Emotional Rescue #3: Remembering John McCain, Ohio State Football, 100 Essential Albums, and Geographical Prejudice
Today is Sunday, August 26th, 2018. The scattershooting begins….
Sen. John McCain died yesterday.
Although expected somewhat, this was still sad news. However, the somber occasion did produce a silver lining. I was pleased to see such an outpouring of love and sympathy for McCain. Praise has come from virtually all sides of the political spectrum. I viewed most of these expressions of human kindness as sincere. That’s not always the case when someone dies, especially when it’s a controversial political leader.
Readers might be surprised to learn that I supported (and even volunteered to work for) John McCain’s first presidential campaign, back in 2000. At the time, McCain was widely considered a maverick politician. He frequently broke ranks from his own party in an effort to get things done. McCain often worked closely with political rivals. This was born purely out of pragmatism. That’s because compromise was and remains absolutely essential to getting things funneled through the murky maze and granite gauntlet of Congress. Back then, “compromise” wasn’t such a dirty word.
How far we’ve fallen since then.
Come to think of it, McCain was the last Republican I voted for on a national level (he ran in the 2000 Republican primaries, and lost). McCain was my preference because within him I sensed the chance to really shake up the corrupt two-party system. I remember all too well the disgustingly dirty campaign ran against him by George W. Bush and pretty much the entire Republican establishment which baited voters with deceptive push polls and subtle hints of racism (Evidence: Read up on the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina). Sickened by what I witnessed, that’s one of the many reasons I bolted the Republican Party — for good.
Unfortunately, my support for the maverick turned out to be folly, at least in part. McCain’s most disappointing period occurred eight years later when he abandoned his independent identity in a hopeless effort to cuddle up to social conservatives who had purged the party of moderates. McCain, who’d been pro-choice throughout his career as a legislator, suddenly flip-flopped and became anti-choice. He also discarded one of his own greatest legislative achievements — campaign finance reform. McCain even hoisted the abomination that was Sarah Palin upon a nation, seriously damaging his own credibility in a shameless effort to get elected at any cost. It became a Faustian bargain he lost.
Yet during this disgraceful abandonment of personal principle, in this very midst of his failed 2008 presidential run, McCain at least in one memorable moment of human decency stood up to the brainless bigots who by that time had overrun the Republican Party. Some dimwit woman representative of the sick political psychopathy that would later spawn into Donald Trump’s campaign stood up at a rally to speak and was utterly humiliated in front of the entire nation when McCain seized the microphone and politely told her to sit down and shut the fuck up while she was rambling on about Barack Obama secretly being “a Muslim.” Okay, so McCain didn’t actually say those words exactly, but his facial expression and body language made it abundantly clear he’d had enough of the gross stupidity. When it mattered, McCain did the right thing.
McCain’s voting record certainly left a lot to be desired. Ironically, however, it was the Arizona senator who, in a moment of clarity and consciousness, voted to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and in the process saved thousands of lives. No one can quite be sure if five-time draft-dodger Donald Trump’s grotesque insult of McCain, diminishing the former POW’s five years of agony in a North Vietnam prison, early in the 2016 presidential campaign had anything to do later on with the dramatic thumbs-down vote we all remember happening on the Senate floor at 2 am. McCain’s thumbs-down vote killed the effort by Trump and Republicans to gut Obamacare. While it may have been a thumb, in reality, McCain’s courageous gesture it was a middle finger straight at Trump.
McCain, the maverick, was back again — one last time.
Whether Republican or Democrat or hopefully something else new, we could certainly use more McCains, today. Flawed — yes. Inconsistent — absolutely. Sinful — certainly. Misguided — of course. Unscrupulous — to a fault. Wrong on most issues — no doubt.
Truly an American hero — 100 percent.
Earlier this week on Facebook, I promised to write a short piece about Randy Collack and relay the contents of a conversation I had with him at a bar recently. Allow me to fulfill that promise here and now.
Bars are not the typical reservoir of enlightenment, but living in Las Vegas and hanging out with gamblers much of the time, you accrue insight whenever and wherever you can get it.
Randy, a combative but wise fellow was sitting alone at that same bar, nursing a martini, but it could just as easily have been a shot of bourbon with an ice cube. Maybe it was a beer.
I’ve since forgotten how exactly we each came to arrive at that bar like two rushing bulls anticipating an inevitable collision. Randy and I have clashed very often on Facebook (his fault entirely for not agreeing with me), but we rarely lock horns face-to-face. This chance encounter provided a rare opportunity to slay the unwieldy beast. Or so I thought.
Randy seemed to be talking to no one in particular, sort of like his many Facebook posts where the whole world could conceivably be his audience, or perhaps no one at all, turning some low hanging red meatfruit into an elaborate bitchfest like you see from the guy in the street corner waving a pamphlet. This time, Randy was upset about the head football coach at The Ohio State University getting away with something, or other. What Randy was saying precisely wasn’t all that important. Often how he says it or writes it is far, far, far more entertaining than any actual content. I don’t often have an opinion about college football, other than I hate it, but listening to Randy go off on whatever his target happens to be that can can be wildly entertaining. It’s the proverbial train running off a cliff. It’s the overflowing toilet. You can’t peel your eyes away.
Okay, enough of the warm-up. Now, on to the Ohio State meatfruit.
Earlier this week, the coach of the football team of that football factory university (Auburn North) was suspended for three whole games. Apparently, the head guy knew about — yet did nothing about — one of his assistant coaches, who was involved in a serious case of domestic abuse. That means wife beating, I think. So, Urban Meyer got suspended for turning the other cheek whilst some poor woman ended up battered and bruised. At the bar, Randy pointed out that Meyer deserved to pay a heavy price for ignoring information that was apparently known to him and essentially doing nothing. My position was the opposite. I asked Randy how and why any executive can and should be held responsible for subordinates, particularly when off-the-clock and at home? We’ve both supervised lots of people in the past. Should we be held responsible in any way when one of our employees does something bad, especially when it has no connection to the place of employment? My position was that society can’t function if we make employers responsible for private incidents.
I wasn’t fully prepared for Randy’s answer. He argued that college football coaches aren’t merely middle managers in some department store. They “own the brand,” were his words. Hell, they “are the brand.” When a young new recruit signs up to play for Ohio State and he agrees to put his future career at risk, he’s playing just as much for Urban Meyer. The coaching greats recruit successfully because of their name identity. As Randy said, they “own the brand.” Urban Meyer owns the Ohio State brand. Urban Meyer is the football team. Hell, as bad as the Browns and Bengals are right now, Meyer is Ohio football.
Moreover, Randy pointed out that head coaches who make upwards of $10 million a year (while their players don’t make shit) are by inference and association responsible for basically everything that happens related to that football team. When a player or coach messes up, it becomes the head guy’s responsibility to try and do something about it. Someone at Ohio State messed up. He messed up bad. And, Urban Meyer knew about it and yet did nothing. That was the gist of Randy’s argument.
Overwhelmed with facts and logic, I hadn’t considered before, I became convinced. So, I changed my mind. Randy was, for once, right about something.
I don’t remember much else from the conversation other than after I conceded his points. That’s when Charles Murray (the controversial author-lecturer) came in and sat down at the next barstool. I can’t remember if Murray was already nursing a martini, or not, but it could just as easily have been a shot of bourbon with an ice cube. I know it wasn’t a beer.
Tell me if you’ve heard this story before.
Writing can be painful. Writing can also be pure joy.
One of the most enjoyable things I’ve done writing-wise in recent years is the current series posted here at my website, “100 Essential Albums.” This is my very personal retrospective of 100 top albums I believe to be essential to anyone who loves music. So far, I’ve posted eight albums, each with a review. These memorable albums are fun to go back and listen to again and for me, easy to write about. Hence, this is a joyous undertaking.
However, one problem I have begun to foresee is omissions. I’m going to leave off quite a number of albums many readers are convinced must belong on any “best of” list. I won’t argue with inevitable objections raised to my personal biases at the cost of leaving off some of the greatest albums in history. All I can say is, this project continues to be a steady work in progress. As I countdown further, it may become a scale of weights and balances. Yet, whether anyone cares for my musical opinion or not is pretty much irrelevant at this point. I’ve already won by virtue of revisiting so many faded and forgotten treasures simply by thinking more deeply about them. Target completion date for the entire list of 100 albums is about a year from now. I’ll proceed with album #92 later this week.
One thing I omitted from yesterday’s retrospective of Willie Nelson’s excellent 1998 album Teatro is sharing a bit of personal information. Willie Nelson was born in the tiny town of Abbott, Texas. The population of Abbott is negligible. It’s so mall that it’s hard to find on a map. By coincidence, my grandmother was also born in Abbott, some 15 years before Nelson. She died a few years ago. I wish my grandmother had the chance to hear Willie Nelson’s music. At some point early in her life, it’s virtually certain she knew him and likely also knew the Nelson family since Abbott was such a small town. However, my grandmother was deaf most of her life, so she never got the chance to appreciate his talent as a songwriter and singer. Lucky for me I’m able to listen for her today, and fill the void.
I think future generations filling the voids in the life experiences of us and our ancestors is kinda’ what it’s all about. It is every parent’s and grandparent’s dream to have those who come after you to do and enjoy those things we weren’t able to achieve. Mission accomplished, Grandma — at least when it comes to the most famous son and favorite daughter of Abbott, Texas: Population 350.
Geographical prejudice might be the most open form of bias and clearest example of mass ignorance still among us today.
Most of us are guilty of it — even me.
While we have done away with some of our ugliest racial and gender-based stereotypes (although this remains debatable), ridiculing other people based solely on the city, state, or region, where they live remains open season.
Consider the vast ignorance about various parts of the country and the common stereotypes associated with them.
Texas and many parts of the South make for easy targets, especially to people who don’t live or have much experience there. I’ve repeatedly posted factual data on numerous occasions proving that every major Texas and big Southern city is just as progressive, liberal, tolerant (plug in your favorite pleasing buzzword here) as St. Louis, or Pittsburgh, or Minneapolis, or anywhere else. Stand on a street corner in Atlanta versus Harford, and you probably won’t know the difference. There’s a Starbucks on one side and a Chase Bank branch on the other. That’s pretty much urban America — everywhere. It all looks the same. Why? Answer: Because it is the same.
So please, quit with the shallow idiocy about the South being backward, or conservative, or Trump country, or whatever the disparaging dumpster reference. There’s just as much prejudice and racial tension in Boston and Brooklyn as in Birmingham. Quit denying it. Economic segregation, walled off cities, gated communities, mass gentrification — these are the new fiefdoms and cotton fields. So-called “elite” private schools are the new Jim Crow laws. Some of it racially motivated. Some of it is class oriented. It’s all one form of discrimination or another.
While not the perfect barometer of attitudes, recent election results in certain areas do largely determine social and cultural opinions. So, let’s examine this a bit further.
For instance, Trump lost Dallas and its surrounding suburbs by a whopping 24 percentage points in the last presidential election. That was no aberration. In the recent past, Dallas has elected a female mayor, a Black mayor, and a Jewish mayor. Based on election results and composition of local leadership, Buffalo, NY is far more conservative than Dallas, and if you really dig deep into the numbers, this is by a wide margin.
Houston and its suburbs voted heavily Democratic in the last number of elections by similar percentages. The fourth largest city in the country even made national headlines a few years ago when an openly gay woman was elected as its mayor. So far, we haven’t seen that happen yet in any other big city in America.
Pretty much the same holds true for other cities too, like San Antonio, Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham, Little Rock, New Orleans, and most other urban areas. The political leanings and social attitudes of city-people tend to be liberal, just about everywhere. And, rural folks tend to be conservative, both politically and socially. Many parts of rural Pennsylvania vote exactly the same as Wyoming. Some parts of New Hampshire are as red as anywhere in Kentucky. Perhaps America’s most famous atheist, comedian Bill Maher has noted many times before that when he performs on the road, his shows sell out the quickest in Charlotte and Tulsa.
Hence, the real great divide in America isn’t North vs. South, nor the Coastal Elite vs. Flyover Country, USA. The real political and cultural rift is city versus country. All those pesky suburbs smack dab in the middle of everything end up deciding the future of the country and ultimately, our fate.
Let’s end geographical prejudice. The facts no longer support outdated stereotypes. Geographical prejudice remains destructive in the same manner that age, race, gender, and sexual orientation identity stigmatize its victims. We can’t say we oppose prejudice, then lump millions of people into the same pot because they live in the same state. That’s wrong.
Geographical prejudice is dumb, yet still way too common.
Until next time, thanks for reading.