The Value of Life

Of course, we are not alone, but this country, too, is in the midst of a moral deficit. And I’m not talking about matters of sex, either—I mean people’s (that includes children) utter disregard and disrespect for human life. They can commit murder without any conscience or remorse. What is so disturbing to me is this seeming disregard for life in general. We don’t put much importance on human life, certainly not on animal or plant life, and we don’t even seem to care if we ourselves live or die. As a race of beings, we are so intolerant and unforgiving of each other’s common foibles. While we can accept the fact that nobody is perfect, we turn right around and constantly judge each other harshly for our imperfections.

(“Off with their heads!”) We are a great society for persecution, vengeance and retaliation, staunch advocates of capital punishment and have a morbid fascination with public executions. Consider all the lion-feedings, crucifixions, impalements, immolations, duels, pugilistic bouts, firing squads, hangings, lynchings, lapidations (stonings), gassings, electrocutions, lethal injections and decapitations that people have advocated and willingly witnessed over the centuries. It’s another hypocritical situation. I think that a society that practices criminal “tit-for-tat” is no better than the people that they are condemning. We are taught, in theory, that the taking of a human life is the worst thing that a person can do to another, then we, in turn, proceed to punish the perpetrator by taking their life!

There are many Americans that regard the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to be completely unwarranted, as if we are totally innocent and have never done anything to anybody (although I am not entirely convinced that it even was a terrorist attack, at least not a foreign one, as I have elaborated in another post). “Why do those people hate us so much?” Well, we are not all that innocent, now, are we? Besides the atrocities that we have perpetrated on the peoples of other nations, look how we have treated in the past, and still do, our own fellow gentry. Of course, I don’t condone terrorist activity from anyone, but how dare we judge and condemn anybody for committing mass murder, as if we are completely guiltless of the same thing?!

Ever since there have been people in the world, there has been homicide. We can’t abolish murder by killing everybody who commits it. And since everyone is a potential murderer, why don’t we just kill everybody to prevent them from killing somebody else? An absurdly extreme notion? Well, to me, it’s no more absurd than arbitrary capital punishment. Every person in the world is guilty of some wrongdoing some time in their life, including killing. That is a basic fact of humanity.

I have to blame the media somewhat for this attitude of unconcern for human life, when reports and depiction of murder is so commonplace and matter-of-fact these days. It’s a daily occurrence on the news broadcasts, and although entertaining–I watch many of them myself–the TV crime shows treat murder and mayhem as if they were no big deal. The writers of these shows have to come up with different ways and means to commit murders week after week, year after year, and it has gotten so that people will kill each other for any or no reason. One new show is even called “Motive,” where the victim and killer are revealed at the top of the show, and the detectives spend the rest of the hour determining the why. The reasons become more nonsensical every episode.

A popular motive is they-know-too-much-so-kill-them-so-that-they-can’t-tell-anybody. Not that they will necessarily, but the fact that they could is grounds for extermination, you see. When knowledge of privileged information becomes definite grounds for being murdered, then none of us are safe, I guess. I saw a recent drama where a woman murdered her own daughter because the young woman had a conscience and didn’t like that her family were into some criminal business dealings. The mother’s excuse when she got caught was, “I sacrificed my daughter in order to protect my husband and sons. It was for the family.” So your daughter is not part of your family? The very next week on the same show, “Perception,” a dollmaker, who specialized in realistic baby dolls for women who used his creations to fill the void after the death of their own babies, murdered one of his clients because she didn’t take care of her doll properly to his satisfaction. Each doll was a work of art, you see, and how dare that bitch abuse one of his masterpieces! She had to die. That’ll teach her!

Characters kill spouses, family members and friends for the pettiest of reasons, not that any reason is good enough to merit murder, in my opinion. Fortunately, there are enough rationally-sane persons in the world, like myself, who are not influenced by all that gratuitous violence that we witness on the screen. But there are those who are impressionable, especially the youth, who become callous and apathetic by it all and regard killing as a non-issue. Many are obsessed with those video games where violence is the main objective of gameplay, and too often the line between fantasy and reality become dangerously blurred.

It’s little wonder that we don’t care about each other, because we don’t even care what happens to ourselves. We seem to be hell-bent for self-destruction. For example, we now know what foods are potentially bad for our health and which substances and chemicals are detrimental to our body, yet we continue to put harmful things into it. We know that nicotine and alcohol, for instance, are addictive and deadly, yet the tobacco and liquor industries are forever thriving. Ambitious athletes pump themselves up with harmful steroids, knowing full well their eventual, lethal effect.

We read the warnings on the diet soft drink cans and bottles that say that the artificial sweeteners contained therein have been proven to be carcinogenic, then we go right ahead and buy a case of the stuff anyway. When Patrick Swayze and Alex Trebek (who should have known better), to name only two, died of pancreatic cancer, it was later reported that they both were addicted to Diet Coke. It was their primary beverage for years. The pancreas is designed to process real sugar. When aspertame is introduced into the system, the pancreas get confused. “What is that?” it asks. So its not being able to process this strange substance, it rebels and creates cancer cells to itself instead.

We continue to pollute the air that we have to breathe and the water that we need to drink. We have jeopardized people’s health and well-being by the dumping of toxic and nuclear waste materials into our waterways and environment. For the individuals and companies that do that, what are they thinking? Don’t they have to live here, too? Where are they going when their careless apathy some day renders this earth uninhabitable?

We upset the balance of nature with our senseless, gratuitous killing of wildlife and drive masses of animals from their natural habitats. If you go out and destroy an animal’s home where it lives and eats, then don’t get all indignant and want to kill it when it comes into your yard looking for food. We continue to destroy the rainforests and the ozone layer. I heard a news report that the rainforests’ decimation is responsible for unleashing all these “new” deadly viruses (like the Ebola) on the world, which previously had contained them. So see, that’s another thing that we have brought upon ourselves.

The cutting down of trees, along with the excessive burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), also cause an increase in potentially-harmful carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in the “greenhouse effect” and “global warming,” which has been proven to be already affecting the earth in catastrophic ways. When we didn’t know any better, that was our excuse. But now that we do know better, what’s our excuse? I guess we just don’t care enough. I have heard elderly persons exclaim, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!”

The Business of Death

Here’s a riddle for you. “Those who make it, don’t need it. Those who buy it, don’t use it. Those who use it, don’t know it. What is it?” I’ll give you some time to think about it before I tell you the answer.

There is an industrial racket that I really hold in great disdain, and that is the death and funeral business. A recent TV spot reported that death is a billion dollar industry. It’s amazing that something so basic and natural as death can be subject to so much dread, exploitation and greed. I realize that undertakers have to make a living, too, but I wish that they would employ less-extortive means and not take such advantage of people’s grief and vulnerability. Everything connected with morticians and funerals are grossly-overpriced. How can they charge thousands of dollars for some fancy, oblong box which is used for a very short while—a few days at the most—and which is then destined to go into the ground for all eternity. And what’s worse, why do people then pay such prices for such a thing? Oh, the answer to that riddle? Why, it’s a coffin or casket, of course!

Even before the wake and funeral, there is a fee for the preparation of the corpse. It has to be embalmed. Why? What is the purpose of that? Then your “final resting place” is more moolah, depending on whether you get a simple dirt plot, or a mausoleum. If you opt for the ground route, then you’ll need an identifying headstone for your loved ones when they visit the grave. All this money spent for what? To put on a show for a dead person’s surviving relatives and friends. It’s all for appearances’ sake, really. The corpse has to look good, so buy them a new suit or dress, if necessary. You can’t have Mother looking tacky at her own funeral. I mean, what will the neighbors say? Then you have to have an attractive-looking coffin for the attendees to admire. Money’s no object. If we can spend more money on this casket than the family spent on Cousin Euphrosyne’s, then so much the better. I am all for funerals and memorial services to acknowledge someone’s passing and celebrate their life–I would hope that I am honored in such a way when I die–but I certainly don’t have to be there physically.

Corpse disposal is another bone of contention with me (pardon the pun). Think of all the hundreds of thousands of acres of land all over the world that have been used as cemeteries and graveyards. So this land is not being used for anything else, but it could be. The only thing that these planted bodies are doing is taking up a lot of space. But if you are going to bury a dead body, which I think is unnecessary in itself, why not bury just the naked body? Why put it in any kind of container? Why do they try to preserve it, for what reason? It’s just an old dead thing, subject to eventual decay. People seem to be brainwashed in accepting certain conventions of life without acknowledging the practical and logical ramifications of the situation.

I think that we should make cremation the primary mode of corpse disposal. Make undertakers obsolete and do away with the profession altogether. Cremation is more practical anyway. It’s the best form of preservation. You reduce the body to a compact bunch of ashes (sort of like microfilm) and you get to keep them for as long as you want—requires no refrigeration. You don’t need an expensive tombstone either. Just put an identifying label on the urn or other container, if you have more than one. Of course, cremation is controlled by the capitalists, too. If cremation does becomes “the thing,” then somebody has to make some money from people’s deaths. They’ve made it against the law to conduct our own private cremations, which doesn’t seem fair. Anyone can start a fire. If someone dies in their own home, for instance, why can’t the family just dispose of the corpse themselves, instead of hiring some agency, which charges a lot of money, to do it for them? “Uh, Billy Ray, go over yonder to the fireplace and poke up your grandma. It’s gettin’ a might chilly in here.”

I have designated in my will that after my death I offer any of my bodily parts that are of any use to anyone for transplant or replacement purposes or to medical science for the purpose of instruction or experimentation, after which the useless remains shall be burnt up. I also carry an organ donor card in my wallet. Viable human organs have become a much-coveted commodity nowadays. They are so needed that one often has to tap into the black market industry to obtain them. Why not make postmortem organ donation a requirement or law even? Instead of wasting valuable organs and body parts by putting them in the ground to rot, many other lives could be saved and prolonged. They can still dispose of the rest of the corpse after they’ve made use of the usable parts.

This current campaign for conservation and recycling should apply to ourselves as well as other discarded items. I suggested in another post that we should find a way to process human remains into palatable food. With people dying all the time, we would have an ongoing, unlimited supply of food and organs. We could easily end world hunger forever if everyone, including governments, would use practical thinking and an open mind to solve a lot of problems, rather than holding onto outdated and impractical hangups and taboos about death, burial and disposal.

Black History, Part 1: Did You Know?

In recognition of Black History Month, I am submitting a series of black-related articles. I hope, as usual, that you find them to be educational, thought-provoking and entertaining.

I consider the modern annual celebration of Black History Month to be a positive educational gesture. From the special TV programming, I learn something new every year. But why February as the designated month? I cynically thought it was picked because it is the shortest month. You know, why draw it out any longer than they have to? But the reason is that it was black scholar/historian Carter G. Woodson who initiated Black History Week in 1926 as the second week in February, to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. As part of the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976, it was expanded and became established as Black History Month and is now celebrated all over North America.

I don’t think that Black History need to be a separate subject, however. If so-called black history were just a normal facet of common, everyday education, there would be no need for a special, yearly designation, which makes it a racist gesture and another aspect of segregation by its mere inception. There is no White History Month, for example, because we get that all the time, all the year around! Realize that history is just that—“his story.” But whose story? Who is “he”? There are as many versions of history as there are people. It becomes a racial issue when we are told only one biased side of the story or only one representative of all the different people in the world.

Schoolchildren of Mexican descent, for example, who live in the border states of Texas, New Mexico and the rest, are also denied learning about their own heritage. Mexico has its national heroes just as we do. They hear about Washington and Davy Crockett, but they are not told about Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo, Pancho Villa and others. All history is intertwined, happening concurrently, black and white and every other color and ethnicity. Just include it along with their White History/Herstory.

It was the white historians of the past who wrote and put out the textbooks from which we were subjected to learn, and I suspected even back then that my high school history courses seemed to be greatly lacking in pertinent content. My classmates of color and I were all creative and enterprising in our own way. I never believed that my generation was the first to have an original or innovative idea. There had to have been others before us. For years I wasn’t aware that any black people had done anything, let alone invented anything. But that’s because those white historians of the past didn’t want us to know. In school, they were quick to let us know all the things that white folks have done for this country, though! What I do know now I had to find out for myself.

What is so remarkable about a white man attaining success in his life? He has all the advantages and privileges to do so, as his peers are running the show and encouraging and helping him to succeed. Let us know about the nonwhites and women and other underdogs who overcame the odds and restrictions of their stations in life to achieve recognition for making major contributions to the world at large. They are the real heroes.

In general, white people have always resented the successes and achievements of black people. I am merely stating a fact. Otherwise, why have they not been properly acknowledged? Do you know what the following items all have in common: air-conditioner, automatic cutoff switch, automatic elevator doors, automatic gear shift, automatic traffic signal, bicycle frame, bicycle parcel carrier, boiler furnace, bread-crumbling machine, canopy bed, cap for bottles and jars, child’s carriage, churn, cigarette roller, clothes dryer, comb, corn harvester and silker, cotton gin, curtain rod support, dust pan, eggbeater, electric lamp, eye protector glasses, fire extinguisher, folding bed, folding chair, fountain pen, gas mask, golf tee, guitar, hand stamp, horseshoe, ironing board, kneading machine, lantern, lawnmower, lawn sprinkler, lemon squeezer, letter box, luggage carrier, magnetic computer tape reel, mop, overshoe, peach pitter, peanut butter, pencil sharpener, player piano, portable weighing scale, postmarking machine, potato chips, printing press, reaper, refrigerator, riding saddle, shoe lasting machine, steam table, street sweeper, swinging chair, typewriter, train car coupling device, vacuum pan evaporator, water closet, and window cleaner?

Believe it or not, all these things were invented and patented by Afro-Americans! Now, why didn’t you or I know that before now? Because we weren’t told by our white educators, even if any of them knew themselves. You see, unfortunately, most of these little-known inventors received no money or only a piddling amount for what their inventions were actually worth. And because of the lack of financial support from the white banking institutions, most black inventors were forced to allow whites to demonstrate their products for them, and therefore taking the credit and receiving the remuneration for them as well.

The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and attended by 27 million people (by some estimates), did not feature a single innovation or contribution by a black person. It was as if we had not ever done anything for this country or the world. Despite the obstacles and limitations afforded them, a black person somewhere has managed to accomplish all the very same things that white people have, in every occupation and scientific endeavor (one even achieved the U.S. Presidency!), some even before a white person did them, as I am about to demonstrate.

During the ’50s and ’60s, when I was in school, we were never taught about Frederick Jones, Joseph Lee, Jan E. Matzeliger, Elijah McCoy, Garrett A. Morgan, Norbert Rillieux or Granville T. Woods, inventors of some of the previously-cited products. But we sure learned about Thomas Edison and Eli Whitney, who owned the slave who actually invented the cotton gin, by the way. Who would know more about the inner-workings and problems of the cotton industry than the people who were doing the actual work? What would Whitney know about it, probably never having picked any cotton in his life? Of course, it was Whitney who had to sell the idea to the manufacturers and therefore received the credit and financial rewards. It resulted in increased production and sales profits, but the lowly, anonymous slave who invented it has gone unacknowledged and ignored. Blacks were the property of their masters and were not allowed to own anything of value themselves anyway.

Elijah McCoy [c. 1844-1929] invented a device which made it possible to lubricate heavy machinery while it was in motion. His invention gave rise to the expression “the real McCoy.” Lewis Howard Latimer, an Afro-American electrical engineer and draftsman, played critical roles in the development of the telephone and the incandescent light bulb, but we never found any mention of his contributions in relation to Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. We were led to believe that they did all that work all by themselves. We weren’t told about black doctor Daniel Hale Williams [1856-1931], who in 1893 became the first surgeon successfully to perform open-heart surgery, but they told us about the later-in-time Dr. Christiaan Barnard.

One of our most brilliant scholars and civil rights activists was W.E.B. Du Bois [1868-1963], who was the first Afro-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895. The next year his doctoral thesis was the first book to be published by the university’s press. Du Bois went on to author 17 more books. His name neither was ever mentioned in any of my high school U.S. history courses.

Ever heard of Onesimus? Me, neither. He was a freed African slave who introduced a method of inoculation as a preventive against smallpox during an epidemic in 1721, 68 years (!) before Dr. Edward Jenner took all the credit for the very same method. We were told that Admiral Robert Peary discovered the North Pole in 1909, but I learned that it was black explorer Matthew A. Henson [1866-1955], a member of Peary’s party (who is a distant relative of mine, by the way), who actually got there first.

You probably know who Sally Ride is, but do you know who Mae Jemison is? She is the first black woman astronaut, who was in training the same time as Sally. But you can guess which one got the mission first. We have just learned from the movie Hidden Figures (2016) that it was three black, female mathematicians who pioneered NASA’s space program in the ’60s. Why are we just now finding out about these women’s existence? In fact, it seems that much of the history involving non-whites we learn from movies and TV documentaries. That’s where I get a lot of my knowledge, as indicated in many of my blog articles, including this one.

Alan Turing has been credited with inventing the first digital computer. But the modern PC technology that is used today by practically everybody was invented and developed by Dr. Mark Dean, a Ph.D. genius from Stanford University, who is a black man. He was a pioneer for the later successes of Bill Gates and Michael Dell and created the internal architecture that allows multiple units such as modems, printers and other peripherals to be attached to home computers. Dr. Dean also led the design team responsible for creating the first 1-gigahertz processor chip. So why isn’t he the wealthiest man in the world, I wonder?

(# Play that funky music, white boy!… #)
All of the truly American music idioms—spirituals, gospel, jazz, the blues (including some aspects of country music), rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop—were invented by blacks with their origins in the cotton fields and chain gangs, and they were all criticized and disparaged until enterprising whites adopted these same musical innovations as their own creation and gave them universal respectability. When we introduced jazz in the 1920s, it was called “Devil’s music” and “nigger music” and was not to be taken seriously. Then a group of white musicians, who called themselves “The Original Dixieland Jazz Band,” recorded “Livery Stable Blues,” and it sold more than a million copies. They were even billed on the record as “The Creators of Jazz.” Another purloiner was the appropriately-named bandleader Paul Whiteman who, as “The King of Jazz,” brought the previously-unsanctioned music genre into the concert hall and helped pioneer the Big Band era.

Black-oriented rhythm ‘n’ blues became the offshoot of jazz, and by the early ‘50s white artists such as Pat Boone and Elvis Presley, among others, started stealing the music of Little Richard and other black artists and recording cover versions of their songs. The white versions became big hits, leaving the original artists without much compensation or even recognition. For instance, did you know that Elvis’ hugely-successful “Hound Dog” was originally written (by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) for and done by blues singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton a few years before Presley’s version? Sister Rosetta Tharp also was a big influence on his musical style. Other big Presley hits, like “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up” were written by black songwriter Otis Blackwell, but many people still regard them to be Elvis’ songs. “Fever” is more associated with Peggy Lee than the composer of the song, Little Willie John, who recorded it before she did.

I always thought that the Diamonds’ biggest hit “Little Darlin’” was theirs alone, until I learned that it was written and recorded by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs before the other group did it. Jerry Lee Lewis got his “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” from hearing it at the dance club run and frequented by blacks where he used to hang out in his hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana. It is generally regarded that Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land,” and although he may have adapted the lyrics, he got the tune from the Carter Family, who in turn got it from Lesley Riddle, a black blues guitarist from the ’30s. There are other country artists (Johnny Cash, for one) who admit being influenced or mentored by older blacks.

But what happened as a result of those white artists appropriating our music, just like with the jazz thing, it eventually caused people to take notice. They found that they liked the songs and were curious enough to check out the original versions, which they discovered that they also liked. So, Boone, Presley and the rest actually did us a favor by giving the previously-overlooked or ignored black music of the time recognition and appreciation. It even improved race relations somewhat within the music and record business.

Besides Elvis, and by their own admission, Little Richard influenced and helped launch the performing careers of The Beatles, James Brown and Otis Redding. According to the film, Cadillac Records (2008), the Rolling Stones purportedly took their name from a hit title song made famous by blues singer Muddy Waters, whom the group members idolized. Now, I’m not knocking Elvis—I am a fan, too—but it’s erroneous and unfair to declare him the “King of Rock & Roll” when, until recently, Little Richard was still alive and active. One can’t be a reigning king if he’s dead. Although Chuck Berry, also who we only recently lost, was known as “The Father of Rock & Roll,” apparently a white “king” has more prestige than a black “father,” even if he is dead. Little Richard might have been called the “‘Queen’ of Rock & Roll.” Berry, incidentally, once accused The Beach Boys of plagiarism, saying that their hit song “Surfin’ USA” is, except for the lyrics, identical to his own “Sweet Little Sixteen.” True, there are some similarities, but they are not the same song at all–no more than George Harrison‘s “My Sweet Lord,“ when it was accused of being a ripoff of The Chiffons‘ “He‘s So Fine.”

Although I don’t think that she ever claimed to have invented it, in 2013 Miley Cyrus is accredited with popularizing the “twerk” dance. But the origins of those dance movements have roots in Africa, where disparate tribes were twerking centuries ago. So Whitey stole that from us, too! The Ghana and Togo version of the dance is called borborbor.

(# …I’ll rock ’em, roll ’em all night long, I’m a sixty-minute man. #)
The attempt to gain more worldwide appeal prompted famous white disk jockey Alan Freed to coin the term “rock ‘n’ roll” to distinguish the more mainstream blues-influenced music from that which was exclusively performed by black artists. But even that claim is subject to some conjecture, because as early as 1951, Billy Ward and the Dominoes came out with a song, “Sixty Minute Man,” which employs the above lyric. Even so, the words rock and/or roll had been used lyrically in many earlier rhythm ‘n’ blues songs and were euphemisms for the sex act, which is one reason why parents objected so strongly to their children’s listening and dancing to the music that developed out of that genre.

(# …Come on, baby, rock me all night long… #)
(# …Roll with me, Henry… #).
Whether they were referring to dancing, partying or having sex, they seemed to have a lot of stamina, too. (# …We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight… #) Then the subsequent slogan, “Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” suggests synonymous interrelation. So then Freed’s accredited coinage was not all that original but was inspired by black songwriters and recording artists. You see, they (Whitey) even tried to take credit for that! The term seems still to be used with the same connotation when Michael Jackson sang, # …I want to rock with you all night… #. I’m sure that he doesn’t mean sleeping with somebody in side-by-side rocking chairs!

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges [1745-1799] was born in Guadaloupe, the son of a wealthy planter and his African slave. When he was still a young child, the family moved to Paris where Joseph became a champion swordsman, virtuoso violinist, conductor and prolific composer. He wrote 6 operas, 9 symphonies, 14 violin concertos, 10 sonatas and 18 string quartets. Unfortunately, most of his music is lost. He has been referred to as “the black Mozart,” whom he actually knew when they shared living quarters for a time. Just as Antonio Salieri was jealous of Mozart, it’s rumored that Mozart was jealous of Saint-Georges. He was beloved by the court of Louis XVI and a friend and confidante of Marie Antoinette. Why he constantly has been left out of the annals of classical composers, and a contemporary of Mozart even, I don’t understand.

Florence B. Smith Price [1887-1953] was a composer, pianist and organist who was the first Afro-American to have a classical music work performed by a major orchestra, when the Chicago Symphony premiered her first symphony during the World’s Fair of 1933. The official state song of Virginia, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” was commonly accepted as the work of Stephen Foster, but it was actually written by James A. Bland, black composer of 600 songs.

Did you know that writers Aesop of fable fame, Alexandre Dumas Sr., who wrote The Three Musketeers, Dumas Jr., who wrote “Camille” (which is the basis for Verdi’s La Traviata), Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (Boris Godunov and Eugene Onegin), and Frank G. Yerby, who wrote The Foxes of Harrow and Golden Hawk, were Negroes?

There are so many other black innovators and achievers whose black identities are unknown by most or have gone unrecognized. The city of Chicago was founded by businessman/farmer/fur trader Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, who was the son of a French mariner and an African-born slave mother. It was a black man, Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who founded the American Red Cross Blood Bank. Artist and ornithologist John James Audubon was a Haitian with a black mother. There is a persistent rumor that Alexander Hamilton’s mother also was a Negro. But how about our good, ol’ boy FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, who, in addition to being a closeted homosexual and transvestite, we now learn that he was, in fact, a mulatto who knowingly passed for white! And just as he exercised his homophobia whenever feasible, he didn’t do much to help the plight of Afro-Americans either, when he had the power to do so. Along with Thomas Jefferson, Hoover may be one of the most powerful hypocrites who ever lived.

The land on which Madison Square Garden in NYC now rests once belonged to a black woman. Chief Oshkosh, a black man of Indian descent, has a town in Wisconsin named in his honor. Cosmetician Madam C.J. Walker [1875-1919] was the first self-made Negro female millionaire. I suspect that the reason she was able to achieve such a distinction on her own at that time in history was because the white Powers-That-Be were not aware of what she was doing, until it was too late. Do you think that if they had known, they would have allowed it? I don’t think so. “What, that dinge is making more money than I am?! We can’t have that! Close that wench down! Burn her out, if you have to!”

It was a similar situation, although there is the perceived-to-be criminal element, with true-life Frank Lucas (portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 2007 film, American Gangster), who claimed to have made as much as two million dollars in a single day, selling heroin in the late sixties. He was his own boss and operated on the down-low, never calling attention to himself, which is probably why he was the most successful independent drug dealer who ever was, and had been in business for 14 years before the Feds even knew his name! He was a billionaire by the time he was caught and brought to justice. The fact that Lucas did commit murder in the course of his business dealings would make him a real criminal, but that’s not what they busted him for.

You know, it’s sort of ironic and a little hypocritical besides, that although Lucas obviously was a brilliant businessman, the product he was selling is considered an illegal substance, and is what made him a criminal in Society’s eyes. Apparently, it was something that was in great demand or all those people would not have been buying it. If he had been peddling alcohol or cigarettes or doctor-prescribed pain relievers, he wouldn’t have been doing anything wrong, because they are all “legal.” There are many consumed substances, like the aforementioned, that are physically harmful in varying degrees, which have little or nothing to do with their legality, apparently. It’s all arbitrary. But then one can’t make as much money on a legal commodity as they can with an illegal one. (Check out my blog, Drug Legalization, Use and Abuse.)

It took black journalist/activist Asa Philip Randolph twelve whole years (1925-1937) to form the first black labor union for Pullman porters and had to put up with opposition from all sides during the entire time. It was the Pullman company that was mostly against their workers organizing, as they would have to stop taking unfair advantage of them and to start paying them at least minimum wages. But Randolph also received non-support and resistance from the American Federation of Labor and from some of the porters themselves. They didn’t want to make waves and were afraid to go up against their white bosses. This story is chronicled in the film 10,000 Black Men Named George (2002), starring André Braugher as Randolph. The title, by the way, refers to the apathetic anonymity of the Pullman porters, whom instead of their individual real names, were all referred to as “George,” after George Pullman. It was merely a euphemistic alias for “Boy” or “Uncle.”

The royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle caused a lot of hoopla when it was learned that Meghan is half-black. My goodness, will the Royal Family be able to accept and tolerate this racial infiltration? Well, apparently, those dissenters don’t know their family history, because it turns out that Meghan is not the first. Queen Charlotte [1744-1818] was England’s first black queen! She was the direct descendant of the African branch of a Portuguese royal line. She married George III in 1761 and had 15 children, 13 of which survived to adulthood. She is the grandmother of Queen Victoria and the great-great-great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. So this was no great surprise to her, as I’m sure she is aware of Charlotte’s existence and lineage. I suppose the reason this is unknown information is because at the time, it was not such a big deal. Then, too, the King could marry anybody he wanted to. He’s the King! Queen Charlotte studied music with Johann Christian Bach and was a friend to his wife. Mozart dedicated one of his early pieces to her. I always contend that there is nothing new under the sun.

Just like Barack Obama is not the first black man (half-black, anyway) to run for President, I would bet that few have heard of George Edwin Taylor [1857-1925]. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Taylor was a journalist and political activist who ran against Teddy Roosevelt in 1904 on the National Negro Liberty Party ticket. Of course, there was major resistance to his campaigning. He got no newspaper endorsement, and most states would not even put his name on the election ballot. The 65,000 votes that he received were not reported. But at least he made the attempt, however futile.

Here is a bit of neglected world history. The year 2012 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ocean liner Titanic. With all that has been written and depicted about the disaster (a number of movies and such), and with published documentation of the passengers and survivors, one interesting oversight is that there was a black family aboard the ship when it made its fateful voyage in April 1912. Surprised? So was I. Joseph Laroche was a Haitian-born, French-educated engineer (he worked on the building of one of the early Metro lines in Paris) who was traveling back to the U.S. with his pregnant wife, Juliette, and their two baby daughters. Mother and children made it into a lifeboat, were rescued and survived. Laroche, unfortunately, perished along with the other 166 second-class passengers. He was 26. Joseph Jr., who was born in France, when his mother returned there later that year, eventually re-married, had three children and only died himself in 1987. Not one of the movies that have been made about the event has included or even mentioned this Laroche family.

Here is another item of little-known black history. In 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks made her defiant gesture on that Alabama bus, a 15-year-old girl in Birmingham named Claudette Colvin (we have the same birthday!) also refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger and, of course, was subsequently arrested and jailed. But the reason given why this incident did not make the news at the time is because this girl was poor, not well-educated and became pregnant, and it was decided that she would not be a proper candidate for the burgeoning civil rights movement, you see. The fact of the matter is, Ms. Parks’ action that day was not exactly unplanned. It was a deliberate coup. The NAACP local affiliate that she worked for put her up to it. Rosa was older, more articulate, had some political clout and would be taken more seriously, whereas this Colvin teenager would have been looked down on as some delinquent who was just trying to make trouble. I always say that there are no accidents and everything happens for a reason.

American historians will know what Crispus Attucks’s claim-to-fame is. He is said to be the first man to die for the American Revolution. Is the fact that he was black only coincidental to his demise? I mean, he was leading the mob against the Redcoats during the Boston Massacre in 1770, but I can imagine what the guy who opened fire on him was thinking. “Look at that. Wouldn’t you know it, that there would be some uppity nigger over there stirring up trouble. Kill him!”

You know those little black-faced lawn jockeys that you sometimes see on white people’s front yards and that black people are supposed to be offended by (although I’ve never been told why)? Well, that’s more ignorance on their part. Considered by some to be the greatest jockey who ever lived (he died in 1896), Afro-American Isaac Murphy won three Kentucky Derbys, which were not exceeded for 57 years and was the very first jockey to be voted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. It has been said that Murphy made more money as a jockey at that time than the President. But Murphy wasn’t the only famous black jockey. There have been many. Nine others had won Kentucky Derbys by 1902.

So instead of being offended, I consider it a tribute and an honor when I see a black jockey on somebody’s lawn. Why should they always be Caucasian ones? That would be discrimination, too, wouldn’t it? Now if you want to object to the actual coloring of the statues’ faces, then that’s another matter. They don’t need to paint them black, exactly; they could use some shade of brown. But we know that the colors of things are not always specific or exact, only symbolic. “White” visual representation is hardly ever the color white either.

Blacks eventually excelled in other national sports when finally given the chance, especially baseball (Hank Aaron), basketball (Michael Jordan), boxing (Joe Louis), track (Jesse Owens, Flo Jo, Wilma Rudolph), tennis (Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, the Williams Sisters), soccer (Péle), hockey (Willie O’Ree), race car driving (Wendell Scott) and even golf (Tiger Woods). There are others as well in each category, of course.

But decades before any of the aforementioned tennis greats made a name for themselves, I recently got wind of Jean-René Lacoste [1904-1996], French tennis champion, actor, innovator and fashion businessman, who, in addition to winning 12 Grand Slam tennis tournaments in 1926-28, introduced the first tubular steel tennis racket and the Lacoste tennis shirt with the reptilian logo. Lacoste earned the nickname “The Crocodile” because of his tenacity on the tennis court. Then, too, the captain of the Davis Cup promised René a crocodile-skin handbag if he won (in 1927). The popular logo on his shirts subsequently became an alligator. What I have not yet been able to verify is the possibility that Lacoste was a black man, or at least half-black. He was very fair-skinned, so maybe he passed for white. I decided to include him in this treatise in the event that he does qualify.

Here’s another one for you. I suppose that everyone knows that Santa Claus is sometimes referred to as St. Nicholas, who was a real person. Before he became bishop of Myra in Turkey back in the 4th century, St. Nicholas was known as a generous benefactor to his people. Well, legend has it that when Nicholas made his neighborly rounds, he was accompanied by his squire (sidekick, if you will), a Spanish moor named Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter, who carried a big bag filled with all sorts of goodies which he passed out to the good little boys and girls that they visited. So our modern practice of the gift-delivering aspect of the Santa Claus mystique was originally inspired by a black man! (A 1999 TV movie has been made about Santa and Pete.)

I even doubt if St. Nicholas himself was really white-skinned, being Turkish and all. But as with all revered figures, or those in a position of power and control, Santa Claus, too, has to be depicted as an old, white man. So these modern-day dissenters who won’t accept Father Christmas to be depicted as or portrayed by a black man (or woman), proclaiming that “Whoever heard of a black Santa Claus?” need to learn some history.

John Reid, aka “The Lone Ranger,” is considered an American hero and cultural figure. But did you know that this iconic radio and television character was inspired by a black man and former slave? His name was Bass Reeves [1838-1910] and during his 32-year career as a U.S. deputy marshal in Oklahoma he made over 3,000 arrests of wanted felons. He was an efficient detective, expert marksman and was never wounded himself. Reeves was married twice and fathered 11 children! He even arrested and convicted one of his own sons, who ended up serving prison time. But when the young man got out, he went straight and became a model citizen. Reeves spoke several Indian languages, having lived among various tribes while awaiting his impending emancipation. Whoever came up with the idea of “The Lone Ranger,” which began as a radio show in 1933, must have been aware of Reeves’ history, but chose to make him white rather than the black man that he really was. There were no black American media heroes in the thirties nor did they want any.

Those were only a few achievements by Afro-Americans and other persons-of-color. We’ve done a whole lot of good shit that the general public doesn’t know about. You see, white folks don’t want to give us credit for anything, unless it’s something bad. Then we get blamed. To let them tell it, everything good in the world only they are responsible for. They don’t ever consider the fact that, although it was not voluntary on our part, it was black people that built this country, not the whites. Think about that. For over 400 years it was the slaves who were doing all the work while the white folks just sat on their tushes all day, not doing a damned thing! Not anything constructive anyway. Oh, they always had big ideas, but when it came to the actual labor, they would get the blacks to do it for them. That is why I think that the aforementioned black “Santa Claus” should not surprise anyone. St. Nicholas probably mused, “I can’t be bothered with all that. Let the shwarzer do the heavy lifting thing.”

(# They don’t give medals to yesterday’s heroes… #)
Not if they’re black, anyway. Having traveled all over the country taking lots of pictures of public art, I have noticed the virtual modicum of black memorials. Of all the famous, accomplished Afro-Americans and other People-of-Color, why are there so very few statues anywhere to honor them? Okay, there is a statue of Arthur Ashe in Richmond, Va., one of Mary McLeod Bethune in Washington, DC, a sculpture of Dorothy Dandridge in Los Angeles, a Mohandas Gandhi in Manhattan, Alex Haley in Knoxville, Tenn., W.C. Handy in Memphis, Joe Louis in Detroit, Willie Mays in San Francisco, James Meredith on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Jackson, Jesse Owens in Cleveland, Asa Philip Randolph in Boston, Jackie Robinson at Coney Island, and a combined statue of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama (why waste all that extra material on two separate statues, since “they” all look alike anyway?).

Well, actually, I have since learned that there is a G. W. Carver National Monument at some out-of-the-way location in Diamond (?!), Missouri. Of course, that is on everyone’s vacation travel destinations, isn’t it? They just recently unveiled a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington, DC, at long last. Until then, I suppose that his hometown Atlanta had the only ones. They have named streets and schools after him, too, at least. I thought that the only Frederick Douglass statue is the one in a park in Rochester, NY, but I recently discovered a newly-erected one which stands at the north end of Central Park in Manhattan, appropriately, right where Frederick Douglass Avenue begins.

But where are the Harriet Tubmans, the Phillis Wheatleys, the Ida B. Wellses, the W.E.B. Du Boises? Do I need to go to these people’s home turf to find a memorial of them? I shouldn’t have to. Christopher Columbus was from Genoa, Italy, but there are statues of him all over the damned place! I’ve spotted them in St. Louis, San Francisco, White Plains (NY), Stamford (Conn.), Hazelton (Pa.), Bloomfield, Jersey City and Newark (NJ), Columbus (Ohio) [naturally], Cartagena (Colombia), Funchal (Madeira), as well as several throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. And he gets a national holiday in this country as well. Why all this honorable recognition for a known slave-trader and navigational idiot besides? He never even set foot in America, but made it only as far as the Caribbean West Indies, which was already heavily-inhabited when he arrived there. Columbus didn’t discover anything. He didn’t even know where he was. He thought he had reached India!

Dayton, Ohio does not have a statue or street for Paul Laurence Dunbar, though, the city’s most famous poet. The person who constructed the first clock in America as well as planned the city of Washington, DC was a brilliant, black man by the name of Benjamin Banneker. So, why not the Banneker Monument, then? Old George W., who was another slave owner, by the way, certainly has enough stuff named after him! Benjie B. does have a memorial fountain in town. That’s all he gets is a fountain?! Well, there is, too, the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum, but it’s located somewhere outside of Baltimore (they couldn’t even put it in the city, but way outside it?).

There is a monument for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Baltimore, as well as a wax museum which commemorates great Afro-American achievers. I mean, in all my travels I have seen only a few of the aforementioned memorials, because they are not so prominently displayed. You actually have to search for them.

Escaped slave Harriet Tubman risked her life on many occasions as “conductor” of the Underground Railroad and managed to deliver over 3000 slaves to Northern freedom. Plenty of white folks have been honored for much less. Then why not sainthood for “Moses” Tubman, like they did Elizabeth Seton and Mother Teresa? How about at least a prominent memorial statue somewhere, or a legal tender coin? I guess that saving the lives of black people is not considered important enough humanitarianism. At least there was a commemorative stamp made for her at one time. In fact, there have been only 68 (at this writing) U.S. stamps made that honor black Americans, hardly a comparable number to the many thousands of white honorees.

I just learned, however, that three years ago the U.S. Treasury was considering replacing Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill with Harriet Tubman. I am in possession of $20 bills on a daily basis, and I have yet to see one with her on it. So apparently, talk is cheap. Verbal intent does not get the job done. I also heard that because of his adamant opposition to the idea, it was former President Trump who was holding up the process.

Surprisingly, there is a baseball stadium in Atlantic City, NJ, built in 1949 and named for Negro League great (and Baseball Hall of Famer) John Henry “Pop” Lloyd. Louis Armstrong Park, in the heart of New Orleans, is the city’s largest, and the airport there is named in his honor.

My great-great-uncle Matthew Henson, at least, is getting some overdue recognition finally. In addition to his dedicatory plaque in the State Capitol in Annapolis, a Navy ship has been christened USN Henson and there is the Matthew A. Henson Middle School in Indian Head, Maryland. A statue has been erected in Henson’s birthplace, Charles County, Md., and there is a glacier in Greenland named after him. His character is portrayed in the musical Ragtime, and there is a 1998 biopic Glory & Honor, in which Henson is portrayed by Delroy Lindo. Uncle Matthew was the answer to a “Jeopardy!” clue once, in which they asked who was the co-discoverer of the North Pole and even displayed his picture, but none of the players (all white) that day knew who he was. With the clue they gave and if they had shown a picture of Robert Peary, they probably would have gotten it.

I’ve come across statues of dead white guys that hardly anybody has heard of. Who the hell, for example, are John Bullitt, Louis Heintz, Taras Shevchenko and Alexander Webb? Do you know? Well, they all have statues erected for them! In the middle of Times Square, right behind George M. Cohan, stands Father Duffy. What did he do that was so important? There is a statue of a white man in a insignificant park on Staten Island with the caption, “Frank D. Paulo, 1918-1987, A Public Man.” Whoop-dee-doo! I guess some people don’t have to do anything to merit a memorial sculpture. Just be a white man.

Out of curiosity, I decided to Google the aforementioned names. John Bullitt was a Philadelphia lawyer. Big deal! Father Duffy was a decorated military chaplain. So? Taras Shevchenko was a Russian poet, artist and activist. Who cares? Alexander Webb was a Civil War general. So what? I couldn’t even find an entry for Louis Heintz. Why such special recognition for these ordinary guys? When a black person is honored with a statue, we most likely know who it is already, because they are famous. They don’t do it for just anybody, if they are not white. Otherwise, I would have one. Frank D. Paulo was just that–a public man. It probably was his family who erected that statue in his honor. I am a public man. Where is my statue? I will bet that I am known by more people worldwide than Frank Paulo! Oh! But to get one, I guess I have to be dead first, don’t I?

My guess is that if these great Afro-Americans were honored on such a grand scale as memorials and statues and stuff, people would have to take notice of them and maybe even muster some degree of respect and appreciation for their achievements. So even if there is a modest number of black memorials, statues and museums here and there, they certainly aren’t as predominant as most of your white honorees. I shouldn’t have to venture all the way to some out-of-the-way locale in Maryland somewhere just to see a statue of my famous ancestor, for example. There should be one here in NYC somewhere.

I have also come to notice the cultural segregation in the field of visual art. I have visited many art museums during my travels and right here in NYC as well, and I hardly ever encounter any black representation, by artist or production. I’ve seen very few portraits or black settings, maybe two or three at the most, but rows and rows and rooms of white people! I know that there is plenty of black art that exists in the world, as there are certain museums and galleries that display these works. But why must they be relegated to their own separate venues all the time? I should be able to view this black art at the Metropolitan or Guggenheim or the Louvre or any other mainstream museum that I may visit.

There must be a fair amount of black art in Europe, as there is in other parts of the world. But where is it all? I hardly ever see any. I saw only one painting in all of Paris. One! Do I have to go to Africa to find African art or wait to view somebody’s private collection in their home? Who are the renowned black painters and sculptors? There must be some. Every world civilization is deemed by its art, so just like history, our depiction of art should be a full, all-inclusive representation by all its people for fair assessment, not just the Caucasian aspect all the time. I’d like to see Billy Dee Williams’ paintings right up there alongside Tony Curtis‘.

With the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC,–I have not been there yet, however–maybe the general public will be made aware of the many heretofore unknown contributions blacks have made and finally to receive the long-overdue recognition and respect that we deserve. It’s about time, anyway!

[Related articles: Black History, Part 2–Slavery and Its Aftermath; Black History, Part 3–Racism via Show Business; Black History, Part 4–Criminal Injustice; Black History, Part 5–Biased Concerns; Color Issues; Some Racial Observations; Stereotyping and Profiling, Racial and Otherwise; Walt Disney, a Racist? Who‘d‘ve Thunk It!?]

Parenting 101

As a follow-up to my treatise on marriage, I will now give you my take on child-rearing. I realize that child-rearing methods may vary, but there must be some sort of established, standardized guidelines to follow. Understanding the concept of unconditional love toward your child I think should be at the top of the list. There is no action on their part that should be unforgiven. Love conquers all. Child psychology experts would know about discipline and how to explain the facts of life to a child, for another. People are constantly running to Dr. Phil, asking for help with how to deal with their uncontrollable, willful, disobedient children. “We just don’t know what to do. We’re at the end of our rope!” Why are they having children when they have no idea how to raise them?! They’re putting the cart before the horse.

By the parents’ own admission, these children, some as young as 2-years-old, are controlling the parents. The youngsters have learned very early on how to manipulate them in getting their own way, and if the parents refuse them anything, the kid knows what buttons to push and how to get to them to come around. The parents say that they feel guilty when they attempt to discipline their children and be less permissive with them. And the child knows how to use that guilt to their own advantage. Kids are not stupid. In fact, they tend to be much smarter than their parents. The children know exactly what they’re doing, while the parents usually don’t have a clue.

I remember an episode of “The Simpsons” once where oft-mischievous Bart did something which prompted his mother, Marge, to send him to bed without his supper. Later that night when his father, Homer, goes in to check on his son, Bart appeals to him to take pity on him, defy Marge and sneak him in something to eat, which he does. When Homer leaves the room, Bart chuckles to himself, “Sucker!”

If I had my way, just as with the required marriage quiz that I suggested before, first-time prospective parents would be required by law to take a school course in Parenting and Proper Child-Rearing 101. And only when they have passed the course and received their certificate, would they be allowed to conceive. The course would include personal counseling to determine if the students are emotionally and economically stable enough to raise a child. Do they really want a child, and more importantly, why? Do they intend to stay home with this child and give them their full attention, or will they be out running around doing everything but? Do they fully understand and accept the tremendous responsibility that having and raising a child entails? These findings would influence their grade. This is basically what they put people through who are trying to adopt a child, or even a dog or cat from a shelter or kennel. Why should the criteria be any different for one’s biological children? Let’s go a step further and make unplanned, uncounseled pregnancies a felony. If people cannot be responsible for themselves by having unwanted babies, then let the Government step in to protect us from ourselves, like they do about almost everything else. Make having children a privilege rather than a right.

There are far too many unwanted and impractical pregnancies occurring all over the world. Many of them stem from lack of education about birth control, on the part of the potential parents, and this lack of education is the fault of their parents and by a lesser degree, the public and private school systems. Grade-school curricula should be based on the needs of Society, and just as Reading, Writing and Arithmetic are imperative for a basic, literate education, Sex and Parenting are just as important in the education of Life. I think that a course of Planned Parenthood should be standard, required curriculum in all public and private schools.

It seems contradictory that Society expects everybody to be married parents at some time in their lives, usually sooner rather than later, but sex education and parenting instruction are the very things that are omitted from their studies. The majority of these prospective parents don’t have a clue to what child-rearing is all about. Their parents and school administrators seem to think that if certain things are never discussed, they won’t ever happen. To talk about sex and birth control and disease prevention is giving the youngsters permission to be sexually-active. They use that tired argument that dispensing condoms in school encourages the students to have sex with each other. Well, they are doing that anyway, so why not at least teach them how to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies and potential diseases?

The so-called “Facts of Life” are just that. Everybody’s doing it, as the thriving birthrate all over the world would indicate, so why are they so reluctant or ashamed to talk about it? Instead of telling children the truth about sex, they resort to fantasy explanations about the Stork and use euphemistic metaphors like “the birds and the bees,” which only confuse the youngster even further and leave them still not knowing what the hell is going on. Perhaps if parents would tell their kids how babies are actually made, they may be so repulsed with the whole process that they will hold off doing anything themselves until they are old enough to understand it all. Just as some youngsters are repulsed by two people kissing, they would probably be more repulsed sticking their dick into somebody’s hole or conversely, having something stuck into them!

Other naïve, uninformed youngsters often will do things out of curiosity, not knowing any better. If you tell them what the real deal is about sex, that might take away the curiosity about it. Many parents don’t tell their children the truth about the facts of life because they expect the kids to pick it up somewhere or learn about it as they go along. We don’t leave other necessary life skills, like reading and writing, up to chance like that, but enforce monitored instruction to teach them what they need to know. We should be just as responsible about sex education and parenting.

These parents don’t seem to realize that sex education is just that, learning about sex in general, what it entails, including safety and prevention. It’s not about promotion or necessarily how to do it. Preaching abstinence could be part of a sex education course as well. Just because condoms are available, it doesn’t mean that everyone is going to make use of them. There may be a Tampax dispenser in the girls’ restroom, too, but they all don’t use it. I have heard of many girls who were not warned ahead of time about menstruation, so when they had their first period, they freaked out, thinking that they must be hemorrhaging or something. Why would any mother keep such important information from their own daughter, as if it were something shameful or inappropriate to discuss?

So what if some people never marry or bear children, it doesn’t hurt them to learn about it. In fact, what they are apt to learn from such a course could influence their decision later on in life about getting married and having kids altogether. All knowledge may be useful at some time in life. I have never had the occasion to dissect another frog since I left high school biology class, although they thought that was so important to know how to do. But I was totally ignorant of gonorrhea and the crabs the first time I got them, for example. I had to go to the health clinic and ask them, ‘What the hell is that?!‘ A sex education course might have covered such issues and informed me about how to prevent getting STDs, or at least be aware of them.

There is a TV movie called Daddy (1987) starring Dermot Mulroney as a hot-to-trot high school senior who knocks up his girlfriend, and she decides to have and then keep the baby. They both admitted to each other, “I didn’t know that you could get pregnant the first time.” See? Naïve ignorance. When the teen finally told his parents that he was about to become a father, they couldn’t imagine how such a thing could happen. Of course, they both passed blame. “Didn’t you ever talk to Bobby about sex?” “No, I assumed that he knew what to do. My father never told me anything. Why didn’t you talk to him? You’re his mother!” “Don’t they teach these things at school?” (No, they don’t.) “But that’s our job!” And they had another son about 14, whom they wouldn’t let in on the discussion and kept telling him to go to his room. I thought, Yeah, that’s right. Keep the other boy in the dark, too, so that in a couple of years, or sooner, he can make the same mistake as his brother did. I mean, now’s their big chance to have “The Talk” with the whole family. People just don’t seem to learn.

Then we have your more enlightened, precocious teen girls who tell their boyfriends that they are on the pill, so they don’t have to use condoms when they have sex. Now he’s going to take only this girl’s word when he already suspects that she’s out to trap him into a permanent relationship? People lie. Never mind that potential STDs never enter their minds. So then the girl gets pregnant and tells her boyfriend, “Uh, I guess I forgot to take my pill.” Yeah, sure, you did. These guys are so naïve and too trusting.

Since TV supposedly has so much influence on our children and on society in general, you would think that producers would be more responsible in discussing sex on their shows. On every family sitcom that features young children, when they ask their parents to explain some sexual matter, it’s always met with embarrassment, shame and evasion. And the studio audiences find that all so amusing. The characters always manage to avoid answering any questions that have to do with sex. It’s like the producers know that parents don’t talk to their kids, and out of some sort of confidential obligation, they think that they should not say anything either. Why don’t they take the other approach, that is, the initiative, and attempt to do the parents’ job of educating these kids by dealing with sexual matters in an honest but non-offensive way? It might give parents some idea of what to tell their inquisitive youngsters. Or if the kids are watching the show, they will get the lesson directly.

There are parents, many of them children, who don’t know anything to teach their young ones because they don’t know anything themselves. Then these children grow up and have kids and they don’t tell their kids anything, and the cycle keeps on repeating itself, which is probably why the youth of each consecutive generation are so disturbed, confused and misguided. Two teenagers (boy and girl) involved in a romantic relationship, each go to their respective parents to seek advice about taking that big step. “How do we know when we’re ready to…? You know.” Do you mean have sex? Well, if they can’t even say the word in the discussion, then I don’t think that they are ready to do it!

Let us discuss the responsibility, and lack thereof, of parenting. It is much too easy to bring children into the world, but not so easy to take care of them once they are here. The incidence of indiscriminate pregnancies is at an all-time high. These women, and girls even, are dropping babies like turds. And while abortion was legal, before it was outlawed again, they didn’t even have to have the kid if they didn’t want it. “So I’m knocked up again. No problem, I’ll just get rid of it.” I will tell you right now that I do not condone induced abortion. But that does not mean that I am not pro-choice. Some people think that if you are for one, then you must be against the other, but that is not always the case. I believe that women have a right to decide for themselves whether to have a baby or not, but I think that aborticide is wrong, just the same.

My solution to women is simply, if you don’t want to have a baby, then don’t get pregnant in the first place. Pregnancy does not just happen automatically, you know. It requires a specific activity and can occur only at particular times. That would be another facet of sex education, for girls to know about their personal menstrual cycle and when they are the most fertile. They don’t realize that, like all mammals, estrus occurs when they are horny and ovulating, and it’s the best time to get pregnant. Although pregnancy prevention is the responsibility of both partners, the ultimate onus is on the woman, since she is the one who gets pregnant and has to do all the work. The man causes the pregnancy, but it’s the woman who has to bear the consequences. That may not be fair, but whoever said that everything in life is fair?

I am the type of person who is willing always to take responsibility for my own actions. When I make a mistake in judgment, I am willing to suffer the consequences. So then, when a woman lets herself get pregnant, it should be her obligation to carry the child to term and be its mother after it’s born. If you don’t want to do the term, then don’t take the sperm! Even in the case of getting pregnant as a result of rape, the woman still has to take some responsibility, for allowing herself to be raped. Please don’t be alarmed by that statement. I have a valid explanation which I am saving for another post. It’s too much to get into right now.

Whatever we think about pro-choice, induced abortion is murder, pure and simple. I am one of those who believe that life begins at conception, not at the time of birth. Some argue that a fetus is not really a person, therefore has no rights and is of no importance. But everything being relative, it’s all a matter of growth and development. When does a tree become a tree, for example? It certainly is before it’s full-grown and has sprouted leaves and borne fruit. By the same token, a baby becomes to be in gradual stages; it doesn’t happen all at once. So at what point in its continuing development should it be deemed a viable creature? A pie baking is already a pie before it’s taken out of the oven. A cancerous tumor growing in somebody’s body is acknowledged for what it is, regardless of its size or state of development. So why is a time limit put on fetal validation? The fetus has movement and a heartbeat. That means that it is alive. Birth itself is just another subsequent phase of human development. Then there are certain things that a newborn baby can’t do yet, but does that make it less accountable? These abortion advocates, who think that the killing of a fetus is inconsequential, should keep in mind that if their mothers had aborted them, they would not even be here. I thanked my mother on a regular basis for allowing me to be born. Others weren’t so lucky, if you know what I mean. I don’t take anything for granted, including and especially my birthright.

Again to point out the hypocrisy of our society, I am reminded of the cases of Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who drowned her two little boys in 1994, Amber Hill from Ohio who drowned her two babies in 2007, and Andrea Yates, the Texas housewife who, in 2001, drowned all five of her youngsters in the bathtub! People were so outraged and appalled by these women’s actions. How could somebody do such a heinous thing to her own children? But considering the fact that women are killing their unborn babies every day via abortion, Ms. Hill, Ms. Smith and Ms. Yates are no worse than any of the others. They just committed their infanticide at a later date in time. One could argue that those women’s modus operandi was possibly less humane, but the result was the same, wasn’t it? “I killed my baby when it was 2 months in the womb.” “Well, I killed mine when it was 2 months out of the womb.” So the lesson to be learned here is, if you choose to murder your children, do it early, before they are born, so that you’ll be protected by the law. For if you wait too long, until after they’re born, you will be subject to criminal reprobation and the shunning of your peers.

And how do we know that abortion is not a traumatic and painful experience for the fetus as well as the mother? Have you ever asked an aborted fetus how it felt to be scraped or sucked or snatched from its mother’s body? What, it doesn’t have nerves and sensors, therefore cannot yet feel pain? Do you know that for sure? They can’t tell you. I would think that a fetus’ nervous system would be one of the first things to develop.

It’s appalling to learn from guests on the talk shows that so many of them are not practicing safe sex, and the biggest culprits seem to be adolescent heterosexuals. And this is your largest and growing group of HIV-AIDS cases, too, by the way. They go on TV and brazenly admit that they don’t use condoms when they have sex—boys and girls both. Those irresponsible adults, who do know what they’re doing but don’t seem to care, I hold in less favor. Consider in itself the inherent selfishness involved in parenting. People become parents for personal reasons. It‘s all about them. “I want a baby.“ No child asks to be born. They are brought into the world against their will, and then are sometimes blamed and punished by their parents for being here.

There are parents who shouldn’t even be having children, because of their own health and mental problems. Those with congenital and hereditary diseases or abnormalities will go ahead and procreate anyway, knowing full well that it probably will affect their child. Some expectant mothers will continue to smoke, drink and do dangerous drugs, which is more important to them, apparently, than the welfare of their unborn child. They refuse to give up their habit while they are pregnant, which causes serious health problems for the innocent child, and they continue to do it even after the kids are born, neglecting them and abusing them in favor of their drug habit.

In the TV movie A Weekend in the Country (1996), when pregnant Rita Rudner is offered a glass of wine by Betty White, she tells her, “No, thank you. If my baby becomes an alcoholic, I want it to be his decision.” Some have been known to abandon their children, even sell them for a fix. These are the women that should be banned from procreating, at least until they get their act together.

The topics of many a talk show in past and recent years have been “Unmarried Teenagers Having Babies,” “Deadbeat Dads” or “Be a Responsible Parent and Take Care of Your Own Kids.” Most of these single mothers don’t even know where or who the fathers are and don’t really care, in most cases. We have your teenage girls, still in school and living at home, who, because they don’t take any precautions, have babies and depend on their mothers to take care of them while they are out partying and having a good time. Again, the fathers are nowhere in sight. These girls don’t even like these guys half the time. I tell you, some of these gals take longer shopping for lipstick than they do in choosing a man to father their children!

Montel Williams did a show one day with some young mothers and their daughters who were not getting along. In fact, the daughters couldn’t stand their mothers, and the moms could not understand why. “I buy this girl clothes and anything she wants,” said one. Upon questioning the mothers, we found out that first of all, they all had their daughters while they were still teenagers themselves. A couple of them were guilty of substance abuse and would sit around the house stoned all the time. Another was a bum and didn’t work. All of them were verbally and physically abusive to their girls, and they admitted to leaving the kids (12-years-old and younger) at home alone for several hours every day. But they couldn’t understand why their girls had no respect for them! They were all repeating the same mistakes and treating their daughters the same way they were treated when they were their age. You would think that they would recognize what’s going on and try to break the vicious cycle. What did I say about lack of education? I just wish the guilty parties would all take an extra moment to think about all that’s involved in raising children before they take that big step.

Our armed forces venue, especially overseas duty, has proven to be a mecca for more irresponsible procreation. Regardless of what one’s spousal situation is at home, sexual activity is expected when people are away for extended periods of time. But there is no excuse for ignoring sexual precautions with the foreign local gentry. I would think that the threat and fear of exotic STDs would be enough to encourage the use of some kind of prophylactic protection. So maybe you will share in my horror and dismay when I learned that by the end of the Vietnam Conflict there were more than 140,000 Amerasian children born!—an obvious result of unprotected sex—who were all abandoned by their servicemen fathers when they returned home to their stateside families. They all couldn’t have been inadvertent due to the women’s ignorance of sexual matters. Most of them were most likely intentional births. Was getting themselves pregnant these women’s way of trying to entrap these soldiers into marrying them and bringing them back to America with them? Well, I guess they know now that it didn’t work!

Aren’t any of these “mama-sans” familiar with Madam Butterfly? Getting pregnant is not the way to force a guy into a commitment. Some will even lie about being pregnant in order to trap a man, as one of the female characters in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) does. In fact, what happens more often than not is that it causes the guy to flee, especially these immature teenagers who are not ready to take on the responsibility of raising and supporting a child. When the boyfriend suggests that the girl have an abortion or at least give the baby up for adoption, she will tell him that no, she intends to have and keep the baby and that he has to marry her and be a father to their baby, which he doesn’t want. No wonder these guys take off. These women don’t give them much choice. Now, I’m not letting anybody off the hook, mind you. Both parties need to curb their hots long enough to think about the incurring circumstances of their irresponsible actions.

There are girls who purposely get pregnant because they want a baby so badly, they say. They want something of their very own that they can love and who will love them. Their problem is that they don’t feel parental love themselves, and they think that having a baby will somehow fill the void. When asked how they expect to take care of their child financially, they simply reply, “I’ll get a job.” Oh, really? They are just children themselves and they have dropped out of school, so they don’t know anything and have no employment skills, but they are under the misguided impression that there are all these good-paying jobs out there, with flexible hours, just waiting for their ignorant, inexperienced butts. If there are such ideal jobs, they’re already taken, and by someone more qualified than these girls are. And who is minding the kid while they’re working? That’s what they should be doing. They have things a little backward, don’t they? Why don’t they get the job first, or at least some education, get some financial security, and then think about bringing another underprivileged child into the world? These girls are so confused and are in need of some serious, professional counseling, as they won’t listen to their parents, who are usually not their best example or influence anyway.

Often shown on TV are the public service announcements about the various organizations that try to raise money for the feeding and care of Third World children. Although I can appreciate these appealers’ efforts and their concern and compassion for these poor, unfortunate children, let us consider the source and the reality of the situation. Why are there so many of these starving youngsters in all those underprivileged nations of the world? The parents of all these kids apparently are unable to take care of them, and knowing that themselves, why do they continue to procreate, and even more importantly, why do we, who are expected to foot the bill, allow them to keep making babies that they cannot possibly support? If it were simply the matter of helping the children who are already here, I’d say, Fine, the damage is done, let’s do what we can. But I have been hearing these appeals for over 60 years now! Eleanor Roosevelt used to be a spokesperson for the cause. Since most of these children are under the age of ten, the main problem apparently has not been solved or even dealt with in all this time.

What are the governments doing about these women having all those babies? It is considered humane and practical to spay and neuter cats and dogs to prevent the proliferation of unwanted offspring. So since these people seem to breed on instinct, just as the animals do, instead of using thoughtful responsibility, I don’t think that it would be less humane to prevent this particular human procreation as well. If we can’t educate these people to practice birth control, then let’s sterilize them, too. I don’t think that I am being cruel or unfeeling not to want to contribute my hard-earned dollars to feed and support a bunch of strange, exotic crumb-snatchers that never should have been born in the first place. I am not responsible for any of them, so I don’t owe them anything either. Just like I don’t want to have to pay for Welfare babies. As with myself, if these people cannot support their own children, then they should not be having them.

I believe that child-rearing should be a full-time occupation. Some modern women want to “have it all.” They want to bear children to fulfill their “womanly destiny,” but at the same time, they also want to have a career. I don’t begrudge them of that, but I think that they need to make a choice. Now, unless a career mother can bring her baby or small child to work with her every day, or the child’s father or grandparent is at home watching them, that child is not being afforded full-time, parental attention. The first five years of a baby’s life are very crucial, and children at that age are very impressionable. Leaving the child with relatives, nannies and sitters most of the time is not the way to form a close, loving relationship with their real parent. I think that the bond created between parents and child in those early years will affect their relationship for the rest of their lives.

There are so many parents who don’t know or understand their children, and that is because they don’t spend nearly enough time with them, and they don’t talk to them. Many couples are so anxious to bear children, then when they get here, they virtually ignore them. They hire nannies and governesses to do what they should be doing themselves, and often the child gets more attached to them than to their own parents. If my mother couldn’t ever be bothered with me, but my nanny was always there to care for me, teach me things and let me confide in her, that’s who I would tend to go to when I had a problem or concern.

I don’t know how prevalent it is nowadays, but from what I have seen in the movies and especially in period pieces, child-rearing was usually somebody else’s job rather than the parents’ themselves. British society, for example, regularly employed servants–butlers, maids, cooks, etc., who ran the household–as well as nannies and governesses to look after the children. Some dismissive parents send their child off to private schools in another town from where they live, some even as far as overseas, resulting in their getting to see them only a couple of times a year, if even then. They justify their decision that they want the kid to get a good, specialized education, as if it is not possible to get one at a local pubic school. My take on it is, these parents apparently don’t want to be bothered with their children, is why they send them away. They are busy traveling all over the place, taking cruises and such, and the kids tagging along would cramp their style in some way. Why do people have children if they don’t want to spend time with them or take an active role in raising them themselves? I would think that would be the whole point. My sister Debbie’s two daughters both attended a private grade school in South Bend, but being local, they could at live at home and receive constant parental care.

My mother knew all of her children, and we all knew her, because she was always there with us. The few hours a day when she couldn’t be at home with us, because she had to work, our live-in grandmother looked after us until we were old enough not to require it. So none of us ever once had an outside babysitter. My mother was home with us every night. She wasn’t one to run around and be gone most of the time. As a parent, I would like to be a witness to those formative years, and be there when my child takes their first step or when they speak their first real, discernible word. I can imagine actor Dom DeLuise’s mother’s delight when she heard him utter his first word, “Lasagna!” These are one-time moments that cannot be duplicated.

Just as television has become a surrogate parent for a lot of American children, so has the growing prevalence of home computers and smart phones. Many children depend on such TV shows as “Sesame Street” and “Reading Rainbow” to teach them verbal skills and to read stories to them in lieu of their oft-absent guardians. There are more and more computer programs produced for children of all ages, and while some of them are useful learning tools, they also preclude parental instruction and attention. A parent personally introducing their child to Dr. Seuss could be a rewarding and memorable experience for both, but now that Green Eggs and Ham is available via Kindle and other easily-accessible formats, the child is left to their own devices without any parental intervention. Modern technology is making it more and more easy for parents to spend less and less quality time with their children. I am pretty sure that a little kid prefers to have bedtime stories read to them by their mommy or daddy rather than by some impersonal computer program.

Have you noticed how the children on television shows are ignored and disrespected in many situations? The daily soap operas are the worst culprits. The characters are always having babies all over the place, as they figure into many of the storylines. But after the babies are born, they are grossly neglected and ignored by their TV parents. The characters are so obsessed and devoted to their children in word, but they spend almost no time with them on screen, except when a scene involves the kid directly. They will come in and deliver a line or two, then off they go. I suppose it’s because of the strict labor restrictions put on juvenile actors, but they could get around that if they wanted to.

They like to keep the children sheltered, too. They won’t let them witness any “grownup talk.” They are always being sent out of the room when the adults have something important to discuss. “Honey, why don’t you go outside and play? … Joey, why don’t you run on up to bed. Mommy will be right there in just a few minutes to tuck you in…” or some similar ploy to get rid of the kid. They tend to keep kids in the dark about anything that concerns their parents or their family. The characters are going through all this dramatic sturm und drang, and their children usually do not have a clue to what is going on in their own house. Well, actually the youngsters are more aware than their parents give them credit for. They’re not stupid. They hear a lot, even if they don’t always understand the whole situation. And these adults all have full-time, around-the-clock nannies to do what they should be doing themselves. In real life, how many middle-class parents can afford to maintain a full-time, live-in au pair for many years, while they just sit around doing nothing?

The Banks family in Mary Poppins (1964) are not all that rich; they are middle-class at best. Mr. Banks works in a bank, and his wife doesn’t do anything, that we could see. But they have a full-time cook and a housekeeper and always retained a nanny for the two kids. I don’t understand since Mrs. Banks does not work outside the house, why can’t she keep house and take care of the children herself? Her husband is just as neglectful. Even when he is at home, he doesn’t spend any time with Jane and Michael. They act out only to get attention from their father, and it is the only time that he pays them any mind.

The producers of “Diagnosis: Murder” felt the need to make Victoria Rowell’s character, Dr. Amanda Bentley Livingston, have a baby on the show one season, I suppose to coincide with her own real-life pregnancy. They even made her get married (so that the child would not be a primetime network bastard) off-screen to an ever-absent military lifer who was always away somewhere on a secret mission. The newlyweds never saw each other, she could never talk to him on the phone, and he wasn’t even present when she delivered her baby or ever came home to see them. We viewers wondered, Who is this Livingston guy that Amanda is supposed to be married to?

So now that this surrogate husband’s services were no longer needed, the couple promptly got a quickie divorce. So then our question was, Where is this alleged baby that she was supposed to have just had? We never saw it, she was never with it, Amanda mentioned it maybe only twice. Dr. Bentley had a full-time (overtime) position at the hospital where she worked as a pathologist and forensics specialist, which kept her away from her child for most of the day every day. Who was minding the baby during all that time? She never said. She never even checked on it. So what did she do when she had any time off? Why, she was over hanging out with her friends and colleagues, Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke) and his cop son Steve, and running all over helping them solve murders, instead of spending the little free time she had with her newborn baby. I found myself telling Amanda every episode to go home and look after your baby! It just seemed pointless for the writers to give Amanda a baby if they didn’t intend to follow through with it. But during the last season of the series, the kid finally showed up. Of course, he was much older then and could recite dialogue, but the writers still didn’t give Amanda nearly enough screen time with her alleged son.

Probably one of the most difficult chores of parenting is keeping a constant eye on your child. Small, active children, especially, literally have to be watched every minute. I know that that may seem like an impractical task, but it is the responsibility of a parent to protect the child from others as well as themself and keep them safe. There are thousands of injuries and deaths of children every year that happen right at home. Your house and yard are a veritable danger zone for your curious, roving tots. Children are like cats in that respect and will get into everything. They also like to taste everything that they get their hands on. Many children are made sick and even poisoned to death by common household items. They electrocute themselves because of faulty wiring and exposed wall outlets and hurt themselves on sharp objects and surfaces around the house. Now there are classes that parents can take that alert them to the many potential hazards in their homes and how to safeguard their children against them, and there are even agents that you can hire who will go through your whole house and safety-proof it for your family.

Many young children drown in the bathtub because their parent left them alone while they answered the door or phone or checked something on the stove. “But I was gone for only a minute!” Well, that’s all the time it takes to slip under the water and drown. Either bring the phone into the bathroom with you or let the answering machine or voice mail take the call. Don’t cook while you’re bathing your baby, and take the kid out of the tub when you have to go answer the door. If the child is not finished yet, you can always put them back later.

Baby Jessica wouldn’t have gotten herself into that well if her mother had been watching her. She was in the house doing who-knows-what and her baby was out in the yard alone playing around that dangerous hole. That’s why I say that people should have training before and when they have kids—to teach them common sense, if nothing else! Parents tend to gamble with their children’s lives, just as they do with their own. “My toddler will be all right while I run upstairs for a minute to get something.” “So what if I leave my little boy alone while I go to the store? I won’t be long. What’s the chance of his hurting himself or burning the house down while I’m gone?”

Some years ago I uncovered the mystery behind Crib Death Syndrome. That’s when newborn infants turn up dead in their cribs overnight due to heretofore unexplained circumstances. This theory makes a lot of sense to me. Parents tend to load their babies’ cribs with all kinds of plush bedding: pillows, stuffed animals and such. Not only are these things unnecessary but can prove detrimental to a sleeping infant. You see, what happens is this. Depending on how young the baby is, they are unable to roll over or move their head during sleep, due to all the paraphernalia surrounding them, so with their head buried in the pillow, they end up asphyxiating themselves by re-breathing their own noxious carbon dioxide.

“I want to go hang out with my homies tonight. I don’t want to stay here and watch this baby.” Well, my dear, you should have thought about that before you had it. Having a baby brings with it certain sacrifices. There are times when some inconsiderate dolts bring their baby or small child to the movie theater with them, and the baby is whining and puling throughout the picture and annoying the other patrons. I’m thinking, Why is this baby here? It’s apparently miserable, but I don’t blame the child. I blame the parents for bringing it. Why didn’t they leave the kid at home? Maybe they couldn’t get a sitter? Then stay at home with it! It’s only a movie, for Christ’s sake! Wait until the thing comes out on video or shown on TV, then watch it at home.

I saw a news report about negligent parents who take their young children with them to the casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City and leave them unattended for hours on end while they are off gambling all day and night. They also go off and leave their tots in parked cars for extended periods of time, with the windows closed, and some have died from suffocation or dehydration. What is wrong with these people? These are forms of child abuse, in my opinion. They need to get their priorities straight. When gambling, shopping or some stupid movie takes precedence over the attention and well-being of one’s own child, then it’s a sorry state of affairs. And in the end, it’s the poor child that has to suffer.

On the cable series, “The Secret Life of an American Teenager,” a 15-year-old high school girl (played by Shailene Woodley) gets herself knocked up by a fellow student as the result of a one-night stand. It turns out that she doesn’t even like the boy with whom she had the unprotected sex. She decides to go on and have the baby, while her distraught parents try to convince her to put it up for adoption. Her mother (played by Molly Ringwald) asks her daughter how will she finish high school and take care of her baby? The girl says to her mother, “Well, you will be watching the baby while I am at school, won’t you? Aren‘t you going to help me raise it?” “Uh-hunh! I don’t think so, Missy! Don’t expect me to look after your baby. That’s your job.” Later on she is complaining about being tired all the time and find it so difficult to juggle motherhood, school (she’s only a sophomore) and work obligations. During her summer vacation, she wanted to run off to Europe with her boyfriend (who is not the baby’s father) and leave her son behind, expecting her mother to tend to him while she’s gone. So this stupid, stubborn girl insisted on keeping her baby against everybody’s wishes, but then doesn‘t want to stay home and take care of him.

Many kids get abducted from their parents while they are out shopping or doing something. “I just turned my back for a minute to talk to my girlfriend!” Why do you have to turn your back? You can talk to your friend and still keep an eye on your child. It’s not likely that someone will grab your child if you’re looking right at them, or at least you would be a witness if they would dare do it right in front of you.

It’s good that I am a good and righteous person without serious criminal intent. I was returning home from my neighborhood grocery store one afternoon, when on the sidewalk with me was a young mother pushing a stroller containing a baby, and with her was a 2-year-old toddler following behind. The woman was walking about 20 feet ahead of the child, not looking at him at all. She should have been holding the child’s hand. I or anybody else could easily have snatched the little boy up and could have been out of sight before that mother even turned around. Don’t these people know better than to take their eyes off their children, especially in public and in crowds? It’s that kind of irresponsibility that is the problem. I almost said something to that mother about it, and I certainly will if that ever happens again. They apparently are not aware that your abductors and kidnappers may be watching and just waiting for an opportunity to snatch their kid.

I learned that there are over a million-and-a-half young children missing in this country at any given time. I find that to be utterly preposterous. How were all these abductions accomplished and what is being done to recover all those lost children? I mean, whether they are alive or dead, they must be somewhere! Even with adults, there is some stupid rule that one has to wait 48 hours before declaring someone missing. How practical is that? If someone has been abducted, they can be long gone in two days’ time. Even if they left or ran away on their own, their loved ones want to know right away what the situation is. “Sergeant, my little girl didn’t come home from school yesterday afternoon (Friday). I want to report her missing.“ “I’m sorry, madam, but it’s too soon to be concerned. Now if she doesn’t show up at school on Monday, give us a call.“ I doubt if the law enforcement agencies and others would have such a lackadaisical attitude about helping if it were their own child that was missing.

There was a reality show on TV called “Hunted.” It was sort of an elaborate version of Hide-‘n-Seek, whereas 18 contestants tried to disappear for a month, and the FBI and other agencies tried to locate them. If the fugitives managed to stay hidden for the time period, then they won a whole bunch of money. The hunters used every means possible to try to find these people. So my question is, Why don’t they use these same search methods to recover all those missing children? They are making a stupid game out of it for our entertainment and monetary gain for themselves, when they should be using their vast resources to find the adults and children who are actually lost or abducted and want to be found.

I have a suggestion. When you are out in public with a young child, if you don’t want to hold their hand at all times, put them on a leash! That’s what you do when you are walking your dog. In fact, some people show more consideration for their pets than they do their own children! With a leash, the child cannot get away from you or be abducted by someone without your knowing it. And don’t worry how it might look to other people. I would think that you would be more concerned for your child’s safety than worrying about what other people think. If anyone should ask you why you are doing that, just tell them. “Because I care about my child.”

Here are a couple more helpful tips for parents. As soon as a child is old enough to comprehend it, the parent or guardian should assign them a code or secret password, known only to them alone. So if ever someone approaches your child with a story about wanting to take them to their mommy or daddy, they would be required to give the password or else the child would know better than to go with that person. That goes for people that the child knows as well as strangers. Children have been abducted by trusted friends, neighbors and relatives. Even non-custody parents have been known to kidnap their own children. Every child also should know their home address and phone number, in the event that they escape from their captors or are found and need to tell someone where they live and how to contact the parents. You might write the information on a card or something and have the child keep it on their person, in the event that they are unable to communicate verbally.

There is one school-of-thought that contends that every child needs two parents (preferably, a man and a woman married to each other) to grow up well-adjusted and happy. I don’t believe that, however. I know from personal experience that it is not absolutely necessary, or that a child raised by only one parent is going to turn out to be a miserable, maladjusted wreck or hardened criminal. With that antiquated, idealistic reasoning, it would follow that all two-parent families always turn out the best children, and we know that that’s not the case at all. The Menendez Brothers and Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, grew up with both their parents. The brothers were rich and spoiled, but see how they turned out. The brothers murdered both their parents, and Dahmer became a remorseless serial killer of young boys, and a cannibal.

In this day and age, with the high rate of divorce and unwed motherhood, the American two-parent family unit seems to be the exception rather than the rule. It’s certainly the minority anyway. The father’s presence in the home (or the mother in some cases) is not always the best thing for the child. They may be abusive, drug-dependent, mentally-ill or non-nurturing. The child and other parent might be better off without them. What I am saying is that many single parents have raised happy, productive children while many married couples have raised some really fucked-up kids. It all depends on the individuals involved.

I have watched TV shows that interview troubled kids, where they are asked about their lives and why they are so unhappy. In practically every case, their parents are their problem. One boy is constantly trying to gain acceptance from his father and make him proud of him, but anything the boy does is never good enough for him. His futile attempts to please his father is making the boy a neurotic wreck. Another father told his teenage son to stop being gay or he would put him out of the house and disown him. How does one stop being what they are, and why should they? One girl complained that there is no communication in her family. They all stay in their separate rooms, and nobody talks to each other. Others say that when they do try to talk to their parents, it’s always met with harsh judgment, disapproval, criticism and reprimand. So then, understandably, the kid will stop telling their folks anything. Many youngsters have to deal with verbal, physical and substance abuse in their homes. It has been proven time and again that how people turn out as adults is directly a result of their upbringing and parental influence.

There has been some controversial discussion of late about transracial adoptions, especially when it’s a black child being awarded to a white couple. The argument is that a black child raised in a white environment will deny them their sense of a black identity and heritage. They’ll grow up too “white,” in other words. Now the adoption authorities and adoptive parents don’t seem to have a problem with that. What’s wrong with a child having all the advantages of a white-influenced existence and upbringing? How can they do any better than that?

But they are not as agreeable and accommodating when the situation is the other way around. First of all, it is highly unlikely that a white child would ever be given to a black couple to raise anyway. The adoption agencies don’t encourage it, and even if a black person or couple did specifically request a white child, they would most likely be discouraged and even turned down. Everybody knows that blacks are not the proper role models for their own children, let alone a white child! They’re probably afraid that the child will take up “black” ways and become a hip-hopping, jive-talking, baggy-pants-wearing, dredlock-sporting, crack-dealing gang member.

I am not totally against black children being reared by white parents. Actors Beau Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Madonna and Alec Mapa all have adopted black children, for example. I am grateful that they are willing to do so, considering the difficulty of black child placement. But there is the issue of lost or confused identity to be considered. This is a prime example of the need for special education. If a white family wants to take on a black child for adoption, they should be required to take courses in black culture and black history, so that they will be able to teach and relate to the child on a more personal and cultural level. They most likely would not have this knowledge beforehand, having not been taught it in their rich, suburban, white private schools. They would especially need to take a consciousness-raising course in racism. Then when the kid asks them a specific black-related question or expresses peculiar black sensitivity about something or is the subject of a racist action, these parents would then be able to help and guide the child with understanding, awareness and enlightened advice.

There is one special situation that has become an important reality for black teens, boys especially. This new “The Talk” involves the parents instructing their sons how to deal with law enforcement, in the event they are stopped on the street or pulled over by “The Man” while driving. Black parents know all too well about such a probability, while most white folks are totally oblivious of this particular occurrence because they have never experienced it. How can a white parent tell a black child about something they know nothing about?

It appears that most law-abiding whites have unquestionable trust when the police are involved. Whenever a problem arises, they are so quick to contact the police about it. They assure their white children that “Cops are our trustworthy friends, Sweetie. They are there to help us and protect us from harm.” It would be quite thoughtless and irresponsible of them to say that to a black teen. “But Mom, I just saw your ‘friend,’ Officer White, shoot my classmate, Malik, in the back while he was innocently walking home from school today. That could have been me.”

I think that the same instruction course should be required for white couples adopting Asian and other ethnic children, too, not just black. But what is it about these prospective parents with means who seek out their children for adoption in foreign and exotic regions, when there are plenty of orphans right here in America who need good homes and families? I think that charity should begin at home. It seems that with the growing incidence of mixed cohabitation, the biracial offspring of these unions rather have an advantage. These parents can directly deal with and address their kids’ identity questions and problems.

I believe that I would make a good parent. I consider myself to be a good role model for kids. I would be a good disciplinarian, I am respectful, but I wouldn’t be too permissive. I think that children need and want certain restrictions. They don’t expect you to let them do anything they want, and they constantly test their parents just to see how much they will be allowed to get away with. Too much permissiveness could make the child think that their parents don’t care enough about them to say “no” to them.

A certain popular video game is actually intended for adults, and its premise is crime and violence, where the player is rewarded and congratulated for committing murder and cruelty in its gameplay. When the kid’s mother was asked why she would buy him a toy that teaches him how to hate and kill, she replied, “Well, it was his birthday, and he wanted it so badly. What was I to do?“ So, if he asked you for an assault rifle, and even begged you, would you get him that as well? It’s all right to say “no” to a child when you are stopping them from doing something wrong. If they don’t like it, tough! They’ll get over it eventually. The father who never refuses his child anything will at some point actually say to his son, “Junior, you are a spoiled brat!” “Oh, really, Dad? And however did I get to be this way, I wonder?”

I would not resort to corporal punishment under any circumstances. There is no good excuse for striking a child. I prefer to reason with them. In fact, if one properly does their job as a good parent, the child should never give them a reason to hit them. Education, honesty, good values, freedom of self-expression, consistency, mutual trust, respect and love are the keys to proper discipline. “I tell him to stop that, but he just won’t mind.” The parent apparently has not established proper mutual respect with the child. A disobedient child is purposely being defiant, and they must have learned it from the parent, unless they learned it from certain characters on TV. So don’t blame the child for their misbehavior. The parent must be somehow at fault. They need to figure out how and why the child got that way.

When a child misbehaves, I have heard of parents “punishing” them by calling a time-out or grounding the kid by sending them to their room–you know, that private place in the house where their TV, computer, music player, phone, reading material and playthings are. How is that a punishment? I don’t mind staying in my room, and as a school kid, I never went out at night anyway. How about taking away the computer, TV and phone, things that they just can’t do without? A spanking is only for the moment and at most temporary, whereas denying them of their favorite privileges will probably be more effective. “Darn! If I expect to get my stuff back, I guess I had better straighten up and behave myself.”

I have some ideas of my own about how to relate to children. There are too many parents who refuse to acknowledge that their children are not them but separate entities from them. They try to live vicariously through their kids. They plan their whole lives for them, tell them who to marry, make them go to college even if they don’t want to, and then tell them which school to attend and which courses to take. They tell them what to be with regard to their work and career. Many fathers want their sons to follow in their footsteps, even if the boy doesn’t have any desire to be a doctor, lawyer, used car salesman or bullfighter, for example. I would encourage any child of mine to be anything they wanted to be, provided that it was within the law. I would steer them away from crime and want them to stay out of trouble, but their life’s path is their own. But if they are being raised properly, they wouldn’t be considering a criminal career anyway. My own parents never told any of us what to do with our life. They both respected us enough to make our own decisions. And we all have turned out fine.

Some parents would argue that people who don’t have any children have no right to give advice to those who do. But I think that we who don’t have children can be more objective. I can see things about other people’s brats that their parents tend to excuse or overlook completely. Since that is not my child, I can be honest and open with them, because they don’t live with me and I don’t care if they don’t like what I have to tell them.

People tend to be more protective, evasive and diplomatic with their own children. Many parents fail to acknowledge the fact that children have rights as human beings just like everyone else. Don’t talk down to them or dismiss them just because “they’re only children.” I hate that old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard,” as if nothing that they have to say is of any importance to anyone. One can learn a lot from children. If anything, children help to remind adults of the unbridled honesty and innocence they have, something the adults used to have when they were children themselves.

Adults are always doubting children’s word, as if they are all born liars. They find it easier to dismiss the child’s story rather than checking it out for its validity. I’ll give you two movie examples. In The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), little Billy Gray has befriended the alien visitor and tenant, Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, and is showing him around town (Washington, DC), and when he returns home, he’s telling his mother, Patricia Neal, what they did and that he is the Spaceman that everyone is looking for. Since he escaped from the authorities, they don’t know where he is now. But it couldn’t be this guy who is actually living in the same house as they, could it? So Pat is berating the boy for making up these ridiculous tales about the giant robot he saw on the Mall and the diamonds that Klaatu gave him. How can she believe such fantasy, although all of it is true (at least for the sake of the story)? I love it when Billy tells his mother, “I wouldn’t call you a liar.” Just because you don’t believe something, it doesn’t mean that it’s not true.

In The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), when the dinosaur has gotten loose and is roaming the streets of San Diego, it wanders into a yard and is witnessed by a little boy inside the adjacent house. The alarmed boy runs to his parents’ room and tells them, “There is a dinosaur in our backyard.” His parents then proceed to admonish the child for waking them up with such utter nonsense. But why would he make up such a thing? Now he could be mistaken, but if my child told me that, I would be curious enough at least to go take a look out the window. I would love to see a real, live dinosaur! If it’s not a dinosaur, he must have seen something out there! Before you call your kids liars, prove them wrong first. But they even do that with other adults. I would be quite insulted and dismayed if my parents didn’t believe me when I told them something, however incredible. If I were joshing them, I would admit it, but if I insist that what I say is true, I expect them to take me seriously.

I think that it’s very important not to lie to children. You don’t need to volunteer certain information, but if a child asks you a direct question, you should give them an honest, direct answer. Children ask questions to learn, and it is quite counterproductive willfully to give them misinformation. Parents should be teachers and impart true knowledge. If a child is already at the place where they can ask an intelligent question, no matter how embarrassing or uncomfortable for you it may be, I think that they deserve to be given a truthful answer. So when they ask, “Where do babies come from?” instead of some evasive or silly, senseless explanation, tell them what the real deal is. Something that everybody is doing, particularly the very ones to whom the question is addressed, why are they so reluctant to tell their own children how they got here? If they are that embarrassed or ashamed about it, why do they keep doing it? Consider that if you don’t answer their questions truthfully, they will seek the answers elsewhere, and it may be the right ones and different from what you told them. If a child catches you in enough untruths and evasive responses, it’s likely that they’ll soon won’t believe anything you say and will stop asking you anything. You’ll lose their trust.

If a child asks why they shouldn’t do something, don’t just say, “Because I said so.” That’s not an answer. You have not satisfied their curiosity. Give them a reason why they shouldn’t do it. “Don’t stick your hand into that open flame, Son, because you will burn yourself.” “Oh, okay, Mama. Thanks for telling me. I didn’t know.” Children sometimes need to figure out things for themselves and make decisions according to what they have been taught. Even as an adult, Because-I-said-so and That’s-just-the-way-it-is doesn’t work for me. Give me a valid reason why.

Then these same unresponsive parents will assure their kids when they get older that they can come to them with any problem. But since they have lied to the kids so many times before, why should they come to them now? Parents will insist that their children be completely honest with them and tell them everything, but at the same time will deceive the kids and keep important things from them. Some parents even dare to utter an obvious untruth in their child’s presence. A mother is attempting to get a kiddie’s entry discount: “How old is your little girl, Ma’am?” “She’s seven.” “No, Mommy! I’m ten.” You’re sending mixed messages. So, it’s all right to lie when it benefits you in some way? Think of it as setting an example. If you never lie to your children, there is a big chance that they won’t lie to you either. Remember all the lies your parents told you while you were growing up. You probably now resent them for it. People that lie all the time think that everybody else lies all the time, too.

And don’t make idle promises to your children, of things over which you have no control. “Everything is going to be all right. I promise.” What, do you have control over the entire world? If you do, then why did you let happen what prompted you to say that? “I promise that I will never leave you.” How can you promise such things? No one can control fate. Shit happens all the time. You can’t prevent it. Recognize that divorce and death are forms of desertion or abandonment to a child. I realize that they’re said only to reassure a child’s fears, but one should realize that most children take promises very seriously. If you make a promise to a child, and you break it, even if it’s by no fault of your own, the child may still resent you for it. Just be honest with the child. Truth needs no justification. “I cannot promise you that nothing bad will ever happen to you in life. Things happen that we have no control over. But I will do everything in my power to protect you from any harm.” That’s better. You have allayed the child’s fears without making any promises that you can’t possibly keep. Or, “People die. I or your daddy may die before you are grown, but that does not mean that we don’t love you. We will always love you.” So when something bad does happen, your child won’t tend to hold you personally responsible for it. A general rule of thumb is simply, just treat your children the same way you want to be treated (aka the Golden Rule).

Children, too, require respect and a sense of dignity and need to feel good about themselves. It’s a parent’s job and natural inclination to protect their children from harm at all costs. But some parents tend to overprotect them from all the unpleasantness of the world, and the child fails to learn how to deal with adversity when it happens. No one can possibly be with their child every minute of their life. They will be on their own at some point. “We’re just trying to keep you from making a big mistake.” Well, life is full of trial and error. No one can stop anybody from making mistakes in life. It’s all a part of growing up. That’s how we learn, from our mistakes—or should, anyway.

Besides, kids are so hardheaded, you can’t tell them anything anyhow. State your opinion, and let them go on, then if or when they mess up, you can have the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so.” Maybe they’ll eventually start heeding your advice. And how do you know that what they want to do is a mistake before the fact? Just because it’s something that doesn’t interest you or something that you wouldn’t do, you shouldn’t prevent your kid from attempting it. I have had pooh-pooh naysayers try to talk me out of certain endeavors that turned out to be good and beneficial for me.

I think worth mentioning is this common piece of not-so-good advice that parents give their kids: “Never talk to strangers.” Well, a stranger is only a fellow human being that you haven’t met yet, so how would you ever meet anybody if you never spoke to anyone that you don’t know? That teaches children discrimination and only helps to perpetuate prejudice and bigotry. You do not know this person, therefore, they must be bad and cannot be trusted? Of course, we do need to be cautious in life, because there are those who are out to get us if we let our guard down. But every “stranger” is not out to do you or your children harm, just as we don’t always know who is a real friend. Persons we don’t know oftentimes offer help to us in times of trouble, they save our lives, they give us things we need, they support and advance our careers. For us performers and writers it’s strangers who buy our records and books, attend our concerts, shows and movies. People who own their own businesses don’t know all of their customers and clients.

Sometimes so-called strangers treat us better than our own family members. That fireman that rescued your children from that burning building was a stranger. So was that homeless woman who helped your lost daughter find her way back home. Do you personally know the 911 operator? It’s sometimes the people closest to us that betray our trust and who we need to be wary of. Children are usually molested and abused by their own family members, and a woman usually knows her rapist. Better advice to give a child would be to be wary of a person’s behavior towards them rather than readily dismissing the person just because they don’t know them. They should regard every person that they encounter in life as an individual, worthy of the same respect, regardless of their relationship, their lot in life, their appearance or their differences.

Parents and others also insist that children forget about their bad experiences, but I don’t consider that good advice either. We shouldn’t exactly dwell on the past and let it color our entire lives. I mean, bad things happen to everybody. But get over it and get on with your life. You shouldn’t forget what has happened to you but learn from the experience. If you remind yourself of your past mistakes, you may keep them from happening again. This blocking out of unpleasant events is the cause of a lot of psychoses, like disassociation, or multiple personalities, amnesia, hysterical loss of senses, like blindness, deafness and self-imposed mutism. It’s another form of denial. The subsequent therapy used in healing these people is to make them remember their shock or trauma and face what they have blocked out of their minds or buried in their subconscious. Many adults discover late in life things that they have suppressed since they were young children, things that have influenced and stifled their relationships and even careers. So, I say, don’t forget your hysterical or shameful past but use it for growth and self-improvement.

Until a child is old enough to think for themself and make their own decisions, they are highly impressionable. You must be always mindful of your actions and watch what you say around them, because they are listening and they usually don’t forget what they hear. It’s how children learn to talk, and they repeat things before learning what they mean. Don’t scold the child for saying something naughty. They probably got it from you. Even though I myself am opposed to any sort of censorship, I realize that parents may have certain verbal restrictions. Let your child know what words are not acceptable around you, and then stop using them yourself.

I know of adults who have confronted a parent about something that happened in their childhood that has affected their whole life, but the parent has no recollection of it. “Sherman, my boy, I just don’t understand why are you so hateful to me? What have I ever done to you to make you treat me so mean?” “Well, Mom, you are always calling me stupid, and when I was 5-years-old, you slapped me and said that you wished I had never been born.” “What?! I don’t remember doing that. Did I really?” “Yep, you did it and said it. I’ve never forgotten it.” Parents don’t always mean some of the things they say to their children, but how is an impressionable youngster supposed to discern what to ignore or what to take to heart?

Then our parents, in turn, are likely to recall things that their parents said and did to them. In cases where children mistreat and actually hate and hit their parents, I again have to put the blame on the parents. The child does not feel the way they do without probable cause. Their folks must have done something to them to elicit such resentment and disrespect, and they need to own up to it. They may think that they are good parents now, but they probably were not so years ago when it would have made a difference in how the child turned out. You have to train, teach them, and especially, show them unconditional love at an early age. Don’t wait until the damage has been done and then wonder what happened, how did they get that way? “I’m doing the best I can.” Well, maybe you are now, but you haven’t always done what you should, have you?

Parents seem to want to forget that they were children themselves once, and they often find their own children doing some of the same things that they did when they were their age. Of course, now they are not so tolerant and understanding. “Mother, Grammy told me that you did that very thing when you were my age.” “Yeah, but that was different.” “Why, because it was you?” No matter how hard they try to resist it, the kids, in turn, grow up and become their parents, doing the same things that they used to do. So “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. You shouldn’t do things in front of your kids and then forbid them to do the same things. Again, you are sending them confusing, mixed signals. “What, dad? I shouldn’t do that because it’s wrong? Then why are you doing it?” The kids will learn to obey by your setting the example. They will say and do what they hear and see you do.

(# You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…and to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade; You’ve got to be carefully taught. #)
Another good reason for screening prospective parents is to prevent those individuals who are advocates of racial supremacy, chauvinism and homophobia from procreating, thus passing on their bigoted ideas to their innocent youngsters. We need to fix the minds of those adults before we let them infect their children with their notions of hatred and prejudice. Where do some white children get the idea that they are, by their very being, better than their schoolmates-of-color? Who told them (these aren’t just the whites this time) that all gay people should be feared, pitied, persecuted and/or condemned, often before they understand even their own sexuality? Why, their parents, of course! They could be talking about their own child! Then if the kid later does turn out to be queer, they have already been taught to hate themself. How does that create a positive self-image for your child?

All the while I was growing up, I never heard any disparaging comments about gays from anybody in my household nor even from my peers, which is probably why I am so well-adjusted and have great self-esteem. How can we make this a better world in which to live if we don’t somehow break the cycle of hatred and ignorance perpetuated with our children?

Before young children know any better and are old enough to think for themselves, they tend to believe everything that their parents tell them. That’s why they buy the folk myths about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Boogie Man, among others. Grownups are older and presumably wiser, so they must know about all those things, right? Then if a white father tells his son that white people are of a superior race and everybody else who is not white are bad and are to be shunned and avoided at all costs, it must be the truth, because why would he lie? He’s your dad, who only wants what’s best for you. That is why they have to be brainwashed when they are young and impressionable, because once they get out into the world, attending school and interacting with different kinds of people, they will start to question some of the things that they have been told.

As I said earlier, the way children turn out and what they become as adults are directly or indirectly connected to their parents or lack thereof. All neuroses, psychoses, genetic addictions, domestic violence and self-confidence/self-esteem issues are always parent-related—if not our own parents, then other adults who serve as guardians or who have been influenced by their parents.

One woman on Dr. Phil’s show was emotionally damaged by her father all while she was growing up. So now she is married with three children and was taking out all her frustrations and unhappiness on her husband and children, treating them the same way her father treated her as a kid. I was thinking the whole time I’m listening to this, that this woman had a lot of personal issues to sort out about proper parenting. Why did she bother to have all those children, who are being abused, before first getting help to solve her own mental problems? And, of course, she had made her kids emotional wrecks themselves. That is so irresponsible. She should have decided beforehand, “I should not have any children until I get help to fix the plaguing issues in my own life.” Again I say, fucked-up parents are going to create fucked-up kids. They can’t help it.

A lot of pressure is put on school kids by their parents to succeed academically. It’s all about grades with them. Having been both a student and a teacher, I can be objective. Some parents insist that their kids make straight A’s or be deemed failures. “Hey, what’s with this C, Tommy? You’re grounded until you bring your grade up.” But it’s not his grade but the teacher’s. They can impose any grade that they want, at their own discretion, regardless of the actual work done on any assignment. This is what compels some students to cheat. It doesn’t matter if they know the material, all anybody cares about is their getting a good grade. So they will cheat on homework assignments, exams, SATs, anything, in order to get by. They haven’t learned a damned thing, but at least they manage to graduate and get accepted into a college.

I have been made aware of a certain racket occurring in high schools and colleges nowadays, and that’s students getting someone else to take their tests for them. They either pay them or blackmail them or some may even do it as a favor to the other. In practically every case it’s to please their parents, who are the ones who demand the higher grades. The student usually accepts the grades they get, especially if they think it is what they deserve or they cannot do any better. If the kid does not like the grade they are given, it’s not that big a deal. They will just try harder the next time.

When they cheat, however, and even if they didn’t, what sometimes happens is this. One particular student constantly receives D’s and F’s on tests, then suddenly he gets an A on the next one. Now he possibly could have really buckled down and did the required study to ace the test, but it usually sends a red flag to the teacher, who wonders if there might have been some cheating involved. When the teacher confronts the boy about it, and if he is guilty of cheating, naturally he is going to deny it. So the teacher still has no proof one way or the other. When this scenario is depicted on film, it never occurs to anybody to suggest that the teacher give the student in question an oral exam. Just ask the kid one or more of the questions that he got right on the test. If he gets it right, he obviously knows the material, but if he gets it wrong, then he probably didn’t know it in the first place.

In the case of numbered tests with separate answers, a numerical grade indicates how many they got right. I don’t mind that form of grading, whereas the letter-grading method is more arbitrary. What is the difference between an A and a B, for example? I liked one paper better than another, so that student got the higher grade. But did the one to whom I gave the lower grade do less work than the other student? Maybe they worked even harder on the assignment, although it wasn’t as good. To compare students by the letter grades given them puts a value of their worth on them. What if a teacher does not like a certain student? They may not ever give them a decent grade. That happens a lot. One boy gets a C on his book report after much extra study and research, and his classmate gets an A on his report and he didn’t even read the book! Is that fair?

This attitude also spills over onto other aspects of kids’ lives. Parents are so obsessed about winning. In competitive sports, the kids must always win at all costs. If they don’t win, then they’re a “loser” by default. If a child is not as good in an endeavor as one or both of their parents would like them to be and never excels in the activity, they eventually just give up and stop trying. I think that kids (and adults, too) should be rewarded for their efforts rather than their results. In a competition where there can be only one winner, somebody has to lose. And whereas there is always somebody better than yourself, you can’t expect to win every time. Praise them for their participation and willingness to try, rather than belittling them for their blunders and mistakes.

I don’t think that there are any bad kids, really, only bad parents. I often encounter small children in public with their parents who seem not to know anything about proper manners and social graces. They will bump into you or step on you and won’t say, “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry,” and it never occurs to them to say, “Thank you” when somebody gives them something or offers help. When the parents stand right there and neglect to instruct their child on what to say, that’s whom I blame, not the ignorant child. These adults are often rude and discourteous themselves, so naturally they don’t tell their children how to act. Common courtesy is so ingrained in me, I don’t even have to think about it. Uttering “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” when the situation arises are automatic with me. It is what I was taught at an early age.

Why are there so many teenage suicides? If a child is unhappy, it’s the parents’ responsibility to find out what’s wrong. Why are they unhappy, what are the parents doing about it, and why are they usually not even aware of the unhappiness? They tend to go into that convenient denial mode, just to keep from having to deal with anything that involves their family. They ignore the tell-tale signs and often dismiss or excuse certain aberrant behavior. Many parents have no idea that their child is doing drugs, for example. Why don’t they know that? I think that I would know, or at least be suspicious, if my high-schooler were on steroids or a crack or heroin addict. Shouldn’t they know that their son is building bombs in their basement, being bullied or taking guns to school with him every day? Girls have been known to conceal their pregnancies from their parents, sometimes even to full term. How could a caring mother not even be aware that her daughter is with child? What is she doing for those nine months?

Of course, some parents tend to be overprotective with their children, but that is a matter of degree. Children should have some freedom and privacy, and you should trust them to a point, but it’s not a bad thing always to be all up in your kids’ business. They are not going to tell you everything that they are up to, so you have to be more vigilant and curious. While they are living in your abode, you have the right to snoop in their room, to check what is on their computer and cell phone. They may not like it, but if they are not doing anything wrong, then they don’t have anything to worry about. You can be a friend to your kids after they are grown. Until then, be their parent! They probably won’t admit it now, but in the long run they will appreciate your concern and attention afforded them when they were younger.

Why don’t they know that their teenager cannot read? And more importantly, why can’t the kid read? Again, what have these parents been doing for the past ten years or longer? There is no way that I could raise an illiterate, uninformed child. My being a trivia nut with a penchant for teaching, I would always be sharing my vast knowledge with my kids and asking them questions to find out what they know. ‘What did you learn in school today, son?’ ‘Here, read this to me.’ ‘Which Beethoven Symphony is that on the radio?’ ‘You don’t know what that word means? There’s the dictionary. Look it up.’ All parents should take concerted interest in their children’s education. Don’t just leave it up to the schools exclusively. With help from my mother and grandparents, I could already read somewhat when I started kindergarten, which gave me a good head start. I also learned how to read music on my own.

Why are there so many juvenile runaways? For a child to prefer the danger and uncertainty of the streets to the supposed security of their loving family, something must be terribly wrong at home. Nobody in my immediate family ever had any reason to run away from home. We were all well-loved and cared-for and had happy childhoods. Be careful, too, when you offer ultimate choices to your kids. “As long as you are under my roof, you will abide by my rules. If you won’t do as I say, then get the hell out!” Or, “I forbid you see that boy. If you continue to do so, we will disown you. It’s either him or your family.” So the kid leaves home, and the parents are upset. “What did we do?” They beg the youngster to come back home, saying that they didn’t mean what they said. Then why did you say it? Should they blame the kid for taking them seriously and calling their bluff? Oh, she wouldn’t choose that boy over her own family. Oh, no? If you give someone choices, don’t be surprised or disappointed if they pick the one that you don’t like. Rather than pronouncing ultimatums, parents should discuss a compromise. Little is accomplished with heated threats and accusations. “Tell us what you want from us as your parents and this is what we expect from you as our child.” None of this do-as-I-say-or-get-out jazz. “So is that the only option I have? I’ve tried it your way and it didn’t work, so I guess I’ll leave then.”

It’s even worse that there are many teenagers who are forced by their parents to leave home, against their desire to do so, because they don’t live up to their parents’ expectations. In addition to the gay youths being disowned by their parents, I have heard of Amish communities shunning certain members of the sect, who may not even be gay, because they choose to go against “the ways” by leaving home and going out to experience the world, perhaps even marrying outside the faith. They somehow don’t get the hypocrisy of claiming to be so pious and Christian and at the same time disowning and ostracizing their own children. Tevye (from Fiddler on the Roof) did the same thing with his daughter who defied her father’s wishes and “traditions” by marrying a Gentile!

Many people still have a hard time accepting the fact that homosexuals actually bear children and raise them and have the right and ability to do so. Some are even so ignorant as to think that the two factors together are not even possible. Homosexuals cannot possibly make children, and if a person has a child, they couldn’t possibly be gay. Or they will make unfounded and unfair comments about gays not being fit parents or not providing proper role models, or that children of gays cannot grow up “normal” and will inevitably become gay themselves. Do I need to say that one’s parenting skills is not necessarily dependent on their sexual orientation? There are good parents and bad parents, straight and gay, but I would expect gay parents to teach their kids better tolerance and compassion for other people, if nothing else.

Adopted children, for example, are specifically chosen and not merely the result of careless or unintended conception by some heterosexual unions. There are many who don’t love or even want their biological offspring. With what gay people have to go through to adopt or even be allowed to keep their own, you’d better believe that these children are really and truly wanted. Hets are afraid to allow gays to raise children because it will cause the children to “grow up queer” like their parents. If our straight parents couldn’t prevent us from growing up gay, then how can gay parents prevent their straight kids from growing up straight, if they really are?

The courts’ belief that one’s homosexuality automatically makes them unfit parents is so unfair. There was a case a while ago of a woman who lost her daughter in a custody hearing because she was charged with being a sapphist, therefore not a proper mother. The little girl might grow up gay, you see. So what did the judge do? He unthinkingly awarded custody to the little girl’s grandmother (her mother’s mother), a woman who herself raised a sapphist! Hello?! Where are some people’s minds?

I have seen quite a few TV movies that deal with child custody battles, and I find them to be rather disturbing. I don’t see how adults fighting over young children can be “in the best interest of the child,” no matter what the outcome of the case is. The child is constantly being passed around, back and forth like a football, and they more often than not wind up with a confused sense of belonging. In many cases, they won’t even ask the child which parent or guardian they would like to live with, as if their opinion doesn’t at all matter. The social workers, lawyers, judges and other strangers think they know what’s best for the child more than the child does themself. I find that to be so disrespectful. Children have no rights or say-so about who gets to raise them, when it’s their own lives at stake.

When a kid has a problem, they often feel that they can’t go to their parents with it. “I can’t tell my parents that. They’ll kill me!” “I just can’t talk to my parents. They won’t listen to me.” And in many cases, these feelings are warranted. If any child of mine felt at any time that they could not confide in me or come to me about anything, no matter how terrible they thought it was, I would have to feel responsible. I would ask myself, What have I done to this child for them not to trust me or to be afraid of me? Apparently I have not properly conveyed my utter, unconditional love for this child. We often hear parents say, “I don’t know what’s gotten into that boy!” or, “Where did we go wrong?” Well, that’s a good question. That is something to think about. Where did you go wrong?

So we need to work on the adults if we ever expect the children, our future, to be better people. I do realize that parenting is not easy. Very little in life that’s worthwhile is. That’s why I think people should have professional training and permission to take on such a formidable endeavor. It’s a tremendous undertaking, not at all for the squeamish. So if certain people are not willing to take on such an important responsibility, then they should not be allowed to become parents. It’s as simple at that. They’re not helping our society, and they certainly are not benefiting the poor, suffering, victimized children. I hope that this article has been helpful, and that you parents and potential parents out there put my suggestions and advice into practical application.