Dog Men, friend or foe

04 Dog manRight now you are probably asking yourself, “What are Dog Men, and how should I feel about them?”

As a public service, today’s column is going to give you something new and exotic to worry about - Dog Men. America in the first quarter of the 21st century has a short attention span. We keep running out of things to concern us in the middle of the night. Trade wars, mass shootings, Mueller reports and bizarre weather events all fade into oblivion as the next fresh horror appears in the collective consciousness. 

Dear Leader himself has warned that the Chinese are not going to capitulate to his tariff trade war because they are waiting to see if a Democrat is elected to replace him in 2020. The Democrats are warning that the Russians will again be supporting Dear Leader’s re-election in 2020. This leaves America in the interesting position of the Chinese trying to manipulate our election to support the Democratic nominee and the Russians trying to manipulate our election to support Dear Leader. What could go wrong under these circumstances? Both the Chinese and the Russians want what is best for America. Pick your poison: A Chicom- or a Russkie-supported U.S. President. But even this colorful situation divides the country into tribes. 

What America needs in addition to a good five-cent cigar is a single issue to worry about that will unite us as one nation again. We need a boogie man who unites both the Left and the Right into a single fearful mass concerned about our collective self-preservation instead of dividing us up into political Shiites versus Sunnis. Fortunately, we have such an issue that will bring America together again: the rise of the Dog Men. The late great singer Warren Zevon once sang, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Warren is now sleeping, but his words linger on to guide us into yet another sleepless night. If you feel sleep is a waste of time that you should be devoting to worrying when the sun goes down, this column is for you. Lurking on the far edges of the internet and late-night a.m. radio are Dog Men. You may never have heard of Dog Men, but today you shall. Anxiety about Dog Men can fill in the vacuum in your bucket of worries to help keep you awake at night. 

Let us begin with a primer on Dog Men. Unsurprisingly, Dog Men are an unholy cross between dogs and men. A website devoted to Dog Men defines them as “cryptozoological beings that are large and look like upright canids.” I had to look up the meaning of the word “canid” because initially, I thought a canid was a candied sweet potato that could stand on two legs. I visualized a giant sweet potato — covered in marshmallows — stalking through the forests of North America looking for a roasted turkey to consume. It turns out a canid is not a sentient ambulatory sweet potato. According to the Google machine, a canid is a member of the species that includes dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals and dingoes. With the mention of dingoes as members of the canid species, I was sorely tempted to take a cheap shot at the dietary habits of dingoes. Displaying incredible self-restraint, I will resist the opportunity to quote Meryl Streep and Elaine Benes, who both famously said, “The Dingo ate my baby.” If a dingo could eat your baby, imagine what a Dog Man could do to a grown man. 

There are two types of Dog Men: the K-9 type, which looks like “Sasquatch with a muzzle,” who have canine-type legs without knees and very large heads and Type-2 Dog Men, who  have human-type legs with knees and ankles, featuring claws on their fingers and toes. Dog Men tend to live in the deep forests with only occasional sightings by humans. However, some urban Dog Men have been sighted in Washington, D.C., making laws in Congress. Dog Men occasionally attack people, but most encounters with Dog Men result in the observer getting away without being mangled. 

Contrary to popular belief, Dog Men are not nocturnal. They have been seen at both day and night. There are numerous websites devoted to Dog Men on the internet if you need an additional source of worry. 

So what have we learned today? Sadly, once again, almost nothing of use. It is sad to think that a tree had to die to allow this stain on world literature to be printed. 

To prevent this column from being a total waste of your time, allow me to leave you with a couple of quotes. Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” 

Mark Twain advised: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” 

If these quotes apply to Dog Men, you can decide if sleeping is still an option. 

Dog Men are an unholy cross between dogs and men 

Way, way beyond overdue

03 GunMany Americans—I among them—thought that the bloody gunshot murders of 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012 would be the straw that broke the back of the gun lobby and would usher in reasonable gun laws that still respect the Second Amendment. Who on God’s green Earth could have imagined that it would be acceptable for young children, babies really, to be gunned down in their construction-papered classrooms?

It was and apparently still is — because the carnage continues.

Since Sandy Hook, the following mass shootings have taken place in our country, according to CNN chronicling, all but one by a single, male American shooter. There are, of course, many others not listed that killed fewer people.

September 2013—12 people killed at the Washington Navy Yard.

June 2015—nine people killed in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

October 2015—nine killed and nine others injured at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

December 2015—14 killed at an employee gathering by a married couple who left their baby with relatives in San Bernardino, Carolina.

June 2016—at least 49 people were killed and more than 50 injured inside a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

October 2017—58 were killed and nearly 500 injured at a concert venue in Las Vegas, Nevada.

November 2017—25 people were killed and 20 injured at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

February 2018—17 killed and at least 17 others injured in Marjory Stone-man Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

May 2018—10 killed at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

October 2018—11 killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

November 2018—12 killed at a bar and grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

May 2019—12 killed and at least four injured in a city building in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

August 2019—22 killed, including parents shielding their 2-month-old ba-by, and more than two dozen injured in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

August 2019—less than 24 hours after the El Paso shooting, nine killed, including the gunman’s own sister, and 27 injured in an entertainment area of Day-ton, Ohio.

Death toll—246 innocent people, minding their own business, shot dead.

Truth be told, it is difficult to remember all of these because we in the United States have had so many mass shootings that in some ways, we have come to expect them. No other nation on earth tolerates anything like the number and scale of gunshot murders we experience all over our nation, most recently two in one 24-hour period. 

No other nation tolerates weapons of mass killing in the hands of ordinary citizens, either. In the wake of the latest carnage come the predictable calls for increased gun control. High on the priority list because they are easy to support for law-makers and even Donald Trump are red flag laws. They would require others to alert law enforcement when they think a person is dangerous. More difficult, but supported by law enforcement, are domestic terrorism laws similar to international terrorism laws enacted after 9/11. Also under discussion are widely sup-ported-universal background checks before someone can legally purchase a gun. Ditto for longer waiting periods before acquiring a gun. Most controversial of all are bans on assault weapons like the ones used in this month’s mass murders in El Paso and Dayton, weapons designed for military use to kill as many people as possible in a short time. No one “needs” these.

Sending “thoughts and prayers,” mouthing platitudes about beefing up mental health care, making symbolic and often unwelcome visits to scenes of massacres are no longer adequate to address the growing carnage in our country. 

Taking no action, which has been our national response, is a decision to allow mass killings to continue. This is not a Republican problem. It is not a Democratic problem. It is an American problem, and the first step in addressing any problem is acknowledging that we have one. Americans of good faith and good conscience must demand this and serious action from our leaders.

Sending “thoughts and prayers,” mouthing platitudes about beefing up mental health care, making symbolic and often unwelcome visits to scenes of massacres are no longer adequate to address the growing carnage in our country. 

Off with their heads!

13 elijah o donnell t8T yUgCKSM unsplashThey’re on television. They’re on the radio. They’re in our magazines, news papers and even online.

The “lynch-mob media” strikes again! ... And again. ... And again.
With so many treacherous issues going on in the world, why do so many news outlets choose to weave repeats of, for example, six-second video clips of someone famous doing something illegal, and basically demand their boss be fired, amongst larger, more important, fact-driven world issues?

This is a complex subject. Maybe the purpose was intended to make the news consumer feel as though there are newsworthy subjects that they can actually control the outcome of. Regardless, we, as broadcasters in any realm, have the responsibility to present the facts of what is happening in the world, and even to report the goings-on in the entertainment industry. However, there has been an increase in our media’s “lynch-mob mentality," setting fire to the image and reputation of any accused person before they’ve even stepped into a court room for a judge and a jury to decide their guilt or innocence.

This is not why we exist as broadcasters. This ‘lynching by media’ is quickly becoming the new way that assumed perpetrators (or the people in charge of them) are being dealt with. Apparently, there is no better system in place than to have a bunch of journalists deciding which person or company is evil and deserves the ‘Queen of Hearts’ treatment — “Off with their heads!” There are enough horrific things going on in our world — wars, rumors of wars, terrorism, the deaths of innocent people, dictators rising to power, nuclear threats, even beheadings. Someone has to pay, and apparently its our job as broadcasters to convict and demand resignation.

I feel that someone has the responsibility to apologize to you, news consumers. I give you my sincerest apology for the news media’s public lashings and constant backing of biased, negative news reports calling for someone’s head on a platter. Its almost all we can do to keep our heads above the noise. So, what can you do to help us?

Choose light. Choose life. Choose to find the positive in the midst of media lashing. Difficult? Maybe. But be assured you can find the roses among a garden of thorns. There are news outlets, even here in your own community, that strive to bring light to the darkness some media create in “lynching” those involved in the latest trending social issue. We highly value our relationship with Up & Coming Weekly for this reason. We both choose to promote the good things in life — the arts, family, education, our community, local businesses — the list goes on.

So here’s where you can start on your search for light in the media — check us out. We promise we will always deliver positivity, truth and a helping hand as we strive to “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing” — namely Jesus Christ, and his message to bring light and life to a world in need.

Despite the overwhelming presence of the "lynch-mob media," positivity can still be found in the media when Jesus Christ is as the center of it. Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

Racism and hatred have no place in our country

02 CapitolThis week, Bill Bowman yields his space to Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., to share his thoughts on mass shootings in America and what Congress is doing to pass meaningful legislation to deal with gun violence.

“Mom, it’s happening again.” Those were the words of a 13-year-old girl in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3. Then, it happened again. This time in Dayton, Ohio. And just four months ago, it happened here at UNC-Charlotte. It seems — yet again — that no community is immune to gun violence and the evils of a deranged person.

Like you, I was sickened by the innocent lives lost and the horrific violence. As a father and a husband, I can’t help but put myself in the shoes of the victims and their families. Two more communities mourning. Countless families grappling with grief and burying loved ones. And one country — yet again — searching our souls for answers and wondering why this sort of sickness is overtaking our communities.

I refuse to accept this as our new American reality. We must recommit ourselves to ending this kind of violence.

All Americans are affected by these shootings, and we all want to do something. It should be harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to have guns. Congress needs to work together to address this problem and not just “do something,” but do something in a bipartisan way that will actually make a difference.

I have cosponsored legislation that has been signed into law that puts more resources in mental health, provides training for guidance counselors, funds grants for law enforcement, provides money to harden schools and strengthens background checks. I also introduced legislation that passed the House last Congress to strengthen background checks, address bump stocks and deal with the patchwork of concealed carry laws.

In addition, the House recently passed a spending bill with my amendment to double the money available for research to study the root causes of gun violence, including the impact and effectiveness of grants authorized under the STOP School Violence Act. I support legislation in the current Congress to strengthen background checks and to improve communication between state, local and federal law enforcement so potential shooters don’t keep falling through the cracks.

At the end of the day, it is not our government alone that is going to solve this problem. Racism and hatred have no place in our country. It’s up to all of us to get serious about addressing the root causes of this violence: the breakdown of the family, culture, media, mental health and many more. As President Donald Trump said last week, one thing we must recognize is the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds. I applaud the president for directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local and state agencies, as well as social media companies, to develop tools to detect mass shooters before they strike. It’s time to tone down the rhetoric and work on bipartisan, common sense solutions.

At the end of the day, it is not our government alone that is going to solve the gun violence problem. 

Leonard Pitts Jr. assigns honorary whiteness

04 Ben Carson official portraitI doubt that Leonard Pitts, Jr. has ever read anything that I have written, and we certainly have never engaged in conversation. If either of those were the case, I am certain he would contend I fit the description of an “honorary white” as he presents it in his column titled, “Honorary whiteness must be one powerful drug.” The column appeared in The Fayetteville Observer Thursday, July 25. Pitts, who is black, is an American commentator, journalist and novelist.

His column starts by explaining that “honorary white” was the status assigned to black performers from the United States who visited South Africa during the apartheid regime. He says The O’Jays, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, and Eartha Kitt were among those who received that designation. Pitts explained that receiving this designation allowed them “access to hotels and restaurants from which black Africans were barred.” 

At this point, Pitts lays the groundwork for defining people like me as “honorary whites” in America. He writes:

“While there is no official “honorary white” status in this country, American politics has evolved a rough analog. As lily-white conservatism has lurched deeper into a brazen racism and xenophobia reminiscent of the 1950s, black and brown people willing to use their color to give it moral cover have seen themselves eagerly embraced by those whose sins they abet.”

Then Pitts reports the reactions of two supporters of President Donald Trump. This was in response to Trump telling “four congresswomen of color to ‘go back’ to their countries.” He said:

“But ultimately, the joke is always on them. In recent days, we’ve seen that lesson learned painfully and publicly by two men: a black Donald Trump voter named Kevin Martin and a Donald Trump friend of Puerto Rican heritage named Geraldo Rivera.

“The former told CNN last week that when Trump told four congresswomen of color to ‘go back’ to their countries, it ‘just came out of left field’ and ‘hit a lot of us in the gut.’ The latter, while loyally insisting Trump has ‘been treated unfairly,’ conceded to The New York Times that, ‘As much as I have denied it and averted my eyes from it, this latest incident made it impossible.’

“To which, the only appropriate response is: ‘Wow. Just ... wow.’”

The writer goes on to rehearse the usual list of Trump comments and actions that his accusers point to as indicators of him being racist. Then comes his claim that it is acceptable for blacks to be conservative as the term was once understood. His caveat is: “But this modern iteration doesn’t care about small government or muscular diplomacy. Rather, it is working to normalize racism and enshrine xenophobia, and if you’re black or brown and still don’t realize that, well, again, wow.”

The following statements go to the heart of what Leonard Pitts, Jr. thinks about people like me:

“One can only conclude that honorary whiteness must be one powerful drug. Side effects include cultural amnesia and (the) inability to process reality.

“You are not special, only useful. You’d be wise to learn the difference.” 

What Leonard Pitts, Jr. presents is not unique to him. It is the dominant message to black Americans who have the unadulterated audacity to break free of “black group thought,” pursue facts and, at least, attempt to reach rational conclusions. If that process takes a black American to any other conclusion than that which is rooted in consistently seeing racism in every action that calls our people to individual responsibility; promoting the mental state of victimization and being entitled to all kinds of governmental assistance; distrusting white Americans for simply being white; justifying civil and criminal behavior; when beneficial to the black group thought” agenda, totally disregarding the rule of law; and the list goes on in similar fashion … we are called “honorary whites,” “Uncle Toms” and other demeaning names. 

The aim is to, through intimidation and shaming, drive into silence or compliance with “black group thought,” any black who dares to think for him or herself and contrary to the tenets of “black group thought.” I confess to thinking, speaking and writing in ways that bring the wrath of the Leonard Pitts Juniors of the world squarely down on me.

However, I find reassurance in knowing that, although the group might be small, I am not alone. There are other black Americans who refuse to be controlled in their thinking who will not bow at the altar of “black group thought.” For instance, there is Dr. Ben Carson. Here is a black American who grew up in poverty in a single-parent household headed by his mother, dealt with anger issues early in life, but went on to become a renowned neurosurgeon, author and capable presidential candidate. He now serves as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration. 

There is absolutely no reason to think Leonard Pitts Jr. has spent any time in civil conversation with Trump. Carson clearly has done so on many occasions. Here is Carson’s assessment as reported in an article by Sandy Fitzgerald titled, “Ben Carson: Trump Is Not a Racist and Neither Are His Comments”: 

‘Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson Wednesday rejected claims that President Donald Trump and his comments about four Democratic freshman congresswomen are racist. 

“’I have an advantage of knowing the president very well,’ Carson told Fox News’ ‘America’s Newsroom.’ ‘He’s not a racist and his comments are not racist, but he loves the country very much and, you know, he has a feeling that those who represent the country should love it as well.’

“He added that Trump’s policies have resulted in minorities being lifted out of poverty through expanded work opportunities, and said a racist would not be interested in helping minority communities. 

“Carson also on the program discussed the ‘opportunity zones’ program, which aims to make it easier for investors to take advantage of tax breaks to help benefit low-income communities.” 

Like Carson, I am watching Trump’s actions and assessing him in light of those actions. That is my approach in dealing with people no matter who they are. When examined in light of actions, words that are contrary to the actions become meaningless. Even though Leonard Pitts, Jr. would assign “honorary whiteness” to Carson, me, and others who are black but support Trump, I will continue reading his commentary. 

That is because of something my father said to me many years ago. I walked into a room where he was listening to a preacher on the radio. That preacher was not saying anything that made sense to me. Realizing Daddy must have recognized the absence of value in what was coming from that radio, I asked why he was listening. He responded, “No matter how senseless something seems, you can always learn from it.” Daddy was right; consequently, I will keep reading Pitts’ commentary so that I am constantly, and profoundly, reminded not to join in “black group thought.” Thank you, Mr. Pitts, Jr.

There are other black Americans who refuse to be controlled in their thinking who will not bow at the altar of “black group thought.” 

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