Thursday, November 2, 2017

I'm Not Fighting Anymore.

I'm done.

I'm done arguing with people on Social Media. There's an old saying that says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I'm going insane.

It's not getting me anywhere, and it's probably doing more harm than good.

First, a few truths: 1) At the end of the day, there are only a handful of people who regularly oppose my posts. And by a handful, I mean five or six different people. I know full well there are others who do so as well, and for whatever reason -- not the least of which is family and friendly peace -- they choose not to engage the debate, at least publicly. I can totally respect that, and at times would have been wise to act accordingly likewise. Go figure.

2) There are many, many more who agree with my posts. Of course, our friend lists tend to encompass many who usually see eye-to-eye with us more often than not. I'm a Conservative Christian. It would only be natural that the bulk of my friends would be Conservative Christians as well. As such, they're more likely to agree with my thoughts, and I theirs, most often. Nevertheless, usually, many more of my friends tend to agree with my posts than disagree. It's not imprudent to make a decision on where I want to spend most of my energy.

3) Social Media in general, and Facebook specifically, is really all about the personal nature of it all. "It's my wall," is a phrase often seen on FB. That's true, but then, if I'm willing to advertise to the world what I'm thinking that day, or what I'm having for dinner, or my hot daughter in her bikini, then I suppose I should be willing to accept whatever comments come my way. And unless I'm totally willing to either seriously whittle down my friends list, and/or change all my postings to private settings, rather than public, then I shouldn't be surprised when I get a little backlash every now and then.

And the reality is, I'm not surprised. Not at all, actually. But there was a time, not too long ago, I rather enjoyed some of the give and take. I just don't anymore.

Not because it's not important, but because it has become totally pointless. (There are some who would tell me, "Duh, Paul, we knew that a long time ago." I guess I'm not as smart as I want to believe I am!)

But, you see, its very trendy in today's world to tout the concepts of open-mindedness, open-dialogue, frank discussion, and what-not. I've espoused those very ideas before myself. But at the end of the day, the end goal, whether we want to admit to it or not, is not to have an open debate, but to attempt to sway the opinion of the other, and prove our point. We all like to believe we're being open minded, and that we're open to new ideas, or even changing our old ones. But in my several years of social media debates, I haven't changed one mind of those who regularly disagree with me. And they haven't changed mine.

Maybe I'm not the great debater I think I am. Perhaps I'm just not very good at making an argument. Maybe. But I suspect rather that we're all hard-headed.

I'll speak for me, although I'd bet we all think this way: I don't want to debate. I want you to come around to my way of thinking. I'm not an old rooster, but I'm not a Spring chicken either. I've been around the block enough to be pretty set in my ways. America has been having "conversations" about things for two centuries, and yet, here we are. Society is as divided today as it ever has been.

Today's society wants to believe it's enlightened. It's not. We want to believe we have some sort of handle on things no generation before us has ever grasped. To wit: Two thousand years of Bible study has given way to the belief that we've somehow grasped some new meaning of Scripture in the last 10 years that the greatest Bible scholars in history never got. It's absurd.

I'm opinionated, no question. I have been for a very long time. Especially politically. And I've always believed that one's opinions only matter if they're based in and supported by truth and facts. It's not enough to just say, "I believe this..." and not back it up with anything. People won't listen to that very often. I've tried to operate in this fashion as often as possible. There are those who would disagree with that, but I promise I've tried.

But I've come to the conclusion that most people won't listen regardless. A favorite pastime in today's world is to accuse others of being too "judgmental." What right do we have to judge, they say. Christians are most often accused of this, and far too often, by other Christians. The problem is that they have a totally messed up interpretation of the concept of "judging" they're trying to peg on us.

So, we get accused of not "loving" enough,  or not "adding to the conversation," or not being "open-minded" or "wanting to dialogue."

But I've come to learn the people who oppose my ideas don't give a crap about what I think anyway! They don't want to "have a conversation" with me. They just want to tell me how wrong I am.

And that's OK. If I've learned anything in my 45+ years, it's that I'm not always right. And others have every right to oppose me, even if they are the ones who are wrong. But, if I thought the "conversation" was getting me anywhere, I might continue it.

It's not.

So I'm choosing not to participate anymore.

But that doesn't mean I'm going away. In fact, it means the opposite. But before I elaborate on that, let me explain one more thing.

As a Christian, I believe in some absolute truths. There are ways of God that are simply not open to discussion, interpretation, evaluation, and so forth. Again, understanding that others might disagree here, let me say this: I don't care.

Every good preacher will encourage his congregation to study the Word for themselves. He will tell them not to just blindly take the preacher's word for it. But you won't hear them stand in the pulpit, deliver the sermon, and then say, "But hey, that's my interpretation of the Bible. If you choose to interpret it differently, feel free. Whatever truth you come up with is fine by us!"

Matt Walsh is a blogger I read regularly. I've said this before and I'll say it again here: I do not always, blindly, agree with every opinion he posts, but I find I agree with his thoughts far more often than not.

He wrote a blog a couple days ago that spoke to me deeply. Because it has been something that has been on my heart for some time. I won't rehash it all here, but you can check it out here, and you should go read it right away. My detractors will not like it very much, and there will even be many Christians who don't like it very much.

I think it's spot on. We have become a generation of Christians who have allowed the outside world to define our Christianity for us. They accuse us of "judging" when we're pointing out sin. They accuse us of not "loving" people the way Jesus did when we seek to hold others accountable. They tell us we're close-minded when we're not accepting of "alternative" lifestyles. The tell us the Bible is old, out-dated, and not relevant in today's society.

Inasmuch as I believe it is unfair of me to expect non-Christians to live by Biblical standards, it's also unfair to allow others who don't believe in the Bible anyway to tell me how I should act in my Christian faith. I know the truth of the Bible. And while we always have room to learn, I don't think it's boastful to say that I'm comfortable in standing on what I believe those truths to be.

I know the Bible doesn't teach us never to judge, but rather it teaches us how to judge. I know that Jesus was the most loving individual to ever walk the earth. I know we're called to love others, and there are a lot of lost people out there who need that love. But I also know Jesus loved people enough to not encourage them to continue in their sin, and often called out their sin to their faces. It will never be OK with me to "agree to disagree" with people who are engaged in sin that is going to send them to Hell, all under the ruse that we're "meeting people where they are." If we truly love them, we are going to encourage them to leave the world and cleave to Jesus.

In today's world, we're told it's not OK to claim we're right. We're told everything is up to interpretation, and that we have no right to assume we're correct about an issue, and someone else is wrong. Compromise is all the rage. "Agreeing to disagree" is seen as a better alternative to standing on absolute truth.

Well, they're wrong. There are things that are good and right in the world, and there are things that are bad and wrong. And I'm done trying to defend my views to others who simply won't ever believe I'm right anyway. Everyone has a right to their opinions. And everyone doesn't have to believe I'm right. But I don't have to think they are either, and I'm done fighting about it.

I tell you all that to say that I'm done trying to defend what I believe, at least in the way most people on FB want me to. In 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible tells us we should always be ready to provide a defense for what we believe, and I'm more than OK with that. I'm happy to discuss the Word of God with anyone who genuinely wants to learn more about it, and I'll share the Gospel every chance I get. But I'm done fighting with those who only want to oppose my views because they've chosen not to believe the Bible anyway. I'm going to tell people what I believe to be the truth of the Gospel without shame, and without compromising it so as to not hurt others' feelings. I'll let God do the rest.

I've considered long and hard about blocking some folks, or unfriending others, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I still don't want to close myself off to opposing thought. And I'm not dumb enough to believe I can never learn something from someone else. There's a lot of wisdom out there still to be found, even from those who don't think like I do all the time.

So from now on, I'm going to post what I want on FB, either in a post, or a link to my blog, or share some other article or thought, and leave it at that. If others want to fight about what I post, so be it. Have at it. But I'm not gonna. If I didn't believe it was a valid point to begin with, I wouldn't have posted it. I'm simply not going to fight about it about it anymore. And I'm not going to fight with others on their posts. If I don't agree with something a friend of mine posts, I'm just going to disagree privately and move on.

If people want to comment I'm a scumbag, or tell me I'm a genius, so be it. If someone points out something I'm wrong about, and it proves to actually be wrong, I'll apologize and fix the mistake. Otherwise, I'll stand by my posts. Hopefully, the many who seem to enjoy and get something out of my posts will still do so, and I don't want to discourage anyone who wants to message me privately to discuss one of my posts. If we can have a profitable, civil, and meaningful discussion about something, I'm all for it. But if all someone wants to do is fight and oppose, forget it.

There was a time I enjoyed the fight, and even got a kick out of stirring the pot. I don't anymore. The time spent fighting with the same people over and over again is not only not getting me anywhere, it's taking time away from me doing other things I'd rather do. I don't blame them for that. I blame myself. And I'm not going to indulge it anymore.

If you like what I post, thanks. I hope it helped. If you don't, then do what you have to do. Block me, unfriend me, scream and yell, whatever. I'm not wasting any more of my time fighting about it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kneeling for the Anthem: So Misguided.

You may have missed it as the season wound down, what with all the NFL players doing their thing during the National Anthem, and all the subsequent fun and frivolity it caused on social media, but there was actually one -- only one -- player who knelt during the National Anthem in Major League Baseball. His name is Bruce Maxwell, and he is a second year, backup catcher for the Oakland Athletics.

Maxwell is of mixed decent: His father is black, and his mother is white. By all accounts, he is a really good dude, and like most black people in this country, he has, at various times in his life, been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty racism.

I won't recount his whole story here. Here is a link to a really good story about him. It's really long, so you gotta want it, but if you want to know everything about the guy and what he's been through, and why he made the decision he did, you should read it. I think it will open your eyes.

It opened mine, though not in the way you might think (or some others would want!) I have been on record as stating I believe anyone unwilling to stand for the National Anthem is a Piece of Trash. (Trump, you might recall, gave them a slightly more colorful name. You get the idea.) In the case of Mr. Maxwell -- and only this case, for now -- I will rescind that moniker. I do not think Maxwell is a piece of trash. After reading the story, there's no doubt that he is indeed a really good guy. (Even if he did say some pretty nasty things about Trump.)

But I still think he's wrong.

Here's why: First, it has become clear to me, even though I've really known this all along, that some of these men engaging in the protest actually think they're doing the right thing, for the right reasons. A case could be made that that is at least half the battle. They actually believe this is the right thing to do, and they're not hoseheads doing it specifically to be disrespectful to the flag, to the country, or to the veterans. And that belief can stem from a variety of reasons, good or bad, that I won't bother to go into here.

Ah... but disrespectful they are, nonetheless. And therein lies the problem.

Regardless of what side of the issue you fall on, there are some absolute truths that cannot be denied. And at the top of the list is the idea that standing for the National Anthem is universally seen as a sign of respect. We've all seen countless social media memes portraying one President or another during the playing of an anthem without his hand over his heart. I saw them all the time about President Obama, and I've seen a few since Trump took office. Regardless of the authenticity of those pictures, the point is clear: It is expected of people, especially people of authority, and certainly people in the public eye, to show respect for the flag, honoring the country that has afforded them so much. Additionally, it is understood that the National Anthem is played specifically to honor the brave men and women who not only are currently serving to protect our country, but those who gave their very lives to protect the freedoms our country represents.

It's universally understood.

It is precisely why the anthem is played at sporting events. Most people understand that at the end of the day, professional sports in this country is just grown men and women playing kids' games. In and of itself, it's really not all that important. But the respite it provides to everyday schmoes like us, the break from reality it enables, and the entertainment value professional sports offers all lend themselves to the idea that but for those brave warriors who put themselves on the wall for the rest of us, we simply wouldn't have the freedom to celebrate in such a manner.

And there's another absolute truth about the Anthem: It has absolutely nothing to do with racism or policemen. None, whatsoever.

Which is why, unless you're protesting the military, the idea of kneeling during the anthem to protest anything is so wrong. It's misguided. You're pointing your protest in the wrong direction. Why would you want to slap the face of someone who hasn't done anything to harm you?

It would be like me picketing out in front of your child's elementary school to protest the rising cost of healthcare. It makes no sense. They're not related.

Maybe a better example would be this: It would be like an anti-abortion group protesting in front of a church. Christians aren't promoting abortions. The protest would be better served in front of an abortion clinic, or a Planned Parenthood facility.

See, that's the rub here. You can say you mean no disrespect to the flag, the country, or our veterans, and yet, that's exactly what you're doing. If I walk up to you and slap you in the face, I can't, in turn, very well say to you, "Sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you or disrespect you." When you kneel during the anthem, no matter the reason and regardless of your intentions, you are dishonoring everything it represents. You are -- period.

Colin Kaepernick, who started this whole mess, has a very specific skill set. He's not a scientist, or a world-renown mathematician, or a global finance genius. He's an athlete. A professional athlete, to boot. As a pro in the NFL, that makes him one of the best in the whole world. And as a professional football player, the ONLY country in the whole wide world where he can ply his trade and be afforded the money, the status, the fame, the platform, and the notoriety he has, is -- that's right -- the United States -- the one he's chosen to protest.

Can't happen anywhere else on the planet. He's jobless in any other country in the world. No other place on the entire globe offers him the unique opportunity he has right here in the good ole US of A. And he's starin' the old gift horse right in the mouth. He's chompin' on the very hand the feeds him. He's standin' up the one that brung him to the dance. He's slappin' Lady Liberty square in the face.

Which brings me back to the A's Bruce Maxwell. For all the reasons above, he's wrong for his choice. But there's something more.

America doesn't represent racism. It doesn't. It never has.

Our very Declaration of Independence confirms this. "ALL men are created equal." Long before our forefathers understood what that phrase truly means, they certainly understood the concept.

I'm not going to get into a long discussion here of the racial history of our country. I'm trying to make a larger point. Slavery is an unfortunate thread in the history of not only the United States, but most other countries around the globe as well. But it's important to remember that the ideals on which our country was founded wasn't wrapped in bondage, but rather, freedom. And it was that very ideal -- freedom -- that caused the better half of right-thinking Americans to wage a Civil War against those who couldn't and wouldn't accept the fact that one man should never see another man as inferior just because of his race.

Since that time, our society has slowly but surely continued to weed out those who still don't get it. Many great men and women of all races have given their lives over the past 150 years in that cause. But as we flash forward to today, does any right-thinking American really believe that our country is inherently racist? I mean, for real?

Make no mistake: the episodes of racism Maxwell and his father have witnessed in their lives are very real. As are the episodes that most other minorities have faced at one time or another.

But those instances stand out because they are out of the norm. There are, indeed, some real boneheads out there. Mean, nasty, racist bigots dotting the landscape. But their numbers are thin, and thinning.

The group that initiated the rally at Charlottesville, Virginia a few months back put out a nationwide call for like-thinking individuals to join them in their rally for the weekend. A nationwide callout resulted in what the media reported as "hundreds" of protesters.


Think about that. There was a time in this country where a callout like that in a single state might net protesters numbering in the thousands. Not anymore. "Hundreds" is a lot -- too many, truth be told -- but in the whole scheme of things is minuscule in light of a call for protesters that went out over the whole country.

Maxwell is right to be disgusted by such actions as he's witnessed. It's good that he's been shaped by such incidents and that he's chosen to make himself a better person because of them, and to be a better person to others. But to aim his protest in a direction that doesn't represent or stand for the very ideas he's protesting is simply wrong. It's pointed in the wrong direction. America doesn't represent racism. A few bad apples doesn't define what we stand for.

I wanna be clear: I don't believe white cops are murdering black people at random, for shear kicks, in grossly exaggerated numbers the way others want us to believe. Statistics show that white cops killing black people account for far less than 1% of all the black murders in the country each year. In fact, black on black murders account for upwards of 90% of the total.

Nevertheless, there are some bad apples. And the incidents that many black persons are faced with are in most cases very real. We can do better. We can always do better.

But none of that has anything to do with the National Anthem, why it's played at the beginning of each sports contest, the brave men and women it honors, or the freedom it represents.

To openly defy it -- for any reason -- is just wrong.

It's just plain wrong.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Cam Newton & Donald Trump

(I offer this with a disclaimer: There are, indeed, a lot of really good people who run for office in this country, especially at the local levels. I believe there are people with a lot of honesty and integrity in public office today. I give these thoughts with some exclusions.)

Do you realize the situation with Cam Newton highlights precisely why someone like Donald Trump won the election?

Cam Newton says something dumb and disrespectful, clearly sexist, and not off-the-cuff. There's no question he feels like women are inferior. And so he said what he said.

Realizing the backlash, both from the fans and from his employer, he offers the obligatory and much-expected apology. No one in their right mind, of course, believes it's sincere. Newton didn't have some big epiphany overnight. He didn't change what he's believed about women his whole life in roughly 18 hours.

And so we all pretend. We go on, because Cam's a big star, and we're all OK with people who say, do, and believe dumb stuff as long as they apologize afterward. I'll pretend Newton has somehow changed his entire belief system in a matter of hours, female reporters will pretend to not be offended by his sexism anymore -- because, you know, they're all professionals -- and Cam'll pretend to not be a creep anymore.

Cam Newton is a chump. And he isn't going to stop being a chump overnight. This ain't the first time he's proved that. His fans love him anyway cause he's a good football player. That's OK. For me, I don't believe in the same things as does Cam Newton, but I'd have a lot more respect for him if he just went on being who he was, and stopped pretending to be a great guy, when he's really not.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump says, does, and believes a lot of dumb stuff, but here's the kicker: For the first time in forever, we had someone running for office, who, unlike most every other politician we've dealt with, doesn't pretend to be someone he's not. Donald Trump has a lot of good qualities, and he has a lot of bad qualities, and at the end of the day -- HE DOESN'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THEM! He says what he says, and doesn't backtrack from it. You don't like it? Tough! He's not going to change who he is, and he's not going to offer fake apologies for the things he believes just because you or I don't like it. Love him or hate him, I respect anybody who is who they are and doesn't try to insult my intelligence by pretending to be something they're not.

I absolutely love it when the media fumbles all over themselves at the end of a story about Trump when they have to conclude, "Trump has yet to apologize for what he said." They're so used to every politician and celebrity and athlete apologizing for something they said or did the media believes was inappropriate (as though they are the authority on such things) that they simply don't know how to act when confronted with someone who doesn't play that game.

That's the real problem everybody has with Trump. It's not what he says or does. It's that he doesn't apologize for them afterward. I know a lot of people who are no saints themselves who believe Trump is some awful, creepy guy. The pot calling the kettle black, as it were. They ain't upset by what he does (or else they'd have hated Bill Clinton the same way.) Rather, they don't like that he doesn't play the obligatory game. He's supposed to apologize, plain and simple. Make us like him. He don't play that way.

I'll take heat from a few on this. A few. They'll say I'm apologizing for Trump. They'll say I'm condoning his bad behavior. They'll say I'm giving him a pass on every bad thing they think he's done. None of which is true, but that's OK. I'm simply trying to make a point here. There are many -- apparently over half the country -- who are simply fed up with the phoniness. We were aching for someone to tell it like it is, and say what he means.

That's why he got elected.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Offended by Bill Parcells

I wrote the piece below back in 2005. Seems kinda interesting over 10 years later.

For several years now, I have had the privilege of serving as the disc jockey for Decatur Central High School’s Spring prom, an event I always enjoy. Almost 10 years ago, at one of the first proms I played for them, Tim McGraw’s song, Indian Outlaw, was a big hit. This song, his first single, had launched his career into the stratosphere, and it was one of the most requested songs I had at the time.

That evening, in the glitz of the Hyatt Regency ballroom, amid a traditionally non-country-music-enjoying crowd, I had already played the song once, and had received several requests to play it again.

So I did, and that’s when it happened.

Some pimply-faced adolescent walked up to my table and said, “My family is part Indian, and this song offends me and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t play it anymore.”

Given that I couldn’t understand what about the song would offend anyone, and that it was the second time I had played it that evening (by request,) and that it was highly unlikely I would play it again, I replied, “I won’t play it again, look at all these people dancing, and I don’t care if you’re offended.”

He huffed, and walked away, mad, I could only suppose.

You see, the song, basically about an Indian stud, and not in any way casting a dark light on Indians, had caused a big brouhaha. Admittedly, the song is a bit stereotypical (at least, I think it is, since I really don’t know much about Indian culture except what I’ve read in Indiana history books,) but beyond that, I can’t really hear anything in the lyrics that should make an Indian mad. I mean, the song, more or less, is about an Indian’s sexual conquests, so I should think Indians would be flattered.

I was wrong.

Indian officials everywhere started popping up and saying this song was offensive to Indians, that it stereotyped them, portrayed them in a bad light, and that Indians weren’t like that anymore. Then they started calling for Tim McGraw’s scalp.

So – and let me just say that I usually think very fond of teenagers’ intellect – this kid, who clearly did not know his head band from his teepee, found out that Aunt Margie was one quarter Iroquois on her brother-in-law’s side and decided that he ought to be offended too. He had told me off good, and he didn’t like that I did not respond favorably.

I’m reminded of all that this morning as I read a story on about the coach of my favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys, making reference to special plays in their repertoire they call, “Jap plays.” Apparently, Bill Parcells held a press conference and sometime during the 45 minutes he spoke, the subject of play calling came up, and he mentioned they like to call trick plays every now and then Bill explained they, “have a few… no disrespect for the Orientals, but what we call Jap plays. OK? Surprise things."

The ESPN story claimed that there was, “a murmur in the room of reporters, which included a Japanese journalist,” and that Parcells repeated, "No disrespect to anyone."

I finished reading the story and thought, “Why am I reading this story?” I mean, why is this news? Have they nothing else to report about? Is this still a story?

First of all, anyone who’s been in a room full of reporters knows that the murmur could just as well have been gas caused by bad media room catering. Who knows, maybe it was the Japanese journalist.

And secondly, since when is it offensive to merely refer to someone, or even a group of people? I know, the whole “politically-correct” phase has been in full swing for some years now, and I know there’s been about two million or so articles written about it. Which is why I’m so surprised we keep seeing stories about it all. The only time we hear about it is when some bonehead decides he’s offended by something, or when some journalist, (like I’m doing right now) writes about how dumb the whole thing is. And by the sheer volume of those types of stories, most regular people agree that this is a non-issue.

And yet, a first class organization like ESPN features a story about a “problem” so mundane it makes ‘em look like morons.

You see, a “Jap” is an abbreviated reference to a person indigenous to one of the many islands of Japan. Unlike the term “spic,” which was created as a purposefully derogatory reference to Hispanics, “Jap” was merely an abbreviation. And while the word “Japan” is only a two syllable word that doesn’t take that long to pronounce, “Japanese,” as in, “a Japanese journalist” is a bit longer. Thus, the term “Jap” was somehow coined to refer to any “Japanese” person.

Ah, but that’s not the whole story. One day, long forgotten, (much-like September 11 is now,) the “Japanese” army, under the orders of the “Japanese” government, decided they didn’t like Americans very much and blew up a bunch of our ships without being provoked, and before breakfast. All of the sudden, the term “Jap” took on a whole new meaning.

Four years later, after we blew two “Japanese” cities into oblivion, Americans felt better about themselves and the “Japanese” people didn’t. So we decided to start making friends again and so Americans, over the years, have now at least attempted to stop calling “Japanese” people “Japs.” Not because they are not “Japs,” but because the term “Jap” was not so flattering anymore, even if it did become not so flattering because they hit us with a cheap shot.

So Bill Parcells, who is not a Harvard major, but a football coach, calls plays, “Jap” plays, not because they refer to how a “Japanese” player, (or even a “Japanese” journalist) might execute those plays, but because they are surprise plays, along the lines of the surprise, before-breakfast play the “Japanese” once played on the United States.

Just a reference, that’s all.

And so ESPN, for reasons only God himself could ascertain, found some “Japanese” goof, who doesn’t know a football play from his teepee, and wasn’t even at the press conference, as far as I could tell, and quoted him.

"Bill Parcells is a brilliant coach," John Tateishi of the Japanese-American Citizen's League, a national civil rights group, told "Unfortunately, he is ignorant about racial slurs. I take great offense by what he said. Parcells ought to know better. He sorely needs more education on what is offensive and non-offensive to Japanese-Americans. I am shocked that he would say this."


The problem, of course, is that Bill wasn’t referencing anything that had anything to do with a “Japanese-American,” whatever that is. He was referencing something the “Japs” did back in 1941. And even if it is a stupid thing to do, he’s not wrong by doing it. And I can assure you, even though Bill did the politically-correct thing by issuing the pre-fab apology statement later, he’s still going to call those plays “Jap” plays in the locker room and on the field. Because the bottom line is that we’re all only politically correct when everybody else is watching and listening. When we are alone, or with our comfort groups, we say and do exactly what we want and how we want.

And so we continue to refer to things like “Southern-fried” chicken, or “French-fried” potatoes, whether they are or not, with no disrespect meant to southerners or Frenchmen.

We will say “Muslim” terrorists, because they are, with no disrespect meant to law-abiding muslims.

We will continue to call the pro football team in Washington the “Redskins,” and the high school in Tonganoxie, Kansas, the “Chieftons,” (don’t ask me how I know this,) and the pro baseball team in Atlanta the “Braves,” or the one in Cleveland the “Indians” (go figure) because they merely are nicknames that reference some former Indian or Indian culture with no disrespect meant to Indians.

African-Americans will still be called “blacks” even though they are not black, and “blacks” will never refer to “white” people as “Caucasian-Americans” even though we are not really white. And “black” people will still insist we “white” people call them “African-Americans” even though they call themselves “niggaz” and “homies,” which “white” people now often get shot for doing. And “black” entertainers will still make fun of “white boys” and everyone, including “African and Caucasian-Americans” will laugh. But Fuzzy Zoeller will joke about “black” people liking fried chicken, and ESPN will feature the story as the lead on SportCenter.

We will continue to call people from Indiana “Hoosiers.” Nobody knows why, and while at one time it may have been a slur, it certainly isn’t used as a term of disrespect anymore, unless you attend Purdue University.

And yes, even if only when we are alone or amongst friends, we will continue to call “Japanese” people “Japs,” as in, “Boy, those Japs sure can cook.” Because they can.

It’s time we all get over it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Irma: My First Hurricane.

We dodged the bullet, it looks like -- for now.

Many, many prayers have gone up for us, and by us, over the past few days, and we're very thankful and appreciative and feeling very, very blessed this morning.

Irma could still shift today, I suppose, but probably not. And there's still a storm surge threat to ride out throughout the day, but we're not anticipating anything coming from it where we are. (We're also, as luck would have it, in a period of King Tides, which are unusually high tides that hit about once or twice a year, so that's added to the uncertainty a bit.)

For those who know me, you know I don't get stressed out all that often. But this storm stressed me to the max. My wife and mother were even surprised.

My emotions have run the gammet.

1) We knew what we were getting into. We understand a long time ago that moving to the place of our dreams brought with it the risk of storms like this. But we also reasoned -- fairly, I think -- that living in the Midwest our whole lives brought with it the risk of tornadoes (and floods!) and such, most of which you usually couldn't see coming. So we believed it to be a fair trade off. Even now, we still do.

2) Having just dealt with our house flooding in Indiana two years ago, and the subsequent upheaval in our lives it caused for the following two years, moving to South Carolina was not just the culmination of a dream, it was also the relaxing closure of a chapter of our lives we were ready to put behind us. To put it bluntly, we were just very tired and worn out after the past couple years, and were finally able to just relax. It was that relaxation I was hoping to enjoy for a while. For eight months, we really had, and while I was fully aware we would someday have to stare down a hurricane, I just wasn't ready for it to be this quickly. I cannot begin to tell you how much we were really just digging the vibe of our new home, and I'd hoped this monkey wrench would stay on the shelf for at least a few years. Shows you what I know.

3) I now live in the nicest, prettiest, cleanest, biggest home in which I've ever lived in my life. It's brand new and we love it. We've loved showing it off to our family and friends. Vanity will get you nowhere, I know, but I have no shame in telling you how proud we are of our new house. And while I have insurance, I am in no hurry to have it blown over by a hurricane. And after the aforementioned flood, during which we lost a great deal of our possessions -- including some things we can never replace -- we've spent the last two years reacquiring household items and furnishings, and since we've been here, we've had a great time redecorating, and basically just starting over fresh and new and making our home -- maybe really for the very first time -- truly our own. And we love it all. I did not want to lose any of it to a hurricane, really, ever, but certainly not this quickly.

4) Speaking of insurance, I still had a few things to tidy up. We have what was required, and needed for the area, and are covered for any major loss (except a flood, ironically) but we were not in as good of shape as I could have been. We needed a few things to resolve to get everything tidied up. That hasn't happened yet, but will soon. Dodging this bullet is a big relief for me, as I will be in much better position when the next one hits.

But here's the real kicker, and it's what I struggled with during the flood back in Indiana, and what I'm struggling with now. I know no matter how bad we might have it, others will have it worse. Even now, I know the storm basically missing us means it's hitting others elsewhere. I'm so thankful it has weakened so quickly and dramatically just in the last 24 hours, because that means so many others have been spared too. But that doesn't change the fact that many people's lives have been destroyed in this storm. Just as we were afraid ours could be. Many millions of people didn't dodge the storm. My gain was someone else's loss.

I know, I know. We can't think that way. That's the way life is, that's the way the cookie crumbles, yadda, yadda, yadda. Two years ago, my house flooded, and I lost a lot of stuff. Most Mooresville residents didn't flood. They had it better than me. Other's flooded worse than we did, and took a far greater hit than we did. They had it worse.

I see the pictures and videos from Hurricane Harvey and my heart breaks. I know floods, but my flood was up and gone in 3 hours. It flooded no more than 4 feet of my home. Some of those people's houses were completely submerged for more than a week! I cannot fathom.

What does this all mean? Well, first, let me be clear about something: One prevailing thought in all this resides around Global Warming. I'm not going there here, because I don't believe Global Warming has anything to do with any of this. It never has, and never will. I am a man of faith. Fail though I may, I still believe God is bigger than any storm, and certainly bigger than stupid plastic water bottles.

For those who say God has a plan for everything, and that this whole hurricane business is somehow just a part of God's big plan, you're wrong. You're just plain wrong. The idea that God somehow just randomly decides what to destroy and who dies and lives, and "I'm just gonna blow away this state today for no reason," is not Biblically correct in any way.

Here's what IS Biblically correct: That Satan comes to steal, and kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) That "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (I Peter 5:8)

You see, every time disasters like this happen, we're always quick to blame God. Christians are especially bad about it. "Well, it's just part of God's plan." "God has a reason for everything." That's hogwash. The Bible doesn't teach that God just wanders around randomly killing off people, or whole neighborhoods, or whole states, or whole countries. Not anymore. The New Testament teaches that we are now waiting for Jesus to return for the final judgment and the final defeat of the devil. The days of God destroying the world with a natural disaster are over. (And that's why HE owns the rainbow!)

I know what you mean when you say, "Well, God just called old Uncle Jim home today." I know that makes you feel better, but what you are really saying is, "God decided to kill off Uncle Jim today." And that isn't true, and it certainly isn't Biblical.

What IS true is that God holds the keys to death and life, but as it relates to our final determination for eternity. If we choose to follow him here on Earth, we get eternal life. If we don't, we get eternal damnation. It really is that simple, and it will ultimately be God's choice, not anybody else's. He will be the final judge.

But as it relates to our time here on Earth, because of sin, we live in an imperfect world. (It's why God created a Heaven.) Because of sin, we are in a battle with Satan every day. Satan knows his final judgment, and he wants to take as many people with him as he can. The Bible teaches us that it is the DEVIL who steals and kills and destroys. You wanna believe GOD sent a hurricane? Why? Why is it so tough to believe that it was Satan instead?

Our broken world is a result of our sin. And we are in a war every day with the Master of Sin! Ephesians 6:12 tells us, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

In wars, people get bloodied and injured, and yes, even sometimes die. Occasionally we win a battle in the war. Sometimes we lose. And I don't want to go into a big, theological, doctrinal debate about how we can, through our sin, sometimes remove ourselves from the protection of the Lord, or even why God will sometimes choose to spare some and not others. Those decisions are up to God, according to His plans and purposes. I will say confidently that God did indeed choose to save some in this storm, for specific purposes, and maybe not others, and yet at the same time tell you that I can't even begin to completely understand why. That debate is for another time and place, and probably won't be resolved anyway until we meet Jesus again.

But I can say without equivocation that God didn't send this hurricane. The devil did. Satan came to kill and steal and destroy. It's that simple. He does it all the time, and tries over and over again, and the best I can do is to put my trust in the Lord, do my best to cover myself in his love and grace and mercy and protection, enjoy his wonderful creations and blessings as long as I can, and know that whenever the devil does end up taking me out, whether it be from a big ole storm, or just old age, I'm going to spend the rest of eternity in Heaven with Jesus, where Satan can't hurt me anymore.

And still none of that can completely assuage my guilt in knowing I was spared this time and others weren't. It even makes me feel guilty to pray for my own protection.

Second, what all this means is that I'm lucky, today, and maybe next time I won't be so lucky. The experience of living through one will hopefully make me better prepared the next time, and the next time. Because there will be a next time, that's for sure. All I can do is be as educated as possible, and as prepared as I can be.

Third... I ain't going anywhere! All this does is make me love the beauty of this place more than ever, and make me even more determined to enjoy of moment of it while I can, while I have them! I can't really begin to describe how beautiful and wonderful and nice it has been virtually every day we've here. Seeing the look on my wife's face every time she looks over the May River, or sees a dolphin in the ocean makes any hurricane we could face well worth it. If one comes and blows my house away someday, as long as my wife and family and I are safe, I'll rebuild it and carry on.

Because that's what we do. We carry on. We all do. Today, there are millions who need our help and our prayers. Please, please, please continue to do anything you can do to help ease their pain. Send money if you can. Volunteer if you can. And pray, if you can and are so inclined. Pray that God will save all He can. Pray that funds, and supplies, and volunteers, and resources will be there for those who need to rebuild. Pray that God will ease suffering, and pain, and anxiety, and worry. Pray that people will have peace in knowing that God is in control, even though it might not always seem so, and even though we might lose some to this battle, we'll ultimately win the war with God's helping hand.

That's my prayers. Today, it looks like we were the lucky ones. If we're not the next time, then I would hope those prayers and help will come my way.

I'm thankful. I'm very, very thankful.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pete Rose

Here's the thing about Pete Rose:

It's time to just move on.

Everybody knows I'm a huge (YUUUGE! -- see what I did there?) Cincinnati Reds fan. My Reds memorabilia room is becoming the stuff of legend, and a big part of that room is dedicated to the Big Red Machine. And without Pete Rose, there simply is no Big Red Machine.

Some would say I'm biased. I, along with the many thousands of other Pete Rose fans out there, are accused frequently of simply being blinded to the realities of not only Rose's life, but his character.

And my answer to that is, "No. No we're not."

And it isn't that we don't care. It's more simply that at the end of the day, it doesn't matter anymore.

Let me explain.

First, we must all remember why Pete Rose is so loved by his fans. It is, quite simply, because he was one of the best baseball players to ever play the game. His records are endless, and his style of play was like no one else before or after. His nickname of "Charlie Hustle" is not only apropos, but it is one of the greatest nicknames ever given a player.

His countless MLB records, not the least of which is the All-Time Hits record, speak for themselves. He was a winner on the field, playing in more winning games than any other player in history, and he represented an attitude and toughness that was unique to the city of Cincinnati, and to the millions of Reds fans who grew up, like me, watching him play.

He was not loved because he was a great guy. And let's keep something in mind here -- very few professional athletes ever are. Hardly any, in fact. That's not to say there aren't great guys out there. Rather, it speaks to the reality that most athlete's level of fame is based on their abilities. The better they are, the more popular they become. The more they win, and the bigger numbers they put up, the more famous they become. It usually is only until after this fact that we as a fan base show any real interest in whether or not the person is a good guy, or a creep.

And even THEN, that perception we have of them is most often fashioned by the media's coverage of them. Generally speaking, in today's world, if the athlete has a contentious relationship with the media, they very much tend to be covered in a negative light, no matter how good the guy is in the community. And that often sways what the public thinks of him.

That was most recently seen in Redsland with Ken Griffey, Jr. His heralded arrival in Cincinnati was derailed by devastating injuries, and he was never really able to live up to the stardom he'd reached in Seattle. As such, the Reds floundered throughout the early 2000's and in the media, Junior came to be seen as the poster boy for the Reds' futility. He was also far more interested in talking about his family and others than he was in talking about himself and baseball, and could sometimes be surly when pressed to do the latter. Consequently, his relationship with the local media soured, and public opinion of him began to wane.

Meanwhile, he was a huge philanthropic force in the community, donating and helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for local charities, with countless acts of kindness behind the scenes going largely unreported, all the while playing hurt, when he could crawl his way on the field, sometimes with medical-defying injuries.

Public opinion of Junior swayed to the point that he actually wanted out of the city, a mere eight years after demanding a trade back to his home town.

What we know now, after the last 30 years or so, is that Pete Rose is a creep. Outside of the ballpark. Between the lines, he was a winner. He was accessible to the fans -- still is, in fact -- relishing their praise and returning it with hard-nosed hustle and a never-lose mentality. And in the clubhouse, he was a great interview, always cordial with the scribes, and an all-around likable guy. And that's why he was loved then, and is loved now.

Back in the day, fans didn't love Ty Cobb because he was a racist buttface. They loved him because he was a one of the greatest hitters of all time. Fans didn't love Babe Ruth because he was a fat party animal. They loved him because he was the greatest home run hitter of all time. Fans didn't love Mickey Mantle because he was a womanizing alcoholic. They loved him because he was a winner, and hit prodigious home runs. Fans didn't love Johnny Bench because he could be a surly jerk to fans out in public who tried to invade his privacy. Fans loved him because he was, hands down, the best catcher to ever play the game. Fans didn't love Mark McGuire because he was a steroid abuser, or Sammy Sosa because he corked his bats. They loved them because they captivated the world with the greatest home run race ever seen in baseball. Fans didn't love Barry Bonds... well, fans didn't love Barry Bonds.

Conversely, fans didn't love Lou Gehrig because he bravely battled ALS. That was after the fact. They loved him because he was one of the best ball players to ever play. They didn't love Hank Aaron because he was a nice guy. They loved him because he broke mythic-like records. Jackie Robinson certainly didn't make many fans because he was black.

I'm speaking in general terms, of course. Many fans will have some story about why some fringe, non-All Star player is their favorite because he was nice to their kid, or otherwise displayed some generosity or act of kindness that endeared them forever. And of course, some other fan will harbor ill feelings towards a particular player forever because that player refused an autograph, or in the heat of the moment otherwise was rude or unkind to the fan. Happens all the time.

So the sad reality is that Pete Rose, on a personal basis, is just kind of a lousy guy. He's a gambler, was a tax-dodger, and, if current allegations are to be believed, perhaps a pedophile.

The apologist in me can say, well, the details in all those issues are murky, at best. Think what you want about his gambling problems and accusations. The truth is, MLB's handling of that entire situation is highly suspect, with Commissioner Bart Giamatti and MLB counsel, John Dowd, engaging in some pretty backhanded tactics throughout. And the Hall of Fame's subsequent rule change (after Pete's suspension) making permanently banned players completely ineligible for the HOF ballot, conveniently months before Pete would have been placed on said ballot, is absolutely laughable.

There are those who believe that Pete's conviction for tax evasion in the early 90's was little more than a witch hunt, given the amount of tax that was evaded, and the fact that despite the "mountain of evidence" MLB claimed to have regarding Rose's gambling allegations, they simply couldn't prosecute him on anything.

And now, information comes to light about an affair Rose had 40 years ago with a girl he "thought" was at least 16 years old (while he was 34, and married) and her acknowledgement that the affair started when she was "14 or 15" and that it went on for years. Interestingly, her allegations aren't accusatory at all. All in all, it seems to have been consensual, and there's no hint of assault or coercion, or any such thing that would indicate this girl was being taken advantage of against her will, and certainly doesn't rise to the level of the allegations by Dowd that Rose was routinely having 12-14 year old girls paraded to him for sex in the 1980's, allegations for which Rose is now suing Dowd for defamation.

None of that will make a difference to those who will see nothing in this but sick, illegal pedophilia. And I get that, I really do. There's something to be said for the question of how I would feel if it were my own 14, 15, or 16 year-old daughter with whom Rose was having sex. (I don't actually have a daughter, but you get the point.)

And none of any of that changes the fact the Rose was one heck of a baseball player inside the ballpark, and one heck of a bad dude outside of it.

Rose has been banished from MLB -- the only real thing he's ever known in his adult life -- for the last 28 years. That's longer than a lot of prison sentences for pedophiles. And last year's MLB ruling against Rose's application for reinstatement means that that banishment will remain in place for a good many more years, at least.

But what they DID do, is basically say to the Reds (and the Phillies), "Hey, we're not gonna reinstate him, but at the team level, feel free to honor him however you wish." Which was the right thing to do, because at the end of the day, it is the fans in Cincinnati (and Philadelphia) who really wanted to see him get his due, from a baseball perspective. His popularity outside of those cities, though better than average, is marginal at best.

And so, the Reds have spent the last two years honoring Rose and bestowing on him the accolades and awards he deserves as one of the best baseball players ever to play the game. They officially retired his number, named him to their team hall of fame, and erected a statue of him outside the ballpark. All befitting a player of his caliber, and ONLY because of his accomplishments as a baseball player.

And that's important to remember. All of those recognitions were done under the banner of his performance as a baseball player, and nothing else. Because the truth is, those of us who know anything about Pete Rose already know what kind of a guy he was -- and maybe, still is. You think I didn't know Pete Rose was a creep? Of course I did. These most recent allegations don't change a thing. You think the Cincinnati Reds organization didn't know what kind of guy Pete Rose was? Of course they do. And the reality is, it simply doesn't matter to us.

And that's why it's just time we all move on. Pete has gotten his awards with the Reds. Awards he richly deserves for the player he was, notwithstanding the person he was. Fans got the chance to properly honor him for that play, an exercise they were robbed of by MLB 28 years ago. Because, you see, it wasn't Pete Rose they were punishing when they banned him from the game. It was the fans. Every young boy, perhaps fatherless, like myself, whose life was given a little more meaning each night Rose laid it all out on the field, was robbed of the chance to say thanks in their own, personal way.

But, like me, those little boys grew up, and mostly learned along the way that being able to hit a baseball better than most people on the planet doesn't necessarily make one a man of great character.

I learned how to play hard, give it everything you got, always hustle and play to win from Pete Rose. I also learned that being a dad and a husband the way Pete Rose was wasn't going to get me all that far in life.

Going back now and yanking down those awards and statues isn't going to change any of that. All it's going to do is prolong the parts of the Pete Rose story that we all knew was there, but were more than willing to just move past and be done with. We're not sweeping it under the statue. We know the statue wasn't put there because of his character.

Pete Rose is an old man. And those of us who are is fans know just about all there is to know about him. There's not much new to learn. He was one of the greatest players to ever play the game, and outside of that, he's a pretty shady guy. We're more than happy to honor him for his achievements, and we're OK to let him just fade away for the parts of his life he chose to screw up.

Its time to just move on and be done with it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Were the Reds Racists?

As most know, I am a huge Cincinnati Reds fan.

It was the 1970’s when I first got interested in and started watching baseball. And in the ’70’s, if you were watching baseball, you were probably watching the Big Red Machine pound on someone. Hard not to become a fan.

Being as objective as I can, the Big Red Machine is considered one of the greatest teams of all time, right up there with the 1927 Yankees. The everyday starting lineup of their World Series winning years of 1975 and 1976, known as the “Great 8,” is widely considered to be the best everyday starting lineup ever fielded. When starting together, they were virtually unbeatable.

That lineup alone featured 4 different MVP winners, collecting six MVP awards, four home run titles, six RBI titles, seven hits titles, six runs titles, three batting titles, 26 Gold Gloves and a staggering 65 All-Star selections. Among them, there are 3 Hall of Famers, a fourth in Pete Rose, who would be if he weren’t banned from the game, and a fifth, Dave Concepcion, who deserves to be inducted but isn’t, despite his overall stats being better than most other shortstops who are already in the HOF.

It’s staggering how good they were, and much more could be written about their greatness.

But there is something else that set that team apart from others of their era.

Among the Great 8, there were 2 white players, 3 black players and 3 latino players. One of them is my favorite all-time player — my baseball hero — Dave Concepcion, who hails from Venezuela. A picture of him hangs on my living room wall.

Of the Hall of Famers, there is one from each ethnicity. In fact, of the whole Reds roster in 1976, 59% was white, 21% was black, and 21% was latino. This, during a year that, according to, saw all of baseball at just over 70% white,18% black, and just over 11% latino. Heck, according to the same site, MLB had no players of Asian decent in 1976. But the Reds had a player on their roster named Mike Lum, who, while technically American, having been born and raised in Hawaii (the only Hawaiian in baseball at the time) was of Japanese decent, and is noted as the first such player ever in the Major Leagues.

So, as it turns out, not only were the Reds the superior team on the field in the mid 70’s, they were also superior to all of baseball in terms of ethnic diversity. Even by today’s standards, their diversity would be ethnically superior to all others.

Why do I tell you all this? Well, first, let me say that I never cared about those ethnic statistics. I never researched them until now. Overall, I knew of the ethnic diversity of that team, but never knew the actual numbers until researching this blog.

The truth is that I never cared about who was black, white or latino on that team. I still don’t. As a kid, it never occurred to me that Dave Concepcion was a foreigner, let alone Venezuelan. I never paid attention to the fact that Joe Morgan was black, or Johnny Bench was white. The only thing in my mind that distinguished Pete Rose was his hustle and head first slides. The only thing that stood out about George Foster was his monster home runs. Did you know Foster was the only player in MLB to hit over 50 home runs in a season between 1961 — when Roger Maris hit 61 — and 1990, when Cecil Field hit 51? I did. It never occurred to me that he was black.

Truthfully, it wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that their diversity even became apparent to me. I honestly do not remember, prior to the age of, say 20 or so, ever thinking, “you know, he’s a black guy, and he was Cuban, and he was white.” It simply never crossed my mind.

But somewhere along the line, it did. And that’s the purpose of this blog.

In the past days, I’ve gotten into another heated discussion on Facebook. (Shocking, yeah?) The same cast of characters all pretty much spouting the same things, and yet no one, really, getting the actual point.

The discussion centered around the issue of a group of black students at Harvard getting ready to hold their own graduation ceremony, in addition to, but separate from, the regular graduation ceremony Harvard holds for everyone. Even though they say all races and ethnicities are invited, the event, according the article I read, is called “Black Commencement 2017, (and) is the first university-wide ceremony for black students at Harvard and is designed to celebrate their unique struggles and achievements at an elite institution that has been grappling with its historic ties to slavery.”

So it’s a black graduation ceremony, make no bones about it. And it is designed for, and will cater to, black students. Which is all fine and good, I guess, as long as you’re a black student.

During the heated discussion on FB, I was asked, “what expressions of the black experience have you been okay with?” And my response was unequivocal:

None. None at all.

But before you go nuts, let me explain, because “none” is not quite accurate, so let me clarify.

I’m not a racist. Anyone who knows me well will confirm that. I know that’s what most white people say, especially when they’re trying to convince others they’re not racist. They try to tell you how many black friends they have. And I have some, but not many. Those with whom I am friends know I'm not a racist. At least not by the real definitions of racism. (By today’s societal definition, I’m probably close to leading the KKK.) But by any real standard, I’m not.

That’s not to say I don’t see race. We all do. In the same ways we notice that some people are blonde, or have dark hair, or bald, or are overweight, or thin, or tall, or short, we also notice the color of their skin and their ethnicities. It’s unavoidable, and if you say you don’t, you’re probably lying. Real interracial friends not only notice those differences, but can joke about them, and not be offended.

The definitions of racism lie in what we think when we see those differences. What we really think, and the conclusions we make about someone’s character — absent of any other data —when the skin tones are noticed. And ultimately, how we treat the person based on those conclusions.

As most rational people know, race and ethnicity alone have absolutely nothing to do with a person’s character. White, black, asian, latino — those traits alone have no bearing on whether someone’s a great guy, or a jerk. They matter not whether you’re a criminal, or a law-abiding citizen. And they certainly don’t make you a better baseball player than the next guy. (Although, to be completely fair, regardless of race, there are physical attributes that play a large role in determining someone’s athletic ability. But that’s a topic for another time.)

Rather, there are vast cultural, economic, familial, and social aspects that ultimately determine someone’s character. And we’d be lying if we didn’t say that sometimes sheer, dumb luck — good or bad — can play into someone’s ultimate lot in life. But the reality is that race or ethnicity alone have very little to do with it.

I have found that most who disagree with me on that assessment have their issues confused. For example, simply being black isn’t necessarily the same thing as growing up in a black neighborhood. Heck, you don’t even have to be black to grow up in a black neighborhood. If you’re a black man growing up on the streets of East LA, being black doesn’t define your character. Who you choose to associate with, how you spend your time, what you interest yourself in, and even some things you might not have any control over, such as your economic status and living conditions do.

Likewise, if you grow up in a white, affluent neighborhood, the color of your skin doesn’t define your character. A whole host of other factors do. And without bogging us down in a discussion about what some believe to be white privilege, the bottom line is what kind of person you decide to be comes down to you, and little else. Other outside factors can certainly influence you, but at the end of the day, you, and you alone, decide what type of person you want to be.

Racism — real racism — ignores all this and not only makes its character assessments based on little other than the color of the skin, but then acts on that assessment often in vile and unspeakable ways. In this respect, most people in this country are not racist. We all, it could be said, are guilty of sometimes erroneously lumping someone into a group into which they do not deserve to be lumped simply because of some cultural or other societal similarities, and we do so to our detriment. And we need to work on those flaws. But it doesn’t make us racists.

Which brings me back to my point. In today’s society, we have mis-defined racism. The idea of racial equality that was fought from the days of the Civil War until the civil rights leaders of the 50’s and 60’s was just that — equality. They wanted nothing more than to be treated as equals. Same rights, same drinking fountains, same transportation, same schools, same jobs, equal pay, etc. They fought, and sometimes died, just to get an equal footing.

But today’s racial push has shifted away from “equality” and more towards “special treatment.” Today’s racial leaders are no longer pushing for equality. Though there are still strides to be made, in many respects, they’ve achieved that. Rather, they’re pushing for a separatist view of special treatment.

Today, we are inundated with “diversity” events. Black History month was just the beginning of an endless stream of events and “celebrations” that serve to do little more than reinforce just how different we are.

My beloved game of baseball now has “Jackie Robinson Day” every year, when, by all accounts, all Jackie Robinson ever wanted to do was blend in! The Reds have three different “Los Rojos” nights each year, where every latino stereotype is flaunted before, during and after the game to remind us just how different the latino players are from all the black and white players.

And that’s the problem. Events like this, and the aforementioned “Black Commencement” at Harvard do nothing but separate the races back into their own little slices of society. Instead of bringing people together, they push away those who aren’t like them and force everyone to take a side. If the students at Harvard really wanted equality, they would simply sit through the same graduation as everybody else and revel in the fact that they are graduating from an elite university, getting the same diplomas, with the same benefits, as all the other white kids sitting among them. That’s what their forefathers fought for, and as the racial struggle for equality goes, that’s huge! But that’s no longer good enough for them.

The more “cultural celebrations” and “celebrations of diversity” we see today just reinforce the idea that our races and ethnicities aren’t equal, but different. And the moment everyone begins to notice the differences, then the screams of equality begin anew.

White people can’t hold these types of events, because the moment they do, it congers up visions of slavery and the holocaust. And yet there’s plenty to celebrate in my culture and heritage, just as there is in any other culture. But we’re told that to exclude other races from whites is racism. When another race excludes all others, it’s “diversity” celebration.

It’s insanity. And it’s harming the cause. If for no other reason than it takes the focus away from some of the real issues I mentioned earlier. There are serious economical and societal problems that need to be worked on, that much is true. But we can’t, because we have to now focus on just how different we all are.

I never noticed the racial and ethnical differences in my favorite baseball players until somebody pointed out those differences and made an issue of it. To me, they were all just great baseball players, whipping all comers. Pete Rose was as good as Tony Perez. Perez was as good as Johnny Bench, and Bench was as good as Joe Morgan. It didn’t matter to them their differences (and in reading many of their autobiographies, I can tell you that that was true), and it didn’t matter to me. And apparently, if their popularity with the fans is any indication (and their popularity is still off the charts today) it didn’t matter to them either.

Today, I never pay any attention to Reds 3rd baseman Eugenio Suarez’s ethnicity every time he makes a play or hits a home run, any more than I notice Billy Hamilton’s black-ness every time he steals a base, or Zach Cozart’s white-ness every time he smacks a double. Who knew Joey Votto was Canadian? The only time I notice Suarez’s latino-ness is on “Los Rojos” night, when they make a big deal of it and shove it in everyone's face.

Listen, I understand that cultures like to stick together. That's natural in every facet of life. It is human nature to gravitate to others who think like you do, have similar interests, and much in common. Hispanics like to hang out with other hispanics. Same with all races. That's why most white people have mostly white friends, and many blacks tend to hang out with other blacks. I have no problem with black churches, or women's clubs, or gay chat rooms. To that, you probably say, "right on!" But how would you feel if I also told you I have no problem with a KKK meeting, Black Panther parties, or the Muslim Brotherhood movement? I mean, in this country, you have the right to be stupid and wrong, right?

And look, I also have no problem with a celebration of heritage and culture. As mentioned before, we all have reasons to celebrate our histories -- even if whites aren't allowed to play. But that's the problem. There isn't an even playing field. In today's world, those celebrations are only allowed if it's socially acceptable at the time, and even then, they still honk off other minorities. When those celebrations move past mere celebration, and seek preferential treatment, there's a problem.

I understand the backlash I’ll get from this piece. Some will label me an even bigger racist for just thinking some of these things, let alone saying it publicly. Some will say I have no idea what it’s like to be a minority in today’s world and therefore have no basis for any kind of opinion. Some will say these types of celebrations are no different than family get-togethers, frat parties, or birthday celebrations. Some people will just roll their eyes.

That’s fine. It’s my blog. I can write what I want, and I’ll take whatever comes with it. That’s never bothered me before, and it won’t bother me now.

What will bother me is that 25 years from now, we’ll be having this same conversation because today’s mentality has set the whole racial divide back 50 years. The fight for equality has been pushed aside, replaced by a coddled generation who now needs to feel “special.”

And even though those black students get to graduate right alongside the white students at Harvard — something they couldn’t do 50 years ago — they want us to believe they’ve got it really tough, so mistreated and beaten down. Yet they are destroying the very progress they claim they want.

It’s not getting better. Look around, it’s getting worse. Bet on it.

Pete Rose would!