The cameras are rolling…

June 2, 2020

Jack used a quote in his Jack’s Winning Words blog today that rings true – “Racism is not getting worse.  It’s getting filmed.”  (Will Smith). I’ve been around long enough to know that racism has always been there, but smartphones with video  recording capabilities were not always there to capture it and let it be shown on the nightly news.

The Civil Rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s succeeded in getting many of the overt signs of racism removed and caused changes to the American Education system, but it did not cause racism to go away. Much of the focus of racism shifted from social expressions of separation onto economic and political means of subjugation of the black community.

The racism that sparked the marches and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still there when the news cameras stopped filming. It had become “old news”. But the protests against it never stopped. I remember Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raising a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US national anthem at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. The news media was all over that. And there were the riots and protests in 1968 over the killing of Dr. King. That got news coverage for days.

I remember also the news coverage of the desegregation of Boston’s public schools and the hate that made the nightly news shows as schools across America were order to desegregate. Much of the focus of protest during the late 60’s and early 70’s was on the Viet Nam war, but racism was always there and sometimes not below the surface.

In 1980 Miami erupted into violent protest and riots over the killing of a black man by four white police officers. And in the 1990’s In Los Angeles in 1992 a week-long series of riots, lootings, arsons and civil disturbance that occurred i, following the acquittal of police officers on trial regarding the assault of Rodney King. That was the last time that the U.S. Army was called upon to quell the rioting.

In the 2000’s much of the attention of the news services shifted to covering mass shootings; but there was always racism bubbling up in the background somewhere. These are just some that made the news:

2001: Cincinnati riots – April – in the African-American section of Over-the-Rhine.

2009: Oakland, CA – Riots following the BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant.

2012: Anaheim, California Riot—followed the shooting of two Hispanic males

2014: Ferguson, MO riots – Riots following the Shooting of Michael Brown

2015: 2015 Baltimore riots – Riots following the death of Freddie Gray

2015: Ferguson unrest – Riots following the anniversary of the Shooting of Michael Brown

2016: 2016 Milwaukee riots – Riots following the fatal shooting of 23 year old Sylville Smith.

2016: Charlotte riot, September 20–21, Riots started in response to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police

2017: St. Louis protests, beginning September 15, large protests erupted when police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.

2019: Memphis riot, June 13, following the fatal shooting of Brandon Webber by U.S. Marshals, Memphis, TN.

It is notable that the first smartphone cameras were introduced in 2002 by Samsung and Sprint introduced the first camera equipped smartphone in the U.S. The public has been documenting racial incidents and the riots that often followed ever since. As soon as the camera quality become good enough for the video to be used on the nightly news we began seeing the stories of racial discrimination and the resulting unrest pop up again on our TVs. It had always been there, but no one could capture it until technology gave bystanders a video camera in their pockets. Some, as we have recently seen in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, were not innocent bystanders; but, rather, were participating in the acts by documentation.

Will Smith is right that things haven’t changed very much, they are just getting documented better. However, it is that constant reminder of the things that need to be changed that will eventually cause that change. It was the ugly nightly newscast pictures and video that eventually drove change at the national and state levels in the 1960’s. Today, it will be the smartphone videos on the nightly news that thrust the ugly reality of racism into our homes, which will drive change. The question is – How many people have to die on camera for us to make those changes?

Let your political representatives know that you have seen enough and demand that they make changes. Let’s turn the cameras on them and see what they do.


Life goes on, just like this…

May 31, 2020

In his blog, Jack’s Winnng Words, Pastor Jack Freed used this quote recently – “Life is a series of commas, not periods.”  (Matthew McConaughey) 

What McConaughey (and Jack) was alluding to are the pauses that we occasionally encounter in life, like the pause that one makes upon encountering a comma in a sentence. It is not the end of the sentence, just a pause before the sentence continues. Sometimes, life takes off in a new direction after the pause; but most of the time it just continues.

The current Corona Virus Pandemic has certainly thrown many commas into our lives and maybe sent us off in new directions. We hear about “the new normal” and see all around us the impact of the changes that have occurred. Life will never be the same. There is no going back to the old normal. That has actually always been the case; it’s just that change normally takes place over longer periods of time and occurs in different areas at different times. Businesses come and go all the time; it’s just that so many usually don’t go at the same time. Big events that were cancelled in the entertainment and sports world caused disappointment, but changed little in most lives. The economic disruption is both real and painful, but it too shall pass. Comma, comma, comma.

The pandemic has caused disruption in most lives and destruction is some lives; but, for most, there is more life ahead, after this comma. Our challenge is not to be stuck on the wrong side of the comma; not to let ourselves be bogged down in lamenting what was, but to get on with what will be. We cannot change what has already happened, but we definitely can change what will be – what is on the other side of this comma.

It is time to acknowledge this comma in our lives, time to pause and take a deep breath, and time get on to the other side of the comma. This is not a time to let frustration and anger rule our lives. It will take all of our focus, energy and creativity to adjust and flourish in” the new normal”.  We don’t have time to waste railing against the change or lounging for the way things were.

Perhaps you can use this pause in you r life to also to also revisit, and maybe revitalize, your faith. If you have so far been spared the agony of this disease or maybe have gone through it and recovered, you can take a moment to thank God. You can also pray for God to give you the strength and determination to continue on the other side of this comma. God is the one constant amidst all of this change and can serve as your touchstone as you seek to move beyond this comma in your life.

What is on the other side of this comma for you is yet to be determined. Maybe it’s? Or maybe it’s!


Where are the leaders of today?

May 29, 2020

Pastor Freed used this quote some time ago in his Jack’s Winning Words blog and I’ve been saving it for inspiration – “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  (John Quincy Adams)

Leaders aren’t cynics, like our current Tweeter-in-Chief. Leaders don’t lead by painting negative pictures, they lead by offering inspiring visions that others want to follow. As I thought back over the last few decades of presidents that we’ve had in Washington, there have been few real leaders. There have been a few competent stewards of the nation and some good men who just didn’t inspire us. There have also more than a few politically savvy fools who took us off into wrong directions. Rather than try to evaluate and label the various occupants of the White House over my lifetime, I will just say that, in my opinion, we’ve only had maybe 2 Presidents that I would say had the vision and charisma to be called true leaders.

During the recent Democratic primary season, we got glimpses of candidates with leadership potential. Men and women with visions of what this country could be with the proper direction and leadership. Obviously, none of them were there yet and the Democratic Party ended up with what they felt was a safe fallback candidate. So, we are faced again this election with a choice that, while obvious, does not inspire the electorate to dream about a greater future, just about a less foolhardy one.

Perhaps this is the consequence of the polarization of the two political parties and the lack of any viable third alternative. The parties seem to embrace candidates that are safe and predicable (although one party has veered sharply away from those values), even if they don’t really inspire us. The rhetoric of current politics has shifted from expressing positive messages about where we could go to focusing upon conspiracy theories, mudslinging and name-calling.  Instead of aspiring to go to the moon, as we once did, we are now harangued to protest against whoever occupies the leadership position. It is sad that we no longer march as a nation toward some goal, but instead march in protest against almost every decision made at the top, no matter which party is in power.

We should be watching the elections at the state level, whether for state offices or congressional seats, looking for that elusive spark of leadership that may serve to unite and excite us all. I’m sure that the leaders of tomorrow are out there. I just hope that the muck of our current political landscape hasn’t become so nasty and pervasive that they have soured against applying their leadership skills to pursuit of political offices.

Let’s all hope that true leaders emerge from the mess that we find ourselves in now. Perhaps we are in the darkest hour before a new sunrise of leadership. I want to be inspired by my leaders again.


Now is not the time to disobey…

May 27, 2020

Two quotes that I’ve saved from past posts to the Jack’s Winning Words blog (one from today and one from several weeks ago) seem to point to it being OK to disobey the rules, to even encourage civil disobedience .

“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.”  (Katharine Hepburn)

-and-

“Good men must not obey the laws too well.”  (Emerson)

Jack went on to use both quotes to make positive points and not to encourage disobeying the current rules that are in effect to fight against the Corona Virus pandemic.

It is true that some of the rules that are currently imposed upon us all seem to take away the opportunity for us to have fun. We are a society that is used to gathering in large, boisterous crowds to have fun. We love our sporting events, our pool parties and many other activities that we do together. It is just not the same to be watching something alone, when it comes time to celebrate.

No one said life would always be fun. The Declaration of Independence mentions “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but it says nothing about fun. The Constitution also fails to mention fun as an inalienable right, yet many rail in demonstrations that they have a right to do whatever it is that they want to do to have fun.

Few (though unfortunately not everyone) would argue that they have the right to stand in a crowded room of people and shoot a gun off in random directions; yet, that is what they are arguing for by demanding that they be allowed to stand in a crowd with Covid-19 infected people coughing  (or just speaking) in random directions. The end-effect of people dying is the same.

The statistics show that the percentage of infected people varies by week and by region, but hovers somewhere around 10%, with as many as 50% of those people being totally unaware that they are infected and spreading  the disease. So maybe being out in public without taking any precautions is more like being handed a random gun and being instructed to play Russian roulette with it. You know that there’s a bullet in the gun somewhere, but you just don’t know if the next pull of the trigger will bring a click or a sound that you will never hear. Is that fun? Did you get the last laugh?

Common sense, which seems in short supply these days, would seem to dictate caution over the pursuit of fun. Yet we see news stories on TV almost daily where someone (usually a very young someone) with beer in hand looks at the camera and says, “I don’t care about the virus, I just want to have fun.”  It is left up to our imagination what that same young person may look like with ventilator tubes going down their throat.

Until there is an effective vaccination against this disease, it is not OK to disobey the preventative rules that our health and government leaders are trying to impose for our own good. It is not fun, but the alternative is not fun either. If you need guidance from the Bible to help you understand what you should be doing see –

“Do not seek your own personal interests alone, but also the interests of others,”  (Philippians 2:4)

-and-

“Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”  (1 John 4:11)

There will be a time for fun as we are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 – “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” That time is just not right now. Now is the time to obey the rules and show your love for others by being safe and helping keep them safe.

Be safe and stay healthy…the time for fun is coming.


Some roads are bumpier than others…

May 22, 2020

“We all enjoy a trip down memory lane as long as we can avoid the potholes.”  (Anon)

That was the quote in today’s post to the blog Jack’s Winning Words.  Pastor Jack Freed opined about focusing upon one’s happy memories, instead of dredging up all of the mistakes, missteps or other potholes that may be down your memory lane.

My wife and I often go out “Bambi spotting” in our area, usually in the large Metropark that is nearby. The park has nice roads, with only the occasional pothole. We also often leave the park via a dirt road that connects to it. On that road, the potholes are more numerous and the other “features” of gravel roads in Michigan make it quite a bit bumpier; but it is a choice that we make. Life is full of choices that take one onto bumpy roads. We don’t remember the road so much as the joy of spotting a few deer while we are on it.

Trips down memory lane should be made with out regrets. Spending  time on regrets for things long in the past is more wasteful than time spent in anxious worry about things yet to come. At least when worrying about the future, one still has the ability to change the outcome. The same is certainly not true about revisiting past failures or potholes in your memories. I have posted here a few times about forgetting things and moving on – most recent in conjunction with the Corona Virus pandemic (See https://normsmilfordblog.com/2020/05/16/let-it-go-and-move-on/)

Jack’s quote was attributed to my favorite literary family – the Anons. Many of the greatest quotes and some of history’s greatest literature has been attributed to various generations of the  Anon family.  I have also posted here in the past about them – see https://normsmilfordblog.com/2013/02/03/with-tongue-firmly-in-cheek-anon-the-worlds-greatest-writer/

Perhaps it is just all of the time that one has when spending time self-quarantining, or maybe that fact that the future is so uncertain right now; but, it does seem as if I spend more time on memory lane these days, most of it pleasant but occasionally hitting a pothole. Memorial Day weekend for many is a mixed bag when it comes to memories. There are certainly many pleasant memories of family gathering, watching parades and backyard barbeques; however, the serious side of Memorial Day for me also brings back memories of serving in Viet Nam and the friends that did not come back. I prefer to remember them fondly, rather than hit the potholes that are almost certainly there. Look for the deer in life and remember the joy of seeing them and not the bumpy road that you were on at the time.

Have a safe and smooth trip down your memory lane this Memorial Day Weekend.


Find Your Happy Place…Find God

May 20, 2020

I saw “Find Your Happy Place” on the cover of the Readers Digest that my wife gets. I didn’t read the article in that edition of the Digest, but I did Google “how to find your happy place”. It turns out that there are quite a few places called Happy Place, more than a few of which are bars or liquor stores. Hopefully you don’t find what passes for your happy place in them.

The definitions and advice that comes back when you search on finding your happy place tend to involve doing things to distract and calm your mind, to stop fretting about whatever has been worrying you and focus instead on thoughts that make you happy or that made you happy once. The advice ranged from thoughts of a place that was visually satisfying or remembering an experience that was pleasant. The take-away is that your happy place is a state of mind more than a place.

The process of finding your happy pace is like de-cluttering you r mind; getting rid of all of the thoughts and imagined bad outcomes of whatever you are facing and focusing instead on thoughts that bring happiness into focus in your mind. I have opined here many times about how our imaginations, as wonderful as they are, can take us down rat holes of implausible, yet scary, outcomes to our problems. If we let our imaginations run away with us, we end up depressed about, or terrified about, things that will never happen.

The more that I thought about the advice that was available on finding your happy place, the more that it became clear that  what you were really doing is finding your way back to God. The techniques that are recommended to clear and clam the mind just allow one to get rid of the things that were keeping them from seeing God in their life and reaffirming their trust in Him. Being in one’s happy place allows one to let go of those problems and give them to God. It is a state of mind that allows one to pray, “Not my will, but thy will be done” and to give up ownership of the problem.

In the midst of the worst situation that any of us could have imagined, it is particularly important that we make the effort to find our happy place and re-engage with God. None of us is going to solve this problem by ourselves and for many it will be the most terrible thing that they have had to endure. Yet, waiting patiently in the background, in your happy place, is our God. Find Him and you will be at peace, in your happy place, unafraid of the future.

Find your happy place today…Find God.


Let’s hope that we’ve learned…

May 18, 2020

Jack had a particularly apropos quote today in his blog – Jack’s Winning Words“Experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first and the lesson afterward.”  (Vern Law)

We are all living through the test right now and the real-time grades that we see on the news every night show that many are failing and even more are failing to learn. Even the national health official in Sweden who made the call not to impose any stay at home guidance now is saying, “Gee, I didn’t realize that so many would die.” Sweden has experienced one of the highest per capita death rates in the world because of that decision.  They were going for herd immunity and instead ended up thinning the herd.

In the United States we have seen the consequences in meat packing plants across the country of some states not taking enough precautions. We will soon see the second wave of infections due to the re-opening of many states before they were ready. The focus has now turned to testing and tracing, neither one of which we are prepared to do adequately. The models predict well over 100,000 dead by mid-June. Still, some idiots claim this is all a hoax or a plot to unseat President Trump. He certainly doesn’t need the help of this pandemic to prove that he shouldn’t be President.

I’m certain that the cooler heads of the health professionals that still exist in Washington will learn from this experience; however, they will probably not be allowed to use that new knowledge as long as the Tweeter-in-Chief is in charge. He has already chosen to ignore their advice on re-opening the country and called into question their loyalty to him every time they disagree with one of his pronouncements.

Hopefully, the experience of the last four years has taught enough of us a lesson that we take actions to apply what we have learned at the ballot box in November. We shall have to wait until after the election to start to see sanity return to the decision making process at the Federal level. Until that time, remember that we are still taking the test and what you do to protect yourself and others will determine your grade.

Stay home. Stay safe. Learn from this experience.