Category Archives: Race Relations

A System Without Much Justice

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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.

A Right Turn Down A Wrong Road

Rally Heads

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It’s that time of the year again.

Time for New Year’s resolutions.

With five-plus decades on the planet, I have been through them all – losing weight, gaining muscle, not losing my mind (as much) during Eagles games, gaining perspective, etc.

This year, I’m shooting for something a little bit different.

Instead, I’m going to see how the other half lives. I’m going to give it a go as a conservative.

No worries, fellow liberals, I’ll be back in time to vote against their president (not ours) in November.

New Year’s resolutions only last as long as the first whiff of a real Philly cheese steak (not what is passed off as such out here in the suburbs).

But, in the intervening months – or weeks, days or minutes – let’s see how it goes.

It is certainly a simpler lifestyle having this view, one where I can just line up all the talking points in a row and dutifully march in line behind them.

Example: Anything nasty their president (not ours) has done up until this point, before becoming president and since, can easily be explained away.

He was chosen by God.

Who can argue with that, right?

It implies he is not only absolved of all sins – past, present and future – but that all decisions are blessed by the almighty.

Sure, there is no tangible evidence to back this up. Usually, people who claim to be messengers from God are tossed into asylums, not the Oval Office.

And if any lefty wants to get into details about what he has done wrong, the new me can just say it’s all fake news and/or a witch hunt that’s all orchestrated by the same mainstream media that helped invent his campaign in the first place.

What about all the mounting evidence of incompetence, and incoherence, let alone evidence for impeachment?

No worries.

Deflect and distract.

Fight any forms of nuanced thinking.

That’s their job, not mine.

Don’t tread on me? Hell yeah, I’ll even buy that flag and plant it in my turf.

I’m the true patriot here.

Show empathy toward others, I’ll promptly call you a snowflake (while crawling toward my own safe space for being called a “deplorable” or if you recently wished me “happy holidays” instead of a “Merry Christmas”).

If they persist with their elitist check mates, I’ll lob a “What about Obama?” hand grenade.

When they ask for specifics, I’ll just double down and say “all of them.”

And then, when all else fails, there is the old standby: Benghazi, with a side dish of Benghazi and a desert of even more Benghazi.

Top it off with a “lock her up.”

See how easy this is?

See how much fun?

The next mass shooting? I’ll just shrug it off, callously, and say it could not have been stopped – even if there is evidence that it easily could have been with a routine background check, or waiting period, on the assailant.

Greta Thunberg? Ha. Too small to make a difference. Plus, isn’t she autistic or something like that there?

Plus, she’s Swedish, not American.

Plus, there is the old standby of waiting on a deep freeze and cracking wise about Al Gore (even though a cold snap in our little corner of the world is not reflective of all that is happening elsewhere).

Knowing that everybody plays the fool – sometimes – I can just say all the science isn’t in, or go to the slight moderation that there is no proof that the scourge is man-made. After all, there is always a crackpot contrarian at some third-rate unaccredited college still saying that the earth is flat or that there is not proof that tobacco causes lung cancer, right?

If those dogs won’t hunt, I’ll channel the mind of the average conservative who knows, full-well, that climate change is real.

“Doesn’t matter to me,” I’ll say. “By the time the planet is unlivable, I won’t know the difference because I’ll be dead.”

And that’s it, right there, in a nutshell.

I could go into being pro-life while being fine putting babies in cages.

I can just say they are “illegal” (when they are the children of parents seeking asylum in a country where the path to citizenship for brown people is vastly different than it was for white people during the industrial revolution).

Beginning in 2020, for as long as I can take it, I am going to be the synonym of being conservative, despite Bible quotes to the contrary.

I’m going to be selfish.

If all is good for me in my stock portfolio, all is good in the ivory tower.

Can I pull it off?

No, sigh, I can’t.

Upon further review, forget it.

As easy as life would be to trade being kind and sensitive for being blissful and blind, I don’t want to live that way for even a millisecond.

I’m good the way I am.

Happy 2020.

This column ran in The Time Herald on Jan. 1, 2020

Vick In The Thick Of It (Again)

Michael Vick

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Love and hate.

Two powerful words that are as used and abused as much as any in the English language.

For example, you don’t’ really love the food at a certain restaurant, and you don’t really hate when people act rude in public.

Love and hate has to be more personal.

I hate Neo-Nazis, for example.

I love my family, my friends, and the music that has been the soundtrack of my life.

I love dogs (cats, too, but particularly dogs).

And I love the Philadelphia sports teams, but the Eagles top the list.

This brings me to the great quandary, and controversy, still swirling around one Michael Vick, the former NFL quarterback.

While Vick made his name with his game with the Atlanta Falcons, the quarterback became a lightning rod when his role in a dog-fighting ring was exposed.

He went to jail for 21 months, and his name – as it should have been at the time — was mud.

Vick served his time, and was signed by the hometown Eagles.

That’s when things got pretty interesting.

Some fans turned in their green gear. Their love for dogs was so powerful that they could no longer root for a team that could employ such a person.

Others, figuring he wasn’t going to play much anyway, tried to shrug it off.

Myself, a lifelong Eagles fan? To say I wasn’t happy about it at the time would be an understatement.

For one, just from a football perspective, they needed a fourth quarterback on the roster like I needed a fourth hole in my head.

Plus, well, look what he did those poor dogs.

After one year here of saying the right things, while not really coming across as being overly convincing, Vick ended up not only being a standout on the field for the Birds in his second season, 2010, but a genuine good citizen off of it.

When he led an amazing comeback win in the Meadowlands, the one that ended on DeSean Jackson’s walk-off punt return, it kind of personified his comeback to being a productive and law-abiding citizen and family man.

Vick has since retired, gone on to be a better citizen than many others — including Donovan McNabb (two DUI arrests in Arizona, one of which caused an accident).

Vick has worked for the cause of animal rights while also establishing several charitable foundations for at-risk youth.

Vick has been a positive role model to those who have done wrong and now try to do right, showing that a life can be turned around.

For that, he was named an honorary captain for the upcoming – and relatively nonsensical – Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 in Orlando.

Firestorm instantly ignited. It was 2009, the year the Eagles signed him, all over again.

In my inbox, I received e-mails from Change.org (they have me on file for being a crazy radical who has signed petitions in the past).

One asked for my support in removing Vick as a captain.

The other was to support keeping him.

Even though a pickup game in the park between middle-school kids is more interesting than the Pro Bowl, the question was fairly significant.

And it has some resonance this time of the year, where families put aside differences and New Year’s resolutions are made.

Which petition did I sign?

The choice was pretty easy.

Keep him as captain, I said, lest we ski down an endless slippery slope – putting us into a gray area of serious issues of black and white and selective forgiveness – that we don’t want to get into but probably should.

In a country where the system of crime and punishment is broken (recidivism rate of almost 77 percent within five years of being released), Vick should be heralded as a success story of how it should work.

But, because his victims were dogs – and I love dogs, too – Vick is judged more harshly than if he, say, committed a violent crime against even a woman or child.

We live in a country where someone who bragged about fondling women was elected president, and where charges of sexual child abuse against Catholic priests and those using the football brand of Penn State – get swept under the rug.

People get all weak in the knees over stories about the few white supremacists who changed their ways so much that they want to remove their swastika tattoos.

But a black man in a white man’s world? Not a chance.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to his credit, has refused to yield to the pressure to remove Vick as honorary captain.

Good for Goodell.

How about you?

It is a true question of love and hate, and it’s a chance to let love in and let it win.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Jan. 5, 2020.

Bracing for Civil War 2.0

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By GORDOON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — If the gauntlet had not already been laid down for the American Civil War 2.0, recent events have inched us closer.

Let us count the ways:

-Impeachment: The hearings kicked off Wednesday, with the Union (Democrats) and Confederacy (Republicans) painting two entirely different portraits about what your president (not mine) said to the Ukrainian president during a phone call.

The other thing that can prevent this from leading to a bloodbath that will spill over into the streets is that all of us – left, right and center – just don’t have the same attention spans from when the same thing happened with Richard Nixon in the early 1970s or even Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.

These proceedings will drag on for weeks, if not months, providing enough lead time for diversionary tactics – ranging from childish 3 a.m. tweets to creating new and inventive instabilities overseas – that will draw the mainstream media away from both the impeachment hearings and who currently leads in the Iowa polls.

The “base” will refuse to believe any evidence that their president did anything wrong. At the least, they will just convince themselves – via the mastery of false equivalencies and believing conspiracy theories – that it was nothing different than what anyone else has done in the back rooms of the West Wing.

They said that about Nixon, too. And, well, we know how that turned out.

The whole election of your president (not mine) was a sign of the times, revealing we were ripe for a Civil War. No qualifications were required, as only venom toward outgoing president Barack Obama – and the use of code words and hot-button topics like immigration – were enough to capture the imagination of those who didn’t want to be bothered with the gory details involved in sorting out fact from fiction.

He has done 1,000 things that cry out “Impeach Me, Hard” – kind of like those “Kick Me Hard” signs we would put on someone’s back in middle school – and this is just No. 1,001.

Whether it does the trick or not is irrelevant.

There are those who see this, and those who don’t want to see it. In the middle, we have a portion of the country – the same portion that will likely decide the next election – who may just want to take the time to understand the US Constitution and whether or not he breached the document he swore to uphold above his own personal interest.

-Sandy Hook Revisited: There may be no more hot-button topic in this brewing war between the states than gun control (yet another school shooting in suburban Los Angeles Thursday morning).

It is said that if nothing changed after the horrific mass shooting of 26 people, including 20 first-graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, it was never going to happen.

And nothing has.

However, what seemed to be a Hail Mary pass, a lawsuit against Remington Arms Co., the maker of the weapon used by the shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre worked its way all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And the high court, despite having an extra vote from the right, allowed the families to move forward with the suit, the essence of which states that Remington was at fault because its marketing targeted “vulnerable young men” – i.e. losers – with its phallic symbols thinly disguised as weaponry.

At face value, there is some merit against the lawsuit, as it could create a slippery slope. However, as is the case in the impeachment situation, the devil lives in the details.

The reality is that most of the country, even gun-owning members of the NRA, are for some form of gun control.

Still, the startling fact is that three percent of Americans own half of the country’s estimated 265 million guns, and they are likely not those with any interest in any form of gun control legislation.

This case will be worth watching. The NRA’s deep pockets haven’t stopped its momentum yet, even when going to the right-leaning Supreme Court, the ruling of which will not only will likely open the door to more lawsuits from victims of gun crimes.

If that happens, there will be backlash from those who don’t get the fact that no one is physically coming for their guns in a conspiratorial attempt to trash their rights under the Second Amendment.

-Colin Kaepernick Workout – While it should be a sports story, it is anything but when Kaepernick’s name is involved.

Your president (not mine) infamously called on NFL owners to “fire” (wrong terminology, as players are released or waived, depending on their contract verbiage) any athlete who didn’t stand at attention during the national anthem before games.

Kaepernick, who began kneeling for the anthem in protest, has been out the NFL for almost three full seasons now.

While it is ironic that many of those who insist of their rights under the arcane and misinterpreted Second Amendment are unwavering in denying Kaepernick his right of free speech under the First Amendment, it is also fair to say that Kaepernick was getting more mileage out of being martyr than trying to make a comeback as a rusty quarterback.

The whole saga took a shocking turn this past week when Kaepernick tweeted out that he would be holding a surprise, open workout for NFL executives.

Initial indications were that just one team out of 32, the Dallas Cowboys, would attend the workout via a “team official” who could be nothing more than a low-level scout.

Whether Kaepernick throws another NFL pass, a tight spiral goes into the great divide. If he isn’t signed, he becomes even more of a martyr for the cause. If he is given a chance, others – the Confederates – will be up in arms.

And then there are the nuances of the scenario. If he signs but sits behind a starter who is not a standout, there will be cries of discrimination. If he kneels again during the national anthem, there could be protests at stadiums. If he doesn’t, the Confederacy will declare a moral victory and the Union will see a sellout to the man.

Controversial (and, fingers crossed, viral) Music Video – A bit of shameless self-promotion here, folks. A video of a Gordonville, U.S.A. song “Angry White Male” was released, via Facebook watch party, on Nov. 16 (World Unity Day) and remains available for viewing.

The images of how far we have devolved, with so-called patriots using symbols of those our forefathers fought against to save our union and democracy, are not pretty.

But they were necessary to convey the brevity of the song, which can be found on YouTube and at the Gordonville, U.S.A. Facebook page (give a brother a “like” while you are there).

I would say enjoy, but that’s not the intent.

This column initially ran in Times Herald on Nov. 17, 2019.

Rockin’ The Vote (while rockin’ the boat)

Rundgren

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I voted.

I not only voted today, but yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and the day before that.

And I’ll do it again tomorrow — and will continue until I can’t anymore.

These votes, which are allowed on repeat (and hopefully without Russian interference), are cast online for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Hall got over itself and allowed fan voting to become part of the process, and that led to some overdue inductions (Rush, Journey, The Cars) but inherent injustices remain because the playing field is still made uneven by a self-righteous group of know-it-alls creating the ballot.

The 2020 induction nominees include some who just became eligible (25 years since their first release, some who have been eligible but have not been on the ballot and others who are repeat nominees).

The list (in alphabetical order, with those I have repeatedly voted for in bold) includes: Pat Benatar; Dave Matthews Band; Depeche Mode; The Doobie Brothers; Whitney Houston; Judas Priest; Kraftwerk; MC5; Motörhead; Nine Inch Nails; The Notorious B.I.G.; Rufus featuring Chaka Khan; Todd Rundgren; Soundgarden; T.Rex and Thin Lizzy.

My first reaction to the ballot was one of both joy and disgust. I was excited to see Benatar, Rundgren and T.Rex but some of the others – Whitney Houston, The Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Depeche Mode and MC5 – continue to cause me angst.

T_Rex_The_Slider

Over the years, the Hall has defined and redefined what is and isn’t Rock so many times that it is enough to make a statue dizzy.

Considering the varied genres that merged into some magical chemistry to make rock and roll what it became, it is understandable that some lines will get blurred.

But something stinks in the town of Cleveland, which is somehow home to the Rock and Roll Hall (should have been in Philly, but don’t get me started).

Either those who pull the strings from behind the curtain are tripping over themselves to be too inclusive, or something more subversive could be at play. They could be trying to monopolize all music outside of opera under one roof.

Since 1961, Nashville has been home to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

There is a Hip Hop Hall of Fame and Museum in New York City that was established in 1992.

There is a Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame. Founded in 2010, it is currently a mobile museum with several cities bidding to be its permanent home.

Plans are afoot for an American Pop Hall of Fame in Western Pittsburgh and a Folk Music Hall of Fame with a broad vision and not many firm details.

Meanwhile, the R&R Hall continues to violate trespassing laws to fish in other ponds while ignoring many of its own.

There was not much criticism early on, as choices like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley seemed rather obvious.

The shark was officially jumped in 2007, when The Dave Clark Five finished fifth in the voting, earning the final spot, but the spot was given away by self-appointed chairman Jann Wenner (publisher of Rolling Stone magazine) to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five because of a perceived dire need to include a rap act.

The curious ballots and omissions ever since have landed the entity in a world where it is not taken seriously.

Me? I’m still trying. That’s why I still vote.

 

I grew up listening to AOR (album-oriented rock), which was gargantuan from the late 1960s through to the arrival of the MTV era of the early 1980s.

A band could sell a zillion records and pack arenas without ever putting a song in the Top 40. Those were the days.

But many of the artists and acts of that era – Bad Company, Jethro Tull, Foreigner, Warren Zevon, Foghat, Supertramp, Boston, Styx, Peter Frampton, Kansas, ELP and those I voted for (Benatar, The Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest, Rundgren and T.Rex) – are annually spurned.

Badco

Ironically, there is a channel on Sirius Radio – Classic Vinyl – that broadcasts live from … The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You hear these bands, not past “pop” inductees like ABBA or Bee Gees, all the time.

And then there are the singer-songwriters that once owned the music scene. I’m talking about Gordon Lightfoot (pictured below), Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, Carole King (in the Hall as a writer but not a performer, despite her seminal “Tapestry” album that blazed a trail for female singer-songwriters for decades) and John Denver.

Lightfoot

And then we have the curious omissions of America and Seals and Crofts.

Not rock? That argument can only be made if The Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Simon & Garfunkel (and Paul Simon) and James Taylor were not among those inducted.

Music is subjective. I get it. But there can still be a measure of objectivity to it — just based on body of work and evidence and what fits the definition of rock in the most loose of terms.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Oct. 27.

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?

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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

The Witch Hunt of Kate Smith

kate-smith-1

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are some true American heroes that, for one reason or another, don’t quite receive their just place in in the history books.

A few who come to mind are Thomas Paine, Susan B. Anthony and Woody Guthrie.

Another is Paul Robeson, a true Renaissance man if there ever was one.

As a black man born in 1898, he seemed to either break down barriers – or get around them – with an uncommon ease and grace for his time when mutual respect between races, and ethnic groups, barely existed.

One of the first blacks to attend Rutgers, he endured physical punishment from prospective teammates to earn a place on the football team.

Robeson was also on the debating team, honing skills that would serve him well with a lifetime of political activism that later got him blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Although he earned a law degree from Columbia, Robeson became a successful stage actor and singer, leaving behind a long discography while engaging in social activism.

Why do I bring up Robeson, other than because he should not be forgotten by time?

Because one of his recordings was a song titled “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”

The lyrics of this song, written by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, are beyond offensive and blatantly racist.

But Robeson still recorded the song, which would seem to be an off choice for someone of such steadfast conviction about who and what he was.

However, research reveals the song was meant as a satirical jab at racists (one of the writers, Brown, was Jewish and likely keenly aware of prejudice).

In that context, it is a poke right through the eyes of their white hoods of the many out-in-the-open Klan members of the time period.

The Marx Bros. also referenced the song in the movie “Duck Soup.”

And Kate Smith recorded it as well in 1931 (the same year as Robeson).

Although it was recorded as recently as 1970 by satirical song master Randy Newman, who once wrote and sang how “short people have no reason to live” to make a point, it seems that only Smith will be punished.

Since Smith has been dead for 33 years, there is no way to know if she was performing the song for reasons other than that of Robeson or Newman.

But unlike them, she has been posthumously singled out and put on trial like a Salem witch – without a chance to defend herself or her motives – as both the hometown Flyers and New York Yankees, a team so reluctant to sign black players that they reportedly passed on Willie Mays, have taken steps to make sure the singer of “God Bless America” is vanquished from history.

Truth be told, the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup in 1974 – and again in 1975 – was a highlight of my wayward youth. The whole Kate Smith thing – the playing of “God Bless America” and her showing up in person before Game 6 of the finals in 1974 to belt out the song – was a bit silly to me (and I was the ripe old age of nine).

The fact that the Flyers erected a statue of her was embarrassing, but taking it down – now – is beyond mortifying.

Left in the place of where the statue once stood, we have yet another downright blatant case of political correctness run amok.

In the final analysis, this is more about what is or isn’t fair when dealing with what I regard as the most valued possession any person has, that being their legacy.

Yes, Smith also sang “Pickaninny Heaven,” another song – one she dedicated to children in a black orphanage to “cheer them up” — with offensive lyrics (watermelons and such) that was yanked off YouTube (and yet we can still watch the alleged cinematic masterpiece, “Birth of a Nation,” whenever we want).

These ignominious events caused me to research Smith a bit more, and I found nothing – as in zero – that the woman held any racist views.

After World War II, in terms of social and political stances, she was a non-entity.

At worst, she was a product of her time. More than likely, as time passed, she was embarrassed by the poor song choices made for her to sing.

And, in her prime years, keeping pace with the hit parade was a grind. You had to keep cranking out song after song, or someone else would take the same song and have a hit with it instead.

Considering artists don’t have much say or control today, they certainly didn’t back then.

Smith’s parents scoffed at her career aspirations and wanted her to become a nurse, but she chose a career as a singer. It was make it or break it. If someone said “sing this, it will be a hit,” she sang it.

That’s not an excuse, and maybe she could have risen above it all, but there are more egregious acts that are overlooked.

Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford, for example, were vehement anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers who opposed our entry in World War II.

No statues of Lindbergh are being torn down, and plenty of people – myself included – drive Fords.

Walt Disney was purported to be a bigot, and yet people – of all creeds – pour into his resorts.

Andrew Jackson was responsible for heinous policies against Native Americans, and yet he remains on the $20 bill.

Many of the founding fathers – including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – owned slaves.

Their legacies remain untarnished.

But not that of Kate Smith.

Sounds like fodder for a song – one that a man with the character of Paul Robeson would have been proud to sing.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on April 28, 2019.

 

Too Much PC Not OK

tiger-woods-3

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — This past Monday was the most manic of Mondays I’ve had in quite some time.

I emerged in such grumpy old man form that I may as well had been wearing a moldy cardigan sweater.

Set against the backdrop of the surreal Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris, there were two other dueling issues I wished would go away.

There was Tiger Woods winning the Master’s Open.

And there was Pete Buttigieg officially throwing his hat into the ring of a million Democrats in the quest for the presidency.

I have nothing against Woods or Buttigieg, and I have nothing against the need for political correctness –especially in the era of your president (not mine) setting such a low bar for civility.

But I can’t help but think, in both cases, that we may be dealing with political correctness run amok.

While I regard golf as a four-letter word, it was a big deal when Woods lived up to his advance hype and won his first major tournament in 1997. But all I learned in a career of journalism was lost with a headline from a Philadelphia paper that read “Tiger Wins One For Us All.”

Did everyone – i.e. “us all” — win that day?

And, in those pre-Internet days of steadfast rules, first names in headlines were for middle school papers with faculty advisors who napped through production.

After a stretch of dominance in his “sport,” Woods fell into oblivion with physical and personal issues.

And yet, he remained the biggest name in the game. News reports would start with “Tiger (not Woods) is 17 strokes behind in 45th place after the second day of the XYZ Invitational” without even a mention of who was winning.

Because of his name – his brand, if you will – he stayed on tour long enough to hit a ball in a hole a few less times than everyone else last weekend.

Sorry, not quite the “comeback of the century” it was made out to be, and I’m willing to stray from the PC script to say it.

Meanwhile, the situation with Buttigieg is less benign, as the need to vanquish your president (not mine) grows by the tweet.

And being PC is not OK if we want to KO the current climate of the presidency in 2020.

“Mayor Pete,” already drawing hecklers about his sexual orientation, is not the right choice – at least not right now.

And something tells me he will be.

Just like something told me your president (not mine) was going to be the GOP nominee. We were at a Loretta Lynn concert (yes, she is still alive) in Lancaster, and she said her son, Earl (eye roll), wanted to make a political statement.

He bellowed the name of your president (not mine), at which point a surprising roar came from the throng.

Cult 45 was alive and well.

Something similar happened recently, when Bill Maher didn’t make it all the way through Buttigieg’s last name of 1,001 pronouncements when the crowd erupted in raucous cheer.

Even though his platform is a bit Hillaryesque, “Mayor Pete” already has rock star status.

In a common foot-shooting drill, PC-minded Democrats are so quick to show how enlightened they are that that they are not considering that the chances of this realistically working with a thick-headed national electorate that can’t see past the idea of the spouse of the president being a man.

I get it with “Mayor Pete,” I do. He is the antithesis of your president (not mine). With no alleged “bone spurs,” he actually went to war. He’s well-educated, well-spoken and insightful.

After the Notre Dame fire, for example, he went on French TV and spoke French in the interview.

Big change from a current “president” who butchers the English language, huh?

But he is also 37 and is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana — a small town in a middling state.

MayorPete

How about moving on to the Indiana governor’s mansion and/or the US Senate before taking a serious run at the White House when we are more open-minded?

The fear here is that he will get chewed up and spit out in a general election, thus ruining his promising brand so severely that it may take Tiger Woods-type comeback to be viable again.

And the embarrassment of another loss on the left will be pretty severe.

Democrats need to build a farm system as in baseball, with the likes of “Mayor Pete” and AOC as blue-chip prospects rising up through the ranks.

Putting this mayor – gay or straight – in the presidential race now would equate to promoting someone from single-A to the big leagues.

You’d root for the kid – you know, just to be PC – but he’d be overwhelmed.

Nominating the first openly gay man for president in 2020 could backfire into winning the PC battle just to lose the war of harsh reality in the quest for the larger and more pressing issues (health care, gun control, education, environment, etc.).

We’re past the point of trying to prove a point, as we are at the point of no return.

Any day of the week.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on April 21, 2019

Nothing New to See Here

Dubyah

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While the talking heads on the tube were all aghast at the news of ultra-rich people scamming to get their kids into “elite” schools, I’ll pulled my shoulders out of my sockets – again – with a shrug.

As long as Bruce Springsteen wasn’t implicated, which I highly doubted, I was good.

And really, the news was not news at all.

It certainly wasn’t breaking news, largely because this drill of our culture catering to lifestyles of the rich and famous has left us all broken.

The rich getting over, usually at the expense of the poor, is one of the world’s oldest professions – right up there with, well, the world’s oldest profession.

I’m reminded of a line in the movie “Platoon” where the Charlie Sheen character, Taylor, is admonished by a black soldier, King, that, “the poor are always getting (bleeped) over by the rich. Always have. Always will.”

Emphasis on always.

As in always.

platoon1

It’s a reason I don’t get into tongue-clucking mode when a kid from a poor or middle class background gets a 6-year, $11 trillion contract — with a $34.5 billion guaranteed signing bonus – to put a ball through a hoop or hit a ball with a wood club over a fence from some filthy rich owner trying to outbid other filthy rich owners.

Turnabout, in these rare instances, is fair play.

But these are rare instances.

For the most part, it is the other way around, and we should not be surprised by the latest scam.

Maybe the national networks saw it as a chance to talk about something other than All the President’s Men II, but it is really all connected.

While your president (not mine) signs bills to be unforgiving with the student loan debt that almost all of the rest of us needed to keep literal pace with the Joneses, let’s look at his disloyal highness as a prime example.

He got into Penn (after a stint at Fordham).

How did that happen?

It’s all a bit murky, but Penn clearly seems less than boastful about an alum in the White House than he is about being a Penn alum in the White House.

Though barely remembered by professors or fellow students, he somehow walked away on his bone spurs with an economics degree (transcript sealed).

trump11-horiz

And his kids – the spawn of the bible-signing devil – all managed to gain entry into elite schools: Donald Jr. (Penn), Ivanka (Georgetown, Penn), Eric (Georgetown) and Tiffany (Penn, Georgetown).

Meanwhile, our first lady entered America on an Einstein visa (insert laugh track).

George W. Bush? Not quite the sharpest tool in anyone’s shed, and yet he went to Yale.

There are pictures of “Dubya” as a male cheerleader, so there is more evidence of involvement in student life that that of your president (not mine), but you still have to wonder how he landed there – given the fact that he is, well, him.

“Dubya” – despite a middling 77 average at Yale – moved on to Harvard Business School.

See, there was an open rule on the books that students were grandfathered into these place based on bloodlines – as in blood of the blue variety.

A rule? Yes, a rule. Talk about an exclusive country club where the poor kids earn their way in on tips from parking the cars.

George H.W. Bush went to Yale. So did his father before him, Prescott Bush.

Sensing a pattern here?

And it’s not limited to just Republicans.

The Kennedys all went to Harvard (Ted even got booted for cheating and then somehow reemerged after a military stint).

The difference, as opposed to the current “first” family, is that they were clearly edified enough by their Ivy League schooling to master critical and nuanced thinking skills.

There are zillions of more examples of how rich people made sure their offspring, deserving or not, were inserted into the race a few laps ahead of a field trying to run it honestly.

On its face, creating something better for the next generation — if only in enlightenment — is at the soul of what’s left of the American dream.

Anything beyond that, and we see how badly the system is broken.

This new twist on it, though fairly elaborate and so slimy that it makes you want to take a shower just from reading the sordid details, is nothing new.

Simply put, it involved a whole lot of cheating and bribing – all under the guise of money going to charity.

Sounds bad, and it is bad.

But is it any worse than when poor kids went to fight in Vietnam while the rich kids went to college (or their daddies paid to have them diagnosed with mystery ailments like bone spurs)?

Any worse than serving from 1968-74 in the Air Force and somehow never setting foot in Vietnam (i.e. “Dubyah”)?

Any worse than working people paying twice as much than the wealthy in taxes?

Any worse than traitor Paul Manafort, and his so-called “blameless life” of turning American dreams into Russian schemes, getting a lighter prison sentence than a poor person – especially of color — would for a lesser crime?

Yeah, this one had intrigue – with some celebrity names to make it tawdry – but let’s be real.

It is neither new nor news.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 17.

 

 

Yeah, I Went There (With a Heavy Heart)

Hitlerrally

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — When the “Soup Nazi” episode aired on “Seinfeld” in November of 1995, I was pretty much appalled that the same comedic genius who felt that cursing equated to cheating would go so low as to use a four-letter word – Nazi – so loosely.

A few years back, there were these clips of Adolph Hitler bellowing at people in German, but with English subtitles uttering non-related nonsense, that went viral.

When I expressed my concerns that it should not be a source of casual humor, I was told I should appreciate it because it was making him look foolish – maybe like Col. Klink in “Hogan’s Heroes” – but I wasn’t buying what they were selling.

Klink was fictional – and not overly funny to me, either – and Hitler was quite real.

Nazis, and Hitler, with or without Holocaust references, are just no laughing matter.

As a hard and fast rule, I never went there.

It was as close as I had ever come to a vow of silence.

With this regime in the White House, I have crossed a line I never thought imaginable.

Is it the same?

No, and nothing could possibly be the same.

Is your president (not mine) another Adolph Hitler (or even Benito Mussolini, despite similar pompous gestures during speeches)?

Nope.

But, in the similar but not the same realm, the similarities are too eerie to ignore.

So my vow of silence is broken.

I’m ready to make the comparison.

This is how dire our situation has become.

It was your president (not mine) dusting off the same coded language to tell mostly white Christians from the Heartland that they were the “real Americans” to gain traction in an unlikely rise to power.

You can go to Hitler’s speeches and, verbatim, find similar references to enemies of the state – including the press – and their nefarious attempts to keep Germany from returning to a vague past greatness.

Maybe your president (not mine), with the likes of Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, did it on purpose.

I tend to think he did, and that’s a decision that comes with consequences.

Maybe all his followers didn’t fully grasp the historical significance, let alone equivalence. Surely some didn’t. They just liked what they were hearing.

But some did, and they really didn’t care.

Scary.

And eerily similar to that dark past.

It wasn’t an accident that extremists were empowered enough by the campaign rhetoric to make Charlottesville happen, nor was it an accident he hemmed and hawed in the wake of it.

What your president (not mine) should have said was that his own daughter (Ivanka) converted to Judaism, meaning his grandchildren are Jewish. His other kids, at least at the time, were either married or engaged to Jewish partners.

Those white supremacists carried torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us” when, in his inner circle, they already had.

That thought could not be lost when Michael Cohen testified this week and reminded his inquisitors that he was the descendant of Holocaust survivors.

The coded MAGA language doesn’t directly target Jews anymore, as it did with Hitler, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t being used toward others.

That list would include immigrants (code for Hispanics) and potential terrorists (Muslims) while taking a lot of cheap shots at outgoing president Barack Obama, enough to remind his base they won’t have to deal with a black man in the White House anymore.

It seemed as clear that “Make America Great Again” meant “Make America White Again” as much as the “we want our country back” slogan of the Tea Partiers.

He didn’t have to say it, and didn’t even have to feel it in his heart, to know it was resonating.

Stirring up racists may be worse than actually being one yourself.

With the so-called mainstream media that is allegedly so against him providing an unfair amount of free coverage of campaign rallies, he was into Hitler’s playbook.

And tragedies have happened since, if only as consequences of his rise to power and then doubling down on it to appease his base.

Like it or not, it kept the Hitler parallel – one that I vowed I would never make – in play.

I’m being hyperbolic? Fine.

You go there, and I’ll stay here.

We can let others — Holocaust survivors who have had some strong things to say about your president (not mine) – decide on this.

They have witnessed what they never thought they would again in their lifetimes.

Yoka Verdoner, of California, is mortified by the separating of children from their parents at the border.

She said: “Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime. What’s happening in our backyard today is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings as children in Nazi Europe.”

The argument is that these children are “illegal.” It should be noted that mere pen strokes make it easy for a powerful government (Nazi Germany or the America that defeated it, ostensibly to keep the world free for democracy) to brand anyone “illegal” and then demonize — and dehumanize — them as a result.

“I have not compared them 100 percent to the Nazis, but we are on the way,” another survivor, Bernard Marks, who recently died at 89, told The Sacramento Bee. “What concerns me is we are breaking up families. We are turning justice upside down.”

Marks penned an Op-Ed for the Bee on the moral – and historical – equivalence.

His words should stand as a stark reminder: “As a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, I take this responsibility seriously. Today, as an America citizen, I feel compelled to raise my voice when I hear echoes of my childhood years in our current political rhetoric. The fear that immigrants (illegal and legal) in the United States must live with under the new administration’s approach is personal and familiar to me.”

And that should be enough for the rest of us without that first-hand experience to understand the similarities.

And break vows of silence.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on March 3.