THE TWELVE BEST HAPPENINGS OF 2007

On the 27th of this month, I published the Worst Happenings of 2007. Now, it’s time to think positive. I know, nobody asked, but here goes.

* Regardless of one’s position on the Iraq war, there is no argument that the change in strategy and in leadership has produced positive results, with American deaths down from 121 in the month of May, to sixteen thus far in December, albeit sixteen too many. The rising outrage of Sunni and Shiia citizens within Iraq has led to revolt against al Qaeda, thus giving us hope for an end to the conflict in the near future.

* Long overdue resignations of Bush lackies, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzalez and Donald Rumsfeld, all positive changes that will provide more confidence from Americans in the remaining year GWB is in office.

* Abortions in the U.S. have dropped to under 1.3 million, the lowest since Roe v. Wade in 1973. All this, as a result of more education and treatment, without enacting new and unnecessary laws banning abortions which would give rise to a black market.

* Teenage substance abuse. According to the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, teenagers are drinking less and smoking less than every before. Also, drug use among teens has fallen 23 percent wince the 1990’s, and more than 50 percent for certain drugs, i.e., LSD and Ecstacy. Another sign that strong messages and more education works.

* France elected a new president that is far more friendly to the U.S. than Chirac. That can only spell good news for the future if we nurture that relationship.

* Professional sports have given us outstanding role models with Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Tim Duncan, Bart Favre, Lance Armstrong and the likes of baseballers Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, pure gentlemen and of high integrity, inducted into the Hall of Fame. As well, the sportswriters of America rightfully rejected Mark (“I’m not here to talk about the past”) McGuire’s bid for the same Hall. Hopefully, that will send a message to all the other cheaters, and to any kids who even think about it.

* The voice of animal rights groups were heard loud and clear above the fray of celebrity, when footballer Michael Vick was arrested and convicted for running dog fight arenas, and personally brutalizing animals for folly.

* Death rates from cancer are on the steady decline for men, women and children, dropping more than two percent a year since 2002, all thanks to advances in early detection and better treatment. All those donations for research are paying off.

* New Jersey lawmakers joined thirteen other states in outlawing the death penalty. That’s one more state where it is now guaranteed that no innocent person can ever be mistakenly executed by the government.

* Thanks to the ongoing efforts of experts, scholars and patriots like Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, Robert Spencer, Harvey Kushner, and more, greater awareness is rising among the American people about the ominous threat of radical Islam within the borders of the United States, and what we should be doing about it.

* Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions were relatively silent in 2007. No national disaster ripped through America in the likes of Hurricane Katrina. (California fires are not considered “natural” disaster).

* My grandson, Jason Mekena Frank, now 22, joined 30,000 other soldiers who came home alive and safe from an overseas war.

Okay, that’s a few items for thinking positive. How about you?

THE TWELVE WORST HAPPENINGS OF 2007

I know. Nobody asked. But here is my list of the worst happenings of 2007.

* Over 900 American heroes brought home in flag-draped caskets, (bringing the war total to 3,900) plus another 3,000 blind, legless, armless or otherwise maimed for life. This tragedy, from a war even more controversial than Viet Nam, where so many scholars from both sides of the aisle tell us how an administration cherry-picked and manipulated intelligence to justify the unjustifiable.

* Osama Bin Laden remains at large and powerful as ever. This, more than six years after the 9/11 attacks on the shores of the United States. Yet, we spent fifty times as much in lives, money and military resources going after another depot who did not attack America.

* The presidential campaign. Countries like Canada and the UK dedicate four to eight weeks on a political campaign. In the U.S., with the primary system, the presidential campaign is a drawn-out, two-year, media-driven horse race with a new poll virtually every day.

* The debates. Dumb questions take up the time that should be allotted for more important issues. “What does America mean to you?” Please. “Do you accept the Bible as truth?” Would any candidate dare say, No? Same old rhetoric, too many candidates spread too thin. It’s pure media, no substance. (Not much in the way of candidates either)

* Radical Islam continues to infiltrate the infrastructure of this country while America sleeps and government turns a blind eye wishing not to be seen as offending a “religion.” Meanwhile, the Trojan Horse has rooted in, in all four corners of North America, sure to become a monumental issue in future years, as it has in Europe. Yet, not one question is asked about this urgent issue in the debates.

* Dishonesty in government insults the intelligence of the American people. With a housing market collapsed, the crisis in mortgages, gas prices soaring over $3 a gallon which will surely spark infLation, and an $8 trillion debt, the government has the gall to tell us the economy is good.

* Media sensationalism. How many times do we have to know about the substance abuse and driving habits of dingies like Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton, who are constantly jammed down our throats by networks who obviously can’t find anything more important to report on.

* Illegal immigration continues unharnessed as government continues to talk and do nothing. More than 12 million illegals are melted into the nation, mainly by a government that has refused to prosecute employers who hire into the construction, agricultural and other labor-intensive industries. While the anti-amnestors neutralize the amnestors, our social and health care services are raped, non-taxpayers are using our educational services, and illegals occupy 21 percent of cells in federal prisons. (That doesn’t include state prisons)

* A Justice Department that has chosen a policy of supporting and coddling thieves, robbers, rapists, drug dealers — many illegal alien — just to convict police officers who have dedicated their lives to public service. Numerous career cops, oft decorated for valor, have been targeted by rabid prosecutors to pacify governments of other nations, most notably, Mexico. The most famous of whom: Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, are serving more than a decade in prison for doing their job. There are many others.

* President Bush pardoned thieves and crooks from prison, many with political connections, but not Ramos and Compean, despite the pleas from thousands of Americans and overwhelming evidence that the Justice Department acted wrongly. Meanwhile, Scooter Libby never serves one day in jail, as the president calls his sentence “too harsh.”

* The tragic Virginia Tech shootings/killings of 32 people by a certified psycho who still managed to get his hands on a pair of guns after passing through background checks that had no record of his mental history. NRA, where are you?

* The War on Drugs continues to fuel an exhausted criminal justice system which now houses 2.3 million people in jails and prisons, more than half of whom are serving time for non-violent crimes, mostly possession of drugs. More than $185 billion a year is expended to support this crisis, not to mention the ancillary ripple effect it has on our social services and welfare systems. Yet, we continue on with a losing strategy, and it’s not ever mentioned in the presidential debates.

Did I leave something out?

ANTI-GAY BIGOTRY IS ALIVE AND WELL

“AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”

Rev. Jerry Falwell, Christian evangelist

Remember when a gay caballero was defined as a happy Spaniard? Today, if you told a Miami Cuban he was gay, you might be peering down the bore of a .380 Barretta semi-automatic. Tune in to the nostalgia channel sometime and listen to the dialogue in movies of the 1930’s, Fred Astaire or Claudette Colbert exclaiming, “Oh, they had a gay time at the party.” Imagine your spouse hearing about your gay time at the office party?

The modern era has arrived. Being “gay” is now irreversibly defined. So has the omnipresence of gays in all walks of society, which some folks don’t like very much.

“The New York Times and Washington Post are both infested with homosexuals themselves. Just about every person down there is a homosexual or lesbian.”

— Jesse Helms, former U.S. Senator (deceased)

Securing the basic rights of all Americans has been the cornerstone achievement of the twentieth century. Yet, bigots still claim that traditional values of family and decency are being violated. When racial segregation was effectively banished, and women emerged from the kitchen, those horrible homosexuals brazenly followed suit and demanded an end to discrimination. Oh no, some even want to be married…to each other.

“Don’t use the word ‘gay’ unless it’s an acronym for – Got Aids Yet?”

— Rep. Bob Dornan, former U.S. Congressman

Bigotry and hatred is healthy as ever as nitwits try to convince us that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment to America for tolerating homosexuality. Many say the same about September 11th. We deserved it!

The problem, is that millions of people within mid-stream America feed into that kind of garbage and then go on to teach their children the same rhetoric as though it was from the mouth of God Himself. Follow the teachings of the Bible, say the bigoted evangelists, and love one another. But wait — it’s okay to hate homosexuals. I suppose “love” needs an asterisk.

The righteous right, led by the likes of Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson, have enjoyed huge followings, espousing hatred in the name of God. So are their clones of 2007. They carefully watch the responses of political candidates when they are asked about gay rights, gay marriage, and gays in the military. Because the Falwell-types represent huge numbers, the candidates tap dance around every question trying to appeal to both sides of the fence.

“Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals – the two things seem to go together.”— Rev. Pat Robertson, Christian evangelist

I was introduced to prejudice and discrimination in my youth as a normal outgrowth of mainstream society in the post-war 1950’s. I accepted the premise that “queers were bad and all homosexuals were perverts.” Then I grew up, removed the blinders and took a closer look at what the human race has yielded. Whether we accept it or not, same-sex love is all around us, a part of our every day lives, our history and our present. It fills our book shelves and our museums, entertains us, and educates us. The righteous right turns their heads from the fact that many of the most influential and talented human beings that ever walked the face of this earth were homosexual.

I have enjoyed poems by Gertrude Stein and novels by Willa Cather or Truman Capote, gay authors each. I recall the wonderful showmanship of Liberace and marveled at his virtuoso. I took my family to see Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet and a concert of The Pathetique symphony, aware that these were the creations of a tormented homosexual who once entered into a legal, ill-fated marriage to quell the wrath of Russian bigots.

Religious zealots would have us boycott the music of Elton John or all movies starring Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, Lawrence Olivier or Danny Kaye and bury their memory like they never existed. While we’re at it, let’s rid ourselves of such epic creations as Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story or Tennessee Williams’ Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, both products of gay writers. Still, they applaud athletes like Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova, willing always to disregard their lifestyles when it was time to be entertained.

Alfred Kinsey, in his study of 1948, reported that one in ten were homosexual. Other estimates put the numbers anywhere between five and ten percent. If only five percent of America is, in fact, homosexual, that’s fifteen million citizens, and the true number is probably double that. That’s a lot of people to hate. That’s a lot of people to discriminate against. That’s more people in the U.S. than Jews and Muslims combined. That’s more people than many of the states in this country. These folks certainly aren’t going away.

“Hear the word of the Lord, America, fag-enablers are worse than the fags themselves, and will be punished in the everlasting lake of fire!”— Rev. Fred Phelps, Christian evangelist.

The pompous says homosexuality a choice of lifestyle and suggests that all gay persons should reform and immediately revert to being a heterosexual. That is like telling a black person to be white or to force a lefty to be right-handed.

Why would anyone make a choice to be outcast, degraded and discriminated against for life? Gay friends tell me they would have preferred the straight life had they a choice. Such was not the lot they drew. Yet, they live and breathe our air, pay taxes and bleed red, just like the rest of us.

As the evangelical right postulates before the cameras and congregations, followers should bear in mind that many of those pretty perms and cuts were the creation of gay hairdressers, or that the sculpture sitting on their mantel was created by a gay artist, or the face that appears on a one dollar coin was that of a non-heterosexual woman.

While in Europe, I marveled at the most magnificent creations of religious art in the world, DaVinci’s Last Supper, Michelangelo’s statue of David, his Pieta and the wondrous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, some say all inspired by the hand of God. If they were, in fact, so inspired, then the almighty Himself must have anointed those who the righteous would otherwise condemn.

Think about that, folks.

“Homosexuality is a crime against humanity.”

— Paul Cameron, famed psychologist

A MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS SMILE

I strolled around the church antechamber playing Broadway tunes, Christmas Carols and Patriotic songs on violin while my friend, Jay, accompanied on piano. The folks all sat facing us in a semi-circle, singing along, clapping, laughing at my antics. Twas a marvelous feeling for the two of us, to bring an hour of music and joy to the seniors of a day care center.

I announced that Jay Barnhart and I had retired from the field of criminal justice, he a medical examiner, me a homicide detective. Now in retirement, we are enjoying the gift of music that our parents instilled into us. They roared when they heard our new tag line: The Dick-Doc Duo. (I didn’t tell them our other nickname: Bag ‘em and Tag ‘em.)

As various tunes were played by heart and I roamed the room, my eyes often met theirs —one by one— winking, smiling. In one swift swoop, I let an upbow sling from my hand like a dart until it hit the floor. Laughter filled the room. My hips wiggled to strains of “If I Were A Rich Man,” and they laughed again.

One gentleman smiled broadly the entire hour. He seemed so robust and I wondered why he was among these people, some of whom obviously suffered from dementia and other old-age maladies. Eyes brightened happily as one attractive lady recognized us from a prior engagement. On her name tag: Nancy. I imagined her fifty years ago and wondered just how beautiful she really was at thirty-five.

One woman to my left, perhaps of mid-east descent, seemed alert and immersed in the entertainment. I wondered about her life, children, career, her ups her downs. One elderly gentleman with a cane seemed more detached and I hoped he was enjoying the day. Perhaps, he didn’t even know we were there. Another man sang heartily. I figured him a veteran of the big war.

As we finished White Christmas, I caught myself playing directly to a dark-haired lady sitting to my right. Something was different about her. She bore a distant scowl on her face. She looked up at me, but…you know how it is, she wasn’t looking at me. I lowered my fiddle and approached. “Smile,” I told her. She looked up toward me, but remained stoic. I then smiled at her broadly, “Come, it won’t hurt.” I moved my fingers upward at the corners of my mouth. She didn’t move a muscle. Perhaps, I thought, I am being out of line. “It’s okay. You can smile.”

I knew all the others were watching, including the day care supervisors, but wanted to give it one more try. Next to the lady, was an empty chair. I sat near to her. Strangely, she rotated her head toward me like Linda Blair in The Exorcist and gazed directly into my eyes. Everyone in the room was lasered toward the unfolding scene. I was about to rise, violin in hand, when — like an awakening — it happened. The woman’s face lit up like a Christmas tree with the most wonderful smile I’d ever seen on any human being, her pearly whites glowing in the light, her eyes wide and happy looking right at me.

The moment caught me a bit emotional, but I dared not show it. “You are so pretty,” I told her. And, she was. Moments later, the woman reverted back to her stone face, but that was okay.

She and I had a happy moment, together.

Jay and I come to nursing homes to entertain seniors, not for money, but for the reward of seeing happiness on the faces of delightful people who have made so many contributions to the wonderful world we live in. All the applause, laughter, and sing-alongs filled our hearts with gladness, but nothing that could match that incredible smile from a woman who never smiled any more. It shall remain among my most memorable gifts ever.

The people in day care centers and nursing homes have been war veterans, nurses, policemen, plumbers, journalists, ditch diggers, boat captains, dancers, artists, clerks, moms, dads, grandmothers and grandfathers or just, human beings. If we’re lucky, we’ll all have our turn at aging.

It is so important they not be forgotten.