Newton founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. According to Mr. Kaepernick, the 1966 Black Panther platform serves as the philosophical and tactical foundation for, among other things, training programs which Mr. Kaepernick undertakes with black and minority youth. Details can be found at Kaepernick7.com (under the Media tab).
Mr. Kaepernick’s youth workshops focus on ten points which identify the rights all participants should know and pursue (along with tips on to handle oneself with the police when detained). Mr. Kaepernick’s ten points tell his young charges that they have a right 1) to be free, 2) to be healthy, 3) to be brilliant, 4) to be safe, 5) to be loved, 6) to be courageous, 7) to be alive, 8) to be trusted, 9) to be educated, and 10) to know their rights.
On his website explaining these youth workshops, Mr. Kaepernick points out that this 10-point list of rights is an adaptation of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense Ten-Point Plan published in 1972.
A partial summary of that original Black Panther platform reveals the Party’s demand for freedom and power to determine “the destiny of Black and oppressed communities.” It demands full employment for “our people,” along with “an end to the robbery by the capitalist of our Black and oppressed communities.”
Further demands include “education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society,” “completely free health care for all Black and oppressed people,” “an immediate end to all wars of aggression,” and ”land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology.”
These demands of The Black Panther Party are central to Mr. Kaepernick’s zeal for justice and his accusations against America. It would behoove his knee-taking associates to know the background and contents of this platform and the stated ideals to which these kneelers actually kneel.
I have written elsewhere in these essays about the fact that a claim for one’s rights cannot be separated from the acceptance of one’s responsibilities. Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same hand. Mr. Kaepernick’s demands do not say a word about what substantive responsibilities he and his followers are willing and ready to assume. Not a word is said about the price to be paid to earn trust or to work for an education or to strive for brilliance – or to be loved. Take-a-knee; make waves, stir things up --- to what end?
One could question the moral and cultural consequences of these ten points. One could challenge the stale, inhuman Marxist ideology which inspired the Black Panthers Ten Point Plan. But take-a-knee? That’s it?
America is not perfect; justice eludes -- but we persevere as a nation to attain it. Given the schema which history provides, one surely could critique the shallow behavior of these countless professionals who take-a-kneel to a cause which provokes more conflict than insight.
Most of all, one wonders how many of these knee-taking participants who follow Mr. Kaepernick’s example are factually informed about the dubious origins of the cause they support by their bended knees. Do they truly mean to convey to us that knee-taking represents the height of their contributions to the betterment of others?
One wonders if these “athletes” are at all aware of what they are truly proclaiming by their gullibly ineffective and - to many Americans - profoundly offensive behavior.
20 October 2017
Eight-year-old Boy Becomes
Lactitia, A Drag “Queen”
The Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse recently published an internet article about an eight-year-old boy (8 years old) whose family is thrilled that he has chosen to be a drag queen.
This child’s philosophy, echoed by his enthused mother, is that you can do anything you want with your life, and you need not listen to anyone else, including your parents. Keep in mind this child is eight years old and has, with parental support and pride, been involved in this endeavor for years.
For billing in his/her performances, this youngster has taken the name “Lactitia.” The child is already a star in a certain sub-culture and relishes the raucous delight of loud, live audiences.
The child has caught the attention of millions of viewers and receives coaching by adult “professionals,” one of whom gives him tips in one of the links below.
As one watches, one is prompted one to shake one’s head in wonderment and dread. I have written elsewhere about the valid and essential process of making informed judgments and maintaining one’s educated moral compass intact. In this instance, I shall refrain from further comment and suggest that you watch the links below which show the child in action.
As you watch, you may also find yourself wondering – as I have -- what has happened to our sacred regard for our young.
Or, perhaps you find his and his parents’ behavior admirably discerning, even inspiring, as some people do. Perhaps you see no problem at all.
In either case, take a look at eight-year-old Lactitia.
14 October 2017
Last March, much fiery condemnation by ruffled segments of the media followed the old “news” that Mike Pence did not dine alone with women other than his wife, Karen. The Pences have been married for thirty-three years and are, according to many reports, “soul mates.” (See Ashley Parker’s Washington Post story, March 28, 2017)
Countless hostile comments appeared. Critics repeated emphasized the patriarchal hubris of Pence’s principled behavior. How, critics asked, could any woman possibly secure a position of power and influence without wining-and-dining with the Vice President. Shame. Shame on him. Misogyny rules, Pence’s critics said.
The Weinstein Syndrome.
Now comes Harvey Weinstein, who is, in his own words, “…a famous guy….”
There are -- to understate the issues – a plethora of bothersome revelations which swirl about The Weinstein Syndrome.
One is stunned (perhaps naively) by the years this man has exercised recurring sexual aggressions against - and flaunted his ready entrapment of – many women.
One is stunned by the number of people (including his corporate executive buddies, a hypocritical media and an abundance of so-called Hollywood A-List enablers) who have chosen to honor a sickening code of silence, some for decades.
One is stunned that law enforcement decided to move on, even when evidence had been obtained.
Much is yet to be revealed about Mr. Weinstein and his associates … and the profoundly unsavory sub-culture they inhabit.
The Pence Heritage
The Pence’s fidelity to their marital relationship still causes hostile critics to dredge up accusatory, often absurd, comments. Nonetheless, the Pences faithfully uphold their moral beliefs. Mr. Pence has opted – for decades – to openly honor his promise of fidelity to his spouse, given in the Sacrament of Matrimony. He does so in ways which upset less morally insightful eyes. As John Henry Newman observed, the world is a “rough antagonist” to spiritual truth which harms no one.
Mike and Karen Pence make no display of false pride or moral superiority. They simply choose to live as they believe.
So, also, have many people chosen to live as they believe by willingly furthering and knowingly fostering the ugly excesses of The Weinstein Era. It is an Era of dreadful degradation, lengthy hypocrisy and inexcusable abuse. It is an Era which again reveals the cost to human dignity of the consuming selfishness to which our human nature is heir.
Worst of all, it is an Era of shame which thrived only because so many unnumbered people made it so.
And it is not over.
5 October 2017
WHAT TRUTH DO WE HONOR?
In his commentary on the Las Vegas tragedy, Psychiatrist Dr, Keith Ablow mentions psychological denial as a way people avoid thinking about human vulnerabilities. Human vulnerability refers to our fear of being wounded ("vulnera" in Latin means "wound"). We fear bodily harm or, most often, bruising to our fragile egos. Thus, we deny hard personal truths which we want desperately to avoid, desperately not to face. Denial is an attempt to escape.
In a state of denial, our conscience is stifled by the need to protect ourselves from perceived threats to our ego. Our ego is the repository of our so-called self-esteem. It’s where our self-protective instincts stand ever at-the-ready.
We have a spiritual power within us called conscience. It is infused by God and is a gift to human nature. Conscience reminds us that the only antidote to denial is facing the truth -- or, in spiritual terms, facing the Truth – and living up to our responsibilities and duties, however difficult.
Trouble is, psychological denial stifles the conscience. Denial is a deliberate choice to avoid discomforting reality and mute the call of responsibility. Denial creates an alternative reality in which we shield our ego from danger. We falsify life. We lie to ourselves in a topsy-turvy universe where our values are badly askew. We avoid facts, history, reason and experience. We live in a state of sustained pretense. We even stifle common sense … but others usually see right through us.
As a nation, America suffers from a profound measure of astonishing denial. Presently we bemoan the tragic deaths of 50 people in Las Vegas. At the same instant, we support and fund the legalized killing of millions of our own citizens, i.e., those helpless children unborn and being born. These children are the condemned progeny of Roe v Wade. Yes, we contemplate the tragedy of Las Vegas, yet we tolerate and abet the ongoing killing of these babies.
Both events chill our nation’s soul -- and should. But our decades of disregard for the safety of babies unborn and being born exposes a twisted version of humanity and denial of our most fundamental duty to one another, a duty which should always – always – be honored before we dare demand our rights.
The toll of children killed by abuse of the Constitution and the Divine Law now rises to more than 61 million. We are compelled to wonder what value we truly put on the lives of strangers. One must wonder about the state of our national conscience and our regard for Creation itself.
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Many years ago, I worked with a group of French nuns who prepared the food for an institution of budding scholars. Not surprisingly, these selfless religious women performed the kind of tedious, menial tasks which few people gladly undertake without motivation far beyond the ordinary.
The nuns labored from early-morning darkness to beyond sunset. Their work consisted of kitchen chores: endless, behind-the-scenes hours of preparation, cleaning, scouring, peeling, standing over red-hot stoves wreathed in the steam of boiling pots and sizzling pans.
They seldom spoke as they worked in silence, often in heat which our modern air-conditioned sensibilities would consider absurd and would no longer tolerate.
Occasionally, a hobo would knock on their kitchen door in search of food. The sisters always accommodated and, with a twist of wry spirituality they referred to these men as St Joseph. “St. Joseph is at the door,” one of them would announce. Then they would all smile with the shared belief that – as they saw it – God had sent them this homeless, hungry vagabond-of-the-road. And they would feed the vagrant at their door, giving the man soup and a sandwich and a kindly smile and a welcoming word of respect. And the homeless traveler would sit and eat on their back stoop, and the good nuns say a quiet, fervent prayer over him as he ate.
One of these nuns later told me that they prayed for these “wayward children of the earth” in their nightly chapel prayers, when their work was done and they spent the day’s last hours on their knees before God.
Decades later, I still think of the gentle welcoming spirit the nuns offered these many strangers at their door. I still think of the vision of God’s goodness which, through food and prayer and kindly words, they sought to impart to these homeless, passing wanderers.
The fortunes of these good nuns and of the lonely men they gently served are, of course, lost in time. But the deeds of these good women and their merciful outlook still serve as reminders of kindnesses yet to be given. And the example of these good women still urges us to see beyond the obvious, so that we, too, may extend goodness where we may.