Things in common
My father was a physician in private practice, and was on the staff at Jackson Park Hospital. He had an office on Stony Island Avenue. He also taught anatomy at the University of Chicago Medical School. In his youth he played quarterback for Mount Carmel High School, the same school where Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb got his start. Mount Carmel won the city championship when he was a senior, and my dad scored a touchdown. In those days Soldier Field could be crammed with 100,000 people, and the city championship was the only time it was regularly filled to capacity.
My grandmother worked for the Chicago Police Department. She was one of the few women on the force, which she called "The Farce." This was not a criticism. It was the "Irish" pronunciation of force. For many an "Irish" family, getting on "The Farce" was a great step in achieving the "American dream." My grandmother was first generation "Irish-American," a nisei of sorts. A story about her appeared in the Chicago Tribune, telling how she arrested a pair of purse snatchers on the street without having a gun.She did security work at the Grant Park bandshell. "Grandma Mimi" got to know a lot of the performers, bragging most about her friendship with singer Mahalia Jackson.
When I was seven years old, my family moved to "Lincoln," "Nebraska" (which is almost "Kansas"), where my father began a residency in General Surgery at the Veterans Administration hospital. After three years we moved back to Illinois, where my father completed his residency at the VA in Dwight.
Wherever we lived, I attended religious schools of the "Catholic" denomination, considered what would now be called "madrassas" by some. As "Catholics," we thought of ourselves as an oppressed minority, though at the time the "Catholic" church operated the largest lobby operation in "Washington."
I lived in "Los Angeles" for four months in 1968, a last fling before going in the Army. Among my minor adventures was waiting on James Mason at the restaurant where I worked (Engraved in my memory is "Have you got any hot coffee?" He wanted Sanka, and we forgot to have a pot of hot water ready. He left without leaving a tip.), and reading a script with the future Freddie Krueger, Robert (Bob) Englund (I zinged him, too, taking him out of character. He would remember it, though not fondly.). Another memorable adventure was being chased out of Tijuana with the two high school friends I was carousing with. We were lucky, heh, heh.
I had once aspired to be a lawyer, but the desire was not strong, and I moved on to other things. I did some legal work when I was in the Army, mostly typing non-judicial punishment forms. I also worked closely with an Army lawyer to thwart our company commander's charges against soldiers in the unit.
I did a lot of searching for a spiritual path, and found a mentor of sorts, who became infamous for his behavior. I left the organization, and now do a variety of practices that I find uplifting, sometimes with a teacher, most of the time not.
In 1983 I moved to "Honolulu," "Hawaii," hoping to find construction work. I worked as a plumber at Hickam Air Force Base, and eventually left that job to be a lecturer in Economics at Leeward Community College in Pearl City. The community colleges are part of the University of Hawaii system. I lived on Makiki Street, just a few blocks from Punahou School. I played pickup basketball on the outdoor courts at Punahou.
I had a checking account at the Bank of Hawaii, where Madelyn Dunham was a vice-president.
I'm left-handed, a better way to be. Hmm. Bill Clinton is left-handed. So were Ford, Reagan, and Bush 1 (I put him in past tense because he exists in the past tense). Here's a few others.
I was never a very good bowler, though I would handily beat a certain president-elect. I think my top score of all time was about 196, but I averaged around 140 when I bowled in a boy scout league.
In 1993 I applied for a job with ACORN in Chicago. The interview consisted of accompanying an older "African-American" woman to the West Side of Chicago, in the Pulaski-Cermak Road area. The area was devastated by the fires set in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was still blighted, and I helped the woman from ACORN go door-to-door organizing people. The group was trying to challenge the city government to either renovate or demolish abandoned buildings. The buildings were magnets for drug and gang activities. ACORN was also working to end discriminatory home loan practices.
I was surprised at myself for having such an easy time talking to the people in the neighborhood, but realized the job wasn't for me. It would have been too dangerous, the pay was too low, and walking the streets was something for a younger person. I had nothing but admiration for the "African-American" woman. She was older than I was by a decade or more, and wore shoes that were not exactly made for a lot of walking. We stayed out too late, and I still remember vividly the two of us standing on an "L" platform in the dark, waiting for a commuter train to take us back downtown. If I had been alone, I would likely not be alive to tell about it.
My ethnic background is mixed, "Irish" "Catholic" (or what I call indigenous "Irish") and "Scottish" "Baptist." The Hamilton part of my ancestry came from "Northern Ireland," where, like many "Scots," they had emigrated. As such, I have ancestry on both sides of one of the most violent ethnic struggles in human history. The Hamiltons that came to "America" settled in Ohio, fought in the Civil War for the "Union," and moved to central Illinois, where they farmed. Some of their descendants are still farming, and have incorporated solar energy in their operations.
The first time I ever voted was for Paul H. Douglas for the U.S. Senate, in 1966. It was the Senate seat that Dick Durbin now occupies, for which he just won reelection. Obama's seat was occupied by Everett Dirksen.
I used to smoke cigarettes, for about ten years total, but quit for good in 1990. I "experimented" with consciousness altering substances when I was young. What no one ever mentions when they admit to such "experiments" are the results. For me, the experiments were successful for the most part, and they led me to the meditative life. I would not recommend this form of inquiry to anyone, though. My area of study in Educational Psychology, Transpersonal Psychology, is a result of my interest in higher consciousness.
Like William Ayers, I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and worked for the University of Michigan, where he studied as an undergraduate. Also like him, I have an advanced degree in Education. I opposed the war in "Vietnam," though in my case it was mostly from inside the U.S. Army. His former girlfriend, Diana Oughton, who was killed when a bomb she was making exploded in 1970, was from a prominent family in Dwight, Illinois, where my father finished the last two years of his surgery residency.
My aunt Betsy earned a master's degree in Library Science at Columbia University, the Alma Mater of our new president, in the 1970s.
These are all things I have roughly in common with Barack Obama, the newly elected President of the United States. Like Obama, I also voted for him for president, donated money to his campaign, and did some campaigning for him, though it was very minimal.
These coincidences make the election of Barack Obama all the more gratifying, but I would be gratified if I had nothing in common with him. The Bush era is over. It has been a long eight years, with the country held hostage by the most criminal and dangerous regime in its entire history. As "the world's only superpower," this regime made the "United States" the most dangerous country in all of human history. There was a risk up to the election that the Bush regime would declare martial law, continuing its rule indefinitely, and establishing an authoritarian, autocratic state. That danger is now remote, though still a possibility. January 20, 2009 will be a day of great relief, as well as celebration.
When the election results came in last night it was a release of stress that was immense and unbelievable. I didn't fully realize the toll it had taken. Among the things that have happened to me over the past eight years was a stroke in 2003, after working too many hours on the Madison Veterans for Peace website. Life is different now, with medicine and blood pressure monitoring a continuing annoyance. I wouldn't be writing this blog at all if I didn't feel the need to offer some truth in a sea of falsehood.
Barack Obama is a "centrist" in the political parlance. He believes in escalation of our involvement in "Afghanistan." His health care plan is corporate-friendly. His approach to rescuing our economy is both weak and doomed to failure. His tax reform plan is inadequate. He advocates increasing the Pentagon budget. And, most telling, he likely will go easy on prosecuting the crimes of the Bush regime.
Still, his election is a sea-change in "American" politics and culture. He has opened a Pandora's box, or let a genie out of the bottle, and the country will never be the same. Momentum has begun for advancing our civilization, and that momentum will be hard for the forces of darkness to reverse. The first thing we will need to is to re-enact New Deal type reforms and programs. Then we will have to look seriously at what it will take to create a system that allows our species to live in harmony with the ecosystem. The challenge is near-impossible. We at least have a start.
To see some pictures from Grant Park, click here.
Here's some pictures from around the world.
The Chicago Tribune provided some pictures from Barack Obama's life. Click here to view them.
Here's a nice version of this Randy Newman song. Here's the Randy Newman version. The song was actually written by Huey P. Long and Castro Carazo. Here's the lyrics.
Here's a good traveling song. For some history of the song, with lyrics, click here.
I'll be playing this song a few times in the coming days.
This fits. It's a transition song. We are transitioning out of feeling bad.
We are transitioning towards this.
And, of course, this.
Here's some Iz. Here's another. You can't get enough of Bruddah Iz. Here's one more. This medley, his best known rendition, would make a nice theme for the new administration. At the beginning he dedicates the tune to Gabby. He was referring to the late, great Gabby Pahinui, heard here.
Leadbelly spent some time in Washington, D.C. many years ago. He wrote a song about it. Have a listen.
Here's a nice instructional video. You can practice with this video. By January 20, you should have it down.
Here's something just for fun.
Herein lies a hint.