Zimmerman and Martin and The Two Minutes

It has been 18 months since the death of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. When a tragedy of this scale occurs in the course of what might otherwise be described as an ordinary day, the word WHY pops up for me in capital letters.

         A trial lasting over a month, 15 hours of jury deliberation, and countless media stories have attempted to answer WHY, various media outlets have taken sides on WHY, drawn lessons from WHY and still it strikes me that we know more inflammatory details than facts.

Yes, passion has entered into the picture. Words like ‘racially charged,’ ‘profiling, vigilante and ‘hoodie wearing suspect’ have been hurled about. Please consider however on that fatal night, that until shortly after 7:00 pm, the two actors in this tragedy were just ordinary guys like you and me going about the simple tasks of everyday life.

         Then—in two minutes—life could no longer be taken for granted. According to Wikipedia, there were only two minutes between 7:15 pm, the time George Zimmerman hung up on his 911 phone call and 7:17, when Sanford policeman Timothy Smith arrived to observe Zimmerman and Martin, Martin by this time dead. Here’s another fact, again from Wikipedia: The scene of this death was but 70 yards from the unit where Trayvon Martin was staying at the time.

         Would that Zimmerman had waited just 10 seconds until Martin arrived at his destination, opening his door with a key that fit the lock just right.

         Only two minutes.

         Do I judge Zimmerman in this? Do I judge Martin in this?

         No, all I am saying is two minutes can last forever.

         Be careful, even on ordinary days.

Ted Magnuson is the author of The Bouchard Legacy, the story of two step-brothers, one black, one white, and a fourth generation family business set in St Louis and America 1968-1979. Paul has earned his inheritance, but Randy owns it. The Cover of The Bouchard Legacy

Link to the Bouchard Legacy

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Memorial Day 2013. A Still Small Voice…through the ages

mem 2013

For Memorial Day- A still, small voice

 

         As the media drown us in allegations of malfeasance at Benghazi, IRS overzealousness in scrutinizing the tax deductibility of politically motivated contributions, sequestration, tornado devastated cities and the other traumas faced by so many, I thought today of Elijah the ancient sage who had hid from the king in a cave. The king, threatened by Elijah, would have him killed. Elijah questioned where God had gone, given all the torment the sage faced. Even in his cave refuge, a storm raged, holding him like a captive.

         After many days had passed, the storm died down and an ominous silence took its place. In this silence, the sage sensed the presence of God. In this moment of reflection, touched by God, the sage knew what he must do, so that he could continue in his work. Empowered, he went back to the city where he found strong allies.

Now this imagery of a sage communing with his god thousands of years ago may, admittedly be a tough act for us modern secular types to wrap our minds around. How does one experience this ‘ominous silence.’

         Yet this Memorial Day, another image comes to mind that also illustrates the set of mind I’m talking about. I wonder if this ‘ominous silence’ occurred again after Abraham Lincoln spoke at  Gettysburg.
The War Between the States still raged on when Lincoln had gone to help dedicate the cemetery for the war dead. In November, 1963, letting the south secede, dividing one nation into two, could have become a possibility. In the ultimate ‘political soundbite,’ in a speech a little over two minutes in length,  President Lincoln urged those in the North to press on for Union.

And so, the war continued on for many more months until Robert E Lee at Appomattox urged his troops to return home and accept the peace that was offered them.

         Even today, here and there, this ominous silence is present, touching people, helping pave the way for a commitment to the larger values, whether it is service to a belief or a nation; or both. Something to think about for Memorial Day.

Listen to the Gettysburg address and other documents that made democracy on ‘Those Self Evident Truths,’ a CD produced and presented by Ted Magnuson
400 years of democracy in the making in 72 minutes.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Move over teabaggers. Make room for the Espresso Patriots.

TR gave us the Square Deal, FDR the New Deal; OBAMA, give us the Real Deal!
It’s about time our country reinvigorates, revitalizes, revamps Education, Infrastructure,
and the Industrial Government Complex. As Thomas Friedman has titled his new book
“That Used to Be Us.” If you haven’t read this book, please do so.
It can be us again, back in the saddle again, off to reinvent America, and by proxy, the world.
China is sick, Russia is aging, while Muslim reactionaries are getting pinged by Predators, and ST6.
There’s a leadership vacum out there craving to be filled by stalwart sensible Espresso Patriots, teabaggers!
Let me hear an Amen!

I hate health clubs- It’s all in what we bring to the game.

One of the things I hate about going to health clubs is these guys that put a towel on one bench, a water bottle on another and then maybe place their keys someplace else marking their territory so no one else can use the stuff. After they so lay claim to all this equipment, what do they do? They stand someplace else complaining to another athlete about how they strained their shoulders from pressing too much weight the day before. Then, while rubbing their elbows and scratching their bellies, they compare notes on what electrolyte they drink what muscle groups they plan to work on that day. Is that the reason why America is obese–Athletes unwilling to share the equipment?
So anyway, there I am at the health club. I wear my Oregon State t-shirt, got my OSU Beaver team mascot water bottle, and my OSU towel. I’m searching for a therapy ball that doesn’t have a towel on it, or a water bottle leaning against it or is otherwise marked or in use. Believe me, I’m about ready to buy one of those home gym specials for only three payments of $29.99 plus S&H.
Fortunately for my three year membership contract, I find a semi-deflated therapy ball. I do my 15 reps or repetitions. But at rep 5 who should show up but Leroy. A big man with hairy biceps, dragging his knuckles on the ground, Leroy looks down at me, taps my ball with his foot. He says “Dat’s my ball.”
What do you think, fellow athletes? Is it his ball? Is Leroy going to share? Is he running into the equipment shortage too?
No way was it his ball.  “Look,” I tell Leroy, continuing my reps. “It’s gym property. Get your own ball. I got six more reps with this one.”
You won’t believe this, but Leroy grabbed the ball out from under me on rep 13 of 15.

“Hey,” I said. “Watch it, big man. Where do you think you are? Can’t you see we’re all in this together, for the sake of health and longevity?”
“Huh?” Leroy says.
I take this to mean he didn’t hear me. So I tell him loud and clear. “I said you’re a big man with a big mouth. I got two more reps coming to me. Give me back my ball.”
He frowned at me and walked away with the ball. Believe you and me, I decided right then and there, I would not give him the time of day! Which was all very well and fine, except on my way back to the locker room, who should be blocking my way, but Leroy.

When I attempt to step around him, he pushes me against the wall. He says, “Hey, about what happened over there, I’m sorry for my behavior.”
Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.
He points at my t-shirt. He says “You see I’m University of Oregon and when we Ducks see beaver tack we get swamp fever.” <<Editors note: Oregon and Oregon State share an intense local rivalry>>.
We shake hands. We’re reconciled. It’s no longer a confrontation; it’s a college prank.

The next time I go to the gym, I don’t wear my OSU tee shirt, I don’t bring my OSU water bottle. Lo and behold, the equipment is much more open! Guess my clothes colored the way the gym looked to me!

What an Age We Live In

What an age we live in. Trillions have been blown on bailing out industries that ‘deregulated’ themselves into penury (except for executive compensation), Wars have been declared with budgets conveniently hidden ‘off budget,’ Computing capacity has expanded exponentially over the past 20 years into the region of terabytes yet some industry wags can claim with a straight face–innovation is dead. Healthcare costs consume 17% of our Gross Domestic Product –and growing at a rate twice as high as the rate of inflation (half of healthcare spending is Medicare related)…
Whoaaahhh now–Enough with the problems already. It’s enough to make a body sick. Worse, according to the press, all these problems are highly entertaining. The arguments are framed by the extremes. Now ain’t that a kick in the pants?
Our elected leaders hold town halls and are shouted down with irrational argument. Attempts to get a handle on escalating healthcare spending are called fascist (Nazi). I would hope that those who have taken the trouble to secure a career in either government or journalism would be seeking solutions instead of sowing such discord. Leonard Pitts called them on this in a recent column. ‘Too, socialism’ is hooted by some about as a dirty word. Perhaps if those who complain of such an outrage as socialism were to surrender their social security income once they were eligible, that could go some ways towards offsetting the tremendous expenses that are now bandied about so freely.
The truth of the matter is No One achieves anything on their own. Our society works because there is a certain assumption that we should all be working together on building the world we live in. If I were to build a house, I wouldn’t rely on just a carpenter, or just a plumber, or an electrician. Neither should you. Specialization has been going on for a very long time now and to the degree that some of us are supervisors and leaders, we shouldn’t be inciting one group of people against the other.
As to our current problems, there is plenty of blame to go around as to how we got to where we are today. While it may be entertaining or even cathartic for some to rant and rave- is this really productive? Why is attention so directed at the extremes of a problem, at the outliers, if you will?
Let us hope rather that there is an eye at the center of this storm where progress is being made, where sound judgment is exercised, and society can move on in its primary objectives, to provide a healthy environment for all humanity to live, pursuit their ambitions and make the world a better place for us all.
Such crises are nothing new. Before democracy became the law of the land, ‘Royalty’ was said to have divine rights. If you do doubt the ingenuity of people to rise above their problems, I invite you to listen to “Those Self Evident Truths,” an audio reading of the English Magna Carta, the Amercian Declartion of Independence and the events leading up to the need for them.
Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

Boiling Mad or Moiling Bad?

Call it entitlement, call it one-up-man ship or trigger finger. Have I slowed down in my decaffeinated days or have I become more perceptive? It seems people have become increasingly ready to take offense. Perhaps some fiend has sprinkled hot lava on the various phonemes and mouthings that we utter in order to communicate. Words should not be near as inflammatory as it would appear they have become.
Case in point. Recently I saw an erstwhile minister on youtube working his flock into a lather. “Let’s teach our children to text their representatives, jam their switchboards, vote the legislation down. No mention was made of any specific legislation. Perhaps it was discussed off camera. The image though of all of these crazed youths, he even went so far as to suggest they weren’t even yet of voting age, to vote the legislation down. Tweet them, text them, harangue the legislators, it all appeared to be quite hateful, hurtful and the crowd loved it.
Now I’m all in favor of difference of opinion. As an author, I realize the essence of story is conflict. As a member of society, I must admit my own life would probably be too dull to be good story material. That’s why I like fiction. I can create a world filled with conflict where my team wins.
So far as real life is concerned; discussion, pros and cons, problem/solution; these are dynamics I can understand. However, when we get to a point where we are encouraging impressionable youth to view their legislators as hideous cave-dwellers out to suck the life out of society, as archfiends who live in some murky proximity of a video game, and they can be ponged with a text message, I’ve got to say ‘Whoa, what’s going on here?’
I am reminded of my own days in the insurance business where the salesmen were to sell insurance and as a salesman; it was our job to ‘hoodwink’ the underwriters. By the by, whatever happened to my old boss who told me this? I remember one case in particular. The company was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. There was a moral risk. My handler, excuse me, manager advised me to go ahead and submit the case anyway. He said “What the underwriter doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Silly me, but why would anyone want to insure a business about to declare bankruptcy? The claims began coming in shortly after the case was written.
Now, at that point, if ever there was a case for competition, wouldn’t this plum have sat much better in some other insurer’s portfolio? Please don’t call me heartless for having no compassion for folks down on their luck. Believe me, this retailer was no saint.
We tend to gloss over such irregularities in the force-field that surrounds the society in which we live and move and have our being. Nostalgia can be most infectious in this regard. When it comes to disparate groups of people getting along, I am reminded of Aunt Eller’s philosophy in Oklahoma She sings “The farmer and the cowman should be friends.” A key phrase in this song goes “I’m no better than anybody else/But I’ll be damned if I ain’t just as good.”
Now here is a philosophy with some real legs. This is the stance we can all take and society would be the better for it. Take our work seriously, but our own self-importance with a grain of salt. Not to be pushed around, but to be heard. There is a simple test that we should all be training ourselves and those we come in contact with, the next time we encounter a so-called commentator, a so-called friend, or even someone in the street driving a supercharged red pickup with lifters- Does the encounter cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up? Can I defuse? Please remember to breathe. Remember, the farmer and the cowman should be friends. This too, will pass. Halleleuh.

The Day Trickle Down Economics Began

Nixon guard hatsFor those who’ve just joined the passing scene, or for those who’d like a recap as we face the latest downward spiral of the economy and civilization as we know it, a quick survey of recent years may be useful. Once we take a quick spin through the past 40 years, I’d like to dig deeper into this archeological construct we call government back to the very foundations of democracy itself.
Hold on, we’ll move fast.
Some time ago, it was the 1970’s. Richard Nixon gave the US Presidency a certain Imperial sheen. This was exemplified by outfitting the White House Guards in high peaked hats and tunics. Very chic, very continental. But the European style didn’t sit well with opinion makers or Americans at large, and so it was dropped. Indeed, King Richard the Nixon himself was unceremoniously dropped from office for a serious breach of etiquette, whether real or imagined. Some go so far as to say he was framed, never having ordered the Watergate break-ins in the first place, but nevertheless, eager to cover it up nonetheless. —as to the truth of such a tale, I can only refer the reader to The Bush Dynasty by …..
There seems to be a pattern here for our Presidents. They are given a big job to do, and for the most part, they are criticized and condemned for it. Jimmy Carter gave the office of the president a folksy spin by addressing the TV audience in a cardigan sweater, and placing solar panels on the White House roof, urging everyone to turn down their thermostats. Speed limits on the Instertant Highway system were reduced to 55-double nickel, to conserve fuel. It seemed to hobble the whole idea of America the Beautiful, which was taken down a further notch when 52 Americans were held hostage in Iran for 444 days.
Ronald Reagan took the helm in 1981, the hostages were released thanks to numerous pressures faced by Iran such as the Iran/Iraq war, the freezing of Iranian assets in America and the diplomatic efforts of Carter’s Deputy Secretary of State, Warren Christopher. One thing that can be said about Reagan is he knew how to stand up to the media. He gave the country a great psychological boost, though what he did for the economy may not be quite so illustrious. Reagon tore down Carter’s solar panels. He said “America is great. We don’t need no stinking reduction in Highway Speed limits or constraints of the burning of fossil fuels, just because the price of fuel has tripled in the last ten years.
He went on to be a great statesman President, one who quipped “Let’s reduce taxes on the wealthy, so they can invest all the additional money they don’t pay in taxes. They could build anti-ballistic missiles with this additionally repatriated money. …and we could build eight star luxury hotels to show our appreciation for all their hard work and contributions to society. What’s good for the top 5% of the population is good for everyone, as they are good tippers.” OK, OK, Ronald Reagan didn’t really say it quite like that, but anyway the theory is called trickledown economics.
Actually, I’m not sure where the trickling really starts or what it is that is being trickled. It seems like every chief executive of the United States has been ‘trickled on’ by a bumper crop in “Impeach X” where “X” stands for the seated head of state.
So enough with humor. Let us look at the interaction of the classes in a democratic society. Modern democracies can trace their lineage back to monarchies. The evolution of monarchies into democracies began about this time of year. It was June 15th, 1215 when King John signed the Magna Carta. This year marks the 794th anniversary of that signing. The Magna Carta wasn’t the first time constraints were placed on the British Monarch by his or her Aristocracy, but it was the first time that someone took the trouble to gather up all the various agreements and practices that had existed previously and codified them into the Magna Carta. Some will argue that the Barons who met with King John at Runnymede Meadow were just watching out for their won backsides. True, to a degree. Actually, they were more looking out for their families. Rights of inheritance were a major issue in the agreement.
However, Edward Coke, 17th century jurist and Member of Parliament, known to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, argued what was actually at stake was The Law; no one, not even the King is above the law. This is powerful stuff. It led to the English Petition of Rights. So again, we might ask ourselves, when it comes to ‘trickle down economics,’ what is trickling down on whom? That is the challenge that governments are supposed to be set up to answer.