Sunday, October 21, 2012

No Bald Reunion

Listeners to my weekly radio broadcast (!/pages/Cucina-Chatter/110141525699341?fref=ts) on “Cucina Chatter” are aware that I recently attended my 50th high school reunion. It was everything I thought it would be, and perhaps a bit more.
I was amazed at how many guys had kept their hair, but—although envious—I was pleased to see that those big crops of gray hair actually made them look older than did my nicely tanned pate. At least that’s what my wife told me, and she would never lie to me.
About 100 graduates (20 percent of the class) attended, and the list included doctors, two priests (one who is now the principal of my alma mater—Father Judge), engineers, business executives, educators, law enforcement officers (OK, they were cops—like me), and various other professions. I was quite impressed by the prosperity of my fellow alums.
When I mentioned this heady indicator, one of the wives at my table brought me back to earth. “Only the successful attend reunions,” she warned.
And how can you argue with that observation. How many of the other400-plus were ex-cons, neurotics, drunks, drug addicts, street people, or just plain bums? Sobering thought. No pun intended.
But I won’t dwell on what I don’t know. I just feel vindicated that a four-year Catholic high school education from the late 1950s to the early 60s seemed to have worked well for the Class of ’62.
There was a noticeable paunch here and there, and even a cane or two, but it felt good to reconnect with some of the wisenheimers I knew back in sophomore year. In their way, they were still wise guys, but it had evolved into wisdom—an excellent trait in a senior citizen.
I’ll be meeting soon with one of my old colleagues—a guy I literally had not seen nor heard from in 50 years. Like me, he’s a cancer survivor who leans heavily on his Catholic faith. So I’m sure we’ll talk about old times, old pranks, and old friendships. But newly added will be a different way of looking at life.
It’s funny how your perspective changes with the mere passage of a half-century.
A lot of the talk at the reunion was about how we have to do this again. So I guess we should form a committee to start planning our 100th reunion.
Maybe some of those gray, wooly-headed grads will at least have a receding hairline by then.
One can only hope.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is This How it Begins?

The local Philadelphia high school incident, wherein a black teacher intimidated a white, 16-year-old student because she had the audacity to express her First Amendment right and wear a Mitt Romney T-shirt on dress-down day, has garnered some national interest, but not the kind it would have produced had the roles been reversed.

It’s my opinion, of course, but I truly believe that if a white teacher had harassed a black teenage girl for wearing an Obama shirt, that teacher would have been summarily dismissed, and likely even charged with a “hate crime.”

The incident took place at Charles Carroll High in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. I lived in Port Richmond, and I can tell you that there are few neighborhoods more patriotic, more hard-working, and more passionate about individual rights than this bastion of blue-collar pride.

So where is the outrage? Where is the good, old, Philadelphia neighborhood support for this child who was in effect bullied by one of the adults that’s supposed to be a safeguard during school hours for students’ rights?

I, my wife, and children have always been proud of our attachment to Port Richmond. One of our daughters and many of our friends still reside in this row-house region of typical, middle-class Philadelphia.

I can’t imagine that the folks I know who call Port Richmond home are not embarrassed, humiliated, and angered by the thought of a student who cannot express her Constitutional right without being accosted angrily by a member of the faculty.

Many Port Richmond veterans served abroad in the military to defend against precisely this kind of tyranny. And here it is raising its ugly head right in their own back yard. Or rather right in their local schoolyard.

I majored in history in undergrad school, so I’m particularly upset whenever I hear anybody deny that the Holocaust of World War Two ever took place. The murder of five-million innocent Jews was a myth, they say, created by those who would color history for their own devious purposes.

I’m old enough to have met several people who still wore the numbered tattoos of Auschwitz, so I’m not fool enough to believe that there was no Holocaust. Yet there are far too many people—adults and children—who today know nothing about the way Jews (and Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, and other denominations) were imprisoned, tortured, and exterminated by those who found themselves with the upper hand politically.

Who knows—perhaps it started with some teacher angrily denying the right of a 16-year-old Jewish girl to express her belief.

We’d better learn from history—true history. When good people fail to stand up for the rights of children who are intimidated by those in authority, well…then everything those Port Richmond veterans fought for will be little more than a fading memory—if it’s allowed to be remembered at all.

Ciao, for now; and I hope this isn’t the beginning of ciao to our Bill of Rights.