September 2007

Where’s the Outrage?

Interesting, is it not, all the folderol over the ad in the New York Times concerning the integrity of General Petraus. You’ll recall he recently testified before Congress on the Bush war surge.  Petraus said, “Surge On!”

Was it a wise move (running the ad)?  Not particularly.  Did it warrant the moral indignation of our Righteous Right? You bet it did!  It was red, raw meat for those folks.  How dare the left question the honor and integrity of an American serviceman?  That’s almost as heinous a crime as believing American women have a right to their own bodies (reproductive choice).  How dare they!?!    Hrumpf, hrumpf!

Is it possible that General Petraus is little more than another acquiescent Colin Powell?  You remember him, don’t-cha?  He once was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  That’s military service, isn’t it?  Oh, and he was George Bush’s United Nations Ambassador.  He made a report, too.  He got up with charts and a nifty PowerPoint at the UN and willingly played the administration stooge by hawking (shilling) Bush’s cooked-up Iraq intelligence.  He made the case to the world for America’s pre-emptive war.  He later apologized.   He is sooo very sorrrrry now.

Hmmm?  General Powell.  Military man.  Bush administration policy spokesman?  Hmmm?  General Petraus.  Military man. Bush administrative policy spokesman.  Hmmm?

The well-documented Bush record of deceit and misdirection concerning Iraq has, yet, another, new general with multiple stars and clusters carrying the rank water of the President’s war fiasco.  Is it any wonder Americans question the veracity of this administration?

Helen Thomas, the First lady of the White House Press Corps, asked Orlando last Friday night (September 21st), “Why aren’t we outraged over the Iraqi war?”

She spoke at an Orange County Library function sponsored by Bright House Networks.   Nearly 250 folks listened to Thomas eviscerate George Bush as perhaps the worst President in modern American history.  For all the reasons we all know, Thomas wondered  aloud why is it Americans aren’t taking it to the streets in outrage?

That drew a hearty round of applause from the audience. Actually, Thomas was so caustic in her criticism of Bush that I was sure someone would get up and walk out.  Leave.  No one did.  She left no stone unturned concerning Bush malfeasance, incompetence, cronyism and corruption.  I loved it.  And there are so, so many stones to overturn.  With so many roaches scurrying from the light.

No doubt Thomas will be swift-boated by the Righteous Right. Perhaps they will suggest she hasn’t personally known all the presidents to suggest that Bush is, indeed, the worst. What temerity!?!  Yes, Helen Thomas doesn’t have enough experience, enough knowledge of the presidency to make such an assertion.  Okay, Okay.  How about the worst president (for America) in the 20th century?

Outrage? Ho-hum. War? Sacrifice?  I’m reminded of the sacrifice of that great Liberal Massachutan and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Five, count’um, five Romney boys of military service age and not one of them enlisted to serve in Iraq.  Not one.  The worst threat to America since Hitler, that’s what Mitt Romney says, yet not one of his sons serves?  How can this be?

“Oh,” Mitt Romney says, “They’re helping America by helping me get elected.”  Real Republican service, don’t-cha-see!

Now that’s a sacrifice I understand.

Shocked!  I’m shocked!  So was Congress!! They passed a bill censoring for placing the Petraus’ advertisement.  It passed with 77 senators approving. What courage, what backbone these senators displayed!!   Shocked!

I am so shocked by anyone questioning the integrity of Petraus that I just know the Senate will now want to pass equivalent motions censuring those responsible for the vicious swift-boating of ex-Georgia Senator (and serviceman) Max Cleland and Senator (and serviceman) John Kerry.  Decorated servicemen both.  Both trashed and defamed.  Where’s the moral outrage from the Righteous Right?

General Petraus was asked by Virginia Senator John Warner (Republican) if America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq had made America safer?

The General could not (would not) answer that it had.  Made America safer.

What then are we doing in Iraq?  Now?

Where’s the outrage?

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


“Buh, Buh, Buh Bad to the Bone!”

And in today already walks tomorrow.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I have often thought that the biggest gift one generation can bequeath to the next is a release from shopworn ideas and dogma. At a personal level, release from bad behaviors generationally inflicted.

The best personal example I can think of is actually a family experience.  My grandfather was an unrivalled martinet.  He ruled his sons (my father among them) with a sternness that was borderline (if not) abuse.  My father learned that “method” of child rearing and when his first son came along, he took up where his father left off.  “Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined,” said Pope.   Yet, my father had an epiphany (early on), mercifully changing his ways.

My brother likes to laughingly remember, “My sister Susan being born saved my life!  Father’s attention was diverted from only me to others.”  But my father had also determined, on his own, that “fear and disapproval” are the poorest of motivators for children.

Decades later my father teared-up describing himself.  Brute was a describing word.  My father had learned and emulated “brutish” behavior.  He was ashamed. It still troubled him.  My admiration for my father increased that day. Actually, it was the self-reflective quality, of a life continually examined that ultimately nuanced my assessment of him. We frequently assess (ask) who exactly were our parents, what were their motivations and inspirations?  Their fears?   At least, I do.

My point is, we pass on behaviors learned from previous generations and at some point, some things must cease.

When my sons were still living at home, absolutely every time they walked out the front door for school, I unfailingly said, “Be a gentle man, emphasis on gentle.” Son Alex easily and playfully regurgitates my mantra. We laugh.

We should let go of the craziness of our parents.  Of previous generations.  Yet, there is much to learn, too.

I just finished an interesting new book titled, Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Allan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa.  The authors are two evolutionary psychologists who explain why we do what we do.  It is an intriguing look at human nature.  If you subscribe to Darwinian evolution (which I unequivocally do), this book is right up your alley.

The authors cite the research of Joseph M. Whitmeyer.  He argues that humans are born racist and ethnocentric.  Arguing from the conventional psychological model: humans are born a “blank” slate and have to be acculturated  into becoming racist, typically from their parents.  In other words, our parents teach us to be racist.

Whitmire says, “NO.” We’re born innately suspicious of the different, that racism is our genetic default setting (my words) and that it is incumbent upon society and our parents to educate us otherwise.

I would like to embrace the “blank” slate perspective, that indeed, we are a bit like “Snow White” awakening to our world as uncorrupted, innocent fawns.  Innocent in the sense that the Orval Faubus’s of the world are more the human exception than the human rule.  If you catch my drift?

But I can’t.  Arguably, being racist has got my genes where they are today.  All of ours.  Black, white and brown.  But that is grist for another essay.

I was with my grandson Saturday and as we drove to get a hamburger, George Thoroughgood’s, “Bad to the Bone” came on the radio.  Neil is four and is into Rock “N” Roll.  He immediately loved the opening riff. As do I!  I turned it up and belted out the lyrics.  “Buh, buh, buh, bad to the bone!”   The boy can rock.

Once home, I cranked-up the home stereo and we danced around the kitchen singing, “Buh, buh, buh, bad to the bone.”  I had to articulate the words for him.  He got’um.   I said, “Tell your mom, ‘Buh, buh, buh bad to the bone!’”  Thanks, Gramps!  Ha!

Irony.  You just gotta love irony. It turns out so much of what we are has to be unlearned.  What got us here (genetically speaking) may not be “as good, so good” for moving us into the future.

Racism.  Employing either psychological system, we have to learn that racism is not the answer.  That education is the answer.  That tolerance for the different is a learned behavior and, as such, it behooves society to, yes, teach tolerance.

Just as my father had to learn to be a better sort of man, all of us need to learn (literally) to be better people.

Because as we all know, we be: “Buh, buh, buh, bad to the bone.”

We be angels, too!  Some of us.  Ha!

That’s what makes our story.   Sooooooo interesting.  Too.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


Naming Opportunity

"Occasions are rare; and those who know how to seize upon them are rarer."
 –Josh Billings

The City of Winter Park, Florida has a once in a lifetime opportunity. Actually, it is much rarer than that.   And, best of all, the outcome does not depend on luck.  It depends on a citizenry willing to invest in its future.

One of my favorite, all-time quotes deals with what “our” generation will do for future generations.  It goes something like this:  we must all plant trees under which the shade we will never sit.  It captures a sentiment of what we owe to those who come after us.  I believe we owe the future our best efforts, our best thinking, our best civic-mindedness.

To that end, I applaud and endorse the efforts to acquire the land where the Winter Park Post Office now operates (along New York Street) and to transform that property into a fine urban park. An extension, a continuation, an expansion of the existing Park that parallels Park Avenue.  It is an opportunity that if not seized will, in all probability, never again present itself.

Most of us are well aware of the history associated with this effort.  How the land was originally to be developed into condominiums.  How that effort was nixed and where we find ourselves today.  Were decisions made that wouldn’t be made today?  Obviously.   Does Winter Park find itself paying a developer to not develop?  Yes. Is that offensive to some?  Yes.  Understandably so.

But, we shouldn’t take our eye off the jewel.  We shouldn’t be so fixated on the “injustice” of it all that our outrage and/or disgust prevents the City from acquiring this property for all of Winter Park, for all of time.

All things considered, is this the best of economic times to be undertaking a major urban parkland purchase?  No. Is there uncertainty as to what the state legislature will do regarding municipal tax rates and bonding protocols?  Yes.  Will this land in all probability ever again be available for public acquisition?  No.  Should, must Winter Park act now.  Unequivocally, yes!

When I first started reading and hearing about this opportunity, I thought, how wonderful!  As the process became public, rancorous and politicized, I continued to think how wonderful this is for Winter Park.  For, after all, even people deeply offended by all that has “transpired” are intelligent and perspicacious enough to recognize the rarity of this opportunity.  Winter Park can acquire a jewel for all of time.

Good folks have started a campaign to raise donations to acquire and develop this property into a park.  They are to be genuinely applauded.   Numbers are bandied about concerning what it will take to compensate the developer, construct the new post office facility and develop the parkland and related parking.  It might take $15 million, maybe more, to accomplish.

This is no small figure.  But in light of what is at stake, it is, indeed, a small figure.  A park addition of this magnitude was unthinkable just a short time ago.  Winter Park must secure this moment.  I know of people, Winter Park residents with assets and resources, capable of funding the whole project.  Every aspect.  $10 million to them is walk around money.  How wonderful if one or two or three such individuals stepped forward and said, “Count me in!  Let’s make it happen!”

Let there be a naming opportunity. Naming opportunities.  Let there be a statue commissioned honoring someone’s mother or father or spouse.  Let us memorialize, let us remember forever who stepped forward and made our Winter Park better.  I can see several such possible family names on this park addition.

And whatever cannot be secured through donations, let the citizenry display their intelligence, foresight and commitment to future generations through bond approvals.

We have, indeed, a rare occasion.  The time to seize it is now.  And best of all, there just might be park trees under which we may all sit. Today, tomorrow and forever.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


Tap, Tap, Tapping.

Once upon a plane-trip dreary, while I traveled, weak and weary, suddenly I started tapping, an old goat gently rapping, rapping on the bathroom floor.

“Tis some visitor,” he did mutter, “Tapping on the bathroom floor"—and then, alas he did utter, ‘You, kind sir, are busted,  evermore.”

I couldn’t resist.  Tip of the hat to Poe!  When I heard of the circumstances of Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, I quickly thought of Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Raven.”  It has those rhythmic lines of tapping and rapping at the chamber door.  So applicable for Senator Craig.

Who knew!?  Who knew there were protocols for men having sex in public restrooms?  Actually, it makes sense.  The absolute last thing an old “wanker” like Craig wants is to have an incident.  I totally get this.

Senator Craig knew the signals and I agree with his characterization of being entrapped. Is it wrong for men to use public restrooms for sex?  Yes. Unequivocally so.  But Senator Craig was practicing “safe” sex by executing the signals.  If he had bumped, say, into my foot, I would have pulled it back, recoiling at such an egregious breach of men’s room etiquette.  But the cop gave the unspoken go-ahead signals, and the rest is, as “they” say, history.

“I am not gay!”  Are there any worse disclaimers one can publicly proclaim than, “I am not gay?”  Seriously. In America, we are so fixated on sexuality and what passes for, shall we mischievously suggest, “Good sex,” that labeling some one as gay is, well, tantamount to branding with the scarlet letter and damning them to perdition.

I’m of mixed opinion on whether or not Senator Craig should have resigned.  He pled guilty to a misdemeanor.  So?  I feel for the guy actually.  His world has unequivocally turned upside down.

He’s lived a lie his entire life.  He’s married, has children, yet, desires men.  What’s a guy to do?  What’s a senator to do?  What’s a conservative Republican to do?

Protest!  Protest!  Protest!

Ha!  You, “doth protest too much, methinks.”  You know there might be something to that.   Notice how conservative Republican men, or, at least an identifiable number of them just gotta hammer gay people.  Gotta rake’um over the coals.  Diminish them.  Call into question their humanity.  Denounce their morality. Discriminate against them. Segregate them.  Limit their options.   Protest! Protest!  Protest!    Hmmm, methinks . . .

All in God’s name, too!  And, then—SHA-ZAM!—they out themselves. Liberals are left laughing and conservatives perplexed.

Here’s a helpful new way of thinking about gays.  This is for my Conservative friends, who base their beliefs on Scripture but have not yet reconciled the many Textual inconsistencies.

Okay.  If, in a statistically representative population, “X” percent of the population is gay, how do you then describe that “X” percent?   Working off the premise, of course, that “for the good of all” is a major consideration.

I argue homosexuality is a statistical exception from a numerical norm but that does not imply abnormality.  Far from it.

I do not know of one family that does not have any number of gay relatives.  They’re everywhere.  They’re just as petty, insecure, fun and spirited as the rest of us.  They lie, cheat, steal, create, bond and nurture like the rest of us, too. They are us.  They are Winter Parkians.  Floridians.  And Americans!

In other words:  Fer Gawd’s sake, can we grow-up already!  Let’s not have anymore Larry Craig’s (Bob Allen’s. Ted Haggard’s.  Mark Foley’s)!  Anymore men living the lie and life of a closeted homosexual.  Such that at the apogee of their careers, they’re reduced to ruin by cops in the game of, “Got-cha!”

I know hypocrisy is a big theme here. “Hypocrisy-prejudice with a halo,” said  Ambrose Bierce.  Ha! I originally wanted to skewer, filet, by renaming the GOP! From RR—Reagan Republicans, to RR—Repressed Republicans.  Ha! Love it.  Protest!  Protest! Protest!

But, that is too easy.  What?  Like shooting apples in a barrel easy.

No, there is far bigger hypocrisy afoot than yet another little, tawdry, Republican “poof” scandal.  Ho-hum.

Let’s recall Benjamin Disraeli’s observation, “A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.”

We’ve an administration that in the name of American “values” attacked and occupied another nation (not a threat to America), resulting in nearly 4,000 American dead (tens of thousands horribly wounded), all with a projected financial cost (burden) of two trillion dollars.  The Bush Administration did so employing deceit and misdirection.

And, there is no end in sight to the war.  And, America is less safe.

And that is just the tragedy and hypocrisy within the Bush government’s Iraq policy.

To my perplexed conservatives, focus your considerable attention on “your” government (and party). They have little connection with the values you (and I) most cherish:  Freedom and Peace.

Quoth the Jepson, “Evermore.”

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US