Archive for January, 2008


Cleaning up some odds and ends…

It has been pointed out to me that the link to Joe Fitzgerald’s column in my “Real Meaning of Christmas” post no longer works. Since the column is the whole point of the post, this obviously presented a problem. Because I feel so strongly that Joe’s message is an important one, not just during Christmas, but–perhaps especially–throughout the rest of the year, I have removed the broken link and simply inserted the entire text of the column. The column originally appeared in the Boston Herald. Sorry it took so long to fix this.

Speaking of Christmas posts, I have to admit I was rather surprised at the lack of response to my Christmas Eve post.  I would have thought that a crucified Santa would have provoked a few more people, even if it was just to tell me what a blasphemous bastard I am.

Also, as I am just now pulling out of yet another extended period of blogslackery, many comments which were kindly left by readers have gone unanswered. While there were personal reasons as to why I let things slide around here, I wish to apologize (yet again) for my inattentiveness. For those of you who actually give a shit what I have to say, all comments have now been replied to.



The Three stages of a man’s life

Ladies, try not to hate me. 😉




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The Lynching of David Seanor

Has it really come to this? Have the forces of political correctness so taken over that we can’t even discuss the topic of race in this country without being labeled racist?

You may have heard of the controversy created when Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman, in a moment of breathtaking stupidity, said that the only way to beat Tiger Woods would be to “lynch him in a back alley”, a comment which practically had co-host Nick Faldo scrambling for a crowbar to help her get her foot out of her mouth.

Nice going, Kelly. Given the number of black men who really have been lynched in back alleys, the remark was profoundly stupid, insensitive, and unfunny.

Not surprisingly, this caused a major uproar. Al Sharpton, the man who has never met a television camera he didn’t like, predictably called for her firing. Interestingly, Tiger Woods himself, acting with characteristic maturity, downplayed the whole incident, and accepted Tilghman’s apology. Tilghman was suspended for two weeks.

Enter Golfweek Magazine. Again not surprisingly, they ran an article on the whole sorry affair, and the cover of that issue (pictured above) featured a startling image of a noose.

This caused even more of an outcry than the story it was covering. Faced with (what else?) the threat of advertisers walking out the door, Golfweek fired editor David Seanor.

Am I the only one who sees a certain irony in all of this? Kelly Tilghman makes a stupid, racially insensitive remark, and gets off with a slap on the wrist. David Seanor attempts to examine not only this incident but also the larger issue of race as it relates to this overwhelmingly white sport, and he loses his job.

Seanor explained to the Associated Press, “Most people who are objecting to it—within the golf industry—are saying this episode was just about over,” Seanor said. “I think it’s indicative of how, when you bring race and golf into the same sentence, everyone recoils…I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn’t create as much negative reaction…but as this has unfolded, I’m glad there’s dialogue. Let’s talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf.”

Now before you start sending me the hate mail, let me make something perfectly clear. Blacks have gotten screwed in this country for hundreds of years. The way blacks have been treated in this country is an evil blot on our history. Whites, at least some of them, have much to answer for.

But what is so very troubling about this is how when the subject of race rears its ugly head, rationality seems to be the first victim. Seanor’s heart was, from all accounts, in the right place. Golf is just about the most lily white sport there is–to this day there are country clubs which don‘t allow blacks–and this incident provided an admirable place to examine this issue. What we have here is a classic case of shooting the messenger.

Was David Seanor being provocative? Sure he was, but last time I checked, that’s what editors are supposed to be. Even if he did cross the line, what was warranted, at most, was an apology, and frankly, I don’t think he has anything to apologize for. As editor, his job is to intrigue the reader, make you want to read the article, and hopefully, make you think.

This has not happened here. Indeed, people seem to have stopped thinking. Sadly, it seems as though everyone is too busy focusing on the cover to actually read the article. Had they done so, they would have read a thoughtful exposition of not only the controversy in question, but of the issue of race in golf in general.

But even more troubling is how the notion of freedom of speech is being subverted by political correctness, which is in reality nothing less odious than censorship masquerading as benevolence. If the concept of freedom speech is to have any validity, then it must apply to everyone, not just to those who are saying what you want to hear. Not everything that is said is going to be intelligent, or kind. But the price you pay for being able to say or write what you want, is that you have to put up with everyone else saying and writing what they want.

As I read this story, all I could think of was the stories of David Howard, a Washington, D. C. mayoral staffer, and Stephanie Bell, a fourth grade teacher from Wilmington, NC, who both got themselves into hot water for using the word “niggardly“, a word which has absolutely no racial connotations except to the uneducated and hyper-politically correct. David Howard lost his job. Stephanie Bell was ordered to write a written apology and attend sensitivity training! This is what happens when political correctness replaces factual discourse.

As a strange little sequel to all this, I read in the paper yesterday that, when asked if Bill Clinton was the “first black president”, Barak Obama stated that he would have to “investigate [Clinton’s] dancing ability” before he could “accurately judge whether [Clinton] was in fact a brother”. So, like any good American, I checked out the video.

The audience laughed. Hillary laughed. I laughed. John Edwards looked extremely uncomfortable, as well he should have. He knows damn well that if he had been that “witty” he’d be out of the race by now. You can check out the video here.

What is happening in this country is that this most cherished of our freedoms is being eroded by the twin forces of political correctness and advertising dollars. What Kelly Tilghman said was stupid, but she did not deserve to lose her job. In fact, it seems as though the Golf Channel wasn’t going to punish her at all until it was pressured by advertisers, resulting in her two week suspension.

Is it fair that David Seanor, whose only crime was a desire to report the incident and create dialogue, should suffer a worse fate than Kelly Tilghman? I think not. It bodes ill for us all if we cannot even discuss the issue of race in this country without being labeled racist.



A Day Long Awaited

Yesterday, Sunday that is, was a momentous day for the Smith clan and me. My son, Brendan, graduated from high school. This is, of course, a big day in any family, yet the day held special savor for me. You see, for a long time I was afraid I would never see this day at all.

My son was, to put it mildly, a rather difficult teenager. He combined a headstrong nature with questionable judgment in a way which often led to maddening results. We quarreled often. On many occasions, he required the sort of forgiveness only a father is capable of mustering.

The day he told me he was joining the army I was, to say the least, skeptical. This was a kid who had trouble finding enough initiative to make his own bed, and now he was proposing to subject himself to the rigors of boot camp. Yeah, right. I kept my mouth shut and just assumed this was a phase he was going through.

I was very, very, wrong.

He really did it. He signed up for the Army’s “split option” program and went through boot camp in the Summer of 2004, between his Junior and Senior years. I was thrilled. I thought if anybody could instill in him the discipline he so sorely lacked, it would be a big, nasty drill sergeant.

I was partly right. He did come back a different person. A little more poised, a little more disciplined, but only a little. Some seeds had been planted down in Fort Jackson, but they would need time to grow. But I noticed how he spoke fondly of the Army, even of boot camp.  I remember him once showing his uniform to one of his friends.  For some reason, he put on the beret.  I will never forget how for just a moment he suddenly stood up straighter, and there was a light in his eyes that I had never seen there before.  Then he took of the beret and he was once again my goofball teenage son.  But for just a second, it was as though that beret had transformed him.  Clearly, in the Army he had finally found something to take seriously, to take pride in.

When he dropped out of high school I was furious. I told him, what kind of a dumb-ass quits school in the second semester of his senior year? His company commander was none too pleased, either. Under ordinary circumstances he could have been discharged, but two things saved him: his company commander liked him, and by now we were entrenched in the quagmire known as Iraq.

From March of 2006 until March of 2007, my son saw things no teenager, no human, should ever have to witness. He once found the severed head of the company translator, an Iraqi who had chosen to throw his lot in with the Americans, nailed to a fence post as a warning to others who might have been thinking the same thing. He saw Iraqi children thrown in front of trucks by insurgents, and once had to wash a truck that had been splattered with a child’s entrails when the bomb in the child’s backpack was detonated. He saw a man riddled with bullets until his body looked like Swiss cheese. The “gunman” was only six years old.

I’m glad I did not know exactly what was going on over there. He always kept his calls home short and very general, and I bless him for that. I was worried sick about him as it was. Had I known exactly what he was going through I might never have slept at all. I now smile at the over protective parents who have a fit because their child was an hour past their curfew. They have no idea what real anxiety is.

But in spite of it all he came back, in one piece, and reasonably well adjusted considering all he had gone through. He enjoyed talking about his experiences overseas in general, but steadfastly refused to talk about the actual combat, a trait I have noticed in other combat veterans I have known.

And there were noticeable changes. In some ways, he was still the same cheerful kid with the puckish sense of humor I had always known, but there was something different. He had become more thoughtful, more introspective, while at the same time far more aware of the world around him. To my astonishment, when I was going through my divorce it was Brendan who often had insightful things to say on the nature of that relationship and its subsequent breakdown, and he simply would not have been capable of that even two years ago. One day, as we were talking, I suddenly realized that I was talking to another man.

One of the first things he did upon his return was enroll in night school, thereby completing the requirements for his diploma. And yesterday, January 13th, he was, at the ripe old age of twenty one, the oldest of about twenty kids who had realized that going through life without a high school diploma wasn’t such a hot idea after all. I take my hat off to each and very one of those kids.

It was a fairly brief commencement, but just before the principal called his name, he paused and said that he wanted to say a word or two about Brendan. From where I was sitting, I could seem Brendan cringe as the principal told the audience how Brendan had spent a year in Iraq, and had come home to complete his education, but I think he was pleased as well. When he handed him his diploma, no yelled louder than I did.

Later that day, we celebrated in a way that has become a tradition with us: we smoked a cigar together. I told him straight out that I sometimes had wondered if I would ever see this day, but that it was worth waiting for. He overcame many obstacles, many self-created, to achieve what he did. He has evolved from a typical dumb ass teenager into a thoughtful, intelligent young man

I am proud to be his father, and yesterday I told him so.



Sorry, everyone…..

I’ve been attending to some personal issues, which hasn’t left me much time for anything else.  Thanks to everyone for all the kind words.  I’ll be back soon, I promise.


taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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