My two cents on Colin Kaepernick

Posted: September 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

It was Voltaire who said “I don’t agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”, right? Actually, it wasn’t, but that’s not important here. (It was Evelyn Beatrice Hall in a biography on Voltaire, writing about his ideas on free speech.) The idea, that free speech is important and should be defended is the issue.

Anyway, whoever said it, that’s the way I feel about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback, at least for now, for the San Franciso 49’er’s.

I don’t agree with the method of his protest, refusing to stand for the national anthem, but I do agree that he is within his rights, specifically the right to free speech guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, in the US Constitution.

I’ve never been a fan of Kaepernick, and I’m am definitely not a fan of someone showing disrespect for the anthem, the flag, or the military of the USA. But, one of the rights that that flag represents is the right to protest something that you feel is unjust.

Anyone who denies that certain groups are treated differently in certain situations (in this case, Mr. Kaepernick is saying that minorities are treated differently by the police) is either ignorant or not being truthful.

When I was in the Army, we had a mandatory class on race relations. I prided myself on not being prejudiced, bigoted, and especially not being racist. In fact, I hate even using the term “race.” When I fill out a form and it has a blank for “race” I put “human.” The first thing the class instructor said was “We are all prejudiced.” Then he went on to explain and I realized that he was right. He used the example of walking down a dark city street at night and meeting a couple of young men. You would have different feelings as you approached each other if it were a couple of black teens in hoodies vs a couple of white teens in sport coats. If you don’t admit that, you are being untruthful to yourself. These differences in your expectations are from your prejudices. We do all have them.

And then there is the police element of Kaepernick’s protest. He talks about “rogue” cops mistreating minority suspects. Well, I believe that most, I will even say the vast majority of police are good, honest cops trying to do a difficult job, but the “rogue” cops do exist. I have met a few of them myself. If you deny their existence, again, you are being untruthful.

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that the first step to solving any of these types of problems is to admit they exist and begin a conversation. Again, I disagree with the method of Mr. Kaepernick’s choice of protest, but he has us talking about it, doesn’t he?

Vaya con Dios

Michael B. Leffew

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday today and I truly hope that everyone took a few moments to remember what the holiday is all about.

I live in Rockingham County, NC. We have a Veteran’s Memorial Park in Wentworth, the county seat. Every year they have a ceremony there on Memorial Day and another one on Veterans’ Day. I appreciate the fact that we do this and I try to go to these ceremonies every year. I haven’t been to all of them, but I have not missed a Memorial Day service in several years.

The ceremony on Memorial Day is probably very similar to ones all across the country, there will be some speeches, some prayers, some patriotic songs and the reading of the names of all the veterans who have passed away since the last ceremony the previous year. After the names are read, there is the salute and then taps is played. It is a simple ceremony, but very moving.

The list of names seems to be getting longer each year. This year’s program had three pages, nearly 200 names, which seems, to me anyway, to be a lot to have passed away in one year for a fairly rural NC county.

The greatest generation, as the WWII veterans are called, are leaving us at an ever-accelerating rate as these veterans get older and older, but these are not the only names. There are increasing numbers of Korean, Viet Nam, and, now, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran’s names showing up on the list.

I am a bit upset this year, though, and have decided to vent about it here. Why am I upset? Well a very good friend of mine, no he was more than a very good friend, he was more of a brother, passed away last August. Now this man was not only a veteran, he was a veteran twice. He was a sole surviving son; his brother was killed in Viet Nam (in fact the ceremony was yesterday, 29 May, which was also the anniversary of his brother’s death). In spite of this, he went into the Army. After a few terms, yes I said “a few” terms of enlistment he came back to civilian life because our veteran loving federal government decided to do away with the GI Bill and he figured to use it rather than loose it. He was not finished, however. This brave patriot went back into the Army after the age of 55 and went to Iraq.

As I said earlier, I try not to miss the Memorial Day ceremony, and this year I was expecting to hear my brother’s name when they read this list of veterans who had passed. He had a nickname by which he was known to most people, and I thought I would do what ever I could to make sure that when his name was read, the nickname would be, too. I talked with some people to try to find out how to make sure that his name would be read correctly. I talked with the sheriff, who usually is one of the dignitaries who actually read the names. He told me that the group who put the ceremony together get the names from the funeral homes that do the funeral services. I then called the funeral home, and explained what I was trying to do. I was told it would be handled. So, Imagine my surprise when, not only was his nickname not used, his name was not on the list at all. After the ceremony, I talked with one of the presenters and was told again, that the names come from the funeral homes that had handled the funeral services. So, thanks a lot, FAIR’S funeral home, in Eden, NC, for totally dropping the ball. It would have been bad enough just to forget about a veteran, but I called and asked about this one and still he was forgotten. Well he wasn’t forgotten by those of us who knew him. Rest in peace, Buddy, and thank you for your service.

Render Unto Caesar…

Posted: September 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

A few words about Kim Davis, county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky and her position to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.
One of the main driving forces behind the founding of this country was religious freedom. People wanted to be able to worship as they saw fit, not be told that they could not worship as they saw fit, but also not to be told that they had to worship a certain way. In other words, the government could not tell you which religion to practice, or to practice any at all.
Ms. Davis has every right to say, “This is my religious belief and I will not compromise it”. She does not have the right to say “This is my religious belief and you, too, will follow it”. If she, in good conscience, cannot issue those legal documents that are required by her job, and which are, according to the court, legal documents, then she must resign.
I have heard it said that our country has a history of making concessions for people, especially when they are trying to follow their religious beliefs. The court has already done that in her case by saying that the licenses do not have to have her signature and that the deputy clerk may sign off on these applications. If she cannot go along with that, she needs to step down, it is that simple. It really is.

Vaya Con Dios,

Michael Leffew

I’ve always been proud of the fact that I am from the south. The south had a tradition of honor, hard work, and of people looking out for each other, at least that is what I was taught growing up.
I have said before that as proud as I am of my country, I am definitely not proud of the fact that my country was a slave nation. By “my country” here, I am talking about the United States of America, not the Confederate States of America. The USA was founded in 1776. There were slaves before that, but the country itself did not exist until 1776, so I’ll start then. For the next 85 years, though, the Confederate States of Amerca still did not exist, but the USA was a slave nation for that entire time. The cross of slavery is not the South’s, alone, to bear. There were slaves in the North before, during and, yes, even after the Civil War.
A couple of quick points here about the Civil War and slavery:
1. The war was not about slavery. Yeah, that depends on your perspective, if you are honest about this. True, the war was primarily about “states’ rights”, the economy of the times, and whether or not the states had the legal authority to secede from the union. But, in truth, that economy was based on slavery, and one of the “states’ rights” that was in question was definitely slavery.
2. As mentioned before, there were slaves in the North before, during and after the war.
3. The Emancipation Proclamation was great politics, but not worth the paper it was written on from a “legal” perspective. The whole premise of the south’s case was their right to secede. If, as they contended, they were no longer part of the USA, then the president of the USA had no authority over them, any more than he would over any other sovereign nation. He could not free the slaves in, French Guinea, for example, and, by the same logic, he could not free the slaves in the CSA. By the way, he did have the authority to free the slaves in the north, but the proclamation did not do that. Really. Read it sometime.
With those points out of the way now, let’s talk about the flag. It doesn’t matter if it is really the flag of the Confederates States of America, or the Army of Northern Virginia (which it is), when someone sees this flag they think “Confederate Flag”, or “Rebel Flag” as we called it when I was a kid.
I personally think that the flag had nothing to do with what happened in Charleston, South Carolina recently. An evil, racist, psychopath killed nine innocent people in church and since has been shown in pictures with the flag. He has also been shown with the Apartheid flag of South Africa and other symbols. The symbols more than likely mean something to him, but they did not cause the shootings.
I feel that people calling for the flag to come down from state buildings is a normal reaction, and I think stores banning sales of the flag is an over-reaction. Individuals should have the right to fly that flag if they wish to and communities should have the right to ban it from being flown over governmental buildings if they so vote.
Let me tell you a personal story.
Back in 1993, the Daughters of the Confederacy, a group of ladies who do charitable work, such as setting up scholarships for kids who could otherwise ill afford to go to school, were applying for renewal of the copyright on their logo. This group had formed not long after the Civil War ended, so had been around for quite a while. They did a lot of good work, and had never had any trouble renewing their logo’s copyright.
Senator Carol Moseley Braun, a black female Senator from Illinois, was the only problem with them getting their “rubber stamp” this time, but problem she was. She stood on the floor of the Senate and railed against the logo because it contained the confederate flag.
She threatened to filibuster to stop the approval, and stirred up enough commotion to definitely make it a problem. See, voting to “rubber stamp” the approval without any fanfare was one thing, but now these same Senators would have to actually vote for the confederate flag logo after all this publicity. Ms Moseley Braun succeeded in stopping the, up until now, automatic approval. The Daughters of the Confederacy did not get their logo renewed.
I don’t know why that bothered me as much as it did, but it did. This group of kindly old ladies was, in my opinion, being “messed” with and I did not like it. I went to the local big box store and bought some red, white and blue spray paint, and some masking tape and turned the tailgate of my old Dodge truck into a rolling Rebel Flag.
My wife asked me what I was doing and I answered that I was “exercising my first amendment right to free speech” and making a political statement.
I drove that old truck around for a while like that, a couple of years or more, anyway. I got some comments about it, some good and some bad, but the flag stayed right there.
My daughter told me one day, “Dad, I know you, and I know you are not a racist. But my friends don’t know you. They see that flag on your tailgate and they assume. They assume incorrectly, but they assume, anyway.”
I realized that she was correct. Everybody has prejudices, even if they don’t think about them. When I examined my own, I realized that when I see the Rebel flag flying in someone’s yard, someone I don’t know, I, too, will make assumptions. Assumptions based on prejudiced opinions. Wrong assumptions, probably, but I will make those assumptions.
I didn’t remove that tailgate, or paint over it, but I haven’t displayed the flag since I got rid of that old truck.
But with everything that is going on now, with all the cries to tear down Confederate memorials and to rename military bases that are named for Southern officers, I’ve been thinking. I still have a pick up truck, and while Wal-Mart has said that they will no longer sell the flag, they do still sell spray paint.

truck flag 93

Vaya Con Dios,

ML

Wars and Rumors of Wars

Posted: June 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

I see on the internet that President Obama is ordering another 450 or so troops (the number varies depending on the source) to Iraq to assist in training the Iraqis to fight against ISIS. I have one question, “Why?”

I am a veteran and I strongly support the military, but I have to ask what the hell are we doing over there? Seriously.

We have been involved in the middle east for who knows how long and what is different? If you only count the time since 9-11, we have been there for almost 15 years.
We have lost thousands of America’s best young soldiers and for what?
Except for ISIS and even more chaos, what is different there than it was in 2001?

I went to a memorial day observance at the Rockingham County Veteran’s park and one of the speakers said
“In World War II, America was at war. Now, America’s military is at war, America is at the mall”. That is exactly the problem.

I am of the “baby boomer” generation. We were the kids that were born after the troops came home from WWII. I personally have no memories of WWII but my parents and grandparents definitely did and they told us about it. The country, not just the military, was at war. I am not talking about the rationing of sugar, gasoline, and other items, though that was one way that the civilian population felt the war. No, I am talking about the attitude of the every day citizen on the street. Every body knew there “was a war on” and they operated accordingly. There was an evil in the world and we (the USA and our allies) were going to defeat it. The country was at war. The COUNTRY was at war.

We have been in Iraq and Afghanistan for 15 years, now. World War II lasted, or our involvement in it, lasted only four years. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, and by 1945 it was over. That was because THE COUNTRY was at war. Everybody (I know that is a generalization, but almost everybody) was a part of the war effort. Now, you can live your life and not feel affected by the war at all. That, as I said earlier, is the problem.

If that conflict, police action, skirmish, war, or whatever you call it, over there is important enough for us to send our best, bravest and brightest to die, then we need to get behind it and get the job done. If it is not important enough to send them, we need to get the hell out and come home.

Personally, I think that ISIS is pure evil and needs to be eradicated, exterminated, and wiped off the face of the earth. But we are not going to do that by sending 450 more trainers to Iraq.

Vaya con Dios

ML

Baltimore Riots

Posted: April 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

I have no idea what it is like to grow up a poor black child, I grew up a poor white boy, but that is another post for another day.

I am old enough to remember Jim Crow laws. I am old enough to remember segregation. I know there are some things in our country’s past that are problematic and nothing of which to be proud.  I also know we have come a long way and I am proud of that.

We have a black President and a black attorney general (who is replacing another black attorney general). We have had a black Secretary of State. We have, indeed, made progress.

A quick search on the internet will show that four of the last five mayors of Baltimore have been black, and the current mayor is a black female. With all of this, the rioters are still talking about “institutional racism”.

As I said, I have no idea what it is like to grow up a poor black child, especially an intercity poor black child. They may, indeed, believe that there is institutional racism. They are angry at the system and are angry at the police. Looking through those glasses, burning police cars makes sense. I am not condoning that behavior, but, in that context it makes sense.

Being angry at the system, however, has absolutely no connection to burning down the local CVS, burning down a local pizzeria, burning down a local wig shop, or looting the liquor store and the clothing stores. That is insane.

TO BOLDY GO…..

Posted: September 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Just to give you an idea of how big space is, think on this.

In science fiction, which, when I was growing up, was my favorite type of fiction, our solar system is considered our “neighborhood”. Compared to interstellar space, crossing the solar system is like crossing the neighborhood, or maybe the county. In terms of distances, crossing the solar system is crossing the street, and the nearest star is a bit further.

In 1977 I was in the Army, my youngest had not been born, and I was stationed in Texas (at Ft. Hood). Jimmy Carter was president and inflation was eating away my paycheck. In September of 1977 the spacecraft Voyager was launched. I read today that is has recently (last month) left the solar system.

As I said, just to give you an idea how big “space” is, think on this. This spaceship is traveling away from earth at almost eleven miles per second. It could, if it were in orbit about the earth, go completely around the earth in less than an hour (about 40 minutes).
It has been traveling at that speed for over THIRTY FIVE YEARS and is JUST NOW getting to the edge of the solar system, the edge of the neighborhood. Zooming at over 38,000 miles per hour for over 35 years and it is just getting there! How big is that?