February 1, 2017

I'M NOT A TERRORIST! TRUST ME.

Many years ago, in one of my many careers, I worked for a background check service. Employers are very selective about who they trust to work for them, so they hired our company to check them out.

For every project, the subject provided:

Full given name at birth
Place of birth
All aliases
Social Security number
Driver’s license number
Fingerprints
Employment history
Education history
Their consent to very this information

January 11, 2017

INTOLERANCE GOOD, OR INTOLERANCE BAD? PICK A SIDE.


Yesterday, I watched a portion of Jeff Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing. I agree that it’s only right and proper that he (or any cabinet nominee) should face close scrutiny before we endow him with such awesome authority. His career experience, personal character, and general demeanor are all fair game, at a time like this. But in the view of this observer, the tests of orthodoxy seem to be getting weirder and weirder with each passing year.

Under questioning from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, it seems that Mr. Sessions keeps company with some shady characters. Apparently, he received a few awards from people with dangerous beliefs: One guy is a racist, one hates women, and the other is a general schmuck. "Will you return the awards and sever all ties?" 

REALLY? Is this what our country has come to?

December 27, 2016

FIFTY YEARS OF KWANZAA


The holiday of Kwanzaa is now upon us. This seven-day feast (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) was devised in 1966 by Professor Ronald Everett of California State University at Long Beach, to instill a sense of cultural pride among African-American families. According to the website (www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org), the holiday celebrates the “ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice.”

In recent years, Kwanzaa has gained traction as an occasion for gatherings of family and friends. It’s rooted in the seven principles of Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Hallmark sells Kwanzaa-themed greeting cards that emphasize these principles, conveying a message of dignity and empowerment. At least, that’s the popular account that most people hear.
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October 18, 2016

COULD IT BE THAT WHITEY COP ISN'T THE PROBLEM?


Toya Graham is my hero.

Oh, the name doesn’t ring a bell? She’s the young mother who got caught on network TV, roughing up her teenage son because she found out that he was rioting on the streets of Baltimore. She reminds me of my own mother.

That’s right: In my old neighborhood, we knew our neighbors and they knew us. If someone hurt one of her children, Mom would run to our defense like a mother grizzly caring for her cub. But if I was the offender, she’d be the first to apologize on my behalf and then slap me back to my senses. Which is as it should be. How could she complain about the bully down the street, if her own children were no better?

Mom knew that it wasn’t in her power to fix all of the ills of our society. But one thing she could do, was to keep my sister and me from making it worse. And it worked: We’ve been (mostly) on the straight and narrow ever since. 

October 9, 2016

Political Correctness Has Come to This?

Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes, will know that I am a person of many strong opinions. On politics, religion, economics, relationships, publishing, whatever. I don’t apologize for my views, although in recent years I’ve become smarter in how I express them. No longer do I try so hard to win every argument. To prevail in battle but lose a friend (or a client), is surely a hollow victory.

Lately, few issues have divided our nation quite like the problems of police excess and civil unrest. Cop shoots criminal suspect, suspect shoots cop. Who was right, and who was wrong? Often, it seems, we form our opinions before the ink is dry on the story. Nevermind the details, forget the nuances. Let’s run into the streets, lay blame, and burn down a department store. As if.

Last week, one of my Facebook friends posted a short rant that began: There is no such thing as a good cop. Of course I couldn’t disagree more, and I don’t know how he came to that conclusion. I tried to draw him out to understand his reasons, with no response.

August 5, 2016

Why I Don't Wear a Cross

As a child growing up in church, I strove to understand what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. I attended Sunday school faithfully for years, but my teachers didn’t do much to help the process. That is, they filled my brain with theology, rules, and information, but not a lot of practical advice. We never (and I mean, never) discussed sex, dating, decision-making, discipleship, drug abuse, or any of the important real-world issues that affect the daily life of a 20th-century teenager in the big city. I wanted to live a righteous live worthy of my calling, but…how?

The physical trappings of faith confounded me. Jesus wore a robe and sandals, but I have to wear a tie and shiny shoes? Our Messiah worshiped in the open air and fed the poor, but we had to spend endless sums to repair our crumbling chapel? So many questions I dared not ask.

July 20, 2016

Intrigue at Pasadena

For about the past twenty years, my sister has been engaged in the research of our family history. In the course of this project, she has turned up dozens of relatives that we didn’t know we had. Sometimes she confirms information that we already knew, while occasionally she discovers that we had it all wrong.

This week she discovered an article on the front page of the Los Angeles Examiner (a Hearst newspaper, now defunct), dated December 31, 1908. As a writer, I was amused by the curious grammar and word choices. The headline:

June 28, 2016

Don't Be a Boob

Just yesterday, one of my friends posted an intriguing question of Facebook: Is it proper for a woman to breastfeed a child in a public place? What do you think? Ah, one of those topics that is sure to bring out strong opinions on all sides.

About a dozen people answered, all women, and the broad consensus was “Sure. Just be discreet, and don’t make a show of it.” But as the odds would have it, a couple of people came out on both extremes: “No, never expose yourself in public! It’s gross!” and “Yes, I’ve got my constitutional rights, and no one can stop me!” (I should mention, all of these respondents identified themselves as Christians. I will explain why this is significant, in just a moment.)

June 16, 2016

Of Guns and Crosses

I’m a Christian. There, I’ve said it.

When I out myself as such, I never know what to expect. Some people love me, some hate me (although they’re far too polite to say so), and some just don’t care.

Indeed, the unfavorable perception of my religion is not entirely undeserved. We all know a few grumpy religious hypocrites, don’t we? And of course, there’s the baggage of history: The Crusades, the Inquisitions, and so on. Without a doubt, some of the greatest criminal atrocities of all time have been committed in the name of Christ.

One thing for sure, these guys don’t speak for me. They’ve hijacked my religion, based on a false reading of my holy book. They don’t represent my beliefs or my politics. Further, most modern Christians will likewise quickly distance themselves from such things.

June 1, 2016

If You Seek to Be Understood, Seek to Understand

I found this article in the Huffington Post today, and the title intrigued me: Black, Gay Christians Do Exist, And It’s Time You Hear Us. While I have never endured the persecution and heartbreak that this young man describes, I nonetheless believe that he has drawn the wrong conclusions from the experience.

First, I was born and raised in Hollywood. So as you might imagine, my education in these matters began at a very early age, long before my juvenile brain knew how to process the information. Yes, I know you exist, and nothing in this article is new. I heard these arguments over 40 years ago.
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