Today I was lucky enough to be able to pay it forward. Years ago after I lost my job, financial security, and family, I was out on the streets. I had no income, was evicted from my little apartment in Fairhope and my car was repossessed. But I was lucky in that I had found new friends through PFLAG who reached out to me. One paid up my car loan and enabled me to get my car back. Another paid for a moving company to pick up my few possessions and take them to a house across the bay where she had negotiated a rent I could afford with the student loan that had yet to be approved. Another guided me toward the doctoral program at South and helped me get an interview with the faculty who could approve my acceptance.
Until recently I have been unable to pay them back for their kindness. But instead of paying them back directly, something I will eventually do, I decided to pay it forward today. And I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do just that.
Along with paying it forward, I made a pact with my friend: we would both invest 20 minutes a day writing in our blogs. And I intend to do just that. So the challenge goes out to J. I’ll help you get a blog up on line and we both will write at least 20 minutes a day and hit the “Publish” button.
To all my Facebook friends: this morning I listened to another news broadcast about the tragedy in San Bernardino. I know I should not tune into these types of shows because they usually offer nothing new, instead rehashing “facts” with a bias toward the faction they think they represent. But I did hear two things new.
A young Muslin American, a friend of the male attacker, said he appreciated the part of President Obama’s speech last night where the President called for Americans to not allow the demagogues to lead us to condemn and disenfranchise all Muslims. The young man recalled the last line of the Pledge of Allegiance he had learned in school: “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Later in that same news show, an expert on terrorism said he was a bit confused about the negative reaction of some politicians to President Obama’s mention of the need to prevent people on the terrorist no-fly list from buying guns legally. The expert said he could not understand why lives lost to a terrorist act where somehow more important than lives lost to inner-city gun violence.
I just doubled checked the numbers and the total number of American deaths due to acts of terrorism on US soil in the last decade is 85, including the 14 in San Bernardino. And of that 85, 48 were due to right-wing and white supremacists (here). Strikingly, the total number of gun-deaths in American the last decade is 302,000, though it is impossible to give an exact number because they are happening all the time. This graphic from the CDC includes all American deaths due to terrorism globally since 2001.
Gun deaths v deaths due to terrorism
I know 2nd amendment folks like to claim otherwise, but the extremely large number of guns in America does have consequences (here and here). Ignoring gun suicides (which of course are much greater in America than in any other country), there are some 11,000 to 13,000 gun homicides in the US each year. And, alarmingly, there are 700 to 800 deaths due to gun accidents each year. And these numbers are from a conservative, 2nd amendment group.(here) Yet the number of crimes and deaths thwarted by citizens carrying guns is almost non-existent (here). Ironically, if the Republicans/NRA allowed the CDC to actually study gun deaths, we might have such information.
Gun deaths per 100,000 population
My point in this post is that lives do matter, all lives. Not just those lost due to radical Muslim terrorism. And to use the fact that terrorism is increasingly a threat to everyone as a justification to preach divisiveness and hate for fellow Americans is unacceptable. If we are to defeat ISIS and radicalism, including white hate groups, we must be a country undivided.
To A Life Which Justifies Itself
On this Veterans Day, I am remembering my lost flock of Golden Boys of the Class of 1967; there are other members of the class of 67 who were also lost in Vietnam and who are missed, but these are very close friends. They are listed in order of their casualty date.
John Albright, ’67
John Albright was a member of my doolie summer squadron in the summer of ’63. I remember him as a serious cadet longing to earn his pilot’s wings and anxious to get to the building war in Vietnam. Like myself, his long hours of study at the Academy led to eyesight that was not quite good enough to get into pilot training and we both graduated from navigator training the late summer of 1968. Although I stayed on at Mather for advanced training, John got his chance to go to Vietnam as a C-123 navigator. He was lost on his first operational Candlestick flight out of Nakhon Phanom RTAFB only four months after he left nav-school. He was the first of my close Zoomie friends to die in Vietnam.
(For some reason, Morg’s photo is not on the Vietnam Virtual Memorial website; this is his second class year photo).
Morgan Jefferson Donahue I claimed as a fellow Alabamian; though born in Virginia, he attended Sidney Lanier high school in Montgomery, one of my least favorite football teams to play as they always seemed to beat us. Morg was assigned to the 21st Cadet Squadron but we maintained a connection throughout our four years at the Academy and ended up in navigator training at Mather together with Scot Albright. And like Scot, Morg snagged a C-123 navigator slot out of undergraduate navigator training. In fact, they both were on the Candlestick mission together when their C-123 collided with one of the B-57s they were directing to a target in Laos. But unlike Scot Albright, we did not immediately know if Morg was killed. In fact, we thought he had survived the crash and had been captured and was being held captive in Laos. As recently as 1987, there was information he was alive but since then no news. He was declared killed in action in 1990.
Jim Gilmore, ’67
Jim Gilmore was one of my roommates in 2nd Squadron – Tough Two! Jim and I were close friends throughout my four years at the Academy and for a while our fiancés shared an apartment in Colorado Springs. Jim was always fun to be around, always seeing the good in people and situations. I remember the break between our second class and first class years we planned a train ride home from the Academy with our fiancés. We booked the trip on the same phone call but somehow the travel agency screwed up the reservations. C and I ended up traveling the northern route through Chicago while Jim and Sue were put on a train running south though Texas. We laughed about that but I sure wish now I had that lost time with him back. Jim was flying an O-2 over Quang Tin as a forward air controller when he was lost. Thankfully, Jim’s remains were recovered and he was finally able to come home.
Hal Henderson, ’67
Hal was another close friend throughout my four years at the Academy. We began our time there in the same doolie squadron (First Squadron) and after our formal acceptance into the Cadet Wing, Hal moved downstairs one floor in Vandenberg Hall to the Third Cadet Squadron. Starting in mid August, Hal and I went out for the football team; I busted my knee about three weeks in and had to give up football, but Hal made the team and was a great Zoomie player all four years. Hal and I spent a lot of fun time together during our 4th Class field trip when we were both assigned to the same bunk space on the Yorktown. I have a photo Hal took of me near the arresting gear that was just over our heads in the bunk space and which woke us each time an aircraft was recovered. But Hal was able to get into pilot training and landed an O-2 flying out of Da Nang. Hal was lost near Chu Lai when his O-2 collided with an Army helicopter as he was pulling off a marking run. His remains were recovered and Hal was able to come home.
Max, Rosen, ’67
Max was another close friend from the top floor of Vandenberg Hall. We were in the same doolie squadron but he was then assigned to the 1st Cadet Squadron while I went to the 2nd. Throughout our four years, we had a healthy competition for academic honors, which Max won. He also won my coveted pilot’s wings and the race to Vietnam as well. Max was assigned as a co-pilot on an EC-47 flying out of Phu Cat in South Vietnam. On his last mission, his aircraft had a fire in the instrument bay and crashed while on emergency approach for landing. His remains were recovered and Max was able to come home.
Don Shay. ’67
Don Shay was also in my doolie summer squadron and a fun guy to be around. And like myself, he ended up in navigator school at Mather AFB in California instead of the longed for pilot training. But we both decided to try to leverage our nav wings into a second chance at pilot training by choosing a back seat slot in F-4s where you could get a lot of “stick” time. Don got the reconnaissance version, the RF-4, and loved it. Don also got his chance in Vietnam with the 14th TAC Recon Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base. There we lost him on a night mission over Laos. His remains have not been recovered.
Jim Steadman, ’67
Jim was my first roommate at the Academy and forever one of my favorite people. I wrote a previous post about him here.
Bob Lodge, ’64
Bob Lodge was not one of my classmates, but I knew him both at the Academy and later on active duty. I first met Bob early in my doolie summer – he was the flight commander of my summer squadron – and I recall that he was a take-no-prisoners kind of upper classman. He was in the class of 64, a “firstie” and he was responsible for taking a bunch of young civilians and turning us into something resembling a real cadet by the end of the summer. To that end, he was relentless in pushing us far beyond what we thought were our limits. I particularly hated the hallway “exercises” we had each night that summer. Bob was extremely fit and prided himself in being able to do far more pushups and chin-ups that any of us doolies. He also could and did run us into the ground on our morning runs up and down the foothills surrounding the Academy. In the fall, Bob became the 2nd Cadet squadron commander and continued to push us, and especially me. I didn’t know then, but he had taken a liking to me and wanted me to do well, especially after I had destroyed my knee trying to play football for the Academy. Somehow I survived that first year, with a great deal of his close attention, and I have to admit I was glad to see him graduate. I ran into Bob again in 1970/71 when he was assigned to the 16th Tac Fighter Squadron I was in. He had completed one tour in Vietnam and was upgrading to F-4s. I flew with him often, shared many a beer at our squadron bar, and learned a lot from his combat savvy. In the spring of 1972, after I had submitted my resignation in frustration of not being allowed to go to pilot training, we learned that the now 58th TFS, as the 16th had been redesignated, was deploying en mass to Thailand. Although I then tried to withdraw my resignation, the Air Force was slow to react and the squadron deployed without me that April. Bob and his backseater were shot down shortly after I started grad school at Auburn. His status is still missing in action.
Hate to say it trans folks, but this is largely our own fault. Only 26% of the electorate turned out to vote in this referendum. That in itself is appalling. Although HRC and some other trans friendly groups were active primarily in placing ads and holding rallies, how many trans folks actually turned out to man the phone banks, go door-to-door, and/or volunteer to drive friendly voters to the polls or to register to vote? Not very many, I’d wager. We cannot outspend the conservative right with their extremely wealthy donors and the tele–evangelists who are primarily intent on fear mongering, which they did very successfully in Houston. And we trans people have garbled our message and sound all too like greedy children who demand what we want because, well, because we demand it.
A wise friend once told me, confused people always say no. And I think our accelerating push of the now many flavors of unconstrained gender identity selection and gender expression does not help clarify the issue. (I will shortly publish a post expanding on this thought here.)
Last week I responded to a Facebook post of a friend about a petition to ban Germain Greer from speaking at Cardiff, a college in Britain. Being of the ancient boomer generation, freedom of speech still looms important for me. But I admit my reading of feminist literature began to lag during my push to finish my dissertation and subsequent hunger for employment to pay the bills. So I was somewhat unnerved by the heated feedback I got from some of the people on the thread. One trans woman (I made the mistake of writing “transwoman” in my post; I won’t do that again. :-/ ) was particularly incensed. I don’t know if she is 3rd or 4th wave trans feminist, but she was unbudging in her calling me out as a Greer apologist and thus possibly responsible for who knows how many trans deaths. I am not making light of that serious problem in any way, but those were her words about Greer. The dreaded TERF label was mentioned; I surely do not want to be called that.
So I began an effort to catch up on my feminist and trans feminist reading. The last formal publication (i.e. book) I read on the topic was Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl a few years ago.
Still thinking about the movie Woodlawn that I am yet to see. And merging those thoughts with the Facebook conversation about the proposed new football stadium for USA. I guess that is part of the reason I’m so uptight about that one stadium supporter’s words that he “is tired of going to football games in the slums.” I’m feeling guilty by association, by not having spoken up in the 60s and 70s when the white flight from Birmingham, and so many other southern cities, was beginning.
When I was growing up in Birmingham, downtown was the place
to go for essentially everything. It was where most people worked, save for the many that worked at the steel mills on the west end of the city where I was initially brought up. West End, as it was formally called, was not a bad place to live except for the extremely poor air quality there. There was yet to be any governmental controls on the environmental damage from the steel and coal plants in Birmingham, or anywhere else in America for that matter. (more…)
I just watched the trailer for the movie Woodlawn and it brought back some vivid memories. I played football for Banks High School in Birmingham in the 60’s. That’s me, #80, talking to my linebacker coach, Coach Taylor, during a game.
Woodlawn was our arch rival and I looked forward to that game each year. Usually we played at Legion Field, but once when I was on the JV team, we played Woodlawn on the field behind their school. Much like one of the games in the movie, the field was muddy, but we won. Shorty White, an Auburn graduate but admirer of Coach Bear Bryant, took over the football program at Banks in 1961 and began to build a (more…)
I met Jim just a few hours into my four years at the Air Force Academy. As the last step of induction, I was led by an upper classman (a “Firstie” or senior) to my dorm room on the top floor of Vandenberg Hall. When I entered the room, I saw Jim sitting at one of the two desks looking as stressed as I felt. Before I could even say hello, the firstie screamed “Get this room in order! I’ll be back in 30 minutes and this room better be ready. And somehow we made it. (more…)
Not very long into the press coverage of the terrible tragedy in Oregon, the interview with the father of one of the survivors brought up the possibility that the gunman may have asked some of the victims if they were Christian. (I believe that has now been pretty much confirmed.) The “media” as the folks on Fox and Rush like to call them, reported that information but did not editorialize on it. Of course, Fox et al immediately used that fact to bolster their construct that Christianity is under attack in America (it is not as far as I can surmise from reading both responsible conservative and responsible progressive sources). (more…)
Well, folks, I have just had enough of Facebook for a while.
Although it used to be fun to keep up with the doings of my friends, things have deteriorated to the point the majority of postings, mine included, have become political, or even worse, ideological and extremist. Our nation, and my Facebook friends who reflect that, has become so polarized and proselytizing that my stress levels have greatly increased. I have learned that when you take on a Facebook friend, you also get their friends, and their friend’s friends. I have a fairly wide diversity of Facebook friends and as the friends of friends get added in, the vitriol just becomes too much.
The only option seems to be unfriending those with a conservative bent, even if (more…)