Teaching How, What, and Why

“Very few college professors want high school graduates in their history class who are simply “gung-ho” and “rah-rah” with regard to everything the United States has ever done, have never thought critically in their life, don’t know the meaning of the word “historiography” and have never heard of it. They think that history is something you’re supposed to memorize and that’s about it. That’s not what high school, or what college history teachers want.” ~ James W. Loewen

I wish I could have taught like Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine in the segment “Peabody’s Improbable History” from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show. “Moose and Squirrel” said in my best Boris and Natashia accents. “Improbable History” seems to be anything taught by a blue voting, ‘woke’, ‘libtard’ teacher.

My dream course would pick serious issues facing the United States today and then, using my own form of the ‘Wayback Machine’, follow threads, tracing backwards to how these issues got to be issues and how they might be related…and avoided. Social justice, Civil Rights, Labor, lack of confidence in national institutions, war, etcetera kind of issues. Critical thinking kind of issues.

I don’t know. Some of these subjects I wouldn’t want to touch with a ten-foot Pole or a fifteen-foot Czech in today’s teaching climate. With our notorious lack of geography knowledge, I’m not sure how that joke will go over. Can you find the Czech Republic on a map? Poland? Iran? Iraq? I wouldn’t have wanted to teach them in today’s teaching climate but would have.

The fly in the ointment of my teaching history in reverse using critical thinking is the controversy created by all the propaganda directed at education and the teachers toiling within those ivy covered “enlightened” walls of “larning.” (larn is said as lard except with an ‘n’ instead of a ‘d’. That is so you know I ‘spelt’ it the way some say it down ‘heah’ in the “foothills of the Blue Ridge.”)

I’m sure if I suggested such a course, many people would think I had been abducted by woke aliens, brainwashed, and sent back to warp the minds of little Johnny and Jane. Not all parents, but enough to make teaching more of a challenge than it already is.

Down ‘heah’ in the heart of red voting America. Many parents (not all) and most politicians don’t want teachers to get too far past ‘readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic. Low paying jobs don’t require more than that and an educated voter base is counterproductive to certain politicians.

That is a problem with social studies in general and history in particular…at least in my mind. It is also a problem in a world which is controlled by technology and the people trained to operate it and, in our state, we don’t produce enough of those types of graduates.

Who, what (as in the event), and when is easy in history. You are simply memorizing facts, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts,” in my best Joe Friday voice. “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” kind of facts. The message boards and comment sections echo, “Just teach the facts, I don’t want ‘Little Johnny’ brainwashed by some Marxist spouting libtard teacher even if the facts I want taught are at best debatable or at worst wrong.” (In 1492…is about the only truism in Jean Marzollo’s poem)

My problem is the how, the why and sometimes the what. “How did this happen and why did it happen?” “What caused it to happen or did it cause some other event to occur.” “What effect did it have.” That goes far beyond ‘facts’ and can move into a debate.

For instance, are we still haunted by the Viet Nam and Cold War years? Who and when are easy but…what caused it, how did it happen, why did it happen, what effects are we still experiencing because it happened. I see many pungi sticks to be stepped on or armed ICBM’s ready to launch.

What about the Civil War? Remember, I taught in the Deep South. “The Lost Cause” is still “strong” and you know where we are headed from there. “Forget Hell.” Arguing the cause of the Civil War versus “The War of Northern Aggression” is likely to devolve into a fist fight.

Antebellum South v North to Civil War to Reconstruction to Jim Crow to Civil Rights to…oh shit. Except in my course, it would be oh shit to Civil Rights to Jim Crow…. I need to rethink this.

Well, there is good news. I’m retired. There will be no accusations of warping the minds of our youth. The ghosts of my classroom failures simply surround me, not the students themselves. The How’s, the What’s, the Why’s…those ghosts. I have deep regrets that I couldn’t have been more and taught in a way that would drive Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott out of his mind.

I don’t think I was a bad teacher; I just could have been better had I taught more the How’s, the What’s, the Why’s.

***

Don Miller taught history, social studies, and science for thirty-nine years and coached for forty-four years before retiring to the foothills of Blue Ridge with his wife Linda Porter-Miller to their hobby farm which has turned into a wildlife preserve in the middle of golf courses, gated communities, and gaudily attired cyclist. It was turned into a wildlife preserve due to the laziness of the retired folk who live there.

Don’s author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B018IT38GM?ingress=0&visitId=47ebc75a-d4b2-4d7f-8c81-2ada38516214&store_ref=ap_rdr&ref_=ap_rdr

There Must Be Something Better…The Protective Cup

A bit of baseball humor the first day of high school baseball tryouts in South Carolina.

There were no baseball cups at my high school in 1967 or 1968 or if there were, no one took any time to explain the need for one to me. Instead, we had a chest protector with an extension that hung down between our knees when we went into a squat. This chest protector probably had been acquired when catchers still set up ten or twelve feet behind the batter and caught the ball on a hop in the early 1900’s.

IT WAS AN ILLUSION OF PROTECTION! IT WAS A BELIEF IN A FALSE GOD!

Take a common household sponge and rest it against your face. Now let me uncork a baseball into it. Really, no one wants to do that. You know you are going to get a broken nose, black eye or lose some teeth. I should have known that a little extension, the thickness of a common household sponge, would not protect my little “floppies” but bought into the belief that if struck by a bounced pitch or foul tipped ball, the little boys would be ok. In other words, the seventeen-year-old me was A DUMMY!

Just so you know a foul tip on to a cup will still take your breath away. A foul tip to an unprotected man part will make you contemplate suicide to make the sickening pain stop. To quote a friend who had tried to cauterize a wound with a red-hot poker, “the pain was exquisite.” I knew exactly what she meant as I remembered a foul tip that bounced off the plate and up into my chest protector extension making solid contact with my man parts. One definition of exquisite is keen or intense. Yes, the pain was exquisite in its intensity and sharpness. It was also sickening to the point of regurgitation, and it wasn’t even a direct shot. Sick, Sick, Sick!

Strangely, somewhere in the small portion of my brain that was not dealing with pain receptors, I remember thinking, “Don’t grab them. Don’t grab them.” This I thought, despite the almost uncontrollable urge to do exactly that. “DON’T RUB IT! IT MIGHT SPIT AT YOU!” That was not likely to happen for a long, long while. Even today there still seems to be an unwritten rule that keeps a catcher, or any other player for that matter, who has just taken a hundred mile per hour shot directly off his cup, from grabbing his little danglies.

Sportscasters will skirt the issue by saying, anything other than “OOOOh, he just took one off the nads!” Well, Bob Uecker might but Curt Gowdy would say something; like “…a glancing blow to the groin” or “he has just got the air knocked out of him” as the poor catcher was being led stiff legged into the dugout for an “equipment adjustment.” As the replay unwinds, over and over, you can almost hear the collective intake of breath as millions of male baseball fans react to an event that we are all too familiar with.

Just in case you are ever in a sports trivia contest, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench holds the dubious career record for broken cups, seven. From someone who knows the truth, this should be one of his least coveted records.

Historical note: According to the Baseball Book by SI, the first protective cup was worn by Claude Berry in 1915 while catching for the Pittsburgh Rebels. Protective baseball helmets were not required until 1971. We now know which head was most important.

Don Miller’s writings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Flipping Rocks, Looking for Snakes

“Turn over enough rocks you are bound to find a snake.”- Don Miller

My first real memory as a child is of a late spring/early summer Sunday family gathering. I distinctly remember little boy dress shorts, a dress shirt featuring a little boy bow tie, and colorful socks disappearing into my little boy shoes. It had to be Sunday and I couldn’t have been more than four or five.

Doing my best to be seen and not heard, I sat on a large rock in my grandparents’ front yard watching the adults being seen and heard. My biggest desire was to avoid being chastised for doing something wrong on the Lord’s Day and keeping my Sunday Best clean. I failed. I kept my clothes clean but did get chastised and it has corrupted my views on rocks since.

I saw my grandmother headed my way. There was a purpose in her step, and I briefly wondered what wrong I had committed and forgotten about. It turned out I was doing it, simply sitting on a rock.

Nannie exclaimed, “Boy, don’t sit on that rock. You don’t know, there might be a snake laying under it.”

I remember jumping up as if I had been shocked and becoming really shocked when the rock was moved, to find old Charlie No Shoulders was in fact lurking beneath me. Shocked and forever warped when it comes to rocks hiding snakes.

I can’t tell you how many rocks I have moved, first flipping them to make sure a snake wasn’t hiding beneath it, before carrying it to its new location. I don’t know how many times I heard my grandmother’s voice explaining, “You know there might be a snake laying under it.” I do know, since that day, I have yet to find another snake laying under a rock. Yet I still look.

This memory reminds me of today’s society and all the perceived ills that go with it. How much of our divisiveness as a nation, as a world, is due to social media, news sites, politicians, influencers, provocateurs, and opinionators flipping over rocks looking for snakes. If you flip enough rocks you are bound to find a snake or in today’s world, search hard and long enough, you are going to find something to support your particular cognitive dissonance.

If you find your snake, does this make your dissonance true? No.

I’ve never understood how the “exception proves the rule” but I do understand “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” If I take bite after bite of pudding and it taste like banana pudding, even to the point of bananas and vanilla wafers being present, I should rightly believe it is banana pudding. The opposite should also be true because the lack of proof is in the eating.

It is the same with flipping rocks. You may assume there are snakes under every rock, but one snake doesn’t make it true that there are snakes under every rock.

What is my point? I see fingers pointing at educators maligning their “wokeism”, using descriptors like brainwashing. indoctrination, groomers, and accusations of teaching Critical Race Theory or its close kin, racist Marxism…that was tongue in cheek. Is there any truth to this finger pointing? Of course. Under some rocks there are teachers doing just that. Is that proof that the vast majority are? No. Most rocks have no teachers teaching anything other than what they are supposed to. The proof is not if certain aspects of CRT find their way into your curriculum. because some will.

I am a retired teacher who primarily, among other courses, taught history. I even used CRT when I taught science. That would be a cathode ray tube. Not funny?

I hope I used certain aspects of Critical Race Theory when I taught history. Blasphemous you say. Woke liberal! (Probably, at least left leaning and I can spell empathetic, and I am alert to injustice and discrimination in society). Groomer? (No, I need a beard and hair trim right now.) Indoctrinator (If it is about historical truth, yes. Yes, I am…if indoctrinator is a word.) Brainwashing (I wouldn’t know where to begin).

Historical truth? Do we teach it, or do we gloss over those uncomfortable areas? I believe that if I were teaching the period from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights era truthfully, I would find it impossible not to teach something that was in line with CRT or the recent Florida ban on teaching Advanced Placement African American Studies. I’d like to point out AP European History and AP Japanese Culture and History are still allowed in Florida. Am I looking for bigots under every rock? No, just in the Florida Governor’s mansion.

Does teaching that millions of African Americans left the South to travel North only to find ‘de jure’ segregation mean I’m teaching CRT? No, but I wonder if I would still find myself under the scrutiny of the Anti-Woke police if I taught redlining, a discriminatory practice in which services (financial and otherwise) are withheld from potential customers who reside in neighborhoods classified as “hazardous”. Could I be hauled off to where left leaning teachers are held prisoner if I dare teach that in 1923 a white mob razed a thriving black community in Rosewood, Florida.  What if I dared to use the words “White Flight” when discussing cities in the late Sixties and Seventies?

I hear many of my right leaning friends say, “Just teach the facts.” I agree but what happens when you move past “who, what, and when” to “how and why?” How do I answer questions like “How or Why did Rosewood occur?” “Why was redlining used to segregate communities?” Answering questions like this will certainly require a teacher to toe a thin line.

I think a certain right leaning political group has created buzz words to send their minions on a crusade to look under rocks for snakes that don’t exist. Certainly, a few do, but that there is a nationwide cabal of educators attempting to indoctrinate your kids is propaganda from the right… unless it is to do their homework or treat their classmates with respect. Is making students aware of certain warts in history really indoctrinating or brainwashing them? I suggest if you have concerns, take the time to look at your state’s teaching standards or drop by your child’s class. I know it is much easier just to pass on the propaganda.

So, Nannie. Once again you taught me a lesson that has stayed with me through the years. I’m just not sure what kind of lesson. I won’t know until I find a rock with a snake under it.

***

It should be noted that history has shown that authoritarians target education in general and teachers in particular. It is a goal of authoritarian leaders to silence the intellectuals. Hitler’s concentration camps, Stalin’s gulags, and Pol Pot’s Reeducation camps were full of teachers, intellectuals, artists, novelists, musicians, and the other educated deemed to be menaces to their policies. There are reasons why schools are taken over by authoritarian governments. This is how future citizens should learn to think for themselves after all. Education that focuses on research and finding truth is scary for authoritarians. Or, as a former president once stated, “I love the uneducated.”

***

Don Miller writes in multiple genres. His latest novel is a fictional historical novel that focuses on The Great Depression and the labor unrest it triggered in the South in 1934. The novel is “Thunder Along the Copperhead” and may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BJYQ3SSV

Demons Among Us

“They are not demons, not devils…

Worse than that.

They are people.”

Andrzej Sapkowski, Wieża Jaskółki

There are demons among us. The worst of these are those who would have you believe they are angels. Demons with fake angel wings instead of “wolves in sheep’s’ clothing.” Demons dressed in suits or suit dresses, welding their power over us. They are about to ruin my love for the horror genre…and my country.

MTG easing into the day, contemplating her next mischief

I love the horror genre…especially those with demons. Not slasher movies, I’ll explain why later. I do give a nod to the original “Halloween.” Demons don’t get any more malevolent than Mikey in his Captain Kirk mask.

I was hooked when Reagan MacNeil in “The Exorcist” brought new meaning to the term “projectile vomit” and laughed as the Pillsbury Doughboy did his Godzilla impersonation in “Ghostbusters.”

Present day its Paramount’s “Evil” with its horrifying yet humorous portrayal of demons being pursued by a Priest, a non-believing psychologist, and non-believing Muslim techy. “Good Omens” featuring an angel and a demon joining forces to save the world from the Apocalypse caught my interest too. Seems the unlikely pair found common ground. The secular world held their desire more than the post Apocalypse. A glass of a good wine with a meal in a swanky French restaurant beats hellfire and brimstone every time. It seems humor as much as horror dictates my viewing choices.

Latest Republican backroom meeting (a scene from “Evil”)

Even without humor, horror movies and TV programming do not scare me as much as the real world around me. Horror movies are not real. I know that. The January 6th riots were real and horrific, as real to me today as two years ago. Demons residing in the hearts of men…that’s real. There is no humor…that’s real.

Demons in the guise of angels defending what happened on that day and receiving top committee assignments in the new Congress. Demons laughing in our face.

Demons 2021, horns and all

According to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, “A demon is a malevolent supernatural entity. Historically, belief in demons, or stories about demons, occurs in religion, occultism, literature, fiction, mythology, and folklore; as well as in media such as comics, video games, movies, anime, and television series.”

The belief in demons has been around as long as humans have been unable to explain the evil they encountered. The fear of being possessed by demons seems to be a common thread in most religions as if evil can’t be found in the hearts of mere men without possession.

Even the evil minions attempt to blame demon possession. David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam, is the most well-known example of a serial killer blaming a demon for their actions. He claimed possession by the demon possessing his neighbor’s dog, Sam. If Berkowitz had had a jury of QAnon followers, he would have beaten the rap.

Many believe that certain evils had to be perpetrated by a minion of the devil that had taken over some poor unsuspecting soul. It couldn’t be just man’s inhumanity to man. How can you rationally explain Berkowitz and an estimated thirty to fifty serial killers operating in the US at any given time? This is why I don’t like slasher movies and worry my enjoyment of horror will be diminished because the real world is becoming scarier. Too real…too close to the truth…demons walk among us.

As dangerous as serial killers are, I don’t fear them as much as those possessed into thinking they are doing good when they are not and that their way is the only way to save the world…or at least to make America great again.

Satan’s Demon Trinity

“Never trust a demon. He has a hundred motives for anything he does … Ninety-nine of them, at least, are malevolent.” ―  Neil Gaiman, The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes

As I watched our politics in “inaction“ for the last few weeks, I think of the above quote. Our political system has been taken over by malevolent demons…at least those fifteen or twenty on the far right who seem determined to hold our country ransom. They must be possessed, there can be no other explanation.

Vestiges of the Tea Party, or their minions, made a deal with Kevin McCarty and maybe the devil too. I’m sure there are some demons on the far left but Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to be possessed…oh wait, the right believes “The Squad” is possessed and Nancy and Adam are devils incarnate…Lilith and Lucifer? Too high an accolade?

Once, during election leadups, those running for office attempted to pass themselves off as angels only concerned with the needs of their constituents, their silken, gossamer white wings spread wide, halos brightly polished to a blinding shine to ensure their followers couldn’t see their demon horns. Quickly they trade their angel regalia for those resembling a Dark Ages gargoyle as soon as they enter the hallowed halls of government.

I’m not sure that is true today. Many were gargoyle like from the beginning and were elected or reelected nonetheless. This scares me even more. How else do you explain Jim Jordan in shirt sleeves bellowing into a microphone. We have people blind to their demon’s malevolence…which makes me wonder about their own possession.

A Green Jim Jordan. I cut off his horns.

Maybe I’m being too dark. Maybe instead of little demons and devils I should start watching some Zombie programing…” The Walking Dead” or “iZombie.” Wait there are parallels there too, “Brains, I must have Brains!!!” Fine, but I doubt you will find any in the hallowed halls of Congress. Especially the right-side of the aisle.

***

Point: The notion that gargoyles were demonic was introduced in “The Horn of Vapula” (Lewis Spence, 1932), in which a demon familiar becomes a horned and goatlike gargoyle. Prior to this time gargoyles were thought to be protection against demons.

If you are a fan of “Ghostbusters” (1984) you also know that gargoyles appear as horned canine statues in the movie where they are possessed by the demonic spirits of Zuul and Vinz Klortho.

Point Two: While there is much to wish for regardless of party, I believe the Grand Old Party has sold its soul to the Devil.

To access Don Miller’s Authors Page, click on the following: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Never Turn Down Dessert

“Life is short, eat dessert first.” –Unknown

Two and a half years ago I sat at a little “choke and puke” joint. I don’t remember which one. I have several on my list of places to eat. I just remembered warm cherry cobbler and vanilla ice cream a-la-mode were on the menu. I remember turning down the opportunity. “Man, I’m tighter than a tick on a fat dog. Don’t think I could eat another bite.” I wish I had. Lessons learned.

It would be approximately two years after the beginning of the Covid shutdowns before I got the opportunity to have dessert out again. There were several people who I would be unable to have dessert with after this period. I lost no close family members, but I did lose several close friends.

I didn’t have to wait that long; I could have rolled the dice. Others did with varying degrees of success. I just decided I checked too many of the bad boxes on my list of life to take the chance. As many of my peers and family members came down with the disease, I was sure I had made the right decision.

I know, an ice cream truck could drive through my house just as easily, dropkicking me through those pearly goalposts of life…probably not. Do you know how unlucky I would be to be sitting in my recliner and finding myself headed to my just desserts because a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream truck drove through my wall. “When it is your time, it is your time.”

As many were laid to rest, too many that I personally knew, I wondered, “Did they turn down that last dessert?”

I didn’t NOT have dessert for two years; I just didn’t go to my familiar haunts to have dessert. That BBQ place where dessert is an extra helping of fried okra, the taco place that features key lime pie to go with the fish and shrimp tacos, the cherry cobbler I turned down two and a half years ago at the “choke and puke.” I didn’t sit across from a friend, laughing at his jokes while I wrapped my tongue around a cherry.

For some reason, take out wasn’t the same. I remember sitting outside of my local taco “go to” waiting for the mask covered little waitress to bring out my fish tacos. I remember how they had turned into a yucky mess by the time I got them home. I had to eat them with a fork and having to “miracle” wave didn’t help. Who eats a taco with a fork? I’m guessing the key lime might have ended up the same way had I ordered it.

There is more to life than yucky tacos. I’m lucky I thought, I survived to eat dessert again. Several of my friends won’t have that opportunity. I don’t know when my days will be over, but I assure you, I will not turn down dessert again.

Note: Two and a half years of being careful, wearing masks and washing our hands, two Covid shots and three boosters later, both my wife and I came down with Covid. It was mild and we have both recovered. I ate banana pudding as soon as I stepped out of my self-inflicted quarantine.

If you are interested in reading any more of Don Miller’s works, go to https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

Call the Bomb Squad, it’s 2023

“There has never been a ‘New Year’ that has managed to become ‘new’ if the mistakes of the old years are repeated!”

― Mehmet Murat ildan

I’m not going to touch 2023 with a ten-foot pole unless the bomb squad says it is okay. A change in the House leadership, threats of retribution for perceived liberal evils, charges looming against a former president, Hunter’s laptop…and House leadership walking the halls of Congress with a gallon of gasoline and a Zippo. I hope that is metaphorical.

For the past six years I have had hopes that we would turn ourselves around as humans and strive to make the principles this country was founded on a reality. Well, enough about the ridiculous and on to the sublime.  The sublime of course, is me.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I have an affliction like Midas’ golden touch except instead of gold, my touch creates gooey, stinky, piles of cow poo.

After reading my posts from the past five or six New Years I’ve decided the New Year is a little like Monty Hall’s “Let’s Make a Deal” with a twist. Instead of “My whole life lies waitin’ behind Door Number Three” it is Door Number 2023, My choices are a smelly Billy goat, Uncle Cletus’ dirty underwear, or a live bomb.1 Should I mention the three wires leading to the bomb are all black?

I had great hopes 2022 would reverse the trend I have noticed since I began writing in 2014. That would be both personally and politically. Instead, 2022 started badly and finished worse with a few ups and many downs in between.

From the January 6th insurrection to a positive Covid test over Thanksgiving and what was characterized as a Covid carryover of vertigo and nausea on Christmas Day, 2022 has been circling the toilet for a while and refusing to flush. If I look closely, I see the ghosts of New Years past circling too. Seems little has changed. I’m a bit worried about what New Year’s Eve might bring.

As I reread my New Year’s posts, they followed similar pig trails. Lamentations of broken resolutions, self-reflection on why they were broken before listing the hopes I have for the next New Year. Hopes and dreams that quickly turn into pipe dreams, fantasies, or will-‘o-the wisp mirages.

I think my depression has taken hold. Thank goodness the daylight hours are lengthening.

Rather than choosing to avoid making resolutions, I’ve decided this year to use the “Kiss” principle. “Keep it simple stupid,” the old naval design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960 that I attempted to model as a coach…. I was 13 and 27 as a varsity head football coach. I’m already rethinking that choice.

So here it is, my resolution for 2023. “Ta…ta…ta-taaaaa.” Do one positive thing daily, other than getting out of bed in the morning. That is as simple as I can make it. I mean aren’t the chances good that I’ll do something positive whether I’m trying or not? I do take daily showers, that’s positive, right? I know, it’s like giving up calf liver for Lent, something I give up the remainder of the year too.

Happy New Year, Friends. To you I make this toast, “May the New Year bring you courage to break your resolutions early! My own plan is to swear off every kind of virtue so that I triumph even when I fall!” – Aleister Crowley

1The game show referenced earlier was “Let’s Make a Deal.” Created and hosted by Monty Hall, it premiered in 1963 and featured crazy people with signs, in crazy dress hoping to get Monty’s attention and a chance at the brass ring. The ending segment pitted a previous winner who was given the choice of trading their winnings for prizes of varying worth located behind one of three doors, one featuring a prize of worth, a car possibly, the others not so much.

The song “Door Number Three” referenced with the reframe, “My Whole World Lies Waiting Behind Door Number Three” was a song written by Steve Goodwin in 1975 and most famously performed by Jimmy Buffett on his A1A album. The tune is now circling my brain like 2022 circled the toilet. So, with the video below you can join in along with Monty Hall and the crazies from “Let’s Make a Deal.” Make sure you watch till the end.

Further readings by Don Miller may be found at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

I Still Don’t Understand What’s So Bad About Kwanzaa

“For families across the country, today marks the beginning of a joyous time to reflect on the rich African-American culture and to remember the principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith—principles that reflect our most cherished values as Americans.” — Barack Obama

I originally shared a similar post in 2015. Once again, I made the mistake of reading some of the comments made about Kwanzaa from some of our news sources. Little has changed it seems, so I decided to rewrite and share again.

Kwanzaa is racist. It is contrived. SOME PEOPLE are trying to replace Christmas. The founder was a Sixties’ black militant felon with ties to the Black Power Movement and not even African. Most of these arguments are made by very “hard right” publications like…well all of them. Or made by internet trolls on liberal or middle of the road news sites.

Is St. Patrick’s Day racist? It’s no longer a religious celebration I would say. Is Cinco de Mayo racist? It celebrates a great Mexican victory over the French…Mexico for the most part doesn’t celebrate it. There are dozens of other ethnocultural celebrations, mostly white celebrations, so why pick on Kwanzaa? Are our racist petticoats still showing?

Kwanzaa is contrived. All holidays are contrived. When Adam and Eve were created or our forefathers learned to walk on two feet, did they have a holiday to celebrate? I don’t think so. I don’t know when the celebration of Christmas first occurred. Well, I do. I also know there was no biblical mandate to celebrate the Birth of Christ at all.

Emperor Constantine first mandated the celebration of Christmas on December 25 in 336AD. Constantine didn’t know when Jesus was born. No one knows and Constantine did it as much as a political move as a religious one. Does that detract from its importance? While Christmas was celebrated in the colonies before John Smith raised a glass of eggnog, it didn’t become a national holiday in the US until 1870. Contrived? Made up? Well, the date is.

Again, why are we picking on Kwanzaa? If you are going to pick on a contrived holiday pick on St. Valentine’s Day. The former religious celebration has become an observance of guilt for the purpose of lining the pockets of candy makers, jewelers, and florists.

Kwanzaa begins on December 26 and ends January 1 and is not a religious celebration at all. It is a celebration of family, community, nation, and race and doesn’t compete with Christmas or the dozen other year end or New Year celebrations. Why not pick on them?

I cannot deny that Kwanzaa’s founder, Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett) was a Sixties Black Power militant, who at the time had never set foot in Africa. Let’s remember this is an African American celebration celebrating African culture, not an African celebration celebrating African culture. He did serve time on felony charges and was paroled in the mid Seventies. His time in prison was well spent. He is now Dr. Karenga and taught African Studies which I guess makes him even worse…a liberal.

The Sixties were a time of social strife. Civil Rights, the War in Viet Nam, gender inequality, the Native American movement, and the Chicano movement were just some of the social issues championed by people like Cassius Clay, known to us now as Muhammad Ali, or Tommie Smith’s and Juan Carlos’s Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics.

Kwanzaa was “contrived” just two years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and just two years before the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. African Americans might be forgiven for wanting something positive to hang on to…and still might.

Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 to be the first pan-African holiday. Karenga said his goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holidays and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”

Kwanzaa is inspired by African “first fruit” traditions, and the name chosen is from Swahili, “matunda ya kwanza.” The rituals of the holiday promote African traditions and Nguzo Saba, the “seven principles of African Heritage” that Karenga described as “a communitarian African philosophy”. Thank you, Wikipedia

Those seven principles are: Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Radical?

To say it is not African is absurd. There are over fifty countries in Africa and some three thousand tribal units. Many of the countries did not exist at the time Africans were being shipped to the New World. Each tribe has a different culture. Kwanzaa is a blending of those cultures. Many African Americans do not have the luxury of knowing the country or tribe of their origin, so Kwanzaa is not culture specific. Whoopsie doo dah! I would say celebrate to your heart’s content and if you don’t…quietly go about business.

If you would wish to learn more about Kwanzaa, History.com, connected to the History Channel, has a link: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/kwanzaa-history you might want to visit. I would say “Don’t let the facts confuse you.”

When Peace Had a Chance-The Christmas Truce of 1914

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

On Christmas Eve, 1914, The Great War was still in its preliminary stages. Three more Christmas Eves and most of another year would pass before the guns of “The War to End All Wars” would fall silent in November of 1918.

Late in the evening on a dark and gloomy Christmas Eve 1914…in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the First World War, an odd occurrence happened, briefly peace broke out. It came to be called the Christmas Truce. It remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history.

British troops had spent six months fighting the Germans. In a part of Belgium called Bois de Ploegsteert, the British who crouched in a trench that stretched just three feet deep by three feet wide heard German troops singing Christmas Carols.

In the darkness, some of the British soldiers began to sing back and before you say, “Dash away all”, German and British soldiers were meeting in the middle of no man’s land among the barbed wire and shell holes, not to kill each other, but for a moment, to share a bit of peace and good will toward men, even their enemies.

According to journals written on both sides, there were handshakes and words of kindness. The soldiers traded songs, tobacco, and wine, joining in a spontaneous holiday party in the chilly night. According to accounts, small trees were adorned with candles.

Other accounts tell that there were impromptu cease fires all along the front involving British, French, Belgian, and German troops. On the Eastern Front, Austrian, German, and Russian troops participated but on a smaller scale.

For six months the warring factions had experienced great hardships and tribulation. For a brief time, they put the death, mud, homesickness, and poor food behind them.

In a diary, British rifleman, J. Reading, wrote, “Later on in the day they came towards us, and our chaps went out to meet them…I shook hands with some of them, and they gave us cigarettes and cigars. We did not fire (a shot) that day, and everything was so quiet it seemed like a dream.”

Another British soldier, named John Ferguson, recalled it this way: “Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!”

The strangest of the strange, a soccer ball appeared, and a soccer match involving hundreds began.  German Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch of the 134 Saxons Infantry, a schoolteacher who spoke both English and German, also described a pick-up soccer game in his diary. “Eventually the English brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued,” he wrote. “How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.”

Not everyone was happy. Both German and British High Command were horrified when the news of the truce found its way into the newspapers. Any further celebrations were banned, and the Christmas Truce of 1914 would not be repeated. Instead, armies would go about doing what they do best, killing themselves in horrific numbers. Some fifteen million would shed their life blood before the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918.

Unless you are involved or have family and friends involved, I think for our own sanity we see wars being fought with game pieces instead of flesh and bone human beings. The Christmas Truce of 1914 should remind us, war is not fought with “forces” but with humans. Christmas should remind us that we are all members of humanity, and that peace should reign. There is nothing humane about war.

To all who read this, and those that don’t. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Pray that those in places of power give peace a chance. Pray that we love and attempt to understand our fellow man. Tidings of peace and good will toward all men and women.

Thanks to the History Channel for providing most of my information and my images.

Don Miller’s newest fictional novel is “Thunder Along the Copperhead.” An action romance that takes place during the Great Depression, with the backdrop of prohibition and textile strife. It can be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/stores/Don-Miller/author/B018IT38GM?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

The Vet Ride to Adulthood

“Adulthood is like the vet, and we’re all the dogs that were excited for the car ride until we realized where we’re going.”  Unknown

“If someone gave you a box that contained everything you had lost in your life, what would you look for first?”

What an interesting question. A plethora of pig trails to travel and rabbit holes to fall into. A bit of self-reflection? Let’s see where this goes.

My first thoughts were of lost loved ones. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, old friends. My first puppy dog, Caesar. Surely, I didn’t name him that. Did I? Everyone who would know is lost to the sands of time like him.

I’m not sure that was my first thought. I think just before thinking about lost loved ones I might have humorously thought, “My Mind.” Maybe not so humorously for someone who suffers from depression. I certainly haven’t lost any of “those” negative thoughts that usually come around this time of year. My thoughts can often be dark and gray…somewhat like the weather I’m experiencing presently. Yeah, I might look for my mind first.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. The Superman slingshot powered glider. Man could that thing fly. “Up, Up and Away” in my best George Reeves voice…right into the top of the persimmon tree never to be seen again.  That might be the first time I experienced a real, gut-wrenching loss. I don’t guess it was lost; I imagine it was still in the tree when Hurricane Hugo took it and the tree to planet Krypton decades later.

My Captain Midnight Decoder Ring? How much Ovaltine did I have to drink to get one of those? I lost my college ring too. Drinking Ovaltine was much more fun than all the knowledge I drank up to earn the college ring.

Further ridiculousness, my virginity? Right. Truth be known I would have liked to have lost it sooner rather than when I did. Yes, lose my virginity sooner and my hair later.

Lost opportunities. Wow, those are too numerous to list. Every time I turn around in my mind, I run smack into one. Other times they form a chorus in my head. So much discord.

Okay, I’ve figured it out. I knew my pig trails would lead somewhere. “Taaa, taaa, ta, taaa!” My childhood. The first thing I would look for would be my childhood. Those wonderful years between my first awareness that I was a living person and my teenage years when my brain function flatlined. The years when we thought we were Peter Pan before Captain Hook showed us differently. When Decoder Rings meant something…well before the college ring and the sheepskin that went with it.

Those early years when the worst thing facing me was cutting the front yard or hoeing out row centers in the garden. When an eight-ounce Coke and a bag of Lance peanuts were the nectar of the gods and cartoons were still broadcast on Saturday mornings. Along with Sky King, Roy Rogers, and The Lone Ranger of course. Those years when a Schwinn Torpedo would take you anywhere you needed to go.

Chores completed, there were late afternoon trips to the river and the ponds around us. Fresh caught fish breaded in cornbread and onion hush puppies frying in Crisco and bacon grease. A time when I had never heard the word cholesterol much less worried about it.

I mean, there were responsibilities…you didn’t grow up around a farm without responsibilities, but many of them didn’t feel like responsibilities and there was still time to play lawman and desperado using corn cobs as weapons. When it was still okay to play Cowboys and Indians or War. ..little plastic soldier giving their all to defend the American way.

Pick up baseball games in the backyard. Football games on Sunday after church in the front yard. When you didn’t know that childhood would end.

Yeah, I’d look for my childhood first thing because if I were to find my childhood, I would find all those meaningful things I have lost and lose all those nasty responsibilities and the baggage I have toted around since I recovered from my brain-dead teenage years.

Adulthood is never what you thought it would be, and Peter Pan had the right idea. “Never grow up, it is a trap.”

“Adulthood is like looking both ways before you cross the street and then getting hit by an airplane.” –Unknown

Don Miller’s Author’s Page – https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3oKgS2EezOMSilHwClD1YNXUSuNkDrshhl1NqxJE3BoDwfxl_1kMtR6QU

Thanksgiving Blessings? It Could Be Worse.

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”-Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

It is easy to be depressed on Thanksgiving, 2022…or lately any Thanksgiving this decade. Then I think about my Native American brethren and realize that it has been a rough two and a half centuries for them. I don’t know who thought celebrating Native American Heritage Month in the same month as the Native American National Day of Mourning, aka Thanksgiving, was a great idea. Regardless, President Bush signed it into law in 1990.

While I identify with my Native American blood brothers, there are reasons to celebrate and be thankful.

I’m thankful that a (cisgender) veteran attended Club Q in Colorado Springs. They were celebrating Transgender Remembrance Day, a day to remember those lost to violence against or suicide. With the help of a Drag Queen in high heels, they were able to limit the death and destruction that claimed five lives, taking down a shooter armed with a “long gun” and pistol.  I am also thankful for the darkly humorous image of a Drag Queen dressed in his/her finery dancing on the murderer’s head in stiletto heels. Too soon? There is a reason they are called “stiletto” heels.

I’m also thankful that the veteran and his family were at a Queer venue celebrating people who have, for a too long, been considered the others by others who don’t believe people outside of the “box” deserve such basic rights as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I’m sorry they lost their daughter’s boyfriend to the carnage. I’m also sorry that the best we can offer to the families and friends of those lost in the previous seven hundred or so mass shootings this year is thoughts and prayers.

I would like to be thankful for the absence of hatred in the world but instead will celebrate an Iranian men’s soccer team who stood in mute solidarity protesting the treatment of Iranian women at home as their national anthem played at the World Cup and the English team who knelt during theirs supporting social justice for all. The American team did nothing but tie with Wales. Sorry American right-wingers, nothing for you to ridicule and celebrate against. I’m thankful for that too.

These are going to sound like a litany of “hurray for me and the hell with everyone else” and they might be.

I’m thankful that despite inflation numbers and high gas and food prices, I’m doing okay. I have money in the bank and a retirement. I’m thankful inflation will correct itself, eventually. I am thankful that despite gas prices, I will make the road trip to my family’s gathering instead of being sequestered during a pandemic. I’m also unhappy that because of the road trip I will not have the opportunity to sample any brown liquor.

I’m thankful I haven’t lost any family members or friends recently to the pandemic and pray that the building “triple threat” burns itself out quickly.

I’m thankful that I recently came through my yearly bank of physicals and am in “fine fiddle “although with Afib, the fiddle might be a bit out of tune. There are many my age who are not as healthy. I’m thankful I look so much younger than those my age. LOL.

I’m thankful I am sitting in an airish old farmhouse with heat and electricity and a running refrigerator with food in it. I could gripe about the price of electricity, but I could also be sitting in a cold and dark Ukrainian flat as missiles and artillery shells rain down.

I’m thankful I’m not on a dusty South American road trekking to gain asylum in a country that doesn’t seem to want me despite the quote on the Statue of Liberty,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
― Emma Lazarus

I’m thankful for a family to visit over Thanksgiving and celebrate memories of family members no longer with us. So many folks had less than the childhood I lived. I was truly blessed.

I’m thankful for and proud of my immediate family.

My rock Linda Gail, I can’t contemplate a world without you. The fact we found each other makes me believe there actually is a God.

Ashley and Justin. I am proud of the people you are and the parents you are. I still think you’ve too many irons in the fire. You are wonderful, rocks in your own right.

Kate and Nolan, you are both heart breakers. I’m so proud of your confidence and fearlessness…some of your fearlessness causes my heart to stop but if you survive, it will serve you well.

Steve and Rebecca, I’m proud to call you brother and sister-in-law. I live much of my life vicariously through you…so you went to Folly Beach, did you? I just committed the sin of envy.

Joyce, I’m thankful you treated me much like the son you never had, and for keeping me tied to home, and with it, my mother, and my grandmother.

Kim, Lynn, and Terri, thanks for being the sisters I never had and like your mother, tying me to my home that once existed along a dusty dirt road.

Bob, thanks for being Lynn’s rock, I know it is a challenge.

Lawrence and Stephanie, I’m thankful you have the family you always wanted and am proud to call you kin.

Hawk, I consider you family. Thanks for being there buddy, and thanks for your perspective on the world and God…I don’t necessarily agree but perspectives are like M&M’s, assorted colors, and flavors.

Lynn C, thanks for letting me bounce ideas off your head and your support. Glad we reconnected after such a long time.

I am quite blessed it seems…and I almost forgot. Quigley and Cora, thanks for your unconditional love and the puppy kisses I receive despite knowing where your tongues have been.

To all my friends, known and unknown, especially those of you who take time to read these, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. To my family, Happy Thanksgiving.

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Postscript

This was written before the murder of six people at a Walmart in Virginia and the suicide of their murderer. Seven-gun deaths means it is jusanother day in America and I refuse to send empty thoughts and prayers.

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Don Miller’s most recent releases is the historical fiction “Thunder Along the Copperhead” and the nonfiction “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes.” Both may be purchased in paperback or downloaded on Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0LGf5HUb84nQnPB-sFQF7KaqSOW6sGsSSu1_ltf1FuWh1Wj2nSIad1uYQ