Archives December 2013

FIGHTING GOD IN THE PLEDGE: WASTE OF EFFORT

This article appears in today’s issue TC Palm newspapers from Vero Beach to West Palm Beach.

Marshall Frank: Fight over God in Pledge of Allegiance waste of effort

Marshall Frank is an author and retired South Florida police detective who lives in Melbourne. Online: MarshallFrank.com.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Much ado is made about the Pledge of Allegiance, arguing whether the term “Under God” should or should not be recited.

Religious folks insist on God being included. Nonreligious folks think it should be eliminated. Regardless of religious orientation, we are all Americans, taxpayers and loyalists, and many are veterans who fought for this country. And, according to the Declaration of Independence, we are all created equal, religion notwithstand- ing.

In September, the Massachusetts Supreme Court heard arguments in which plaintiffs argued that the term “Under God” in the pledge violates separation of church and state, and therefore the First Amendment to the Constitution. That case is still under review, though general opinions indicate that the pledge will probably remain as worded. Should the state court strike the two-word phrase, we can expect a cascade of similar lawsuits in other states.

As of now, 38 states have adopted laws that give children a choice to say the pledge. Schools in five states do not recite the pledge.

The real problem is that the argument digresses from the purpose of the pledge. When I place my hand upon my heart, I don’t consider it a prayer or a religious recitation. It is a promise to be loyal to our nation, symbolized by the stars and stripes. The term “Under God” was not officially inserted until President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill into law during Flag Day 1954. In Cold War days, the national spirit was to separate a “Godless” Soviet Union from a “God-loving” America.

With all the hoopla, we lose sight that this is a simple pledge, not a religious promise. It seems ludicrous that two words would cause so much distress to either side of the argument, words which any American can choose to utter, or choose not to. Omitting “Under God” doesn’t make any less of an allegiance being pledged.

Nonbelievers should consider more important issues to pursue and drop the tenacious defamation of a widely accepted recitation. When atheists arrive at that phrase, they can remain mute, then continue on. The pledge is still a pledge.

Like who’s listening?

Parents who object to the schoolroom reciting of “Under God” for their children are perfectly free to teach their kids accordingly. Children and young adults who abstain from uttering those two words are breaking no rules. This is America. It is a choice.

We have enormous social, political, economic and national security problems in our country. Escalating a two-word phrase in to a passionate argument should not even make newsprint. The First Amendment applies to all Americans whether they believe in God nor not. Therefore, no one — including schoolchildren — should be forced to include words in the pledge that acknowledge God. It’s a matter for free speech.

The pledge is just that: a pledge to America, to love honor and respect, and to acknowledge we all are all one, indivisible, as Americans, with liberty and justice for all.

Can’t we all just get along?

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: GRUDGE MATCH = 4

Having starred in over 90 motion pictures, Robert DeNiro is one of the great actors of our time. He’s one of the few who can never make a bad movie. Until now

     Okay. Grudge Match is not a terrible movie, but it’s “B” category at best, and sadly, beneath DeNiro.

     Some scenes are worth a chuckle, but the overall plot, dialogue and acting borders somewhere between dumb and stupid. Without DeNiro, this would be a complete loser, because Sylvester Stallone doesn’t possess the acting power to carry it by himself.

     Two old-time, washed-up fighters who were rivals thirty years past are somehow lured by a hyper-active, fast-talking promoter into a fight of the century, as these two bums still hate each other. Add to that, the old girlfriend, Kim Basinger, who – way back when —  had a kid by DeNiro, though she was really in love with Stallone. The kid, now 28, meets his long lost dad and agrees to be his trainer.  Puhlease.

     Needless to say, the predictable fight comes off with both geriatric athletes pummeling each other into faces covered with blood.

     The young man who plays the promoter, Kevin Hart, was an annoying character, guilty of overacting, hypertensive, babbling, unfunny and badly miscast. Perhaps the casting director was in need of a young, unknown black actor who would not cost a huge figure, because the lion’s share of the budget surely went to DeNiro, Stallone and Basinger and, by the way, Alan Arkin who played Stallone’s manager.

     It’s silly, poorly written, predictable and somewhat disappointing. Yet, it grew to be more entertaining as the movie moved to the final, anti-climactic half hour.

     I give it a 4 out of 10.

     Click here: Grudge Match (2013) – IMDb

 

YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE CHRISTIAN TO LOVE CHRISTMAS

This is a Christmas story about a woman named Vivien.  
    Vivien was widowed three times in her life and spent a good deal of her time, love and energy raising her little boy as a single mom in the 1940’s and 50’s.
     Widowed without money shortly after the great war, Vivien brought in less than $100 a month to make ends meet in a small apartment. Often, there was not enough food to feed herself, but always ensured that her little boy had healthy meals. Sacrifice and struggle was an every day factor of life.
     Religion was not an integral part of the household, though she always made sure that a small Christmas tree was decorated in the apartment yearly, that carols were sung, presents were opened and love abounded. It was important that he was not seen by friends in school as an outcast, it was important that he felt the spirit of love, harmony and generosity.
     The 10 year-old boy saw that many kids were attending churches and synagogues, and he learned about the birth of Jesus and the great story that followed.  Once, her boy asked, “Mommy, what religion am I?”
     She hesitated and replied, “Well, son, you can be any religion you wish, there are many. Someday, you must study them all and then choose.”
     While Jesus was not a focus of celebration in the family and the little boy was never brought to a church, the elements of spirituality and love existed in Vivien’s home no less than in any Jewish or Christian home. Far away grandparents and other relatives sent small gifts, long distance phone calls were placed, music was played and choirs sang outside the windows while Vivien and her son sang with them.
     Vivien taught her son to send cards and gifts  — however small — to others who loved him, even herself, because it was important to learn that generosity was a two-way experience, that it was just as rewarding to give to others as to receive.
     From those teachings, and because of Vivien, the little boy grew up feeling more joyous from giving, than from receiving. She taught him that it was okay to be religious and just as okay not to be religious. She showed confidence in his nascent intellect, that he could eventually make educated choices of his own, without dogma.
     It didn’t matter if the holiday was called Christmas, Easter, Chanukah or Valentine’s Day, the important thing is that one day is set aside by our culture, our country, our people, in which we all stop and take the time to tell — and show —  others the blessings of love and kindness. There are too many human beings in the world who lack those essential elements of life.
     And so, the little boy grew up without a religious label, though he did endeavor to learn all he could about the world’s religions. The more he learned, the more he understood his mother’s message, that love and goodness comes from the heart and the teachings of wise and caring mentors. He learned that love is not a product of a book, or an ancient icon or a religious figure, but of having the good fortune to have a mother like Vivien. 
     He learned to love Christmas for the message, not the messenger.
     She was a wise and caring woman, indeed. Thanks, Mom.
 VivienP8

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE CHRISTIAN TO LOVE CHRISTMAS

This is a Christmas story about a woman named Vivien.  

    Vivien was widowed three times in her life and spent a good deal of her time, love and energy raising her little boy as a single mom in the 1940’s and 50’s.

     Widowed without money shortly after the great war, Vivien brought in less than $100 a month to make ends meet in a small apartment. Often, there was not enough food to feed herself, but always ensured that her little boy had healthy meals. Sacrifice and struggle was an every day factor of life.

     Religion was not an integral part of the household, though she always made sure that a small Christmas tree was decorated in the apartment yearly, that carols were sung, presents were opened and love abounded. It was important that he was not seen by friends in school as an outcast, it was important that he felt the spirit of love, harmony and generosity.

     The 10 year-old boy saw that many kids were attending churches and synagogues, and he learned about the birth of Jesus and the great story that followed.  Once, her boy asked, “Mommy, what religion am I?”

     She hesitated and replied, “Well, son, you can be any religion you wish, there are many. Someday, you must study them all and then choose.”

     While Jesus was not a focus of celebration in the family and the little boy was never brought to a church, the elements of spirituality and love existed in Vivien’s home no less than in any Jewish or Christian home. Far away grandparents and other relatives sent small gifts, long distance phone calls were placed, music was played and choirs sang outside the windows while Vivien and her son sang with them.

     Vivien taught her son to send cards and gifts  — however small — to others who loved him, even herself, because it was important to learn that generosity was a two-way experience, that it was just as rewarding to give to others as to receive.

     From those teachings, and because of Vivien, the little boy grew up feeling more joyous from giving, than from receiving. She taught him that it was okay to be religious and just as okay not to be religious. She showed confidence in his nascent intellect, that he could eventually make educated choices of his own, without dogma.

     It didn’t matter if the holiday was called Christmas, Easter, Chanukah or Valentine’s Day, the important thing is that one day is set aside by our culture, our country, our people, in which we all stop and take the time to tell — and show —  others the blessings of love and kindness. There are too many human beings in the world who lack those essential elements of life.

     And so, the little boy grew up without a religious label, though he did endeavor to learn all he could about the world’s religions. The more he learned, the more he understood his mother’s message, that love and goodness comes from the heart and the teachings of wise and caring mentors. He learned that love is not a product of a book, or an ancient icon or a religious figure, but of having the good fortune to have a mother like Vivien. 

     He learned to love Christmas for the message, not the messenger.

     She was a wise and caring woman, indeed. Thanks, Mom.

 VivienP8

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: AMERICAN HUSTLE = 9 1/2

     American Hustle  =  9 ½

     This is a movie for actors in training.

      Acting 101. Young actors who aspires to stardom in movies should study this film over and over. It is amazing to watch the epitome of Hollywood actors today together into one film. Any and all of these stars could, and should, be nominated for Academy Awards.

     The movie is dated in the late 1970’s, where New Jersey casinos were just getting off the ground.  It’s loosely based on the infamous ABSCAM scandal of that era.   

     Christian Bale gained 40 pounds to play the lead role as Irving Rosenfeld, a scamming New Jersey hustler in over his head with politicians and mobsters, married to one woman (Jennifer Lawrence) while madly in love with voluptuous con woman (Amy Adams). Bale will absolutely be nominated, and a will be in a close tie with Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) for winning the Oscar.

     Amy Adams, so versatile in so many past roles, is at her best, playing one man against the other to achieve her objectives, forever donned in open-front dresses baring everything but nipples. But that’s not why she will win the Oscar, it’s the passion, the looks in her eyes, the impeccable delivery of dialogue. She is absolutely one of the best actresses in Hollywood today.

     Not far behind, 23-year old Jennifer Lawrence, who has already won one supporting actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, has rightfully established herself at the same level as the greats of today, including Meryl Streep. She plays the lonely and jealous wife of the elusive Christian Bale, but manages to insert her will into the story as a spoiler, endangering the life of her husband.

     Bradley Cooper deftly portrays hair-permed FBI agent Richie Dimaso, who wavers between delicate lines of honesty and corruption, while smitten with Bale’s girl friend, Amy Adams.

     The plot spins in many directions, but the audience should never lose sight that Bales’ character is a hard-core con artist in business to swindle people for big bucks, yet a sensitive man aglow with love and divided between loyalties to family and to the woman of his dreams.

     Add the cast, Jeremy Renner who plays Camden Mayor, Carmine Polito, striving to portray the most honest of political images. And, as a bonus, none other than Robert DeNiro appears near the end of the picture in a cameo role, playing – what else – a  high level Mafia mobster.

     This is a fine picture deserving a score of 9 ½ . It will definitely be nominated for several Oscars, including best picture and best director, David O. Russell.

     ***  As an aside:  Filming of this movie was delayed after the terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon. Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner,Christian Bale and Amy Adams went to hospitals in the greater Boston area to visit with victims of the attack    

     Click here: American Hustle (2013) – IMDb