In his new book, America’s Original Sin, James Wallis makes a strong statement about Racism in America.The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the near genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.” As I look back over my eighty years, I agree with this statement. As a boy of 12, I played on a baseball team which had one black player, named Joe Fuller. When we played an all white team they threw rocks at Joe, until we had to remove him for his safety. In 1964, at a “Christian” college in South Carolina. I got involved with students who were going to the black ghettos to tutor children. When the power structure learned the students were living in “negro” homes, they told us to get those students out of those homes, or they would not be responsible for their safety! Because of this stand against racism. I lost my job. In the 1970’s it was my privilege to be an assistant coach of the basketball team which was 90% black. From them I learned much of the heartaches of being young black males in America. When Obama was elected President, one of our residents hung black crepe on his door. Like many others here, he could not abide an intelligent black man being President and living in the White House. I could go on and on. The founding fathers shed the slavery issue under the rug. 17 of the prominent founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had slaves. In order to appease the “cotton kingdom” of the South they shelved the issue. It was President Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Despite the risk, it was a great gamble with the future of the Union, of slavery and of the presidency hanging in the balance. Read Todd Brewer’s new book, Lincoln’s Gamble a well written account off this incredible moment in our history. Is it time m that we repent of our “original sin,” and become what we profess?
Since 1940 I have been a pro football fan, first with the Philadelphia Eagles and since 2003, the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, when that brutal BengaL Burfick, caused a concussion for our star player. Antonio Brown, that blow probably cost the Steelers a shot at the Super Bowl. I read the book, Concussion, which told the story of Bennet Omalu. a Nigerian discovered that the brain of Steeler lineman, Mike Webster, showed signs of what he called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, caused by repeated jarring blows to the head. Since Webster had suffered repeated concussions, Benet postulated that they were caused in the NFL wars. Although his findings were validated by the NIH and competent neurologist the NFL reacted quickly and used every possible means to discredit his work and spent millions of dollars to refute his claims. I have to understand Steeler mania, which pervades this area. In this community where I live, EVERYONE IS A STEELER FAN, even all the old ladies. Here is my theory. When the steel mills closed in 1970, their loss was a mortal wound to the city. No steel, no smoke pouring from the stacks, no jobs and no money, STEELERS TO THE RESCUE! With the terrible towels, and black and gold helmets, bearing the Logos iron, coke and steel, they became the city’s warriors, their battles against the forces of the past, would vindicate the city. Read the book for yourself, and see if CTE is serious concern for all who risk the future health of their brains, by engaging in this violent sport. You can call me a sore loser with the Steelers out of contention, I may well boycott the playoffs, and instead listen to classical music!
Today is January 17th, mid-month and mid-western Pennsylvania. I sit in my favorite wing chair looking out the window. I stare at the blank space where my favorite tree once stood, before humans destroyed it. It is bitter cold, dropping to 7 above zero tonight. More of the white stuff is expected soon. Reminds me of my childhood in equaling frigid Philadelphia. I still remember that long winter of 1935, when I battled lumbar pneumonia, almost losing that difficult struggle.. I can still visualize the quarantine sign on our door, and hear the rattle of early morning deliveries from the milkman. I see a few chickadees coming to our feeder. I am sure they miss that old tree where they could fly back to bare branches. Now they fly away somewhere else. In a few hours I will take my daily walk up and down these endless halls. I teeter when I walk, so use a walker all the time. I no longer drive, and when my wife broke her foot, I lost my source of transportation But I’m hunkered down, with books to read and old videos to watch. Life here is limited, much like living in a monastery. Our life controlled by the corporation, and sharing common life with others who have joined the life of the old. So, like ancient monks, I try to practice the wisdom of the apostle Paul “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
Today we celebrated the lives of three residents, all men. I always liked the poem of Ogden Nash, “People expect old men to die. They do not really mourn old men. Old men are different. People look at them with eyes that wonder when . . .People watch with unshocked eyes. But the old men know when an old man dies.” One of the men we remembered was Frank . He had suffered with Alzheimer’s for some time and had spent several months locked down in Memory. Care. When I visited him, he said little, but when our eyes met, I knew he was still “in there.” When I showed him a painting by Lester Potts Jr. of a ship, he suddenly said, I was in the US Navy during World War II. I served on a landing craft, and I recall hitting the beaches at Okinawa. I thank God I survived.” Then, seeming deep in thought, the silence returned. It was yet another example of how Lester Pott’s art, painted while he had Alzheimer’s, unlocked the memory of a man with Alzheimer’s.
In an election season it seems some politicians want to reframe the debate over Social Security. This seems important since the system is supposed to come up short in 2034.According to an editorial in the New York Times, 36 percent of retirees rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their income. For so many elders social security checks are indispensable for their retirement. Any attempt to deny these funds to elder is not only wrong, but criminal. However, nearly all Republican candidates have called for cuts to Social Security benefits. Some even advocate reducing future cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cruz have also endorsed diverting social security into new private accounts for employees, simply a reprise of George W. Bush’s failed privatization attempt in 2005. Even the slightest hint of such a change causes me shudders. It may be that a higher retirement age may be part of the solution. By contrast, Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want to increase benefits for low-income retirees. We need to heed the prophetic words of Pope Francis, “Pay attention to the most vulnerable populations.” : We are living in a society where the gap between the rich and the middleclass is growing every day. The wealthy are getting richer at a much greater pace that middle or lower income American.=. So, for heaven’s sake, don’t mess with social security, or expand it!