Archives June 2008

Spike Lee Stirs The Racism Pot

Famous African-American person is offended and accuses a famous white person of racial bias. Sound familiar?

When will this ever end?

To his credit, Spike Lee is a first class movie director. He’s also a thin-skinned boob stirring the racism pot. This is the kind of rhetoric that serves to exacerbate race relations, not help them.

Imagine casting Sidney Poitier as Mafia heir, Michael Corleone, in “The Godfather” instead of Al Pacino. Would that make sense? Or, casting lily white Keanu Reeves for a lead role in “The Color Purple?” Better yet, Halle Berry as Queen Elizabeth I.

Politically correct, maybe. But would viewers buy into racial equity instead of historical accuracy?

At a recent conference at the Cannes Festival, Mr. Lee openly complained that Eastwood’s Epic movies “Flags Of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima” were cast without black actors. Spike went on, “There were many African Americans who survived that war, who were upset at Clint for not having them in the films. That was his version: The Negro soldier did not exist. I have a different version.”

Spike picked on the wrong guy who, at the age of 73, two Oscars to his credit and nothing to lose, had one thing to say. “A guy like him ought to shut his face.”

Flags Of Our Fathers” is a film about the men raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, one of whom was a Native American, so casted. Other than a small munitions detachment on Iwo Jima, there were no blacks involved in the core story. In “Letters From Iwo Jima,” Eastwood made the movie from the point of view of Japanese Soldiers. Sorry, no African-Americans there either.

Well…let’s castigate that racist Clint Eastwood, he should have hired on Samuel L. Jackson as the Japanese commander.

 

I’ve said it before. This society will never become color blind as long as those of color continue to remind us of what color they are. That goes for sports figures, journalists, actors, politicians and the dudes of the Hood.

Motion picture actors must be cast as the script calls for, particularly in true stories when historical characters are being portrayed. Joan of Arc was not a black woman and Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t white.

Is this stupid, or what?

Spike Lee has made some good movies, like “Mo Better Blues,” “Malcom X,” and “Jungle Fever.” Even if he felt a pang of personal anger over the absence of blacks in a non-black movie, he should never have gone public with it. Low class. What was there to gain? Intimidation? Clint Eastwood?

Spike should take the master’s advice and shut his face. Not only that, he owes Eastwood a public apology. No…I’m not holding my breath.

Maybe I am a bit racist when it comes to role playing in films. I lived through the era of Jackie Gleason’s hey day, and could not bring myself to accept African-Americans portraying Ralph Kramden and company in “The Honeymooners,” any more than I could accept Sean Connery playing Malcom X.

In Barack Obama’s first speech when he would not disassociate with Reverend Wright, I’ll not forget the subtle but significant reference to his grandmother which his starry-eyed followers chose not to hear, “Like a typical white person.” I still wonder what the reaction would be if a white politician uttered the same remark in reverse.

I, for one, am sick and tired of the likes of Reverends Wright, Jackson, Sharpton, and Farrahkan (and I hesitate to use the term Reverend) forever on the edge of finger-pointing, ready to scream racism at the drop of a hat, summoning the media, holding white America hostage to the sins of yesteryear.

In the justice arena, we hear about disproportionate numbers of blacks in prison, compared to their population ratio. With that mentality, the prisons should only house 12 percent African-American, and 12 percent Hispanics. But the actual crime tables don’t support that ratio, which is why the inmate population is out of whack.

Perhaps the justice system is sexist as well. After all, women comprise 51 percent of the population, but only 7 percent of prison inmates. Is this discrimination against men? Sure, let’s lock up more women than men to make it proportionately fair.

I digress…slightly. Spike Lee’s rant is but a microcosm of why strains still exist within the racial arena. He’s done well. He’s a genius. He’s a multi-millionaire. And he should be praising fellow directors who have accomplished so much, and indirectly taught him so much, instead of lashing out with empty-headed charges that make him more of a racist than the man he accuses.

 

 

 

A Fathers Day Offering

Happy Birthday, Dads.

Father’s Day is officially 100 years old. It was first celebrated in the State of Washington in June of 1908, and then in Fairmont, West Virginia. Mother’s Day was already celebrated one month earlier, also in West Virginia. While President Calvin Coolidge recommended it as a national holiday, it wasn’t until 1972 that President Nixon signed the order.

Having been a father several times since 1960, and now grandfather of their kids, I have always enjoyed the recognition and love they have bestowed on me, even if it only meant a thoughtful card in the mail or a long distance call. It’s that one time of year when we are reminded how important our dads, (and moms) have been to us.

Unfortunately I never had that privilege. I never sent my father a card on fathers day, nor gave him a hug, nor took him to dinner, nor made eye contact. But he lives in my heart because his creative blood runs through my veins, though he died in 1941. I guess that makes Father’s Day even more significant.

I have come to understand the fathers in our country much more in the last two years, since Dr. Jay Barnhart and I have been entertaining at senior centers, assisted and independent living facilities, day care churches and libraries in general. We bill ourselves as the Dick-Doc Duo because Jay is a retired Medical Examiner, and me a former Homicide Detective, now joined at the musical hip. With him as a fantastic pianist, and me a journeyman violinist, we hit the stage with Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific, Gypsy, Italian, Classical, sing-alongs, and much more. The satisfaction is indescribable. The old farts love us, and we love them. Folks clap, move, dance, sing, like they’ve come alive again, repeating the lyrics to songs from 60 years ago. Sometimes, I play directly into a pair of distant eyes, knowing he or she is in another world somewhere, until the fingers start moving, or the feet start tapping. But it’s not until we start playing hard core Americana that we realize we struck the big chord.

Often, men wear caps depicting the service they gave their country, impaled with pins and signia about their campaigns in Iwo Jima, Corregidor, Korea and South Vietnam. From The Halls Of Montezuma, To The Shores Of Tripoli…. Anchors Aweigh My Boys, Anchors Aweigh… Over Hill Over Dale, We Will Hit The Country Trail…Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory Of … As we play, we watch their eyes roll, their lips move, and their arms sway, a signal that they are in love with their country.

But nothing is as profound…toward the end of our program…when we start “America The Beautiful.” As the notes flow from our instruments, Ohhhh Beautiful, For Spacious Skies, For Amber Waves Of Grain….one by one, these elderly folks in all four corners of the room, who lived, worked and fought to strengthen our nation throughout the 20th century begin standing, women, men, some struggling from their wheelchairs and their walkers, but they stand nonetheless, some even start marching, singing from their soul and with their hands over their hearts…eyes in a far away place, giving us a feeling for love of country I have rarely experienced before. These are the people who lived through the real depression, bread lines, apple carts, then a war where pots and pans were donated to the government to make weapons, cars were not manufactured, and rations were in effect. And I wonder what’s missing in today’s generation? For Jay and I, it inspires our sense of patriotism.

I try to maintain a dry eye as my bow flows across the stings, and my hand quivers with vibrato. I think about each one of their lives, and their history, the individual tragedies they endured, and the sacrifices they made. And now, relegated to a final living place before the final resting place. I often think about the men — the fathers — who fought in battle, or served their country in some manner, or struggled with jobs and family, and wonder if they have anyone who will be there to give them a hug on Father’s Day, to tell them they are loved and appreciated, especially when their own children cannot, for one reason or another. Some don’t even know the holiday is here.

Folks will say it’s depressing. Far from it, it’s an exhilarating experience. Those of you who have no agenda this upcoming Sunday, for whatever reason, why not find a senior center, or an assisted living facility and visit the folks. Bring your poems, your voice, your instruments, pictures, or your love, and show these wonderful human beings they are not forgotten. It’s worth it, I can assure you.

You won’t be sorry.

Sure, I think about the next 20 years, how that may be me, and you, in that wheelchair, appreciating a little offering of music, laughter and attention.

Why not?

ANOTHER UNDESERVING COP FACES PRISON

Maybe it’s time to just let criminals, gangs, thugs and thieves take over and tell the cops to sit in the station house, play video games, eat donuts eight hours a day and collect their pay. Sure would be a lot safer for them, in more ways than one.

Most of you have read my rants about the terrible fate of K-9 cop, Stephanie Mohr, and Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean, and more. Each are serving ten or more years in a federal prison, their lives in turmoil and their family’s lives wrecked while career criminals and social parasites laugh all the way to the bank, showered with favors compliments of the U.S. government.

Now comes Richard Thompson, age 55, serving his community in law enforcement for 23 years, seven of them as chief of a small town agency in Crawford, Nebraska. Thompson is a husband, father and grandfather. He may be going to prison for five years. Why? For shooting an armed criminal in defense of his own life, and the lives of others.

I gathered as much information as possible from a number of sources. Here’s what happened:

Apparently, Jesse Britton was a disturbed 16 year-old high school drop out who had a long history of criminal behavior, regularly a guest of the juvenile justice system. He had recently made threats to kill a school superintendent, another teen, and — of all people — Chief Thompson. He was also the suspect in a series of twelve burglaries, one of which resulted in the theft of a Lugar handgun.

The chief received a tip that the youngster was hiding out in an abandoned bar in downtown Crawford. As cops are supposed to do, he followed up and secured the assistance of other law enforcement officers. Two officers formed a perimeter outside while the other accompanied him inside. Good police work, I’d say.

Chief Thompson found the kid crouching down behind an old desk. “Show me your hands!” shouted the chief. Still good police work.

Britton rose slowly and pointed a pistol directly at the chief’s head. Thompson twice yelled, “Drop it!” He refused.

Just as all police officers are trained to when facing the muzzle of a firearm in the hands of a criminal, and with concern not only of his own life, but the life of his partner, Chief Thompson pulled the trigger. Then, his partner fired. Britton lay dead. A tragedy to be sure.

The chief not only did his job, he ostensibly saved his own life and the life of his partner.

Nebraska law requires a review by a grand jury in all violent death matters. Grand Juries are guided by the county prosecutor who sets the tone and the objective, presenting evidence to support his/her position. Special prosecutor Jean Rhodes did just that, and instead of vindicating the career cop, sought — and obtained — an indictment charging Thompson with a felony that could land him five years in prison.

Nebraska Attorney General John Bruning saw it differently, saying he fully expected the officer to be exonerated. Clearly, Britton has been shot after pointing a gun directly at a law enforcement officer’s head and being ordered to drop his weapon. But the Grand Jury claimed — with the guidance of the prosecutor’s office — that Chief Thompson had time to cut and run, not fire his weapon. Did Prosecutor Rhodes ever walk in the shoes of a cop confronted with a bullet?

Perhaps the members of the Grand Jury should try a re-enactment, and see what it feels like to suddenly be facing instant death at the hands of a nut ball, and you’ve only got a split second to make a decision. In my thirty-year career, and in most police agencies, self-preservation and protection of life, comes before any other consideration.

I have no problem with hammering abusive cops and even locking up those who clearly break the law. I arrested a few myself. But something is happening in our society as good law enforcement officers become a trophy for rabid prosecutors, while crooks and violent criminals are lionized as victims.

I had my own moment in 1965, confronted by a hysterical woman waving a rifle directly at me. Totally caught by surprise, no weapon in hand, I raised my hands and started backing away…but she fired anyway. Fortunately for me, a bad shot. My wound was in the leg. Had the trajectory of the muzzle been a half-inch higher, I would have been dead. And, if I had my gun in hand, I would have taken her down in a nano-second. At least I’d be alive to tell the story.

I suspect Chief Thompson will be acquitted. But not before he and his family suffers greatly from humiliation, fear, enormous pressure and the high cost of defense which will leave him utterly broke.

It is any wonder why police agencies have a hard time hiring officers these days?

Anyone interested can read the whole story on line. Click here: The North Platte Bulletin

Chief Thomson’s wife has made an appeal for assistance, asking for donations to the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. See her heart-wrenching letter at: Click here:

When the nation’s heroes are seen as demons and demons are seen as heroes, we’ve arrived at the slippery slope.