Category Archives: Essays

The Chief at 56

The Chief in a moment of self-adulation after a run this past summer – and to prove to real and cyber friends I can actually move faster than a fat man walking through a cactus field. Naked. Blindfolded.

As of 1:15 a.m. Central Standard Time U.S. this past Tuesday, November 5, the Chief turned 56.  It’s not necessarily as big a deal as, say, turning 55.  And I remember years ago thinking that, once somebody reaches the half century mark on life’s odometer, ensuing birthdays don’t really matter.  But I’ve learned every birthday matters.  It’s another year forward and another chance to improve oneself.  I feel I’m doing that with my writing, as well as more practical moves, such as joining a new gym.

This year’s birthday was rougher than expected.  I got sick – again.  Allergies that usually plague me with the change of seasons (the summer to autumn transition is generally the worst) hit me harder this time around; thus prompting a visit to my doctor for a trio of anti-microbial, germ-phobic medications.  My eyes showed the wrath of the usual culprits: ragweed and mountain cedar.  I confirmed my sensitivity to them some 15 years ago with an appointment to an allergy specialist.  Visits to the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets and local stores had long proven ineffective.  Ragweed and mountain cedar ranked at the top of my allergy reaction list, along with other suspected villains – oak and cat dander.  I’m also allergic to stupid people, but aside from working outside the home and driving, there’s no definite test for that.

But my eyes looked as if I’d been ambushed by a swarm of killer bees or came out on the wrong end of a boxing match.  Still, the drug cocktail – which did include the ubiquitous screwdriver – eased my angst.  And then, the little microbial fuckers resurfaced, like dental appointments and property taxes.  They assaulted me with their ecological mainstays: watery eyes, congestion, coughing and the tendency not to use Spellcheck.  Misery!  Misery, I tell you, dear readers!  Joining that gym last month was a much-needed lifestyle change.  Since the late 1980s, I’ve pretty much been a gym rat.  I even wrote about it six years ago.  However, when I signed up to this new place, it had been roughly eleven months since I’d been to a gym to lift weights.  Note to the wise and health-conscious: do NOT take nearly a year off from lifting weights and expect to be back to normal in a single session.  But, at that last gym a year ago around this time, one of the senior staff apparently had an issue with my attire.  I wore an old sweat jacket – one I only wear to the gym.  Admittedly, I’ve had it since high school.  Some 35+ years ago.  Okay, it’s a man thing!  You wouldn’t understand, unless you bear that rare Y chromosome!  The zipper is twisted, and it’s shrunk.  I often keep it unzipped during workouts.  No one had ever had a problem with that.  Until November 2018.

The man – either a lost Viking or an intense Grateful Dead fan – literally got up in my face and ordered me to “zip it up.”  He then walked away.  And so did I.  I re-racked a curl bar and left; canceling the membership once I got home.

This new gym has no such qualms about ratty, decades-old sweat jackets.  It doesn’t cater to GQ cover models or suburban soccer moms – no offense to suburban soccer moms!  It’s an old-school gym – where men can go shirtless, women can wear sports bras, and dogs run around the front office.  Literally, the owners have 2 massive and very friendly canines practically greeting people when they enter.  As a certified Wolfman and canid aficionado, I love the idea of dogs almost anywhere! 

I was determined to visit the gym on my birthday, as I’ve done with just about every birthday for as long as I can remember.  I even did so last year – before the Sweat Jacket Incident.  But I just couldn’t make it this past Tuesday.  Again, those allergies.  Or maybe the flu.  Or I’m being punished for not completing my second novel by now, as promised.  Perhaps internalizing all those angry sentiments from work and driving had finally caught up to me.  But then again, I never was too keen on the idea of being a serial killer.  That doesn’t look good on your Linked In profile.

But other distractions arose, particularly with this aging house.  Bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs, foundations and various and sundry attributes boast large repair price tags.  I relish the thought of living in the house where I grew up.  I don’t have to fight for parking space, deal with noisy upstairs neighbors and getting rent paid on time.  I have the joy of dealing with aging bathroom and kitchen sinks, roofs and foundations.  Aaah – suburban life!

So this birthday wasn’t the best.  But I made it to another year!  I’m always thankful for that.  The alternative is not pleasant.

The other day a friend posted a drawing on Facebook of someone hugging what looked like Jesus Christ with the verbiage: “The best part of going to Heaven.”  I thought, if there is such a place, the first person I’d want to see is my father, who passed away 3 years ago and who I think of and pray to every day and night.  Nearly 5 months later, when my dog died, I fell into a mortal depression.  When I marked my 53rd birthday that year, I honestly felt I wasn’t going to make it much longer.  I was ready to give up.  I still truly believe my father returned to get my dog; in part, because he absolutely loved that pint-sized, four-legged monstrosity, but also because he simply wanted the dog to be with him.  I could understand my 83-year-old father’s demise; he had been sick off and on for years with gastrointestinal problems.  His body could no longer take the punishment.  But then, he came back to take the dog?!  Oh well…such mysteries are not for this world to understand.

Yet, as morose as I felt at the end of that year, I realized I had so much I wanted to do.  I still hadn’t published my first novel and I have other stories I want to write.  I realized I couldn’t give up.  It certainly wouldn’t be fair to the people who care about me, but it wouldn’t even be fair to me.  I’ll die, and the sun will still rise in the east the next morning.  Some people I’ve known actually think it won’t, if they die!

So, here I am at the ripe slightly-passed-middle-age of 56!  I’m still writing and still fighting!  Now, I just need to find a new way to assassinate these allergens and get back into the gym.

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Little Laughter

The new “Joker” movie is a rehash of an old conundrum: middle-aged man tries to remain relevant in a society that views him with mocking contempt, while he seeks true love and cares for his elderly disabled mother.  Said middle-aged man then experiences a cerebral infarction that plunges him into a psychotic pit of hopeless violence.

How the hell did the screenplay writer get hold of one of my journals?!

“Joker” reminds me of a 1950 Mexican film entitled “Los Olvidados” (The Forgotten Ones), directed by Luis Buñuel.  Also known as “The Young and the Damned”, it focuses on a small cadre of teens trying to survive the brutalities of urban life in a México City slum.

By the 1950s, many films began to acquire a more realistic approach to the world’s problems.  While a post-World War II America seemed to relegate itself to colorful musicals and grand westerns with clearly-drawn heroic and villainous figures, filmmakers in other countries expressed a more cynical, jaded view.

In “Los Olvidados”, Buñuel depicts poverty exactly as it is: cold, violent and oppressive.  It’s a birth place for anger and hostility; not ingenuity where people go from victim to survivor through sheer will power and determination.  American movies of the time often showed Mexicans and Negroes as happy and laughing, despite their economic hardships and substandard living conditions.  In “Los Olvidados”, poverty doesn’t hover in the background like trees in a park.  It’s tangible and painful; it’s a source of cruelty and hate – not an inspiration to forge ahead through rocky obstacles and build a better life.

“Joker” is a modification of that, as it highlights the humiliation individuals often experience in their ongoing quest for acceptance.  It also points to the hostile and sometimes violent reaction people have when they don’t gain that acceptance or respect.  It’s why, for example, American society exploded into rage and bloodshed in the mid-1960s; more directly, why many non-Whites exploded.  They’d finally lost their patience.  They’d done everything possible to be part of the American mainstream, and it still wasn’t good enough.  They were still being treated as second-class citizens; intimidated at the voting booth; forced to sit in the back of mass transit vehicles; sequestered into a proverbial closet.  Beat an animal long enough and it’ll eventually bite back.

For me, patience was always a given.  I had a long fuse.  It took a lot to aggravate me to the point of hysteria.  That may seem like a good thing, a positive attribute – and it is.  But like paralyzing fear, it has its drawbacks – namely that I let people take advantage of me.  Then, in the quiet of my home, I’d complain about it – to no one.  When I would finally bite back, I would unleash a barrage of bloody emotions.  And people would have the audacity to be shocked and get upset.  In other words, I’d scare the shit out of them.  But the primary drawback?  It made me look mentally and emotionally unstable.

In “Joker”, Joaquin Phoenix tries to put on a happy face, while mired in emotional pain and confusion.

I can recall a number of examples where I let myself get pushed too far, but here’s one.  July 2000 and I worked as an executive administrative assistant for a large bank in Dallas.  I supported two bank officers, plus the manager to our little group.  That summer our particular division decided it wanted every individual officer to submit letters to every client in their portfolios; personally-signed letters – not electronically stamped.  The letters for each of my two officers arrived later than for those of the others.  They’d been sent to the wrong floor.  One of my officers seemed to get upset that I didn’t get all 800+ of her letters out on the same day she dropped them on my desk.  She’d taken them home and, after two weeks, finally had them all signed.

I reserved a conference room for half a day, just for the sole purpose of folding each and every one of those letters and placing them into respective envelopes with two of the officer’s business cards.  When my manager realized how far behind I was, he enlisted a few others to help me get them done.  One of the helpers was a fellow administrative assistant who loathed the idea of helping anyone do anything.  In between folding and stuffing, that one particular officer I supported kept yelling at me to answer her phone – while she conversed with another associate.  I finally told her to stop yelling at me.  She and that one admin, however, took the time to stand at the desk of the admin to the department supervisor and discuss beauty secrets with his roommate who did drag shows at local queer bars.  The roommate was on speaker phone.

The next day – after all the letters had been dispatched – I confronted my manager to complain about the fiasco.  His dismissive attitude, along with the eye-rolling response from that one officer and that one other assistant, served as the final knife into my back.  To enhance the aggravation, they pointed out that I’d taken the time to talk with my father (when their own family members would call several times a day) and then accused me of “fraternizing” with yet another admin.

Thus, my patience disintegrated faster than tequila at an open bar during a Mexican wedding.  The level of anger that spewed forth from beleaguered soul terrified even me.  My voice rose in such extreme anger that some people on the other side of the floor hear me.  When our department manager threatened to call security if I didn’t “calm down”, I took the liberty of calling them myself.  On speaker phone.  With that supervisor (and my immediate manager) standing beside me.  They were both stunned into silence, as the security official on the phone waited for a response.

“No, it’s okay,” replied the department supervisor.  For once she sounded nervous.

A security official did come into our area; as equally perplexed as he was curious about my call.  By then, however, the department supervisor’s boss – they were all C-level executives – had learned of the situation and consulted with me privately.  He was angered – not with me; but with my colleagues and my direct manager.  When he gathered all of us together, I thought that one officer, the one who’d accused me of “fraternizing”, was going to melt into a puddle of tears and shit.

I didn’t like what happened that day.  I didn’t like that it got so ugly.  Hostility breeds nothing but contempt.  But I had to take a stand.  I had to let people know how exactly I felt and why I was so angry.  I rightfully put the blame back on them; that if they’d shown me the respect I deserved as an adult and a business professional, none of that would have happened.  Then again, if I’d only said or done something earlier; if I’d just reacted sooner, the day would have proceeded more smoothly.

Sometimes, though, we do have to yell; we do have to make a scene.  It should never get to that, but it happens.  Some people just can’t grasp the concept of keeping peace in the neighborhood or maintaining a high degree of business professionalism.  We have to lower our intellect to their level, so they’ll comprehend what we’ve been trying to tell them.  I hate doing that – because it really does make us look emotionally unbalanced.  But occasionally, there’s just no other way.

The title character in “Joker” is embroiled in the same dilemma.  He’s trying desperately to remain relevant and garner respect.  He’s been beaten down and disrespected for far too long.  Then he explodes.  He’s been pushed to the violent breaking point.  And there are literally millions of people like him across the globe.

It all goes back to one of the most human of desires: to be acknowledged and respected.  The lack of respect creates hostility in the workplace, but it also launches wars and civil unrest.  We saw that here in the U.S. with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.  We saw it with the 2011 “Arab Spring”.  People can only take so much.

Whatever happens, it’s no laughing matter.  Respect will always equal dignity.

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No Synching

Dearest Followers:

Allow The Chief to pull his Stradivarius from behind the toilet paper and bathroom cleaning supplies and attempt whole-heartedly to extract a bit of sympathy from you.  This past Monday, October 21, I awoke feeling disoriented.  I can’t explain it exactly, but I simply felt…weird.  Yes, I realize you folks have come to expect that from me, especially since I’m a writer, and a troubled mindset is one of the drawbacks of the creative spirit.

I’ve encountered this sensation before – only once previously, though.  But, on this past Monday, it felt more intense and painful.  I kept feeling that anything and everything I did – no matter how small or mundane – wasn’t right.  I couldn’t open a door in the right way.  I couldn’t even pick up a piece of trash the right way.  I mean, EVERYTHING I did wasn’t right.

I keep thinking it might be related to my allergies.  The summer to fall transition is almost always the worst for me.  But, every few years, I have a period like now, where it hits harder than freight train striking a vehicle stuck on the tracks.  Simple over-the-counter and / or home-based remedies won’t help.  I have to visit my family doctor and get some high-caliber, prescribed medicine.  This year, he gave me three.  Feeling tired and lethargic comes with the territory.  I’ve always said my worst allergies follow the hurricane season in the Atlantic / Caribbean basin.  And, this time around, the storm was a Category 5.

I’m pretty much over all that mess now.  But…that overwhelming disoriented feeling.  Is that related to my allergies and / or the prescribed medicines?  I know some high-octane medicines have a myriad of potential side effects.  In fact, reading the list of side effects – diarrhea, fatigue, nausea – makes me wonder if they’re worth the trouble.  Let’s see, what do I prefer?  A runny nose or a runny ass?  Too many choices!  Like trying to find a book to read while eating cereal.

Then again, are my years of frequent alcohol consumption finally coming back to haunt me, like the fact I never attended a high school dance?  I consider myself a recovering alcoholic, but I still haven’t given it up permanently.  Smoking, yes, but I can’t resist a good screwdriver or wine cooler!  I just watch myself.

Perhaps, this is what life is like headed towards age 60 – meaning the seventh decade of my existence.  As a youth, I recall my parents – mainly my mother – opining that life begins at 40.  At that time, people, indeed, seemed to have reached the apex of happiness with family, career, etc.  Now, I hear that 50 is the new 40.  Medical advances have made it more likely people will live into their 80s and 90s.  Thus, 50 really is becoming middle age for many Americans.

I just don’t know.  But I feel friends and family are likely to scoff at me, if I mention aloud that I’m feeling incredibly disoriented.  ‘So, what’s new?’ they might say.  ‘Tell me something I DON’T know!’  Okay, okay!  You don’t have to rub it in, like sandpaper mistaken for…well, toilet paper.

I’m only putting this out there – to this audience, my faithful followers – because I’m not really ashamed of it.  It’s just frustrating and annoying.  Okay, it pisses me off!  It interferes with my daily activities.  I can’t even work on my creative writing.  That disoriented sensation blocks my artistic mind from producing anything.  So, I just go to sleep.

As with the last time this happened, I realized I just needed to stop trying so hard to understand it and merely take a shower and plunge into my bed with its 10-year-old mattress.  I’m curious to know, however, what you folks think.  Has this happened to you and, if so, how did you deal with it?  Remember, if you don’t take this seriously, we’ll hear about more drama from the British royal family!

Image: Gary Larson, “The Far Side”

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The Very Storms

As Hurricane Dorian continues its slow trek up the eastern coastline of the U.S. (the bastard just won’t die!), I think of the storm-related terminology people keep using to describe these systems.  Most every description includes the word “very”.  It’s the same verbiage recycled again and again – the way companies recycle workers during economic downturns and politicians recycle promises with each campaign.  But it’s also somewhat laughable in that, each time, meteorologists, law enforcement officials and reporters (you know, the dumbasses who stand in the middle of a rain-torn street or an inundated beach, as if we’re too stupid to understand how bad it is out that way) utter these same words with just about every hurricane.  More specifically, though, the tones of their voices and the inflections they apply to these characterizations insinuate that said terminology has never been used before.

The word “very” is an adverb meaning, ‘In a high degree, extremely, or exceedingly.’

I had a high school English teacher who grew weary of students constantly using the word “very” to emphasize certain conditions.  “They’re not very poor,” she groused, highlighting one example.  “They’re just poor!”

Okay, boss-lady, got it!  Sending “very” into a dark place from where it will not emerge until after I graduate.

With all of that rigmarole behind us now, I have compiled a short list of frequently used – and overused – terms that meteorologists, law enforcement and those dumbass reporters utilize to describe tropical storm systems.  Keep in mind the adverb “very” is almost always the precursor.

This storm is very…

Dangerous – this is the 2nd most used term to describe tropical storms; apparently, there are such things as safe hurricanes, but I don’t believe one has developed in a while.

Fluid – this generally refers to the actual travel speed of the storm and not the water, which in case you failed Science 101, is one of the most common fluids available.

Intense – this most often indicates the severity of the sustained winds (those closest to the eye) and wind gusts (those furthest from the eye that fluctuate wildly as their speed increases).  This can also describe the persona of those reporters trying to make a name for themselves on the beach, as well as residents and visitors who decide they’re going to tough it out because, after all, what could possibly go wrong amidst 150 mph (241 kph) winds and rain falling sideways?

Powerful – this one competes with “dangerous” as a common description for hurricanes and simply refers to the overall magnitude of the storm.  Considering that an average hurricane can generate 6.0 x 10^14 Watts or 5.2 x 10^19 Joules/day (equivalent to about 200 times Earth’s total electrical generating capacity), it’s tough to imagine a tropical storm system as being weak.  In fact, though, the word “weak” has been used to describe some hurricanes, which means – from a meteorological perspective – it’s all relative.  Think of it as comparing Donald Trump’s intellectual capacity to that of Barack Obama.  Obama would a Category 5 hurricane, while Trump would barely make it out of tropical disturbance status.

Unpredictable – this is undoubtedly the most commonly used term to describe hurricanes.  Understand that these tempests have been bombarding the coastlines of the world since the beginning of time; yet, we modern humans keep trying to predict exactly where one such storm will go.  However, contemporary meteorology has advanced to the point where such estimations are accurate.  But coastal residents and visitors still want weather prognosticators to determine precisely where a storm will make landfall, so they won’t have to ruin their vacations or run to Home Depot at the last minutes to buy generators, batteries, plywood and wine.  Stupid humans!

Wet – this word isn’t utilized too often amidst hurricane descriptions, but every once in a while, it gets tossed into the mix.  Because tropical storm systems develop over large bodies of warm water, I don’t believe “dry” would be an appropriate term.  But that’s just my opinion!  What do you folks think?

Windy – this is actually the most curious description for a hurricane.  Realizing that tropical storm systems are gauged and ranked according to their wind speed, it’s difficult to imagine that even a Category 1 hurricane could pass by without knocking a few trash cans over.  Again, I’m just speculating.

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If Being Liberal Means…

Here in Texas, as well as in other predominantly conservative regions of the United States, the term “liberal” is equal to demonic.  Personally, I consider myself a political and social moderate – which, to most conservatives – still means liberal.  Anything to the slightest left of the small-minded rhetoric of right-wing, Judeo-Christian ideology is blasphemously liberal.  But, as you surely know by now, I deplore being placed in boxes to suit other people’s needs and desires.  Those who have dared to always end up with a rectal thermometer-style rebuke from me.  Their rules don’t apply to me.

But, for the past 30 years, liberals have allowed themselves to be defined by the opposition.  They’ve hidden their true sentiments about politics and social order within the lockboxes of their minds.  Outspoken liberals have been relegated to the coastal U.S. and urban America.  Thus, they are viewed as elitists and globalists; cretins who dismiss the notion of “American exceptionalism” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean).

In truth, liberal means educated and open-minded; compassionate and understanding.  I’m steadfast in my own outlook and opinions.  Overall, I’m just left of the center, which – again – means extremist, bleeding-heart, bed-wetting liberal to the right-wingers.  They can call me whatever name they wish, if it makes them feel empowered in their MINI Cooper of a mind.  I’ve endured worst name-calling grade school.

But, if being liberal means…

  • I believe true freedom begins with free speech and the right to vote and not with a gun.
  • I believe the United States was founded on religious freedom and separation of church and state and not Judeo-Christian beliefs.
  • I don’t believe White males have all the answers.
  • Europe is not the foundation of civilization.
  • I read more than the Christian Bible and a TV guide.
  • Men and women possess different attributes, but are still equal
  • The human race is really the only race on Earth.
  • There is life beyond this planet.
  • Industrial enterprises don’t have the right to profitably pollute the environment.
  • Queer people aren’t diabolically dangerous.

…then you can call me a liberal.  I call myself a human being with my own thoughts and opinions.  And I don’t have to run any of these by other folks, just to get their approval.

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Remind Them of This

As the 2020 elections approach – almost too quickly – here in the U.S., I’m almost amused at the thought of who’s going to grab the Democratic presidential nomination and how they will combat (faux) President Donald Trump.  Key word here – almost.  A lifetime of watching political battles rage across the media spectrum and nearly three decades of making every effort I could to register my own vote, along with discussing a variety of issues with family, friends, coworkers, gym partners and strangers, have perhaps left me cynical and jaded.  I feel that usually happens once you get past the half-century mark in birthdays.  Not only is my body now wanting to lead a life of its own, so is my mind.  Can I get a new persona?

But, despite the anguish and frustration, I realized something crucial a while back.  Every election cycle candidates for whatever office rushes out to visit potential constituents; shaking hands, kissing babies (born or unborn), eating virtually everything that approaches their lips, and – of course – dishing out a cadre of promises.  Then, as often happens, they get into that designated office and find out it just doesn’t work out that simply.  So they disappoint us and shove their spokespeople and p.r. reps before our faces to explain why things didn’t go as planned.  So, what’s new this year?

Nothing, really.  Yet, I know THEY seek our votes for a certain high-profile position and – if elected – they will get paid with OUR tax dollars.  Ultimately, THEY work for US.  We DON’T work for them.  WE employ them, in fact, based upon their qualifications for the job (in theory), and THEY are assigned specific duties, according to that particular role.  These are not full-time, permanent roles for them; they are CONTRACT jobs.  In other words, they are nothing more than glorified TEMP WORKERS.

Whether it’s the U.S. presidency, a governorship, a judgeship or a spot on a local school board, they present themselves to us as job candidates and ask to be hired.  WE, the People, analyze their skills and experience and make our decisions afterwards.  We are charged with the complex responsibility of assessing their viability for the job and choosing whether to grant them that role.  In all cases, the majority rules; regardless, WE, the People, are essentially their employers.  Again, the salaries for those positions comes out of our tax dollars.

They are contracted out for an X period of time, and when that term is up – if they’ve chosen to continue – WE, the People, review their job performance and decide if we want to renew their contract.  We look at what they’ve done and how they’ve handles themselves during their tenure.  Both work performance and attitude matter equally.  As with the initial hiring process, the majority rules.  So, while some of us may be thrilled to see the official re-hired, many among us aren’t.  Sadly, that’s just how it is.

These election events are always difficult and frustrating.  It’s not that they can be difficult and frustrating; they ARE difficult and frustrating!  Things don’t always turn out clearly.  Evidence: the 2016 U.S. elections.

And no official in their right mind (and understand many of them aren’t from the very beginning) will take their contract renewal for granted.  Evidence: the 2018 Senate race here in Texas.  Republican Junior Senator Ted Cruz almost lost to Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke.  Cruz had coasted easily to his 2012 maiden run and perhaps assumed last year’s contest would be equally undramatic.  As I always love to see happen to such arrogance, Cruz assumed wrong and won by literally a handful of votes.

It is such an unpleasant task to sort through the chaos and the rhetoric and determine who is best equipped for that designated position.  But it is what We, the People, have to do to keep our society functioning properly and soundly.  Democracy is one thing that can’t be automated.

Just remember, my friends, the people who run for office are asking for our votes.  That simply means THEY work for US.  We, the People, hire them and we can fire them.  They all have to remember that.  But so do we.

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Said Again

I keep having to look at the slew of calendars I have scattered throughout the house – the National Geographic, ASPCA, military veterans and one displaying houses I get every year from my real estate friend.  They all assure me of the same thing: it’s 2019 – not 1919.  Or 1969.  Or even 1999.  Nope!  It’s 2019, my friends.  We’re at the end of the second decade of the 21st century.  Oh wait!  Yes.  I had to check again: 2019 – the two and the zero being the key factors here.

I have to do this because of the recent series of tirades Donald Trump has lavished upon certain members of Congress.  Would somebody get the damn phone away from him?!

As if anyone should be surprised, our Dear Leader hasn’t quieted down verbal attacks against non-Whites who dare to speak their minds against him.  Via his Twitter feed while safely ensconced in the White House, he created quite a stir recently, when he assailed four alphamore U.S. congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.  Denouncing them as “The Squad”, he became enraged, after they criticized him for his response to the growing migrant crisis along the southern border – among other issues.

Ocasio-Cortez had already identified herself as a socialist when she won New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens boroughs – both of which have large non-White populations.  In fact, I think non-Hispanic Whites are so scarce in the Bronx they might qualify for endangered species status.

Trump didn’t hold anything back when he assailed the four congresswomen (an attribute his devotees love) that, if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they can “go back” to the “broken and crime-infested” countries “from which they came”.  For the record, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were all born and raised here in the United States; thus making them, well, natural-born Americans.  Omar emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child; the clan fleeing their Somali homeland, as it sunk further into political and social chaos.  But she is now an American citizen.  Omar has been openly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which garners the usual cries of anti-Semitism from all sides.  But a statement about the 09/11 terrorist attacks as “some people did something” makes me think suspiciously of her.  Yet, one has to look at that verbiage within the context of her entire speech.  To her credit, she’s also said: “I do not blame every single white person when we have a white man who massacres children at a school, or moviegoers in a movie theatre.  And I think this really horrendous narrative that says, as a Muslim, I’m supposed to explain, apologize, for the actions of someone who’s also terrorizing me, is absurd.”

Now Trump has gone after Congressman Elijah Cummings who represents Maryland’s 7th District, which includes Baltimore.  Describing the majority-Black area as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live”, he drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and independents.  I don’t know what incited that particular discourse, but it’s obvious Trump likes to play the proverbial race card when things get rough in the political arena, which is something like, oh…100% of the time.  And I’ve found that, if you go for the jugular by mentioning race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality, you’ve essentially lost the debate.  You’ve run out of legitimate things to say; you’ve exhausted your gallery of facts and logical points, but you want to keep arguing because you just absolutely have to have the last word.

As I’ve stated before, not everything wrong with America is the fault of White males.  But again, I have to look at one of my calendars.  Seriously?!  We’re still dealing with this shit in 2019?!  I heard that “go back” crap when I was in high school!  It was a similar comment from a fellow student that propelled me into my first and only fight in high school – towards the end of my senior year.  During my alphamore year a substitute teacher said my last name is un-Christian.  I took that up with the school principal before I told my parents about it.  I was concerned my proud father would go to the school and want to kick some old White ass.

I heard a little less racist language while in college.  Key words – “a little less”.  Occasionally, some idiot would throw a “you people” in my face, and I was just as quick to slur right back at them.  By the 1990s, ironically, the people slinging racist vitriol at me the most were Black or other Hispanics.

So, how is it that this kind of talk has worked its way back into the mainstream?  Retro may be cool in some nightclub situations, such as retro-70s.  (I try to ignore “Retro 90s” nights!)  But it’s not necessarily cool with a spoken language.  Never mind that Trump’s “go back” comment might be illegal in a workplace setting.  I’m still perplexed that we’ve gone from No-Drama-Obama to Czar Trump in a virtual blink of our collective eyes.

But, after 200 or so years of civil rights progress, it seems we’ve now started rolling backwards.  To we Trump detractors, this is not news.  Trump had pumped fuel into the “Birther” movement: the band of morons who questioned the birthright of President Obama.  He never acknowledged he’d been wrong when he said his “researchers” had learned some odd things about Obama.  Yet, he sat in the Oval Office next to Obama and called him a great man.  Amazing how brave some people get when they’re behind a phone or a computer, isn’t it?  It’s so different in person.

Thinking back to my high school tenure doesn’t bring back many good memories.  I was so shy and introverted I often fell prey to bullies.  So I try NOT to think about that period.  It was so long ago anyway.  Yet, that “go back” shit slammed into my conscious harder than seeing a Windows 3 screen.

My mother used to recount the number of times people had called her “half-breed” because her father was German-American and her mother was Mexican.  My father told me of the day an older White woman at the printing shop where he worked said she saw “a bunch of Mexicans” working on a lawn and thought of him.  He responded by saying something like, “Well, I saw a herd of cows in a field on my way to work and thought of you.”

A friend of mine once asked how is it that, in such a large city as Dallas, our fathers happened to know each other.

“All those old Mexicans knew each other!” I replied.  “They were all crammed into the same neighborhoods and went to the same schools.  They had to stick together.  It was a matter of survival.”

She’s only a few years younger than me, and my answer seemed to surprise her.  But she understood what I was saying.

In high school – and to some extent, even in college – I often felt isolated because I was one of the few Hispanic kids.  But I was as much American as I was then and still am now.  Some of my Spanish ancestors were here in Texas long before the Mayflower pilgrims; my Indian ancestors long before them.  So I always pulled that from the depths of my mind whenever some fool threw a “go back” at me.

I suspect Donald Trump’s presidency is the final battle cry of the “Angry White Male” – the withering group of individuals who still feel they should run everything and should be allowed to say what they want.  But, as a mostly White male myself, I know Trump gives all White men a bad name.  I’ll never criticize people who voted for him in 2016.  They had that right, and it’s not up to anyone else to decide what their selection should be.  I definitely disagree with a recent essay by Pastor John Pavlovitz about Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment three years ago.

But still…“go back”?  I’m hearing that again?  From the president of the United States?  Pardon me just a moment.  Yes…still 2019.  Time just won’t stop or roll backwards, no matter how much we beg.

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