I remember back to elementary school like it was yesterday. I remember standing, with my hand over my heart, and saying the pledge of allegiance. I remember when that suddenly stopped and I never knew why, nor did I consider it a big deal as a child. In fact, looking back as an adult, having children swear oaths and make commitments of any sort, beyond a play date with a friend, is probably a waste of time.
In middle school, some call junior high, I remember taking social studies classes with a man who would be one of my favorite teachers. I had many great teachers. Tom DePasquale was simply Mr "D" to a lot of kids who couldn't pronounce or spell his name with accuracy.
Mr D entertained us with his Ovation guitar. It was a Bicentennial model with a gorgeous wood finish and American flags, today's version, crossed with the 1776 version. It was called the "Patriot" model. It had been released in 1976. He was so proud of that guitar and his love of the Beatles was well-known.
He often pulled out the guitar and played for us if we did well on a test. With music, Mr D taught us to love America, to understand that we were one country in a world full of other people. In social studies class, we learned about the peril of war, famine, and how lucky we were to live in a country that had freedoms.
I still remember the day Mrs Gutshall poked her head in the room and said, "Tom, can you step out for a second?" When he came back, he was a grown man with tears streaming down his face and we were told that we'd have a free study period the rest of the day.
I would find out later that day that John Lennon had been shot. Mr D's world had been shattered and his youth was lost. He was grieving a world that would never be the same.
I eventually grew-up and I left home, as did my classmates. I went out into a world that showed me it was an unfair place for a young female who was a lesbian and would never marry a man and have 2.3 kids, nor would I live in a house with a white picket fence. I became an outsider in my own country.
As soon as I rejected what were considered 'norms' I found that America didn't offer as much for me. All those freedoms that I had thought I was entitled to; the things that I was taught made our country so much better than the rest of the world, did not apply to me.
I began to question things that had been the status quo and so did many others like myself and the people who supported us. Thirty years ago, there were far fewer people who stood with us. The world could be a lonely place for anyone growing up in America, if they were anything other than a white male.
I was 20-years-old when I was working in a restaurant, doing every job in the house. I could cook, wait tables, run the computer system, take inventory, and work every station in the kitchen. I was begging to get into the management training program because I saw it as my ticket 'up' in the world. Minimum wage was $5.20 at that time and life was a struggle.
I remember Mr Keating, the manager, red-eyed and smelling like a brewery. He was the man who stood between me and that promotion. I watched him promote two young men who were handsome, thin, and white. One of them had just been hired two months prior and had never worked in a restaurant. At that point, I'd been working in restaurants for over four years and at this particular place for a year.
It was this man who told me that in order to get promoted, I should get new glasses. Later he would tell me to grow my hair longer and he even went so far as to tell me that I didn't 'look like a manager' and needed to lose weight. I was too young and naive to know what to do. I just kept trying, despite being angry and knowing that I wasn't being treated fairly.
My response was to make a chart of all the things that were necessary to enter into the management training program for the company and check things off as I did them. I eventually walked into his office with my chart and I placed it on his desk - being a full-size poster board, it took the entire desktop. He openly laughed with the white residue of powder on his nose,
He eventually was caught being the dick that he was, sleeping with waitresses, snorting cocaine from his desk, and stealing money from the business. I did get into the training program and become the first manager that ever finished the written evaluation within the given time and aced the test.
In those days, the black employees were mostly relegated to the back of the house. I liked them. I grew up in a town of all white people. It was a very Catholic area too. I didn't really understand diversity until I moved away from home. Suddenly, I had friends who were of all different races, colors, and cultural backgrounds. I became fascinated with other people and where they came from.
One of the first people to befriend me was a young lady named Aretta. She was black, drove a pickup truck, earned $3.80 per hour at a factory. She drove me to lunch at a Dairy Queen and we talked. She was so different from anyone I'd ever known at that point in my life and I realized that I hadn't seen nearly enough of the world yet.
Time and time again, in my life, it has been the poor, the underprivileged, the person of color, and the person who was somehow challenged by their socio-economic status, who reached out to me and helped me at times in my life when I've been down and out.
Those early days are fond memories. I needed only to sing the words "Lean on me.... and fifteen voices would chime in within moments. Verber, had the voice of Aretha and I would stand back and smile as they all danced and sang. I remember Rudy, the chef at my unit, once I was an assistant manager.
Rudy always had the most awful, dirty, gray chef suit. It should have been white but it was filthy and stained. Earl, the general manager, had often spoken to him about it and passed him by for raises by giving him poor evaluations for his appearance. Rudy had faithfully worked for the company for many years - over fifteen at that point.
Rudy always had a smile on his face. He always did his job. He was agreeable, dependable, and a damned good chef. I was perplexed by his situation.
One day, he had been stood up for a ride home. I offered to give him a ride and he was pleased to take me up on it because it was raining. I followed his directions and soon found myself in a part of town that I was aware could be dangerous and you didn't dare go down there at night.
Police often warned people to not stop at the stop lights after a certain hour of the night - just slow down, look, and go. One officer had told me "No officer in this town will give you a ticket for not stopping there after dark as a single, white lady."
This was where Rudy lived. When I pulled into his driveway, it became apparent that he lived in a shack. I saw no power going to his one-room shack and I was also 100% sure that there was no running water. I made some inquiries and found out that it was a dirt floor shack with no running water, as I had suspected. He lived in a shed, without a foundation.
In the 1990s this was the first time I had ever encountered this type of poor and I immediately went into the office the next day, closed the door behind me and had a long talk with Earl, the GM.
Earl was a good man. He was one of the few men that I ever worked with that treated me as an equal, in all of these years. I told him about Rudy's situation. I exclaimed that there was no way the guy could keep his uniform's clean and that it was honestly just amazing that he made it to work on time. I kept saying, "It's a dirt floor, Earl!" and emphasizing that Rudy was one of our most dependable people despite having some very difficult obstacles.
Earl listened intently, interjecting the occasional "Jesus Christ..." and gasps. Then and there, we decided that Rudy would get a new set of brand new uniforms every three months, compliments of the manager's bonuses. He also was going to get the raises that he had truly deserved.
We ordered him uniforms and made a big deal of it all. We had a little ceremony in the kitchen for him. We made up a position and named him to it. He now had some added responsibility, a decent raise and brand new uniforms that included chef coats, in dark green instead of white, to go along with his position.
Rudy glowed. Some of the other long-term employees who knew Rudy and lived in the same neighborhoods understood what we'd done. There were knowing glances and smiles, but no one smiled more than Rudy did that day. I often think about Rudy and those people. I wonder where they are now and if they are even still alive. They'd be very old now.
Then there was the time that the KKK came to town and marched in a parade. The Grand Imperial Wizard was in town. I used to know his name but don't recall it now. He came in our restaurant, as we were known for our southern cooking.
A middle-aged white woman, recently divorced and a fairly new employee was on the serving line that day. She came to find me. There was an issue on the line. I walked out to find this 'wizard' with his long line of cohorts. They were requesting that "I" walk down the line with them and ensure that no one black touched their plates.
I was appalled. I could see all of my employees standing in silence around me. You could hear a pin drop. Reba, the young woman serving salads that day, was black. She was the first station on our serving line. Every. Single. Employee. in the kitchen was black. Several Jamaicans were on the chef line and would have wiped the floor with these asshats if anything got out of control. In two seconds, I sided with my employees.
I pointed around the room and stated flatly, "Your food has been prepared by black hands. There is no one here that is going to serve you or kiss your ass."
"Do you know who I am?", he demanded of me.
"Yes, and I don't really care."
They turned and huffed out the door loudly stating that this wasn't the last that I'd hear about this. Before I could turn to walk away, Reba threw her arms around me, "Miss Greer, I was so afraid of those men. Thank you, thank you so much for doing that."
There were nods of approval and chuckles in the kitchen. Not on my watch was a single person who worked there going to be treated like that by anyone.
I know that these experiences shaped me. I have seen poverty in America. I've lived in poverty myself and I know what it is like to live without enough food, proper health care, and the resentment that comes in knowing that money is what stands in the way of you having just the basics that would make your life easier, while others have far more than what they need and they are only concerned about getting more.
As a child, I was taught values that included helping each other. I was taught that when someone like Rudy comes along, you help him. You don't judge him and you don't shrug and keep adding to your own savings account. We, Earl and I, gave up our own bonus checks every quarter, to ensure that Rudy had clean uniforms. We made sure that our employees had food to eat. I was a better manager because I cared about people.
I remember a time in America when people cared about each other. I remember when we helped our neighbors. I remember when we didn't judge as much as we helped. I've never seen the divisions that we have now. The sad thing is that I don't regret cutting some people out of my life though, because of the way they view the world.
I don't own this country. It is the country that I was born into and I'm lucky for that, but I don't have a right to tell anyone that they can't walk across an imaginary line that some bureaucracy claims is a boundary that they cannot cross because they were unlucky to be born on the other side.
I believe that if someone is sick, we should help them. If your child is in danger, I will applaud you for doing what you felt was right to protect them. I believe that we have enough resources to help these people!
We aren't full. What maniacs are you listening to? Drive to Wyoming. Drive to Oklahoma, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, etc. There are vast swaths of America that you can drive for hours without passing another car.
We have plenty of room and if we let people come in legally, assign them an EIN, they will go to work and pay taxes and that helps our economy.
Furthermore, they are NOT getting anything for free like you are falsely claiming. In fact, they're often paying taxes on a made-up social security number and they'll never have access to that money, even if they live here for forty years and die.
They will never complain because they are so happy to be here and have the chance to work. I think they are more patriotic than the Keatings. I think they are what make America truly great and it always has been. Progress makes America great.
The reason you are told it is bad and we don't want them is because most of them will vote Democrat because the Republican party doesn't welcome them. The Republican party is where the Tim Keatings of the world find their refuge. This is why I will never be a part of them. They don't want me anyway.
Do you know what finally happened to good old Mr Keating? He got busted in a hotel room, next door to the restaurant, by the husband of a waitress. That husband kicked the door in and Tim got the shit beat out of him.
It's my understanding that he was barely recognizable after that 'good ole boy' was finished with him. He spent time in jail for cocaine possession and he lost his job, his pension, his wife divorced him, his kids wouldn't speak to him, and he lived in disgrace.
I have gone on to want a simple life. I have gone on to be the opposite of Tim, whenever I could be. I have tried to help people in the same way in which Earl and I helped Rudy back then. I've been lucky enough to meet a lot of "Earls" out there who stepped in beside me, to do what was right from a humanitarian perspective.
I feel there is nothing wrong with living simply because the world would be better if we all used fewer resources, loved each other a little bit more, embraced our differences and supported each other in ways that ensure we are all taken care of. Indeed, what is wrong with wanting to leave the world a better place than the way we found it?
Sadly, there are a lot of Tim Keatings out there. There are people who are so selfish that they feel their right to carry a gun is more important than background checks to ensure the safety of innocent people.
There are people who would have us believe that children dying in schools and people dying at malls is okay - just don't take one or two types of guns from them.
150 million handguns have been manufactured in American since 1986 - the year I graduated from high school.
Americans currently own approximately 300 million guns. 2.5 to 4 million of these are assault style weapons.
Basically, we'd like you to give up 1/10th of your weapons to make America a little safer. Mass shooters won't be able to kill as many people, shoot as fast, or load as many bullets. The Tim Keatings of the world think that's unfair.
I just don't understand that way of thinking. I don't understand people who will give the church 10% of their earnings who can't give up 10% of their weapons for safety concerns.
I don't understand people who simply do not care about other humans or that sit in judgment of people who are different than they are - like black people, gay people, and immigrants from anywhere.
Humans aren't illegal. Jesus never talked about border walls, he never condemned gays, he loved the poor and he said you should love your neighbor. I'm tired of religion being skewed to use only when it benefits the person citing the scripture. Stop cherry-picking bible verses. Jesus wouldn't agree with that.
I don't understand anyone who earns a multi-million dollar salary who thinks it is okay to take a payout when people who work under them are literally on food stamps and struggling to keep the power on.
I do understand why some people don't want to pledge allegiance to a flag that they don't feel has treated them with the same respect as everyone else.
If you think that everyone has the same opportunities, you need to crawl up out from under your rock in middle America and leave your farming communities and hometowns and take a look around the world.
You've been programmed to believe the things that you do. Your parents were programmed to believe those things too. It's about where you were born, the things you grew up listening to, and how it has impacted your life as an adult.
If you are a white guy who doesn't want to hear about politics, it's because your very life hasn't ever depended on your color or your station in life. Women are afraid to walk to their cars at night. Black people are afraid of routine traffic stops. We're all afraid to send our kids to school.
Minorities live in neighborhoods where schools are using 30-year-old textbooks and depriving those kids of the same education as the school in the white neighborhood that has new books.
Why do we applaud when Jeff Bezos gives to charity yet remain silent as a whole as he pays no taxes and takes a billion plus in profit annually? He should give to charity. He should be giving a hell of a lot more. He isn't running Amazon on his own!
If Bezos paid his workers a living wage and figured-out how he could possibly live on a few million each year, those people would spend money like crazy.
Think of all the things you'd buy if you won the lottery. Most poor people like to play this game. "If I won a million dollars, I'd ... " You'd buy a new car, a new house, send your kids to a better school, you'd buy the whole family new clothes, you'd probably take a family vacation, and you'd spend more in groceries. You would pay bills that you've been behind on. You would buy steak instead of living on crap.
Then you know what would happen? The economy would go bonkers. Everything would explode. More businesses would open. Tax revenues would increase. Property values would go up and the housing market would be banging because people would have money to buy.
People would be able to afford their prescriptions that they can't afford now, even with insurance, because the copays are too high. More people would get insurance because they could pay the premiums. We would all be healthier. We'd be happy. Mental health would improve from less stress and better healthcare. People wouldn't want to shoot each other. We'd all be less angry all of the time.
What happens when you give rich people, who already have more than they need, a tax break? Nothing. The economy doesn't do one bit better. Why? Because they stuff that surplus money into the bank, with the rest of their surplus money. It's probably an offshore bank, like Walmart just proved, so they can dodge taxes even though they don't pay much to begin with.
I wish people would stop finding reasons to dislike other people and start making decisions based on what was best for EVERYONE. Stop being like Tim or you may just end up like Tim.
Make decisions based on what is best for all Americans. Be kind. Be fair. Try to understand what it is like to be black in America, or Puerto Rican and constantly told to go 'home' when America is their home.
Puerto Rico has been owned as a territory of the United States since 1898. You probably should have paid more attention in social studies. I'm sorry you didn't have a Mr D in your life.
"On October 18, 1898, American troops fighting the Spanish-American War raised the United States flag in Puerto Rico, and the U.S. officially took control of the former Spanish colony." - from AmericasLibrary.gov
I love Elizabeth Warren and I do lean more left of center because of the experiences I've had personally. I'm sure it is being a gay person, knowing that I didn't choose it, yet continue to be judged for it, that chased me to the far left.
I have to admit, however, that I'm fearful of her as a president. I'm afraid she'll chase more moderate voters to the other side of the spectrum, which I fully believe to be the wrong side.
I want to see Americans meet in the middle. I want to see more love and less hate. I want to see progress though, and not a return to the days of blind ignorance. I don't want to return to the mistakes we've already made. I feel that we've already been pushed thirty years into the past.
Why fellow Americans think it is a good thing to continue to use fossil fuels and coal when every single report and data point has shown us that the way to the future is a self-sustaining energy source, like wind and solar, is totally beyond me.
The way to save the planet and ensure that we stay alive, as a species, is to cut our dependence on oil. We have to cut our use of plastics and use common sense, going forward.
We don't need ego to lead us. We need to come together, just like Mr D used to sing to us back in the early 80s ... and we need to do it right now.