Cold Mountain Wisdom

As I was channel surfing one night this week as men are prone to doing, I came across one of the films that was moved into my top ten list of greatest films of all time. The Anthony Minghella-directed masterpiece that is Cold Mountain originally premiered in 2004 and stars Nicole Kidman and Jude Law and Reneé Zellweger in an Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG Award, and BAFTA winning performance. In addition to those three mega stars the film also has other major star players in supporting roles including Donald Sutherland, Jack White (from the White Stripes), Charlie Hunnam and Jena Malone. The Soundtrack is also superb featuring music from Jack White, Allison Krauss, and Sting. The trailer is below.

Many people might raise an eyebrow that I put Cold Mountain in my top ten films list but it truly has something for everybody: amazingly nuanced and well written characters, Civil War battle scenes, and a love so deep and meaningful that people are willing to go to hell and back to be reunited with one another. I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that the reunion love scene between Kidman and Law’s characters isn’t scandalously hot as well. In addition to all of this, the movie takes place in Cold Mountain, North Carolina which is less than an hour’s drive from where I was born, raised, and still live. So the scenery has often reminded me of the area of this world that I call home.

Only missing the first 20 minutes of the film, I immediately put the remote down and watched the rest of the movie. However, watching the movie this time something happened that had never happened before. On three separate occasions, I was moved to tears by the dialogue of the film. Confused as to why this happened this time and not any of the dozens of times I have watched the film before, I thought about why this could possibly be, and I was struck by something that was too perfect that I couldn’t not write about it. The reason I had to write about it? It is too perfect of an antidote to the madness that is going on in our world right now. Or, I guess I should say more specifically, the madness that is going on in our country.

The first scene that brought me to tears comes about half way through the movie and is shown in the two clips below (I couldn’t find one YouTube video that contained the entire scene). Early in the film the Civil War starts and it becomes clear the south is at a disadvantage when the Home Guard (the men on the horses who go to the farm), influential men who were able to weasel their way out of fighting in the war who have been tasked with tracking down and killing deserters and those who help them visit the Swanger’s farm. We do not know it until this scene, but the movie has insinuated that the Swanger’s young sons have deserted and they are being hidden on the family farm.

The seconds scene that made me emotional, perhaps the most emotional of the three, is about three quarters of the way through the film. Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman’s character) and Ruby Thewes (Reneé Zellweger’s character) have just learned that the Home Guard, the same people responsible for killing Sally Swanger’s husband and children, have supposedly killed Ruby’s father and another man that Ruby has a crush on. Ada struggles to find the right words to say to Ruby and Ruby responds by saying the following:

The Final scene from the movie that got me all up in my feelings comes near the very end of the movie. To set this scene, Ruby and Ada go off looking for Ruby’s father. While they are gone, they find her father and they also save his life. Additionally, they find W.P. Inman (Jude Law’s character), the love of Ada’s life who deserted the Confederate Army early in the war and has spent the entire movie trying to make his way back to her. The scene in the video below picks up as Ruby and Ada are going back to the farm where they live, and you should only watch the first 2 minutes of the scene if you do not want a major plot spoiler.

As I turned off the movie and started getting ready for bed that night, I made a point to figure out why I got emotional. I have seen that movie probably two dozen times. I even showed a heavily edited version of the film when I taught a social studies elective course called Geography in the Cinema several years ago; and yes, the three scenes are sad, but I have never been moved to tears before. So what made it different this time? Well, as I was working on some art projects the next day, I figured out the one thing that was different this time from all the others: This is the first time I have watched the movie during the presidency of Donald Trump.

In every single one of those scenes, in my opinion, there is is one line that stands out and cuts above all the rest. In the first two video clips it is what Ruby says at the very end that gets to me. In her shock, and grief, and anger, and sadness Ruby (an uneducated backwoods hick, by all accounts) eloquently states “This World won’t stand long. God won’t let it, stand this way long.”

This World won’t stand long. God, won’t let it, stand this way long.”

Reneé Zellweger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain

If you are anything like Ruby Thewes and me, you have felt this ghastly feeling throughout the majority of Donald Trump’s presidency. Through our outrage, indignation, tears, rage, and a myriad of other unwanted but necessary feelings we have lamented how America could have turned to this. How the country that has been the shining city on a hill as a beacon for freedom and liberty could be turned into what many of us see as the antithesis of America and her values. Ruby Thewes may be a fictional character, but she does what every single one of does when we face those feelings: she turns it over to God.

God won’t let it, stand this way long. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought that since the genitalia-grabbing gargoyle has occupied the people’s house. I have stared in disbelief as news cameras briefed the American people on what the President has said today (although a game of Mad Libs would probably be more appropriate). I have cried tears of sorrow looking at the pictures of the drowned bodies of Oscar Martinez Ramirez cradling his 3 month old daughter Valeria on the Banks of the Rio Grande River. I have looked at people whom I know and love and respect in disbelief as they try to defend the actions of Trump; and when I am left at a loss for words or for reassurance, I reassure myself by reminding myself that God will see us through this current nightmare.

We will be seen through this, just like our nation was seen through the Revolution. Or the Civil War. Or the Civil Rights Movement and countless other times when our nation has struggled to live up to be the nation we know she truly is. We must remain steadfast in our belief, just as Ruby is. We must constantly remind ourselves that this is not normal. That none of what is happening is okay or acceptable. We cannot waver in our belief that God and his love for all people won’t let this world that Trump and his minions are trying to create last long. God won’t let it stand this way long.

The second scene is one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie. Ruby has spent the better half of the movie reconciling with her father for a terrible childhood and her reaction to learning that he is now most likely dead is heartbreaking. It’s made even better by Zellweger’s impeccable acting. What she says in her response to Ada’s apology, however, is indicative to the way our government has functioned over the last two decades. Ruby places all the hardships that she and the South are currently facing, squarely at the feet of their leaders.

Every piece of this is man’s bull shit… They call this war a cloud over the land, but they made the weather, and then they stand there and say ‘shit it’s rainin’!

Reneé Zellweger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain

If that is not the perfect example of the way our politicians operate, I don’t know what is. We have so-called leaders on both sides of the aisle obstructing the governance of this nation and only looking out for themselves. The Civil War, once it was apparent the South was going to lose, became known as the cloud over the land. Ruby was right though, the people in charge were the ones who made the choice to go to war and now they are lamenting the fact they are not going to get there way.

Both of our current political parties are guilty of doing the exact same thing. It started during the Clinton Presidency and it has gotten worse and worse, and all our politicians seem to do is complain about how they can get nothing done. Once again, Ruby was right: every piece of this is man’s bull shit. And our so called leaders have nobody to blame but themselves. They did this. They created this mess. They made this cloud on our land. And they keep making it worse.

The last clip really got me, but it also gave me the most hope and strength going forward. When staring the man who is responsible for much of the problems and stress in her life and facing the fact that she knew she was most likely going to be killed right then, Ada Monroe confidently looks the leader of the Home Guard in the eye and states what she knows and I know to be true: a reckoning is coming.

There will be a reckoning when this war is over. There will be a reckoning.

Nicole Kidman as Ada Monroe in Cold Mountain

Long after we are through this national nightmare and Trump is no longer President, there will be a reckoning. There will be a reckoning where judgement is passed and a sentence is given. It won’t be just Trump, either. It will be his lecherous family and his basket of deplorable billionaire henchmen who have helped him carry out these illegal injustices. Injustice shall be met cruelly and swiftly with true and lasting American justice. The history books will record the Trump era as nothing more than it truly is: one of the darkest stains on the American Democracy in its history.

It will not just be Trump and those in his administration that have to face a reckoning. It will be those who have stood silent (and therefore complicit) in his racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. I am under no illusions that every single person voted for Trump is racist. I know that is not true. With that said, though, a storm is coming on the horizon. The 2020 election will be an event that this nation will have to figure out who it truly is. Those of you who are considered voting for Trump, I ask you now to reconsider, because a reckoning is coming and if you are not opposed to all of the hatred that Trump is bring to the forefront of the consciousness of this nation than you are for it. And in this reckoning, justice will be served, Cold Mountain Style.

300 Crusty Old White Men

Grab your carmine capes and big white bonnets, ladies. Or should I say Handmaids? Or maybe it should be Ofreds? It doesn’t matter, in the end. Just know that those of you with a uterus should get ready to lose your basic human rights (Not if this man has anything to say about it though).

This country has gone crazy. I no longer understand the country of my birth. One of the many great civilizations this world has known is falling apart. It is becoming a dangerous and evil place, and we must all work together to stop it from passing the point of no return. This will be easy, though. It will be easy because the culprits are known to us. The root and cause of this evil infecting America is hiding in plain sight. It is a group of people seeking to destroy the liberty that comes with being an American citizen.

Many of you are probably guessing some of the common groups that people throw out as groups that are bringing America down, but to save time and get right to it, allow me tell you.

It is not Muslims. Or Jews. Or Gays or Lesbians. Or Atheists. Or Millennials.

It is not people who speak Spanish. Or French. Or German. Or Arabic. Or Russian.

It is not brown people. Or black people. Or Asian people. Or even Bi-racial people.

The people seeking to destroy this nation are White men. Usually crusty old white men. Men using their elected power to try and legislate what women should do with their bodies. Men trying to use religion as a veiled smokescreen to intimidate and harass doctors into not giving women medical care that they want or need. 300 weak, old and crusty white men trying once again to return this nation to the time when all women were subjugated and ruled over by the men in their lives – both by men they knew and men they did not know.

What 300 white men, you ask? The 300 white men in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi who recently voted in favor of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. When adding all three state Senate votes and House of Representative votes up, the abortion measures passed 335-152. 335 people voted in favor of essentially outlawing abortion. 300 of those 335 yes votes came from white men. White men who have never had a uterus. Who have never (at least in terms of publicly acknowledging) have survived rape situations. Who have never been forced by elected officials into making the choice between a serious personal and private decision and throwing themselves down the stairs or performing an abortion in a back alley with a coat hanger.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortze was write with her tweet. This men are using God and religion and abusing their power to try to maintain ownership of women. If we close our eyes, we will all be living in Gilead before it is all said and done. I refuse to allow that to happen. I don’t currently have my own children, but it will be a cold day in hell before I allow any potential daughters I have be born into a world where they have less rights than the rights of their mother and grandmothers.

“Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”

-Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale

That quote sends shivers down my spine. If you think about it, it is scarily accurate. That is what these men are hoping will happen. State by state they hope to eradicate the choices women have. Women will not allow that to happen, however. I will not allow that to happen. And it that means I have to throw on a bonnet and cape to stand with my sisters in this country so be it.

At the bottom of this paragraph you will see pictures of the 300 white men. The 300 white men who believe they know better than medical professionals and the 8,944,087 women who currently reside in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The audacity and arrogance to believe they should be allowed to make private, personal, and in some cases, deeply painful medical decisions would be laughable if it weren’t so eerily close to the country that Margaret Atwood gives us in her novel.

How I Voted 6 Times Today

The United States of America has given me so much. For that reason alone, I love America; not in the obnoxiously loud patriotic American kind of way where I think there is nothing that America can do wrong. She has her faults and is far from perfect. All in all though, I would most likely choose living in America than most other places. And no day is that sentiment ever stronger than on election day. I usually cry at least once over a voting story I see on election day. This was one of those stories:

As I waited in line earlier today to vote and woman came in with the assistance of a nurse or caretaker and got at the end of the line. She was the kind of feisty older woman who looked at the man probably 50 years younger than she was with a look that said “I could take you on in a street fight and win” when the gentleman suggested she could do the handicapped voting where they bring your ballot box out to the car. I immediately liked this women from that interaction alone. As the line slowly creeped forward those of us in line quietly chatted with one another and I eavesdropped in on her conversations. I wish I had gotten this woman’s name, but I do know her birthdate. She told the people around her that she was born on February 10, 1919. This is when I quickly turned back towards the front of the line so I wouldn’t cry and be the weirdo crying in the voting line. I hid the tears with an immediate appreciation of just how amazing the country we live in truly is.

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For those who have yet to understand why I appreciated this story so much, allow me to explain. Suffrage is not a right all Americans have shared equally throughout our history. It was earned and fought for by brave men and women throughout this nation because they believed in the words “We the people” and they knew it meant ALL the people. Women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment was ratified when Tennessee became the 37th state to ratify the amendment, which it did so on August 18, 1920. And that right there, ladies and gentlemen, is what led to my emotions. That woman was born before women were granted the right to vote. She was born into a country that said she wasn’t smart, strong, or good enough to help be a part in deciding the direction that our nation would go; and in one single lifetime, that has all changed. To me, that is extraordinary.

This post isn’t going to tell you who to vote for. It is not going to try and convince you while one candidate is better than the other candidate (partially because I want you to keep reading and partially because you and I both already know that both candidates are morons.), either. But it is going to tell you how I voted 6 times today. And Maybe when I am done, from here on out, you will vote 6 times on election day also.

I have always voted in every election I was physically able to because that election and that vote is bigger than myself. It represents the people who have given so much so that I was able to do that small act of citizenship. When I handed my identification to the poll worker today and confirmed my address and wrote my name down on the line next to number 298 I didn’t just write my name. I thought back to what I have learned over the years about our nations history and I wrote down the names of 5 other people who all cherished the right to vote that they actually helped changed the history of this place we live.

220px-Susan_B_Anthony_c1855By writing my name I also write the name Susan B. Anthony. Anthony was arrested for trying to vote in 1872 and convicted with illegal voting. Upon her conviction she refused to pay the fine and still it went unpaid all the way to her death. Anthony also founded the National American Women’s Suffrage Association which was crucial in getting the 19th Amendment passed (Sadly, it wasn’t ratified until 18 years after her death). Today it is more commonly referred to as the Susan B. Anthony amendment in her honor.

alice-paul-celebrates-700.jpg20smallBy writing my name I also write the name of Alice Paul. Alice Paul was arrested at least 8 times in two different countries protesting and fighting for the right to vote on behalf of women. She was beaten, mistreated, and when she refused to eat while in prison she was forcibly fed raw eggs through a tube that was shoved down her throat to her stomach. The Process was depicted in the HBO movie Iron Jawed Angels where Alice Paul was played by Hillary Swank:

800px-Inez_milhollandBy writing my name I also write the name of Inez Milholland. Milholland was a woman who fought alongside Alice Paul as a suffragette. The day before President Wilson was inaugurated and arrived in Washington, Milholland helped organize the Women Suffrage Procession where she famously rode through the parade on a white horse in a white dress while wearing a white crown. Inez Milholland suffered from pernicious anemia and continued to travel across the country on behalf of NAWSA. This tragically ended in her early death on the road at the age of 30.

Inez_Milholland_1913

40leeBy writing my name I also write the name of George Lee. George Lee was a Reverend who was one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County in the state of Mississippi. Rev. Lee used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote. White officials offered Lee protection after he was threatened and intimidated by the Klan on the condition he end his voter registration efforts, but Lee refused and was murdered. Lee was never able to vote before his death despite being registered due to the poll tax.

annie-lee-cooper-played-by-oprah-in-the-filmLast, but certainly not least, by writing my name I also write the name of Annie Lee Cooper. Annie Lee Cooper was a Civil Rights Activists who is well known for marching with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Before this, Cooper tried repeatedly to register in the state of Alabama and was denied even after she passed all the tests that were set up to keep blacks from registering. Cooper stood in line for 8 hours to register and when ordered to leave the registration office by sheriff Jim Clark refused to comply with the order. After Clark’s repeated prodding and intimidating threats Annie Lee Cooper punched Sheriff Clark in the jaw knocking him to the ground. Clark and his officer repeatedly beat Annie Lee Cooper with billy clubs until she was unconscious and then arrested after she was drug through the building into the streets. Oprah Winfrey gave another masterful performance in the movie Selma as Cooper:

 

Although I truly only wrote one name down (my own) today, the whole reason I vote in every election I am able to is because it is that important. It means that much. To be a part of this process is something to take pride and honor in. My vote today was my chance to voice what I want done in this country and I used my vote to honor what Susan, Alice, Inez, George, and Annie Lee fought so bravely for.

So to those of you who didn’t vote today and to those of you who say it doesn’t matter or say I don’t like either candidate I hope you think long and hard about that. I hope you realize just how wrong you are. People literally died for a right that you are taking for granted. And yes, it is technically true that people died for your right to choose to vote or to choose not to vote. But for those of you who decide the latter option is the choice for you, you can have whatever reason and justification you want for that decision. But I am still calling bullshit.

And so are Susan, Alice, Inez, George, and Annie Lee.

-WB

What if Jesus Comes Back Like That?

I have always been the kind of person that follows the news because I place value in being informed about what is going on in the world around me. While I prefer focus on the national news (our local news is pitiful), I do watch my local news and read the paper to see the things that directly affect me. While most people have focused all of their attention on that Washington Post journalist who was hacked to pieces and then snuck out of the Turkish Embassy in piece on the order of the Saudi Crown Prince, my attention has been squarely focused on another issue. I have been obsessed with following the story of the migrant caravan that left Honduras last week. They are headed for Tijuana. Their end goal is to head to the United States to request asylum.

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The path that is going to be taken by the migrants. This only covers the part in Mexico. There are several hundred miles not shown before this part.

You might be asking why I am so interested in this. The answer is quite simple. We are just starting a new unit in my world geography class. This is our population geography unit and it includes, you guessed it, migration. This unit covers migration, asylum, push-pull immigration factors, population density, and population control. To put it quite simply, a global event that is currently happening can help teach my students about 3 quarters of the major themes in our population geography unit. So when my students roll their eyes and ask “when are we ever going to use this?!” I can confidently and excitedly, and nerdily exclaim “RIGHT NOW!”

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These are the current World Geography Standards for Population. This event checks off every single one. 

I have been doing my research and now I plan on introducing this story to my students on Tuesday of this coming week. We will map and track their progress as they move through Mexico. We will research why they are leaving, why they are coming to the US, what asylum is, and a myriad of other issues that this humanitarian issue hits on. Hopefully my students will be interested in what is going on. I have a very large hispanic population which I have heard speaking about it class when I have covered some of the population vocabulary, but I do hope my non-hispanic students take an interest as well. We shall see.

Usually when I bring real world current events into class my students ask me what I think about the issue. I try VERY hard to not let my own political views influence the way I teach. The only “issue” so far that I have given my personal views on to my students has been the Bansky Painting that was shredded after it was bought for two million dollars. My students, to put it in the exact words of one class, thought it was “dumb as hell” for anyone to pay that much for art, but funny that it happened after the man bought it and still has to pay for it. I won’t tell you what they said, when I said it was probably worth more shredded than it was before. When they asked me I told them my opinion (as a follower of banksy for years, I loved it and thought it was typical and genius and right in line with his previous work). So far that’s it this year.

I hope my students ask me what I think should be done with this migrant caravan. Because this time I am going to tell my students what I think. I am going to tell them they are free to disagree with me, just like I disagree with the notion that anyone named lil’ yachty or lil’ uzi can put out any music that is worthy to listen to as long as the disagree respectfully. That is how we do things in my classroom. I want to tell them how I feel because I want to tell them the story of how a country song helped me make up my mind. The look on their face is going to be priceless. My students hate country. Especially twangy country. SO without further ado, please enjoy the country song that helped make up my mind. Then I will tell you how I feel.

I was listening to a radio station I don’t normally listen to when this song from 1996 came on the radio. Originally sung by Collin Raye, the song never was a huge hit, but I have always loved it. When I got to my destination after that commute in my car, the first post I saw on my Facebook feed was related to the migrant caravan. Instantly I thought of the song. It didn’t change my mind. I already believed the current administration is adding their handling of this situation to the long list of disaster that history will judge us by. When my students ask me my opinion I am going to tell them the facts first.

  • There are about 3,500 adults (Mexican Government) and about 2,300 children (UNICEF) traveling in the caravan.
  • The caravan from start to finish will be done primarily by walking the 2,725 mile journey (Google Maps) from start to finish.
  • Most plan on applying for asylum in the United States, but Mexico has already received asylum applications from 1,500 people or families (Mexican Government).
  • The majority of the people in the caravan are ethnically Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, and Salvadorian.
  • The World Bank Estimates all of the following statistics:
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      For those in need of a geography lesson the flags from top to bottom are Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala

After I help my students gather and process the facts I am going to have them break up in groups and come up with proposals as to what they think our government should do. I am potentially thinking about the possibility of having my students write letters to the editor of The Greenville News on this topic. When I am done covering this issue with my students, I hope one of them asks me what I think. Because then I am going to tell them. And this is what I am going to tell my students:

I am going to tell my students that I don’t have a perfect answer or solution and I am not sure if we should take any of these people. There are many issues that come with this. I think we should run background checks on these people to see if they pose any threat to America and if they do pose a threat they should not be let in. This could also cause a big issue by causing more people to join caravans if they see us let these people in. This is not an easy issue with a quick fix. This is an issue that has been years in the making. While I would normally stop there with my students, that country song has made me realize I am going to push forward.

I am going to tell my students I think it is a national disgrace when our President uses racist, xenophobic, and hateful language when describing the caravan.

I am going to tell my students that our President of the United States is being a bully when he threatens to cut off foreign aid to the countries the migrants are walking through if they do not stop the caravan.

I am going to tell my students that it violates every international treaty the US has signed and is ILLEGAL to not allow people to apply for asylum or to decide to reject a person’s asylum application before they can apply.

I am going to tell my students that the nation that claims to be the greatest and strongest nation on Earth does not turn its back on a humanitarian crisis it could easily solve on its own or sit down with other nations to figure out a solution.

I am going to tell my students that I will never tell people (who pose our country no risk and who are willing to work and be productive members of our society) who put their lives in mortal danger to flea worse mortal danger that they are not welcome here.

I am going to tell my students that it is shameful that a country like Mexico, where 10% of their population lives on $1.90 a day, has opened their homes and kitchens to the caravan as it passes through its cities and has already offered temporary work visas to many of the migrants while our country has turned a blind eye and sent troops to the southern border.

Last, but certainly not least, I am going to tell my students to think about what they learned in Sunday School and have read in their Bibles. I am going to show my students the picture below and I am going to ask, What if Jesus Comes back like that?

Central America Migrant Caravan

-WB

More Picture of the Caravan are below. These people are risking their lives with nothing more than the shirts on their backs to escape hell. We can and must do better. The whole world is watching, but more importantly, so is Jesus.

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Sexism, Scandal, and Stolen Moments

Like Many Americans, I watched the US Open Ladies Tennis Finals yesterday afternoon when Serena Williams played Naomi Osaka for the Grand Slam title. Had Williams won, this would have been her 24th Grand Slam Title, and would have tied her for the record with Margaret Court. My hope is that she will win 2 more grand slams and Margaret Court will fade into oblivion for her bigoted views, but that is a story for a different article. At this point, we all know the outcome of what will go down as the most controversial women’s final in US Open history. Williams was denied a 24th title and Osaka came out victorious, but neither lady went home happy as a result of several controversial calls by referee Carlos Ramos. I was content to not write about this. Partially because so many people were talking about it and partially because Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post wrote without a shadow of a doubt the most eloquently written view on the subject – if Jenkins doesn’t win a Pulitzer for that commentary I would be highly surprised. I was content to let Jenkins have the final word, but then I awoke this morning to the news below:

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I am dumbfounded by this move and I cannot fathom what type of malarky the United States Tennis Association is going to come up with to try and defend an indefensible position. Time and Time again the US Open and United States tennis has screwed Serena Williams over and time and time again she has been vilified by the public and most of the press as a hysterical ABW in the throws of major meltdown. Each time, Serena Williams has emerged and changed the sport of Tennis for the better. Each time Serena has showed the governing body of a sport that is almost exclusively played by wealthy whites that there is room for all types of people in tennis – both those with and without melanin in their skin. Whether or not the USTA and the US Open every thank or realize just how important Williams has been to the game of tennis remains to be seen. But if they don’t realize it by now, then they probably aren’t going to and that just makes them as stupid and unappreciative as they currently seem.

serena-williams-us-open-2018I am not going to go through the minor details of what happened on the court during the finals. There are a million different videos from every angle imaginable. I will be the first to admit that I, along with millions of other Americans, wanted Williams to win yesterday. I always prefer an American win and I have loved and respected Serena since the days when you could hear her coming a mile away because of all the beads she had in her hair. Last night Serena abused her racket, but the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lookalike referee took a note from the Iranian dictator’s playbook when he abused his position of power. and that is far worse.

When trying to think of the reason or reasons I support Serena the most, I ended up coming up with other athletes I like. In tennis along with Serena and his sister Venus I routinely cheer for Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. In football I like Deshaun Watson, OBJ, Russell Wilson, and DeAndre Hopkins. Baseball turns me into a Nationals fan because I am a big Bryce Harper fan. Basketball has me pulling for Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook. Swimming I rooted for Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Soccer I of course like most of them, but I digress because at this point we are getting away from ability and moving into physical appearance.

I thought about Serena and what she has in common with every single one of these people, and if you know any of the above names its not hard to figure out why I cheered for them. Every single one of the people on that list has passion for success in their sport and they are not afraid to show that passion on the court, field, or pool when they compete. The reason I gravitate towards Williams and Nadal in tennis is because I find tennis players like Federer and Djokovic boring to watch because they play so stoically. I like watching Steph Curry show off on the court and I like watching the swag that Russell Westbrook has when he walks into the stadium before a game looking fly as hell. Same thing goes for DeAndre Hopkins, whose instagram makes him seem more like a model for Emporio Armani than a player for the Texans. That is why I never had a problem with all the antics of Baker Mayfield when he played for Oklahoma. Yes, he was a show off, and yes, he could be obnoxious, but at the end of the day he could always back it up with his performance.

Each of the people I mentioned above has won and lost on the international stage. Each of the people above has received calls that both did and did not go their way. Each of the people above has showed their ass and looked like a petulant spoiled child. However, the only person above who has been treated and then reported on in a grossly unfair way has been Serena Williams. When the men on the list above show out and act unprofessionally they are NEVER called out on it the way Serena is. They are called passionate, or people say they are hyper focused, or in the zone. When Serena does it she is called hysterical or people throw out the word Meltdown. Just look at the tone of many of the headlines that were used last night and earlier today.

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Granted, two of the above publications are owned by Rupert Murdoch and that fact alone means they really aren’t worthy of using as toilet paper, let alone reading the fact remains the same: No male professional sports figure in recent history has EVER been called self-obsessed, narcissistic, or having the “mother of all meltdowns,” which is especially disgusting considering the fact that Serena Williams almost died giving birth less than a year ago. The majority of the people who tweeted or commented or spoke negatively about Serena used one word that is so sexist and disrespectful that I can’t even understand why it is still in use in polite conversation: hysterical. Since I do teach history for a living, allow me to give you a history lesson on the sexist word hysterical.

The root word of hysterical is hysteria. Hysteria means ungovernable emotional excess. The origins of the word hysteria comes from the Greek word for uterus and because of this, hysteria was used as a medical diagnosis almost exclusively for women and carried a variety of broad symptoms including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and a “tendency to cause trouble”. This was used as a medical diagnosis starting in the Victorian era in England and was not discontinued until 1952. The term hysterical is almost exclusively used when a woman is upset or angry. With many incidents involving professional athletes, that term has been thrown around, but I have yet to find an instance when it was used with negative connotations towards a man.

In regards to Serena’s three penalties all I will say is this. The first penalty for coaching is ridiculous. The fact that coaching is not allowed is just plain dumb in the first place. The fact that a player can be penalized for the actions of their coach when a player did not even see the coach is wrong to me. I think the rule should be changed, but if the governing bodies of tennis are going to leave it in place than it needs to be routinely enforced across the board. There needs to be a judge watching each coach at every match and they need to call it each and every time they are playing. In regards to the second penalty, I have no problem with that. It is in the rules you cannot abuse your racket and Serena clearly abused the hell out of the racket. I take umbrage with this penalty more than any other penalty, and here is why.

By giving Serena a penalty for coaching, he is saying that Serena was trying to have an unfair advantage over her opponent during the match. Essentially Carlos Ramos (who has spared with both Venus Williams, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal in the past) called Serena Williams a cheater without using the word. The fact that an umpire can assault someone’s character in the middle of a championship match is bad enough; and for those of you wondering or skeptical looking at my assertion of assault of character, that is exactly what Ramos did. To call someone a cheater is to say that don’t have the grace, dignity, and class to win without an advantage. It implies the only way they got there was to lie and manipulate their way there.

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Serena Williams is the antithesis of what he has described when he called her a cheater. She is a woman who came back from the brink of death after giving birth to make it to two Grand Slam finals less than a year later. She is a women who agrees to multiple extra inconvenient drug tests each year so people will know she doesn’t cheat. She has fought racism and sexism in her sport long before standing up for injustice was a popular thing to do. Starting with Indian Wells and continuing with her fight for equal pay, Serena Williams has spent most of her professional life in the public fighting for what is right, even when she knows it will cost her in the court of public opinion. When Ilie Nastase made vile, racist comments about what color Serena’s biracial baby would be before she was born, Serena responded with class and grace by quoting Maya Angelou’s famous poem “Still I Rise.” When John McEnroe has repeatedly made sexist comments about Serena Williams she simply and cooly replied by politely asking McEnroe to respect her and her privacy. Most recently, when the chairman of the French (a country with a huge racism problem) Open banned Serena’s cat suit, which she wore for medical reasons, because he said it did not respect them game, she responded by wearing a tutu to the US Open and posing playfully for photographers before the match.

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I have a news flash for the chairman of the French Open. People respect the game of Tennis BECAUSE of Serena Williams. Both McEnroe and Nastase were reknowned for the on-court behavior in their time. So was Andre Agassi. Currently, so is Nick Krygios. None of them ever received penalties back in their day that were as severe as Serena’s penalties were. None of them were accused of hormonal meltdown in the press. When the press still writes of all of those individuals there is a touch of longing nostalgia for the excitement they brought to the court- even if it was unsportsmanlike and disrespectful. However, because Serena is a strong confident black woman who stands up for herself in a white sport, she is demonized for it. It is high time this changes and changes quickly.

There is not a person alive today who has not at some point thought about how they want to be remembered after they are gone from their career or this world. Most of us hope we will be remembered fondly by our love ones. We hope we will be remembered for the contributions we made in our career fields. I personally hope I  will be remembered as someone who left this world better than he found it. When McEnroe, and Nastase, and Agassi, and countless other men in other sports are long gone they will all be remembered fondly. They will all be remembered as some of the greatest to ever hold a tennis racket, or club, or glove. When Jimbo Fisher is fired from Texas A&M several years from now, people will reminisce and say “remember that time ole Jimbo lost his cool on the officials when he played Clemson?” There will be a hint of positivity to the question. God knows if Serena had said the words that Jimbo Fisher clearly said to not one, but two referees last night, she would have been banned from tennis for life. And nobody referred to it as a meltdown. He simply, lost his cool. Or gave the refs a piece of his mind.

BJKSerena Williams will be remembered differently, but this time she won’t be remembered differently because of her race or because of her sex. She will be remembered differently because she is different. Serena Williams will be remembered differently because the respect she brought to the sport through her struggle to bring equality to the sport while she still kicked ass on the court at the same time. It is not always popular; Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova can attest to that. But King and Navratilova did not fight for gender equality and LGBTQ rights both in tennis and outside tennis. They fought so people like Serena and Venus wouldn’t have to. And when they weren’t completely successful, Venus and Serena continued the fight. Now it is personal for Serena Williams the tennis player – mom. The women who had already been a multi-hyphenate added the most important one to her title.

Serena Williams, in my opinion is the greatest athlete of our generation. Notice I did not say female athlete. I said greatest athlete. She has nothing to be ashamed about from last night. She was robbed and so was Naomi Osaka. Neither will be able to get the moment that Carlos Ramos stole from them back. All because he couldn’t take the tone with which a woman talked to him with. At the end of the day though, Serena Williams displayed grit, determination, strength, beauty, and class. She did us proud, but most importantly, she did her daughter proud. And that is all she should care about. Keep going, Serena! Number 24 is just around the corner. Immortality is yours for the taking!

-WB

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The Death of Decency: A Maverick’s Mark on America

I had the good fortune of turning 18 in a presidential election year, and I was more excited to register to vote than I was to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. I was that kid. To this day I remember standing in a massive line to vote in the 2008 Presidential Election. I asked my mother if you usually have to wait this long and she quickly replied no. John Sidney McCain III is the reason that many turned out to vote on November 4, 2008. Had John McCain run against just about anybody else, he would have received my vote. I respected him. I trusted him. I believed in him. I bought into his vision of what America was and how she should move forward. Sadly, John McCain had the misfortune of running against Barack Obama; and as Obama has done for millions, his belief in the audacity of hope spoke to me. I bought what he was selling more than what John McCain was selling. But not by much.

I was honored to be a part of history and cast my vote for Barack Obama. Looking back on it all, I would not change my vote if I got the chance to vote again, but I am left incredibly sad for John McCain. He would have made a stellar president. He deserved to be president more than the disrespectful louse who currently occupies the White House. What I remember about election night, however, other than the excitement over the historic outcome, is the candidate speeches. If you were to ask me about both speeches, I will tell you that the speech winner that night was not the man who was known throughout the world as a Kennedy-worthy orator. The winner that night was the Arizona maverick who swallowed his pain and pride and did his best to unite a divided nation.

I do not remember one word of Former President Obama’s speech, but I remember every word of McCain’s speech. John McCain lost a bitter primary to George W. Bush in 2000. He did not give up the fight for what he thought was right. He lost again in 2008 after fighting even harder than he had the first time. At a time when many other people would have lashed out or given up completely, John McCain stood on that stage and said loudly for all to hear “Barack Obama is my president and I will do my best to help him succeed.” John McCain grieved for 30 seconds, then held his head up high and continued to fight for American ideals in his way. I remember turning to my college roommate (and friend since the sixth grade) David with tears in my eyes saying that was a damn good speech. And to this day I still think it was the best speech of his career.

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As the days have passed, I have cried more tears for John McCain than I thought I would. I have been slightly surprised by this and I have spent time trying to figure out why I have been so saddened by the Maverick’s passing. I have been saddened by the images of the beautifully stoic Cindy McCain and the distraught tears of Meghan McCain. Watching Meghan McCain, someone I have followed for years as the future of the republican party, brought up feelings of my grandfather’s passing and that brought the tears with it. I was heartbroken by the pictures of the 106 year old Roberta McCain being pushed in her wheelchair to the casket of the late senator – it is absolutely wrong for a parent to have to bury their child. It is not natural, not right, and not fair. I have been saddened by the images and the stories of McCain’s time at the Hanoi Hilton as a P.O.W. as well. After spending several days thinking it was a combination of these things making me sad, I had a realization last night as I lay in bed.

None of those things I had thought are what brought my sadness. What brought my sadness was what McCain’s death truly represented. On August 25, 2018, John Sidney McCain III died and he took a piece of America that she desperately needed. With the death of John McCain we saw the death of decency in American politics; and although I grieve for John McCain, I grieve for the last bastion of decency in our political system. Everything I respect about John McCain has to do not with politics, but the fact that John McCain was a decent human being who loved his country and loved fighting for what he thought was best for his county. Everything I respect about John McCain is gone because there is not another like John McCain in our political system right now.

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John McCain got the nickname Maverick because he did not always follow the party line. John McCain voted against repealing Obamacare last year because it was not in the best interest of the nation (and received a phone call of appreciation from former President Obama). John McCain in his long political career only once put getting votes ahead of the right thing and he immediately regretted it. He had this to say about the confederate flag flying over the state capital here in South Carolina:

“I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary. So I chose to compromise my principles. I broke my promise to always tell the truth. And I would like to apologize to South Carolinians and to Americans everywhere who believe racism has no place in our American values.”

John McCain refused to go negative during the 2000 presidential campaign. When operatives of the Bush campaign were saying terrible things about McCain’s wife Cindy who openly admitted to struggling with prescription drug abuse, and his adopted daughter Brigette (who was originally born in Bangladesh), McCain refused to go negative. Even when told these rumors would cost him the nomination from the Republican party John McCain refused to bend the knee. He knew the party was better than that. He knew America was better than that. And when he lost that campaign he was able to sleep at night and hold his head high. And America is better for it. And we are worse off because we didn’t believe in it at the time.

My personal favorite moment from McCain’s distinguished lifetime of public service is the fact that when meeting with a woman in his own state while running for president took an opportunity to defend his political opponent Barack Obama. When that women called Barack Obama an Arab Muslim, John McCain took that time to stop her and tell her that was not true. He called Barack Obama a good man. A decent man. A family man. How many other politicians did that while running for the presidency from the republican party? Ted Cruz certainly did not. Marco Rubio certainly did not. Ben Carson did not. Chris Christie did not. Jeb Bush did not. and we all know good and well that Donald J. Trump sure as hell did not. When John McCain defended his opponent that day, he did more to cement his maverick’s mark on this nation than any other day. That is the day this self-proclaimed liberal democrat elevated John McCain to a pedestal above almost all other politicians. That is the day that I knew John McCain was something special. And that is the day that I know that John McCain was a politician that this nation did not deserve.

On a more cynical note, I am saddened by the death of this maverick giant because I sadly believe the death of John McCain is going to be the beginning of the death of the republican party as we know it. And that is when my sadness turns to anger. I love this nation and I know that my democrats do not have all the answers. That is why I believe so firmly in the two-party system. I believe firmly in compromise. So did John McCain. But the republican party has rejected compromise. They have rejected decency. They have rejected niceties and instead they embraced a cancer on our political system who would and should be a pariah of politics if we lived in an America that was made by McCain.

fd1602a8-936e-4426-9d08-f155a33b72d4-ax006_571e_9John McCain served this nation with honor in the Navy and was a P.O.W. during a war that our current leader evaded with a “diagnosis” of bone spurs. John McCain refused to be released early when given the chance because there were P.O.W.s who had been imprisoned longer than he had. IF I had been given the chance of early freedom I would have sung like a canary and god knows our current leader would have (before finding a cheesy way to write a book about the “art of the P.O.W. release deal”). When given the chance to let his supporters demean and insult his Opponent, John McCain went high and defended their integrity. Our current leader not only took time time to demean and insult his opponent he advocated violence in his name on the behalf of his trucker hat wearing supporters who still don’t see that America was and is already great. When given the chance to lie and steal and defraud the American people John McCain would have none of it.

After thinking about all of those things, my anger turns back to sadness. John Sidney McCain should have been president over the monstrosity that we currently have in the oval office. That is why I am sad. That is why I cry. But then the crying stops. Because I think about John McCain and his last statement that was released by his widow Cindy and his daughter Meghan after his death. In that letter McCain wrote

We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process. …

Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.

I weep as I read that letter every time. But they are tears of joy. John McCain knew all too well that myself and many Americans are saddened and are full of despair at our present difficulties. But John McCain does not despair in America and he never has. John Sidney McCain III believed in America in life and he still believes in America in death. And because I believed in and still believe in John Sidney McCain III I still believe in America – and I hope you do to.

Farewell John. On behalf of a grateful American, please know we are a better people, a better nation, and a better world because of you. God Bless you and your family. And may God bless the United States of America that you fought for. May we live up to your vision of her. Always.

-WB

The Intentional Harm from an Unintentional Governor

Those of you who live in South Carolina may not agree with my views of our current governor, but you would definitely agree with me on one point about Governor Henry McMaster: like him or not, he is a very polarizing figure. For the most part there is no middle ground with McMaster. Many people, including myself, find McMaster to be wrong on just about every issue. Personally, I feel the only reason he got to be governor is because he took a gamble on supporting President Predicament knowing that he would return the favor and select Nicki Haley for his cabinet allowing McMaster to get the job he had failed numerous times to get. Obviously, not everyone agrees with me. Many people think our Governor is doing a fine job – even if he does sound like Foghorn Leghorn.

In yesterday’s edition of The Greenville News an article was published addressing the new Budget that McMaster would either sign or veto for the state of South Carolina. Before I continue to discuss why I disagree with some of McMaster’s decisions, I have a challenge for you: I want you to watch all of the following clip. Don’t skip them, and make sure to watch the whole clip. There is a reason I want you to watch them the whole way through.

All of the above clips were brought to you by Kleenex – because if your face looks anything like mine after watching those clips then we look like Russel Crowe looked in the film Gladiator when he found out his wife and child were both murdered. There is a reason I wanted you to watch each of those clips. I think every single one of those clips is a work of art in some way. More importantly, however, every single one of those clips moved me to tears the first time I watched it. Whether it was the actor, the singer, or the dancer, something about each of those performances touched a part of me with its joy, or sadness, or just straight beauty.

In the first clip, Taraji P. Henson plays Katharine Johnson in the film Hidden Figures. The beauty in her performance when she mortifyingly has to explain why it takes her so long to go to the bathroom. The second clip is three dancers from the Alvin Ailey Dance Studio who represent the main character at three different stages in his life as they dance to the score from the Oscar winning film Moonlight. I would give my pinky fingers and pinky toes for my body to be able to move as beautifully as those dancers. When added with the music from a phenomenal movie movie it takes my breath away. The third clip is from the tv show Parenthood. When Max’s parents have to pick him up early on an overnight field trip after an incident with his classmates because of his Asperger’s, it breaks my heart. The look in Peter Krauss’ eyes and his face as he so desperately wants to take the hurt and the pain away from his child is something everyone can relate to – regardless of whether or not they have children. The last clip is from the musical film version of RENT. Rent is one of my favorite musicals and this scene finds Jesse L. Martin (most will remember him from Law & Order fame) as Tom Collins sing the reprise to the song “I’ll cover you.” Earlier in the film “I’ll cover you is song as a duet between Tom and Angel. Now Angel has died from AIDS complications leaving Jesse heartbroken. It is true love at its finest.

Now that I have explained the clips, back to my purpose for writing this post. I guess that Governor McMaster has not seen any of these films or TV shows. I can tell you for sure he never saw Moonlight or RENT and has never listened to Wrabel. Because god forbid a republican be anything but ass backwards when it come to gay people. Since they don’t exist in the eyes of most republicans. My guess is our illustrious insignificant governor doesn’t make time to see movies, tv or dance performances. He most certainly doesn’t go to the theater so he doesn’t associate with gay people. Otherwise our governor would not have vetoed $500,000 for the South Carolina Children’s Theater, $250,000 for the Charleston Public Library, or $100,000 for a statewide music education program. Out of the 26 billion dollar budget, the moron in charge of our state that it was a good idea to veto those items that count for 0.025% of the over all budget. The asinine excuse of “earmarks and pork” that the governor gave is just downright insulting as well. We all know good and well that if we went through the budget line by line we could find things that were far more worth of the “Earmarks and Pork” title than arts education programs.

"I see the art budget's been cut again."In an effort to keep this post short (especially since I had you watch those videos) I am not going to write about why arts education is vital to every student’s overall education. I am going to post several infographics below that explain why our governor is being shortsighted and is downright idiotic when it comes to these vetoes. Look over them and share them with your family and friends. And then write your state representatives and tell them to please override our governors shortsighted veto. They are easy to find. All you have to do is google “Who are my state representatives” and it will prompt you to type in your address and tell you exactly who they are. Finally, I will leave you with two important pieces of information.

First, As someone who has taught in schools for the past 7 years, one of the greatest things in the world, is to watch a student who most would label as lazy, disengaged, or not interested in school light up with passion on the stage or in the chorus room or at an art exhibition as they proudly discover what they love and were born to do. It is a miraculous moment to watch as a teacher and one I cherish every time it happens.

And Second, since Governor McMaster does not think art has a purpose in the lives of South Carolina’s students, I leave him with this quote from Pablo Picasso:

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Certainly from those two things alone, we can all agree that these intentional vetoes will harm our students and our accidental governor needs to figure that out quickly. $750,000 is a small price to pay if we want our students to succeed in a global world.

Have a great Monday everyone! Don’t forget to check out the infographics below!

-WB

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Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy: 3 Jokes, 2 World Leaders, and a Buzzsaw

Today is Hump Day! Also known as Wednesday. I felt like it had been a few days since I have posted and there has been a lot to discuss so I am starting a recurring segment called Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy (See what I did there?). W³ will be posts where I talk about whatever moves me or whatever is currently going on in the world – that’s the whimsy part. The wisdom part is me telling you how you should feel. Because I am usually right on things (today’t things especially). So, without further ado, here we go!

3 Controversial Jokes

People love to laugh and it used to be that people watching a stand-up comedian perform or a sitcom knew that a joke was just that – a joke. But in the age of being ultra-politically correct, our society has gotten so overly offended by stuff that was designed to make our days less tense its ridiculous.

The first is Roseanne Barr’s joke. On Twitter Roseanne tweeted the Picture below. And boy was the reaction a doozy of a news cycle. The “vj” in the tweet refers to Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett was a senior advisor to President Obama and is a highly accomplished woman in the law field and now in the private sector once again.

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I am unsure of a lot of the information on this joke or how to feel. On the one hand I think its sad and disgusting and as Bill O’Reilly said it just proves to Black America that racism is still an issue. With that said, I believe Roseanne Barr when she says she is not a racist. Scoff all you want, but I have watched her stand-up as well as her show long enough to know she most likely isn’t racist. On an episode in season 7 of her show DJ (her son) did not want to participate in the school play because he had to kiss a black girl. In the episode (you can find in full below) you can find the important since eight and a half minutes in. Roseanne says in a way that only she could, Black people are just like us and anybody who thinks differently is a banjo-picking bigot who gives respectable white trash a bad name.”

Roseanne’s reaction is not the episode a bigot would produce – especially when the episode was an addition to the season and aired shortly after the Rodney King/LA Riots fiasco. Is Roseanne an idiotic jerk for some of the conspiracy theories she retweets? Was she an asshat for tweeting at Valerie Jarrett?  Of course. But nothing in that tweet was as vile as some of the stuff the president has tweeted. I do not think Roseanne should have been cancelled either, but seeing as how that’s what happened, it is what it is.

The second joke is Samantha Bee. To make a long story short (too late!), Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” The backlash in America over Australia’s favorite swear word was fierce. Bee apologized, TBS condemned her, and sponsors pulled out. But here is thing about this whole ordeal. When the administration in the White House feigns indignation over over Michelle’s Wolfe’s supposedly sexist jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and Bee’s joke’s over Ivanka, the hypocrisy comes though loud and clear. Guess what Trump Administration and Trump Supporters? You don’t get to cry foul over jokes you deem sexist when the misogynist-in-chief brags about grabbing women in the pussy. That is more than locker room talk. That is sexual assault. And Lastly, You don’t get to criticize jokes and say Samantha Bee should be fired when you have a woman working in your administration who makes a “bad joke” about John McCain. We all know there is a liberal slant to the media, but if you want people to be fair, you also have to be fair.

The last thing I am going to say about the Samantha Bee situation in regards to why she wasn’t fired and Roseanne Barr was is pretty simple. Roseanne Barr compared a black person to a monkey This is wrong, disgusting, and a way back in the day of saying black people were less than white people because they were not human. Samantha Bee used a bad word in a truthful situation. Thousands of us who did not vote for Trump had optimism and hope when we found out Ivanka and Jared Kushner would be working in the White House because it would be a way for the more moderate Ivanka and Jared to help guide policy on women, the queer community, and the environment. People know Trump listen to Ivanka because she is his favorite. He values her advice so we hoped she could guide policy. Since this not happening Samantha Bee’s comment ring true. She is most definitely feckless. The word cunt is what is bothering people, and although it is not a word I personally use or like all that much, the joke in and of itself is pointing out a truth. Ivanka isn’t helping and she could. Change the word cunt to bitch, bimbo, or butthole and the statement still isn’t wrong.

The last joke comes from a valedictorian in Kentucky Coal Country. Ben Bowling trolled a bunch of coal miners by reading a quote and then saying President Trump was the person who said it. After people started to clap, Bowling told people he was kidding and it was actually President Obama who said it. The applause quickly dies. A few boos can be heard as well. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the level of petty and shade I aspire to.

 

2 World Leaders

CNN reported today that President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got into a heated discussion over new tarriffs the US put on Canadian steel and Aluminum. President Trump apparently originally assured Trudeau that Canada would be exempt from these tases, but has since changed his mind. I could care less one way or the other to be honest, but I now want to speak directly to President Trump to explain something.

President Trump,

If you get into an argument with Prime Minister Trudeau because you change your mind more than a boy-crazy 13 year old teenager, you will lose the war of public opinion hands down. For someone who seemingly cares what people think of him a whole lot, you have not thought this through.

And last, but certainly not the least (its actually the most damning), Mr. Trump, I give you this piece of evidence:

Mr. President, it is time to face the facts. There is not a jury alive, not a millennial voter, not a thirsty middle aged women, or any gay alive that would pick you over Trudeau in any kind of discussion. So Tread lightly.

The Word Buzzsaw

For those of you who do not live in South Carolina, here is a little bit of context. It is currently primary season and we are getting ready to vote for governor. The incumbent (Boss Hog Henry McMaster) is being challenged by Catherine Templeton. I am not a fan of Henry McMaster by any stretch of the imagination, but I equally loathe Catherine Templeton at this point; however, at this point, I loathe the word buzzsaw more than both of them. At some point somebody labeled Templeton a buzzsaw, she likes the label, and McMaster thinks its an insult to her. I don’t know how in God’s Green earth being labeled a buzzsaw can be a good thing or a bad thing, but every five seconds I am reminded that Catherine “Buzzsaw” Templeton is a buzzsaw. So there is that. At this point, I would be fine if McMaster and Buzzsaw Templeton stood on the edge of a cliff and ole Buzzsaw used her skills and sawed them both right off because both their commercials are terrible.

There is your wisdom and whimsy for the week. I will close in the style of “Auntie Maxine.”

Have a Good Night One and all!

-WB

Teaching in Terror: The Lives Lost to Gun Violence in Schools Since I Started Teaching

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The picture above was one of the happiest days of my life. In the picture along with me are 16 other people, many of whom I consider my friends to this day, were just about to receive our diplomas from Clemson University with a degree in secondary education. We were all so excited. Not all are teaching currently, but at that point we were thrilled with what the future held. We graduated in 2011 and it was not a great time to graduate with a teaching degree. That didn’t matter. We were just excited. This was one of the most emotionally draining articles I have written.

I grew up in a family full of educators that placed huge value on education. Educational success was seen as key that could open most doorways. Upon taking teacher cadets in high school, it quickly became the only career I considered as something I would do long term. I became a teacher to change lives. There is something indescribable about being able to show a 14 year old that they can accomplish something they previously thought was not possible. I have experienced more joy from some of the successes of my students than I have about my own successes. Likewise, I have cried more tears about some of the things my students face than I do about my own life’s hardships.

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I went into the educational field to spend my days that should be spent teaching about cultural diffusion, market economies, and the difference between a megalopolis and a megacity. I did not go into education to spend my days worrying weather or not my students would go home to their parents and if I would go home to my boston terrier. I did not go into education to attend the funerals of my students or my colleagues. But at the rate we are going I have a greater chance of attending the funerals of my students  (or my students attending my funeral) than of living long enough to see Greenville become a Megacity – even with its explosive growth.

America is a great nation. The perks of living her far outweigh the downsides. If you are one of those people who thinks we do not have flaws or that says “America is the greatest nation on earth.” or “America is better than any other nation to have ever existed.” you may want to stop reading now because this will just piss you off. America is not the greatest nation on earth. The greatest nation on Earth does not offer up thoughts and prayers after a classroom full of 6 and 7 years is riddled with bullets during show and tell. The greatest nation on earth does not vilify students who after walking over the bodies of their dead classmates decide that they should advocate for sensible gun control. If you do not agree with those past two statements then you are delusion as as the politicians that have been bought by the gun lobby.

I started my educational career as the replacement for a teacher in March. I have added up the days I have spent teaching since my first day as a teacher that March all the way up until today (Wednesday May 23, 2018). As of today I have been a teacher for 619 days. The pictures below are the are the victims of gun violence in the classroom since I have started my career in education. There are 120 pictures. One day out of every week since I have become a teacher, a student, teacher, or parents was gunned down on school grounds. What day should students play hooky? What day should teachers take a sick day to ensure this never happens again?

As I tried to find the pictures of the fatalities I had to take breaks. This post took days to finish because I couldn’t take that much sadness at once. So many of these kids would have been the best leaders of tomorrow. So many of these courageous teachers were found shielding the bodies of their students. So many parents have had their lives shattered. For at least a dozen of  these fatalities, a parent was dead within the next several years – some from suicide, others from drugs they became addicted to as they tried to survive their pain. I will continue to update this list as these tragedies continue to happen. I pray to God this list doesn’t get to long, but I know it will. The day we decided you needed a bullet proof vest for show and tell is the day we lost our nation’s soul. God have mercy on us all.

Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk- The Hero Who Gave Us Hope

Today would have been the 98th birthday of Harvey Milk. For the average American, that might not mean anything to you. You may not even know who Harvey Milk was. But to the LGBTQ+ community, Harvey Milk is a hero, an icon, and a martyr for the cause of LGBTQ rights. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977. 11 Months after his election, Milk was assassinated by a fellow member of the Board of Supervisors. The Mayor of San Francisco was also assassinated. In the few years before his election and his short time in public office, Milk became the Hero of Hope to the gay community.

harvey-milk_happybirthdayI am a history teacher. I am the person who was more excited to register to vote than I was to go buy a pack of cigarettes. I follow politics and current events so much that I can see my family tune out as soon as I open my mouth about politics 97% of the time. You would think I would have learned about Harvey Milk at a young age, but this could not be farther from the truth. I did not learn about Harvey Milk until 2008 as a freshman in college. It wasn’t a history book I have to think for teaching me about Harvey Milk either. History books in this nation leave out the stories and struggles of minority groups far too often. The people I have to thank for acquainting me with Harvey Milk are Dustin Lance Black, Gus Van Sant, and Sean Penn. Yes, you heard me correctly. I said the Academy Award winning actor Sean Penn.

In 2008 Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing Harvey Milk in the film titled Milk. The film was written by Dustin Lance Black (who you might have seen in the news for being the boyfriend and now husband of British diver Tom Daley) and directed by Gus Van Sant. Black and Van Sant are openly gay and both were nominated for their work on Milk. Black won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. His acceptance speech is less than 3 minutes in length and it changed my life.

At the 2009 Academy Awards, Milk was one of the few films that I As I watched the Gay Super Bowl Oscars that year, Black’s speech left me in disbelief. Yes this is a ceremony filled with people who are stereotypically liberal leaning in their political beliefs. But seldom are people so blatantly plain in their speeches. Here was a rather handsome man telling me that very soon LGBTQ+ people who have equal federal rights across this nation. And wouldn’t you know it – he was right!

 

Not having seen the movie, I googled the film and was astounded I had never heard of Harvey Milk, his story, or the film before the Oscars that night. A second google let me know I could pay $2 and watch the film at The Astro Theater in Downtown Clemson, SC. The Astro was Clemson’s version of a dollar theater. It typically showed films that had already been out for a month or so. It did not look like much on the inside, but I loved it for the historic charm it had. I skipped a science lab to go the next night. To this day, I don’t regret that decision.

 

 

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There were 4 other people in the theater that night. All 4 of those people were part of “the family.” We did not sit together and we did not know each other, but I had seen some of them in passing on campus before. I could effuse compliments about Milk until I am purple in the face so I will not go on and on about how much I love it. I will simply say that film changed my life and I will be forever grateful for the real Harvey Milk’s message of Hope and advocacy that are shown in the film. As the lights came on I tried to wipe the tears off my face. I started to get embarrassed until I saw the other 4 people were doing the exact same thing. Although I never became more than Facebook friends with any of the other 4 people, each time we saw each other in passing on campus, we would always nod and smile at each other. We shared a form of ourselves that evening that we had not shared with many people up until that point. The older I get the more I think certain things in this universe are connected. Call it God, or Karma, or my personal favorite juju. There was a shared connection between us and Harvey Milk that night. And it was life changing.

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The publicity poster from the film. The entire cast is phenomenal. 

This was the first film I had ever seen that depicted multiple main characters who were LGBTQ in a positive light. It is the first film I had seen that showed the power of my community when we stood up and advocated for ourselves – when we fought back against the people and politicians who sought to silence us and belittle us. The film goes through much of Milk’s adult life. It shows a closeted Milk living in New York City and keeping his sexuality a secret and follows parts of his life up until his assassination. Milk later moves to San Francisco in the 1970s. San Francisco became a haven for gay men in the 60s and 70s and Milk opened Castro Camera on Castro Street in the city. He lost his first election for the Board of Supervisors, but he quickly became a uniting force in “The Castro” – the area of the city made famous by the Castro Theater and the district with the largest concentration of gay people.

Once San Francisco moved away from at-large districts to area based districts Milk easily won in the heavy LGBT Castro District. Harvey Milk was a bridge builder. He united minority communities of all types and advocated for those groups regularly as part of the Board. He was instrumental in helping the city pass a gay rights ordinance at a time when many other cities were passing ordinances and ballot indicatives which were extremely anti-LGBTQ in nature. Milk was passionate in his belief that only by people in the LGBTQ community coming out and acknowleding their sexuality to their friends and family would opinions on LGBTQ people change for the better. Milk said :

Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets. … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out.

Sadly Harvey Milk would not live to see his beliefs become reality. He was taken by the bullets of an assassin in his office in city hall. In the video below, you will see US Senator Dianne Feinstein announce the deaths of both Moscone and Milk. If it looks like Feinstein is confused she has good reason to be. She just identified the bodies of both Milk and Moscone to police. As she tried to feel a pulse on Harvey Milk’s neck, she stuck her fingers into the hole left by the bullet that hit Milk in the neck.

White was a disgruntled former member of the board who had resigned, but wanted his seat back. both Moscone and Milk opposed putting White back on the board. White snuck into city hall, shot the mayor in his office before walking to Milk’s office and shooting him 4 times. White was arrested later that day. In response to the shooting, thousands of people from across San Francisco rushed and descended upon the Castro that evening. They marched silently with candles in a spontaneous memorial vigil in honor of Milk. To this day, it remains one of the most beautifully eloquent responses to an act of violence that this world has ever seen.

White was convicted months later of voluntary manslaughter for both killings and was sentenced to just 7 years in prison of which he only served 5. After the lenient sentencing was announced, the outrage in the LGBTQ community led to several nights of rioting throughout San Francisco in what have since become known as The White Night Riots. Harvey Milk’s friend and another icon in the gay community, Cleve Jones, led the way from the Castro towards city hall shouting “Out of the bars and into the streets!” By the time they reached city hall a thousand people were ready to riot. This is the impact that Harvey Milk had on the gay community. For a community that so often felt lost, alone, and vilified by the rest of the world, Harvey Milk was and still is a beacon of hope. The harbinger of hope was and still is a martyr for the movement. That movement is ongoing and we won’t stop until we accomplish what Milk set out to accomplish.

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Milk was featured on a US Postal Stamp in 2014. You can still order it on the Post Office Website.

I have always felt a connection to Harvey Milk – but in more ways than just the obvious one. Harvey milk taught at one point and while in California he was one of the driving forces behind the defeat of Proposition 6, which was an initiative on the California ballot that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. I have always believed that the LGBTQ community if far too concerned with their “own” letter in the acronym. As long as the L or the G part got their rights then who cares about the T or the Q? Harvey Milk knew that the only way for us to succeed was to help each other – and that included other oppressed minority groups as well. Lastly, and perhaps the most tragically of the connections, I was born on the tenth anniversary of Milk’s assassination. I find it somehow comforting in a weird way that a day that brings pain and anguish for many, brought happiness and joy to my family (or at least I think it brought them happiness and joy).

Hope will never be silent. As long as people have hope, they will always be capable of rising above the circumstances that life throws at them. Where there is hope, there is the undeniable chance that the human spirit will win out over despair. Over fear. Over anger. Over hate. The story of Harvey Milk was a pivotal turning point in my life. It changed a fundamental part of the person that I am today. The story of Harvey Milk saved Dustin Lance Black’s life, and it will continue to save the lives of countless people – but only if it is told. At the conclusion of his Oscar acceptance speech Black ends by thanking God for giving us Harvey Milk. I thank God for giving us people like Black, and Van Sant, and Penn who were brave enough to fight to have the story of Harvey Milk told. And yes after thanking God for them, I too thank God for Harvey Milk. Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk. Thank you for your sacrifice. And Thank you for the gift of hope.

-WB

imageTo learn more about Harvey Milk, go to The Harvey Milk Foundation website. The Milk foundation was founded by Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, and his former campaign manager, Anne Kronenberg, and it seeks to continue to strive for Milk’s dream of a better tomorrow – a tomorrow in which there is equality for all and a world without hate.

Dear Fellow White People: An Open Letter

By now most people have heard about Lolade Siyonbola and what happened to her earlier this week, although you may know her more as the Yale grad student who committed the crime of “sleeping while Black.” If you are confused here are the basic details of the story as reported by CNN. Siyonbola was working on a paper as part of her Master in African Studies. She was working on the paper in the common room of the Yale Hall of Graduate Studies, where her dorm room was located. As she was working, Siyonbola fell asleep and awoke to Sarah Braasch, a philosophy grad student, who came into the room calling the police on Siyonbola saying she cannot sleep or be in that common room.

The police arrived and detained Siyonbola for over 17 minutes as they questioned why she was in the building. They still requested to see her student ID card ever after she unlocked the door to her dorm room to prove she lived in the building. Part of the hang up that required the police question Siyonbola for so long was the preferred name on her ID card did not match her official name in the School’s records. Eventually Siyonbola was allowed to go and the officers told Sarah Braasch that she should not have called the police because Siyonbola had every right to use that room. The Facebook live video that Siyonbola recorded on her phone is below.

This should incense you for several reasons; the most astounding of the reasons why being the fact that this is the 4th time in a matter of two months that a white person has called the police on a person or a group of  people of color (non-white) for simply doing something as innocent as waiting on a friend in Starbucks. Or taking a tour of a college campus. Or loading their luggage into their car after staying at an AirBnb on a trip to visit a friend. Or even having a family barbecue in a public park.

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Was calling the police really that necessary? The only answer  is no and if you don’t think so you have a problem.

Every single one of these people must have grown up in Mayberry living right next door to Opie Taylor, because that is the only thing that I can think of as to why these people might have called the police. They must have grown up in a city devoid of people of color and it must have alarmed them so much that they did not know what else to do other than call the police. All sarcasm aside, you and I both know that is not why these people called the police. These people called the police because of the extra melanin that the so-called “criminals” possessed. For the people who called the police as well as the people who are defending the actions of those who called the police, I have news for you: if you don’t try to live in a world where people of all races and ethnicities are seen as equals in the eyes of their fellow man, you won’t enjoy living at all after we get to 2040, and here is why.

As a teacher of Human Geography, one of the units I cover is Demographic Geography. Demographic geography is the study of the ways in which spatial variations in the distribution, composition, migration, and growth of populations are related to the nature of places. To take it out of the index card definition I would have my students write it is basically the study of how groups of people are shaped by the land and their other surroundings. This is the section of geography that deals with things like birth rate, death rate, rate of natural increase, and other geographic numbers. These numbers have turned population geography into a science. By studying these numbers throughout human existence and their current numbers we have transformed population geography into a science that is surprisingly accurate when it comes to predictions that are made by population geographers. The prediction that most geographers have made involving race is that by the year 2040, white people will no longer be the majority in America.

The Horror! The Danger! Call Uncle Bubba! It is time to start prepping the bunker now!

All jokes aside, the statistic is true – Based on population projections that have been surprisingly accurate up to this point, the racial make up in America is changing. America is becoming less white christian and more of everything else. And despite what you may think, this is a good thing. For far too long in this nation we have not had much needed conversations on race. Avoiding the topic of race is comfortable now, but in the last several years it has hurt too many people when the issues came boiling to the surface. If we had these conversations years ago when we needed to then maybe Mike Brown would still be here and I wouldn’t have students wondering if their parents or older siblings are going to be deported. We still have people carrying around the Confederate flag, for God’s sake!

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Charlottesville. Virginia. July 8. 2017. What is going on, America?

Think about that! There are still people in this nation who support the Confederacy and its ideals. They do not see the confederacy as the morally crippled from the start failure that it always was. They see it under the guise of “The Lost Cause.” This is as laughable as it is stupid. The Civil War was a cultural group of rich white Americans that decided its choice to abuse and trade humans endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights was more important than upholding and defending the United States Constitution many of them swore to protect. Any attempt to explain it as otherwise directly undermines the future stability of this nation.

Clearly by avoiding the conversation things are not working. Continued avoidance and silence is going to lead to more problems for our nation down the road, and that is what brings us back to 2040. As a result of several demographic statistics, the white majority will be gone, and it would be generations before they could ever regain a majority, if they even could. First, when you break down the average age of each racial group in the United States, whites are significantly older than minority groups. This means there are less child-rearing women who are white actively having children. In addition the average number of children born to white women is significantly lower than the average number born to black and Latina women.

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The millennial generation is already the most diverse generation in the history of this nation. 46% of millennials are non-white. Perhaps that is also why it gets the distinction of being the most accepting generation when it comes to relationships outside our own racial group. Next year, in 2019, millennial will officially be the largest generation in America. This is a good thing – and as a millennial myself I am excited and proud to be the generation that leads the way in fixing our race relations problems. If your generation won’t lead the way it is high time millennial step up to the plate and show you how it is done.

The only possible reason that I can think of that would explain the behavior of all these white people calling the police on people of color for no reason is their fear. White people must be afraid of retribution. White people must be so scared that as a result of their horrible treatment of many groups of people over color at the hand of white people that they are terrified of being on the receiving end of the very same treatment that they perpetuated on groups of colors for decades. That is the only thing I can think of that would explain these actions. And you know what? The continued fear of people of color is making things worse. It is doing nothing but alienating white people from everybody else as seemingly out of touch bigots who are clinging to power because we feel we are superior.

image-26Thankfully, the views are slowly changing.  The majority of Americans (although still far to low of a majority) see immigrants in this country as something that makes America stronger and not as a burden. This bodes well for our future since the two fastest growing populations in the United States are immigrants from Latin America and from Asia. However, the second part of this chart is the sad part. If you look at the breakdown of the strength/burden question by race, white Americans are the only demographic group to be below the 50% mark. Once again, it makes White people in this nation seem narrow-minded and racist. The majority of white people are neither narrow-minded nor racist, but until they start speaking up and standing up for their non-white brothers and sisters this problem is only going to get worse.

The closer we get to the year 2040, the more visible the demographic shift will be. As people start to realize the impending change, they will rant and rave and rail on about America and how she is losing her ideals and the other traits that make up America. Instead of fighting a losing battle on race (which if your advocating for a White Nationalist America you deserve to lose anyways) 25 years down the road lets solve the problem now by openly having a dialogue with our brothers and sisters of different ethnicities to make sure the America we live our children is the best version of America there is. Will it be painful? Yes. Will it be uncomfortable, and hard, and sometimes frustratingly slow? Yes, but it is what we need. It is what America Needs. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. We have a problem with race in America. Now let’s start fixing it – and let’s do it together.

-WB

The Fool-Proof Way to Improve Your Life and Our Country

Most of the readers of this blog are living in the United States. The majority of the people who read this are going to be American citizens. While I freely admit that America is not perfect – she has her flaws just like anybody else; however, up to this point in my life, there really is no other country that I care to live except here. Americans get a bad wrap with how we feel about our country. We are considered arrogant and self-righteous by many and disliked by others because we seem to mess in the affairs of other sovereign countries. The picture that comes to mind is often something like this: american-flag-overlode

For the record, The American above are obnoxious, sure, but I still love their spirt. There is something charmingly American in their obnoxious dedication and devotion to our home. If there is one thing that unites all Americans more than anything else, it is their desire for America to succeed. Americans know that when the United States succeeds, they will reap the benefits of her success. So listen up, because here is the number 1, fool-proof way for Americans to help improve our country:

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Voting for major offices and elections typically takes on a Tuesday in November. The primaries to decide who is able to run in those general elections are held sometime before that.  In South Carolina, our primaries are usually early in June. This year they fall on June 18, 2018. In order to be eligible to vote in those elections, you must have registered to vote by May 11, 2018. For those reading this when it was originally posted. That is this Friday.

Local elections have a bigger impact on your daily life than national elections do. In order to make this post short, sweet, and to the point, I created this infographic that explains the top reasons you should vote in local elections! Enjoy!

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