My “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

This is a re-write, one I look forward to writing every year. My heart seems to sing and my hopes soar as I hear their call. I know spring’s rebirth is just around the corner and with it, mine.

Return of the Red Tails

I heard a shrill whistle from above and looked up into the February sky. It was a beautiful February day after a gray, rainy yesterday. Warmer than normal although the day felt cooler with a bit of a breeze blowing from the northwest. The sky was cloudless and of a deep blue color that poems are written about. Circling in the middle of the blue expanse was my red-tailed hawk.

I know she’s not mine any more than I’m hers but it’s the way I think of her…if she is a “her.” I believe she is her because of her size. She and I met several years ago when I got too near her nest and was dive bombed by either “herself “or her mate. A bright reddish-brown flash had me ducking low to the ground while uttering several expletives as I scurried to safety. For several days, I searched with binoculars until I found her nest high in an oak tree on the high hill behind my house and made a note to stay clear until her clutch had flown.

For the past several February winters, the red tails have returned to make repairs to their nest before beginning their courting flights as the days lengthen in the early spring. Soaring high into the blue sky while twisting and turning, the male makes steep dives around his mate before soaring back into the “romantic” blue sky. Soon they will retreat to their evergreen boudoir behind an ancient hemlock tree and their “acte d’amour” will begin for another season as the “circle of life” continues with an egg or three. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate it.

I once wasted several cool, early summer mornings watching the red tail teaching her one offspring how to hunt field mice. Standing at the kitchen sink, a wide picture window affords me a view of a small open area between my backyard and one of the streams cutting my property. Sitting on a dead “stick up”, the red tail and her charge would wait patiently for movement, then, after erupting into a violent dive, return to their perch with the bounty of their exertions and share…until the fateful day when they returned and mommy hawk brushed the little one aside as if to say “This is mine, it’s time for you to go get your own.” There comes a time when we all must spread our wings and go off to do our own hunting.

My red tails are one of the harbingers of spring I check off as I await my “most wonderful time” of the year. Winters are tough on me and have become tougher as I approach the winter of my years. Soon everything will be green and colorful with rebirth. Despite my allergies, mosquitoes and the emergence of yellow jackets, it is the “most wonderful time” of the year.

As I knelt in my backyard, digging at some dormant plant needing to be moved, I paused to watch her catching thermals, soaring higher and higher. I realized we had survived one more season. It is a season of rebirth for us all. My grandmother lived for spring. In her nineties, I expected every winter to be her last but every spring she would rally, be re-born like the jonquils, to enjoy her “most wonderful time” of the year. In the February of her ninety-eighth year, winter won out as it will for us all. Until then I will await the return of my red tails, her memory, and my own rally and rebirth. My “most wonderful time.”

For more of Don Miller’s writings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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The Times They Are Changin’

From my Brother, the Gasbag. He kinda nailed it…again.

Reflections Of A Gasbag

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

So I was watching TV the other day and some commercial featuring Bob Dylan’s iconic “Times They Are A Changin” appeared. I never was a huge Dylan fan when it came to his singing however as a writer there aren’t many better and this song was just one of his many classics. Dylan recorded it in 1963 and released it in January of 1964 during the heydey of Vietnam and also during the Civil Rights movement. I think he even said the reason he wrote it was to create an anthem of change. Less than a month after…

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Embracing the Fringe

“Americans are being held hostage and terrorized by the fringes. That’s what’s going on here. It’s not like fifty percent of Americans thinks one thing and fifty percent thinks another thing. No, fifteen percent on each side are effectively controlling the conversation and seventy percent of us don’t hate each other.” -Arthur Brooks, president of the “center-right” American Enterprise Institute

I don’t know where Mr. Brooks got his numbers, or whether the number is dead on seventy, but I agree with the assessment.  There is a very vocal and active group on both sides of the political spectrum, far removed from the center, sowing seeds of division and we are allowing it.  We are embracing the fringe not realizing, it is the fringe…it is not the mainstream, but I fear the mainstream is shrinking because of it.

Any anarchist, white-supremacist, radical, reactionary, religious nut, atheist nut or Russian troll, can sit behind a computer, pound out a meme reflecting the worst-case scenario or out and out lie, and we just pass it along, accepting it is fact.  Any talk show or talk show host can scream at the top of their lungs and do the same.  Why?

One, we are lazy, and I’ve been guilty of assuming the source is on the side of the “angels” instead of assuming they are playing the angles.  After all, it must be correct, it’s on the internet.  It must be true, so and so has a radio program and he/she said it was true.  We are too lazy, or busy, to actually take the time to do research.  I suggest if you are too busy to research you might be spending too much time on social media.

We seem to be into worst case scenarios and conspiracy.  A recently proposed abortion law in Virginia brought out howls and vivid “pictures” of babies being ripped from their mother’s wombs and murdered.  The intent of the proposal was not to give women the last minute, “free out” to motherhood but to give them a choice if their life was endangered or if the baby could not survive.  The proposal has been put down, it is not law, but women in Virginia will not have the choice of saving themselves or saving their child.  A terrible choice at best, but one that has been taken out of the hands of the people who should be making the choice.

We broad stroke everything.  “All Republicans are racist or Nazis.” “All liberals want open borders and abortion on demand.”  “All Christians want to turn the US into a theocracy.”  “Muslims are taking over our country and want to institute Sharia Law.”  “The Trump administration is full of Nazis and everything is ‘fake news’.”  “This radical Representative wants to turn us into a Communist nation.” “The wall, the wall, ad nauseum.”

While there may be kernels of truth espoused by the fringe, it’s not THE truth for most of us in the middle are believing, those on either side of the political center, even most of our elected officials…but I fear the middle is shrinking…fearing the fear.

The hardest untruths to overcome are our own biases.  The extreme fringe plays on our biases.  Propaganda is not new, and it was never our friend.  We live in an age where propaganda assaults us in ways even Hitler and Goebbels couldn’t envision.  Whether it is a liberal or conservative bias in a news source, an active Russian agent, or little Johnny sitting in his momma’s basement trying to be cute, we must learn to recognize when a used car salesman or talk show host is puffing.  We must realize EVERYTHING IS NOT A CONSPIRACY, and every point has two sides and both sides may have valid beliefs.

What I’ve noticed?  Some of the worst offenders are “seasoned” folk like me.  We seem to want to hold on to what is more comfortable…what we are familiar with…even it is wrong.  We are uncomfortable with change or with different.  I understand why I really do.  The problem? The world is changing faster than we can accept and we don’t recognize it anymore.  The world we live in vastly different than the world we grew up in…and it is not going to change back no matter how much we kick, scream and drag our feet.  That doesn’t stop us from “wanting”.  We latch on to rabid headlines or graphic talking points supporting “the way it used to be” or the “way we think it should be.”

Despite a changing world, we don’t have to change our core values, but we must become aware that there are people living in our world trying to destroy us, internally and externally, using our core values against us.  We can also hold on to our core values without assuming everyone who does not share them are “out to get us and need to leave the country.”  They have core values too that may not too different from our own…if we get to know them.  We need to research over a broad plane instead of looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

I am much more assured we will withstand the external assault than I am the internal division.  I am saddened over our apparent hatred.  As we call each other inflammatory names, my heart breaks a little bit every day.  I am not a libtard and you are not deplorable but we can be hateful to each other.  We don’t have to be.  We can find common ground.

Words do carry weight.  Before you throw a verbal stone, at least check your sources.  Do we need to help Boris and Natashia catch “moose and squirrel?”  Do we need to help ourselves destroy each other?  Do we really need another civil war?

Postscript: This post was written prior to the State of the Union Address and will be posted the morning after.  I won’t watch the President’s speech and the Democrat’s response…or Bernie on YouTube. It is easier for me to read the transcript without hearing the emotion.  I fear both sides will be heavy on puffing and light on substance anyway.  I read that the President will call for unity and nonpartisanship. I hope he will follow through and that both sides listen.  I’m sure the fringes will explain everything you and I need to know in the days to come.

The initial quote came from an interview by Politico.  The entire article, ‘Americans are Being Held Hostage and Terrorized by the Fringes’, An exit interview with the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks may be accessed at https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/13/arthur-brooks-american-enterprise-institute-interview-218364

If you are unfamiliar with the term, “puffing” refers to “extravagant claims made by sellers in order to attract buyers.” It is the exaggeration of the good points of a product, a business, real property, and the prospects for a future rise in value, profits, and growth.  https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/puffing/

Please take an opportunity to peruse Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Super Bowl Sunday

 

I watched the first Super Bowl.  I’ve watched all the Super Bowls.  I guess, unless I go blind, I will watch them all until the “sands in the hourglass” run out.

The first one wasn’t called the Super Bowl.  It was the AFL-NFL World Championship Game back then.  Not only has the name changed, but the game itself doesn’t resemble the first one.  More cameras than there are angles, scantily clad cheerleaders instead of pleated skirts, Bobbi socks and saddle shoes, commercials that were sometimes more interesting than the game itself, half-time extravaganzas instead of marching bands and different rules that the officials continue to blow.  Pretty much the only thing that hasn’t changed is me…laughing, are you?

My love for the game of football hasn’t changed…even though I don’t recognize it as the game I coached and played for three and a half decades.  It seems to be more fun-loving, a less brutal game than the original “three yards and a cloud of dust”version.  Much more fan friendly I guess.  Blame the old fun-loving, more offensive minded, pass-happy AFL, I guess.

As a young child, fall Sundays were reserved for church and a single football game on CBS.  That’s correct…one football game and nine times out of ten it was a Redskin contest.  We did have a thirty-minute highlight show of the previous Colts game.  I’m sure my father prayed at church that no one would decide to visit during the thirty-minute highlight show before the Washington Redskin’s weekly beating at the hands of anyone they might be playing.

Still, I became a fan…of Sonny Jurgenson’s lasers and Billy Kilmer’s wobblers.  It didn’t matter who was under center in the early sixties, victories were far and in between.  At least I had those replays of Johnny U and the Colts…but they weren’t very good either, except in ’59 and ’64.

Every Sunday, late in the game, my father would make the same observation about the Redskins, “I think they have shot their wad.”  For clarification, shooting one’s wad related to old muzzle-loading muskets and not…your dirty mind.

In 1960 a new kid dared to approach the NFL block…an always snowy new kid.  We would attempt to adjust our Sears rotary antenna to distant Ashville hoping the ABC affiliate and  AFL game of the week would come into view.  Click, click, click, “Whoa! That’s too far, go back!” It didn’t matter, early September or late November, the games always looked like it was snowing in black and white on the old RCA.  Later they would move to NBC, a channel we could pick up without snow.

These were the days of the New York Titans, Dallas Texans, Houston Oilers and a few names that would still be recognized today.  No, the Dallas Texans were not the forerunners of the Dallas Cowboys, but the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Cowboys were the first NFL expansion team and while briefly known as the Steers, they opened their first season in 1960 as the Cowboys.

The two leagues would eventually merge but not before the 1967 AFL-NFL World Championship played between the Bart Starr led juggernaut Green Bay Packers and the upstart Kansas City Chiefs with Len Dawson under center.  The score was close at half-time but a runaway by the end of the game.  Green Bay’s smash-mouth brand of football won 35-10 and began fifty-three years of futility as I repeatedly pull for the wrong team.

I’ve quit pulling for anyone…well, maybe I’ll pull against someone…like Brady.  It won’t matter.  If he were a religious figure, he’d walk on water.  Is that blasphemy or heresy?  I can never remember.

I’ll watch to the bloody end, maybe the commercials will be good.  I’ll watch and heft a beer and toast my father.  I’ll even use his favorite phrase when watching a fourth-quarter pass fall harmlessly to the ground…”Well, looks like they’ve shot their wad again.”

The only thing to be decided is who shoots their wad and how many of those beers I heft.  Go Budweiser Commercial!!!!

Further musings and a book or six can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Ode to February

 

Not really an ode…I’m not a poet…some would say I’m not even a writer…but that may just be my depression kicking in…or not.

Too many days of long dark nights, cold and crisp, with the stars twinkling brightly…clear as a bell…seeming so close you might touch them.  Too many days with the sun low in the Southern sky…if it can be seen at all due to the gray days full of winter rains.

I’ll take short summer nights, hot and humid, with the stars obscured by the mosquitos in the air…a thunderstorm rumbling in the distance.  That was almost poetic.

February gives me hope…I know it is cold and crisp this morning and a polar vortex has the mid-west in its deadly, skeletal grip…but there is hope…here in the foothill of the Blue Ridge.  Long range I see afternoon temperatures in the upper sixties.  A chance of the low seventies?  “Hope along Sweet February hope along.”

If previous winters teach us anything, there will be plenty of cold crisp days in February but there will be many “Chamber of Commerce” days too.  Days to live for…sandwiched around days of “I wish I were dead”.  Just enough bright and warm days to keep me alive until late spring.

Soon the cyclist will come out of their winter cocoons, dressed in the newest, natty attire, mimicking colorful butterflies…sorry butterflies, I know you would not dress like you were on an LSD trip on purpose.  Golfers will don their own form of garish fashion and head to the links in hopes of breaking one hundred.  Lines of bass boats in gaudy metal flake will make the trek toward Lakes Keowee, Jocassee or Hartwell, searching for trophy bass.

All will converge on Highway 11, joining pulpwood trucks and farm tractors, creating a slow parade in front of my house.  A parade I will watch from the comfort of my garden.  Maybe I will put on a flowery Hawaiian shirt in gaudy honor of the colors I see slowly passing my home.

My garden has laid fallow since the first frost…way back in late October.  February will give me hope.  Tilling and amending, the smell of cow poop in the air.  Dirty fingernails from digging in the dirt, with sweat pouring down my nose.  The aching knees and muscles of time well spent.  Hopefully, the effort will lead to sweet and tart Cherokee Purple tomatoes dressed in Duke’s Mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, served between two pieces of Sunbeam Bread.  An ear of corn on the cob, or five, on the side…if I can beat the raccoons to it this year.

February makes me hopeful…hopeful that I will flower like the early spring jonquils and crocus.  There will be plenty of “Oh, damn you cold” days in February…and then there are the winds of March on days seemingly left over from January.  But…there is hope and where there is hope, there IS life.

The image is from Deb’s Garden, http://debsgarden.squarespace.com/journal/2016/2/28/early-spring-conquering-weeds.html

Books and further musings from Don Miller can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

“A Crime Without a Name”

 

“We are in the presence of a crime without a name.”

-Winston Churchill referring to genocide in a 1941 radio broadcast.  The crime would soon have a name.  It would be known as the Holocaust.

My wife and I toured the United States Holocaust Museum soon after it opened  I am not Jewish but it was a religious experience of sorts. The boxcar, the thousands of shoes, the bundles of hair.  The dead spoke to me in low, wailing voices.  They still speak.

My personal studies about man’s inhumanity to man has always focused around the Holocaust.  I’m sure my father’s participation in World War Two helped spark my interest even though his participation was in the Pacific.

Horror movies never bothered me…at least never bothered me once I realized men were more horrific than any vampire, werewolf or radioactive blob.  

The crematoriums at Auschwitz.  A  grainy, black and white, eight-millimeter film of walking skeletons, arms extended through barbed wire fences, the original thousand-yard stare on their faces.  Another scene showing bulldozers burying stacks of bodies in unmarked massed graves. These were testaments to horror…not a Transylvanian count dressed in a tuxedo, sucking on a neck. It was a horror story because it was real.

I have seen studies showing fewer and fewer know about the horror of the Holocaust.  Another study shows a third of all Americans are not sure it really happened.  I honestly don’t know how this can be. Whether I taught the US, World or European histories, I always made sure I taught the Holocaust and used it as a gateway to other genocides testifying to the cruelty and brutality of man.  Cruelty and brutality that seems to be on the rise…because it is being ignored.

I’ve never considered myself to be particularly ghoulish but I still have a PowerPoint I created on the Holocaust.  Having retired three different times only to return to teaching, I thought to purge my flash drives of all things educational, lesson plans, PowerPoints, worksheets, etc., might guarantee retirement.  There were a few I couldn’t get rid of, the Holocaust was one. It almost seemed sacrilegious.

After the Nuremberg Trials, world leaders shouted, “never again.”  It is easy to say “never again,” but unfortunately genocide continues.  While experts debate what is genocide, my guess is, “If you have to ask, it probably is.”  None have been on the scale of the Holocaust, but the number of incidents has increased: Bangladesh, East Timor, Cambodia, Guatemala, Bosnia, Rwanda, Dufar, Sudan.  These are the genocides that have occurred during my lifetime where a group in power has decided that the easiest way to deal with what they considered to be a problem group is to exterminate them.  The world has failed to keep its promise of “never again.”

My greatest of a great many concerns is that I have seen similar rhetoric right here, today, in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  My logical side says, “It can’t happen here.” My not so logical side says “anything is possible.” Our rhetoric has become abusive toward other groups of people and toward each other.  

I am sure of one thing, anything is possible if we forget.  Anything is possible if we fail to act. Anything is possible if we fail to love. 

The Holocaust was real.  Millions of dead were real.  Genocide is still with us.

Today is World Holocaust Remembrance Day.  We should take time to explain, to remember, to pray.  We should unite to make sure “never again” is never again.

For further musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The picture is of Jewish children liberated in 1945.

 

 

“You Deserve a Break Today…at the White House”

Ordinarily, I don’t make two blog posts on the same day but…today is different.  I feel a-callin’!  Some folks have gotten on the wrong side of this old coach.

I’m a Clemson fan.  I hold a master’s degree from Clemson and no I didn’t drive by campus with the window open and have a diploma thrown through it as some from folks in the middle of the state might think.  I also hold a master’s plus thirty, primarily bestowed from USC East, but I’m still a Clemson fan.

I’m not a fan of the present resident of our White House nor am I a fan of McDonald’s.  I’m a Burger King guy if I feel the need to up my cholesterol count with fast food.  I tend to limit the number of Whoppers I consume to “once in a blue moon”…sorta like Gamecock victories over the Tigers.

Last night the Clemson National Championship Football Team was hosted to a fast food feast at the White House.  Big Macs, Wendy’s Hot and Juicy’s, Whoppers and pizza of an unknown brand were served on White House porcelain.  People have gone crazy over it.  Your craziness is misplaced!

Going to the White House to be recognized for athletic excellence has never been about what President happens to reside there at the time…unless you are a professional.  It is about the recognition of student-athletes…and reward…even if it involves “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onion on a sesame bun” served on official White House China.  I don’t like the sauce or the President but that is not the point.

I’ve lived in South Carolina for my entire life and find it tedious to explain why we rank low in areas we shouldn’t rank low in, or rank high in areas we shouldn’t rank high in.  It’s not tedious because I can’t explain it.  Those are other battles. I find it refreshing to have something to be radiant “orange” over.

Last night was a joy for me…and the team, coaches and support staff.  It was a joy for people wearing orange from all over the United States.  It was not about the President, what I disagree with him about, or what he decided to serve as a meal.

Last night was a moment to recognize young men who have worked hard to attain a goal and for a state to feel pride vicariously through them.  Give it a break!  There are young men who would never travel outside of a fifty-mile radius of the home they were born into were it not for Clemson…or U of SC football…or other athletic teams.  They would never in their wildest dreams expect to shake the hand of a United States’ President or sit at a table of honor in the White House.

Call me a hypocrite.  If I were in their shoes, I’d be right in line to get my handshake…I would use a hand sanitizer before I picked up my double meat Whopper, but I’d shake the President’s hand and consider it a lifetime moment.  This should have nothing to do with politics or what food was served…or if the President was using it as a positive “press” opportunity.  As quarterback Trevor Lawrence said, “It was awesome.”  I agree.

Image of Tiger players loading up from Sports Illustrated at https://www.si.com/college-football/2019/01/14/clemson-tigers-white-house-visit-mcdonalds-wendys-fast-food

For further musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Is it Always About Race?

 

The question is not mine although I mentally argue the subject with myself quite often.  The person who asked the question pointed out, “You seem to be obsessed by race” meaning race relations.  He is intelligent, both well read and with common sense.  Because of his intelligence and his view of the world, I had to wonder if he might be correct.  If I am obsessed, what about people of color.

I have been told, “We must move on.  No one alive today has owned slaves or picked cotton as a slaveMove on!”  Having picked cotton as a small child I might dispute that assertion except I was “paid” with a BB Bat occasionally and was not living in a home that sharecropping was an only vocation available.  Okay, for argument’s sake I’ll give you that assertion but would add the word legally…but then there are those prisons who still rent out inmates for profit, the Angola Plantation of modern times.

I would also ask you to shift your thinking to the years of my lifetime.  I began life in the Jim Crow South.  The Brown case that overturned Plessy v Ferguson landed like a wet cow patty in my part of the world in 1954.  Being four at the time, I didn’t notice.  I was much more interested in Tonka Toys, recreating the Gunfight at the Ok Corral, and defeating the Imperial Japanese Army with little green soldiers than worrying about a court case I had no understanding of.  The youngster of color I played with didn’t notice either…until 1956 when we both went off to our still “separate but equal” schools.

For the next fourteen years South Carolina, along with the rest of the South, drug their collective feet, rushing like runaway snails toward complete integration, kicking and screaming all the way.  Southerners heard “deliberate” and ignored “speed” in “with all deliberate speed”1, first ignoring it, then instituting “token” integration before going the whole hog and integrating all public schools in 1970…that was in my little piece of the South…again, during my lifetime.  The last public school to integrate was in Mississippi in 2016, sixty-two years after Brown.  Yes, for some folk, it is still about race.

Desegregation was not well received, integration even worse.  Our collective “white” anger was not just limited to the South.  Some of the most racist areas still exist, and they are not restricted to the states seceding in late 1860 and early 1861.  Boston, Massachusetts, for instance, didn’t integrate their schools until 1976, with rioting in addition to kicking and screaming.

During my lifetime, I have very vivid memories of people who made it about race.  Memories of our “kicking and screaming” in the form of bombs blowing up churches, burning buses, election workers buried under a dam, firehoses and Billy clubs, what was once human beings hung from a tree, and police dogs.  If I have those hateful memories of events during my lifetime…what about people of color?  Should we all ignore these memories or should we approach it head on and accept our racist past by getting rid of it in our racist present and banning it from our future?

I’ve specified years beginning in 1954.  My lifetime.  Brown in ’54, Little Rock Nine in ’57, the Greensboro sit-ins in ’60, a bomb in Birmingham in ’63, Dr. King’s assassination and a hell of a lot more in ’68, Mother Emmanuel in 2015, Senator Steve King in 2019 wondering when “white nationalist and white supremacist” became offensive words.

I jumped a few years for expediency and just listed a few to make a point.  There are seventy-four million Baby Boomers of all races alive today who have lived through Jim Crow or institutional racism in education, the justice system, prisons, housing, jobs, voting, just to name a few.  Those memories are real as is the discrimination many still face in 2019.

What discrimination?  Before you say, “But….”  I’ve researched the data and you can too.  I’m not going to do it for you.  The numbers are skewed for a reason.  You should research if you still believe in science and data…if not, please go elsewhere and harass some other poor soul.

With forethought, those who came before us, systematically placed restrictions on people they considered the other.  Even “Po white trash” facilitate their own dilemmas by allowing and even assisting in white supremacy.  The least racist of us perpetuate the system covertly because “Those are the lessons we grew up with and learned.”

“But….”  I know.  You have Black or Hispanic friends, maybe po white trash friends too.  Jeffery Dahmer had friends he didn’t eat.  He was still a serial cannibal.

Stereotypes still exist and people around me perpetuate them all the time.  I have been guilty of taking the path of least resistance…and maybe even perpetuating.  No longer.  If we are going to end inequalities in the system who should heft the banner?  Those who are still unequal in the eyes of the ruling class?  White supremacy will not end on its own nor will it end by the efforts from people of color alone.  White supremacy must end by the efforts of whites.

“But….”  I know, there will always be racist people.  Laws passed will not make racism and white supremacy magically disappear.  People with racist attitudes do not need to be in positions of power ala Senator Steve King.  They don’t need to be bosses, policemen or educators either.  It is up to the white race to call out those of our own who are.

I do realize that every action or slight doesn’t have to be about race and there are some who just want to make “everything” about race…certainly our media it would seem.  Until we truly believe, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal”, it will be about race…or bigotry…or misogyny…or…?  Equal must be equal…it cannot be by degrees, by social class or by race.”

Dr. King would have turned ninety today had he lived.  One of his most famous quotes, from one of his most famous speeches, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” is oft repeated. It is a substantial quote but in the light of today’s cultural atmosphere, I believe the final paragraph of the speech is more relevant.  Speaking of freedom, Dr. King said,

“And when this (freedom) happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men, and white men, Jews, and Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”2

I don’t know if I will see true freedom for all in my lifetime.  I doubt it.  I pray my daughter and grandchildren see it.  A time when everyone’s children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin (or religion, gender, etc.) but by the content of their character.”  

1 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

2 Source: Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have A Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World, ed. James Melvin Washington (San Francisco: Harper, 1986), 102-106.

The image is from Richmond 2Day http://richmond2day.com/city-host-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-day-program-encourages-residents-volunteer/mlk/

Further musings may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A Quiet Before a Storm

 

Despite the overcast skies I decided to hike my old logging roads.  I needed to walk them, I haven’t since the snow apocalypse and the following high winds from before Christmas.  I wasn’t surprised or disappointed.  I have downed pine trees everywhere.  With a tractor and chainsaw, I will prevail…if the tractor runs. When I bought it back in the day, I was told: “nothing runs like a Deere.”  They lied…I guess John Deere even produces lemons on occasion.

I walked slowly up the incline, climbing over and ducking under downed trees along my route.  The three-hundred-foot elevation gain over about a third of a mile caused me to huff and puff a bit.  The temperature was noticeably cooler, the clouds seemed closer and denser.  The weather folk says it is going to be a minor winter event…my knee says maybe not.  Is there a difference between a single throbbing knee weather event and a double?

Stopping along the crest of a ridge to catch my breath, I was surprised at the quiet.  Just my inhalations were heard.  I fought to bring them under control…it seemed important.  Silent and still, not a hint of a breeze.  Even the hum from the distant four-lane seemed muted.  A quiet before a storm?  The birds seem to be hiding, as are the squirrels.  Not a chirp, not even the caw of a crow or a squirrel rustling the leaves disturbed the silence.

I continued to listen as I walked and searched the trees for movement.  There were signs.  Disturbed leaves from turkeys looking for seed or a grub.  The silent deer stands on the portion of my logging road that is not really mine.  They stood quietly, like empty watch towers…no game in sight.

Up to Chinquapin and then down to a second ridge crest.  I lost the old road for a moment and wondered what footprints my own feet might be following.  Five hundred years ago this was a Native American trading route.  It was still the land of the Cherokee, black bears, and the Carolina panther…today they have all had to make room for golfers and cyclist…and a moonshiner or two.

It is so quiet.  It is easy to walk and reflect on the thirty years I have resided here.  Reflections that make me smile…little that makes me frown.  While the Cherokee have moved north, the wildlife is still here…maybe they are reflecting too.  Reflecting on a quiet before a storm and the wonderful place they live.

For more reflections, rants or musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Championship Emotions

As I watched last night’s National Championship game, I seemed to drift to days of yesteryear.  Not that the game wasn’t interesting…well…anytime you pop the bully in the mouth it is interesting.  My memories were of young men competing on fields marked with white lines that seemed to glow with their own light.  Days when I still coached football, at a different level, in a different time.  But it was football.  I thought of an early spring evening at a coaching clinic held at Clemson University in 1981.

Danny Ford was my guy in 1981…still is my guy.  I miss his visage and demeanor on the sidelines at Death Valley.  A personable, country come to town, baseball cap pushed back on his head, a piece of grass stuck between his lip’s kind of guy.

Danny spoke two languages, football, and Alabama redneck.  He had a look that could freeze your heart or melt it.  He is still my guy.  Danny had recruited our school as an assistant, and our staff had developed a closeness with him during those days that carried over after he was named head coach.  Not that the present head coach isn’t my guy, Dabo is…its just different…despite being an Alabama boy too.

During those days I had dreams and aspirations.  Dreams and aspirations that never quite came to fruition.  I am now a spectator instead of a participant.  Sounds like I might be bitter.  Hmm.  Thoughts for another day.

Being young and foolish, our high school staff “closed” the clinic in the spring of 1981.  Late in the evening, sitting around a table were maybe a dozen of us “hardcore partiers”.  Ford knew how to throw a clinic.  After the football X’s and O’s were done, he served us beer in sixteen-ounce Hardee’s cups, pulled pork sandwiches with fixings and entertained us with a tree climbing hound dog while a bluegrass band played in the background.  The festivities had ended, the band packed up, with just a few of us sitting around a knockdown table.

In my world of coaching, I sat in the rarified air of coaching elite.  Successful high school head coaches sat close by while I thought it was smart for children and young coaches to be seen and not heard.  I admit to feeling somewhat invisible but listened intently hoping for a coaching nugget to stick in my brain.  Funny, Danny Ford was just two years older.

Normally jovial and full of country colloquialisms, this version was depressed and subdued.  Hat pulled down over his eyes, crying in his beer depressed.  Inside of a coffin subdued.  Clemson had just come off a terrible six and five season and he was feeling pressure from the administration and alumni.  A well-known, South Carolina High School Hall of Fame coach gradually drew him out before pushing a Hardee’s cup toward him saying, “Son, all you can do is coach ‘em up and love ‘em.  Other than that, what’s gonna happen is gonna happen.”

Something happened.  Clemson’s first National Championship was won ten months later as the Tigers beat Nebraska to cap the first storybook season.  The first of three storybook seasons…so far.

I ran into Danny recently…literally not figuratively.  I’m smiling.  At a small mercantile in the middle of nowhere, I walked into him as I exited the door with a package of cigars.  He was entering to get a pouch of Red Man and a hotdog.  Some things never change.  We both paused waiting as neurons slowly crackled in recognition.

Pointing a sausage sized finger at me, he drawled, “I know you.  You were with Lunceford and Bradburn at Mauldin.”  It was nice to be remembered.  I shivered a bit.

We stood outside, leaning on truck tailgates, reminiscing about times gone by and people we’ve lost, highs and lows, hemp farming, raising cows, grandchildren, and retirement.  “Whatever happened to….”  He seems quite happy to be out of the spotlight butI don’t think Danny Ford will ever retire.  Our meeting left me both proud and a bit melancholy, like what I am feeling this early, early morning as the talking heads analyze Clemson’s throttling of the Crimson Tide.

It seems we’re a lot alike…except I’m not a National Championship coach from a major university.  Neither of us misses the long hours but miss the people.  We miss the competition and prowling the sidelines on game night.  We don’t miss the practices held in hot and humid August and September.  I guess he is still competing in a way, now from astride a tractor, trying to resurrect a hemp industry while raising cattle.  At least the cab is airconditioned.

The memories we shared were warm, but I think we both fear there will come a time when memories are all we will have left…or maybe it is only my fear.  I guess I do miss “coaching them up and loving them.”  I also realize my time has passed.  Another reason to be melancholy.  The game has passed me by…but I’m not sorry.  I still have the memories and the attending emotions of young men competing on brightly lit green fields striped in white.

For those of you, not football fans, Dabo is Dabo Swinney, head football coach of the 2018 National Champion Clemson Tigers.

For further musings, https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is of Danny Ford being carried off of the field after Clemson’s 22-15 victory over Nebraska in 1981 National Championship.