Monday, February 10, 2014

Ignorance...Apathy...or Arrogance?



I follow sports for what I consider the proper reason: They are a pleasant diversion from life’s everyday annoyances—from things like car payments, health issues, bank balances, income tax, political correctness, the shrinking waistband on my trousers…

I don’t follow (listen to, watch, or read about) sports for lessons in life. And certainly not for updates on what is and is not proper social behavior. So I became annoyed (infuriated actually) when I recently heard a 28-year old sports commentator (who by the way, has been on Earth less than half the time I’ve been following sports) make the blasé declaration that, “We’re not offended by that anymore,” while referring to the use of profanity in a public forum.

Really? We are not offended? Who the hell is “we” in his absolute affirmation? Was he referring to our society in general? Was it sports fans in particular? Was he perhaps singling out 20-something-year-olds, for whom he obviously (thinks he) is the spokesman?

His remark was made in objection to a penalty levied by the National Basketball Association on a player for shouting the profanity de rigueur, politely called the ‘f-word’, not once, but multiple times (to anyone who would listen, I guess) during a well-attended game.

Neophyte adults such as this Harvard graduate (Could the banter around that campus cafeteria be any worse than that heard in a military chow-hall?) often seem to make the mistake of believing that anything happening before their birth (indeed, before their cognizance) should be relegated to pre-history. Using that reasoning, I suppose I must accept his view (elsewise I might offend him).

So I suppose I could casually babble that language in his presence, or that of his wife, mother, sister, grandmother, daughter, or anyone he values, since, “He is not offended by that anymore.”

If the f-word does not offend him, what does? The n-word?  The s-word?  The q-word?  The c-word?  The r-word?  The m-word?

How about the a-word? Oh, hell…I’m just going to say it: The kid is arrogant! He must actually believe that his sensibilities set the standard for society…for sports fans…for 20-something-year-olds…

He certainly does not speak for most of the 20-somethings I interact with. (Of course, none attended Harvard.)

This is not the first time I’ve been resolute on this topic, and it’s not the first time that I’ve qualified my opinion by citing my résumé: After four years in the military and 22 years in the Philadelphia Police Department, I doubt there’s any expletive a novice could come up with that I haven’t heard, imagined, or broadcast myself.

Yet the motive for an obscenity remains the same throughout history—all human history, not just what a youthful sportscaster acknowledges: Whether uttered in anger, fear, confusion, anxiety, or jocularity; it is most certainly always uttered in ignorance.

And sometimes arrogance.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

If Anyone Asks, It Was Oxford

I presented a paper at an Oxford University Roundtable this past October.

I've presented papers I've written before—in the universities I've attended here in the states, specifically LaSalle and Rider, but they were essentially classroom discussions. Oxford was different. It was the big leagues. Hell, man; it was OXFORD!

Of course the universities that conferred degrees upon me were not the minor leagues, mind you, but, I mean…hell, this was Oxford!

Out of the 14 presenters, I was the only non-Ph. D., and I told them so, declaring myself the “dummy” of the group. (I figured I’d get a better reception if I buttered-up the docs a bit first!)

Maybe it worked, because I believe it was well-received. It sparked some lively debate, and I made some salient points. (Do you like that word—salient? I pulled that one out of my holster during the presentation. It seemed like a good Oxford word. I did mention that the presentation was at Oxford, didn't I?)

I didn't see much of London, outside of Heathrow Airport, during the four days I was in England, but I had some spare time to socialize with and get mildly assimilated among the British general public in Oxford (when I wasn't hanging out with the profs).

The easiest way to express my opinion about the experience is to repeat the answer I gave my wife when she picked me up at Philadelphia International and asked, “How was England?” I told her I would move there tomorrow, if it were practical.

That surprised her, since she was well-aware that the airline had lost my luggage and it didn't
show up at my hotel until 7 p.m. the evening before I left to come home. So she quite naturally expected me to start wailing about what a disaster my expedition to the UK just had to be.

Consequently, my appearances at Oxford the first day, the second day, and the third day, were in the blue jeans I wore for travel. They were new, pressed, and presentable (pun intended), but they were jeans. And hell, man; this was Oxford! And here I was standing in front of (to me) academic aristocracy pontificating on the state of contemporary higher education.

Serendipitously, I discovered that my audience was concentrating on the content of my presentation and not at all concerned about my élan (or lack thereof). This, in retrospect, is exactly what I should have expected. They were interested enough in my topic and sympathetic enough about my wardrobe limitations to make me feel a legitimate part of the group.

Nor did the British cordiality end at the gates of the university. Oxford—the city—is a college town and accordingly is heavily populated by students, most of whom get from here to there on bicycle. They (and their bikes) are all over the place. They ride with the traffic in the streets and follow strict traffic rules, including stopping for red lights, wearing helmets, using hand signals, and being equipped with their own lighting.

Whenever cyclists ventured onto the sidewalk, they dismounted and walked their bikes. And if a pedestrian was standing in the way, they waited until the walker moved! Really!

I was standing by a bus stop talking to one of the professors when I chanced to look behind me and realized that there was a pair of cyclists patiently standing there, waiting for me to finish so they could pass. Imagine that! And when I stepped back and said, “Oh, excuse me,” they both said, “thank you.”

Oh, and by the way, there was an endless queue (another word I latched onto in England) of bicycles parked along the walls, fences, and sidewalks adjoining the university. I did not see one that had a lock attached.

I have to tell you, when the townspeople—students, shopkeepers, professors, taxi drivers, bus drivers, shoppers—are outwardly cordial, and bikes are left unlocked, and the intelligentsia is actually interested in what you came there for…well…that’s a place I could move to.


Did I mention that it was Oxford?


Me in my travel-jeans on an Oxford quad after my presentation. (Note the emergency briefcase I used until my luggage arrived.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

No Doubt I'll Fit Right In

I’ve been absent from my blog lately because of my focus on the paper I’ll be presenting at an Oxford University Roundtable October 22-23. The task was even more demanding than I had originally imagined. I leave for England this weekend.
                The roundtable consists of 13 presenters, 12 of whom (guess who 13 is) are college professors. The topic we’re addressing is “For-Profit Education” and the challenge it presents to contemporary higher education.
                For the past nine months I’ve been preoccupied with researching and writing about a topic I had scant knowledge of this time last year. The university wanted an “outside” opinion, and hence my invitation to attend. So I’ll be standing among Oxford Ph. Ds armed with my diplomas (I may take them with me) from LaSalle and Rider colleges.
                Hopefully, I’ll be seated close enough to King Arthur at the roundtable to ask him some questions that have obsessed me since my youth:
                • Where did you really get Excalibur?
                • Were you offended by the Press referring to the Kennedy administration as “Camelot?”
                • Was Merlin as good as David Copperfield, Doug Henning, or Penn & Teller?
                • What the hell’s a ‘grail’ anyway?
                I don’t want to stick out like an onion ring in a bag of fish and chips, so I’ve begun to (over) use some British terminology in an effort to blend in among the U.K. crowd. I spend as much time as I can in the loo; I’ve packed my bags in the boot of my car; I’ve watched as much British telly as I can, and I now keep my ale in the warming tray of the stove (oh, excuse me, I mean cooker).
                I have a good feeling about this trip. With all this preparation, I think I’m going to fit right in.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does She Chew Slippers Too?

I like dogs.

I've had seven over the course of my lifetime—two as a kid and five as an adult—two German Sheppards, two Dachshunds, Irish Setter, Beagle, Cocker Spaniel.

I trained (or attempted to) all the dogs I had as an adult. For more than 30 years now, I've chosen to live without pets. I have neither the wherewithal, the time, nor the inclination to have a dog in my home. Those days are over, much the same as my days of owning a motorcycle (I've only had six of those).

Dogs are wonderful animals, and I heartily believe they have earned their sobriquet as “Man’s Best Friend.” They are loyal, funny, interesting, protective, and often looked upon as a part of your family. That seems reasonable, since it’s widely believed that dogs look at humans as…well, just another dog!

As much as I like our canine friends, there is a noted separation in the acceptable behavior for each of our respective species.

• Humans eat (predominantly) at a table, and more often than not we use utensils (even while enjoying a hoagie, I usually use a knife to plunge the contents down into the roll).
•Dogs eat and drink by plunging their faces into a bowl.

• Humans relieve themselves (again, predominantly) in private at appliances made specifically for that function.
• Dogs let it fly in public.

• Humans share intimacy (porn stars and Hollywood pigs notwithstanding) with the one they love—in private.
• Dogs will fornicate on the municipal common and hump any available human leg when the mood strikes.

None of these activities are to dogs' detriment; they are not human, and hence do not have our powers of judgment, nor our sense of propriety. We appreciate them, respect them for what they are, and our affection for them is renowned.

We do think it’s funny though, how they so often act like people, almost mimicking us as they join us in the family car, saunter down the sidewalk with us, whimper when they want something, or lean against us with a sad face when they know we are feeling blue.

It’s outright charming when a dog acts like a human. It’s what endears them to us.

The converse however, is untrue. It’s outright nauseating when a human acts like a dog.

So I actually felt a little diseased when I saw Miley Cyrus doing her dog act at the August 25th Video Music Awards. Now I realize this kid is trying anything she can get away with to resuscitate or prolong her showbiz career. But true talent doesn't need a gimmick.

And talent precludes the need to act inhuman (like a dog) in front of literally millions of fellow human beings.

I don’t know if Cyrus’s bestiality will benefit her career. Heaven knows, stranger things have happened within the entertainment industry. But I’m certainly not going to ever invite her over for dinner at our home.

As I mentioned, it’s been more than 30 years since I owned a dog, and I got rid of all my dog bowls.

P.S. Nominate someone to be a Champion of Adult Literacy by going to www.delcoliteracy.org for the Nomination Form or by calling 610-876-5411 for more information. Deadline to receive nominations is Wednesday, September 18, 2013.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Real Country Showed Up on the Fourth

Although I've been a journalist for more than 20 years, I am in no way a “news junkie.” I seldom watch TV news, nor do I listen to news on the radio (except the traffic report when I’m in the car). I read newspapers sparingly—that is to say, selectively. And of course, I have been trained to pick out the bias in all reporting (yes, it’s there; believe me, some more so than others!).

Most who do watch, read, and listen to mainstream news (and entertainment) media will no doubt tell you that the tendencies in today’s culture are to tolerate everyone’s point of view, celebrate (whatever the hell that means) everyone’s lifestyle, and crusade for what you believe in—i.e. speak your mind.

Undeniably you’ll travel a smoother road as long as your point of view, your crusade, and your speech tows that cultural line: The one painted so stealthily through our social conscience by the media.

So you should join the overwhelming majority (if media tendentiousness is to be believed) of Americans who:
• Tolerate casual sex, infanticide, and animal worship.
• Celebrate homosexuality, bisexuality, and nature worship.
• Speak out against all outdated ideals, such as theism and patriotism.

Then you’d be well on your way to conforming to the contemporary norm. You’d be solidly in line to becoming a secular humanist. (Sounds great doesn't it—Secular humanist? It’s one of those hip phrases that pretty much means whatever the hell you want it to mean. Stalin and Hitler would both have loved it!)

Not that I was ever seriously tempted to trust media predisposition to their vision of the new American society, but I had my faith physically and spiritually reinforced this Independence Day at the parade in Pitman, New Jersey.

As a Christian, I've always been taught that Faith, Hope, and Charity are the three cardinal virtues upon which true humanism, if you will, is based. Those three facets of our uniquely human nature were obvious the morning of July 4th all along Broadway in Pitman.

What we celebrated that day stood out as contingent after contingent passed in review:
• Diverse church groups professing their faith—most musically—without demeaning those whose point of view may differ from that of their own.
• Diverse patriotic groups—military units past and present, Boy, Girl and Cub scouts, Masonic lodge, First Responders, and elected officials from the state and locals levels.
• Community service organizations who crusade all through the year for their particular cause to benefit their fellow human.

And all along the route that hot and humid day, families, couples, teens, preteens, old soldiers, young parents, and plain ol’, everyday Americans, smiled, applauded, and enjoyed their country as it passed in review.

I realized that morning that this was the real America—the one I lived in. The one that the entertainment industry ceaselessly tells us is no longer relevant. The one that the media tells us has gone the way of the dinosaur. The one that academia tells us is corrupt and in need of replacement.

We’re still here. We’re still the bedrock. We still serve. We still have faith. We still hope. We still espouse charity.

We tolerate those who don’t share our point of view, and ask only for reciprocation.

We celebrate our heritage and worship as per our constitutionally mandated choice.


And we speak our minds, so thank you for listening.


The Gloucester County Community Church was just one of the symbols of true American Independence that marched in Pitman, New Jersey on the 4th of July.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

One-for-Four Equals Legitimacy

In my opinion, most sane, mature Americans would not abolish the Constitution. Most certainly they would not fool around with the Bill of Rights—those first 10 precious guarantees of individual freedom.
There are of course attempts to attack one or the other sections of the Bill—most notably the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of citizens to arm themselves, and the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly…
Minutes after some madman uses a firearm illegally in this country, there is normally a well-organized chorus assembled to sing out the evils of the tool he misused, while excusing his temperament, demeanor, or lack of basic humanity.
And should we ban (or even condemn) a religious movement because of its dogmatically-held beliefs—beliefs that may run counter to pop culture or the trending political bias?
My answer would be to judge the person for his action, regardless of the tool being used or the doctrine espoused. Indeed, Article Three of the Constitution establishes our judiciary and levies the authority to apply the law and to issue punishment.
Seems simple: The courts decide what (if any) crime has been committed and what price must be paid by whom. The government attorney states their case and the accused’s attorney states theirs. Beneath it all is a battle for rights—rights of the accused, rights of the public to be safe in their homes, rights of the individual to hold onto and profess solemnly-held spiritual beliefs.
Thank God (and our Founding Fathers) for that Bill of Rights. And here’s more good news…the expense of hiring a judge, jury, attorneys—that can be paid for from our taxes. Even the accused can be represented by government-funded counsel.
And if all else fails, there’s always the ACLU. How they work can be illustrated by two recent examples.
The ACLU defended religious freedom when they joined with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in 2011 to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there.
So the Administration (our Administration) excludes mosques from being monitored for terrorist support and encouragement. But they keep a close eye on those fanatical Christians, even though, according to Investor’s Business Daily, independent surveys of American mosques reveal about 80 percent preach violent jihad or pass out violent literature to worshippers. Perhaps the ACLU believes that literature is not quite as violent as the Sermon on the Mount.
The ACLU also is considering defending the right to assemble (I guess) by instituting litigation against the City of Wildwood, New Jersey, which recently passed an ordinance that would ban what they see as indecent dress on their boardwalk—clothing that is worn so loose that undergarments or even bare bottoms are displayed.
It’s comforting to know that the ACLU uses its donations to defend our rights, especially the right to preach violence against innocent law-abiding citizens, and the right to walk about in public with your gochies (or more) exposed.
Does it make anyone else wonder what the hell this outfit thinks is important? I’ve always found the ACLU downright silly (undies exposure) or dangerous (terrorist cultivation) in what they choose to defend. To my way of thinking, they assault the Constitution more so than shield it.
Consequently, I’ve always considered their acronym rather oxymoronic: American Civil Liberties Union—I find them neither American, nor civil, nor guardians of our liberties.
They are, however, a union, so I assume by their way of thinking, a one-out-of-four ratio for truthfulness is enough to keep them legit, and to keep those donations flowing in.

Monday, June 3, 2013

When Did We Become British?

I have great admiration for our British cousins, so I was sincerely flattered when asked to speak at Oxford University. I of course accepted, and look forward with great anticipation to this fall, when I’ll visit England for the first time.

The seminar will concentrate on higher education and how it is evolving, but I’ll also be interested in doing a little snooping while I’m over there.

I’m going to see if I can find some clues as to why we here in America seem to be reverting to being a part of Britain once again.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but notice, if you will, that at Wal-Mart stores (at least the ones around south Jersey) you are directed to enter and exit to your left, sort of like driving on the left side of the road as they do in England. But we keep to the right in this country and pass on the left. Don’t we?

I’m starting to notice this tendency in many other places, particularly at Wawa and my local post office, where people increasingly enter and exit using the left side of the double-door. It’s even happening in my church, where the right hand door is often left closed—that is, until I reach the exit. That’s when I go through the right side, which, in this country, is the right side.

I’ve even had (many) people hold the left hand door open for me as I enter a Wawa. Imagine how disappointed they are when I ignore their misguided courtesy and pull the right-hand door open for myself. (Well, somebody’s got to take a stand for American Independence!)

This disturbing, bogus/foreign trend has now reached the entertainment and news media—the two wannabe national style-setters. Movie and television scripts are now peppered with the British police phrases, “He went missing,” or “The child has gone missing.”

As a long-time devotee of British TV, I’m familiar with this syntax. As a long-time American police officer, I can tell you indisputably that that phraseology was never used in Philadelphia.

When I mentioned this to someone whom I heard use the phrase, “The child has gone missing,” she asked me incredulously, “Well, what did you say?”

I told her we said, “The child is missing.” And of course, the more sensible way of asking, “When did the child go missing?” would simply be, “When was the child last seen?”

The respect I have for our British forebears is second to none; I credit our American work ethic and civility to our English roots. In many ways, it’s sad to see both evaporating as our culture becomes more forcibly diversified.

We fought a successful war about 230 years ago to throw off the English yoke of foreign government, while keeping the basics of English common law and English manners. And of course, American English is not vastly different from the Queen’s English. I believe these things have been significant to our prominence in this world.

But our sense of propriety and decorum seems to be eroding. It’s going…going…and may soon be gone. And I’ll hate to see it go. When it does, it will not have gone missing, it will simply be missing from our social structure.

Now, I’d like to wrap this up, because I’m going to visit the loo.