STOKES FOREST JOURNAL: EXCERPT #3

Note to reader: Some of us who live with a brain injury are sound sensitive. I am. And when I am tired, my sound sensitivity increases. This should explain the first sentence in this journal excerpt.

Sept. 29 – 10:24 p.m.

There is a cricket right by the window making so much noise I’d like to blow his fucking head off.

Midnight

I started to go to sleep and then I heard branches breaking outside and grew suspicious and frightened. Everything is okay.

It dawned on me earlier this evening that other than hotels, where I am surrounded by people, this is the first time I have spent the night completely alone (since I was shot). Always, if not people, my dogs (have been with me). It makes sense that this night would be in a place powerfully linked to my father. Once again he is helping me reach a summit. In a very real way he is giving me a present for my 55th birthday.

Sept. 30, 2008 1:05 a.m.

Having a hard time sleeping. Now there’s a surprise. It’s cool enough to start a fire now but I don’t think I will. I think there is a cricket in the cabin and if I had a shotgun I’d point it in the direction of the sound and fire away. Leave it to me to get pissed off at a cricket.

7:33 a.m.

The lake is covered by a mist and again my Dad’s “voice” helped me. I wanted to listen to Imus a bit to see what was on the news and hear some humor but of course I got on my back (thinking), Silent retreat, Peter. Silent retreat, you must go through with this. Then, my Dad saying, Pete, listen to the news. Do what you want. Listen to Imus. It’s okay.

There are beautiful sounds outside as the world continues to wake up. I am living in a fairy tale.

Oct. 1, 2008 6:55 p.m.

And so here we are, Dad. The home stretch (to my 55th birthday on October 2). In a way it is like waiting for a child to be born. He is due just past midnight. He’ll be a burly little fellow, delightfully animated, and filled with an ample supply of piss and vinegar. He’s gonna need it. We will be his guardian angels you and I. His guardian angels. I will watch out for him from here, you’ll watch out for him from there.

I love you Dad with so much of my heart you are my heart. Maybe it is this very heart that will be freedom born just past midnight. This time he will enter world a mighty heart. He will be seasoned, finely tuned, prescient, and keep of his own blood flow. We will watch him carefully as we loose him on the world. He will not have as much time as you and I had at 55 – but perhaps between us we can guard his freedom to be. If he can be the mighty heart he is, it will be redemption for the two of us. Then, finally, we can rest in peace knowing we have squared the deal.

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AMERICANS REJECT FEAR AND EMBRACE OBAMA

One of the reasons Senator Barack Obama’s campaign has become one of the healthiest movements in recent American history is this: the American people are sick and tired of politicians trying win their votes by traumatizing them with fear.

With all our dysfunctions, we Americans are family, and as one member of the family, I am dead tired of watching family members being traumatized with fear because someone wants their votes. Bush and Cheney, our co-American dictators, have used fear tactics that would impress some of the nastiest dictatorships throughout history. Now we have Senator Hillary Clinton inflicting an ad on the American people that blatantly tries to convince viewers that without her in the White House, their children are in mortal danger. The ad blatantly plays into the nearly universal desire to keep children safe. Radio talk show host Don Imus recently wondered just how low the Clinton’s will go to win the nomination. Answer? As low as it takes to win.

Americans are sick of it.

We are all members of the American family. We are all in this together. It does not make a difference to me if a member of my American family lives in Texas or Ohio or Pennsylvania or Rhode Island or my home state of New York. It does not make a difference to me if a member of my American family is Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal. It does not make a difference to me if a member of my American family is gay, straight or bi-sexual. It does not make a difference to me if a member of my American family is Black, White, Asian, or Hispanic. It doe not make a difference to me if a member of my American family is Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist or agnostic. I do not like it when members of my family are being put through the blood chilling experience of fear because someone wants their votes.

The American people must pull together and send a powerful message to Washington D.C. that political fear tactics must stop. And it seems to me that the groundswell of support for Senator Obama shows we are doing just that. Yes, there are fear tactics being used to derail him too. Falsely linking him to Farrakhan or accusing his minister of being anti-Semitic when the Anti-Defamation League has said this charge has no basis in fact. It will not work this time. We Americans may be a wily bunch, but we are not stupid and when we have had enough, we have had enough.

News reports and polls from around the country show that Republicans, Independents, Democrats and others are aligning themselves with Senator Obama, not because Obama is a Democrat, but because he appears to be the one candidate for the presidency who is not using fear to manipulate. He is the one candidate for the presidency who is truly seeking to unite.

Please consider something for a moment. When Americans think of Lincoln, they think of a great president. His political party is an afterthought. When most Americans think of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they think of great presidents. Rarely do we think of the political parties they belonged to. Why? Because they were presidents who put the American people first. This is what my American family deserves now. An American president who will put the American people, all the American people, first.

Obama has my vote.

SHARPTON & JACKSON: A BIGOTRY DUET

Boston columnist Mike Barnicle was right recently when he said the reaction to Don Imus’s inappropriate remarks has included a “tsunami of hypocrisy.”

But before I get to that, let me first apologize to my readers and retract any positive words I wrote about Reverend Al Sharpton in the previous blog entry.

Watching Sharpton over the past couple of days and doing a bit of research into Sharpton’s past, it is clear he has no right to the title Reverend, unless, of course, you are one who believes a racist and anti-Semite can be a Christian minister.

Consider the following.

1) Sharpton was found civilly liable for falsely implicating a Dutchess County New York attorney in the rape (which never occurred) of Tawana Brawley. The whole fiasco was determined to be a hoax. Sharpton has never apologized to the attorney and still refuses to do so.

2) During a 1991 crisis in New York City’s Crown Heights, Sharpton said, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” Again, he never apologized.

3) During a landlord-tenant dispute involving a Jewish-owned store in Harlem, the Wall Street Journal reported on February 29, 2000, that “Mr. Sharpton was even more malevolent. He turned (the) dispute between the Jewish owner of Freddy’s and a black subtenant into a theater of hatred. Picketers from Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network, sometimes joined by (Sharpton) himself, marched daily outside the store, screaming about “bloodsucking Jews” and “Jew bastards” and threatening to burn the building down.

After weeks of increasingly violent rhetoric, one of the protesters, Roland Smith, took Mr. Sharpton’s words about ousting the “white interloper” to heart. He ran into the store shouting, “It’s on!” He shot and wounded three whites and a Pakistani, whom he apparently mistook for a Jew. Then he set the fire, which killed five Hispanics, one Guyanese and one African-American–a security guard whom protesters had taunted as a “cracker lover.” Smith then fatally shot himself.”

Eight people dead, and no apology from Sharpton.

And so here is Sharpton, along with Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson passing judgement on Don Imus. Sharpton and Jackson clearly make their bed with the poisonous sheets of bigotry and hypocrisy. It has been a long time since either man has been in the same room with honor and integrity, although, I suspect when he was a younger man working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson knew honor and integrity well.

CBS and NBC’s claim that they fired Don Imus because they care about the way women and black Americans are treated is, well, a lie. It’s about sponsors and money. Neither network nor their parent companies are free of misogyny and bigotry in their offerings. Given the fact both networks gave Jackson and Sharpton an audience, one wonders why they didn’t they didn’t invite Mel Gibson to the meeting. And given Sharpton and Jackson’s bigoted behavior, why would they give either man airtime if their commitment to healing the public airways was genuine?

Now we have Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in the mix. Here is someone who knowingly promoted a distortion of truth that led to a war that thus far has cost more than 3,000 American lives and untold thousands of Iraqi lives. The fact she thought to comment on Mr. Imus makes a despicable thought look like an act of purity and honor.

Meanwhile, Don Imus has accepted, without excuses, responsibility for his behavior. He has met with and received forgiveness from the gracious and remarkable women on the Rutgers basketball team. He has been talking nearly daily with Reverend Deforest Soaries, the extraordinary man who facilitated the meeting between Mr. Imus and the Rutgers players.

Told today that Sharpton and Jackson said they hadn’t forgiven Mr. Imus, Reverend Soaries put it all in perspective. He said, “Where there is no forgiveness, there is no Christianity.”

May God bless Reverend Deforest Soaries, the women from Rutgers and Don Imus. May God help Sharpton, Jackson, CBS and NBC.

IMUS, HONESTY AND FORGIVENESS

I have fought bigotry of all my life: anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-gay, etc. The list, sadly, is endless. As a recovering alcoholic and one who increasingly recognizes and believes in the beauty and power of honesty, accountability and self-accountability are pivotal realities for me. While no one, least of all Don Imus, excuses his remarks last week denigrating the women of the Rutgers Basketball team, the man has done all any human being can do when they make a terrible mistake. He has admitted it, apologized for it and, in my view, learned from it. Were our elected leaders and, in some cases, our religious and social leaders as wedded to self-accountability as Imus, our country would be better off.

I hear that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, ministers both, have called for Imus’s resignation or firing. A sad and barely understandable reaction on the parts of both men. After all, should Jackson remain forever punished, unforgiven and judged because he once referred to NYC as hymie town? Should Sharpton, who in so many ways has developed into an extraordinary civil rights leader, remain forever punished,unforgiven and judged because of the Tawana Brawley fiasco? The answer is no.

None of us are thoroughly free of the disease of prejudice and bigotry. Our responsibility as a people and as individuals is to acknowledge it, own it, apologize for it, make amends, learn, and struggle to get free of its insidious and poisonous grasp. Imus this morning showed he has learned from this by pointing out that while “the climate on (the Imus) program has been what it’s been for 30 years (it) doesn’t mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that.”

How I wish more people had the character to own unhealthy aspects of themselves. Were this to become a trend, we, as individuals, and we, as a people, a world community, would find the world in a better place. Forgiving is not an easy thing to be sure. Someone said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” If you disagree with this in any way, the man who said it, Mahatma Gandhi, has long since passed away.

The building of real character rests in large part on the back of honesty, the ability to allow self-honesty its full reign, no matter how grueling and painful the journey may be at times. A wonderful woman once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” So said Helen Keller.

A childhood hero and a current hero of mine said “The true measure of a man’s strength is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Imus created his own challenge and controversy with his remarks. He has chosen to stand in the open, take responsibility, apologize, make amends and learn. That meets the definition of strength in the last quote. The man who uttered the words in the last quote was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rarely, if ever, is a person fairly defined by a single act. In a way we are all, in some measure, the sum of our history and our dreams for tomorrow. The tally of all I know about Imus is this; he is a man that started a ranch 10 years ago for kids with cancer, sickle cell, siblings of children who died from SIDS and more. He is a man who after watching one of the children from his ranch fear their imminent death from sickle cell, came back asking elected leaders to explain why so little is being done on sickle cell research. He is a man who has drawn enormous attention to the plight of children with autism and over the years has raised more than $100 million to help others. He is a man, too, who said a horrible thing last week. He has owned it, apologized, and learned. You can ask for nothing more from a human being.

An Imus resignation or firing would be a terrible mistake for many reasons, not the least of which is this: how refreshing is it for you to finally see someone in the public eye not just apologize, but admit they were wrong in the first place? It’s a novelty. Perhaps with Imus’s display courage, humility and accountability, it might just become a trend.

BUILDING 18: AN AMERICAN DISGRACE

I don’t know one American who will not be outraged when they learn that badly wounded American Veterans are living in a government-owned, mold-infested outpatient building that is home to an ample supply of rats, mice and cockroaches.

But wait, I’m wrong. There are some Americans who simply don’t give a damn. And there are others, like the White House, members of Congress and the military’s top brass, who are so oblivious to the plight of our wounded warriors they’ve never visited them at Building 18, the building in question that sits right across the street from Walter Reed Hospital which is in the nation’s capitol of all places.

Lt. General Kevin Kiley, Surgeon General, U.S. Army on the Jim Leher Newshour on PBS last night. Kiley blamed the presence of rats, mice and cockroaches on guess who? The wounded veterans who live in Building 18! They had food in their rooms, Kiley said. I’m sorry, but there is no way a human being can give a damn about our wounded warriors and say something like that. Kiley should be fired, jailed, or, better yet, forced to live in a rat infested dwelling for awhile.

God bless Dana Priest and Anne Hull from the Washington Post for bringing the tragedy of Building 18 to the American people. And then there is White House Press Secretary Tony Snow with his large smile and must-be whitened teeth who said no one should question the president’s commitment to the American soldier.

Many of these wounded warriors have lived in Building 18 for as long as a year. This means one or both of the following two statements are true. No one from congress or the White House has visited or some did visit and simply don’t give a damn. As “General George Patton” said on the Don Imus radio show yesterday morning, The 535 members of Congress ought to be duck-walked over to Building 18 and made to live there. In two days that building would look like something Trump built.

People like Bush, Cheney, Snow and Kiley should simply be jailed.