Eighteen Years Gone: Here We Are

Sepy 11

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I always resented what seemed like immediate parlor games of everyone sharing – usually on social threads – their boring yarns about how they were in the middle of this, that or the other thing when they heard about what was the worst attack on American soil.

Doing so 2-3 years after Sept. 11, 2001 — especially when the act led to a disingenuous rationale for a war in Iraq that quickly revealed itself as coming from Page 1 of the Vietnam playbook made these personal remembrances seem trivial.

I had what I thought was a more pertinent question: Where are you now?

But some time has since elapsed, and maybe it’s time to flip the script.

This past week, we commemorated 18 years since 9/11.

And Sofia is old enough – and intrigued by events that occurred more than five minutes ago – to share our own experiences, just like my father did with me about the JFK assassination (Oswald didn’t act alone, if at all, but that’s another column for another day) and the Japanese army (they acted alone) bombing Pearl Harbor.

I don’t know what makes me the final arbiter of when it is time to suddenly change lanes on the discussion. I just felt like it was too soon before and not so much now.

Where was I that day? I was just getting out of the shower in the Center City apartment I shared with my future wife (then fiancé). She worked in Wilmington at the time, and called with the news of a plane striking one of the twin towers. I had the TV on, but was pre-conditioned not to get too involved with the trivialities of Good Morning America, when it was clear something else was going on.

First reaction? It was terrorism, clearly, but it could be passed off as some sort of accident from air traffic control to avoid public panic (just like blaming the JFK assassination on a lone nut). But, after the second plane hit, which I watched as it happened, it was clear was going on. The whole nation could be under attack.

As the crime-beat reporter for The Times Herald, I drove into work that day while many others were scrambling to make it home from their jobs.

For all I knew, the nation could have been under total assault and this was only the start of it. But, like many Americans, I defined myself by my job back in those pre-Sofia years.

I was told by the editor at the time that I was a free agent, meaning stops at police stations to comb through blotter were out. The rest of it is a blur. I believe I had four or five bylines in the Sept. 12 edition, although I only recall two – from a bomb scare called into the Plymouth Township Community Center and from talking to congregants who came to pray at one of the historically black churches in Norristown.

I remember the sense of unity between a lot of scared people of all walks of life. While I was not a fan of the president who I thought stole the election, I felt he then had the nation in the palm of his hand.

Who knew how much he would blow it?

Eighteen years later, we are more divided than ever.

A new psychology emerged – a sort of acceptable narcissism — wherein we were inundated with a spate of reality television.

And the ultimate sociopath, who seemed to find a resting spot on reality TV after failing as a mogul, was elected as president.

The real patriotism we all felt in the aftermath of Sept. 11 has been subverted and perverted into a game of who is more patriotic than who, based on superficialities.

Mass shootings are now so commonplace that we aren’t even phased by them anymore.

Children drink water with lead in it, and we shrug it off.

Eighteen years later, that’s where we are.

Maybe that’s why it suddenly seems better to remember where we were, and get back to that place of temporary unity amid fear and chaos.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Sept.  15, 2019.

The Heart Of The Matter

healthyheart_0

 

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The year was 1969. The place was Northeast Philadelphia, in a small twin home right off of Roosevelt Boulevard.

A man, age 73, was having chest pains but was in denial that it was anything serious and went to take a nap on the couch with a vow to feel better when he woke up. His wife, though worried, went along with the plan.

At some point, a few hours later, he fell of the couch and couldn’t get up. His wife called her children, asking what to do.

They said to call an ambulance.

By the time it arrived and took him to the hospital, it was too late.

The man was Morris Glantz, my grandfather.

I know I knew him as Pop-Pop and have only faint recollections of him playing with me for hours on the floor when my father, recently divorced from my mother, would pick me up on Friday evenings and take me on the other side of the boulevard for dinner and playtime.

I missed a Friday, I remember that, and then went back the following week.

“Where’s Pop-Pop?” I asked, innocently.

“Pop-Pop died,” my father responded.

I didn’t know quite what that meant. I got a vision of him diving into a bottomless pit. I knew he wasn’t coming back.

The look on my face surely broke my father’s heart.

I was 4, and down a grandfather.

My grandmother, Mom-Mom, looked worn-out and not overly cheerful as she placed a plate of chicken in front of me.

It’s all a vague memory now, but it stuck with me enough that I know that it is better to be cautious than sorry.

I recently experienced sudden and severe chest pains. They felt more muscular and were emanating in the center of my chest and, when I tried to move or lay down, hurt more on the right side.

I knew the odds of a heart attack were slim, but slim and none live in two different universes.

Heart issues run rampant on my father’s side of the family, and I generally tend to inherit those genes, with my father needing a six-way bypass when he was just a year or two older than I am now.

I know he dawdled about going, even after a minor heart attack when he was a few years younger than I am now, but he made the decision to go for it.

Back then, in 1988, bypasses were not sure things. He was laid up for weeks (they didn’t throw patients out of hospitals 16 minutes later, either). While it was not his heart that took him two decades later, he paid the price by losing a lot of business as a self-employed lawyer.

Still, as he withstood the humiliation of credit cards being declined and bill collectors calling, he was able to see his kids married and grandchildren born (although Sofia was barely a year old went he left us).

His maternal grandfather died of a heart attack in his mid-fifties. His older brother, Uncle Oscar, who I am most similar to in appearance (he was the best looking) also died instantly of a heart attack in his late seventies.

Knowing all this, and aware that I don’t want Sofia to grow up without a father because of some “I’ll be OK” macho act, I woke up my wife at 3 a.m. in a bit of a panic.

After some fierce Googling, and the realization that the pain was coming from a raised area in the center of my chest, fears shifted to a blood clot or lung cancer (although I knew lung cancer doesn’t just show up out of nowhere).

After we tussled over what hospital to go to, we settled on Abington-Lansdale, and we had the ER to ourselves in the pre-dawn hours.

I’m not sure who all the people were fussing all over me – I’m guessing a RN, NP, PA and an orderly – but I was well on my way to readiness when the world’s friendliest ER doctor greeted us and seemed semi-confident it was nothing more than something external.

The news, as it turned out, was all good.

It was some sort of muscle strain (even though I still can’t put my finger on the time and place the injury occurred).

The raised area? Not a tumor or a blood clot. It was my breast bone. And everyone has one.

They gave me a shot of something, and I was feeling better within 30 minutes.

In the interim, I got the best news of all. My heart, they said, not only looked normal but “beyond normal.”

The EEG, EKG – whatever they call it – showed that it “couldn’t be better.”

Relieved, we hit one of our favorite haunts – Tiger’s Restaurant in Lansdale – right as it opened at 6 a.m.

As I ate with a new lease on life, I couldn’t help but think of the people who have something more serious going on and don’t go the ER.

I’m not sure why Pop-Pop didn’t go that night in 1969, but a lot of people these days don’t want to deal with the onerous co-pay just to find out it was a false alarm.

There is no way to get an actual number of those who decide against it, because many are not alive to tell the tale.

But I am.

The current healthcare system stinks. We know that. But the actual medical care in this country does not.

All I can say is to weigh the two when faced with the same situation.

And I’ll add this: While I don’t believe in angels smiling down on me and all that stuff, I feel like I honored the memory of the grandfather I never really got to know.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Sept. 8, 2019.

No More Grieving For Your ‘Loss’

Bruce

BY GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While there are some things worth fighting for, others just aren’t worth the time.

After going to the brink of World War III on the topic of Bruce Springsteen, I have come to the realization that it is simply not worth the spike in blood pressure.

Either you get it, or you don’t.

And if you don’t, you don’t.

I feel more pity for you than anything else.

I don’t get the entertainment value of NASCAR or professional wrestling – let alone more meaningful saving graces for others, such as organized religion or thinking the founding fathers were seers and mystics with all the answers.

Either you see the light – and are willing to be blinded by it – or you are mired in darkness.

And, yes, this is coming on the heels of seeing the movie inspired by the music of Springsteen, “Blinded By The Light.”

It’s actually not the first attempt to incorporate the impact of Springsteen’s music on film characters.

Early in the filmmaking career of indie icon John Sayles, a movie called “Baby, It’s you” (made in 1983 but set in Trenton, N.J., circa 1966) featured Springsteen’s music. Although the songs in that film, starring a young Rosanna Arquette, were anachronistic (Springsteen didn’t record his first album until 1972), they surely represented how it he felt as a New Jersey high school student in the 60s (and were ideal for the lead male character).

Unfortunately, this critically acclaimed flick was more arthouse fare, and not something for large audiences.

The movie “Mask” (1985), was the true story of a teen boy with a facial deformity who was inspired by the music of Springsteen. The original movie had four Springsteen songs in it that were cut out by studio executives, who thought a swap with Bob Seger songs wouldn’t matter.

The director’s cut of the film, which netted Cher a well-earned Oscar nomination, has since been released with the intended Springsteen music and some powerful additional scenes.

Unfortunately, the damage was done.

A good movie could have been great. As such, it is now semi-forgotten in time, as it is both uncomfortable for some to watch and not as effective as it could have been.

So, now we have “Blinded By The Light.” It is neither set in the familiar Springsteen terrain of 1960s New Jersey of “Baby, It’s You” nor the outlaw biker California lifestyle depicted in “Mask.”

It is a true story about someone who came of age as an outsider – a Pakistani Muslim immigrant in 1987 London (when lack of jobs caused a lot of intolerance) – and yet it rings as true as if the central character were from a traditional Springsteen hub on the U.S. East Coast.

Like, for example, myself in high school in Northeast Philadelphia.

As a 10-year-old, I bought Springsteen’s “Born To Run” album when it came out in 1975, so I was well aware of who he was for a long time.

When I entered high school in 10th grade, circa 1980, his album “The River” was all over the radio, but I have to admit that it wasn’t speaking to me.

I was more into Genesis, Pink Floyd, the aforementioned Seger, Tom Petty and The Cars.

Then came the mandatory heavy 1960s trip of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, before coming to believe that the members of Led Zeppelin were living Gods.

But, as high school progressed, so did the natural feelings of alienation that almost all teens – from those in the Homecoming Court to the marching band to the delinquents catching a smoke between classes outside – felt.

All those bands had a place and stirred something inside me, but nothing spoke to my soul.

Not until I felt like taking a knife cutting the pain from my heart.

Not until I wanted to say that I wasn’t a boy, but a man.

Not until I talked about a dream and tried to make it real.

For the uneducated – and that’s OK – those are all paraphrased lines from Springsteen songs.

I don’t know who or where I’d be today – not that I’m anything anyway, but I can’t complain – without learning them like a seminary student learns to recite, and interpret, scripture.

I should have nothing in common with the main character of “Blinded By The Light,” but I actually related to Javed as much I have with any character in any movie I’ve ever seen.

I was semi-skeptical going in – I read they turned some songs in to Bollywood-style dance routines – but I knew pretty quickly that it was tailor-made when Javed, also a writer, first popped in a Springsteen cassette.

The song was “Dancing In The Dark.”

It was generally regarded by some of my Bruce brethren as just a frivolous pop song, while casual fans see it as a fun tune that doesn’t dig too deep and make them think too hard.

I never felt that way about “Dancing In The Dark.” From the moment it was released as a single in advance of the eponymous “Born In The U.S.A.” album that made Springsteen an international star, the lyrics – though set against non-threatening synthesizer chords and a steady beat that almost sounded electronic – came at me at a time in my life when I was transitioning from high school, where the music of Springsteen helped me find my niche, to college.

I was nothing but tired – tired and bored with myself.

I wanted to change my clothes, my hair, my face.

They said I had to stay hungry. I was just about starving.

I knew there was something happening somewhere.

And I knew – with the words of Bruce Springsteen – I’d find it.

And I did.

Just like many of you did.

Because you get it.

Some of you don’t.

If you don’t, you don’t.

All I can say is that I’m sorry.

I really am.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Sept. 1, 2019.

Let It Be (And Other Thoughts)

No Wood

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It’s been a long time, perhaps too long.

Let’s press reset with another installment of “What Is And What Should Never Be” (named in honor of the Led Zeppelin Song).

If you don’t recall how it works, it won’t take long to catch on.

And we’re off:

What Is: We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, providing a chance to relive all the music and magic that took place (without getting caught in the rain and mud, let alone having to sleep outside). One of the most amazing aspects about the festival – beyond featuring a lineup of classic acts (The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, etc.) that can only be duplicated by those who turned down invites (The Doors, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel) – is that it was as peaceful as advertised. There were two deaths – one from an insulin injection gone wrong and one when an attendee sleeping in a nearby field was run over by a tractor – and two births.

And What Should Never Be: Attempts to mark the anniversary with a reboot. A 50th anniversary try failed miserably, but at least the plug was pulled to avoid the type of chaos that occurred at the 25th anniversary attempt (although the Philly-area band Huffamoose, featuring some real talented guys I’ve worked with, played the first day – before it went haywire on the second). That should serve notice to anyone wanting to make a 55th, 60th, 75th or 100th. It was a once in a lifetime event. It was a historical event. History naturally repeats itself anyway – often tragically – so we need not spur it along because we can’t think outside the box. In my mind, there was another Woodstock. It was Live Aid in 1985. I was there, at old JFK Stadium. It was my Woodstock. I’m good, thanks.

Iowa

What Is: In the landscape of our country still struggling to reach its potential greatness, consider Iowa as Exhibit A.

And What Should Never Be: Iowa wielding the political power that it currently does in the flawed political system that ultimately leaves voters from the other 49 states – and the District of Columbia, which somehow isn’t its own state – holding their noses in voting booths and feeling like they are voting for the lesser of two evils. Consider Steve King, the Iowa Congressman, who has uttered so many hateful and absurd pronouncements that they are not worth repeating. Do we really want a state whose voters elected this sad individual to disproportionately control to fate of America the way it does?

colin_kaepernick_jan_rtr_img

What Is: As soon as Eagles backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld was lost for 6-8 weeks, which equates to a few weeks of the regular season, the chirping began for the Eagles to sign exiled Colin Kaepernick began. It only increased when the No. 3 quarterback, Cody Kessler, went down for the count with a concussion and the Eagles coaxed 40-year-old Josh McCown out of a short-lived retirement.

And What Should Never Be: Sorry. Not the case. This was a football move, period. To paraphrase “The Godfather” (greatest movie of all time), this is business and not personal. A commitment to Kaepernick would have been complicated. Other teams – most notably, Seattle in 2017 – have kicked those tires. His reported contract demands were unrealistic (immediate chance to start, at starter’s pay). In a league with a fixed salary cap, and considering the pending media circus, the choice against becomes more vivid. I have my own personal feelings on Kaepernick, and where he was and is coming from, but it wouldn’t be fair to put them out there with any proof. Let’s just say, as both an Eagles’ fan and a bleeding heart liberal (i.e. snowflake) who supported his right to protest under the First Amendment, I’m fine with how it went down. If Sudfeld were out for the season, different conversation. He’s not, so drop it.

Bibi

What Is: Israel banned two U.S. Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, from visiting the West Bank, sparking such outrage on the left that Bernie Sanders – my Bernie Sanders, whose family fled the same Nazi persecution that help lead to the formation of Israel – called for an end to U.S. aid there.

 

And What Should Never Be: Hopping, skipping and jumping to the facts here. While it was wrong to not let elected officials visit, it’s also wrong to sweep with one broad brush about Israel. These are the actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (a graduate of Cheltenham High School right here in Montgomery County). Known as “Bibi,” he was elected by a narrow margin, with his Likud party eking out the more moderate Blue And White party of Benny Gantz. Sound familiar? It should. They are almost as polarized there about their leader, also working on his third marriage while operating under corruption charges, as we are with ours here. Just like many of us don’t want to be judged by the actions of your president (not mine) many there feel the same about their prime minister. When detractors quickly seek to punish “all Israelis,” I can’t help but think some other bells are going off in their heads.

Looop

What Is: John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, dropped out of a crowded Democratic presidential race that most average citizens didn’t even know he was in.

And What Should Never Be: I like to make fun of John Hickenlooper because, well, his name is John Hickenlooper. Worse yet, he actually looks like someone whose name is John Hickenlooper. However, to his credit, he did the right thing here. Not only is the herd thinned by one, but he is now going to run for a senate seat currently occupied by a vulnerable Republican. All he needs is a nickname. Go get ‘em, “Loop.”

This column appeared in Time Times Herald on Aug. 25

No Retreat, No Surrender

GunArt2

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE – So now your president (not mine) is willing to do something about gun control?

He’ll knock on Mitch McConnell’s turtle shell, see if he pokes that obtuse face out, and will let us know.

Then, maybe if they get a permission slip from the NRA, they’ll consider some background check language to file under “Red Flag” legislation.

While it’s a start, and you can never run down a start, I think we all know it’s not going to be sufficient.

And I think we all know that the next mass shooting after these laws go into effect will meet with a lot of “I told you so” remarks and smirks from the right.

The reality is that so much more would need to happen before the passage of time – five years, 10 years, etc. – shows a marked decrease in gun violence (mass shootings, street shootings, accidental shootings and suicides).

There are many facets to gun violence. It’s not a single-cause crisis, and there is no one magic-wand approach to making it vanish.

It’s a syndrome, with multiple causes.

And solutions.

We would be spraying Raid everywhere, except the hornet’s nest, without addressing the type of assault weapons used in Parkland, Vegas, Orlando, El Paso, Sandy Hook and so many other tragedies.

There was once a ban on these tools of destruction, and gun massacres (six or more deaths) dropped 43 percent. After it lapsed in 2004, under the George W. Bush administration, there has been a staggering 183 percent increase.

They like to say that the key to prevention is to turn every outpost in the country – from elementary schools to beauty schools, from supermarkets to dollar stores, from Little League fields to houses of worship – into armed fortresses.

Not that simple.

“I didn’t do anything because I thought police would think I was the shooter,” said an armed witness to the El Paso massacre.

Still, despite rather hollow willingness and passing-the-buck drills, we need to start someplace.

Those who are quick wrap body armor around the sugar daddy that is the gun lobby don’t want to go there, but any willingness to go somewhere that leads us out of nowhere is promising.

At least we are seemingly working past the “too soon to talk about (gun control)” and hollow “thoughts and prayers” mumbo jumbo.

Most of the country, as has been the case for a while, remains in favor of background checks. Democrats more than Republicans, but not by as much of a margin as you would think.

And there was this, in the wake of the recent shootings, from your president (not mine).

“Mental illness and hatred pulled the trigger. Not the gun.”

Actually, hatred did pull the trigger of the El Paso shooter, who was bent on shooting Mexicans after leaving behind a manifesto that was dipped in the DNA of the rhetoric of your president (not mine).

Your president (not mine) was not a welcomed guest in El Paso, and it showed when all eight hospitalized victims refused to meet with him.

He won’t own that, but he seems willing to move – after which he will likely shove it in the face of his 2020 presidential opponent.

It might be worth the tradeoff.

What are being called “Red Flag” laws could just be a trap serving as sort of a political flypaper. It should, by no means, lead to waving the white flag on legislation – the type that would have to come after a powerful left hook in 2020 – really needed for substantive change.

Taking ancillary causes (mental health, video games, Hollywood, etc.) and making them the core issue could be as dangerous, long-term, as doing nothing.

There are people called epidemiologists who are experts in studying, well, the science of epidemics in all forms based on statistics.

And that’s where we have been for far too long with gun violence.

How do you explain, for example, that women also have mental illness but 98 percent of those pulling the trigger in gun violence are men?

There are varied definitions of who is or isn’t mentally ill, although it is generally accepted that as much as five percent of the population have a condition that would require a psychiatrist (as opposed to a psychologist, counselor or member of the clergy).

Research shows that only 43 percent get help, and it is also noteworthy than an estimated 60 percent of American counties do not even have a psychiatrist.

The epidemiologists point out that people with mental conditions are, in fact, 3.6 percent more likely to exhibit some sort of violent behavior but are 23 times more likely to be victims of violence.

The FBI did a study in 2018, and it pointed more toward factors beyond being insane.

This is more about those who go temporarily insane, as the study pointed to financial stress and disputes/bullying at school and/or the workplace with co-workers. Substance abuse was also cited.

What happens when someone is infuriated?

They might go home and punch a wall. They might get their drink on at the local tavern. They might go the gym and pump a battleship’s worth of iron.

But, in the land of the gun, there are other realities.

Even though our mental health issues are not different than that seen in other countries, the difference is access to guns.

We have 400 million civilian-owned firearms, which breaks down to 120.5 per 100 residents (i.e. more than one per person).

That puts us first, with lovely Yemen (just under 53 percent per 100) a distant second.

This is what we call a real red flag.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 18, 2019.

No Friction With Fiction

Anne with an E

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — After nearly two weeks north of the border – in Halifax and Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island (that’s Nova Scotia, for those of you who can’t find Nebraska on a map) — it was interesting to see how long it takes for me to be impatient and brusque with people after consistently encountering the complete opposite.

And it will be interesting to note if I will ever want to see a lobster ever again or if I will now crave the best lobster on the planet.

Probably won’t take much more than some deplorable aggressive driving by a grunt in a pickup truck, but I digress.

Just about every elevator trip at both hotels involved friendly conversation.

And my Flyers tee-shirt was a key spark in the land where hockey was invented.

“Philly, eh?” I was asked.

Since the Flyers are pretty much struck in neutral and don’t inspire the same ire they once did from hockey purists, the conversation switched quickly to Philadelphia’s pride and joy.

Independence Hall?

Nope.

Liberty Bell?

Nada.

The Eagles?

If you saw what passes for football up there, you’d know better (although my Eagles’ shirt did get one passing thumbs-up).

Give up?

Try Rocky Balboa.

Rocky Raw Meat

It struck me as interesting that Philadelphia, known for being the alleged birthplace of the so-called liberty we enjoy, is universally noted for a fictional character.

Then again, Charlottetown was where the groundwork for Canada’s independence was first laid when members of the rest of the British Commonwealth gathered in 1864, for what became known as the Charlottetown Conference, to discuss how to break from the clutches of the Crown.

And yet, that is not why we – or most others – were there.

It was also for a fictional character that Sofia has come to adore after reading all the books about her.

That’s Anne Shirley, the semi-biographical alter ego of author L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery.

At the time of my elevator encounter, during which the friendly chap said “Rocky” was his favorite movie because of the life lesson about taking a beating and not giving up, the better half and Sofia were seeing a stage play based on the series of “Anne” books.

We spent multiple days in Cavendish, where the life of the author is a literal cottage industry, and we saw a musical version of the character’s life (I survived by dozing off for a good portion of it).

So I guess you would say that the two historic places are better known for their fictional icons is kind of messed up, huh?

Three mass shootings in a week, including two in the span of 24 hours? That’s messed up.

A grown man in Montana fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old for not removing his cap during the national anthem? Messed up.

Fictional characters being larger than life? No way.

As much as I dig history, and think it should be studied thoroughly (we did a whole walking tour to learn the history part of Charlottetown), I have to say it’s kind of cool.

Two characters were created that were so sympathetic — and relatable — that they are the first thought for many outsiders of the home terrains upon which they were created.

Visitors from around the world making it the first order of business of running up the Art Museum steps to play the role of Rocky, the brainchild of a then-struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone, is not an anomaly.

In PEI (Prince Edward Island), there was an abundance of Japanese tourists. It didn’t strike me as odd until it was explained to me that a local woman once went to Japan to teach and, due to the lack of age-appropriate literature of the time, she introduced the series of “Anne” books to her students.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Swedish co-counselor at summer camp, who happened to be a 6-foot-4 Olympic swimming hopeful that I could never convince to play on the counselor hockey team. He related how the original “Rocky” was common viewing at places where athletes there trained, and added how the sequels (there were only a few at that time) were a disappointment.

It struck me how what seemed to be the experiences of Rocky Balboa on the streets of my hometown were not uniquely unique.

That is the power of art.

That what makes bitter reality easier to swallow.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 11, 2018.

Needed: Two Ingredients

DC State

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Bob Dylan, writer of so many amazing overt and covert political/protest songs, was asked to name what he believed to be his most powerful statement.

The answer was not “Masters of War” or “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”

Instead, he was rather nebulous, leaving it blowing in the wind, stating that his most political songs may be his love songs.

He then added that everything is political.

I took that to heart, holding it near and dear as one of my personal 10 commandments.

So whenever the rightful issue of statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., is brought up, which it has been a lot lately, all the logical reasons why — such as that pesky little “taxation without representation” thing (some D.C. residents even have it on their license plates as a form of protest) — it gets real political real fast.

Let’s just say it has Republicans seeing red, as it is an idea of it being tangled up in blue.

A whole lot of it.

Two new states would mean four new senators, with the high probability of them being all Democrats, thus tipping the scales of social justice in what many of us believe is the right direction.

It would also mean more congressional districts, mostly blue, and the slow build toward the end of gerrymandering that has put a stranglehold on swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida.

That seems like a dirty trick to tip the senate, and it will be sold to right-wingers and centrists as such, but actually it is the right thing to do.

And — as in love and war — all is fair in politics.

If the need were to arise, citizens from both territories could not avoid serving in the military (unless they have bone spurs). Those from Washington, D.C., pay the same taxes as we do, and Puerto Rico’s residents pay some taxes depending on if they are a federal employee or a business owner.

The voting scenario, as currently constructed, heavily favors the Republican party and keeps the Senate within a swingable margin every election.

That would fine if only it represented the actual national population, but situations where states like Montana and South Dakota have the same number of senators as California and New York is, as Mr. Spock would say with one eyebrow raised, highly illogical.

How much traction, for example, would even a symbolic common sense gun control law have if smaller and more rural states didn’t have equal votes on issue favored by the majority of Americans?

statehood-poll

Residents of D.C. have voted overwhelmingly for statehood, and why wouldn’t they? It would provide residents with full representation in Congress, as opposed to what they have now — paper tigers called congressional delegates (as it stands now, Congress can run interference in D.C.’s local laws that don’t typically fall under congressional jurisdiction for other states).

It is a completely unfair scenario in which its residents pay federal taxes but have a muted voice in the legislative body that sets those tax rates. They point to numerous situations where local laws for marijuana policy, gun control and combating HIV/AIDS were interfered with by Congress.

The arguments against it — having to change textbooks (in an era of computer learning, it’s barely an issue), it’s not what the founding fathers wanted (yawn) — pale in comparison.

In terms of Puerto Rico, the gesture would be the least we could do after the abhorrent response there was in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

It immediately raised questions as to why a territory without true political clout and power would get second-class treatment after a natural disaster, and it put the island’s history as a territory under the microscope.

Unlike D.C. residents, those in Puerto Rico — under U.S. colonial rule since 1898 — are not even able to vote for president.

Residents call it “The Island,” but it is nothing but a colony under the rule of a nation that turned its colonies into states when it broke free from British rule after the Revolutionary War.

With approximately 3.2 million new citizens in Puerto Rico, and close to 700,00 in D.C., we would suddenly see Republicans thinking twice about the arcane and absurd electoral college that left us with two of the poorest excuses for presidents in the modern history.

Puerto Rico would be the 29th most populated state, with four to five representatives in Congress and six or seven electoral votes. D.C., which currently has three electoral votes, would be 50th, ahead of Wyoming and Vermont (and barely behind Alaska and North Dakota).

Putting it in more local terms, to show the disparity, just Philadelphia alone would be the 40th most populated state and have two senators voting for cheese steaks as the national food.

Adding Puerto Rico and D.C. as states would not be some crazy socialist idea – as Mitch McConnell told some non-journalist on Fox News – as we all know, he would be the first in line if the shell were on the other tortoise.

The reality is that this not some revolutionary idea. Every 50-60 years, U.S. territories were accepted into the union as states.

I started elementary school in 1970 – the year “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was on the radio and “Airport” was in drive-in movie theatres – and can remember American flags that still had 48 stars on them (Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states in 1959, 60 years ago).

So, it’s not really time to just think about it.

It’s time to do it.

This column ran in The Times Herald on July 22, 2019.