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Tommy_Carcetti

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Member since: Tue Jul 10, 2007, 03:49 PM
Number of posts: 19,218

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You have to understand the President has an extremely fine line to walk regarding Russia.

On the one hand, knowing the nuclear armament of his adversary, he cannot use language that is too militaristic or hawkish unless he actually wants to back up his words with actions. Which could very well be catastrophic.

On the other hand, he knows he cannot appear to be too weak in the face of clear aggression and blatant violation of neighboring countries' sovereignty, actions which knowingly violate prior treaties to which both the US and Russia are a party.

Of course in the latter argument, it ultimately begs the whole "But....Iraq!" argument. Which appears to be a logical question on its face but puts the President in one hell of a conundrum given the fine line he has to walk. And you do have to understand while we here stateside are able to differentiate between the United States under Bush and the United States under Obama, that nuance loses a bit of its luster beyond our borders. So we will forever be stuck with the albatross of the prior administration's misdeeds around our neck, no matter how much we wish to shake it loose.

And so, yes, like that embarrassing family member for which we feel obligated to make excuses strictly out of a shared last name, our President is forced into the unenviable position of picking out the ever-so-slight silver linings of US debacles past just so he can remain balanced on the dental floss thin tightrope he needs to walk when it comes to Russia's actions towards Ukraine.

As many of you might be aware, over the past couple of weeks I have been very vocal and outspoken as it relates to what has been going on in Ukraine and Russia's actions towards that country (admittedly in part due to my own Ukrainian heritage). I also understand fully that in terms of a US response, military intervention simply is not an option but a forceful non-military approach is essential.

The President has had to walk that tightrope between aggression and complacency and my personal opinion is that he has done so remarkably well. I am not going to rake him over the coals making minor distinctions between our own prior misdeeds (to which he had no control over) and Russia's current misdeeds.

Nor am I going to claim he lacks the moral authority to hold Moscow to task. To the contrary, it is most imperative that the entire world hold Russia to task, no matter our sordid pasts.
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Thu Mar 27, 2014, 12:22 PM (55 replies)

It was all a coup!

So Yanukovych gets democratically elected in 2010, and in the next four years he does nothing that would warrant mass protests from the Ukrainian people. Because corruption happens everywhere, so just deal with it, okay?

Then a bunch of neo-nazi ultra-nationalists go into Kiev and throw rocks and sticks and bottles and shit, probably because the US or EU or somebody paid them to do so. Because if you want to enact regime change to get your guy into power, paying lots and lots of people money to protest is the most efficient and effective way to do so.

Then the all-powerful failed US Presidential candidate and chronic mumbler John McCain comes in on McCain Force One and stands on a stage, looking slightly constipated. And Victoria Nuland passes out sandwiches, or maybe donuts (pampushky as they are known locally).

Then the neo-Nazi ultra-nationalists go back to throwing rocks and sticks and bottles and shit.

Then some of the neo-Nazi ultranationalists get shot by snipers, but really, they were probably just shooting themselves, so whateves.

Then someone waves a magic wand, God comes out of the machine, and Yanukoyvch is no longer the Ukrainian president and Svoboda is now in charge. Pretty much permanently, because it's not like they've scheduled elections in the upcoming months.

And clearly it's Svoboda who the US/UK/EU/CIA/IMF/NATO wants in charge, because when you think people who outside foreign powers think are the easiest to have their bidding done on their behalf, it's domestic ultranationalists.

Oh, and did I mention that it's the ultranationalist neo-nazis who are now in charge of Ukraine, and not an interim government lead by moderate centrists? Because that's what it is.

Oh, and Russia invades Crimea with its very special force of Not Russian Russian Troops, but that's okay. Not that we like Putin or anything, but back in the day Russia controlled Crimea for its very special Russification/Expelling the Tatars project, so really it's not like it's foreign soil for them. Plus, Ukraine outlawed the speaking of Russian in Ukraine, so there's that, too.

Plus we as Americans are morally prohibited from criticizing Russia's actions because our last idiot of a President also invaded a foreign country on pretextual purposes. And once that is done, there is no way for us to reflect on our past errors and take a different approach from that point forward.

Obviously. Duh.
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Fri Mar 7, 2014, 09:36 AM (31 replies)

They're actually *depressed* that the government is re-opening. I shit you not.

I had some time in the car, and given yesterday's events, I figured I'd get my schadenfreude on, and I sampled some right wing radio nuts.

And at least one of them actually expressly stated he was "too depressed" about the prospect of the government re-opening.

Now, just think about that for a minute. What are they really depressed about?

They're depressed about the government worker who will be able to collect a paycheck again and can put his or her money back in the economy.

They're depressed that national parks are open, and not only do the parks themselves go back to business, but the nearby hotels, restaurants, gas stations, shops and other businesses surrounding the park that are so dependent on tourism also get to go back to business.

They're depressed that our food will be properly inspected again.

They're depressed that the federal government that our taxes go to fund is actually up and running again like it is supposed to be, instead of acting as a $24 billion pit.

I'm just left speechless at this. Are people that politically blinded that they don't actually understand that our government re-opening should be applauded as a good thing?
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Thu Oct 17, 2013, 12:46 PM (57 replies)

As a white guy, I'm perfectly fine with the fact I can't say N______. Even if black people can.

I'm perfectly fine that there's no White Entertainment Television. I'm perfectly fine that there's no White History Month. I'm perfectly fine that colleges don't have White Student Organizations and that there's no National Association for the Advancement of White People.

All this ridiculous whining and consternation from some white people that they don't "get" the same cultural markers as black people or they don't get to say certain terms about African Americans even though blacks use that same term. It's ridiculous. It's insane. You're forcing the issue and you ought to give up, because you look like fools.

Let me tell you something. If for the first century of this country's history white people were considered property and not full human beings, and for the second century of this country's history white people were subjected to institutionalized segregation laws, and for the third century white people had to deal with the lingering after-effects of the first and second centuries, then all of those things would be perfectly okay for white people.

Most African Americans in this country have had a shared cultural experience, one marked with both great trauma and overcoming such trauma, that allows them to identify with each other as a race.

White people in this country have never had that. Not as a race. Many of us have a cultural identity with the country in which your family has its origins (Italian, Irish, Polish, etc.) and that's terrific. Because when the Italians and Irish and Polish crossed the ocean to this country, they too had a shared cultural experience in that aspect, and that's something you can pass on to future generations.

But there is no White American culture to speak of in this country. It's a myth. And that's perfectly fine with me.
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Thu Jul 18, 2013, 11:18 AM (135 replies)

What people here who demand Catholics leave their church don't understand.

Please forgive me for bringing up the Catholic topic, but with the selection of the new Pope a little less than a week ago, I wanted to put in my two cents while there was still some newsworthiness about the story and before my thread gets locked and I am forced to post it in a forum that--face it--barely any of you would ever read.

But in many threads, I noticed a good amount of either non-Catholics or longtime former Catholics very angry at the church (for reasons usually justifable, I would add) demanding currently active Catholics on this board (which as we all know is comprised of Democrats, liberals and progressives) leave the church, or at least cease participating in the church or donating money towards church related causes. Usually, this is on the grounds of either the Church's atriocious (and sometimes criminal) handling of the well-publicized sex abuse scandal, or based on the generally conservative (at least socially conservative) outlook by a majority in the ranks of the Church's heirarchy.

Again, for the most part, the criticisms voiced are typically valid and well founded. But I do believe those persons demanding that us active Catholics who also call ourselves liberals or Democrats leave their Church in protest don't fully understand the context from where most Catholics are coming from. Especially in light of the reforms enacted after the Vatican II council, where lay persons were encouraged to take a more active in participating in the religion. (Contrary to what some might think, Vatican II was more than just about having masses said in the native tongue as opposed to in Latin; it was intended to change the entire outlook lay Catholics took towards their faith.)

Very few Catholics consider themselves Catholic because of the heirarchy. Very few of them have a close enough relationship with their bishop to voice their concerns to him. I suspect a good many of them might not even know the name of their bishop. And while the excessive majesty of the Vatican may be cool to look at (and I'll freely admit, watching live the announcement of the new Pope was really, really fucking cool to watch with all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it), it's not the selling point for the faith. And it may in fact be rather counterproductive due to its ridiculous excess.

But in the end, that glaring disconnect that the ordinary Catholic may have with the heirarchy is not that big a deal. Because most Catholics identify with their church on a very local level. They know their local pastor who they can approach on a regular basis. They get to see and converse with people that they know they will get to see on at least a weekly basis. And the local church will provide services to the community, valuable ones. My home parish in Maryland, for example: it ran a homeless shelter. It had a pre-school. It had a youth group. It had a community center, with a gym and a theater. You had CCD. With the litugy itself, you could be a lector. You could be a Eucharistic Minister. Just about any social event or group or activity imaginable, it provided. Yes, the masses on Sunday are what brought people together ultimately, but people found meaning in their faith beyond that one weekly hour with all these activities and groups.

The heirarchy? Most ordinary Catholics view it as necessary structure to keep the faith doctrine focused and organized, but that's about it.

So I'm telling you now, asking Catholics to leave their church is a non-starter. People generally have very positive feelings towards their local parishes and they are not going to want to leave them behind and scatter. My mother was very involved in our hometown parish, and when she moved out of state, she would tell you that leaving her parish was hands down the most difficult part of moving. Probably even more difficult than leaving our house where me and my sisters were raised. Whatever qualms a given Catholic might have with the actions of a member of the heirarchy, or a direction the heirarchy might take, is far overshadowed by their emotional tie to their local church. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.

So why not then individual local parishes "secede" from the Church? That way, some might say, the social structure of the parish is kept intact but it is free from the control of the dysfunction of the heirarchy. Well, I hate to tell you, but that's not going to work, either. Besides the fact it would be incredibly burdensome to do logistically, having countless little splinter churches out there that run the risk of diluting the Catholic identity, especially when it comes to faith doctrine and matters of liturgy. People would quickly lose interest. Despite all its misgivings, the heirarchy does serve some useful function in creating a sense of cohesion, nothwithstanding all its other problems.

So what can be done? Well, members of individual churches need to capitalize on their sense of community. Not all churches have parish councils, but they ought to, to give a better voice to the layity. Individual Catholics need to come together and discuss some of the issues they know are important but for whatever reason the heirarchy is not keen on discussing, at least publically. And some sense of consensus should be brought forward from parish to parish and grievances should erred publically. So if enough parishoners want a better means to ensure abusive priests are not sheltered, that gets put forward. If parishoners want the bishops to consider ordination of married persons and women, that gets put forward. If parishoners wish the bishops to quit wasting their time on silly lawsuits over contraception coverage, that gets put forward. And so forth and so on. But really the only thing we are missing right now is a better voice from individual lay Catholics. If we find a way to better publicize the direction we want our Church to take, mark my words, the heiarchy will have no choice but to listen.

And it should also be noted that the individual parish priests--who deal with lay parishioners and ordinary matters on a daily basis--may actually be more receptive to new ideas than one might think. I could see as mere matter of practicality that a good number of priests would actually be fine with expanding the priesthood to women and married persons, for the simple reason that the current shortage of priests willing to take a vow of celibacy has created an overwhelming burden on the priests who are there to perform more and more services for their respective parishes. I would suspect they would think the more help, the merrier.

Pope Francis, the new pope, is a Jesuit. One thing you may not know about the Jesuits is that they are bound by a sense of duty where if they disagree with the position of the superior, they must speak up and say so. So let us active Catholics seize the opportunity of our new Jesuit Pope and do what the Jesuits do.




Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Wed Mar 20, 2013, 12:11 PM (173 replies)

Of Children and of Guns.

Let me first preface this by saying I've long prided myself with not making arguments out of base emotion. I'm a long, outspoken opponent of the death penalty, and whenever I've been asked, "Well, how would you feel if a loved one of yours was murdered?", I've always responded by stating I'd probably be very angry and upset, but that wouldn't change the basic facts that the death penalty is neither a deterrent nor a true sense of justice to the victim's loved ones, and is hypocritical to its very core.

But that aside, I will say that the entire Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy has shook me to the very core. And in the past week, I've heard the brave, haunting testimony of Neil Heslin and David Wheeler. I've read the opinion piece authored by Mark and Jackie Barden. And I will freely admit as a man who usually is a master at holding his emotions in check, I've found myself just welling up with tears on multiple occasions at the mere thought of what they've had to say. I know that none of them ever wanted that type of attention. None of them wanted their 15 minutes of fame to be having to relive the death of their child before a government panel or in the pages of a well-circulated newspaper. But out of a sense of duty and a basic sense of what is right and what is wrong, they knew they could not remain silent.

You see, I'm the proud father of two young and beautiful daughters. One of my daughters is not much younger than those first graders who perished that December morning. Every evening, they greet me with smiles and shouts of "Daddy!" when I get home from work. Every evening I get to play games with them. Every evening I get to read books to them and tuck them into bed. Yet there is the creeping thought in the back of my mind that in some extremely fucked-up alternate universe, I am Neil Heslin. I am David Wheeler. I am Mark or Jackie Barden. What I get to experience every night has suddenly been brutally robbed from 20 sets of parents. And beyond the city limits of Newtown, Connecticut, it has been robbed from countless other parents and children and husbands and wives and friends, and continues to be robbed on a daily basis.

There's been considerable talk about the Second Amendment, what it says, what it doesn't say, what it means and what it doesn't mean. And that's all fine and a worthy conversation to be had. I also know that many of the proponents of a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment are parents themselves, and they may indeed take that position because they believe their ownership of guns (including those with maximum firepower and capacity) is somehow meant to protect their own children from whatever forces that be.

But we cannot lose sight of our priorities here. As has been said over and over and over, there is no legitimate effort in this country to ban all private ownership of all guns. Many people will continue to have bolt action shotguns if they like to hunt. Many people will continue to have a pistol in their home for self-protection, hopefully secured in a proper and safe manner. And the issue staring us square in the face--gun violence--is truly a multi-faceted dilemma. It's not just about semi-automatic rifles or high-capacity clips. It's not just about background checks or mental health screening and treatment. It's not just about a violent society. It's not just about what constitutes self-defense. It's not just about securing one's weapons. It's about all those things, and more.

But for those who have honed in on ownership of high powered semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines, and what they view as an affront to the Second Amendment if there is any legislative action taken to restrict ownership of those items, I just implore them to stop and take a step back.

If one is suddenly by law prohibited from buying an AR-15 or buying a 30 round clip for their own personal use, in the end, it means nothing. Nothing You can still freely buy a less powered weapon or a smaller sized package of ammunition, and you can still achieve whatever basic sense of satisfaction that you sought from those items.

But if someone loses a child (or any sort of loved one) as a result of a shooting such as Newtown or Aurora or Virginia Tech or Tuscon or Columbine or countless others, it means everything. Every single little thing in the world.

Assuming you have a good relationship with them and they have not predeceased you, your children will show up at your funeral when you pass away. Your guns will not. Your children will carry on your family name and legacy. Your guns will not. Your children are capable of giving you grandchildren. Your guns will not. Your children will accompany you on family vacations and bless you with holiday memories. Your guns will not. Your guns will never hug you back or tell you that they love you; your children will. Even those who don't have children of their own (whether it be by fate or by choice) are someone else's children, and know all too well the power of having that sense of wonder and astonishment of the world that comes with childhood.

A gun will never, ever give the sense of satisfaction or meaning that a loved one can give you. Their interests will always be subjected to the interests of human life and human dignity.

And one more thing. Guns did not write the U.S. Constitution. People did. Keep that forever in mind when you speak of the Constitution.
___________________________________________________________________________________
The testimony of Neil Heslin:

&feature=player_embedded

The testimony of David Wheeler:



Op-Ed Piece by Mark and Jackie Barden:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-response-to-newtown-shootings-think-of-daniel/2013/01/29/b658933a-6a48-11e2-95b3-272d604a10a3_story.html

Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Fri Feb 1, 2013, 10:42 AM (28 replies)

To answer your question, Allen, it's because you're an asshole.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-29/why-did-florida-fire-allen-west

Why Did Florida Fire Allen West?

By Michael C. Bender on November 29, 2012

Allen West is still surprised that Florida’s voters have kicked him out of Congress after only two years. “Why would anyone want to get rid of a person that is born and raised in the inner city, third of four generations in the military—just an American success story?” asks West, from the living room of his Palm Beach Gardens home overlooking a pool and golf course. “I’m not some guy that came from a rich political family or anything like that,” he says. “I’m just an everyday guy, but I have a passion for my country.”
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Really?

You call 80 of your colleagues Communists, you tell key Democrats to "get the hell out of America", you go off on an email rant against a colleague by calling her "vile, despicable and not a lady," you say that Obama voters are "a threat to the gene pool", you say that the sole Muslim member of Congress whom you've never even met "represents the antithesis of the principles upon which this nation was founded," you claim that people with "Coexist" bumper stickers want to give the country away, and you failed to offer a single meaningful piece of legislation in your two years of office.

I'm so glad my state removed this cancer to its legislative delegation. You have no idea.

Does. Not. Play. Well. With. Others.
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Fri Nov 30, 2012, 09:33 AM (60 replies)

The ignorance and idiocy on the right regarding Obama's comments on gas prices is astounding.

So I'm on Facebook and I see a conservative friend of mine "like" a graphic from a group called "Conservative Women Rock!" (who apparently must be those women in binders that Mitt had been talking about.) Curious, I chose to check it out.

I'll spare you having to go to their idiotic site yourselves, but the graphic had a picture of President Obama during the debate and has a quote of his, "Gas prices were $1.86 when I took office because the economy was on the verge of collapse." At the bottom of the graphic, they add their own cutesy editorial comment, "Oh. Thanks. $4.00 is so much less collapse-y."

Essentially, they want to spin this as some sort of huge gaffe by the President and claim he is a complete out of touch moron for saying this. The problem is.....well, where do you start? First--and as much as I hate to say this, but this even applies to George W. Bush when he was president--the president cannot directly set the price of gas or oil, nor can he easily influence the price of gas or oil without enacting measures that conservatives would no doubt claim is horrible government intrusion on the precious oil companies. The price of oil and gas are controlled mainly by the oil companies themselves as well as market speculators who influence the trading price of oil based on what they see as global market conditions. That we are completely beholden to the oil companies and market speculators when it comes to the price of gas is disgusting, but that's how the game currently works.

So what's so special about January 2009 when President Obama took office? Well, for everyone alive and mentally cognizant at the time, and not living under some sort of rock, they would know that we were in the middle of a horrific economic collapse. The stock market was in a free-fall, and we were hemoraging jobs by the million every month. This collapse started in earnest in October 2008 and wouldn't bottom out until the end of the first few months of the Obama administration. In the Summer of 2008, gas was at an all time high of $4.10 a gallon. That all changed when the levies broke. Stocks were a mess. Because of massive unemployment, people were driving less to jobs, not taking long road trips. Oil market speculators saw this, and like the rest of Wall Street, they panicked. Hence, the price of oil plummetted on these fears. It certainly had nothing to do with the health of the economy.

Flash forward four years later, and the unemployment numbers are back to where they were when the President took office. Those numbers have slowly but steadily risen over almost the entirity of the Obama administration. The stock market is back to pre-recession levels. We are in recovery. Market speculators see this, and doing the dirty work that they do, they feel comfortable raising the trading price of oil. So what President Obama was entirely, 100% correct.

Not that I necessarily think that President Obama couldn't do things better in this respect. He could attempt to take measures that restricts or even eliminates market speculation on the price of oil. But you just know if he tries to do that, the conservatives will turn around and cry bloody murder that he is trying to nationalize the oil companies and you'll hear endless b.s. talk about socialism and communism and every other type of -ism. Because the sad fact of the matter is, when faced on one side with supporting oil market speculators and oil industry tycoons on one side, and a Democratic president on the other side, conservatives will by instinct choose the market speculators and tycoons who willfully stick it up the rear of the lower and middle classes when it comes to gas price rather than supporting a president trying to offer relief from the price at the pump. Simply because the guy is a Democrat.

But those in the right are living in the now. Blinded by crass partisianship, they cannot for the life of them see the forest through the trees. To them, the economy on January 19, 2009 was vibrant and robust, all ruined the moment President Obama raised his hand to take the oath of office. To them, the economy now is worse than it was in January 2008. To them, gas prices during the Bush administration were always rock bottom.

What took me back the most was the complete ignorance in some of the comments. I pointed out that gas had been over $4 well into the summer of 2008. One person shot back that gas was never over $4 during Bush's presidency. So I responded with an article from June 2008 by Consumer Reports that showed in clear black print that the average price of a gallon of regular gas was $4.10. Didn't hear anything back from that poster. Other posters, however, claimed that those prices were the fault of the Democratic-lead congress. So to believe that logic, we have to say that gas prices from January 2007-October 2008 were high because of actions of congressional Democrats, and then the sub $2 prices from October 2008-January 2009 were the result of economic brilliance of the Bush administration (despite the fact that the economy was simultaneously in a free-fall collapse), but that once President Obama took office, the slow increase in gas prices was once again the fault of the Democrats.

Another person said--apparently without a hint of sarcasm--that oil companies and oil speculators don't control the price of oil and gas at all. Instead, it was the gas station owners in her mind who controlled the price of gas. Her big "proof" was that one gas station down the street from her was selling at $3.60 a gallon, whereas another gas station was selling at $3.70 a gallon. I responded by asking her if gas stations could control the price of gas, why she didn't see a gas station in her town sell it at $1.50? Surely, that gas station would have lines a mile down the street. But no such gas station exists, because they don't get to control the price like that. Again, I never heard anything back from her.

After reading these comments, I was truly at a loss for words. The rhetoric reminded me of the scene from the movie "Idiocracy" where the main character--a man frozen in time for centuries only to awaken to a society where humankind had grown exponentially more stupid--tried to explain to the President's cabinet that watering plants with a flavored sports drink was killing them. In response, they kept on shouting out the various commercial slogans of the sports drink without any actual thought or logic to what they were saying. One of them claims that the only thing they used water for was for flushing toilets, and "I ain't seen no plants grow out of no toilet."

But apparently in their own world, the economy is worse than it was in January 2009. In their own world, the President can control the price of gas with a waive of a magic wand and without any negative political reprecussions. In their own world, gas was always super low during the Bush years. In their own world, the price of gas always acts as a perfect barometer of the greater economic situation, and that lower gas prices always means that the economy is healthy. In their own world, nothing that President Obama does can ever be correct, or logical, or the right thing.

If it wasn't just so heartbreakingly sad, it would be funny. If only....
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Thu Oct 18, 2012, 10:05 AM (4 replies)

My freshman year at the private high school that I went to for two years

It was technically a Catholic high school, although not overtly religious (no nuns or priests teaching) and a lot of the students there were not actually Catholic but instead simply fuck-ups whose parents sent them there in the hopes it would straighten them out. But my sister had gone there and apparently had a decent experience. And the Catholic labeling for me mislead me--I had a good experience in my CCD classes (Catholic religious education) with my classmates at my home parish, most of whom were all very friendly, sociable and outgoing. So I thought it might offer more to me than the local public high school, tuition was not too outrageous for my parents, so I convinced them to enroll me there.

Bottom line, the place was a hellhole for bullying and cliquish behavior. Most everyone was in various small cliques, all of whom talked horribly about each other behind their backs but smiled to their faces. I decided I didn't want to play along so I disassociated myself from those cliques. The only people I found tolerable were those who seemed to feel likewise; sadly, those were far and few between.

Unfortunately, this was the mid 1990s, right after "Dazed and Confused" had come out. And that movie must have put something into the screwed up heads of the student population, because the non-freshman made it a point to make all the freshmen feel as miserable as possible. (Ironically, from speaking with my friends at the public high school, this was never an issue there. Never). There were stories that the upper classmen would stuff freshmen into trash cans or do other humilating things. I don't know if they were just stories--thankfully that never personally happened to me, but the intimidation factor was there.

And then there was this one student, a sophomore ("young fool", ironic, huh?) named Randy.

To this day, I still cannot figure Randy out. He appeared to be popular and well liked, was a member of the school's basketball team, and always had a cadre of about a half dozen friends walking around him on campus. As God is my witness, I never did anything to upset or anger Randy. I don't think I even spoke to him before. Yet Randy felt the need to single me out, a guy who never did anything wrong to him.

It wasn't anything physical. He never stuffed me in the trash can, tripped me, hit me, none of that. But he did go out of his way to cruelly isolate me. It was a large, spread out campus with various buildings that you had to walk in between. And whenever I would be walking in between classes, he and his gang would be walking the other way and Randy would start calling out my name, making cat-calls and other oddly provocative gestures just to get a rise out of his friends. I'm not exactly sure why. I wasn't gay, nor did I appear gay to others or do anything that might suggest that I was gay. I was, however, shy, quiet and reserved, placid, and because I didn't want to play the clique game I didn't have any close friends at the school. I think Randy just thought of me as an easy punching bag--a victim he could cruelly get a laugh at my expense in front of his friends. I honestly think he was a psychopath, but a charming one at that.

Another possible explanation was that sometimes I would have conversations with some of the cute upper class girls at the school, and maybe he saw me as some sort of threat--the quiet, shy kid gets the girl's attention, and needs to be knocked down a few notches. But that's just speculation on my part.

The worst thing was that even among people at the school who were friendly to me saw this but really didn't see it as a big deal. Some even admitted to me that they thought it was funny, and said, "Oh that's just Randy--he has a huge ego!"

So what did I do? The answer is nothing. I've always considered myself a pacifist, and I had no major desire to get into any fights. Occassionally, I had a few fantasies about fighting back but it didn't go beyond that. It did affect my outward happiness, and I once had a guidance counselor approach me and tell me she heard a rumor I was suicidal. (For the record, nothing of that sort remotely was the case.) However, I didn't want to report Randy's behavior to the school's administrators either, as much as I wanted to. I feared that doing so would make me appear weak, and that if I did that, the bullying would become physical.

Instead, I just kept on thinking, "He'll get his. One day, he'll get his." I believed in karma-type retribution, and that some day Randy would get some sort of payback for his bullying of me (and potentially others).

After my freshman year, Randy's family moved to Arkansas. At that point, I wanted to go back to public school, but part of me felt that such a hasty retreat would mean that Randy won. So I stuck it out through sophomore year--which wasn't as bad thanks to the lack of Randy, but still the whole private school experience was ruined on me. I felt isolated and lonely, and after sophomore year I decided to go back to public school. And it was the greatest decision of my life--the environment there was a total 180, I excelled in academics, connected with old friends, made new friends, went to prom, had the most influential teacher I've ever had, the whole nine yards.

But for years afterwards, I have to admit I was still angry at Randy for his cruel behavior. And I had no interest in forgiving him for his transgressions against me.

Then one day, I was engaging in my occasional passion of looking up on Facebook various people from long ago (yes, Facebook stalking if you want to call it that), and I started to wonder "What did happen to Randy?" So, after a few searches, I finally came across Randy's facebook profile.

Randy had gotten married, had three sons, was still living in Alabama....nothing too out of the ordinary, until I saw continued references to one of his sons on his and his wife's page. Curious, I looked further as to why he was so fixated on talking about that one son. And then I found out: his three year old son (the same age as my daughter) had tragically died in a drowning accident. Randy's Facebook profile picture was him and his now deceased son, as happy father and son.

Now, the cynical part of me would want to say that this was the ultimate payback--that karma or divine retribution had taken place and taken the one most cherished thing out of Randy's life as payback for how he acted towards me and possibly many others years ago.

But I quickly rejected that proposition. Bad karma or divine retribution would be me reading something like Randy had been caught embezlling from his job and being sent to prison, or something along those lines. But this was a man's son who was taken from him, at such a young age. The loss of a child is quite possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone in their lifetime. If God forbid that were to happen with me, I don't even know how I could get out of bed in the morning. It must be a truly hellish situation for anyone who has been through it. I then felt a very deep and very real sense of empathy and sadness for the person who bullied me endlessly my first year of high school.

Needless to say, after reading that, I didn't have much of a desire to see any more wrong come to Randy. As much as I felt how he had made one year of my life felt like a living hell, I realize that my feelings about that situation still couldn't compare to the true living hell of his life knowing he has lost a child.

So Randy, wherever you may be, I have to wish you peace, solace, all the love and enjoyment in the world with your other children, and all the best to you in the remaining years of your life.
Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Mon May 14, 2012, 12:52 PM (0 replies)

Regarding Bill Cosby's take on the Trayvon Martin case and soft bigotry.

(My response to this story in LBN:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/15/bill-cosby-trayvon-martin-case-guns-race_n_1426671.html

I thought I would cross post this here as well.)

I don't see Zimmerman as the Grand Dragon of the KKK. He may very well indeed have been the person to have a "safe" black friend or acquanitance or two at some point in his life. Having listened to the 911 tapes, I'm not 100% convinced he said "coons" as opposed to "punks", but it is quite possible he used "punks." I haven't heard anything yet that supports the proposition that he was an open and unabashed hater of blacks to the point he freely expressed his unbridled vitriol towards them.

That all said, there is still most definitely a racial component in all this. Because while I haven't yet seen anything to support the notion that Zimmerman was an out and out racist, I have seen plenty to support the idea that Zimmerman had a twisted vigalante and trigger happy persona about him with a self-imposed sense of legal duty to him: he was going to be the law, regardless of the fact that he lacked a badge and any reasonable sense of self-restraint. And in that twisted mind of his, he probably thought that because--quite sadly--a large percentage of the prison populations are young African American males, that in his mind meant that any young African American male was a potentially a threat and up to no good (regardless of any actual evidence to suggest such an assessment). And in his deficient personality, his desire to be Charles Bronson combined with a CCW card that he thought gave him unlimited power culminated in a deadly result of an innocent kid being killed (and arguably murdered.)

So in other words, it was the classic profiling situation, which is soft-bigotry at its finest. And while I try to avoid hard bigots like the plague and thankfully find them far and few between, I've found that I've come across plenty of people who have fallen into the trap of soft bigotry. They don't necessarily hate blacks or Muslims or (name whatever group), but for whatever reason they don't want to trust the true fact that most people regardless of race are genuinely good people, and they don't fully trust members of that race. It's sad, but it's all too common place.

Take New York City and the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. You had a few people--like that whackjob Pam Geller--who weren't afraid to show us their ugly side and expose themselves as hard bigots who clearly hate all Muslims. But you had a lot more people who didn't necessarily express that hatred, but thought that the mere fact that building an mosque or Islamic Center close to the Ground Zero cite would somehow be "insensitive" or "inappropriate" to the victims of September 11th. Nevermind that a) there were many victims in the September 11th attacks who were Muslim, b) there was no evidence whatsoever that the Muslims seeking to build this Islamic Center had even the slightest ties to September 11th or Al Queada or to organized terrorism, or c) in the United States of America, you have the freedom to worship whatever you want, wherever you want, period.

But that is soft bigotry at play for you, and that is perhaps a greater threat to this country than hard bigotry. Because not only does it infect more people, but it is harder for people to reject and condemn because it is more subtle and commonplace. And its a trap that we see our neighbors or even members of our own family fall into, despite them being otherwise decent people.

I think one of the mistakes regarding the Trayvon Martin case was to immediately to compare it to the murder of Emmitt Till. Yes, there were some glaring factual simularities between the two cases. But the Till murder was a true lynching of the first magnitude, hard bigotry on display at its worst. It was a much more horribly simple case of hatred. The Trayvon Martin case is a much more complicated case indicative of 21st Century complexities. It was the nexis of the soft bigotry of racial profiling and a trigger happy, gun loving society.

So Bill Cosby was definitely on the ball by identifying a major issue of this case as being a matter of a gun-worshipping, trigger happy society. And he was also right that simply labling this case as a mere matter of hard bigotry doesn't necessarily do us any favors in contemplating it. But there is also most definitely a racial component to this case that cannot be ignored, that being the matter of soft bigotry. And while soft bigotry alone might not be a major danger to society, when you combine it with said trigger-happy, gun worshiping vigalante attitude expressed by many, the results can be--as Trayvon Martin tragically learned--very deadly.

Posted by Tommy_Carcetti | Mon Apr 16, 2012, 10:54 AM (10 replies)
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