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A Watershed Moment: Jackie Robinson and Civil Rights in America

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“He led America by example. He reminded our people of what was right and he reminded them of what was wrong. I think it can be safely said today that Jackie Robinson made the United States a better nation.” – American League President Gene Budig

April 15th 2014 was the 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game in the Major Leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Jim Crow was very alive and well when Jackie stepped onto the field that day and no matter how much we want to distance ourselves from those days there are still some in this country who want to go back to that kind of society. Robinson’s first game with the Dodgers came a full year before President Truman integrated the military, a move which infuriated many in the South.  Likewise it occurred a full seven years before the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional in the Brown vs Board of Education decision.  It came a full 17 years before Congress passed the Voters Rights.

When Jackie Robinson stepped onto the field it was a watershed moment in Civil Rights for African Americans and paved the way for a change in American society that has continued since his Major League debut. Blacks had struggled for years against Jim Crow laws, discrimination in voting rights and even simple human decencies like where they could use a rest room, sit on a bus or what hotel they could stay in.

In baseball many white fans were upset that blacks were allowed to see Robinson in stadiums that they would not have been allowed in before.  Players from other teams heckled Robinson, he received hate mail, people sent made death threats, he was spiked and spit on.  But Jackie Robinson kept his pledge to Dodgers owner Branch Rickey not to lash out at his tormentors, as Rickey told him that he needed a man “with enough guts not to strike back.”

Jackie Robinson played the game with passion and even anger.  He took the advice of Hank Greenberg who as a Jew suffered continual racial epithets throughout his career “the best ways to combat slurs from the opposing dugout is to beat them on the field.” He would be honored as Rookie of the Year in 1947. He was a MVP and played in six World Series and six All Star Games.  He had a career .311 batting average, .409 on base percentage and .474 Slugging percentage. He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962.

Today Jackie Robinson’s feat is history, but it should not be forgotten.  He was a pioneer who made it possible for others to move forward.  He would be followed by players like Roy Campinella, Satchel Paige, Don Larson, Larry Dobie and   Willie Mays.  His breakthrough had an effect not just on baseball but on society.

Jackie Robinson would have an effect on my life.  In 1975 the Stockton Unified School District voted to desegregate.  I was in the 9th grade and preparing for high school.  As the school board wrestled with the decision anger boiled throughout the town, especially in the more affluent areas.  Vicious letters were sent to the school board and to the Stockton Record by parents as well as other opponents of the move.  Threats of violence and predictions failure were commonplace.  In the summer of 1975 those who went out for the football team, both the sophomore and varsity squads began to practice.  Black, White, Mexican and Asian, we bonded as a team, the Edison Vikings.  By the time the first buses pulled up to the bus stops throughout town on the first day of school, the sense of foreboding ended.  Students of all races discovered common interests and goals.  New friends became guests in each others homes, and all of us became “Soul Vikes.”

30 years later the Class of 1978, the first class to be desegregated from start to finish graduated from Edison held a reunion.  Our class always had a special feel about it.  Looking back we too were pioneers, like Jackie Robinson we were far ahead of our time.  When I look at my friends on Facebook from Edison I see the same faces that I played ball, rode the bus and went to class with.   Things have changed.  Even 30 years ago none of us imagined a African American President, we believed in each other and we saw potential, but I don’t think that anyone believed that we would see this in our day.

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I think that Jackie Robinson prepared the way for other pioneers of Civil Rights including Dr. Martin Luther King.  Today, 67 years later Jackie Robinson looms large not only in baseball, but for the impact of his life and actions on America.

His number “42” is now retired from baseball. The last player to wear it was Mariano Rivera of the Yankees. Rivera had been granted an exemption to wear it until he retired. At least the last Major League ball player to honor the number was a class act who will certainly be in the Hall of Fame.

Robinson said something that still resonates with me: “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” It is something that I take into account every day of my life.

So here’s to you Jackie Robinson.  Thank you and God bless.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, civil rights, History

A “Soul Vike” Reunion a Ball Game and a Blow Up

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I have been on the road this week for my High School Class 35th anniversary reunion. It was a special time with old friends and quite enjoyable. I am going to keep this a rather short post tonight because I have an ungodly early flight in the morning heading back to the East Coast. 408699_2575280304915_863482896_n

It is really cool because our class, the Edison High School Class of 1978 was amazing. I have written about that experience and how special our class was in a number of articles on this site, mostly ones dealing with civil rights and how we were way ahead of our time. I compare notes with other people a lot and I do not know anyone from any other school or graduating class whose fellow classmates have the long term camaraderie, love and respect that we have for each other that we do. Back then and even today we are the Edison High School Vikings, or more affectionately and appropriately known as the Soul Vikes.

We represent every ethnic, racial, religious, political , economic, cultural background and even sexual orientation of our very diverse home town of Stockton California. The cool thing is that no matter how different we are in some ways we are very much bonded together by our shared experiences at Edison. We were the first graduating class of that school to go through bussing, something that many predicted would lead to race riots. But our class not only made it work we set an example and it is always amazing to me when I see so many communities struggling with racial tensions and prejudice to look back so fondly at what the group of 10th graders who came together in the Fall of 1975 and graduated in the summer of 1978 did then and do today. Many of us stay in contact on social media and those still in the local area of Stockton California stay in touch, but every 5 years we get together. I have made all but one of our reunions.

It is cool because when I get together with these friends and classmates we share the stories, the good times and the bad, the funny and the sad, the touching and the less than touching bringing laughs and sometimes tears as we remember friends who have passed away. It is funny because when you get to be over 50 and you realize that by the time the next reunion rolls around everyone will have their AARP cards that what really matters in life is the people that we care about and the relationships. Ultimately it is not about what we have done or accomplished, how rich or successful we are but what we leave behind.

Sometimes what we leave behind is good and sometimes not so good. In a way I guess it is all because we are human and sometimes we do things right and sometimes we don’t. But in the end hopefully the good outweighs the bad, or should that be the other way around? Do we really want to weigh that much? Never mind I digress…

Like I said the reunion was great and a lot of fun. I hope that we are able to track down some more of our classmates and bring back some of our guys who have done the “D-Day” or Daniel Simpson O’Day routine out of Animal House and drove off never to be seen again. Again I digress…

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We had a couple of great nights of fun and fellowship and I hope that we do it again sooner rather than later.

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We took some time to remember and honor or friends who have passed away, all far too young. Some to natural causes like cancer and others in tragic accidents, victims of crime or those for whom the struggles of life and its demons were too much. As I looked at the pictures and read the names felt tears. Some I knew the stories of what had happened while others came as a complete surprise.

I guess that it is why it is important to stay in contact. Because it ultimately is about us and our relationships.

That being said the trip was also nice because I was able to see my family and despite the obligatory blow up that happened between me and my mother, who I do love despite our differences. This time, maybe unknowingly she got me and I went nuclear in a restaurant and left. Not good form on my part but ever since Iraq I have a lot shorter fuze than I used to on some things. Since I write about those subjects a decent amout I won’t go into them here. Not an excuse but the truth. We are a lot like George Costanza and his mom from Seinfeld. SERENITY NOW!

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I was able to see my brother a number of times and see his wife and their kids who have all grown so much since the last time I saw them in 2010. I do want to make sure that we see each other more often. Thankfully I won’t be doing the geographic bachelor thing anymore and may be able to go with Judy out to California more often as life settles down. Maybe we’ll take her Mustang rather than flying and see some other friends across this land and other sites as well.

I ended the trip with a visit to see the Oakland Athletics play the Tampa Bay Rays at the Oakland Coliseum. It was really nice. The stadium itself is pretty crummy, but the people are great, very friendly and it is a nice atmosphere to see a game, not to mention a lot more affordable than many other Major League ballparks. After the game I went to my hotel where my nephew Joe met me for dinner. It was good to see just how well that he is doing.

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I fly out early tomorrow and since I have to get up way early i’m going to say goodnight.

Peace and blessings

Padre Steve+

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Soul Vikes: Fun Funk and Soul from my High School Years

 

I have done a number of articles on music that I like from the 1970s and 1980s. As I have written before it seems that most of us have some kind of attraction to the songs that we grew up with, especially those that we listened to in high school.

I started high school in 1975. It was an interesting time. Our city Stockton California desegregated its schools then and kids like me from the North Side of the city were bussed to Edison High School deep on the South Side. The city had grown in the 1960s with the area north of the Calaveras River becoming the more economically well off suburbs. It was predominantly white with a smattering of Asians, Mexican Americans and a some more well off black families.  The South Side had suffered during the period as the population and business moved north leaving the South Side and Downtown to struggle.  The South Side was predominantly African American, Mexican American and Asian.  The make up of the high schools reflected the racial and economic divide.

One of the things that many of us that experienced the bussing was a new collection of friends. We all brought different perspectives, life experiences and likes in music and entertainment. One of the things that I remember fondly was the exposure that I got to music that was not what I grew up with. I grew up with Rock, Pop and Country music with some Soul thrown in, but nothing like what I experienced when I got to Edison. The exposure to Soul, Funk, Blues and later Disco was something that I still relish and when I hear those songs I enjoy them. I was at our formal Dining Out for our Naval Hospital earlier in the year and found myself dancing to some of these songs with other officers my age. I hadn’t done that in a long time and though I am no dancer it was fun just to get out and get my groove back.

I have put some links to some of those songs from that time below. The list is certainly not inclusive and is just a sampling of the rich variety of music of the era. Likewise when you see the live performances of these songs from shows like The Midnight Special, Soul Train or Don Kirchner’s Rock Concert you find that the musicians and performers of that era were very talented and did not have to depend on high definition, digital and computer technology to be good. It was well performed, choreographed and sung music. It was also fun. For those that grew up with this music enjoy the trip back. For those that have not experienced this welcome. I think that you will enjoy it, so get down and play that funky music.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Wild Cherry: Play that Funky Music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIXXGAPpQOM&feature=related

K.C. and the Sunshine Band: Get Down Tonight  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoI7vK4uvY&feature=related

Hot Chocolate: You Sexy Thing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoI7vK4uvY&feature=related

Ohio Players: Love Roller Coaster http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoI7vK4uvY&feature=related

Ohio Players: Fire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y47G-Wa4qfs&feature=related

The Spinners: Rubber Band Man http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKbADFJOCkU&feature=related

The Temptations: Papa Was a Rolling Stone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKbADFJOCkU&feature=related

The Trammps: Disco Inferno http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y47G-Wa4qfs&feature=related

Kiki Dee: I Got the Music In Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLQRW7J_D0U&feature=related

Blue Swede: Hooked on a Feeling (The Ooka Chaka Song) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3JHi4f3CUI

Barry White: You Are My First My Last, My Everything http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcd3XuQwDQQ

Commodores: Brick House http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf0LwyxcQAE

Commodores: Once Twice Three Times a Lady http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf0LwyxcQAE

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No Time to Be Bitter: Padre Steve takes a Lesson from Buck O’Neil

Where does bitterness take you?

To a broken heart?

To an early grave?

When I die

I want to die from natural causes

Not from hate

Eating me up from the inside

Buck O’Neil

 

I was browsing the internet the other day searching for information on  the life of a person that I am interested in and came across a number of internet sites which indirectly referenced the man but were filled with more bitterness, anger and hatred than I could ever imagine being harbored in the heart of a single person.  They came from the far right and far left but the far right crowd seemed more angry bitter and then I had remembered them being, admittedly this website was extreme even by the standards of Der Stürmer  especially in the overtly racist overtones of the site and that the woman that runs it claims to be Jewish and “mad.” I presume that the site owner was referring to mental illness because only a deranged person could be so bitter, hateful and vengeful and all in the name of righteousness.   I was amazed just how far this woman went but instead of being put off I was morbidly drawn into her site reading article after article as if I had come upon a horrible accident involving Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin.  I finally got away, put down my laptop computer and resumed reading Buck O’Neil’s America on my Kindle.

The sites that I had visited when looking for a totally unrelated subject were filled with such hatred and bitterness that I was stunned. Anyone who reads this site knows that I am certainly not naïve and fully aware of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, and I include women in that somewhat exclusivist comment.  I began to realize that although I get angry at injustice I don’t have time to be bitter even at things that have been said about me or done to me.

I have seen the cost of bitterness in lives of people around me and in lives of people dying horrible deaths eaten up by the bitterness in their hearts.  I realized a long time ago that even if I was angry and even right in what I knew I could not remain bitter. When I came home from Iraq and was emotionally torn by things that were happening to me as well as the terribly bitter invective of the 2008 elections I knew that I could not live that way.  I had allowed such anger and bitterness to be part of me for a number of years after 9-11 that it consumed me at times, some directed toward those that directed those attacks but an even more vengeful attitude toward political liberals in the United States and Europe.  For a time I lost my sense of moderation and ability to see people as people that God loved and cared about.

Iraq changed that and since I have written about that time and time again I will simply say that when I came back from Iraq I could no longer bear the anger and bitterness of those that hated their fellow Americans as much or worse than those that attacked us.  It made no sense and I knew that I had changed.  I no longer had the time or energy to be so angry that I was bitter.  I was done. I stopped reading and listening to those that promoted such attitudes from the left or the right. Even then I had my moments especially as I battled all the components of PTSD, depression and a loss of faith that left me for all practical reasons an agnostic.  As faith, hope and stability began to return to my life those moments have become far less frequent and for that I am most grateful.

I am now inspired by those that overcame great obstacles of hatred, racial, gender, economic or religious prejudice and many of those stories come from baseball. One of those is the story of Buck O’Neil the great player and manager of the Negro leagues who never played in the Majors and was denied the chance to manage at the Major League level, instead serving as a coach and scout for various Major League teams.  In spite of having endured prejudice, discrimination and all that went with being an African American man, even a talented and successful one.

Yet O’Neil was one of those people that found good in everything and everyone.  He was one of those unique individuals that rises above hatred and does not become infected by it.  Such people seem to be a rarity but thankfully there are others like him and they reside in all corners of our land, they are of every race, religion, ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and even political affiliation.  They would give the shirt off their back to help others and somehow in spite of things that they have experienced and the painfully nasty tone set by so many politicians, pundits, media types and terribly nasty and bitter people like the lady I referenced above, they still see the good in others and refuse to live lives infected by hatred, prejudice and discrimination regardless of the source.

However I ran into a number of people in the past couple of days that I could not believe. A few years back I started a Facebook page for those in my graduating class at Edison High School in Stockton California.  The title was Edison High School 1975-1978 and its description plainly said that it was for Edison High School in Stockton California.  I thought that was pretty straight forward I set up the page and forgot about it, which I often do because of my Mad Cow symptoms which is what I call my continuing PTSD symptoms, mild cognitive and speech cognition deficits that have affected me since Iraq.

So I forgot about the page, I don’t know how many people are even on it and I start getting nasty and condescending messages on Facebook from a bunch of people from New Jersey for God sakes.  These people were all over me like stink on shit and for what reason?  That I didn’t specify in the title that it was California and not New Jersey. It was in the description for goodness sake; all these people had to do was read. Instead they were all telling me that I needed to change things, tell all of the New Jersey people that this was a California page and remove them from the page. I’m sorry I don’t have time for that and if people can’t bother to read details or even see that the mascot logo was a Viking and not their school’s mascot.  According to the most vocal of these people there were like 29 people that can’t bother to read. So I changed the title to say it was Edison High School Stockton California and put a blurb to the New Jersey people that it was California and not New Jersey. Even that wasn’t good enough and so I passed it by, made a comment that people should read something before signing up for it and left the conversation. If I had stayed I would have started losing any sense of peace.

The I realized that people that do this are probably mad at the world in general, they feel cheated or lied to, they are bitter and need to take it out on someone.  So I took a deep breath, re-read some of Buck O’Neil’s story and thanked God for him. I knew at that moment that I was on the right track. As much as an irritant these people were I could not be angry at them or let it fester.  They must have things going on in their lives that I cannot understand which contribute to them needing to come after me when the obvious solution was simply to remove themselves from the site and tell their friends that they made a mistake.

Whatever, it doesn’t matter because I haven’t got time to be bitter and I don’t want anger and bitterness to eat me from the inside out and take me to an early grave. Maybe someday those that thrive on hatred, division and the promotion of enmity will figure out life and let go.  But as Master Yoda said to Luke “Strong is the power of the dark side” and “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  I have seen enough of suffering and don’t want to contribute to the climate of hate and discontent that pervades our country.  I think Jesus even talked about not living in anger and bitterness and preached forgiveness even from the Cross. Funny how we have such a hard time living that way.

I have too many friends who have experienced the hatred of others and been wounded deeply by the words and actions perpetrated against them. Some have endured these patiently and others have turned to the same tactics and attitudes that they have been the victims of, perpetuating the cycle. Some things never change; the victims often in time become the persecutors.

Does this make this moderate a liberal and will the label stick?

It most probably does, but what the hell?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, christian life, faith, History, philosophy, Political Commentary, PTSD, Religion

Blazing Saddles and Contemporary American Life and Politics

 The affairs of state

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What’s a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?

Sometimes a film can capture the spirit of a society. If there is an iconic film that captures the spirit of America it has to be Mel Brooks’ classic Western spoof Blazing Saddles.  It debuted back in 1974 when the nation was bitterly divided facing political crisis in the wake of the Watergate break-in cover-up which was soon to usher President Richard Nixon out of office and an economic crisis including a spike in oil and gas prices brought about by Middle East tensions.  Americans also faced the end of a disastrous war in Vietnam the military threat of the Soviet Union, dissent among our Allies and the rise of a new economic power Japan.

It is at times like this that our political leaders almost always fail to rise to the occasion and take every opportunity to preserve their power and political offices catering to their own interest groups at the expense of everyone else.  Blazing Saddles captures the moment quite well when upon learning of chaos in the town of Rock Ridge Governor LePetomane played by Mel Brooks reacts as almost all politicians do when a crisis arises.

“Holy underwear! Sheriff murdered! Innocent women and children blown to bits! We have to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!”

Unfortunately when I look at our political, economic and social landscape I am frequently taken back to this bit of the film.  Sometimes I think that Governor LePetomane is much more reflective of the men and women that we elect at every level of government than it is not. I think that the only time that politicians get concerned about something that really matters is when their “phony baloney jobs” are at stake. Come to think of it I don’t think it matters if they are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Tea Partiers or even Commies the only time that 99.61872% of politicians give a damn about an issue is if it threatens their re-election bids or aspirations to a higher office.  Then and only then do they at least pretend to care, well at least until they are re-elected.  My number might actually be lower than reality but you get the idea.  But of course the affairs of state must take precedence over the affairs of state and the business of government really hasn’t changed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-cje17OGnQ&feature=related

Attorney Generla Hedley Lamar (Harvey Korman): Under the provisions of this bill we would snatch 200,000 acres of Indian Territory, which we have deemed unsafe for their use at this time. They’re such children.
Governor LePeotomane: 200,000 acres? 200,000 acres? What will it cost, man? What will it cost?
Headley Lamar: A box of these (box of paddle balls).
LePetomane: Are you crazy? They’ll never go for it, and then again they might. Little red devils! They love toys!

Lamar then has Governor LePetomane sign another bill to “convert the state hospital for the insane into the William J. Le Petomane Memorial Gambling Casino for the Insane.”

In such times many people take refuge in their faith and the people of Rock Ridge were no exception. Since I am well versed in almost every Mel Brooks movie song I immediately thought of the following verse from the song The Ballad of Rock Ridge.

Now is a time of great decision

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v0OLW3Qhc8

“Now is a time of great decision, are we to stand up or to quit? There’s no avoiding this conclusion, our town is turning into shit.”

In such a climate citizens have to ask the question so aptly put in The Ballad of Rock Ridge. What will citizens do?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v0OLW3Qhc8

Some like the preacher, Reverend Johnson want to leave “Now I don’t have to tell you good folks what’s been happening in our beloved little town. Sheriff murdered, crops burned, stores looted, people stampeded, and cattle raped. The time has come to act, and act fast. I’m leaving.”


But the town drunk Gabby Johnson tells the reverend exactly what he thinks:

“You get back here you pious candy-ass sidewinder. Ain’t no way that nobody is gonna’ to leave this town. Hell, I was born here, an’ I was raished here, an’ dad gum it, I am gonna die here, an no sidewindin bushwhackin, hornswaglin, cracker croaker is gonna ruin my biscuit cutter.”

Gabby manages to inspire his fellow townspeople into staying as Olson Johnson played by David Huddleston rallies the town “What are we made of? Our fathers came across the prairie, fought Indians, fought drought, fought locusts, fought Dix – remember when Richard Dix came in here and tried to take over this town? Well, we didn’t give up then, and by gum, we’re not gonna give up now.”

I think is that if we want the country to get better we can’t give up no matter how nutty the extremists on both sides of the political divide get. Of course those on the extremes who all believe that they are the mainstream seem to constantly multiply by exponential exponents. This means of course, mathematically speaking that there are a lot more of the extremists than there have ever been before and we moderates will soon be an endangered species no matter which bunch of extremists eventually wins though at the present time it seems that the political right is setting the agenda but back to the film and its application in today’s world.

I saw an article about a Republican leader of the Orange County Tea Party named Marilyn Davenport who had sent out a very racist and ugly e-mail to friends and supporters that like so many e-mails happen to get forwarded to people that don’t see the humor.  The e-mail showed an image, posed like a family portrait, of chimpanzee parents and child, with Obama’s face artificially superimposed on the child. Text beneath the photo reads, “Now you know why no birth certificate.”

I am depressed

Unfortunately beyond the matters of policy, eligibility or political ideology that some on the right have with President Obama and the Democrats there is also a racist element that just hates the fact that we have a black man in the White House. Mr. Taggart played by Slim Pickins made this comment on being introduced to a very black Sheriff Bart played by Cleavon Little  “Well, if that don’t beat all. Here we take the good time and trouble to slaughter every last Indian in the West, and for what? So they can appoint a sheriff that’s blacker than any Indian. I am depressed.”  Having been threatened by White Supremacists on this website I know that there is an undercurrent of racism involved in this. Policy disagreements are one thing, as far as I’m concerned on policy issues there is nothing off limits whether I agree or disagree. That is political free speech which I will die to defend. However vitriolic racial hatred masquerading as “internet humor” as Mrs. Davenport called it is unacceptable. It may be free speech but we have to call it what it is, racial hatred.  Now people on the political left often flippantly refer to Conservatives of all varieties as “Nazis” and have their own fair share of hateful e-mails and prejudices so this cuts both ways.

However I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when lynching’s still occurred in the South and even in Northern California adults, contemporaries of my parents produced some of the most racially insensitive and prejudiced comments when our schools in Stockton were desegregated.  The comments were made in school district meetings and in the opinion page of the Stockton Record and they were quite ugly. I was part of the first High School classes to go through my entire high school years in a desegregated school, Edison High School in Stockton California. Somehow the “Soul Vikes” made it work and of our class which was about 25% black, 25% white, 25% Mexican American and 25% Asian along with a further 8% that no-one could place are still close and care about each other.  We have we attended reunions and hundreds of us are friends on Facebook. We defied the “experts” who said that there would be violence and that the “social experiment” could not work.  We are conservatives and liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Tea Partiers, straight and gay, black, white, Hispanic and Asian, Fundamental Christians, Progressive Christians, traditionalists, non-traditionalists, Buddhists, Jews, maybe even a Moslem or two and certainly some free tinkers, agnostics and Atheists too, but we share something very special. While we may disagree on some very important matters we still care about each other and respect each other.

What bothers me about the present racism is that some of the worst offenders claim to be Christians or if they do not claim to be Christians often seek the support of conservative Christians for their political agendas.  Somehow I think that Jesus would not approve.  Racism has no place in our society no matter what race does it especially for people who claim to be followers of Jesus.

The sad truth is that in his time Mel Brooks took a bolder stand against racism than most Christians. Using the Old West and humor he mocked racism and showed its ugliness in a way that Middle America got.  Maybe we should take a mass dandelion break and grab a copy of Blazing Saddle’s put it in our DVD, Blue-Ray or computer and reflect back on what might be. Maybe like Sheriff Bart we can ride into the sunset knowing that our job is done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MySGAaB0A9k

Bart: Work here is done. I’m needed elsewhere now. I’m needed wherever outlaws rule the West, wherever innocent women and children are afraid to walk the streets, wherever a man cannot live in simple dignity, wherever a people cry out for justice.
The Townspeople: (in unison) Bullshit!
Bart: All right, you caught me. Speaking the plain truth is getting pretty damn dull around here.


Dull can be good but anyway I digress….however there are times that I feel like Mongo…”Mongo not know Mongo only pawn in game of life.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, History, movies, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

Here’s to you Jackie Robinson

“He led America by example. He reminded our people of what was right and he reminded them of what was wrong. I think it can be safely said today that Jackie Robnson made the United States a better nation.” – American League President Gene Budig

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”  Jackie Robinson

April 15th 2009 was the 62nd anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game in the Major Leagues with the Brooklyn.  Robinson’s first game with the Dodgers came a full year before President Truman integrated the military and a full seven years before the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional.  It was not until 1964 that the Voters Rights act passed in Congress.  Jackie Robinson paved the way for a change in American society that has continued for 62 years since his debut at Ebbetts Field on April 15th 1947.

Jackie’s feat was a watershed moment in the history of our country.  Blacks had struggled for years against Jim Crow laws, discrimination in voting rights, and even simple human decencies such as where they could use a rest room, what hotels they could stay in or what part of the bus that they could sit.  In baseball many white fans were upset that blacks would be coming to see Robinson in stadiums that they would not have been allowed in before.  Players from other teams heckled Robinson, he received hate mail, people sent made death threats, he was spiked and spit on.  But Jackie Robinson kept his pledge to Dodgers owner Branch Rickey not to lash out at his tormentors, as Rickey told him that he needed a man “with enough guts not to strike back.”

Jackie Robinson played the game with passion and even anger.  He took the advice of Hank Greenberg who as a Jew suffered continual racial epithets throughout his career “the best ways to combat slurs from the opposing dugout is to beat them on the field.” He would be honored as Rookie of the Year, was MVP, played in six World Series and six All Star Games.  He had a career .311 batting average, .409 on base percentage and .474 Slugging percentage. He was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962.

Today Jackie Robinson’s feat is history, but it should not be forgotten.  He was a pioneer who made it possible for others to move forward.  He would be followed by players like Roy Campinella, Satchel Paige, Don Larson, Larry Dobie and   Willie Mays.  His breakthrough had an effect not just on baseball but on society.

Jackie Robinson would have an effect on my life.  In 1975 the Stockton Unified School District voted to desegrigate.  I was in the 9th grade and preparing for high school.  As the school board wrestled with the decision anger boiled throughout the town, especially in the more affluent areas.  Vicious letters were sent to the school board and to the Stockton Record by parents as well as other opponents of the move.  Threats of violence and predictions failure were commonplace.  In the summer of 1975 those who went out for the football team, both the sophomore and varsity squads began to practice.  Black, White, Mexican and Asian, we bonded as a team, the Edison Vikings.  By the time the first buses pulled up to the bus stops throughout town on the first day of school, the sense of foreboding ended.  Students of all races discovered common interests and goals.  New friends became guests in each others homes, and all of us became “Soul Vikes.”

30 years later the Class of 1978, the first class to be desegregated from start to finish graduated from Edison held a reunion.  Our class always had a special feel about it.  Looking back we too were pioneers, like Jackie Robinson we were far ahead of our time.  When I look at my friends on Facebook from Edison I see the same faces that I played ball, rode the bus and went to class with.   Things have changed.  Even 30 years ago none of us imagined a African American President, we believed in each other and we saw potential, but I don’t think that anyone believed that we would see this in our day.

I think that Jackie Robinson prepared the way for other pioneers of Civil Rights including Dr. Martin Luther King.  Today, 62 years plus one day, Jackie Robinson looms large not only in baseball, but for the impact of his life and actions on America.  Here’s to you Jackie Robinson.  Thank you and God bless.

Peace, Steve+

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