How Did We Get Here?

Maybe there has never been a time since the television was invented where stressful and turbulent, and sometimes just downright depressing, news stories weren’t reported.

The 60’s had its protests and riots over Vietnam and Civil Rights, as well as the assassinations of three of its country’s leaders– John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King.

The 70’s had Watergate, a gas crisis, and political protests over racial and gender equality, and some gay rights activism too.

The 80’s had the AIDS epidemic, the Rodney King beating, Iran-Contra, and Ronald Reagan’s assault on the “welfare queens” while he lowered taxes on the wealthy and big corporations (corporate welfare, but Republicans were always fine with welfare that went to the top, but not the bottom. Never the bottom.). The 80’s represents the decade of corporate greed and will always be synonymous with the movie “Wall Street.”

The 90’s had Columbine, a school shooting that, though we didn’t know it then, was only the beginning of what would be known as mass shootings. My twenty-one-year-old self, sitting in her college library, reading the local paper about the school massacre, had no inkling that such a macabre occurrence would someday be as tantamount to America as apple pie.

The 90’s also had Bill Clinton abusing his power for a blowjob, the stained blue dress, and grunge. Oh, how much I loved those flannel shirts. It was cool to dress like a lesbian in the 90’s. But what kind of lesbian would I be if I talked about the 90’s without mentioning Ellen’s monster “Yep, I’m gay” coming out in Time magazine, as well as how much just the existence of Melissa Etheridge singing songs about loving a woman during the decade I was coming to terms with my own homosexuality?  Those two women made this midwestern girl feel not so strange, after all. 

The 00’s had 9/11 and the war on terrorism that included two wars, the Great Recession, and the historic election of the United States’ first Black president, Barack Obama.

The 2010’s had the inception of the Tea Party, more mass shootings, including at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 26 people were killed, including 20 six and seven-year-olds. As gruesome as that is, Obama still wasn’t able to get Republicans to agree on even a most basic gun control bill. Simple background checks were a bridge too far for Republicans because this is ‘Merica, the Land of Freedom and Guns, Guns, Guns!

The 2010’s was also the decade that saw the election of a self-proclaimed “Real Estate Mogul” and one of the country’s most popular philanderer to the U.S Presidency.  The U.S will feel the burn of having such an inept, self-serving corrupt conman as president for a long time.  It will take decades to get the stench of that piece of shit off our country.

The 2020’s started off with a global pandemic that would go on to kill over a million people in the U.S alone, and over six million worldwide after two years, and counting. The 20’s also saw for the first time in U.S elections the denial of a peaceful transition of power. The former corrupt president lied about the results of a fair and legal election that he lost and tried to implement a plan to retain power. When that failed, only because there were some decent politicians who put Country over Party, the conman incited a coup to invade the U.S Capitol and literally try to kill the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

What a time to be alive. But the crazy doesn’t end there. Said former corrupt president is currently being investigated because he stole top secret classified documents regarding nuclear weapons and nuclear intel and stored them at his golf resort. He’s being investigated for violating the Espionage Act. The FUCKING Espionage Act! We had a traitor in the White House!

But the sickest part about all of this is there are people who call themselves Patriots and wave the American flag while defending said traitor. What a truly fucking time to be alive.

I admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of history class when I was in school. I didn’t understand why it was important for me to know about the Puritans and the Quakers, The Industrial Revolution, or anything that happened centuries before I was born, but I remember being extremely interested in learning about Richard Nixon and Watergate. It was closer to my time of birth and what I knew about Nixon was that he did a very bad thing and that intrigued me to know more. I thought what I learned about Watergate was bad. Future history classes are going to blow future generations’ minds when they learn how the previous criminal in chief tried to destroy our democracy.

Of course, the conman’s actions will only be shocking to future generations if we are able to stop them from repeating. If we elect more politicians like him, his crimes will become the norm. Obviously, we can’t let that happen.

Every generation had its turbulent times. But back in the sixties, and seventies, and eighties, TV was limited. We didn’t have 500 channels back then. But now we do. Between twenty-four hours news channels and endless Internet sites and You Tube channels, some credulous, while others spouting out crazy conspiracy theories, it can be detrimental to our mental health to block out the noise.

Take a break. Turn it off. Escape.

Walking in nature, sitting by the water, reading, quiet drives down remote roads, or cuddling with a pet are all great ways to ease your mind and break away from the stress of the headline news. There’s another thing that takes me out of my head for a little bit. I love looking back to the past. Maybe too much, but that’s beside the point. You Tube is a great way to find videos of a time you may wish you had lived or maybe wish you could live again.

As a kid, I loved the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers.” I wanted to be Eddie so bad. He had the voice. He had the face. He had the arms. And he had the girl. I fell in love with the songs in that movie and I remember searching every mall record store for the soundtrack. I was in high school when I finally found it.

One day, when I was in my “looking back” moods, I searched those songs on You Tube and found a video of John Cafferty (the voice of Eddie Wilson) and the Beaver Brown Band playing these songs during a 1980’s New Year’s Eve set. The video was such a relaxation for me that it is my go-to when I need a stress-releaser.

Here’s the video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

This Thanksgiving I’m Thankful for the Good Guys…We Need More of Them.

Hundreds of people have been protesting in the streets of Chicago since the release of a dash-cam video showing a young black teenager, Laquan McDonald, being fatally shot sixteen times by a single officer.

Although the incident had occurred over a year ago, in October 2014, the public is only seeing the video now, and it contradicts news reports given at the time the event took place. The public was told the teenager suffered a single shot to the chest, and that he had lunged toward the officer with a knife in his hand, forcing the officer, Jason Van Dyke, to act in self-defense.

The video told a different story than the initial reports (lies), and now first-degree murder charges have been filed against the officer.

It’s true that the young man had a knife in his hand, but none of the officers’ lives were in danger, as the boy was walking away from the police when he was fatally shot, sixteen times.

Other cops are visibly seen in the video, watching as this young man was overwhelmingly shot to death. Why didn’t those officers correct the erroneous reports first given to the public?

After watching the video, it’s clear that the story was fabricated to protect a dirty officer.  The officer wasn’t charged for thirteen months (400 days), was able to go on with his life while collecting a paycheck, as his murderous secret was kept hidden inside a tape.

Would anyone of authority within the Chicago Police Department have released this video had the CPD not been ordered by a judge to do so?

There’s a lot of protection going on by the Chicago Police Department, unfortunately, it isn’t always geared toward the people the Department made an oath to serve and protect.

In 2012, the CPD suffered a huge backlash by the public when the Department was found guilty of covering up the attack of a female bartender by an off-duty Chicago police officer. The city (taxpayers) were ordered to pay the bartender 850,000 dollars because other officers failed to do the right thing and turn in one of their own, even though “one of their own” had beat an innocent woman, treating her like a rag doll.

The video of the attack, like the video depicting the death of McDonald, is disgusting. But just as disgusting are the efforts made by unscrupulous officers to keep bad cops safe –the “code of silence.”

I remember watching the news when the officer, Anthony Abbate, exited the courthouse, and seeing all the cops cars and officers forming a line shielding this dirtbag from reporters and cameras. Mind you, these were on-duty cops, on taxpayers’ dime, standing guard for a corrupt cop who believed he was above the law.

Would these officers have defended this no-good cop so vigilantly if it were their wife, sister, daughter, or girlfriend the burly officer was caught on camera kicking and punching the shit out of?

Bad cops cost cities much more than money from lawsuits (the family of Laquan McDonald received a 5 million dollar settlement  from the taxpayers), they cost a city its integrity. And that’s nearly impossible to get back, especially when that city’s corrupt history keeps repeating.

I know there are good cops out there, honest cops, who risk their lives protecting the people and their neighborhoods.

So, this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to those officers, the good guys (and ladies).

We need more of them.

 

 

Below is a You Tube video of the attack by Abbate on the female bartender.

 

 

A Hundred and Eight Years Later, The Jungle Still Hits Home

A writer writes. Nothing new there. Everybody knows that.  But a writer also reads. A lot. At least, they should. I often narrow my eyes with skeptical sideways glances toward writers who confess they don’t read much. “Just don’t have the time,” they say. Hogwash. You make the time because for writers, a day without reading should feel like a day without breathing – a necessity to living.

I enjoy learning favorite books of other authors, which almost always include the classics from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lee, Poe, and Salinger (to name only a few). And why not? That’s why they’re classics. People love them. And though I adore the stories written by these exceptionally talented writers, (if only I had an iota of their ability. sigh) my favorite all-time book is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I need to read this book every couple of years. It is that good.

The way Sinclair describes his characters and the scenery makes me feel I know these people (they are me) and I am living inside those pages.

The Jungle is set in the early 1900’s and tells the story of a Lithuanian couple, and their extended family, who are lured to America, Chicago, for the opportunity of a better life through the promise of higher wages. Based on the advertisement the Chicago companies, the Stockyards of Chicago, use to recruit immigrant people, the family’s image of the beautiful land they will soon call home doesn’t fit the reality of what awaits them.

This becomes apparent on their train ride as the scenery of colorful green pastures and wild flowers mixed with the scent of fresh clean air gives way to the dreary and gloomy sights of the Stockyards, lined with slaughterhouses and over-whelmed with the rancid smell of death, where their ride ends.

This is home.

Upon their arrival, the family faces a huge setback when they realize the inflated cost of living will cancel out any advantage of the higher wages they may earn. This forces every single member of the family, including the children and the old, to work long hours, every day, just to stay afloat.

This book brilliantly depicts the struggles of each character as they face the harsh realities of their new life.  The Jungle incorporates social injustices such as the exploitation of immigrants, the lack of labor laws, including child labor laws, workplace safety issues, and political corruption as contributing factors in the decline of a once morally and ethically strong extended family of twelve.

For his research, Sinclair is sent to The Stockyards, by a socialist newspaper, to live among the working people in the meatpacking district for seven weeks. He becomes one of them. The Jungle is his firsthand account of the horrible living and working conditions forced upon the immigrants.

There was a huge outcry from the country after The Jungle came out, but it wasn’t the reaction Sinclair was aiming for. His intent was to get an appalling reaction from his readers through the cruel injustices that were inflicted upon human beings at the hands of corrupt individuals, politicians, and corporations.

Instead, America was sickened by the dirty and unsanitary way their food was being handled. When the public found out that rats, spoiled meat, and whatever happened to be on the filthy floor at that time, was shoveled into cans with the rest of the food and packaged to be delivered to someone’s dinner table, the outcry was loud. President Theodore Roosevelt created the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, the same year the book came out.

Upton Sinclair is famously quoted as saying, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit in the stomach.”

What resonates with me when I read this book, that was written over a hundred years ago, is how socially familiar these injustices still are. And that is sad.

When reading about the atrocities inflicted upon people in a book that was published in 1906, my first thought was, “Wow. History has a horrible way of repeating itself.”

 

Photo courtesy of Public-Domain Images.

Photo Courtesy of Public-Domain Images