Saturday, May 26, 2018

Donna and Ken John and broken promises


THE WHITE HOUSE 
On East 95th Street
Broken Arrow, OK
May 24, 2018



Ken John Ewing
Student Council President
Varsity Quarterback

Dear Ken:

I greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent talks and discussions etc. relative to a certain date long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on May 14 at the Wyndham Hotel in Tulsa. I was led to believe that the meeting was desired by you, Ken, but that to me is totally irrelevant now, and I have moved on. Still, I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent text message, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned and muchly sought-after meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Tulsa date, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of me and all of my best friends in the JUNIOR class who now hate you to death, will not take place. You talk about getting mad and doing something stupid, but I can get so mad and act so stupid that I pray to God I will never have to display this anger to anyone because it is totally massive and big.

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me even though you’re a Senior, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue and not some other dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to seeing you again perhaps in the future of time. Until that very special day, I want to thank you for the deletion of certain photographs I sent to you that might cause problems for me. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important event in our young lives, please do not hesitate to call or text or even instant message me. I am waiting anxiously by. Any time. Day or night. We seem to have lost a huge opportunity for lasting love and a great and beautiful romance that, no doubt, would be the envy of the world. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history, ranking right up there with the three or four World Wars and Harry Styles dumping Taylor Swift and Harvey’s Hurricane, of course. 


Deeply troubled and sincerely yours,



Donna J. Trump

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Generation Rises

This is the keynote speech I gave at the Florida Scholastic Press Association. Thursday, April 12, 2018 in Orlando, FL.  The theme of the convention was “Emerge, Expand, Evolve.” I've edited it slightly.

It’s great being back in Florida. It’s been almost 96 hours since I was here last. I spent last week with kids and grandkids somewhere near Panama City Beach. It was spring break, so there were hundreds of thousands of teenagers hanging out and riding bikes in various stages of nudity. 

I must admit, it was interesting. Kind of like watching one of those National Geographic documentaries about the mating rituals of prairie chickens, if prairie chickens wore short shorts and spiked their hair and flashed a lot of midriff.

Anyway, it’s great to be back in Florida after all this time.

Let me tell you why I get hired to do gigs like this: Because I’m old and I’ve been around a while, and I tell entertaining stories about all the times everything went straight to Hell. 

Like the time a girl attending our summer journalism workshop turned up missing after curfew, and we feared the worse, but, as it ended up, she just sitting in the front seat of a car, parked right in front of the dormitory — making out with a coach from the basketball camp.

These stories are supposed to serve some noble purpose, like teaching best practices and offering sage advice but more often than not, they just scare the hell out of young advisers, who should know by now that when you’re working with teenagers, every day is anything can happen day.

So, here goes: A funny story with a poignant lesson.

I was a teenager once myself. When I was 16 or 17, I drove my car through the plate glass window of Paul’s Grill in Longview, Texas at 2 a.m.

My dad was out of town, and my mom worked nights as a nurse. I had a part-time job stocking shelves and bagging groceries at a local supermarket, so, by the time I got home, around 10:30, she’d left to go to work. 

I called her and told her I was home and was going to bed and that I’d see her in the morning, and then I hopped in my car and picked up some pals, and we played mailbox baseball in addition to committing some other mindless mischief.

Around 1 a.m., I pulled into Paul’s Grill — a typical all-night coffee shop —  for a bite, and somehow, when I got back in the car to leave, something happened, and, long story short, my car lurched forward and smashed through the plate glass window, knocking some old guy out of a booth and sending waitresses screaming and coffee flying in every direction.

By the way, I was sober, and I won’t get into my theories of how this happened, but after dealing with the police — who found this all unimaginably humorous — I had to go Good Shepherd Hospital to inform my mom that mistakes had been made but it was too early to begin assigning blame. 

“It’s not that bad,” I told her, which meant, “No one died,” and I think I added something like, “One day, we’ll look back on all of this and chuckle.”

Mom didn’t chuckle. The next morning on her way home, she drove past Paul’s Grill to find half the building boarded up.

Of course, I don’t sleep a wink because I knew what was about to happen, and it did.  When she got home, she put me through the wringer.

At some point in the interrogation, she asked me the following question: “Why do you lie to me?”

Well, there’s no answer to that question, so I decided to tell a joke. I thought it might break the tension. Lighten the mood. Introduce a modicum of levity in what had become an unnecessarily contentious encounter.

So, I said to my mother, “Well, as you know, there’s a sign on the side of the building that says, ‘Drive Thru Window.’  So, I did. 

I thought she was going to slap me through the wall. I could see in her exhausted, exasperated eyes a look that bellowed, “I should have killed you in the cradle.”

Years later, my brothers and I were reminiscing about that night with my mom sitting right there with us, and I thought, “Well, surely by now, she sees the humor in it.”

She didn’t. Same look. Should have killed you in the cradle.

So, what have we learned from this little story? Don’t be a smart-ass when you know you’re wrong, especially with your mother.

Somehow, I survived high school, went to college, graduated and landed a job at the University of Texas as the editor of a newsletter that was circulated to 31,000 public school teachers, coaches and administrators, and I wrote something along the lines of the following:

The Legislature is returning to town. Hide your mules and your daughters.

I thought it was clever.

Somehow, a copy of newsletter fell into the hands of someone in the university president’s office who promptly ordered all 31,000 copies of that newsletter to be hauled directly to a landfill. You see, the University depends upon the Legislature for its funding, and legislators have no sense of humor.

I was given a stern talking to, and this time, I didn’t try to weasel out of it. I said “yes sir” about 45 times, and they let me keep my job.

So, lesson learned: Always choose smart over clever. If smart isn’t an option, keep your damn mouth shut.

So, two good lessons, learned in, what, five, six minutes? I could tell more stories tonight, but I’ll save them for my sessions tomorrow because, well, I don’t want to waste this moment with goofy stories when I have something far more important — though not nearly as entertaining — to say. 

Here goes: 
I’m sorry.
I apologize.
I was wrong. 

I have been wrong about you and your generation. 
I underestimated you.           
Not only that, I mocked you and your skinny jeans and nose rings and your funny hats and tattoos and vaping and especially your 4-chord, 5-note, thump thump thump thump thump thump music.

Like a lot of other old Baby Boomers, we tabbed you as a generation of spoiled, entitled, lazy, clueless, socially-inept, verbally-challenged, politically-apathetic, celebrity-and-wealth obsessed know-nothings who wouldn’t look up from their iPhones even if warned they were about to step off a cliff into a vat of raging hot Spaghetti-O’s.
My generation has deemed all of you to be incomplete, diminished, sub-standard, throw-backs — with one exception, of course. Our own grandchildren, who are brilliant and perfect. The rest of you suck.

I’m as guilty of that as anyone here, and again, I apologize. I was wrong. I’m sorry.

For the past three or four years, I have spent portions of every workshop I’ve taught haranguing students to wake up, to educate themselves and to get involved because they’re about to inherit a mess. 

I’ve felt like something between one of those old guys who’s always screaming at the neighborhood kids to stay out of his yard and John the Baptist, out in the wilderness, preaching wildly to the wind and the rain and the sand.

Some kids seem to get it, but most, I thought, did not. They seemed more interested in the Kardashians than they were the fact that their schools, their communities, their nation and the world is falling apart.

But that was then, and this is now, and I am no longer disillusioned with your generation because you and others like you across the nation have awakened — and I want it understood, we did not wake you. You did this. You took the initiative. —  and you decided it was time to rise and meet challenges of the moment. You emerged. 

I am brokenhearted that it took what it did to stir you into action, to reveal to you the power you possess the power to alter the conversation, to confront the status quo, to begin demanding that something meaningful be done, and not tomorrow, and not next week, but now. But that’s what you’ve done. That’s what you’re doing. Right now. 

Look how much you’ve achieved already. It’s staggering. You’re on the cover of Time magazine this week. I’ve not seen anything like it since the heyday of the civil rights movement, and I was your age in the mi-1960s. 

I remember that it was young people then who marched, and protested, who got beaten up and murdered and fire-hosed and arrested, and in doing so they held up a mirror and forced all Americans to look at themselves and ask, “Is this really America? Is this really America the Beautiful?”

And now, 50 years later, it is young people again who are marching, who are forcing the country to search its soul and ask, “Is this the country we want to live in? Is this the new normal? Is this who we are?”

I don’t believe it is who we are, but here’s the bad news: Change may come, but it won’t come easy. It never does. The backlash has already begun. Entrenched elites never surrender their power and privilege and profits without a fight, and they fight to win, and they don’t always fight fair.

So, the struggle is likely to be long and difficult and frustrating and possibly brutal. But don’t give in. Don’t give up. Don’t settle. Don’t sell-out. 

We hear this all the time: You are the future of our nation. Well, that’s not true. You are the present.

Today, you are the soul of this country. 
You are the conscious of this country. 
You are on the right side of history, and that should give you strength, but that alone will not carry the day. 

Persistence carries the day. Steadfast commitment carries the day. Vision and focus carry the day.

So, don’t give in. Don’t settle. Don’t sell-out. Don’t wear-out. Don’t flake out. 

I’m talking to all of you. Yearbook, newspaper, magazine, online, offline, inline. I don’t care. Writers and reporters, photographers, graphic designers, broadcasters, bloggers, thinkers, boyfriends, girlfriends, all of you.

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

•••

Don’t allow your readers and listeners to be sidetracked or hook-winked or flat-out lied to. Facts are facts. Real journalists seek the truth, and the truth is found in facts — not in alternative facts. Not in alternative narratives.

So, commit yourself to coverage that encourages your peers to understand and exercise their responsibilities as citizens.

Offer opportunities for open, honest, truthful dialogue. We don’t need heroes or super-heroes. We need informed, engaged citizens who are willing and able to confront the dire issues before us, and if you don’t know the issues, well, then, that’s your first task. Educate yourself.

For example, four out of 10 millennials don't know or aren't sure that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. How is this possible? What do you have to say about that? What does it say about the education you’re receiving?

How many of you have noticed what teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma and other states are doing? They’re demanding change. How are you going to cover this? How are you going to lead the discussion about how and why this change should occur?
           
Recently, a young, bright Texas middle school teacher from Bastrop, Texas — a little town about 20 miles east of Austin, where I live — posted on Facebook her reason for leaving the classroom, and it’s gone viral. She wrote, “Parents have become too disrespectful, and their children are even worse. Administration always seems to err on the side of keeping the parent happy, which leaves me no way to do the job I was hired to do— teach kids. People absolutely have to stop coddling and enabling their children.”

How are you going to cover this? How are you going to lead the discussion of this issue?

Notice, I didn’t ask, “Are you.”  I know you will. This is your job. This must be your mission. You must be at the forefront, at the vanguard of this moment of change. You must look beyond the officially-sanctioned artificial soap opera that plays out every day in every school and find the truth of what it is to be a high school student today. You must raise awareness.

Why is this young teacher quitting? 
Why are school children still being massacred? 
What can we do? 
What must we do?
How do we make our school, our community, our nation a better place, a safer place, for all of us?
           
Furthermore, how do we give voice to those who feel they have no voice, no power, no recourse. How do we tell the stories of those who have been ignored or denigrated or deemed irrelevant because of their race or sexual preference or gender or class or haircut or whatever? How do we change their narratives?

As journalists, you can be the agent of that change, but you won't be until you understand that you can be.

•••

Dr. Martin Luther King certainly understood this. In 1968, in his “I have been to the mountain top speech,” Dr. King spoke of the Bill of Rights, particularly freedom of the press. This is what he said:

Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. And so, just as I said, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around. We aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

That’s what you have to do too. You have to go on. Emerge. Expand. Evolve.

•••

I’ve heard this so many times: “Enough is enough.”
Well, is it?
Is enough enough?
No. 
Enough is too much.
Once was too much.
Once more is...
No more.

You have to go on.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a backlash already against you. They have mocked you. They have called you defiant, ungrateful punks. Spoiled brats. Dupes and tools and patsies. They’ve posted despicable things about you on Facebook. You’ve seen them, right?

They have suggested that the answer to this problem is learning how to duck, learning CPR. They have suggested that the answer to this problem is arming your teachers or, short of that, providing each classroom with a bucket of rocks.  

OK, they might not be very bright, but, again, they’re not going to surrender without a fight. 

Well, so be it. Let's get it on. Enter the fray. 

You can prevail, and I believe you will prevail.

I don’t pretend to speak for every adult in this room, but I believe most of our eyes are now open and our hearts are full, and we are with you. We believe in you. You have given us reason to believe.

A month ago, I didn’t. But today, I do. I believe you will rise to the occasion, and you will not be remembered as Generation Ybother. Or Generation ZZZZZ. Or “the Millennial Lites.”

I believe you will be remembered as Generation P — the generation that woke up and stood up and declared “No more” and came together in the aftermath of senseless tragedy to save this country.





Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Story of Her Life

My mother, Thelma Louise Kathman Hawthorne, died on Sunday, Jan. 20 of congestive heart failure. She was 90 years old. 
This is an amended version of the eulogy I gave at her funeral, around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 at the Lakeview Funeral Home in Longview, Texas.

On behalf of my brothers and the other members of the family, I want to thank you for being here today to join us in the celebration of the life of Thelma Louise Kathman Hawthorne. She is the last of her generation — both sides of the family — to go.
But enough of that. Let’s begin with an amusing anecdote.
Jerry and Kay visited Mom Sunday. That was the day she died. Anyway, they came into her room, and Mom looked up and said to Kay, who had had the flu for the past week or more: “You look worse than I do.”
That was vintage Mom. Tactful to a fault, and a person who didn’t know her better might have taken offense. Of course, Kay didn’t. She laughed. She knew Mom was joking.
Who knew that with just hours left to live, Mom would tell a joke.
•••
If you’re here, you probably knew Mom too, so I’m not going to tell you much you don’t already know, but I feel some of this must be said again. We must be reminded that my mother gave far more than she got.
She was the fourth of four. An accident, she told me, and she was largely ignored by her parents. She grew up during the worst of the Depression and the Dust Bowl, a shy, studious, beautiful girl who somehow managed to be virtually invisible among her 20 or 30 classmates at Muenster High.
She wasn’t a joiner. She was never a social butterfly. She liked to read.
After high school, she attended Nurses Cadet School in Fort Worth and would have been inducted into the U.S. Army had we not dropped the atomic bombs on the Japs, whom Mom never really forgave or trusted. She was also suspicious of Yankees.
She met my father through a mutual friend, and they married on Dec. 12, 1948 and, over the course of the next nine years, produced four sons who seemed to search valiantly for ways to complicate and impoverish her life.
We threw baseballs through patio windows.
We knocked holes in walls.
We once cracked a coffee table in half while horsing around in the living room.
When I was a high school senior, I drove my Ford 150 through the plate glass window of Paul’s Grill at or around 2 a.m. after, three hours earlier, assuring her that I was home and on my way to bed.

[Read “The Gospel According to Paul’s Grill.” It's on my blog: Endless Rain Into a Paper Cup. Google it.]

How she maintained her sanity through all of this and more should be the subject of a dozen psychology dissertations.
•••
To the naked eye, my mother appeared hard, mean. Our girlfriends were often terrified of her.
Cheryl told me, “At first, I thought she hated me.”
We all did at one time or the other, Cheryl. Welcome to the family.
She could eviscerate a person with “The Look.”
Sabrina Jett was about as strong and willful a person as I've met, but she cowered when Mom shot her The Look.
I have an old friend who wrote me this morning, “She was one of the most daunting people I’ve ever met: that instant feeling of “Well, what the hell did I do to YOU?” followed by a spell of wondering if she could see through my facade straight to my rotten core. At first, I tried to put a large piece of furniture between us.”
How many of you have gotten “The Look.” How she’d squint and cut her eyes and purse her lips, and you knew she was thinking, “If I have to tell you one more time…”
We heard that a lot. We heard these a lot too: “It ain’t been done since I did it last,” as in “That sink hasn't been cleaned since I cleaned it last.”
And when something went haywire, and it often did, she would say, “Well, that’s the story of my life.”
••• 
The irony is that my mother was not hard. She was not mean. She was, by nature, a gentle person. She had a sweet soul.
Life made her seem hard.
Life made her appear mean.
But she was neither.
As we know, nature can be cruel. It was occasionally cruel to Mom. It forced her to be strong and willful. She had no choice but to fight or surrender, and she was not a quitter.
Without her strength, without her determination, who knows how we’d have turned out? We were not “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver,” but we weren’t “Beavis and Butthead” either. She would not have it.
Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and she endured all kinds of incidents, accidents and indignities along the way, but she persevered. She survived, and she made sure we did as well.
Mom was forced to steer a leaky life-boat crammed with surly, burly ungrateful bonehead boys into the teeth of one storm after another in search of the blue skies and calm waters she rarely saw until well past middle age.
If this made her seem stern, it wasn’t her choice or intention. It wasn’t her true nature.
 •••
This was mother’s true nature.
• She loved music. She introduced us to Glenn Miller and Nat King Cole and Rosemary Clooney and Johnny Mathis and Jim Reeves and the Mills Brothers and, most importantly, to me, anyway, Show Boat and “Ol’ Man River.
In 1963, she bought me my first 45 record: Anita Bryant singing, “My Little Corner of the World.”
In February of 1964, she bought me my first Beatle record ­— the single Love Me Do on the A-side and P.S. I Love You on the B-side. Then, she took me to see A Hard Day’s Night at the Arlene Theatre, then she bought me the soundtrack.
She was working furiously, almost desperately, to put beans in a bowl and on the table, and yet, she found money to do that for me because she could tell that I loved music as much as she did. What a fierce act of generosity.
I think it might also have been a fierce act of passive-aggression. My dad hated the Beatles, start-to-finish.
• Mom loved books. At one point, she must have had 20 Zane Grey novels lined up on a shelf. We didn’t have much, but she made sure we had a set of the World Book Encyclopedia.
Over the years, she and Kenny shared and devoured every one of the James Patterson and David Baldacci novels, and there must be at least 300 of them.
• Mom loved crossword puzzles. Most days, she could solve the New York Times puzzle in under an hour. By the way, she read the newspaper, every story, every day. She would spend more time with the Monday edition of the Longview Morning Journal than I do with the Sunday edition of The New York Times.

• Mom loved movies, especially Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart and “The African Queen,” and Betty Davis in “All About Eve,” and Susan Hayward in “With A Song in My Heart,” and, of course, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind.”
Every year, she’d take us to see “Gone With the Wind” on the big screen, and to this day, the church bells, the trill and the crescendo of the opening song almost brings me to my knees.
She loved musicals with happy endings and sprite songs you could whistle to, like "Singing in the Rain" and "The Sound of Music" She loved westerns starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart. She and I watched “From Here to Eternity” maybe three or four times. We watched "Casablanca" a half dozen at least. We watched "The Wizard of Oz" every time it came on, and while I'd get terrified by the Wicked Witch of the West and teary-eyed at the end, she'd sit in her lounger, stoic, probably wishing Toto would pop out of the screen and leap in her lap. Maybe she wished she had that little girl wearing the ruby slippers to hold and comfort.

• Mom loved to cook, and she could do more with less than anyone I’ve ever known. We grew up on tuna casseroles and spaghetti and salmon patties and fried chicken and chicken fried steak and meatloaf and somehow never tired of them.
Granted, a few of her dishes were more popular than others. We loved her “Hot Heroes.” but not everyone did. They’re like pizza on a slice of bread.
She loved sweets, and she especially loved baking Rio Lace cookies, which are more addictive than Mexican tar heroin. They’re nothing but butter, sugar, pecans and a sprinkle of oatmeal. When she knew I was coming home, she’d bake a batch of them, and I would eat almost every one. If I die of diabetes, it will be her fault.
Again, there a few failures. Remember those fruit cocktail cookies? They were horrible, but she made them every year for 15 years, and I doubt 15 of them were ever eaten. Even the dogs wouldn’t eat them.
Just make Rio Lace cookies instead,” we’d cry, but the next Christmas, more fruit cocktail cookies, and they’d go uneaten until they hardened and crumbled to dust.
She also tried to force us to eat butter beans, beets, turnips and that God-awful La Choy Chop Suey that came in a box. She would stir in celery and onion and rake into a paste. Then we had a choice: eat it or sit there and go hungry.  
I think someone eventually determined it was good in the treatment of open wounds.
But that aside, my mother was a great in the kitchen.

• Mom loved her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. They were a source of endless joy.
She also loved Doniece and David, and we are forever grateful for the kindness and love and the million or so things you did for her in the final years of her life.

• Mom loved to give.
Every Christmas, she insisted on buying every child and grandchild — even my two step-children — a Christmas gift. My step-children were raised Jewish, which is neither here nor there, but I told her at a hundred times, “Mom, you don’t need to buy me or anyone else a Christmas gift. Save your money. Buy yourself something.”
I might as well have told Jerry to vote for Hillary Clinton. She was determined to buy a Christmas gift for every kid, and she put considerable time and effort and thought into selecting that gift, and if you couldn’t figure out why she purchased this or that for you, then too bad. Your loss. Not her's.
For years, she would slip a 10-dollar bill in my birthday card. We had an unspoken agreement. I’d send her fifty, and she’d send me ten. I have one of her cards, along with two 5 dollar bills and one 10 dollar bill, framed and hanging on the wall of my office at home.
My daughter, Sarah, will inherit them, and then her daughter, Violet, will get them, and it be accompanied, I hope, by a copy of this eulogy, in which I shall now explain why they mean so much to me.
It’s because Mom knew the value of 10 dollars. When I was seven or eight, I lost a 50-piece I’d somehow obtained, and when I gave up on ever finding it, I shrugged and said something along the lines of, “Oh, well, you can’t buy anything for 50 cents anyway.”
I knew immediately I had screwed up. Call it a "faux Ma." 
Mom shot me “The Look,” and then she curtly informed me that “50 cents could purchase a loaf of bread or a half-gallon of milk, and by the way, young man, one day, you might be damn glad to have a loaf of bread or a half-gallon of milk.”
Again, she was a child of the Depression, so she saved everything, just in case.
It irritated her to no end when I would rummage through her cabinets and desk drawers and closets and toss out bales of those return mail stickers that come with solicitation letters for orphans and wounded veterans. Once, I clawed through her VHS collection and found four copies of “My Fair Lady,” so I took two of them — not both of them; only two of them — to Goodwill because (1) she didn’t own a VHS player and (2) she had three versions of “My Fair Lady” on DVD.
This drove her mad. After I returned to Austin, she complained to anyone who would listen how I had wantonly thrown away all of her movies and all of her records, and most of her pots and pie pans and spoons and cups and glasses and scissors and playing cards and casserole dishes and boxes of cereal and bags of sugar and flour and canisters or jars or bottles of mystery mush, which she had planned to use that very day.
If it was lost, she assumed I had thrown or given it away, without her consent or knowledge. I had cleaned her out.
For example, maybe five years ago, she owned at least 30 coffee mugs. So, I asked her, “Serving a lot of coffee these days?”
Well, that earned me a glare.
So, I added, “Why don’t we get rid of some these old ones — you know, the strays and chipped and stained ones — and just keep the nice ones, and that way, you’ll have more room up here for your 22 pie pans.”
Before she could catch me, I culled out about 15, and I was very proud of myself.
“Look Mom! You have space in your kitchen cabinet!”
That afternoon, she and I went to Drug Emporium to pick up one of her prescriptions, and I looked up, and she was about to buy another damn coffee cup because it was on sale. Only one dollar. It would make a fine Christmas gift.
 •••
Well, that was Mom.
I hope one of the lesser perks of heaven is being reacquainted with all of the cookbooks, and coffee mugs and CDs and videotapes and address labels that I threw away or gave away against her will. It would mean, she truly is in paradise.
And I hope Nugget and Lil ‘Bit are sitting in her lap.
And I hope her parents are there too, and they are telling her something she probably never heard from them, ever: “We love you.”
And I hope her sisters, Bernice and Dorothy, and her older brother, Frank, are with her, and they’re sitting around the kitchen table in Dorothy and Paul’s old farmhouse, sipping coffee and talking and laughing. I hope Aunt Nora and Aunt Frances are there too.
Actually, I hope this is happening right now, at this very second.
Because she deserves to be happy and sweet and gentle for a long, long time.
She’s earned it. She gave far more than she got.
You want to know the story of her life? That is the story of your life.
So, rest in peace, Mom. Thank you for your strength and guidance. Thank you for the music and the movies and the Rio Lace cookies and the business card holder.

We love you, and we promise to stay in touch.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rubenesque Figures

First, Google and read “Ruben Navarette Exposing Media’s Double Standard.” Navarette is a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, which is considered slightly to moderately conservative. A good friend and former colleague — a thoroughly kind and decent human being for whom I have much affection but with whose politics I could not disagree with more — shared this column via Facebook and gave it two big thumbs up. I’m giving it — not him — my middle finger. Here’s why, specifically and generally:

  The column doesn’t say “newspapers.” It says journalism. Journalism today comes in many forms and through many outlets. Few people today get their news primarily from newspapers.

• As for “fake news,” I would ask, “Was the early reporting on Watergate ‘fake news?’ Are stories regarding connections between the Jared Kushner and Russian officials ‘fake news?’ Is it ‘fake news’ when confirmed falsehoods by this president and his cohorts and minions are pointed out?

• “Egregious reporting errors’ do not flow exclusively left to right.  Google “Politifact which news channel lies the most?”

• Regarding the assertion that “Americans want their news straight up,” I’ve found no peer-reviewed, non-partisan study that indicates this. By the way, what does “straight up” mean?  How is it defined as per the research, if you can find any?

  The terms “reporters” and “anchors” are not interchangeable.

  Journalists/reporters have always sniped at each other. Anyone who has ever worked for a newspaper knows that.

  All journalists do not come from the same socioeconomic backgrounds, go to the same schools and live in the same cities. Last time I checked, Longview, Lufkin, Lubbock and Laredo all had newspapers, Internet and radio and television stations. All of the reporters in Longview and Lubbock did not attend Columbia or Harvard or Missouri or UT-Austin.
Nor do all reporters work in or out of New York or Washington. Although I do not know this to be true, I would bet that major network reporters, especially White House correspondents, earned their posts through rigorous education and expansive experience.
The media landscape is more diverse than ever. It is not dominated by any single political persuasion or entity.

• For more than a decade, the most watched news channel has been Fox News.
In 2016, the 10 most listened to talk radio personalities were Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Dave Ramsey, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Howard Stern, Michael Savage, Joe Madison, Thom Hartmann and Mike Gallagher. Madison and Hartmann are liberal/progressives. Stern is essentially a shock-jock pornographer who might seem to lean left but is mostly apolitical. Savage is an alt-right conspiracy theorist. The rest are conservatives. Talk radio, from which millions receive their “news,” is dominated by conservatives.
The Wall Street Journal is also owned by Murdoch.

  As per the assertion regarding “thin skin,” it’s worth noting that Trump has called the media is the “enemy of the American people” and the “most dishonest” people.” By “media,” he means The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC. He does not mean the most watched news channel for the past decade, and he doesn’t mean Limbaugh or Hannity or Heritage Foundation or the Heartland Institute or Breitbart or InfoWars.

Because he disagrees with certain media outlet reporting, Trump has suggested that the FCC might want to examine its licensing procedures. Imagine if Obama had done that in regards to Fox or Limbaugh.

  As per the assertion that journalists are “too comfortable with hypocrisy,” I must ask, “How many times has Donald Trump played golf since taking office? Frankly, I don’t care, but many on the right cared quite a bit when Obama played golf. Now, they don’t seem to care. Nor do they care that Trump has refused to release his federal income tax statements or that he has made no attempts to sever conflicts with his financial interests. Nor do they care that the new tax law will increase the national debt by more than trillion dollars.
• Google “ John Oliver whataboutisms.

  As per the assertion that “[A reporter’s] job is to constantly try to tell better stories.” What constitutes a “better story?” Is a feel-good story about a soldier returning from Afghanistan to his wife and family a “better story?” Is this a “worse” story: a soldier, injured in Afghanistan, can’t receive the medical assistance he or she needs? I believe “better” stories help people understand the complexities of society, culture, technology, politics, science and economics. Better stories reveal and explain the forces conspiring against them, such as attempts to defund public education on all levels, to remove consumer protections, to poison the environment for the sake of quarterly profits. Better stories provide facts and context that produce truth—or, at least, the latest version of it.

• Regarding “truth.” Journalists cannot force people to believe truth—or, at least, the latest version of it. Though people believed it, it was never true that women are unequipped to serve in the military. Though people believed it, it was never true that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to whites. Though people believed it, the sun does not revolve around the Earth.

Though people don’t believe it, climate change is real. It is verifiable by scientific means. It is true. According to NASA, 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activity.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, fewer than 24 percent of Republicans believe that. Nor do they believe in something as obvious as evolution. During one of the 2016 Republican presidential primary debates, not one candidate admitted to believing in it. And, before you respond, “Well, it’s just a ‘theory,’” go to this link:

  News tends to come from Washington DC because Washington DC is the nation’s capital. The president lives there when he’s not at one of his private properties at the expense of the American taxpayer (see hypocrisy above). News tends to come through New York City because New York City is the world’s media center. News tends not to come from Brenham, Texas because the Brenham Banner lacks the resources to cover Washington D.C. or even Washington County. It does well to cover Brenham ISD.

  As per bias in the media: An equal number of journalists are anti-Clinton and anti-Obama and pro-Republican to the point of supporting Roy Moore, and they don’t bother to hide it.

  As for “deplorables,” it’s a term Hillary Clinton used to describe the kind of racists and neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville. John McCain is not a deplorable. Nor is my friend mentioned above.

• How does the media get back on track? Not by serving as a punching bag for the president, regardless of who he or she is. Legitimate news outlets — those that hire actual journalists rather than political commentators — can regain some credibility by providing incisive, analytical, aggressive and courageous journalism.

• We are a good country, but we are not a perfect country, and we never will be. We certainly have room to be a better country. We need journalists whose reporting makes it better. We need more informed citizens. We need citizens who don’t believe every Facebook meme created by some Russian company with ties to the Kremlin. And that’s not “fake news.” It happened. It’s been verified.


• We do not need more grab-ass idiocy and shameless hucksterism. It is not the media’s job to make feel people feel better. It’s to make them think and act more responsibly for the sake of their children and grandchildren, and the sake of the rest of the world’s children and grandchildren because we are not in this alone. And when we — and by “we,” I mean journalists and journalism educators — look at ourselves in the mirror each morning, we should see an informed, skeptical but not cynical professional. We should not see a stooge, a lackey or a gushing cheerleader.