In truth

August 30, 2012

I have spent some time gathering my thoughts about this post, which is the 3,000th* at this blog. I have a penchant of thinking too large when it comes to blog posts, anyway, but I allowed myself to be thrown off by the monumental faux landmark of a round number. Thus, I have spent hours staring at an empty page, waiting for some great truth to come to mind.

Truth.

My sister-in-law is a fantastic young woman. Kind, accepting and focused on the needs of others. She is beautiful in all aspects of the word. When she was a child, however, she was a monster. As has been described to me, she was a hyper, dirty, aggressive little liar.

Then, one day out of the blue, she decided she would not lie any more. She would be an honest girl. She remembers the day fondly, as it was her first step toward becoming the gentle, honest soul she is today.

The only problem, of course, was that it took several months for anyone to believe anything she said, regardless of her new-found honesty. Her family had heard enough lies over the years to distrust her, and it took them a while to accept that she had truly changed her ways.

Lies.

We are all liars in one way or another, whether they are little white lies with good intentions, to lying to ourselves, to telling massive whoppers in front of millions of people.

The Internet and social media has been a grand experiment in lying. Think of your own social media experience. Given the ability to craft our own realities, many of us present ourselves in the most glorious of lights. I know that I generally present myself as the person I aspire to be rather than the person I truly am.

Mind you, minor misrepresentations of oneself is generally harmless unless meant to deceive for nefarious reasons. But it seems to lead to a more complicated issue of lying to oneself. The best road toward personal growth depends on being honest to oneself, not covering up the uncomfortable areas with a facade.

A Nation of Liars.

The current election cycle has been a grand experiment in lying. While it is true that President Barack Obama can massage a fact with the best of them and will avoid certain truths, it is Mitt Romney who has created an entirely new paradigm for the definition of truth. Not only has Romney been caught in numerous outright lies, he – along with running mate Paul Ryan – have crafted their own life stories. While this can be harmless fun for someone with a Twitter account, it becomes surreal when two lifelong millionaires create life histories that showcase them as blue-collar folks who had to scrimp and struggle to get to where they are today.

Add to that a media so often loath to even challenge many lies politicians spout, and you create a nation with an extreme crisis of confidence. Who is to be trusted to be truthful? Who can even tell any longer.

The Truth.

The truth of the matter is that the United States has become a nation of beliefs and faiths. It is a nation of competing ideologies that has put aside the truth in order to garner victory big or small. The Personal Truth is far more important and satisfying than the true truth. This is not the sign of a healthy civilization.

When you have an elected official saying that women have a natural defense mechanism against rape, you are most assuredly on a dangerous path. When science is considered an enemy that must be belittled, or when nearly all facts become objective, a nation’s reality becomes hopelessly unrealistic.

Every American generation is coming into a nation where lying to get what they want is more and more acceptable. Evolution – a Truth – works with psyches as well as physical organisms. And the changes come much more quickly when they are changes in attitudes and ethics. As time goes on, even those that espouse the greatest truths will find themselves in my Sister-in-Law’s youthful position – distrusted due to a history of lies.

Much greater minds than I have delved into the subject of truth and have come away with wildly different interpretations. These words are not meant to define truth. They are not meant to call out the lies. If anything, they are a message to myself to have the courage to view myself and the world with honesty. Because the words of the Great Bard are as true now as when they were originally written:

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. ” — William Shakespeare.

–WKW

*Actually, that’s a lie. This is post No. 3,001. I forgot about the round number and posted a dog picture. But what’s the harm of this little lie, I ask?

From UK Rioters to Tea Party members, the root causes of madness must be understood

August 11, 2011

The UK riots have been raging for days now, as had the blame. The spectrum of blame ranges from “Criminal, no-good kids being violent and destructive for no good reason” to “Societal and economic inequalities.”

The truth is somewhere in a nebulous area in between that will never be fully understood or clarified. Nonetheless, it would be foolhardy to ignore the societal and economic factors. The police are collecting the criminals. Brits are forming groups to help clean up the mess. What must follow is thought and action to help prevent such breakdowns of civil society.

Political philosophers from Plato to Machiavelli have one thing in common – they sought to avoid violent revolution at all costs. Once the masses reach the stage of revolt, the game of politics becomes one of survival, and few governments survive. As we have seen this year in the Middle East and Africa, the power of the people is not to be ignored.

Which brings us to the United States and the “Tea Party Movement.” Mind you, the whole “movement” is based on a lie. Those in the Tea Party are Republicans who have embraced their most base of ideals. But that is a the political aspect. It would be folly for Liberals to ignore the societal and economic reasoning behind the actions of those who count themselves as “Tea Partiers.” Because while it may be a group created and enabled by rich Republicans, it is a group dealing with the same financial problems as many other groups in the U.S.

The connection between the UK rioters and the Tea Party is essentially this – both groups have given in to unreasonableness and irrationality in order to overcome feelings of powerlessness. For the rioters, it came in the form of free-for-all violence and savagery. For the Tea Party, it comes in the form of clinging to false beliefs and the destruction of the federal government. Neither group has an endgame. It is destruction for the sake of destruction.

It is quite easy to be simply repulsed by the far-right of the United States. It is a group clinging to antiquated ideals, debunked stereotypes and anger. From preaching that Gay males were the cause of the Holocaust to shouts of “keep government away from our Medicare” to the most heinous of racial insults, the Tea Party’s reputation is one of hatred and ignorance.

But much as the UK would be mistaken to ignore the deeper issues of the riots, American liberals would be mistaken to ignore the deeper issues of the Tea Party. Because those deeper issues affect us all. Economic stagnation, wealth inequality and education being chief among them.

There will always be anarchists and fascists amongst us who cannot be reasoned with philosophically. But much as Brits wake up to learn that those they know and love were a part of the riots, American liberals can all point to people they know and love who have been swept away in the fervor of the Far-Right rebellion. What is happening in England is not the result of crazed criminals going bonkers. What is happening in the U.S. is not the result of fascists ripping off their masks to attempt to dominate the political process.

The UK is seeing what a disaffected and angry group can do. Such a revolt in the United States would lead to death and destruction on a much higher level. It is already happening in a political sense.

There is nothing wrong with being repulsed by the actions or words of those on the fringes of society. But a growing fringe cannot be shouted down or ignored. There are no easy answers. But finding a way to stop rampant wealth inequality is certainly a step in the right direction. As is understanding the root causes of such madness.

–WKW

The Tea Party: Gutter Politics That Worked

August 2, 2011

One thing that shouldn’t get lost in the minutiae of the Debt Ceiling “Crisis,” is that Dick Armey and the other conservative leaders that came up with the “Tea Party Grassroots Movement” truly pulled off a coup. Regardless of what happens in the future, the gamble has been a political success.

Think about it – it’s 2008 and the public has soured on Republicans to the point of disgust. George W. Bush finishes off his free-spending Presidency by opening the vaults to the bankers and slinking off to obscurity. The public is ready to go Democrat. Remember, if Hillary had won the nomination, she’d have demolished McCain, as well.

Unsurprisingly, the Dems demolished the Republicans at the polls. Huge advantages in all areas of government went to the left. The country was ready to stop flying rightward. The Obama Agenda was about to be unleashed, and he had a mandate. So, Conservatives decided to roll the dice – they unleashed the monkeys.

It was a low-risk plan. The GOP was already in the dumps. Why not give the far-right nutters a chance to shout what they were told and whatever else entered their minds? And the media fell in line and fell in love. It was saturation coverage the likes of which would make O.J. blush. If you are reading this and consider yourself a Tea Party member, I’ll bet money that you’ve been on TV before, or were interviewed by someone. Vietnam got less coverage. Political celebrities like Sarah Palin were quick to give tie themselves to the groups.

Thus, despite none of us ever knowing how many were even involved in the “grassroots movement,” this rag-tag groups of rag-tags has managed to shift the entire political conversation further right than Reagan.

No matter what happens in the future, the conservative leaders that put this all into action deserve applause. They played dirty. They had to prepared for a possible explosion, and still do need to be prepared. But at this point, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like the GOP could fall much lower than they were in 2008. And the ultimate Conservative Agenda has been advanced. The Tea Party gave true Right-Wing Nutjobs the chance to govern.

In the end, the creation of the Tea Party Movement was gutter politics. But it worked.

–WKW

Americans Disconnected

March 22, 2011

WKW Note: This was originally posted in Feb. 2010, but with current events in Libya and around the globe, maintains it’s timeliness.
—-

The disconnect never fails to amaze me. Death on a personal level is a heart-wrenching, life-altering affair. The recovery is a long process, filled with grief. Losing a loved one stays with you until you finally join them. But being part of the machine that gives others the same grief on a spectacular level has little to no effect.

I’d like to say I brim with outrage every time I see mention of civilian casualties during war time. I’d like to say I vehemently protest each unmanned drone that takes out a village along with a terrorist, leaving carnage and heartache in its wake.

But I can’t. I’m American. The numbness I feel for the death of the loved ones of others is a void in my humanity. I can create the rage, using logic and compassion to seethe at the ease of which my country brings death to others, but on a day-to-day level, it barely registers. And of this I know I am not alone. I know that even some fervent anti-war Americans struggle with the ability to emotionally comprehend what our government does in the name of national security. Because while there are those that feel the pain and tirelessly fight to end it, the vast majority remain disconnected.

The fervor for war with Iraq went from maelstrom to malaise to mocking in relatively short order, essentially due to illogical nature of it and overt pressure placed upon the American people to support it. But by the time more voices joined the ant-war crusade, the carnage was in full swing.

And it still hasn’t ended. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and who knows where else, our military is bringing death home to countless families. And in return, countless Americans are dealing with the grief of losing their own family members.

But death becomes us. We incinerated Tokyo. We vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We pulverized Vietnam. And we burned down Dresden. So it goes.

And through it all, we remain the good guys in our hearts. We remain morally superior. We are Americans and we are exceptional. Ask the corpses and broken families.

Because of this unholy disconnect, we will continue to kill. Those who make these types of decisions want nothing more than to unleash our military machine against Iran. With no lessons learned from our forays into the Middle East, and no connection to the dead and grieving, there remains an exceedingly good chance it will happen. It will be for national security. Because two oceans, a chilling nuclear arsenal and the largest military in the history of humankind cannot protect us from two-bit, sabre-rattling dictators. Only raining death upon its innocent citizens can save us now.

We are a nation at war. And we always have been. Let there be no disconnect – as an American, we are warriors. We leave families destroyed and bodies mangled. We take lives, then change the channel. But the outrage will be there and it will grow. If not from Americans who take lives, than from others whose lives we have destroyed.

And that destruction is occurring as you read this. And those of us Americans who have suffered a loss of a loved one need to connect to those who are feeling that same pain. Because those deaths and that suffering are directly connected to each and every one of us.

–WKW

The Price

October 28, 2010

To the Magnificent People of The United States of America:

It is with much humility that I offer you these words. But it is, in my opinion, time for a full recognition that the United States has been utterly and completely conquered by Corporate Interests.

Wars are often re-fought, however, and the time to reengage is upon us. And as the recent past has shown us, the road to winning a war depends mainly on will and the understanding of the battlefield and enemy.

[Read more]

An American Boy

August 31, 2010

I am kind, giving and strong. I am fair and law-abiding. I am smart and resourceful. I respect others and I do no harm. I follow the words of Jesus Christ. I am an American Boy.

When I am called on to help, you can count on me. I’ll be there, without a care for my own benefit. Because I’ve been taught that to give is divine and that it’s far easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven. So when others are in need, I answer the call.

My strength is legendary, but it is not my way to abuse it. I only use my strength when absolutely necessary, lest I abuse it. The world is not my playground to take advantage of as I wish, but it is instead the greatest gift bestowed on us all.

I believe in justice for all, not for the few. I believe we live in a complex world which requires increasing levels of understanding. And I find no bliss in ignorance.

I believe in freedom for all.

I believe in liberty.

I believe in peace on Earth.

I believe in the words of Jesus.

These are the things I believe. Because these are the things I was taught, as an American Boy.

–WKW

An Open and Honest Conversation about My Racism

August 1, 2010

“You see, you’re one of the good Blacks,” I told my friend Al, at a high school graduation party. “It’s the bad Blacks that are the niggers.”

“I think I hate you now, Bill,” said Al, walking away.

It was 25 years ago when that scene took place, and his words still haunt me. Partly because I haven’t spoken to Al since. But mostly because that those words started me on a path toward acceptance and enlightenment that I remain on to this day.

Racism toward African-Americans was instilled into me from birth. I never got a sex talk, but I got plenty of racism lessons. And until that night, those lessons formed my opinions of African-Americans.

Being racist was an unnatural fit for me, especially since the vast majority of my experiences with Black people were positive. Al, in fact, was one of the few people who I felt close to in high school from freshman year through senior year. But mind you, my casual racist mindset was on display more than just that night. And regardless of how I got that mindset, I take responsibility for every racist word that ever came from my mouth.

Plain and simple, I was an extremely ignorant boy, swimming in his own privilege. I knew nothing of the African-American community. In fact, I knew nothing other than the limited culture of an upper-middle class white home. So while I feel I’ve never been deeply racist in my heart, I grew up being deeply racist in my mind, and thought little of it.

In the 25 years since that horrible conversation, I have had myriad experiences and travels that have helped me understand my own racism. I have learned that – while I can never fully understand a culture that I am not part of – the cultures of all minorities are a vital part to American culture as a whole.

Nonetheless, I cannot ever bury that ignorantly racist 18-year-old. He exists inside me as a never-ending lesson to myself. That boy teaches me that education and experience have helped me get on the road to becoming the man I always felt I should be. He teaches me to never become self-satisfied on issues of race. And he teaches me that the road from racism to acceptance is a road that will never end.

I am an imperfect man and I always will be. But the 43-year old writing this post has a much more open mind and much more open eyes than the 18-year-old who ended his relationship with a close friend with a racist diatribe.

This is for you, Al. Someday I hope to apologize to you face to face. But I want to thank you for your words that night, because they helped turn me around and put me on a path of acceptance and self-examination.

The path I am on today began that night, a quarter-century ago. And that path has made my life better in so many ways. Accepting and learning about the cultures and lives of other races and nationalities has made me a better husband, friend, writer and man.

So along with my apologies, I send you my thanks, Al. Because of you, I aim to create love, not hate.

–WKW


Mike & Christine

June 27, 2010

“I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words. … When you reach the point when one gender causes heartache and unbearable discomfort, and the other brings more joy and fulfillment than you ever imagined possible, it shouldn’t take two tons of bricks to fall in order to know what to do.”

– Christine Daniels, April 26, 2007.

Less than a year ago, I was waiting for a flight at an airport in Portugal when a tall, very striking woman caught my eye. Unable to look away for a moment, I noticed something about the woman – she was a transgender person. I immediately poked my wife and whispered, “Wow, look at her, that’s a man.”

I’ve thought a lot about my reaction that day, feeling both guilty and introspective. It still bothers me that I – as someone who has so often written about LBGT rights – so easily reverted to an unenlightened spectator, looking and speaking of this woman as if she were an oddity rather than a fellow human.

While I have made efforts to understand and support transgender people, I must confess that I have often so focused on the LGB much more than the T. And as someone who is very well aware that violence against the transgendered is both commonplace and horrific, it is a confession that hurts my soul. But it is also something I work to rectify.

Which brings me to Mike and Christine. Born Mike Penner, he was a long-time sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times. Then, more than three years ago, Mike Penner went on vacation. And came back as Christine Daniels. She wrote about her decision in a beautiful column for the Times:

“Today I leave for a few weeks’ vacation, and when I return, I will come back in yet another incarnation.

As Christine.”

Christine’s announcement was initially met with a rush of positivity, as readers wrote in to support her.

“Writing that piece, which I didn’t initially want to write, ended up becoming one of the best things I have ever done,” Daniels said in an interview. “And a day I dreaded all my life has ended up being one of the best days I’ve ever had.”

Of course, not all reviews were positive. Paul Oberjuerge, a former colleague of Penner (and of mine) viewed the change to Christine in stark terms.

I hate to be judgmental about these things, but Christine is not an attractive woman. Which probably isn’t a surprise when you’re 50 and have spent your in-the-world life as a fairly drab guy. Who has a fairly prominent Adam’s apple (not all of us do) … Who also isn’t exactly petite. Maybe 6-1, 200?

So … she looks like a guy in a dress, pretty much. Except anyone paying any attention isn’t going to be fooled — as some people are by veteran transvestites. …

The thing is, and maybe this is cruel, but there were women in that room who were born women in body as well as soul. And the difference between them and Christine was, in my mind, fairly stark.

It seemed almost as we’re all going along with someone’s dress-up role playing … and I assume it’s far more important than that inside this person’s head. But it’s going to take a while for the Average Joes among us to get our minds around this. And I’ve got to assume Christine understands that.

For a while, she thrived as Christine. She wrote a blog for the Times titled “Woman in Progress” where she detailed her changes and her life. And offered invaluable support to other transgender people. She used her new name as her byline. Then, after less than a year, Christine Daniels took time away from the Times. And returned again. As Mike Penner, in byline only as he worked from home.

“Eight months into the transition, we started hearing less from Christine. By the middle of 2008, we heard nothing. By October, she’d gone back to the Mike Penner byline, writing a notes column from his LA house. He didn’t return e-mails, texts or calls,” wrote ESPN columnist Rick Reilly.

I write this to remind myself and others to not overlook or ignore the “T” in LBGT Pride Month. I write this to remind myself and others that to be progressive means to embrace all who don’t comfortably fit into an easily understood box. I write this to remind myself and others that to be a supporter of LGBT rights means you must be a supporter of transgender rights.

As much as that, though, I write this as a thank you to Mike and Christine.

Mike Penner, the veteran Los Angeles Times sportswriter who made international headlines in 2007 when he announced he was transsexual and began working under the byline “Christine Daniels,” has died.

Colleagues said today that Penner was found dead at his Los Angeles home and that suicide was the suspected cause of death. He was 52.

–WKW

Transgender Resources

National Center for Transgender Equality

Transgender.org

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force – Transgender

Transgender Resource Online

–WKW

Originally posted at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland.

White Supremacy & Hate Groups: A nation-wide problem

April 30, 2010

Almost a year ago, NBC reported on the rise of hate groups throughout the U.S.:

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate groups for almost 30 years. In its spring 2009 Intelligence Report, they found that 926 hate groups are currently operating in the U.S., an all-time high. These groups include the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads and Black separatists.

Potok attributes this rise in hate groups to the recession, the election of the nation’s first black president, and the immigration debate.

“We’re looking at a kind of perfect storm of factors that really favor the continued growth of these groups,” he says.

In the past year, that perfect storm has grown, as more and more reports of white supremacist groups, militias and neo-Nazis have taken over the news pages. The media, for its part, has taken a passive role in the growth of these hate groups, reporting when they commit crimes or hold marches. Unless it’s the Tea Party movement, which has received a great deal of attention for having white nationalist interlopers amongst them.

Now, I will gladly admit that the vast majority of people involved in the Tea Party are not white supremacists. But with the overall whiteness and simmering racial tension, the Tea Party movement is a shining opening for many white supremacist types, who view the loosely held together organizations as a chance at achieving broader acceptance.

While this isn’t primarily about the Tea Party, it’s time for these “Patriots” to adopt a “you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality when it comes to white supremacy. Because as a quick check of Google News shows, white supremacists and hate groups are continuing to gain influence in every part of the United States:

  • Arizona: Profiling Arizona legislator Russell Pearce: Author of immigration law is pals with noted neo-Nazi.
  • Arkansas: White Supremacist Man Gets Ten Years – Planned On Killing Obama.
  • California: Nazi flyers litter Rialto neighborhood
  • California: White Supremacy Rally Draws Counter-Protesters, Heavy LAPD Deployment.
  • California: Suspected white supremacists arrested in connection with attacks on police.
  • Connecticut: Another Militia Group Indicted by Feds
  • Florida: Stormfront Scion Derek Black Hosting Radio Show on WPBR.
  • Idaho: Supremacist Fliers left at local home.
  • Illinois: White Supremacy Fliers Found In Easter Eggs.
  • Indiana: Christian Identity Church to Host White Nationalist Speaker
  • Indiana: Judge suppresses motorcycle gang leader’s white supremacist ties.
  • Massachusetts: White supremacist murder defendant stable after suicide attempt.
  • Massachusetts: Racist graffiti found in Concord.
  • Michigan: Court records reveal more about Hutaree
  • Mississippi: White Supremacist Richard Barrett Allegedly Murdered by Black Neighbor.
  • Missouri: Judge says Klan can have barbecue at battle site.
  • Missouri: Radio Stations Wait for Ruling on White Supremacist Campaign Ads.
  • Missouri: Club Owner’s Ties To Aryan Nation Draws Furor Of Residents.
  • Nevada: Oregon man bound over for trial in Sparks rape, robbery
  • New Hampshire: Fear and Loathing in New Hampshire.
  • New Jersey: Nazi Flag Flier: I Collect Flags, I Fly Them
  • New York: Teen in NY immigrant slay: ‘I am not a racist’
  • Ohio: Three ‘Skinhead’ Soldiers, Another Man Held In Attack On Cincinnati Homeless Man
  • Oregon: White Supremacist Flyers Again Cropping up in Portland
  • Oregon: Bigotry making a comeback.
  • Oregon: Businesses use specter of selling out to hate group in community disputes
  • Texas: KKK Distributes fliers in Lubbock.
  • Utah: Allgier pleads not guilty to murder, 7 other charge
  • Virginia: Revoked ‘Hate Plates’ Restart Free Speech Debate
  • Virginia: Neo-Nazi leader White to be sentenced today.
  • Virginia: Group With White Supremacist Ties Influential In Getting VA Gov To Declare April Confederate History Month
  • Virginia: Governor McDonnell Declares April ‘Confederate History Month’
  • Washington, D.C.: FBI release files on white supremacist.
  • Washington: I’m not a white supremacist — I just move around a lot.
  • Washington: Man sentenced in anti-Muslim attack on Seattle woman, child
  • Wisconsin: Tea Party drops speaker for alleged ties to white supremacists.
  • Michelle McGee Nazi?
  • David Duke: Tea Party is not Racist.
  • Jesse James poses as Hitler.
  • Pat Buchanan: Tea Parties Are a ‘New Tribe Rising’
  • Thom Hartman: Threats, Violence Against Congress Show Urgent Need for King Records Act.

It’s in front of everyone’s face, we just have to make it visible. It’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue, we just have to keep calling it out by name: White Supremacy. And we must keep fighting to push them to the furthest fringes of our society. To not is to risk everything.

–WKW

Originally posted at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland

Ben Roethlisberger has one chance to stay with Pittsburgh Steelers

April 22, 2010

Now that the NFL has decreed that un-litigated rape is worthy a four-to-six-week suspension along with a “comprehensive behavioral evaluation by professionals,” the future of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is becoming slightly clearer.

From my perspective, however, there is only one way Roethlisberger should be allowed to stay with the Steelers – he has to go all in. Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t just need his mind tested, he needs his mettle as a person tested. Because on the field, Roethlisberger is fearless. Off the field, he’s a coward.

Let’s start this with a straight-forward premise: Ben Roethlisberger raped a girl at a nightclub. At very least, it was the second time he has run afoul of the law by abusing women sexually.

Let me also state that as a life-long Steelers’ fan, I’m willing to listen to claims of bias here. But part of being a Steelers’ fan is pride in how they refuse to allow trouble to take over their team. Last week they just gave away Santonio Holmes for infractions 28 other teams would have ignored. So I like Steelers’ football and Steelers’ culture.

Still, to me, Roethlisberger has just one shot to stay in the Black & Gold = he must become a feminist.

Ben Roethlisberger needs to learn about his problem and learn some more. He needs to do a lot of listening before he starts talking. He needs to see that he has horrifying inner feelings about women. He needsa to learn why and how to change that. He needs to speak out for womens` causes and use his celebrity to help bring more notice to Sexual Abuse programs for women.

And he must never back away from the allegations. He need not declare his guilt outright, but he must declare he is a sexual predator or something of that nature. He needs to stand by his past crimes as he works to change his image. And he must do it all because he wants to. Because he wants to respect women. Because he wants to be a good person. And it must be a life-time commitment.

At this very moment, Ben Roethlisber is a danger to society. Unless he approaches his past deeds in a comprehensive, never-before-see way, I have no use for him. And neither should the Pittsburgh Steelers.

–WKW

A hockey announcing career lost in the five-hole

March 12, 2010

My radio career began like many do – I walked into my college’s radio station asking about sports announcing possibilities and they said “Sure, wanna cover tonight’s hockey game?”

Thus, like most things in my life, my career as a sports announce started quickly with me having almost no grasp of what I was actually doing.

I mean, I know hockey the way the average American sports fan knows hockey. I can keep up with what’s happening on the ice. I know who’s winning and basically why. But I don’t know the lingo for the life of me. And let me tell you, from personal experience, you need to learn the lingo before you go on the air.

Now here’s something they don’t tell you – hockey’s a really fast game. Really, really fast. And here’s something they didn’t tell me – the team the fearsome University of Alaska Anchorage team would be playing a tea, made up from guys from Vick’s Vertigo Recovery Institute.

Adding up all the factors, and you see I had fallen into a dream assignment – Announcing a really fast sport I really didn’t know that well for my first time on the radio, in which one of the teams ends up scoring 18 goals.

That’s right, the final score was 18-1. You try and make that interesting. So my first experience on the radio consisted of me desperately trying to keep up with the game while finding different ways to describe the un-holy amount of goals.

Sadly, the one bit of lingo that stuck in my mind was “the five-hole.” Thus, about 11 of those goals were made through the five goal. the Vertigian goalie had a HUGE five-hole, and I filled it up with pucks, real or perceived. And honestly, I still don’t know where the five-hole actually is.

The final indignation? The fact that the engineer cut me off for the entire third-quarter. Meaning I was announcing the game (terribly) while no one was listening and no one was recording. It was totally the right thing to do.

My radio announcing career continued and got reasonably better (I was never again asked to cover hockey, and instead covered a lot of girls’ volleyball, which is a lot more fun). For the most part, I’d say that my desire to be a sportscaster was filled, much like that poor, overburdened five-hole so many years ago on that fateful night.

–WKW

Samba Bill & the Road to Carnival – the complete series

February 16, 2010

Last year I was luck enough to perform during Carnival in Brazil at Rio de Janeiro’s famed Sambódromo as part of the Imperatriz Leopoldinense Samba School. Below is the five-part series I wrote about the journey.
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America disconnected

February 12, 2010

The disconnect never fails to amaze me. Death on a personal level is a heart-wrenching, life-altering affair. The recovery is a long process, filled with grief. Losing a loved one stays with you until you finally join them. But being part of the machine that gives others the same grief on a spectacular level has little to no effect.

I’d like to say I brim with outrage every time I see mention of civilian casualties during war time. I’d like to say I vehemently protest each unmanned drone that takes out a village along with a terrorist, leaving carnage and heartache in its wake.

But I can’t. I’m American. The numbness I feel for the death of the loved ones of others is a void in my humanity. I can create the rage, using logic and compassion to seethe at the ease of which my country brings death to others, but on a day-to-day level, it barely registers. And of this I know I am not alone. I know that even some fervent anti-war Americans struggle with the ability to emotionally comprehend what our government does in the name of national security. Because while there are those that feel the pain and tirelessly fight to end it, the vast majority remain disconnected.

The fervor for war with Iraq went from maelstrom to malaise to mocking in relatively short order, essentially due to illogical nature of it and overt pressure placed upon the American people to support it. But by the time more voices joined the ant-war crusade, the carnage was in full swing.

And it still hasn’t ended. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and who knows where else, our military is bringing death home to countless families. And in return, countless Americans are dealing with the grief of losing their own family members.

But death becomes us. We incinerated Tokyo. We vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We pulverized Vietnam. And we burned down Dresden. So it goes.

And through it all, we remain the good guys in our hearts. We remain morally superior. We are Americans and we are exceptional. Ask the corpses and broken families.

Because of this unholy disconnect, we will continue to kill. Those who make these types of decisions want nothing more than to unleash our military machine against Iran. With no lessons learned from our forays into the Middle East, and no connection to the dead and grieving, there remains an exceedingly good chance it will happen. It will be for national security. Because two oceans, a chilling nuclear arsenal and the largest military in the history of humankind cannot protect us from two-bit, sabre-rattling dictators. Only raining death upon its innocent citizens can save us now.

We are a nation at war. And we always have been. Let there be no disconnect – as an American, we are warriors. We leave families destroyed and bodies mangled. We take lives, then change the channel. But the outrage will be there and it will grow. If not from Americans who take lives, than from others whose lives we have destroyed.

And that destruction is occurring as you read this. And those of us Americans who have suffered a loss of a loved one need to connect to those who are feeling that same pain. Because those deaths and that suffering are directly connected to each and every one of us.

–WKW

Chronicles: Ambitiously Adapting in Europe, Part 1

January 22, 2010

Ambition. To have more. To have any. That’s my resolution for 2010. Just like it was for 2009. But in 2009, it wasn’t to be. Too much wound licking. Too little interest. Wanting only praise, regardless of my oft-lackluster performance. But 2009 is over and it ended well. Time to be ambitious again. Perhaps for the first time.

1.

And an hour before we leave we have a new dog. He’s a slightly sick and quite hungry puppy made up of countless other breeds of countless other dogs. Born on the street, he finds me pulling away from my house on a last-minute errand. I give him a little food and a little attention and he cries for more of both. And so now we have five dogs. We get to know him long enough for Emilia to name him – Zé Aparecido.

So, knowing little hungry Zé for just an hour or so, we leave Brazil on a family trip to Italy. My wife, her parents, her two sisters, her brother, my Dad and myself. Three weeks that will somehow be simultaneously an eternity and a flash. We’re off to Europe, leaving little Zé with four other dogs and a house sitter. We wonder if he’ll remember us when we finally return.

2.

My father meets us in Rome. He travels all the way from his home in California to spend the holidays with my Brazilian family, at the bequest of my Father-in-Law. It’s my Dad’s first Christmas since his wife, my mother, died. It’s also the year anniversary since her death. Is that what it’s called? An anniversary? Seems wrong. I feel rather disinterested in the time line, however. One day, fifty days, or three-hundred-and-sixty-five days. It’s all the same to me. I still miss my Mom. And so does my Dad.

At 70, it’s his first trip to Europe and I’m happy he’s coming. I’m happy to help do something for him during what should be a difficult time. My opportunities to help subside his grief are limited from Brazil, and even more limited due to my general disdain for the telephone and his lack of e-mail skills. So extravagant gestures are my only recourse. And this promises to be just that – aside from Italy, my father and I will make a side trip to Naila, Germany, where my grandfather was born 99 years ago. Going with my father to see his father’s fatherland. But that’s another story.
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Chronicles: The Kindness of German Strangers

January 12, 2010

Note: This is the first effort in what I will be calling the “Chronicles” which will be essays that will hopefully create a running theme over time. There is no order for these and I have a lot of different subjects to write about, and will be delving more into myself personally, as well. This series will continue, once or twice per week, here at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles.

Chronicles: The Kindness of German Strangers

1.

My Father and I arrived in Germany 85 years after my grandfather had left. Stuck in a depressed, post-WWI Germany, my great-grandfather had left for the United State three years earlier and brought them over in 1924. After years of dallying with a related amount of dillying, my Father and I finally made the trip to see Naila, Germany, the small town (less than 9,000 residents) where my grandfather played and lived as a child. They call Naila and the surrounding area the “Bavarian Siberia,” and it didn’t disappoint. Snow to your knees, a chill in the air. Sausages lining the streets. Yes, this was Germany. We had made it back to our ancestoral homelands, and we were going to meet some long-lost family members.

Prior to our trip, we had been in contact with Hans Wolfrum, a teacher and amateur genealogist, who confirmed that many in the area were related to us one way or another. This was of particular interest to me, because in my 42 years, I’ve met very few relatives from the Wolfrum side of the family. And now here I was in Naila, the city my wife called the “Wolfrum Mecca.” Just walking down the street in Naila, I’d see Wolfrum Autohaus and Wolfrum Granite. After years of being the only Wolfrum around, I was finally surrounded by them.
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