To Those Who Served – Salute!

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

Today, we stop and give thanks for all those who have served the nation in uniform, protecting the freedoms we hold so dear. Some gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in order to ensure that we have the life we so proudly proclaim.

Their sacrifice is honored with each election where not by coup, but by ordinary Americans casting a ballot and choosing those who will lead and represent them. The power and authority of those officials are transferred from one elected official to the next, from the precinct level to the highest office in the land, the Presidency, without the need for troops in the streets because of those who answered the call to duty, honor and service.

The ability to vote, the ability to choose, the ability to speak our minds, the ability to worship or not worship, the ability to write these words without fear, the ability to work, to succeed, to fail, to rise above our circumstances, all of this we owe to those men and women who fought for peace, justice and freedom.

None of our liberties came without cost and thus we owe a debt to each of our veterans and to those who still serve.

On a more personal note:

Normandy Award to Luther C. Powell

In those dark days following the sneak attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, four brothers from Nashville, Brown County, Indiana lined up at the recruiting office and joined the US Navy. These four brothers went off to save the world for democracy both in the European Theater and in the Pacific.

Three made it back home at the close of World War II. The one who didn’t return was my Uncle Homer. My grandfather and his other two brothers, Herman and Wesley, came home, but changed, never to be the same.

First Sergeant Jack L. Hollifield

My step-father, a fresh-faced kid from Sullivan County, Indiana didn’t wait to be drafted. He went to the recruiting office and signed up to be a soldier for Uncle Sam. He survived, though wounded once, three tours in Viet Nam. He remained in the US Army to retire after 20 years as an E-8 First Sergeant.

USN veteran Allen Powell

My grandfather’s only son, my uncle, later followed in his father’s footsteps and sailed off on the ocean blue with the Navy. He served around the world, then came home.

Allen's Honorable Discharge

All of these veterans within my own family are now gone, but not forgotten.

AFC Mark after USAF Basic Training

Their service made it possible for me to join the US Air Force in 1976. My time was spent at Grissom AFB, right here in the Cornfield.

It also allowed my step-brother, John Hollifield, a few years later to join the US Army. Unfortunately, we lost him in a drunk driving incident after he did his duty and was home.

The sacrifice of my grandfather, great-uncles and step-father also allowed all of us to still be living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

This is why I am always appreciative of those who choose to serve in our military. This is why I always have an empathy and a connection to the families left behind to keep the home fires burning to shine the light to lead our service members home.

Each November 11th, we celebrate, not just the veterans of that long ago war that was to be the war to end all wars, but the holiday has evolved to celebrate and to show appreciation for all who have served our great nation and those who continue to serve.

From the Cornfield, veterans, I salute you and thank you!

Lest We Forget – 9/11/2001

From the Desert with feet planted firmly in the Cornfield

It seemed to be a quiet, sunny day in the dwindling hours of summer. People going about their business. Children rushed off to school. Flights of pleasure, business and fancy were seemingly soaring the skies peacefully.

Tranquility and a sense of safety were shattered in an instant as a commercial jetliner plowed into the World Trade Center (WTC). What first seemed to be nothing more than a tragic accident was quickly revealed to be more diabolic in nature.

The world watched horror-struck as a second jetliner in live airtime was shown deliberately crashing into the second tower of the WTC.

The unthinkable, that which seemed to only be comprehensible in a movie script, lifted from the page of fiction into the horrifying fact of reality. Life changed forever.

9-11-2

I rolled over. Opened my eyes. With blurred vision, I looked at the clock. 10:48 a.m. I sprang out of bed, shaking my head, wondering why I had slept so late.

I grabbed my robe, moving between my loveseats to turn on the television. I made my way back around what I called, my loveseat, to make my morning coffee.

Strangely I heard the voices of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. In disbelief, disconcerted and shocked, I listened and learned about the attack on America.

Nearly spilling the water, I finished making my coffee. I stumbled back to my loveseat to watch and listen to the unfolding events.

I yelled at the troubled young man sleeping on my other loveseat, “Wake up! We’ve been attacked!

Frightened, not knowing what to do, how to react, what to say, the young man took off on his bike. Running, trying to find comfort, peace and some sense of what was happening.

I stayed glued to the TV.

Not only had two commercial planes been used as guided missiles exploding into the WTC, but another had been fatally directed at the Pentagon.

But, this was not the end.

The news revealed a fourth jetliner, its objective still unknown, was deflected from further mass destruction by the heroics of passengers. Passengers, who followed the highest law of Love.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (KJV)

The unthinkable had become a deliberate, thought-out scheme of murder, destruction, mayhem, pain and suffering.

What had happened to America’s tranquility and safety?

Gone in moments.

What were and are we to do?

What could and can our leaders do?

What was and is America to do?

Life changed forever.

From the Cornfield, we pause, as we do each year, and remember the lives lost, the heroes, the resolve of a nation to not back down, to rise from the ashes and press on for a better day filled with peace, liberty and justice for all.

We will never forget.

We will never crumble.

We will stand tall.

We will cross any valley, climb any mountain, ford any stream and remain forever that shining city on a hill to which the world looks to find light in the darkness of ignorance, fear, intolerance and injustice.

And Therein Is the Problem

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is scheduled to speak on the nation’s largest black-owned Christian television network.

This should be positive news for the candidate who is barely in single digits with support from the African-American community as he faces the fall election.

Trump has been blasted by members of the community, the campaign of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and pundits for reaching out to black voters while speaking in front of predominantly white audiences.

Trump has been ridiculed for not going into black churches or before such groups as the NAACP to speak when invited.

The Trump campaign and surrogates have pushed back saying that the audience does not matter since the speeches are televised nationwide. They say that Trump is not speaking to the audience in the hall, but to the television audience and thus directly to African-Americans.

The campaign and surrogates have said Trump was trying to be respectful and did not want to go into areas where his presence would result in riots such as what occurred earlier this year when Trump spoke in California.

When it was announced today that Trump would go on the Christian network, owned by blacks and targeting a black viewership, this was a step in the right direction.

Not so say critics and pundits.

One black pastor was on CNN today and made it clear that Trump was not welcome to go into and speak to the black community or in black churches.

The pastor said he would be in the studio to protest Trump being on the network and beaming out to African-American Christians.

The pastor said straight out that Trump was not welcome nor should he be allowed to speak.

And therein is the problem.

How can we have an honest discussion when one side is ready to lock the door, batten the hatches, board up the windows and not allow for an open discussion?

From the Cornfield, I am not a fan of either Trump nor Clinton.

I am guilty of not understanding the perspective of those of color as I am an old, white man.

But in life, if we are ever to get along, we must be willing to tolerate each others’ opinions and views, though we disagree.

We must learn how to live in tolerant co-existence with one another.

To govern properly and do what is best for the nation we must learn compromise.

The same is true for getting along with others – even in our own families.

How can we learn or move forward when we close our minds to all competing thoughts?

As has been so often said throughout the years, I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Journalistic Integrity Model

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His father was a liberal giant. His brother is governor of arguably the most liberal state in the Union. He works for a center left news network. His political ideology is not a secret.

Yet, CNN New Day anchor Chris Cuomo is cut from the same fabric as those paragons of journalism, Walter Cronkite and Tim Russert.

Both icons maintained the highest level of objectivity and integrity in their reporting. While we knew their political bent, neither let that get in the way of doing the job of a free press who looks at events with an eye of neutrality and not picking sides.

This is why Cronkite was America’s favorite Uncle behind Uncle Sam. This is why Russert was the face of Meet the Press for two decades with full trust of the viewing public.

Compare this to today’s crop of journalists whom survey after survey reveals are not trusted. Today’s journalists rank far behind even the two most mistrusted presidential candidates in history.

Then there is Chris Cuomo.

Most people would accept if he slipped now and then and revealed a bit of bias or prejudice, but he does not. Instead Cuomo seems to go out of his way to uphold and maintain why the free press was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Chris makes sure he does not become the story, but rather lets the story develop on its own. In questioning candidates and politicians of all stripes, Chris walks the line we expect of reporters unlike too many of his colleagues.

Whether liberal or conservative or moderate, whether Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or independent, all are put under the same glaring light of professionalism and transparency.

Chris is one reason I continue to view CNN. Not that I have many options with Fox News being too far to the right and MSNBC being too far left. 

There is hope left for the current cadre of journalists who have abandoned the principles on which our free press was founded.

That hope is the example of Chris Cuomo.

From the Cornfield, Chris keep up the good work and being an example for journalists everywhere in this day when too many journalists are leaving behind objectivity and integrity.

Thank you, for the breath of fresh air, Chris.

‘Fess Up, Brianna

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Each day I tune in to CNN for all the news of the day in addition to pouring over the various news feeds online.

Over this past week, I have watched as one of the senior political correspondent and fill-in anchor has gone from objective reporter to an out-and-out surrogate for one of the presidential candidates.

Brianna Keilar has been filling in for Wolf Blitzer the last week while he has been on grandpa leave during the 1 p.m. Wolf show and the 5 p.m. The Situation Room.

After her interview with Donald Trump’s Chief Counsel Michael Cohen went viral as Keilar and Cohen squared off about polls and Trump being behind, I have watched as she has dropped day-by-day all pretense of objectivity.

Brianna has turned before our eyes on the television screen from being a journalist who covers the campaign of Hillary Clinton into a full-blown surrogate and defender of Clinton.

In my other life as a print journalist, who happened to cover politics, I would have been shown the door if I had exhibited even a smidgen of the bias Brianna is showing during her interviews with Trump supporters and in talking with her panel.

Today after bringing up the subject of stories swirling, erroneously, about Clinton’s health while interviewing Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy, Duffy attempted to say there were issues to talk about, but Keilar was not having it. She kept trying to get him to talk about the health concerns until he finally gave in to her persistence.

Later in talking with the panel, Keilar defended her inquiry and wondered why Duffy did not steer the conversation to issues instead. This after she clearly would not let him do that.

Brianna, it is time to ‘fess up.

Time to admit you are in the tank for the candidate you are suppose to be covering objectively.

Question is: are you being paid by the Clinton campaign in addition to your CNN pay?

For inquiring minds, I am not a Trump supporter. I am currently leaning toward the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.

I am not a conservative, but a moderate. I am an independent, though I usually vote in the Republican primary.

From the Cornfield, this election cycle is making more nostalgic for the late Walter Cronkite and the late Tim Russert.

Both respected journalists always maintain objectivity in every election. Both respected journalists never let their own bias or prejudice get in the way of being members of the press.

Race Determines Race Perspectives

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This election cycle race has become a major topic of discussion. Adding fuel to the emphasis on race has been the number of people of color killed in confrontation of police.

Yet, for all the news headlines about race, the protests, the riots, the upheaval in big cities across the country, Pew Research has uncovered some interesting information. How people talk about and view race relations in the nation is largely determined by one’s race.

For the majority of whites, race seldom if ever enters the conversation on social media. For the majority of blacks, race occupies a majority focus on social media.

Check out this chart:

socialmediaraceAs is readily seen, for whites race is something of an afterthought. For blacks, race is an integral part of life on and off the web. The saying goes that perception is reality.

For most blacks, the perception is that life in the US of A is pitted with systemic racism. For most whites, the perception is that the race issue was long settled and not worth discussing.

It is our perceptions, whether from the Cornfield or from the inner city, which taints our reality to one view or the other. Thus our reality is skewed toward what we see when we look out the door. This also has an impact on what we hear from and see on the campaign trail from the candidates.

Another saying is you cannot have your own facts, but the fact is the facts are even colored by our perception which is also colored by our color or race.

Because of our perspectives being different, do our perspectives end up being self-fulfilling prophecies?

From the Cornfield, whites believe we are well on our way to that color blind society where people are accepted as people without a regard to race. Blacks believe the mountain is still far off in the distance.

Can the two perceptions ever meet and become a reality for all?

Or will we continue to struggle day by day in either ignorant bliss or fearful existence?

Read more about the Pew study: http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/08/15/social-media-conversations-about-race/

Updated State of Our Union

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This Sunday afternoon I sit in Mark’s Den watching and listening intently to heartbreaking news coming out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Three police officers have been killed in an apparent ambush. Three other officers have been shot with at least one in critical condition. One suspect has been killed. Two other suspects are being sought.

It is a little over a week since five officers were killed by a mad snipe in Dallas, Texas. Now this.

It is the eve of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. There is concern that protesters may come armed with rifles and shotguns since Ohio is an open-carry state.

Will we see a repeat of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention?

One year ago today, I wrote about The State of Our Union.

It bears repeating:

As President Gerald Ford told Congress and the American people in 1975, The State of our Union is not good.

The same can be said as I sit here in the Desert and look out across our land from sea to shining sea in July of 2015, 40 years, a generation, later.

The country is at its most divisive since the mid 1960s. The country is nearly as torn as it was in the mid 1860s. But so far, insurrection, taking up arms, has not occurred.

For the past few years there have been calls by some quarters to secede once more from the Union. There was a movement, including an online campaign with thousands of signatures, for Texas, which once was a republic in its own right, to pull out of the national association of states and return to the time of Sam Houston.

At times over this last year, where many of us had thought the racial divide was giving into the melting pot, we have learned that there is a segment out there where we have a white America and a black America. There is an abyss between suburban, small town and rural areas of the country and the inner cities and areas of urban concentration.

Even between suburbia and rural, small town communities there is a divide.  The more liberal occupy urban America and much of suburbia, while conservatives claim rural and small town America.

Each day we turn on the television and go online with trepidation wondering if we will be dismayed, our hearts torn, by yet another mass killing or disaster. Each day we wonder if a rogue country will launch the bomb.

Radicalism is growing and not just with those pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Some threats are homegrown. Some threats are white supremacists, black power enthusiasts, free nationalist anarchists and so on.

Crime may be down over all, but police are backing off from serving and protecting. In many parts of the country – urban areas predominantly – police are under fire, afraid doing their job will lead to being arrested.

Politicians are playing to our baser nature, garnering large crowds. Politicians are playing on our fears to keep us in an uproar. Politicians have forgotten their duty to do best for the nation and not for their personal careers.

Then there are the millions going about life, ignoring it all. If it does not knock on their door, these millions stay in blissful ignorance, dashing toward the cliff and destruction.

These millions will wake up, but will it be too late?

While the annual budget deficit may continue to track downward, not a word about the national debt of $18 trillion plus and growing. Not a word about the generations to come already buried in red ink. We run merrily along from bubble to bubble, from crash to crash.

Yes, my friends, the State of our Union is not good.

From the Cornfield, should the national anthem be changed to “God Bless America, Again?

Or have we traveled to far down the road of perdition where even the Almighty cannot intervene?

However, in light of Dallas and now Baton Rouge, the question is being raised if some within our American family have taken up arms in insurrection targeting law enforcement?

From the Cornfield, perhaps what is needed is to heed II Chronicles 7:14,

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Surely if ever for the sake of the State of our Union, our land, the US of A, needs healing.

A Blended America?

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As I sit and listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the memorial service for the slain Dallas, Texas police officers, who were brutally killed by hate last Thursday night, I wonder if a blended America, a color-blind America is possible.

The great American experiment has been one of a melting pot where diverse peoples and cultures have come to these shores “in order to form a more perfect union.

The national motto is E pluribus unum – out of many one.

On the base of the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the US known around the globe, are the words, “…give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The country has had its first non-white President for almost eight years now, but the racial divides seem to be worse now than when President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

A little over a week ago, a study from Pew Research was highlighted in the July 3rd The Sunday Paper on racial divisions in the US of A. There is a wide disparity in how whites view race relations and blacks and other people of color view those relations.

Most whites see improvement. Most blacks see a deterioration.

Most whites think the nation has recovered from past sins. Most blacks think those sins are still being visited on the children and the children of the children.

Can we actually have a blended society?

Can I as an older, white male understand?

My thoughts: Guilty: Failure to Understand, Incapable of Empathy

The President had the difficult task today of trying to bring together three separate incidents over a little more than a week which has brought the divisions in our American society to the forefront – the killing of two, young, black men in Louisiana and Minnesota by white police officers and the ambushing of the Dallas police, which left five officers dead.

Not an easy task.

Often as he has been speaking, the President has found the right tone, maneuvered to play the correct notes, but occasionally slipping into more political and ideological positions.

Yet, as the President speaks, the question rises more in my mind if  a blended America, an America without divisiveness is possible.

I hear the rhetoric on the campaign trail. I hear the words of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

I see the lines being drawn in the halls of Congress.

On social media there is the blistering commentary, the lack of empathy, the shouting too loud to hear the other side.

From the Cornfield, does this great divide that seems to be impossible of being bridged have its roots back in the annals of time?

Is a blended America not a reality which can be accomplished because of the dispersal at the Tower of Babel, where the tongues were confused and people pushed to differing parts of the globe?

I do not have the answer.

Memories of Yesteryear

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Before retiring last night and after I rose this morning, I have not been able to stop the memories of yesteryear from flooding my mind.

It was the summer of 1968, prior to my returning to school for my freshman year of high school. We were living in Aurora, Illinois at the time.

It was a summer of unrest. Riots and demonstrations in the streets flooded the nightly newscasts on all three of the only networks of the time – ABC, CBS and NBC.

I was already something of a history and political buff. So I watched intently to the scenes playing out on our color television.

The images were much more real than what they were that other July night watching on a black-and-white screen as President John F. Kennedy warned the nation about the Red Scare 70 miles off our coast, which I had watched as a second grader living in Anderson, Indiana.

Come to think of it – it had been a decade of unrest.

The standoff with the USSR, the assassination of President Kennedy, the social upheaval of the hippies and flower children, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the marches of those seeking civil rights for all, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the burning of bras and draft cards, the running away to Canada, the protests against the Viet Nam War, Woodstock – all were part of this decade.

Now in July of 1968, transfixed I watched the National Guard on the streets of Chicago a mere 60 miles away. I saw mounted police trampling on protesters. I saw the barricades, the smoke from tear gas, from Molotov cocktails, bloodied faces outside the Democratic National Convention.

I watched protesters dragged out of the convention. I saw the inability of nominee Hubert Humphrey to quell the unrest.

It was total chaos. A couple of weeks later, I remember Everett Dirksen, our own Senator, take control at the Republican National Convention. I watched as if in a trance as Dirksen had the hall on its feet reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

But it was still a summer, a decade of unrest.

Over the past week, once more I have been transfixed seeing reminders of that summer nearly 50 years ago.

The killings.

The marches in the streets.

Presidential nominating conventions in the wings.

The saying goes that history repeats itself.

We are also admonished to learn from the past so as not to make the same mistakes.

Have we learned nothing?

From the Cornfield, America the Beautiful, God shed His grace on Thee.

Guilty: Failure to Understand, Incapable of Empathy

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The truth is staring me in the mirror.

I am an older, white male.

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As such, I have a failure to understand, an incapability of empathy and am justifiably labeled guilty.

Why deny it?

How can I as an older, white male be able to “get it”?

How can I as an older, white male know how it feels to be abused both verbally and physically?

How can I as an older, white male know the hurt of being turned down for employment or fired from employment because of being who one is?

How can I as an older, white male be able to relate to police hostility or brutality?

How can I as an older, white male think I can be party to healing wounds that cross time?

How can I as an older, white male have the gall to talk about injustice and inequality?

How can I as an older, white male discover my options limited in achieving the great American Dream?

How can I as an older, white male know the humiliation of mothers pulling their children close to them when passing by?

How can I as an older, white male relate to the shame as people cross to the other side of the street in avoidance?

How can I as an older, white male comprehend being refused service in a restaurant or store simply for being alive?

Anyone can see it clearly in the photo that I am an older, white male – thus I am suspect.

It is plain to see that I have no seat at the table with the downtrodden.

The only participation I can have in the conversation is to admit my guilt and complicity for actions perpetrated 50, 100, 200, 300 years ago.

Those actions surely were committed by someone like me. I am guilty whether I am blood-related or not to the perpetrator.

I am guilty whether any thoughts of malice have ever crossed my mind or not.

I am guilty whether I have ever committed any acts of inhumanity or not.

I am the spitting image of the guilty.

From the Cornfield, not sure if I mentioned it, but I am also gay.

I have been asked to move from where I lived.

I have been beaten.

I have been threatened with jail time.

I have been met at the church door and told I was not welcome.

I have seen employment opportunities disappear.

I have been called things which would make the most vile person blush.

None of that matters.

I am betrayed by my appearance in the picture.

I am an old, white male.

Nothing matters except for what is so obvious by one look.

But don’t call it profiling.