Author Archives: gordonglantz

It’s About Time (to end DST)

driving-with-headlights

The following column ran in The Times Herald on March 8, before coronavirus put us on all lockdown and matter that now seem more trivial were more in the mainstream:

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It doesn’t take much to move me to tears, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. Tears from a harsh March wind blowing so fierce in my face that they can’t be avoided.

Since getting a new used car last January, I have been able to cry tears of relief when we fall back and spring forward on the clock.

My new used car, which is a 2018 Ford Edge, came equipped with all the computerized bells and whistles. It’s so easy to change the time that, yeah, it makes me want to cry. I almost want to reset it and do it all over again.

While that makes today’s spring back drill easier to take, I’m not off the hook.

While the time automatically changes on our computers and phones, I still have to go from clock to clock around the house and reset them all.

Then there’s my wife’s near-antique car, a Honda that historians believe was used to transport troops to the front in the War of 1812. It requires a degree in nuclear physics to figure out.

Then, when we visit my mother at her assisted living place, it gets to the point that the best option for trying to figure out changing the time on a cheap clock radio is to just go get a new one.

Turns out, that this source of tears and frustration is needless.

I’m talking on the A-List scale of needlessness – with the likes of the Iowa caucuses, hockey shootouts, chop sticks, the running of the bulls, overusing the word “very” and playing games at carnivals that are impossible to win.

When we fall back, we gain an hour of sleep but lose an hour of daylight for months. We lose the hour of sleep by springing forward, but the days are longer.

You really need to be in another part of the country, in another time zone, to completely understand the extremes of it all.

A few summers back, we were in South Dakota, enjoying the indoor pool of a hotel with the worst excuse for a continental breakfast ever (Fig Newtons instead of donuts and no decaf coffee). The sun was still up at 10 p.m. Sounds cool, but the only view was of a trailer park across the street in a town where the hot place to eat was a Dairy Queen.

Really no need, in that time zone, for the sun to catch you crying.

It is more than some annoyance that costs me my beauty sleep in the spring and makes me take out the trash and walk Rex in the dark in the fall and winter.

This raises the deeper question: Why do we do this drill, Daylight Saving/Savings Time (DST) as if we were marching around like zombies at a military academy?

Turns out, falling back and springing forward are acts – like the creation of the electoral college – that have far outlived their usefulness.

While the concept dates back eons, and Benjamin Franklin pontificated about it as a way to preserve candle light, DST first became a “thing” in America during World War I to conserve coal.

That made sense at the time, but my history books seem to indicate that World War I ended more than a century ago.

While your president (not mine) lies to the faces of coal miners to get their votes, we know that industry is pretty much a shadow of its former self.

Repealed after World War I, Franklin Delano Roosevelt put the action back into play during World War II.

Following the war, it was more of a state by state thing until Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1966, set into law that DST should begin the last Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October.

And so we sit, hearing some vague arguments for the status quo (mostly economic) but others against it (mostly health-related, such at workplace injuries).

According to those who have studied it, it would mean a lot to make a change – certainly a lot more than we think, beyond anguish over remembering how to change clocks and watches that do it on their own, to stop the needless madness of springing back and forward.

They suggest it would reduce headaches – fatal car crashes — especially to pedestrians — and heart attacks.

Consider two studies by the University of Colorado. One found a spike in car accidents the first week after the DST change (with the apparent cause being drivers less sharp with one hour less of sleep).

The other found the heart attack risk spiking 25 percent the following Monday after the “spring forward” but fell to almost normal when the clocks fell back in the Fall.

In this era of partisan politics, this surely sounds like one issue we can all get behind.

And it’s about time.

Middle of the Road Leads Nowhere

Middle of the Road

The following is a modified version of  a column that ran in The Times Herald on March 1, 2020:

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There once was this girl. For whatever reason, she batted her eyes at me twice in French class (either for the sport of it or because she had something stuck in her eye).

I was hooked, hopping the one-way train to Swoonsville, and not catching the return trip for a few years.

Even though there were other girls who entered and exited the picture back then, she ranked in a category of her own (and I have the pile of songs written about her to show for it).

I would try to shake the status of being the low man on her depth chart to no avail. On numerous occasions, I would ask her to meet me — the mall, the pizza place, bowling alley, etc. — only to have her never show up (she would usually giggle and say she forgot, and I found the airhead act endearing).

I couldn’t help but take this bumpy road down memory lane when listening to those bemoaning that Bernie Sanders was not the best choice to unseat your president (not mine) in the general election because we need a more centrist candidate who will meet the other side in the middle.

It exemplifies an extreme naïve attitude, the same as the one I had as a teenager (without a fully developed brain), and it tells you all need to know about this waltz wherein Democrats dance with two left feet and end up tripping over themselves.

A review: Your president (not mine) made a hard right turn back in the 2015-16 campaign season, and took a lot of supporters — including plenty that didn’t see themselves as being what they became — with him.

More than a few right of center Republicans worried about it costing the White House after it had been, well, a little too black for their taste for eight years.

Pundits, with their degrees from places tucked far away from the real world, concurred that not moving to the middle helped him in the primary but would cost him the ultimate prize in the general election.

Logic may have been the immovable object, but the whole Make America Great Again (eye roll) thing was the unstoppable force.

Because of this recent history, one wonders if there is even a real middle for left of center Democrats to go to anyway.

And now, we have a separate but equal scenario heading into the 2020 election, with so jeers and fears toward and about a progressive candidate, Bernie Sanders, that his candidacy is on life support.

What your president (not mine) and Sanders have in common, while not agreeing on the time of day on policies, are flocks so loyal that the opinions of so-experts may no longer hold up.

 

Even as voters flowed in with the tide in recent primaries and went with “Status Quo” Joe Biden, exit polls showed they were thinking more progressively, and in line with Sanders.

The message, the takeway: There is no need to fold like a house of cards on a speed boat.

There is something happening in this country, albeit at street level, and only those willing to get down and dirty need to put their ears down to the ground can hear it.

The voters outside the base want more than just change from what your president (not mine) wrought upon us. The need change. If you want to mock it, calling it a revolution, go ahead. You don’t defeat a dictatorship without one.

If you think that meeting the other side in the middle is the way to go, you are conceding defeat before the coin flip.

Just take a hard look at the crowd at the next rally for your president (not mine) and ask yourself if anyone there, even with the help of GPS, would know their way to the theoretical middle if Ted Nugent was playing a concert there.

I would postulate that since Biden as wrestled the driver’s seat from Sanders, his views — – or lack thereof — will only be taken as a sign of weakness and he will be incessantly mocked for it by the right.

Rachel Bitecofer, a 42-year-old professor from a small college in Virginia (and recent guest on Real Time With Bill Maher), agrees. And it just so happens she rattled the cages of traditional political science thought when she nailed the 2018 midterms like Nostradamus.

Her theory is that there really is no such animal as a swing voter, and no such a black hole as a center. They both still exist, she concedes, but not to the extent that her colleagues think.

In a recent article in Politico, she described it as “flipping giant paradigms of electoral theory upside down.”

So, fellow lefties, it’s time to eat your Wheaties and grow spines. Stop worrying about meeting and greeting anyone in a Ghost Town once known as the middle.

You are just asking to be stood up, the same way I was on those windswept streets of 1980s Northeast Philly.

 

Another Open Wound

Sanders

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There is one thing about a bitter loser, which I freely admit I am: We dwell on our setbacks, keeping us up nights for decades after a defeat, more than our victories.

The writing is on the wall with my man, Bernie Sanders, and I am one heck of a sourpuss right now.

Don’t expect me to “just get over it” anytime soon.

The mainstream media took for what seemed like fiendish joy in its 24/7 hatchet jobs on the man who I consider the only candidate who tried to give a voice to the voiceless.

There was no other end game for Sanders beyond seeing people put roofs over their heads, food on their tables, send their kids to college, breathe cleaner air and have the same kind of health care as the rest of the civilized world.

Oddly, exit polls around the country show that most voters support this progressive (not socialist) agenda.

And yet, mostly out of concocted fear – and younger voters not putting down their iPhones long enough to vote – Sanders is slip sliding away.

The party establishment has dutifully lined itself up behind Joe Biden, a nice enough chap who has been running for president, unsuccessfully, since I was in college (that’s a long time ago, as I turn 55 March 23).

To put it in perspective, “The Simpsons” was not yet a series (having only appeared on an episode of “The Tracey Ullman Show”) when he first ran in 1987-88.

I have nothing against Biden, really, but I’d like to know what he stands for – on anything – in terms of the issues.

And, it seems, no one really cares.

Me, I care. If you seek substantive change, so should you.

I fear he’s like the knife you bring to a gunfight, the spray can you use on a raging forest fire or the whiffle ball bat you bring to a game of hardball.

What really galls me the most is that Pennsylvania is identified as a battleground state (along with Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida).

By the time this horrendously flawed primary/caucus season gets to us (not to mention New York state) in late April, we will have zero say in choosing the nominee.

It is particularly irksome when you consider that the Philadelphia suburbs are circled as a major hot spot in the presidential general election.

And yet, red states that will never go blue in the general election got to sign and seal the deal for Biden (with the help of his on-air campaign workers in supposedly neutral media).

For a sore loser such as I, this will never sit right.

After Sanders rolled in Nevada, a winnable state in November with a diverse population, he was dubiously dubbed as the frontrunner.

In what appeared to be telegraphed through their teleprompters, the talking heads on the all-news networks were playing “Taps” for Biden when, in fact, they all knew he was going to win South Carolina, after which they could call him the “comeback kid” and drone on and on and on about how he cornered the market on the black vote.

The problem with the whole flawed process, the one that leaves Pennsylvanians (and others) with zero say, is the difference between how white and black voters are viewed by alleged experts.

White voters are sliced and diced up a million different ways – by age, by income, by education level, by geography, etc. – while black voters are unscientifically culled together and tossed into one voting bloc for analysis.

But who says that a rural black voter in South Carolina or Alabama has the same wants and needs as, say, a black voter with whom he or she has nothing in common (other than skin color) in Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh or Cleveland?

This mindset has a real chance to cost the Democrats – those of us with noble ideals but new and improved ways to lose – the ultimate prize.

Plain and simple, Biden – like Hillary Clinton before him – will be christened as the nominee on a false positive.

Consider that no Democratic presidential candidate has won a state in what is considered the heart of the Deep South (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana) in the New Millennium.

States along its rim/outer core (Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky) have similar outcomes (Oklahoma, like Mississippi, not gone for a Democrat in the general election since before the signing of the Civil Rights Act).

The only exceptions, in terms of rim states with different demographics (transplanted residents), are Florida (won by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012) and North Carolina (won by Obama in 2008, but not 2012).

And, in both of those states, Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

What does this tell you? All these states have significant black populations, but their collective vote gets magnified in the primary season only to be trapped in the presidential election, making one wonder two things:

1) Is the electoral college flat-out racist?

2) Is the way the Democrats anoint their champion a wise one, strategically?

Biden got around 60 percent of the black vote in the Deep South, and that is put in a context as being the ultimate difference between himself and Sanders, and yet it will likely add up to zero – in terms of electoral votes – when it matters most.

The onus will be on swing states such as our own, and yet we didn’t even get to choose in the primary because of the horrendous scheduling.

Yeah, I’m bitter that Sanders is all but done, but not just because he was my candidate.

It’s the how and why he was systematically marginalized that will be keeping me up nights.

This column rain in The Times Herald on March 15.

Will It Go ‘Round In Circles?

Circles

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Despite being the anti-gun party, the Democratic donkey is locking and loading and eyeing up a close-range target: Its own foot.

Yes, the party that can’t get out of its own way is back at it again, turning the primary and caucuses (eye roll) into what will be a prolonged and destructive civil war.

And, on one leg, it will be forced to hobble to the finish line in November of this year.

The real losers? The American people.

And the only winner will be the other side, the one with a vocal minority that will gladly give you four more years of their president (not ours), even though he has set the bar so low for civility and behaving presidential that any of the remaining Democratic hopefuls would have to join a satanic cult to match it.

Last time around, the Democrats made the mistake of trying to have an uninspiring candidate, Hillary Clinton, run unopposed.

Russian interference aside, she still should and could have won the general election – and for reasons I have enumerated before (a better running mate, campaigning in swing counties of swing states, standing up for herself in debates, etc.).

This time around, we have the opposite. There were so many candidates that the field looked like the ensemble of a Broadway musical.

Even now, with a few (Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, etc.) dropping off, the battle for the lead role is up for grabs.

As it should be.

Nothing better – and more American, let alone Democratic – than a little healthy competition.

The problem is that the fighting has gotten dirty, with below-the-belt blows that were on full display during the debates ahead of the Nevada Caucuses and South Carolina primary.

The sand thrown around the sandbox, considering what is at stake, was laughable.

Upstart Michael Bloomberg is spending is own money to get elected? OK, and? What did your president (not mine) do to get elected? At least Bloomberg is diametrically opposed to your president (not mine) on all the issues that matter.

Bloomberg is not my candidate of choice, but I have to say he is growing on me. It’s interesting that he is now fielding issues about stop-and-frisk (a policy initiated by Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor and supported by the current “person” who calls himself president). We all knew about it before. It’s not a revelation.

It’s important to bring it up, sure, but let us not forget the intent – despite its clumsy and insensitive execution – which was to try and curtail black-on-black crime (the same kind that Louis Farrakhan decries to applause) in largely black neighborhoods.

Also, Bloomberg was allegedly caught saying not nice things to and about women.

But, uh, hello?

Remember that low bar we talked about? Should we get into the Access Hollywood tapes? I didn’t think so.

Let’s move on to my candidate Bernie Sanders, who is the frontrunner du jour. As such, he had to enter the debate with body armor to fend off his also-ran competitors.

They talked about his backers – the so-called Bernie Bros. – being not so nice on Twitter.

You mean the same Twitter format that your president (not mine) uses as his 3 a.m. bully pulpit?

Take it from someone who has gone the full 15 rounds with too many of his supporters to count, often having to block them when responses turned into challenges to have a duel in the Town Square, that no one goes as low as they go (especially once beaten down on the facts).

If your president (not mine) can’t be blamed for his brigade, why should Sanders take the heat for what a few supporters did in his name?

Heading into the debate, Sanders had close to a third of the vote in national polls, and had opened up a double-digit lead. That’s quite an accomplishment in a field made even more populated by Bloomberg’s surge.

And yet, television pundits twist and turn it around to say Sanders hasn’t grown his base from when it was just him and Clinton, who only built her delegate (and super delegate) lead by winning a lot of southern red states before he was a known entity to the black voters that make up a large part of the Democratic electorate in those states.

It’s a general theme, picking on Sanders’ electability (one guy with a book to sell on MSNBC said he’d lose 44 states and another disagreed, although slightly, saying 40).

Why is there never discussion about why Sanders is surging into Super Tuesday? They don’t want to address his popularity, and the crowds he brings out as compared to the others, because it doesn’t fit the script.

It is clearly evident that will come down to Sanders and Bloomberg, arguing like two old Jewish men at a deli over whether to get the lox or the whitefish on their bagels (I can say that, since I’m of the tribe). It’s pretty clear that only Joe Biden, who still clings to some tepid black support in those same states that gave Clinton that cushion she clumsily dragged to the finish line ahead of Sanders.

Biden will do well enough, I predict, that the pundits will declare the guy who needs a wake-up call and snooze alarm the “comeback kid.”

That means a temporary three-horse race, but one wonders if the others – Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg – will read the writing on the wall and do the right thing and drop out.

This will put all eyes back on the ultimate prize.

If the Democrats want to take aim on the White House, they need to stop targeting each other.

So far, with a foot wound in danger or getting infected, it does not look good.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Feb. 24, 2020.

Turn and Face the Strange

Change

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE  — It was the fall of 2000. I had become engaged to my now-wife (and Sofia’s “mama”) over the summer, and I could feel the winds of change in the air.

I had been a sports writer since 1988 and, other than not getting to be next Johnny Bravo (Greg Brady still should have gone for it, and then done college), I was content.

I liked to write, and I liked sports, so it fit (at least better than the glove on O.J.’s hand).

The problem was that sports are played on nights and weekends, a time when most of the spectating world is doing the opposite.

But if you’re a sports writer, it means you are working nights and weekends.

It was fine for 13 years, but I looked into the future and saw an abyss.

If I wanted to be a family man, I needed to make a change.

Some would call it a “Come to Jesus” moment. Lapsed Jew/atheist that I am, we will just call it a moment of truth.

While others in my situation had to either leave the business or go elsewhere, a chance to turn the beat around – quite literally — was right there at The Times Herald.

Newsroom turnover always had a mind of its own. We would have a set staff for long stretches and then, for whatever reason, everyone would seem to leave at once.

At this particular time, while we were full in sports, the newsroom had turned into a ghost town.

Skirting the tumbleweeds, I walked into the office of then-editor Mike Morsch – a straight shooter from the Midwest with whom I had a good rapport and still call friend – and, in the words of Tony Montana from Scarface, “proposed a proposition.”

I offered to fill one of the many empty chairs in the newsroom, but only under the condition that I would be the police reporter and nothing else. I wanted no parts of covering municipal or school board meetings.

Ever.

To my surprise, he was good with it.

For a while, I did both – helping out sports on busy nights, like when there were Friday night football games to be covered – while also learning the ropes of the police beat.

Within a few months, though, I really wasn’t even homesick for sports anymore.

News was growing on me.

But that’s easy for me to say.

I wasn’t going to meetings, like other reporters, and coming back to the office to write about complex issues – ones that truly affected people’s lives — while on the deadline crunch.

When I became managing editor in 2003, a large part of the job was scheduling reporters based on their meetings. If they had a conflict – there were more municipalities and school districts than reporters – we had to prioritize.

It was an odd thing, not having any personal experience with what was or was not important.

Until now.

The times they are a changin’ (nod to Sir Bob of Dylan).

As a concerned citizen, I have been to a handful of Whitpain Township meetings – and have gotten up to voice my opinion with more passion than I thought possible – about an ongoing issue in my neighborhood.

I won’t bore you with the gory details. Let’s just say that someone is looking to rewrite the zoning code to maximize his profit margin. Some of my concerned neighbors are primarily focused on the environment — water flow, trees being chopped down, the view from their back windows and water basins.

I’m with them on all that (even though my eyes glaze over with the water basin stuff), but my main thing – and that of a few others in our core group – is what even more cars will do to an already tenuous morning traffic logjam.

The other night, while we were waiting for our issue on the docket, the room was packed beyond capacity about the issue of what will become of the Mermaid Lake property.

As concerned citizens from that end of the township grilled the developers about many of the same concerns we have – only on a larger scale (school overcrowding chief among them) – it hit me just how much these meetings matter.

If citizens don’t turn out and speak up, a lot of these permanent changes – changes for the worse – will be made in their name.

During all of this heated debate, I noticed a few young ladies who appeared to be reporters furiously taking down notes (one had a small laptop and the other big yellow legal pad).

I don’t know where they were from, but I’m glad they were there.

It was another moment of truth.

While I remain eternally grateful that I never had to be in their shoes and cover a meeting, I am eternally grateful they exist.

Because these meetings matter.

Always did, and always will.

This column appeared on February 16, 2020

 

Bad To The Bone

Fatso

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The official definition of the “witching hour” is when witches — or magicians, ghouls, Republican senators and other demons — are said be at their most powerful.

That’s the myth, the folklore.

The reality is that the witching hour is when we wake up in the middle of the night and our minds are clear enough to be haunted by our own bitter realities.

Unanswerable questions, many about futures we can’t control, ravage the brain.

I was hit with one so immediate this past week that not even my home remedy – sneaking downstairs for some old “Sopranos” episodes – could make it right.

The question was this: Am I a bad person?

Here are three examples, hot off the presses, that had me wondering:

Andy Reid – Much of Eagles Nation has forgiven and forgotten the specifics of the Reid Era here. They instead focus on the general success between 1999 and 2012.

But not me. I remember high hopes repeatedly dashed, and the seasons that ended in despair.

I invested too much – in time, emotion and money (season ticket holder) — to be stranded at the altar again and again and again.

Maybe some forget the feeling of having their hearts eaten out that were then met with the subsequent kick in our collective gut when Reid would act smug and indifferent during postgame press conferences.

Even when mishaps (dropped passes, missed tackles) weren’t directly his fault, Reid’s standard line was “it begins with me.”

Fine, Andy, you wanted the blame, you got it. I would have told you so if they let me to drive you to the airport when you left town.

Why, then, would I – or anyone else who bleeds green – root for Reid to have success elsewhere?

There was no worse scenario than his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, winning a Super Bowl when he didn’t do it in Philly after all those years of knocking on the door without finding a way to kick it in.

When we finally got it done two years ago, some of the edge was taken off. Still, when the Chiefs reached the big dance this year, I became a temporary fan of the opposing San Francisco 49ers.

Truth be told, I am more than a little bit angry with the end result (particularly the touchdown that wasn’t a touchdown) and irked by all the glad tidings for Reid around the Delaware Valley.

Bad person?

Self-vote: Yeah, sigh, I am. It’s not like he tried to lose big games here (it just seemed like it).

Iowa Caucuses – I have been a detractor of the overall primary system for a long time, and my criticism begins with the disproportionate role little Iowa plays in the process.

I wrote all about it in my Sunday column a month or two ago, but I never could have imagined the Monday meltdown that will leave the final tally with an asterisk.

The root cause of the chaos was the already silly caucus process being further complicated with some second-round scenario that was clearly over the heads of those Iowa straw-chewers to comprehend.

While the good news is that this is probably the last we will see of the Iowa Caucuses, and maybe even Iowa getting to bat leadoff and set the pace – as it has been doing, despite clearly not being a gauge of America’s diversity (it’s well over 90 percent lilywhite, for example) – the embarrassment for the Democratic party could prove to be colossal.

Bad person?

Self-vote: Nope, not at all. A little bit of vindication is good for the soul.

Rush Limbaugh – The right-wing AM Talk Radio host revealed that he is terminally ill.

If you are waiting for tears, keeping waiting.

I understand the man may have had a job to do, sort of in the Howard Stern shock jock sense, and that he may or may not have even meant half the hateful things he was saying.

But listeners – many with pea brains – accepted his postulating as fact.

And he knew it.

And he kept on spewing his garbage — ironically losing his own hearing, so he couldn’t even hear himself anymore.

 

If we are truly mired in a modern day Civil War, one in which lives (i.e. Heather Heyer) have been lost, Limbaugh is a general in the militia that fired the first shots (albeit away from the fray while on his bully pulpit).

It could be said that there would have been no coming of your president (not mine), without Limbaugh – among others – laying the groundwork.

No wonder Limbaugh got the Presidential Medal of Freedom the other night.

Limbaugh

Hard to believe, though, considering this is the same person who called Iraq War veterans subsequently opposed to the war “phony soldiers.”

Then again, this prize was given to him by the phoniest of soldiers, one who got out of Vietnam with phantom bone spurs.

Like your president (not mine), Limbaugh built his empire on lies and half-truths.

Consider that Polifact rated Limbaugh’s on-air statements as either “mostly false” or “pants on fire” at a rapid-fire rate of 84 percent, with only a mere 5 percent registering as “true.”

While a lot of his false statements are about climate change, we are also talking about someone who continually degraded President Barack Obama with racially charged innuendoes – calling him (and Oprah Winfrey) “uppity,” etc. – and who compared NFL games to showdowns between black gangs.

He also said actor Michael J. Fox was exaggerating his Parkinson’s disease in an ad for stem cell research.

I wonder if he’d like some of that stem cell research for himself now? Maybe he is just exaggerating his symptoms.

Take the high road? Not this so-called snowflake. It’s all low road here in Gordonville.

Bad person?

Self-vote: Abstain.

This column first ran in The Times Herald on Feb. 9, 2020.

A System Without Much Justice

16Muhammad-Cover-articleLarge

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — So now we find ourselves in the cold and cruel month of February, a month where a victory is a day we see the temperature safely enough above freezing that any precipitation will not cause hazardous slippage on the roadways.

Otherwise, what’s it good for?

Here’s something: It’s Black History Month.

While its origins go back to a one-week attempt in 1926, and another in 1929, it was first proposed and celebrated as a full month at Kent State University in February of 1970.

Yes, that Kent State in that same year.

Three months later, on May 4, four white Kent State students were shot and killed by members of the Ohio State National Guard during anti-war protests.

For those who decry that it is inherently unfair to have a month dedicated to studying the history of one race, the Kent State shootings are an exact example of why we are not there yet.

Widely remembered, and promptly immortalized in Neil Young’s song “Ohio,” it served to render the slaying of two black students at Jackson State University in Mississippi as a footnote.

By the mid-1970s, Black History Month was gaining enough momentum that President Gerald Ford made it official, at least symbolically, in 1976.

But, in schools, teaching black history was sporadic. The choice was seemingly up to the original teacher.

I happened to be in sixth grade in the 1976-77 school year, and my teacher, a black American, had already been making it part of his curriculum for several years.

I have to admit that it was mind-expanding to learn about the likes of Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King.

I had several black classmates that year, as my grade school was among the first to be part of a busing program (schools in Philadelphia had been integrated for years, but that was in name only, as most neighborhoods were not only isolated by race but also ethnicity).

For these new schoolmates, some of which I’m still friends with to this day, I’m sure it was a welcome break from learning about Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus and all the rest.

Learning about slavery and important dates and figures in black history was important — and certainly age-appropriate – for grade school.

The next step – for older students — would be for dealing, straight on, with difficult issues hard to ignore.

At the top of the list is the disparity between the races when it comes to crime and justice.

The United Nations studied the topic, and it filed a report in 2018. Among the troubling results were that black Americans were nearly 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites.

This was most evident in the so-called War On Drugs, which created a 100-1 sentencing disparity. Of the people sentenced to jail for drug-related offenses, 74 percent are black. That translates to being 13 times more likely to go to jail, as opposed to receiving some other sort of disposition that relates to a slap on the wrist – a second chance – by comparison.

It would also seem that justice is not colorblind when it comes to the part about being innocent until proven guilty.

According a report released by The Innocence Project last summer, blacks are seven-times more likely than whites to be wrongfully convicted of murder and three times more likely than white people to be wrongfully convicted of sexual assault.

The point is also being driven home by the film industry.

Late in 2019, “Just Mercy” hit the theaters and is still playing at some.

“Just Mercy” tells the true story of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was wrongly convicted of murder in Alabama and is assisted in his defense. by a young Harvard-educated attorney named Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan).

It was well-received by critics, and Foxx was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for supporting actor, and it did moderately well at the box office.

There have been others on the topic in recent years, including “When They See Us” (2019), about the Central Park Five and “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018).

But the most famous movie about innocent people being wrongfully convicted remains “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), where the central figure is a white man (with a black sidekick).

Yes, there is “To Kill A Mockingbird” (1962, and set in the same Alabama town as “Just Mercy”), but it features a white lawyer as the protagonist battling to exonerate a black man.

Streaming services, and Netflix in particular, is loaded with documentaries focusing on the wrongfully accused.

Meanwhile, the television news will occasionally show someone being released from prison, based on new and/or suppressed evidence, after decades.

Not only can the redemption fail to replace the lost years, but those cases are few and far between (or else they wouldn’t be news items when they do happen).

And the reality is that it only seems to apply on a one-way street.

It’s a fact that is cold and cruel, just like the month of February.

This column ran in The Times Herald on February 2, 2020.