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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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When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

“Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?”  Alfred Lord Tennyson

Every city has dreams. When I was in high school there was a billboard in Stockton California that read Stockton Someplace Special.  It was holed by more than one bullet and though it is no longer there and though the sentiment is derided by many, Stockton was a special place.  The home of a major inland seaport and a critical road and rail center the city sited in one of the richest agricultural regions in the world and near to the San Francisco Bay area and the Sierra Nevada Mountains it would seem to be the ideal place for economic development and prosperity.

But the dreams became a nightmare and Stockton California will become the largest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy protection. That could occur as early as Wednesday following the announcement Tuesday night by the City Council that the city was unable to reach agreement with its creditors.

It seemed like the good times were finally upon the City of Stockton California during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The city was growing as a result of a housing boom that brought new residents, new taxes and massive construction projects which left the city awash in tax revenues and willing to spend money to renovate the city. It felt like things were finally beginning to change for a city that had always been in the shadow of San Francisco to the west and Sacramento to the north.  But then the housing crash that began in 2006 and spiraled out of control in 2007 and 2008 gutted the city. Massive numbers of foreclosures and job losses destroyed the plans of those that hoped to ride the housing boom into permanent prosperity. Property tax revenue dried up as home values plunged over 50% and foreclosures mounted.  Ambitious city investments in public-private ventures failed to produce prosperity and long term contracts with public employees added to deficits that could not be met. Austerity programs that reduced the police department by 25%, the fire department by 30% and overall public employment by 40% have added to the city’s unemployment problem and decreased public safety and services.

Stockton has a 21 percent unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) which routinely has hovered around 15 percent the past three years. It is consistently on law enforcement top 10 lists in crime rate and violent crimes. It was recently ranked by the FBI as the most dangerous city in California. Forbes Magazine has listed it America’s “most miserable city” in 2009 and 2011. Over twenty percent of the population lives at or below the poverty line. For the past year the city which has a projected budget deficit of $26 million for the coming fiscal year with over 90 million in deficits in the preceding three years. It has been unable to reach agreement with its creditors and will be filing for Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection.

For me this is a sad moment. I spent a good portion of my childhood in Stockton and have many good memories of Stockton. It is also where my parents retired when my dad left the Navy and where my mom and brother and his family still live. My brother is a public educator and has seen the problems developing over the years. It is where I graduated from high school and where I met a married my wife Judy.  My visits have been limited due to my career in the military but when I go there I always am able to see friends and go to places that still feel like home.  At the same time I still have many friends that still call the city home and I hate to see how bad things have gotten.

I do hope that when all is said and done that Stockton will get back on its feet and that it will recover all that has been lost. For me Stockton is still someplace special that will again be a place where dreams can soar and where people will again be safe and prosperous.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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52 Years: Musing on Life and Civil Rights in 2012

Trayvon Martin and Emmit Till

Well about this time of night some 52 years ago my mom was deep into a very long day of labor at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland California. 52 years and it doesn’t really seem that long but it is. When I was born Dwight Eisenhower was President and his Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy were preparing to run against each other for the Office of President.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists like Medgar Evers were campaigning for the rights of Black Americans and others and would lose their lives in doing it within a few years. In that time Blacks were violently attacked even in church, the 15 September 1963 Street Baptist Church bombing. Just 6 years before I was born a 14 year old boy named Emmit Till was murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His killers backed by a surge of popular support were acquitted of the murder and a few months later confessed to the murder unable to be prosecuted under double jeopardy. Blacks did not gain legal protections enjoyed by whites until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When I was a teenager my home town of Stockton California desegregated its schools. I am proud to be part of the first class at Edison High School that completed all of its high school years in that environment.  I remember those times fondly and my friends there are all my “Soul Vike” brothers and sisters.

I know this is a weird start to a birthday article but I never believed that I would see racism become fashionable again.  But then I should have seen it coming because it has always been there maybe just under the surface but still there.  Back in 2009 I was attacked and threatened by a White Supremacist in response to articles about world War II and a baseball game on this site.

So when I started reading responses of certain media and political figures to the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman it struck a chord. I have been following the case online and have read a good number of posts by people “defending” Zimmerman by making the most racist and hateful comments maligning the dead kid and those that have the nerve to make this killing an issue.

No one is perfect and I am not calling for a mob approach to justice that would condemn Zimmerman without a full and impartial investigation and if need be a trial. However that being said if no one bothered to raise Trayvon Martin’s death the story would be buried deeper that Trayvon.  Without the actions of some nationally known activists and media personalities Zimmerman would never be forced to account for his actions that night in which he killed Trayvon. Zimmerman is said to have allegedly killed in self defense despite defying police who told him not to pursue or confront the teenager and the police at the minimum did a terribly inept investigation and at worst were complicit in a cover up that now may involve leaking material to a local reporter that they believe is helpful to painting the dead kid in a negative manner.

That bothers me. It reminds me of what I have read of reaction to and defense of the murderers that killed Emmit Till.  If Zimmerman did nothing wrong and if Trayvon Martin actually attacked him first a thorough investigation would have left no doubt. Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty but he may never even face trial based on the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law.  I just don’t get the convoluted arguments that self defense trumps even a fair and thorough investigation of of a man that used a gun to kill another. But now all we have is the trigger puller’s account to rely on and the stultifying spin of his defenders who seem more intent on killing the victim once again than they are on finding out what really happened. The Sanford Police have probably ensured that will never happen by not doing the ballistics, gunpowder residue and other normal procedures that would show what happened. That is not justice.

I was perusing a Christian blog which the matter was being discussed and I think that what I read there was the most discouraging as people professing to be Christians were in the lead trashing the life of a dead kid and making comments on race, African Americans and civil rights that if they were said about White Christians that would be decried in the right wing press and blogosphere.

I wonder at times how far we have come.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Veterans Day 2011: Giving Thanks for the Veterans in my Life

My Dad Aviation Storekeeper Chief Carl Dundas aboard USS Hancock CVA 19 around 1971 or 1972

I always become a bit more thoughtful around Veterans Day and Memorial Day.  I’ve been in the military for over 30 years now.  I enlisted in the National Guard while in college and entered Army ROTC back on August 25th 1981.  Since then it has been to quote Jerry Garcia “a long strange trip.”  During that trip I learned a lot from the veterans who I am blessed to have encountered on the way.

I come from a Navy family. My dad served twenty years in the Navy.  Growing up in a Navy family in the 1960s and 1970s was an adventure for me and that Navy family that surrounded us then remained part of my family’s life long after.  My mom and dad remained in contact with friends that they served with or were stationed with, and now many of them are elderly and a good number have passed away.  Even so my mom, now a widow stays in regular contact with a number of her Navy wife “sisters.”

My dad retired in 1974 as a Chief Petty Officer and did time surrounded in the South Vietnamese city of An Loc when it was surrounded by the North Vietnamese for 80 days in 1972.  He didn’t talk about it much when he came back; in fact he came back different from the war.  He probably suffered from PTSD.  All the markers were there but we had no idea about it back then, after all he was in the Navy not the Army.  I had friends whose dad’s did not return fromVietnamand saw howVietnamveterans were treated by the country as a whole including some members of the Greatest Generation.  They were not welcomed home and were treated with scorn.  Instead of being depicted a Americans doing their best in a war that few supported they were demonized in the media and in the entertainment industry for many years afterwards.

My dad never made a big deal out of his service but he inspired me to pursue a career in the military by being a man of honor and integrity.

It was the early Navy family experience that shaped much of how I see the world and is why I place such great value on the contributions of veterans to our country and to me.  That was also my introduction to war; the numbers shown in the nightly news “body count” segment were flesh and blood human beings.

LCDR Jim Breedlove and Senior Chief John Ness

My second view of war came from the Veterans of Vietnam that I served with in the National Guard and the Army.  Some of these men served as teachers and mentors.  LCDR Jim Breedlove and Senior Chief John Ness at the Edison High School Naval Junior ROTC program were the first who helped me along.  Both have passed away but I will never forget them.  Commander Breedlove was someone that I would see every time that I went home as an adult. His sudden death the week before I returned from Iraqshook me.  I have a post dedicated to them at this link.  (In Memorium: Chief John Ness and LCDR Jim Breedlove USN )

Colonel Edgar Morrison was my first battalion commander.  He was the most highly decorated member of the California National Guard at that time and had served multiple tours inVietnam.  He encouraged me as a young specialist and officer cadet and showed a tremendous amount of care for his soldiers.  Staff Sergeant’s Buff Rambo and Mickey Yarro taught me the ropes as a forward observer and shared many of their Vietnam experiences. Buff had been a Marine dog handler on the DMZ and Mickey a Forward Observer.

The Senior NCOs that trained me while in the Army ROTC program at UCLA andFortLewishad a big impact. All were combat veterans that had served inVietnam.  Sergeant First Class Harry Zilkan was my training NCO at the UCLA Army ROTC program.  He was a Special Forces Medic with 7th Group inVietnam.  He still had part of a VC bayonet embedded in his foot.  He received my first salute as a newly commissioned Second Lieutenant as well as a Silver Dollar.  I understand that after the Army he became a fire fighter.  He had a massive heart attack on the scene of a fire and died a few years later from it.  Sergeant Major John Butler was our senior enlisted advisor at UCLA.  An infantryman he served with the 173rd Airborne inVietnam.  Sergeant First Class Harry Ball was my drill sergeant at the ROTC pre-commissioning camp at Fort Lewis Washington in 1982.  He was a veteran of the Special Forces and Rangers and served multiple tours inVietnam.  Though he only had me for a summer he was quite influential in my life, tearing me apart and then building me back up.  He was my version of Drill Sergeant Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman. Like Zack Mayo played by Richard Gere in the movie I can only say: Drill Sergeant “I will never forget you.”

As I progressed through my Army career I encountered others of this generation who also impacted my life. First among them was First Sergeant Jim Koenig who had been a Ranger in the Mekong Delta.  I was the First Sergeant that I would measure all others by.  Once during an ARTEP we were aggressed and all of a sudden he was back in the Delta. This man cared so much for his young soldiers in the 557th Medical Company.   He did so much for them and I’m sure that those who served with him can attest to this as well as me. Jim had a brick on his desk so that when he got pissed he could chew on it.   He was great.  He played guitar for the troops and had a song called “Jane Fonda, Jane Fonda You Communist Slut.” It was a classic.  He retired after he was selected to be a Command Sergeant Major because he valued his wife and family more than the promotion.  It hurt him to do this, but he put them first. Colonel Donald Johnson was the commander of the 68th Medical Group when I got to Germany in January 1984.  Colonel “J” as well all called him was one of the best leaders I have seen in 28 years in the military.  He knew everything about everything and his knowledge forced us all to learn and be better officers and NCOs.  On an inspection visit you could always find him dressed in coveralls and underneath a truck verifying the maintenance done on it.  He served a number ofVietnamtours.  He died of Multiple Myeloma and is buried at Arlington.  Chaplain (LTC) Rich Whaley who had served as a company commander in Vietnam on more than one occasion saved my young ass at the Army Chaplain School.  He remains a friend and is the Endorsing Agent for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As a Mormon he was one of the most “Christian” men that I have ever met.  I know some Christians who might have a hard time with that, but Rich demonstrated every trait of a Christian who loved God and his neighbor.

Me with Major General Frank Smoker USAF (ret) and Colonel Tom Allmon US Army at Colonel Allmon’s Change of Command at Ft Myer Virginia 2005 

When I was the Installation Chaplain at Fort Indiantown Gap PA I was blessed to have some great veterans in my Chapel Parish.  Major General Frank Smoker flew 25 missions as a B-17 pilot over Germany during the height of the air war in Europe. He brought his wonderful wife Kate back from England with him and long after his active service was over he remained a vital part of the military community until his death in 2010.  Sergeant Henry Boyd was one of the 101st Airborne soldiers epitomized in Band of Brothers. He had a piece of shrapnel lodged next to his heart from the Battle of the Bulge until the day he died and was honored to conduct his funeral while stationed at Indiantown Gap. Colonel Walt Swank also served in Normandy.  Major Scotty Jenkes was an Air Force pilot in Vietnam flying close air support while Colonel Ray Hawthorne served several tours both in artillery units and as an adviser in 1972 and was with General Smoker a wonderful help to me as I applied to enter the Navy while CWO4 Charlie Kosko flew helicopters in Vietnam.  All these men made a deep impact on me and several contributed to my career in very tangible ways.

Me with my boarding team on USS HUE CITY CG-66 2002

My life more recently has been impacted by others. Since coming into the Navy I have been blessed to serve with the Marines and Sailors of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion and Lieutenant Colonel T D Anderson, 1st Battalion 8th Marines and Lieutenant Colonel Desroches, 3rd Battalion 8th Marines and Colonel Lou Rachal and Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division and Colonel, now Major General Richard Lake.   My friends of the veterans of the Battle of Hue City including General Peter Pace, Barney Barnes, Tony “Limey” Cartilage, Sergeant Major Thomas and so many others have become close over the years, especially after I did my time inIraq. They and all theVietnam vets, including the guys from the Vietnam Veterans of America like Ray and John who manned the beer stand behind the plate at HarborPark all mean a lot to me.  My friends at Marine Security Forces Colonel Mike Paulovich and Sergeant Major Kim Davis mean more than almost any people in the world.  We traveled the globe together visiting our Marines.  Both of these men are heroes to me as well as friends, Colonel Paulovich was able to administer the oath of office to me when I was promoted to Commander.

With advisers to 1st Brigade 1st Iraq Army Division, Ramadi Iraq 2007

Finally there are my friends and brothers that I have served with at sea on USS HUE CITY during Operation Enduring Freedom and the advisers on the ground in Al Anbar mean more than anything to me. Perhaps the most important is my RP, RP2 Nelson Lebron who helped keep me safe and accompanied me all over the battlefield.  Nelson who has doneIraq3 times,Afghanistan,Lebanon and the Balkans is a hero.  The men and women of Navy EOD who I served with from 2006-2008 have paid dearly in combating IEDs and other explosive devices used against us in Iraq and Afghanistan are heroes too.  There is no routine mission for EOD technicians.  Then there are the friends that I serve with in Navy Medicine, medical professionals who care for our Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen, family members and veterans at home and in the thick of the fighting in Afghanistan.

I give thanks for all them men that I mention in this post, especially my dad. For the countless others that are not mentioned by name please know that I thank God for all of you too.

I do hope that people will remember the Veterans that impacted their lives this and every day.  Some may have been the men and women that we served with, perhaps a parent, sibling or other relative, maybe a childhood friend, a teacher, coach or neighbor. As we pause for a moment this Friday let us honor those who gave their lives in the defense of liberty in all of the wars of our nation. They have earned it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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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

A Few Day after the Non-Rapture Thoughts

There will be some coming after me again

Well after a very good conference on trauma and spirituality I am back in North Carolina with a chance to collaborate with my staff to see how we can take what we learned and apply it at our hospital. Of course had Harold Camping had his way it would have been a wasted week, or maybe not because there would have been a lot of trauma going on for the vast majority of the world’s population who Camping did not see as being Rapture-worthy, including the bulk of the world’s Christian population.  But Camping muffed his prediction yet again and his website and radio have been silent on getting shut out by God after God pitched a perfect game no-hitter against Camping and his followers.  But Camping’s ministry has earned over 80 million dollars in the past few years so I guess if you are Camping you still have to count that as something.

I personally think that Camping was unpatriotic and insulted the military by getting everybody spun up about his end of the world claims when it was Armed Forces Day.  By the way if anyone hasn’t noticed we are still involved like in three wars and most of Washington is trying to figure out how to emasculate the military while sparing the big corporations the pain of any new taxes, despite the fact that those corporations make oodles of money off the military and love to have us bail out their overseas operations so long as it benefits their bottom line.  But as Napoleon Bonaparte said of such people “The hand that gives is among the hand that takes. Money has no fatherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, their sole object is gain.”  Usually the politicians wait until the war is over or operations are significantly reduced before carving up the military.  I guess that we live in different times.

I also found out that some of the late David Wilkerson’s followers still despise me for suggesting that his fatal “accident” may have been suicide because of the circumstances and the despair of life reflected in his last 3 months of blog posts.  Christians can be so nice to each other, but then my critics have called me everything but a Christian.  Such is life. I think I’m going to prod local reporters in Texas to see if they can find anything out regarding the accident investigation or file a Freedom of Information request to see what the results of the investigation showed.  For those that want to attack me I also suggested that it was possible that he could have had a sudden medical condition that caused him to lose control of his car or that he might have been distracted by something, regardless the suicide option has to be considered.   However those that have criticized me have practically turned Wilkerson and his rich ministry into an idol which practically turns him into a mythological figure incapable of being human.

Well as if to ensure that Camping was wrong the Chicago Cubs lost 2 of 3 to the Boston Red Sox in their first appearance at Fenway since the 1918 World Series.  They did win Saturday, I think simply to rub salt in Camping’s wounds but things really haven’t changed for the Cubbies.  I know it is still early in the season but what Harry Carey said will probably be true this year as well. “What does a mama bear on the pill have in common with the World Series?  No cubs.” Obviously the momma bear is not a practicing Roman Catholic but I digress.

Judy and I saw the movie Bridesmaids which I can highly recommend as a role on the floor and laugh your ass off kind of movie. It was good to be with her and our little dog Molly.

It was a inter-league weekend and although there are a lot of critics of inter-league play I find it fascinating and it gives me an opportunity to size up how potential World Series contenders look against one another.  I do agree with the critics that it gives some teams an unfair advantage in playing weaker non-divisional teams but it gives fans in small markets the chance to see some of the really heavy hitters from the opposing leagues in their own parks in person.

Saturday I spent the evening at Harbor Park and saw the Norfolk Tides defeat the Louisville Bats by a score of 8-6.  It was a relaxing evening and I spent much of it talking with Tides General Manager Dave Rosenfield.  Dave had me come up and sit with him on the concourse behind home plate and it was nice to catch up with him talking about life and baseball.  He actually played minor league ball in my home town of Stockton California. He has been in baseball over well over 50 years and is a treasure trove of baseball knowledge.  At the age of 80 he is still totally engaged in the game.  I hope that will be the same for me when I get to that age. I was also able to see some of my friends from the ballpark including my buddies Elliott and Chip the Ushers.

Oh well, time to wrap things up so I can throw my body into my waiting bed.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, christian life, faith, Military, national security, norfolk tides, philosophy, Political Commentary, purely humorous, Religion