Living (and dying) on Tulsa time

 

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The Black  section of Tulsa burning during the race riot  of 1921.

 

Maybe Colin Kaepernick is right. Maybe it’s finally time to admit that there are so many racist cops killing black men, it can’t be ignored anymore.

I grew up in Tulsa. I was saddened by but not surprised when a Tulsa police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black man named Terance Crutcher. Tulsa police say they are investigating, but it’s apparent from the chilling video of Crutcher being shot while he held his hands in the air that it was yet another senseless murder of a Black man by a cop who will probably get away with  it.

Like many big cities, Tulsa is a dangerous place to live if you’re Black. Tulsa, and Oklahoma in general, have a dark history of racial killing, from KKK lynchings to the 1921 Tulsas race riot, when thousands of whites stormed into the Black section of Tulsa, killed 300 people and burned the black neighborhood to the ground. It was a massive attack on the Black  population, including aerial assault from airplanes dropping incendiary devices on roofs. Many of the victims were buried  in a mass grave. It was hushed up, swept under the rug, and mostly forgotten.

Growing up in a white Tulsa neighborhood in the 1960s, I had no idea it had even happened. I had no idea that being Black in Tulsa was life threatening. But then, I don’t remember any Black students at my high school. I do remember one afternoon when a Black man knocked on our door and my mother took me into the  bathroom where we hid until he went away.

I didn’t  know just how bad it really was until the early 1980s when I went to work as a writer at the Muskogee paper. Reporters who had been covering the cops for years whispered about the cops targeting and killing young Black men on the street routinely. They knew how to get away with it. If people at the newspaper knew about it, why didn’t they try to expose it?

It was a different time in the 1980s. Things were really corrupt. The editor of the newspaper and the police chief were buddies. The chief supplied our office parties with confiscated liquor. Part of the narrative that went around was that the cops carried an extra gun, a “drop gun” to plant on the dead victim. The fix was in solid. Blacks were hunted in some towns for sport by the cops. Being on the street a night was all it took to get you killed.

It was many years later before I understood how much this must have upset me. When I started writing short stories, one of  the first I  wrote was about racist cops running wild and killing Black men on the street. I was using writing as therapy, to try to get it out of my head.

But it seems it just won’t go away. This  latest killing in Tulsa is just the most recent in a never ending string of killings, and it won’t be the last, not by a long shot (pardon the pun). If you don’t understand why Black people in America are in the street with signs, why pro athletes are kneeling during the national  anthem, and why cops are more trigger happy than ever, it’s time to wake up and smell the bigotry and injustice.

No, not all cops are bad. But the good cops still cover for the bad ones, the ones that are committing  cold blooded murder. Is it going to take another big deadly race riot, like  the one in Tulsa in 1921 before we wise up?

A New Low

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I don’t think I could forgive myself if I didn’t  speak up about this nasty presidential election that is unlike any I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a few. Harry Truman had just become president when I was born. Yeah, I’m old. The first time I voted for president was in 1968,  the year of the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. It was Hubert Humphrey vs. Richard Nixon. I voted for Humphrey, and for the past half century, I’ve voted in every presidential election.

But I’ve never seen a campaign like this. I’ve liked and disliked different presidential contenders, but  until this election I’ve never feared that someone would be elected. But please God, I pray, if you exist, don’t let Donald Trump become the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet.

Donald Trump is a racist, a liar, an egomaniac. He’s a pompous boor, a con man, a vanity queen. I’m not sure he can tell the difference between reality and his own bullshit. He’s unfit to be a dogcatcher. He’s filled with hate, derision and bigotry for everything about America that isn’t white.

Here’s what’s even worse, that racism is still widespread enough in our country to propel him to the nomination of a major party. No, not all his supporters are racists, but they are a big bloc and without the support of racists, he wouldn’t be in this race. I mean, less than eight years ago when Americans elected the first African-American president, we had cause to believe that we had progressed against the forces of racism. Guess not.

The big ugly truth of this election is that racism is alive and well in America. When Trump started putting out his racist clarion calls directed  against Latinos, African-Americans, Women, Gays and even the handicapped, the racists came running. They’d been seething and fomenting for eight years over the indignity of having a Black president. They’re locked, loaded and white. Trump’s base is lily  white. None of America’s minorities support him.

Just hating Hillary is not a good enough excuse to vote for this monster Trump. You  have to be a full-on  bigot to back this blowhard.  I know Hillary isn’t the most appealing person to seek high office. Frankly, I wish the first woman president  (please, God, please)  wouldn’t have gained name recognition by being the wife of a president. But she’s smart, experienced and qualified. Three things that can’t be said for Trump. If Hillary lapsed into a coma tomorrow, I’d still vote for her, because the very idea of Trump being president is unthinkable. I’d vote for slime mold before I’d vote for Trump. His being a candidate is embarrassing. A Trump presidency would be disaster.

I’m truly disappointed we’re at this point in America. The rest of the world thinks Trump is a ridiculous clown. Sure, Putin and the Russians would love to see an idiot in the Oval Office. So would the Chinese, the North Koreans, and the Iranians. All our country’s enemies are hoping Trump gets elected. But that doesn’t bother his base, which is fueled by hate and conspiracy theories.

I think this is a crossroads in American history. We are now a multi-cultural society but a large portion of white people cannot accept the fact that they’re no longer in charge of everything. They want to take America back, like a hundred years back. In this election, we will either move forward by electing our first woman president, or we will return to the dark days of white supremacy by putting a racist in the White House.

 

Free at last- almost

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I’ve blogged once before about how much I dislike cable tv packages. Basically, you don’t get to choose which channels you receive. You’re sold a package, which includes your local channels and a bunch of cable channels, many of which you never watch. It’s like going to the grocery store to buy some apples and grapes and being forced to buy liverwurst and anchovies also, even though you know you won’t eat them. As a consumer, that makes no sense at all. What would make sense is a cafeteria system that allows you to buy  just the channels you want. But the cable companies are never going to do that. Why should they when they get your money for a mixed bag of goods?

So for years now, I’ve been plotting to escape my cable company. As my bill kept rising, almost month by month it seemed, I became even more determined to dump Cox Communication. But how?

Here’s how I did it. First of all, I’m proud to say that several weeks ago, I called Cox and canceled all my cable tv from them. It felt pretty good. And yes, my tv options have changed, but, on balance, I couldn’t be happier with the new way we’re watching tv.

I now stream my cable channels from Sling. It’s $20 a month for 25 channels. It’s yet another package deal, but most of the Sling channels are the ones we watch anyway, like CNN, ESPN, History, TNT, TBS, HGTV, and A and E. With Sling, changing channel takes a little longer, but the price is way less than I was paying before for most of the same channels. Of course, you have to have the ability to stream to do Sling. If you don’t have a smart tv, you can get something like an Amazon Fire Stick  and plug it into the HDMI slot on your tv and presto, your tv now comes in on your wifi.

For local channels, I bought and installed an outdoor digital amplified antenna. Getting it up was a trip. The antenna cost less than $20 on ebay, but it came unassembled. I spent most of a day putting it together, puzzling over the enigmatic instructions obviously written by someone with a limited knowledge of English. Yes, it was made in China.

Once I had it together and up, I connected it to my tv and it picked up 34 channels with a sharp picture, including my local ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, FOX and CW stations along  with a bunch of other channels, mostly broadcasting anciently old stuff like Andy Griffith, Gilligan’s Island and Newlywed Game. But it was all free tv, coming in on the airwaves, just like in the 1950s. It was like I’d come full circle.

To replace our premium channels, we’ve subscribed to Amazon Prime and Netflix. They are well worth what we pay for them, less than $20 a month. They offer a vast selection of movies, tv and  music.

We now spend about $40 a month on TV, about one-third what we were paying before. And we have better viewing options than before.

I’d like to say we’re free of Cox at last, but we still buy internet service from them. But by early next year, we hope to change providers and be completely free of the cable company. That will be a good day.

The truth is, cable tv is rapidly become old technology, and will soon be relegated to the same place as cassette music tapes, VHS video and buggy whips. The  cable companies  should be moving toward streaming, but they continue to flog their service, which has remained basically the same for 50 years. Cable tv is a dinosaur, about to become extinct. If you want to save money and have a better entertainment experience, streaming is your bright new future.

Never, Never, Ever Give Up

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1919 – Walt Disney is fired from his newspaper job for lacking imagination.

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1926 – Lucille Ball is told by her acting  coach that she’s wasting “her time and ours.”

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1936 – John F. Kennedy runs for president of the Harvard freshman class,  and loses.

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1960s – Steven Spielberg is rejected by the film school at USC.

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1962 – The Beatles are rejected by Decca Records.

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1973 – Hillary Clinton fails the District of Columbia bar exam.

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1977 – Oprah  Winfrey is fired from her news job for being too emotionally involved.
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1985 – Steve Jobs is fired from the Macintosh division of Apple.th73JMV7IZ

1996 – J.K. Rowling is turned down 12 times for her Harry Potter manuscript.

Never, never, ever give up.

 

 

The New Commandments

As we approach the new year, it’s time  to think about resolutions, ways we can be better. I don’t know why, but recently I’ve been thinking about how to live a good life. After some reflection, I’ve come up with 10 new commandments which, if followed, would make anyone into a good person.

The Old Commandments

I know many Christians revere the 10 commandments brought down from the mountain by Moses, but I’ve always thought that those rules of life are outdated for the way we live our lives now. I think it’s time to update the commandments for our times. So here are my new 10 commandments.

  1. Be kind to others. Sounds simple, but it’s not so easy. Life is filled with frustration, which leads to irritation, anger and bad behavior toward the source of the problem. Controlling yourself and being nice can be a challenge.
  2. Respect and preserve nature. We’re destroying the planet, our only home and safe haven. We’re killing the plants and animals at a record rate. We’re polluting the air and water. We’re changing the climate. Unless we become better stewards of nature, our time as a species is coming to an end. We have to learn to share the planet with and nurture all living things as well as the planet itself.
  3. Share some of what you have. If you’re fortunate enough to have more than you need to sustain yourself, give some of what you have to those who are hungry, cold, homeless or sick. Wealth is a curse, not a blessing.
  4. Love somebody. A life without love is a barren life. Find somebody who can put up with you and share your life with them.
  5. Be passionate. Find something you care about deeply and pursue that passion with all your energy.
  6. Accept yourself, accept others. We’re all different, but we’re more alike really. Find a way to overcome hatred, both self-loathing and intolerance for those who are not like you.
  7. Be happy. Happiness comes from within you, not from outside sources. Focus on the good things in your life. Endure the bad things with dignity and grace.
  8. Work hard. Make a good effort, push yourself and see what you can achieve. There is satisfaction in daily toil and struggle.
  9. Explore the planet. Don’t spend your whole life in one place. Revel in the beauty of what’s out there, whether it’s a walk in your neighborhood or a sojourn to distant wonders.
  10. Forgive. People do bad things to other people. That’s a reality we all have to deal with. You can either cling to your anger for the injustices heaped upon you, or you can let it go and be free of it.

Who am I to offer this lofty advice? I’m nobody, an old man who has often failed  to live by my own beliefs. These new commandments are not easy to live by. I’d say they’re far more difficult than the Mosaic commandments. Graven images? No problem. Don’t kill?  I’m perfect on that one so far. But I struggle mightily with most of the things I’ve listed as my formula for living a good life. But the fact that I struggle shows that I’m trying to do better, to grow and become a better person. And I think  that’s what life should really be about.untitled

Is Life Random?

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For years now, when the first weekend in August rolls around, we make the 50 mile drive to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a city wide yard sale. Never mind that’s it’s usually about a zillion degrees that weekend, or that in recent years there seem to be fewer and fewer sales, Eureka is a such a charming artistic town, we’re willing to melt into our shoes for a few hours while prowling through other people’s junk.

So my wife Ann, daughter Samantha and I happily drove around for hours in the heat in a car with no AC, and I ended up buying only one thing, a book by Donald Miller titled A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. I bought it at a yard sale at a place called the Village Writing School. I’m not sure why I bought it. Sometimes, you do things for reasons that aren’t clear. I’d never heard of the book or the author, even though he’s a NYT bestselling writer. Mostly I picked it out of the many books there because I had an intuitive moment, and intuitive moments don’t happen to me that often, so when one pops up, I try to be receptive.

No, intuition isn’t my thing. I leave that to women, mothers, psychics, mediums, and all those attuned to the cosmic message. Actually, intuition kind of goes against my core beliefs. I’ve always thought that life is random, that we’re like dust motes floating on the breeze.

Intuition is evidence that our existence isn’t random, that there is some kind of order in the universe, that things happen for a reason. Lots of people believe that’s the way it is but I’ve never been one of them.

Occasionally, though, something happens that is so serendipitous, that it makes me question the randomness of everything. And when that happens, it always catches me by surprise and gets my brain sparking.

So I took the book home and as often happens, I let it lay around for a while. I do that a lot and I’m not sure why. It’s not like books are like wine or cheese and will get better with age. Maybe it’s because I’m a picky reader, and I reject most of the books I start reading. And even though I’d had a small intuitive moment when I found the book, I really don’t have much faith in my intuitive ability. Intuition, or the lack of it, has often failed me. For example, when VCRs first came out, there were two formats, VHS and Beta. I, of course, bought a Betamax. I had a 50-50 chance of getting that one right and I blew it, despite pretty good odds of getting it right, even without any help from my atrophied intuition. Failures like that have made me skeptical that intuition works, at least for me.

Finally, though, I picked up the book and started reading it and it spoke to me directly in a way that made my mind race and even do a few cartwheels. Donald Miller is a fine writer, funny, insightful, touching, and thought provoking. But best of all, this was a book about how to be a good storyteller, and that’s been an almost obsessive drive for me nearly all my life.

I’m about halfway through the book now, and I’m reading it in sips, savoring the words, stretching it out as long as I can. The book has made me stop and think about some big things. Like what are the chances of finding something that opens some portals for you at a yard sale 50 miles from home, a random purchase based on a hunch that you had little faith in?

I know it doesn’t sound like much. I found a book that turns me on. Big deal. But new insights are a big deal.. As our opinions get hardened by time, finding something that challenges your ideas and gets you thinking is a kind of epiphany. Most people seek out information that supports what they already think, and no new ground is broken when you keep plowing the same old patch of dirt.

And I know it’s a small thing, but having this book fall into my hands seems like the exact opposite of a random event. It seems like it was meant to happen, like the book was lying there waiting for me to come find it, that it was custom written for me, that Donald Miller wrote the damn thing with me in mind. Of course, I know that’s not true but that’s how it feels, and that feeling doesn’t come along very often.

Maybe, just maybe, it all isn’t totally just hit or miss. I still think life is mostly random, that we’re just bouncing around like pinballs, lighting up lights and ringing bells without a clue how we did it. But it’s nice to know that occasionally, there’s magic mixed with the mayhem.

Icing ISIS

It’s hard to understand how a group of barbarians like ISIS is allowed to exist. Americans are united on this one: ISIS needs to be crushed. So why are these thugs still extant?

It’s time to go over to Syria and Iraq and do what Americans do. Kick ass.

But we’re a war-weary people, so sending the military might not be the way to go. I think I have a better way.

But first, some strategic thinking. How big a force do we need to wipe out ISIS? Well, how many fighters does ISIS have? The estimates range from 20,000 to 200,000. The CIA thinks the number is 40,000. Russia says 70,000. The Kurds, who are engaging ISIS in their front yard, say 200,000. A prominent think tank placed ISIS numbers at between 100,000 and 200,000.

So we need an expeditionary force of at least half a million.

I call for volunteers to go annihilate ISIS, and I think I know who’s ready and willing.

640px-Sofia_MilitiaThere are 100,000 militia members in the U.S. They are trained,  ready and their trigger fingers are itching for a real fight. Most of their paranoia so far has been directed at the federal government, but it would be easy to redirect their fury at ISIS. They’re already armed, so all they need is transport to within shooting distance of ISIS.

Of course the National Rifle Association boasts 5 million members. If only 10 percent of them joined the fight to ap_nra_president_charlton_heston_ll_131025_16x9t_384eliminate ISIS, we’d have our army of half a million from the NRA alone. Lord knows they have the guns and ammo. .

Every army needs a mobile force, a cavalry. There are 40,000 members of biker gangs in the U.S. They’re rough, tough and ready to rumble. They’re armed and dangerous. Send them and their bikes over and give them some meth and turn them loose.

hells-angels-bikes-for-kids-27712_1How about some urban guerrillas? Recruit from the 1.4 million young  hooligans in America’s inner city gangs. Even if you only got 10 percent of these hardened, street-wise, tough guys, that’s 140,000 foot soldiers with attitude.gang20members

Where else can you find some violent bad asses who are willing to kill people? America’s prisons, or course. We have more than 2 million criminals in jail, more than any other country, even China, which has four times our population. But that’s another issue for another blog. Back to wiping out ISIS. Send homicidal convicts.  You don’t even need to offer reduced sentences or

Inmates stand in a gymnasium where they are housed due to overcrowding at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino, California, June 3, 2011. The Supreme Court has ordered California to release more than 30,000 inmates over the next two years or take other steps to ease overcrowding in its prisons to prevent "needless suffering and death." California's 33 adult prisons were designed to hold about 80,000 inmates and now have about 145,000. The U.S. has more than 2 million people in state and local prisons. It has long had the highest incarceration rate in the world. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

any inducement, other than a field trip to the Middle East and a chance to kill, kill, kill.

In all, the militias, NRA, motorcycle gangs, street gangs, and jail inmates total 8,544,000. If our goal is 10 percent recruitment, that would be over 850,000. Goodbye ISIS.

Of course, there are some that argue that you can’t get rid of ISIS, because it’s not a physical force, it’s an idea. And it’s true that even if you eliminated ISIS, the same kind of fundamentalist assholes would probably pop up under a new name.

But wouldn’t it feel good? Sure some of our fighters will die, and some would get injured and it would end up costing a few billion. But nobody else is stepping up to take on ISIS. It’s time to ice ISIS. We have way more crazies that they do.