Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

Shooting My Way Out of the Funk

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Swish …

Swish …

      It’s time to borrow from the book of Curry. Stephen Curry, that is.

      Back in 2017, when I was in a bit of a writing funk, I came across an interview with Curry, who is regarded by most basketball fans as one of the best, if not the best, pure shooter in the National Basketball Association. Swish is his MO.


      As synchronicity would have it, Curry at the time was going through a rare shooting slump. He was hearing a lot more clang than swish. The interviewer asked him what he did about that. How do you get out of a shooting slump?

     “You shoot your way out of it,” Curry said. “You obviously get more reps in between games, try to get that muscle memory back and the vision of the ball going in. You never lose confidence — that’s first and foremost. But there’s nothing really different to my approach. You’ve got to grind your way through it.”

   So this is me shooting my way out of a writing slump. Working on that muscle memory and grinding my way back into the groove.

     Four years ago, the funk settled in because there was really only one thing to write about every day: how Donald Trump had messed the world up in some unique way and how Republicans were just fine with it. Only the details changed; the arrogance and ignorance were ever-present. There are only so many ways to say that. Actually, I just said it.

    Now, Trump is thankfully gone from the White House, but his legacy and his minions linger on. The story today, the only story told in different ways, is President Biden trying to remedy the damage Trump caused while Republican politicians fall all over each other trying to emulate Trump.

     The constant lies, the hypocrisy, the unabashed arrogance and proud  ignorance. It’s infuriating and, honestly, writing about it constantly is as much a drag as reading about it. 

     Take Kevin McCarthy (please, as Henny Youngman would say). Having him as their leader in the House of Representatives should embarrass every Republican. He criticizes Biden’s infrastructure plan, yet takes credit for the good stuff in his home state of  California. He blames Biden for Covid lingering and spreading, while Republican governors continue to ignore the science and defy calls for vaccines and masks.

       He does it with a straight face, knowing it’s baloney, because this is how the Trump Republican Party is supposed to operate. 

       I don’t know how many times that has to be said, but I think I just took a shot and scored and I feel better.. Guess some of that muscle memory came back. A few more reps at the keyboard and I think I’ll be back on my game.

        Thanks, Steph.

(For those  younger than 50, Henny Youngman was a popular comedian, I once ran into in an art gallery in Woodstock. More synchronicity.)

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Measure of the Man

Monday, November 22nd, 2021
 
John F. Kennedy

(Reprinted from The Retiring Mind… November 22, 2013)

By Bob Gaydos

     The first editorial I wrote for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., appeared on the 20th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I wrote the headline, too: “The measure of the man.” 
Trying to “measure” the meaning of the life of a man who was literally loved and idolized by millions of people is no easy task, especially for a rookie editorial writer’s debut effort. But that’s what newspapers do and, in truth, I took it as a good omen that remembering JFK was my first assignment. He was a hero to me as to many young men my age when he was elected president. It was a combination of things: his youth, his wit, his easy-going style, his intelligence, his words, his sense of justice. Plus, we shared the same birthdate: May 29.
     As fate would have it, JFK would come to be remembered, not on his birthday, but on the anniversary of his death. And not so much for what Americans received for having him as president for 1,000 days, but rather for what we lost by not having him much longer.
     That first editorial said, in essence, that it would take more than 20 years to measure the meaning of the man. It acknowledged the things we had learned about JFK in the years since the shooting in Dallas — the flaws that made him human — as well as what I felt were his positive contributions. Thirty years later, no longer a rookie editorial writer — indeed, now retired after 23 years of writing editorials — with Nov. 22 approaching, I realized I had to write about JFK 50 years after his death (because that’s what old newspaper guys do). Before I started, I asked one of my reliable sounding boards, my son, Zack, what he knew about JFK. Zack is 19 and better informed than a lot of young people his age, so I figured his answer would provide me with a fair sense of what our education system had been telling kids about Kennedy.

   “He was the first Catholic president,” Zack said. Correct. “He had an affair with Marilyn Monroe.” Uh, correct. ‘There’s still some theories that there was more than one shooter.” Right. “Do you think the Kevin Costner movie (“JFK,” directed by Oliver Stone) was true?” Well, the people portrayed were real. “The Bay of Pigs didn’t go too well.” No, it didn’t. I took the opportunity to point out that Cuba was the site, not only of Kennedy’s biggest failure in global affairs, but also his biggest success.

     I was a little older than Zack is now when the world stood at the brink of a nuclear war over the presence of Soviet missile-launching sites in Cuba, aimed at the United States. I was a senior in college and knew full well, as did all my classmates, than no 2-S deferment was going to exempt me from what might happen if the Soviets did not — as Kennedy demanded — remove their missiles. Kennedy ordered the U.S. Navy to blockade Cuba to prevent the shipment of Soviet missiles and equipment. Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet president, who had initially denied the existence of the missile sites, sent a naval fleet to Cuba, loaded with supplies and armed for battle. As the world watched and waited and prayed, Kennedy and Khrushchev exchanged messages. Kennedy prevailed. The Soviet fleet stopped short of Cuba and turned around. I lived to write this remembrance. Kennedy was dead not long after.

     So here I am 50 years later, still looking to take the measure of the man and still wondering how that is possible. Kennedy had the gift of engagement. He appeared to be comfortable with whomever he was speaking. He had tremendous appeal to young people, being so different from the older, stodgier presidents who preceded him. He created the Peace Corps — a legacy that continues to this day with not enough fanfare. He made many Americans — and this is not a small thing — truly proud to be Americans. Not in an arrogant, flag-waving, we-know-better-than-you way. Just proud. And he cheated on his wife and kept his serious health problems a secret from us and sometimes needed to be prodded by his brother, Bobby (another tragic loss) to take the proper (courageous) stand on issues.

     So the question I still ask myself is, what might JFK have done, what might he have meant to America and the world, if he had lived longer? What did we lose at Dealey Plaza? Certainly, whatever innocence we still possessed. The wind was sucked from our sails as a nation and our domestic politics have slowly and steadily deteriorated into such partisanship that is virtually impossible for any president to speak to the minds and hearts of a majority of Americans the way Kennedy did. Maybe it would have happened even if Kennedy had lived a longer life and gone on to be an ambassador to the world of what America stands for. Or maybe not.

     It dawns on me in writing this that it is an ultimately frustrating task to try to take the measure of another man or woman. I know what JFK meant to me personally. I know a lot of others feel similarly and others do not. I know what history has recorded (he was also the youngest man to be elected president) and what the tabloids have told us. I have a sense of what I would like to think Kennedy would ultimately have meant had he not died so young. But it’s only speculation.

     The only man I can truly take the measure of is myself. It is 50 years since that morning when I was waiting at home to go to Fort Dix, N.J., to begin six months of active duty training. How do I measure up today? That’s a question I work on every day. It wasn’t always thus, but the years have a way of insisting on perspective. Maybe the answer will appear in some other writing. I have neither the space nor the inclination to do so here. I will say that, on balance, I’ll probably give myself a passing grade, but there’s still some stuff I’m learning. For now, I’m through trying to take the measure of JFK, as man or president. Let the historians have at it. I’m going to try to take his advice and ask not what life can do for me, but what I can contribute to life. And I’m also going to remember to honor him not on the date he died, but on the date we both were born. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

bobgaydos.blogspot.com

     

States My Sons Should Not Live in, Ever — an Addendum

Friday, November 12th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

   00AF2E2B-E6F6-4124-B003-0E29E6665B21  “Would you be upset if any of these states left the Union?”

      That provocative question, accompanied by a map of the United States with the entire South, from South Carolina to Florida to Texas, all in one color, showed up on my Facebook feed about a week ago.

       It was easy enough to answer. “No, “I said, “and they should add Kentucky.”

       That was the glib. quick answer Facebook likes. But the question also reminded me of a column I had written about a decade ago. The headline was, “10 states where my sons should not live, ever”.

       Now, ever is a long, long time, but it’s amazing just how well that list has held up.

         The column was inspired by a conversation I  had with a former newspaper colleague about a congressman from Florida who claimed there were 80 Democratic members of Congress who were Communists. I had written an editorial about the guy. My friend and I agreed he was a moron. He was also a Republican.

      Then I thought about all those states other than Florida that were also represented and governed by officials who make similarly idiotic statements all the time and was grateful I didn’t live in any of those states. So I wrote a column warning my sons off. So far, they’ve paid attention.

     That original list included Texas, Arizona, Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee and, yes, Kentucky (at least I’m consistent).

      I added a watchlist that included Georgia, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana. Only Georgia appears to be escaping my newly expanded list of states to avoid, but it’s still on the watch list. Missouri now also makes the big list.

          The primary criteria for making the original list were: Rampant racism, anti-intellectualism, bigotry, intolerance, religious fanaticism, and electing morons to office over and over again. The  criteria still apply, but I would add to them fanatical Trumpism, anti-Vaccism, a refusal to wear masks to avoid spreading Covid, and the casual acceptance of violence as a solution to political grievances.

       One more thing. Voters in the states consistently elect officials who vote against their own constituents’ welfare and who view politics as a war to be won at all costs rather than an exercise in democratic compromise for the greater good. I guess that’s Trumpism after all. (I guess I also now will be labeled “elitist“ in all these states.)

       The solution? The ideal one would be electing officials who value education and inclusion. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon in many of these states. There are simply not enough local Republican politicians willing to buck the fear factor in opposing Trump. So for now at least, it means electing as many Democrats as possible in state elections. Georgia may be leading the way in this. Eliminating the Electoral College in choosing the presidents would also help.

    But in the meantime, sons and like-minded readers, avoid all states mentioned in this column.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

    Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange-com.

Gruden and Shatner Meet Technology

Thursday, October 28th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Jon Gruden

William Shatner

86F645D4-D5AF-482A-BBAA-88C01E6F444C

Jon Gruden

couple of        interesting stories flashed by a couple of weeks ago and quickly faded from most news reports. That’s

common in today’s highly charged political atmosphere. “Other“ news has a tough time getting noticed.

     The stories involved former pro football coach/sports commentator Jon Gruden and former actor William Shatner. At first glance, they may seem worlds apart, but I see a connection. Two, in fact.

      Technology and priorities. Technology sacked Gruden and lifted Shatner, Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame, to another dimension. In the process, misplaced priorities of others came into focus.

       Gruden was forced to resign his position as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders in the NFL after The New York Times reported that emails Gruden had sent several years ago to the owner of the Washington Football Team (that’s its official name) were full of racist, homophobic and misogynistic remarks. Gruden was a football TV analyst at the time.

    His contract with the Raiders was for 10 years and $100 million. There were six years and $40 million left on the contract. He recently reached a settlement with the Raiders on the remaining dollars. Being a pro football coach pays well, but only if you hide your bigotry well.

         In the years before email, Gruden would probably have survived just as many coaches have survived, by hiding their prejudices in public. But this is a new century and the kind of things that were OK between the guys in private are no longer acceptable when they become public.

      Indeed, Gruden‘s emails came to light as part of an NFL investigation into charges of sexual harassment filed against the team by their cheerleaders, all female.  Gruden made his remarks in messages sent to the owner of the team,  a team, by the way, which still has not figured out a new nickname to replace “Redskins.“ It was finally forced to give up the name because, well, it’s a new century.

       Gruden released a statement, saying: “I have resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt  anyone.”

       Well, yeah, that’s why you say nasty things about people behind their backs instead of to their faces. But when you are in a position of power, how do those opinions play out in your day-to-day dealings with those people? And when you say insulting things about people who might have some power over you, say the commissioner of the NFL, as Gruden apparently did, well that might have an impact on how that person deals with you and your team.

         Gruden is reportedly depressed about what has happened. But maybe he shouldn’t have sent those emails. And perhaps the NFL, before it gets too self-righteous, should apologize to Colin Kaepernick, the black quarterback who was blackballed for economic reasons by the league for taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest racism in America. That would include the NFL, even though the majority of its players are black. The misogyny and homophobia in the NFL are a given. 

        Kaepernick, and other players who joined him, publicly protested treatment of blacks that Gruden, and for sure, others affiliated with the NFL, supported in private through their attitudes and comments.

   Nothing changes if nothing changes. It’s a new century, gentlemen. New Technology tells you if someone really scored a touchdown. It can also tell you if that smiling face on the coach is the mask of a bigot.

     Shatner is a different story. In the first place, he’s a “former“ actor, because he’s 90 years old and retired. He wasn’t forced to resign.

      In an inspired theatrical gesture, he was invited to be a passenger on the New Shepard space vessel launched into sub-orbital space by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company. Shatner set a record, going where no man or woman that age had ever gone before.

      He returned from his brief trip to space awestruck and emotional.. 

      “Looking into blackness,” he said, you “look down and there’s the blue down there and the black up there … there is mother Earth and comfort and there … is there death? This is life and that’s death.”

    While saying, “everyone needs to do this” when he returned to Earth, Shatner also had a message about the planet itself.

     Commenting on how thin the atmosphere appeared to him as he traveled upward he noted the “fragility” of the Earth. “We need to take care of the planet, but it’s so fragile,” he said. “There’s this little tiny blue skin that is 50 miles wide, and we pollute it, and it’s our means of living.”

    Indeed. Well put, captain. The question is whether his host, Bezos, heard the two-part message: As humans seek to further explore space, we must do more to protect the health of the place we call home. Bezos, the worlds wealthiest human, certainly is in a position to do plenty to protect the environment of the planet that provides him with those riches.

     Space travel began in the 20th century and there’s apparently no way of stopping wealthy entrepreneurs from trying to capitalize on it. There were other passengers on Shatner‘s trip, a couple of whom may have paid half a million dollars apiece for the privilege. Perhaps some of that money could be invested in saving the Amazon forest or trying to reduce the pollution from all those Amazon delivery vehicles providing next-day service right here on Earth.  

      That way, we can all live long and prosper.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

In Texas, looking for another ‘perspective’ on the Holocaust

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Identification badge of a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps.

Identification badge of a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps.

   There are not two sides to every story. With some stories, there is simply the truth. Any other “side” is self-serving justification, a lie or misinformed opinion. There’s a lot of the latter going around these days.

     In Texas, an administrator responsible for curriculum and instruction in a local school district recently told teachers who might be instructing students on the Holocaust to “Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

     A new law in the state, she advised the teachers, required them to present “opposing viewpoints“ on “controversial“ subjects.

        In the land of avid anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and supporters of the Big Lie, it shouldn’t be surprising to also find Holocaust deniers. Still.

        …The good news in this story is that residents of the school district packed the next school board meeting to voice their outrage at this advice. There are not two sides to the Holocaust, they told board members. And the school district’s superintendent agreed with them, issuing an apology that said there “are not two sides of the Holocaust.”

       The mayor of the town served by the school district, embarrassed by the national attention it brought his town, also issued a statement, saying, “There simply aren’t opposing viewpoints on the issue of condemning that monstrous evil, and I don’t know anyone who thinks there are.”

        Apparently the administrator who gave the bad advice does know some doubters. A teacher at the seminar on book selection asked, “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” 

         “Believe me,” the curriculum administrator replied, “that’s come up.”

          The administrator did get some support from one person, who pointed out that, as spokesperson for the school district, the administrator was “caught off guard” by the new law. Maybe so, but she’s being paid not to be caught off guard and actually sounded more like someone who was concerned about keeping her job.

      That’s an inevitable consequence of a law driven and written by legislators operating out of fear. There’s also a lot of that going around, too.

        The law was approved by a Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by a Republican governor, in response to a claim that Critical Race Theory was being taught in public schools. It was and is not. No one ever bothered to check where this story originated in the first place.

           Republicans’ problem with Critical Race Theory is that it teaches that there was slavery in America and racism that existed for centuries and kept blacks from being part of the “all men are created equal“ concept in the Declaration of Independence. Republicans want teachers to teach the good stuff about slavery and to present opposing views about racism in America. In Texas, apparently some politicians also don’t mind if schools teach opposing views on genocide.         

     They want to present the other side of the story, but in this one, too, that side doesn’t exist. Only lies and misinformed opinions. Schools are supposed to help students formulate informed opinions on controversial issues based on facts. On truth.

        The Republican Party is all in on the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. That Joe Biden is not a legitimate president. They repeat this story even though most of them know it is a lie. They do this because they are scared to death that Trump will support someone else when they run for election. It is a position of cowardice, greed and ignorance. That is my informed opinion. I also submit that it is the truth based on the facts at hand. There is no other legitimate side to the story.

       I am willing to consider amending my view when local Republican elected officials begin telling the truth about the 2020 election. For the most part, they have chosen to remain silent, apparently in the hope that no one notices that their state and national party leaders have built their future on a lie. It is a political approach based on fear, steeped in racism, bigotry and hypocrisy. It is devoid of any moral standing. Indefensible.

      Many residents of the Texas school district called for the firing of the curriculum administrator. I have another suggestion: require her to enroll in a history course on the Holocaust. Maybe that will convince her that some stories need to be retold just the way they happened, with all the ugly, uncomfortable truths.

     Even in Texas.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

It’s No Time to be Silent, America

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

  By Bob Gaydos

   C56781E2-67D2-4EBC-941D-A0CA7A4C30E9“Stop.”

     That’s it. That’s all he or she said. It was the entire content of a message reacting to a column I wrote on Banned Books Week. In fact, it was the only reaction I got from all of Facebook when I spent a few bucks to spread my words of wisdom on the subject.

     I was surprised and disappointed at the lack of response to a column encouraging, in effect, the freedom to read as we please without interference from some “authority.” I mean, this is the land of liberty, isn’t’t it? But that’s probably a topic for another column. This one’s about that one-word effort to stifle the messenger. It’s about why, disappointing feedback or not, I won’t stop. Indeed, disappointing feedback is a primary motivator to keep spreading the message. There’s simply too much at stake and it worries me that many Americans don’t seem to be aware of the threat.

       As God, the greater consciousness, Buddha and the cashier at Hannaford‘s Supermarket are my witnesses, there are some things, even with eight decades of experience, I just don’t understand.

         Spoiler alert: If you are a MAGA believer, there are likely to be some things in this column that might cause you emotional distress. I’d hate to cause you any discomfort, so you might want to consider not reading beyond here. Otherwise, you were warned. And to those who argue that we must try to reconcile our differences, I’ve pretty much given up trying to reason with true MAGAs. Using research, facts, logic and compassion has proven to be a waste of time. I’m focusing on the other Americans, millions of them, who apparently think we’re just going thriough a tough spell. Hey, football stadiums are full again, aren’t they?

      Sure, and so are hospital emergency rooms. In fact, in some states they are overflowing and people with serious medical issues are having treatment delayed because of the flood of Covid patients. A second flood caused by a refusal by many to get vaccinated or to wear masks. 

       One of the things I don’t understand is people who call themselves healthcare workers refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Thousands resisted mandates to get vaccinated even though the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective.  Only the threat of losing their jobs convinced many to do the responsible thing. 

        Another thing I don’t understand is people who call themselves educators arguing against children and teachers wearing masks in school. Or parents attacking school board members who think teachers should not have to put their lives at risk to do their jobs and students should not become an army of miniature Covid spreaders. Teachers have proven to be adaptable and the kids will only complain about the masks if their parents do. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of educating to do.

    Which is to say, I don’t understand why people who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans, or both, regard education as an evil, as something to be derided, dismissed and avoided at all costs. In the land of opportunity, how does the pathway to greater opportunity become the enemy for so many people?

      I do understand why some who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans or both routinely attack education, spread lies and misinformation and feed on the fears of the uninformed. Power and greed. Thus has it always been.

          Maintaining the support of an uninformed mass of people seems to be the only platform of today’s Rrepublican Party. It operates solely out of fear of losing whatever power it has. It gives lip service to helping those in need, devoting most of its energy and resources to fighting the efforts of those who would truly like to reconcile our differences.

       The truth is, reconciliation is not a Republican priority. They would rather rule. I don’t understand why. I always come back to fear. Which is why I always come back to education. Autocrats depend on keeping the masses ignorant in order to maintain power. So, too, do some religious leaders. Have faith in me, they preach. Give me your money. You will be protected. Do not trust the infidel with the clever words. 

       That approach works for some in politics, too. But democracy cannot survive in that atmosphere. And, in my opinion, our brand of democracy is under attack today. I have never felt this way before. The January 6 insurrection and the continuing lies of Republican leaders that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump are the most glaring evidence of this threat. So long as Trump speaks for most Republicans and so long as most Republicans fear to contradict him, I see no chance of “reconciling our differences.“ 

       That’s why I won’t stop writing about the importance of a Free Press, about the freedom to read what we choose, about the need for truthful history to be taught in all our schools, about respecting science, and about honoring the invitation on our Statue of Liberty, to welcome, not demonize, refugees from other lands.

        I repeat, I speak not to the MAGAs, but to the large number of Americans who, I am certain, share my beliefs. We are the majority. Protect our democracy. Make sure you’re vaccinated. Teach your children the importance of education. Be a voice of tolerance. Vote. Reread “1984.”

         Don’t stop.   

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

A Week to Read Banned Books

Saturday, September 25th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

   It would appear that I’m the kind of guy who, when visiting a book store (remember book stores?), headed straight to the banned book section and got comfortable. (Remember how comfortable.book stores could be?)

     I do not make this confession arbitrarily or boldly, but rather matter-of-factly. Also a bit surprisingly. Until recently, I had no idea that I was such a fan of banned books, Then, Banned Book Week showed up on Facebook and other social media calendars and I started looking at the various lists of books that have been banned or challenged, as the American Library Association puts it.

       Last year I was a few days lacte to mark the annual reminder of the importance of freedom of expression. This year, I’m right on time. September 26 is the start of Banned Books Week. At a time when voices of protest and outrage are being stifled, there’s not a day to waste promoting the free expression of ideas. So here’s my list, in no particular order, of banned books I have read. It’s compiled from a few lists I found on the Internet:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

,       — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        —.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     I’d be interested in hearing what banned books are on your list so I can add to mine. I didn’t get much response to this request last year, but, forever the optimist, I ask again. I know some of you are voracious readers. So please contribute.

     We are living in a time when ignorance runs rampant in much of the country. Indeed, it often seems glorified. Reading, in fact learning of any sort, is under attack by forces — Republicans, Evangelicals if you want to be specific — who seek to maintain power by discrediting education. 

     “East Coast Elites” is supposedly an insult. Higher education, Republicans believe, is a threat to America, a survey tells us. We hear claims of fake news and hoaxes and Fox News is full of outright lies. It’s all nonsense, created and disseminated out of fear. Fear of others, of the unknown, of feeling inferior, of discovering that long-held beliefs were simply not true.

      Education is the answer, but our education system — already challenged with adjusting to distance-learning because of Covid 19  — has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done in recent years. Encouraging reading is a good place to start. Even in Covid America, books are available as never before online. Some free. I read “Slaughterhouse Five” and reread “1984” on Kindle. Seemed appropriate. And there’s plenty of time to read. 

       The American Library Association began Banned Books Week in 1982 in response to increased challenges to books in libraries, schools and other public places. Its stated aim is “to celebrate the freedom to read and to promote silenced voices.”

      Reasons why books have been banned or challenged include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language, Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians. It also sounds a lot like life and one person’s “offensive language“ is another person’s truth.

       The decision on whether any book is appropriate for a child or a teenager theoretically belongs to the parents. I say theoretically because some parents don’t get too involved in such things. My parents were not book readers, although my mother devoured at least four newspapers every day. I don’t remember them expressing an interest one way or another in what I was reading. I guess that’s a decision by default. They trusted me and my teachers. I think it eventually worked out fine for me.

       Other parents, however, are extremely interested in what their children are consuming. That can be a good thing, I think, if it allows for a variety of viewpoints and room to explore. By the way, Captain Underpants is on my list because I have two sons, now grown. I also think a couple of my books were high school reading assignments for one of my sons. Kudos to the teacher.

        Anyway, in a country in which clearly anyone can grow up to be president, I think it would be a good thing if he or she had actually read a book or two, including some that challenged his or her beliefs. But maybe that’s just the Orwell, Vonnegut and Salenger in me.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

(This is a slightly modified version of a column from last year.)

 

GOP: A Party of Distraction, not Action

Friday, September 17th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

64B6273B-ABBF-4252-AB3C-3D7FC5AA28C7    And now it’s abortion. Again.

    The Republican Party, as predictable as ever, has reached deep into its bag of political strategems and come up with its old standby. When nothing else works, ban abortion.

     Also predictably, the media, especially TV,  swarmed all over this story as if it has never happened before. TV commentators (I cannot call them newscasters) breathlessly rushed to say everything they always say when Republicans do this, acting as if it is the only important story in America today. Social media, of course, greatly amplified the reaction.

      It’s a distraction. Precisely what Republicans want.

      It’s a proven way to take people’s minds off the failures of the GOP. It’s a proven way to rile up the voter base growing weary of Covid and wondering whether or not that presidential election really was stolen. It’s yet another way to pit Americans against each other, even though Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue as far as the majority of Americans are concerned

    A majority of Americans are pro-choice. Republicans are pro-choice when it affects them personally. End of story.

..    i’m not saying that the right of a woman to control her own body and to choose abortion if necessary is not important. The Supreme Court has already decided it is. So yes, it is disappointing that the current court chose not to consider a challenge to the outrageous Texas law effectively banning abortion. But the law will of course be challenged in court by all the groups that usually challenge such misbegotten legislation. And the Justice Department, free of the shackles of the Trump administration, not surprisingly said it will challenge the legality of the Texas law.

      But meanwhile, let us not forget a budget bill, an infrastructure bill, a voting rights bill, all proposed by Democrats and waiting for congressional approval. Again, the majority of Americans approve of the proposals of the Biden administration, all of which have been opposed by Republicans. Opposing Democratic initiatives is the entire GOP playbook.

      Let’s also not forget the ongoing Covid pandemic, exacerbated and extended in this country by the politically motivated statements and actions of Republican governors, especially those from Texas and Florida. Republicans would rather have Americans argue over abortion than notice people dying in overwhelmed hospitals in Texas and Florida … and Mississippi and Louisiana.

      Of course, there was also Afghanistan. Republicans tried to paint President Biden‘s removal of troops and evacuation of Americans and allies from that country as a total failure. It was not. Again, most Americans are glad to be out of Afghanistan and recognize the fact that the Trump administration created the situation in that country which guaranteed a messy withdrawal. Biden did not apologize for his decision, nor, by the way, did he send out a Twitter storm blaming his generals for the poor advice they gave him on the evacuation.

   With even some establishment Republicans declaring that the 2020 election was fair, not stolen, party leaders have tossed out such distractions as “woke,” cancel culture and critical race theory. Remember them? They all got traction for a brief while in the media until people realized there were more legitimate issues, more important things going on in this country, none of them being addressed by Republicans.

     The most important of those is the congressional hearing into the insurrection of January 6. Republicans in Congress have disgraced themselves trying to convince Americans that nothing serious really happened. Or if it did, Trump was not involved. Or if he was, they personally were not involved.

     This is the important story in America today. The very foundation of this nation is at stake. TV commentators talking about abortion need to ratchet down the emotion a bit, stick to the facts and history of the issue and remember all the challenges this president faced when he took office. He is tackling those challenges methodically and with a calm sense of purpose. I might suggest a couple of other things that ought to be done:

  1. Those three pieces of legislation need to be passed by Congress. Also kill the filibuster. Biden needs to call West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, supposedly a Democrat, into the Oval Office for a serious man-to-man, president-to-senator, Democrat-to-Democrat taking. Something reminiscent of LBJ.
  1. That special commission the president appointed to consider any changes that might be necessary to the Supreme Court needs to be told to wrap up its work quickly with a recommendation to expand the court from 9 to 13 justices. Now. Enough playing nice. And yes, it’s something Republicans would actually do.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

If the Earth is not Flat … Then Who am I?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

 

By Bob Gaydos

A version of what some flat earthers believe our plan it looks like.

A version of what some flat earthers believe our planet looks like.

 The Earth is not flat.

  UFOs do exist.

      In this debate about the nature of the universe, I am definitely taking sides.

     A bit of explanation: Firmly ensconced in the second year of Covid-inspired couch-surfing, we stumbled across a documentary called “Beyond the Curve.” I can’t shake the topic — flat earthers. Even in this era of anti-science, conspiracy-obsessed politics, this one baffled me. Still does.

     The movie focuses on three main characters, none of whose names I will use here so as not to give them any more notoriety than they already have. The main character is the apparent flat earth guru, A middle-aged guy with a YouTube show, who, for reasons that still escape me, decided at some point in his life that the Earth is not round. This, even though he can’t prove it. And even though fLat earthers’ own experiments in the film indicate otherwise.

        He believes the Earth is a flat disc surrounded by a wall of ice and covered by a gigantic dome on which someone (the government) projects images of the sun and the moon, which move continually across the fake sky.

         There’s also another, angrier wanna-be guru, who resents the main character’s influence among the believers, and a woman who has become a YouTube star among flat earthers with her “reporting“ on the issue. The group has annual international conferences.

          It’s difficult for me to be as respectful of the believers as the film is because no one in the film ever explains why he or she believes the Earth is flat. Nor does anyone disprove the existing science that proves otherwise. And, as I’ve said, the believers’ own experiments disprove their belief. So something else is at work here.

           Before I speculate on that, let me address that debate I introduced at the top. Obviously, UFOs exist because there have been countless sightings of unidentified flying objects by all sorts of people, Including Navy pilots. It doesn’t mean these are necessarily spaceships from somewhere else in the solar system, piloted by aliens, but I believe the odds are much greater of this possibility than that we are living under a gigantic dome. I paid attention in science class.

             (In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that I live in an area that has been described as the UFO capital of the Northeast. I myself have never seen a UFO, but the hamlet of Pine Bush has a UFO festival every summer, including a parade down Main Street. There’s even a museum. And yes, there have been numerous reported sightings in the area.)

             I guess I’m with Enrico Fermi on this. His paradox wonders why, given the preponderance of information that suggests a seemingly limitless universe, filled with countless planetary bodies, no one has apparently yet decided to pay us a visit. Maybe we haven’t noticed or maybe they can’t get through the dome. 

               Which brings me back to the Earth is not flat. To me, saying the Earth is flat without providing any evidence and indeed, in the face of evidence to the contrary, is akin to saying a presidential election was rigged without providing any evidence and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s akin to saying vaccines don’t protect people from viruses and face masks don’t help stop the spread of viruses based solely on a “belief“ and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s akin to saying there was no violent effort to prevent certification of a presidential election at the United States Capital on January 6 when I saw the insurrection with my own eyes on TV, along with millions of other people.

               Some people, for whatever reason, are easily swayed. They will accept even the illogical because they can feel part of something. It provides an identity. Some people, for purely selfish reasons, gain their identity by swaying people to accept even the irrational. If people stop believing what they say, they lose their identity.

             So, if I am not a man cheated out of the presidency, as I claim, then who am I? Or if the Earth is not flat, as I say, then who am I?

           The answer in the first case is simple: You’re a loser.

            In the second case, it’s more complicated. Maybe you’re someone who needed to pay more attention in science class. Maybe you’re someone who never learned it’s OK to say you were wrong. Maybe you’re someone who needs to find a more productive way to gain people‘s approval. Maybe you’re someone who needs to keep walking in the same direction until you either bump into a glass wall or fall off the edge. 

           Or maybe you’re someone who needs to visit Pine Bush next summer when, hopefully, the UFO parade will be held again. Maybe you’re someone who needs to turn your gaze from down to Earth to up, up and beyond. These are true believers, too, but, unlike yours,  their belief has some legitimate science behind it. 

           I understand they’re always looking for new converts. You’d be quite a challenge, but  think of the new identity: The man who stepped back from the edge to play among the stars. Has a nice ring to it. Probably play well on YouTube, too. Just remember your new slogan. The Earth is not flat.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Who in the World is Kathy Hochul?

Friday, August 27th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Kathy Hochul is sworn as New York’s 57th governor.

Kathy Hochul is sworn as New York’s 57th governor.

      Move over FDR and Teddy R. Step aside, Mr. Harriman, Mr. Rockefeller. Make way for history, John Jay, Martin Van Buren and Grover Cleveland. In fact, Al Smith, Ham Fish, George Pataki et al, how about a round of applause? This week, August 24 to be precise, New York State got its first woman governor.

      It only took 231 years. Thirty states managed to accomplish this feat before New York. The new governor of New York is Kathy Hochul. Until recently, most New Yorkers had never heard of her. That’s true of most lieutenant governors, but most lieutenant governors don’t get to become governor when the actual governor resigns. That’s how Hochul got the job. No matter. Her moment in history deserves more recognition than it has received. 

        Let’s start with the irony of the situation. Andrew Cuomo, whom Hochul replaced as governor, chose her as his running mate in 2014 because she was from upstate and because he thought a woman on the ticket would bring him more votes. He used her for political reasons. Cuomo was forced to resign, of course, because nearly a dozen women accused him of using them to address his sexual needs. He denied the charges, but bowed to overwhelming pressure from fellow Democrats to resign.

           Perhaps the most damaging response to the allegations came from the state attorney general, Letitia James, whose investigation produced a report that described a “hostile work environment” created by Cuomo’s actions. James, also a Democrat, through her involvement in investigating Donald Trump’s taxes, has become one of the best-known, politically influential women in a state that for a long time did not encourage such ambition.

         In fact, the state did not have a female senator until 2002, when Hillary Clinton, a transplant from Washington,  D.C,, won election. She was succeeded by Kirsten Gillebrand when Barack Obama tapped Clinton to be his Secretary of State. Gillebrand is still in the Senate, but is not necessarily influential in New York politics. Nor has any of the several congresswomen elected over the years from the New York metropolitan area been especially influential in state politics.

          State government has been a boys club for a long time in New York. Hochul says she’s ready to integrate that club by running for election, and winning, on her own next year. She will undoubtedly face a tough primary challenge, but first she has the challenge of the ongoing Covid pandemic to deal with as well as that lingering hostile environment around the governor’s office. Can she do it? She said she intends to do both in her swearing-in remarks.

        How well she handles those challenges may hold the answer to another question: Can a one-term congresswoman and former county clerk, who spent most of her time in Albany as a goodwill ambassador to the state’s 62 counties, convince New Yorkers that she can run their government?

          By the way, Hochul is not the only New York lieutenant governor to make history in stepping up to the governorship. Basil Paterson became the first African-American To be governor of New York and first legally blind person to be governor of any state. He succeeded Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after news reports said that he had patronized a prostitution ring run by an escort service in Washington, D.C. The FBI had a tap on the premises. 

        Paterson did not seek election to the governorship in 2011, giving way to Andrew Cuomo. (It really is all connected.) But Paterson did appoint Gillibrand to Clinton’s vacant Senate seat. He also became the focus of a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live. 

       Back to Hochul. Hillary Clinton still lives in New York and if there’s anything she loves to do, it’s breaking up good old boys clubs. Stay tuned.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com