August 16, 2017 | Posted in General
As fate would have it, I am smack dab in the middle of writing a book, or perhaps the better way to say it is that I am co-creating a literary work from bits and pieces of thoughts and text scattered over nearly four decades of unfinished fiction, based on the real-life experiences of an 88-year young woman who grew up under Nazi rule in Germany.
I took this project on months ago, long before a crowd of disenfranchised white people bought out all the patio torches they could find and exercised their “right” to free speech in Charlottesville, doing what disenfranchised people do best.
Put their pain on others in any way, shape or form they can.
“Disenfranchised:” To deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity.
If the right combination of elements and circumstances are present, mixed in with an overdose of blame, shame and guilt, add in a warped belief that someone different than you is responsible for your lack of “privilege” then you have all that is needed for the laundry list of hate to be complete.
Then they get into small groups and talk about how “the other they” held them back or down, that the color of their skin, religious or political beliefs or ethnicity is the cause for all your problems. After a few more meetings the snowball of shit gathers up more and more low-self esteemed white men (and women) that now have a feeling of “belonging” like any other gang and decide to “vote in” the source of their relief the one with the answers to their internal suffering and angst.
Basically, that is how it all began in 1933 with the appointment of Adolph Hitler as chancellor of Germany and the beginnings of the Nazi Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei; NSDAP.)
One person emerges as the embodiment of all the venom that can be barfed up and becomes the ultimate symbol for a movement which if left unchecked grows like a case of human herpes.
Then you end up having to deal with 5’8 Austrian high school dropout with serious mother issues that once fell in love with a Jewish girl but was afraid she would reject him so he never asked her on a date. Perhaps it might have been because he only had one testicle and later tried injecting himself with bull semen (before Viagra) in order to get a boner. That same guy abstained from “the ravaging effects of alcohol” but instead consumed up to 80 different drugs a day, one of which was pervitin, is basically what we now call crystal meth.
He was the self-appointed and self-anointed Führer. You know the kind of guy you want to emulate. The “Ultimate Aryan” ended up blowing whatever scrambled eggs of a brain he had left out with a revolver before he could be brought to trial for crimes against humanity.
So, there I was on Saturday morning, researching and writing about “Kristallnacht” (The Night of Broken Glass) that was put in motion when on November 7th, 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, assassinated the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris in retaliation for the expulsion of his parents from Germany. When vom Rath died on 9 November, the Nazis used his death as a pretext to instigate a pogrom against the Jews in the Third Reich. Although the Nazis claimed the pogrom was spontaneous, it was actually planned and ordered by Hitler and his wannabe sidekick and pindick Goebbels.
Over 7,500 Jewish shops and more than 1,000 synagogues were either damaged or destroyed.
According to the Nazi’s-the death toll was officially given as 91, but turned out to be around 300 men, women and children.
30,000 men were sent to the Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.
A decree on November 12th barred Jews from most of the remaining occupations that they had not yet been banned from. After Kristallnacht, Jews caught in the Third Reich stepped up their efforts to leave the country. It also marked the end of any sort of public Jewish activity and culture and the beginning of “The Holocaust.”
Under Hitler’s leadership and racially motivated ideology, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other victims whom he and his followers deemed Untermenschen (sub-humans) and socially undesirable. Hitler and the Nazi regime were also responsible for the killing of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war. In addition, 29 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of military action in the European Theatre of World War II. The number of civilians killed during the Second World War was unprecedented in warfare; the casualties constituted the deadliest conflict in human history.
Seventy-nine years since “Kristallnacht” and what have we learned?
Humans will push aside common sense for uncommon favor. As long as my ass is covered and not threatened, we’re good. If my 401k is doing great, gas prices are down that is the extent of my concerns. Politicians will allow for all sorts of disruptive behavior in order to have their own agendas fulfilled.
If it fits my internal narrative and prejudices, no big deal.
When you squeeze oranges, you get orange juice- totally predictable outcome. When you squeeze humans all kinds of shit gushes out, the good, the bad and the ugly. The good helps you keep the faith, the bad teaches you a lesson, the ugly is the result of lessons that have been forgotten.
On July 1, 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was shot by an illegal immigrant named Juan Francisco López-Sánchez. López-Sánchez fired a .40 caliber handgun on Pier 14 in San Fransico. The bullet ricocheted off the pavement, then struck Kathryn Steinle in the back, causing her to die two hours later at a hospital. López-Sánchez, a Mexican national, was arrested and charged with her murder.
Then candidate Trump cited the murder as a prime example of why a wall needed to be on the Mexican border to keep out what he claimed was the greatest threat to the American people.
So, two years later, when a legal resident of the United States uses a Dodge to mow down a crowd-not unlike ISIS-killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was the same age as Kathryn Steinle, it’s not about the Neo Nazi in the car who pressed on the gas pedal.
This time, according to now President Trump, all sides are to blame in this one.
For those of you who continue to be outraged by the behavior of Donald Trump, he showed you and told you exactly who he was and is for at least 18 months. For those of you who thought that somehow by sitting his backside in the Oval Orifice that “God would change his heart” you should consider finding a different church. For those of you that think he is being picked on “more than any other president ever” and should “be left alone so he can do his job” should read a history book.
Every single president has been dissected, chopped, sliced and diced no matter what party they represent.
But that is asking a lot. It’s easier to watch a highly produced reality show that makes someone look presidential because he fired some celebs in a studio boardroom.
Our current POTUS has claimed on more than one occasion that he can “be as great a president as the great Abraham Lincoln.”
The real Abe Lincoln said “Nearly every man can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power.”
To be clear, at least for me, this isn’t really about Trump or politics but the fact as I have been spending time with someone who was there when Hitler was able to start with a small group of people and capitalized on their fears to become the most hated man in history and to still see swastikas in our streets all these years later should be a warning shot across the bow.
Or we can just ignore it and hope it goes away, cause you know…that works.
As a veteran I stand with those who went to Omaha Beach, to the “Battle of The Bulge” to the Occupation of France and from every skirmish, dogfight, hand to hand combat and sea battle, millions of Allied soldiers lost their lives to halt the Nazi threat from spreading.
Now they march down the street in Virginia carrying patio torches bought at some Big Box Store chanting “We will not be replaced by Jews.”
The 9,387 white crosses at Normandy should mean more than just a “thank you for your sacrifice” post on Memorial Day.
History doesn’t just repeat itself on its own.
We do that.
August 9, 2017 | Posted in General
I had a few things on the docket for this second installment of my weekly foray into all things human after taking six weeks off.
The list of possible subjects for 1200 words of insight, foresight and hindsight includes the best sandwich I’ve ever had, what it’s like to get back in the gym after a year, the seeming epidemic of broken turn signals, watching Johnny Carson again, what Kim Jung Un would look like with Trump’s hair and our great challenge with living ” a real life” when so much “produced reality” confuses our anterior reticulating system.
But all that can wait for another time.
Glen Travis Campbell passed away yesterday at the age of 81 from the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
When I heard the news of his death, even though the whole world had been following his slow decline since he announced his struggle in 2010, my eyes welled up, and I stopped what I was doing and just sat for a few moments.
The voice that had us all singing “Galveston,” “Gentle On My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Try A Little Kindness” had gone silent.
Those songs and many more, created a visceral connection to millions of people all over the world.
During his 50 years in show business, Campbell released more than 70 albums. He sold 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA gold albums, four platinum albums, and one double-platinum album. He placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100, or Adult Contemporary Chart, of which 29 made the top 10 and of which nine reached number one on at least one of those charts. Three of his early hits later won Grammy Hall of Fame Awards (2000, 2004, 2008), while Campbell himself won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He owns trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM), and took the CMA’s top award as 1968 Entertainer of the Year.
Not bad for the seventh son of twelve children born into a sharecropper family in Arkansas and who learned to play the guitar when he was four years old.
As his awards were publicized, so was his battle with alcohol and drugs. A mug shot of him from those days shows a man in ” a very long dance with the devil” said Campbell.
He would overcome his inner demons with a renewed faith and his music.
As the disease progressed and he became a shell of his former vibrant self, friends like Alice Cooper remarked how his guitar became a lifeline to the talent the endeared him to fans, the instrument that brought him so much joy and according to Cooper, immense respect in the music industry.
“Eddie Van Halen knew that Glen and I played golf quite often and asked me once if I thought it might be possible for him to get a couple guitar lessons from Glen. That blew me away.”
I did what we all do when someone of name and note takes their final bow, immediately went to MeTube and yanked up a bunch of “Glen’s Greatest Hits” and for about an hour let the soundtrack of my life fill back up again as I thought about why I got emotional over hearing of his death.
Might have been the phone call I guess.
Back in 2008, when I was in the thick of it at Oprah Radio, putting Dr. Oz and Jean Chatzky through their radio paces, residing in the corner office that had a slew of celebs streaming by, my name on the door and with a business card that gave me more power than I deserved because of the word “Harpo” on it, the amount of “pitches” (people sharing their ideas, product or book to get placed on a show) was overwhelming. I tried to sort through it all best I could, as an author I have a soft spot for books and anyone that is trying to make the world a bit better had my ear.
One day by special delivery a small package arrived addressed to me, probably delivered by Ana Torres-and when I opened it up, there was a promotional CD inside, from Glen Campbell with a note.
“Hey John, I’d love to be on the Oprah Show, lets talk! GC”
I had nothing to do with getting anyone on The Oprah Winfrey Show and I wanted to let Mr. Campbell know right away of course so I called the number on the card with his business manager’s name on it and as mentioned before, anyone who was a producer calling from Harpo always got through on the first try. I remember when I was creating the John Denver Tribute for radio in 2007 I called George Bush Sr. at his office, was put on hold and his assistant picked up the phone, as I knew that Mr. Bush was a fan of JD’s and was inquiring to his availability in being a guest. A moment later the assistant came back on, said that Mr. Bush wasn’t able to participate but had a request. Next thing I know our 41st president is on the horn and said “Would you play Rocky Mountain High? I really enjoy that song.”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
So when Campbell’s business guy got on the phone I started to tell him that I appreciated the CD but I had zero sway in booking the Oprah Show, that I could perhaps get him a name or two and considering Glen Campbell’s near legendary status, it might work out. I also gushed on a bit about how much I enjoyed his music and path, including overcoming the demons of addiction, a hard fought lesson the world had witness to.
Next thing I hear is that earthy Arkansas twang, thanking me for taking the time to call and offer to help. Then he starts telling me how blessed he was to still be performing after all he had been through and how much the fans “kept me alive” when his life was at its lowest points.
Apparently I was on speaker phone, and Glen Campbell was in the office when I called.
I don’t remember the conversation after that, but what struck me is that he took the time to sit in his office, next to his business manager, put his name on countless sticky notes that had been sent to various media outlets in order to continue on with his work.
Somewhere I still have that demo CD.
Campbell once said in an interview that he felt he had “a gift from God” in the form of a guitar and that his goal with every note was to “lift people up in some way.”
No question he paid back the Almighty for entrusting him with such a task.
At the end of the day, I concluded that my emotion was in response to the incredible talent he had, that he shared with the world and the one thing that kept him alive when so much was being taken from him.
It’s a lesson, a reminder and blessing all at once.
August 2, 2017 | Posted in General
Six weeks out of the FB and internet landfill, no posting of comments about the current state of the government or grinding of teeth over politics and policy, no meltdown of my central nervous system over whatever the latest “broken news” that got shoved in the pipeline or inflammation of my thalamus (you know the large mass of gray matter in the dorsal part of the diencephalon of the brain with several functions such as relaying of sensory and motor signals to the cerebral cortex) due to an incessant, repetitive bombardment of life ending messages regarding the “Most Wanted” virtual man in the world, Jayden K. Smith (remember him?) or worrying about burning for eternity if I didn’t click “Like” and type “Amen” on a picture of Jesus who was wearing an American Flag lapel pin on his tunic.
All has been quiet in my brain bucket, the tele-mirrors and syntax’s recharging and regrouping. My grip loosened, my shoulders relaxed, my furrowed brow lay flat..
I could take a deep breath, not in anxiety of the latest political gaffe, blunder or dung pile, but a real genuine deep breath of relaxation.
It was an interesting experiment in disconnection from one of the many ELS (electronic life support) devices we have with their unseen umbilical cords linking millions and millions and millions and millions of humans to the Mother Ship like one of the “Alien” movies.
There was a hesitation at first, but as I spent time on other projects that are far more lucrative than watching “Bat Dad” videos or being asked to sign a petition to end…”Fill In The Blank” my eyes began to clear, my mind was sharper and I was fleet of foot and light of heart.
I whistled now and then.
I didn’t start the day watching a group of people who will never probably meet in person argue over an issue that none of them can solve, launching personal attacks from behind the firewall of their limitations, bent on being “right” no matter what, foaming at the mouth like some Pavlovian experiment gone wrong.
Instead I sat on the back porch, drank my coffee and watched the sun rise. The past six weeks the term “Time Line” took on a whole different meaning than Facebook.
The only “Posts” I saw were on a highway in the vast expanse of South Dakota. My “Likes” were confined to ice cream cones, thunderstorms, blueberry pie, and the forests of western Pennsylvania.
I knew I would return eventually but it was a process for sure.
Slowly I began to ease back into the FB landfill, just a toe here and there, like peeking inside a house you used to live in just to see how the new owners redecorated the place and if it was the same.
It was just as I left it.
It is what it is.
It is what it was designed to be.
A platform for connecting, a dumping ground of information, a reservoir of rants, raves and the ridiculous. It’s also a sanctuary for the soul, a virtual billboard of life changing content, a safe place for millions and a cornucopia of communication.
Like everything else humans invent, be it a government or an iPhone, how we use a thing determines its worth or lack of it. Neither good nor bad, just a vessel we fill and drain every day, searching for some sort of value, a return on our investment of time and energy.
After pounding out “The Wednesday Rant” weekly for over 18 months without a break, it took something breaking for me to…you know…take a break.
So what broke?
My perspective on life.
I had spent too much time looking at a 17″ computer screen filled with so much vitriol and hate, so much negativity and sarcasm, so many tug-of-wars that never end and the erosion of the incredible gift we all have been given, a gift that has a shelf life and an unknown expiration date.
I had become a human doing and not a human being.
Then it happened.
One morning as the sun was coming up, I spied a tiny, armored “Armadillidiidae” aka a “Roly Poly Bug” making its way across the concrete sidewalk. and upon further inspection of the little tank, I noticed it seem to be on a mission of sorts, lumping along in search of a hiding place. I watched it go under the plastic garbage can in the yard and out of curiosity I lifted up the can only to find a sizeable population of the bugs all milling about, bumping into each other, getting rolled in and out of the way, connecting and reconnecting.
You know, kind of like Facebook.
For some reason the bugs also reminded me of “Beetlejuice” when he grabbed a handful and took a swallow and then picked his teeth.
But I digress.
I took it as a sign from the insect world that enough time had passed and throwing in my six cents worth once a week might not always change the world for the better, but if I looked at it a certain way, would keep me from letting the world change me for the worse.
Writing “The Wednesday Rant” is my way of contributing to the cause of higher ground, the concept that we can find something within ourselves that is worth redeeming and bring that forth as a way to pay rent for the space we take up on the planet.
Or we can just argue.
Once again I was reminded that life is too short, too unpredictable and too uncertain to major in minor things.
July 27, 2017 | Posted in General
HIATUS ENDS 8.2.17…”Your gonna need a bigger brain…”
July 18, 2017 | Posted in General
The Wednesday Rant…on a Tuesday.
For the record I am still on unsocial media hiatus and I wrestled a bit about jumping into the landfill but after a couple cups of coffee and some pondering, I gave in because of the subject matter.
A milestone marker is defined as 1. A stone marker set up on a roadside to indicate the distance in miles from a given point or 2. An important or significant event in life or history.
Both of those definitions describe every July 18th since 2002 for me. This is the day fifteen years ago I was able to give my daughter life, for the second time.
She was born with a kidney “defect” with a really long name that I don’t need to include here. By the time she was just year old, searing fevers indicated something was amiss. Frequent trips to the doctors office, an onslaught of meds and finally just before her fifth birthday the decision to go in and fix the problem. The subsequent phone call that brought the news that her right kidney was toxic and had to be removed- was the first time in my life I had ever really been knocked to my knees, right in the kitchen of our small townhouse.
The prognosis from the docs had her on dialysis and the transplant list within a year. Through some serious work on her belief system, a bit of time spent with an old Chinese herbalist along with conventional medications, Amanda would make it eight years before her remaining kidney started to fail. During that time she was always smiling, the early morning trips for shots, constant monitoring of meds, water and blood pressure. Her “defect” was a minor inconvenience for her, a major concern for mom and dad.
On July 18th, 2002 Dr. Hans Sollinger removed my substantial fist sized kidney that had been marinating in my body for forty-three years and placed it in the body of my thirteen-year-old daughter. The effect according to the nurses who were there when I came out of anesthetic was “incredible.”
I didn’t get to see Amanda until the next morning, when my son Andrew helped push my wheelchair into her room one floor above. Andy was only eleven at the time, but he was my staunch guardian and right hand man.
Upon entering the room, there she was…sitting cross-legged on the bed playing cards with her mom.
Her cheeks were flushed with color, eyes clear and bright, smile beaming and she looked up and said.
“Hey dad! How you doing?”
It was the most glorious sight I’ve ever seen in my life.
She had literally been born anew.
That was 5,475 days ago.
Amanda is now 28, vibrant as ever, its as if that kidney was a spark plug of sorts and she continues to simply glow. Smart, talented, driven, tenacious and funny, she lives life to the fullest.
For years I got on the stump pounding out the need for organ donation, more PSA’s that I can remember on national radio, I’ve spoken at events like the Kidney Walk in Chicago to 5,000 people and sat with just a few who were on dialyses waiting for their chance to live a different life.
I’m not posting the numbers here, you can find those out on your own. The need is great, but like everything else its not a need until it becomes a problem for us personally.
I’m in the process of a project on my friend the late, great Walter Payton that you will hear about in the near future. After being diagnosed with liver cancer and unable to receive a transplant to save his own life, Sweetness took to the media with a series of messages about organ donation and in doing so saved countless lives, of that I am sure. Now and then when I am driving in Chicago I will see at license plate with “34” on it and the words “Be An Organ Donor” hammered into the metal.
Unending thanks to Connie, Jarrett and Brittany for their dedication to the cause through the Payton Foundation.
Fifteen years have passed, Amanda’s health is excellent and every day is a gift…something that can easily get lost in the chaos of life, the perspective that if you have your health…you are truly wealthy beyond measure.
As Walter said…”Tomorrow is promised to no one.”
Become an organ donor today…and if you already are…thank you.
The life you save might not be your own…and that is the whole point.