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Bobby Kennedy Is Buried; I Graduate From College

Bobby Kennedy Is Buried; I Graduate From College
by
Chuck Cascio
 
     My college graduation was forever marred by an event that I still remember in detail. On June 8, 1968, I graduated from Wagner College on Staten Island, NY, a school I loved. At Wagner, I developed close friends with whom I knew I would share a lifelong bond (I was correct). While that day was one of great satisfaction, it was also the day that Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had emerged as the political hero of my life, was buried after being shot in the head at close range on June 5 in a Los Angeles hotel.
     
     To me, and to many in my generation, "Bobby" Kennedy was more than just another politician. He was fearless. He walked into riot-torn cities and tried to calm protesters. He united with Civil Rights leaders to champion their causes. He spoke with deep passion in a way that a young person could not only relate to but wanted desperately to emulate. 
     
 

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     Yes, he was born wealthy, but Bobby Kennedy understood that what he was given was not something that everyone was given...nor was it something that everyone could attain. But he wanted to make everything possible for everyone. He wanted to create opportunities. He strove fiercely for fairness and equality. 

     There were times when I was home from college that I would drive by Bobby's home, called Hickory Hill, in McLean, VA, and catch a glimpse of a small group of people playing what looked like touch football in their yard. Was that him? Did I see Bobby? I don't know for sure. I will never know. But I know this: 
     
     His energy and commitment and words are burned into my memory. 
     
     On the car ride home to Northern Virginia following my graduation, my parents and I saw glimpses of crowds gathered around train tracks to mourn as Bobby Kennedy's body, which had been flown into New York, was being taken by train to Arlington National Cemetery. The crowds were so dense, the normally four-hour train ride took more than eight hours. Bobby was buried that night, the same night my diploma was mounted on a wall in my bedroom.
     
     Over the years that have passed I, like so many others, often reflect on my college years, the learning, the experiences, the friends. But I also have found myself reflecting on Bobby Kennedy's unique idealism and, lately, certain words spoken by him--and other words spoken about him--spring to mind. This is Robert F. Kennedy speaking on the importance of acting against injustice:
     
     Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.
     
     And this is what Bobby's younger brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, said at the end of his eulogy for Bobby on the night of June 8, 1968:
     
     My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.
     
     Time has flown, and I can't believe 52 years have passed since I graduated from college. But time also seems to have stood still, as  I can't believe that  52 years after the burial of Robert F. Kennedy I have not yet seen that "what he wished for others" has, in fact, "come to pass for all the world."   
     
     Perhaps the world will graduate to that level someday soon.
 

Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

Of Vice and Men--Life In the Time of Corona (Seventh In An Unlimited Series)

Life In the Time of Corona (Seventh In An Unlimited Series)
 
Of Vice and Men
By
Marc Cascio
 

Chuck's Note: Marc Cascio is my son and (I don't mind saying!) an outstanding English teacher, soccer coach, father, and viewer of humanity. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

     I once heard a great story about a Jewish shopkeeper in Germany just before the Holocaust. The poor shopkeeper was besieged by a small clan of German youths who would stand outside of his store and hurl antisemitic invectives at him. The young men terrified customers away and deeply upset the shopkeeper and his family. One day, the shopkeeper had an idea- he confronted the hoodlums and said, "I will pay you two deustscmarks per person per day to stand her and insult me". The bewildered Germans laughed and escalated their tirades. After two days, the shopkeeper came out and said, " Very well done! For the next few days, I will pay you five deutschmarks per person per day to stand here and insult me". Again, the young Germans ramped up their assault, laughing at the crazy Jewish man paying them to insult him and drive his business away. After a few days, the shopkeeper approached the teens and said " You have done such a fine job that I can no longer afford to pay you. I am afraid there will be no more money". The leader of the thugs responded, "We will not stand here all day for free!" and they all left. 

     I cannot prove the veracity of the story, but in my mind the principle can be easily proven: avarice supersedes reason. For most, if not all of us, we can always find a way to justify getting what we want. Don't believe me? Then why do so many people have staggering credit card debt? Why go out to eat when you have a freezer full of food and say " Well, we deserve this"?  

     I am a teacher though, and I have further proof. You can get students to do almost anything by uttering one two word term - EXTRA CREDIT! The student who is failing hopelessly and the student whose average is pinned at 100 alike will do most anything for it. Hell, as a teacher, you don't even have to really DELIVER it, you just have to SAY you will. The term "extra" makes it seem like they are getting something special and exceptional, and you can make students dance (trust me) for it.

     If you need further proof, check out the "Singer Solution to World Poverty" or, better yet, read the amazing short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula LeGuin - spoiler alert: the person you wish you were, would walk, the person you are, would never.

     So, what's the point? 

     The pictures below are of Ocean City, Maryland's boardwalk on Memorial Weekend and of Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, maskless and greeting people at Virginia Beach. (Northam has since apologized.)


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     For the masses at Ocean City, the desire to be out and enjoying a beautiful Memorial Day weekend supersedes the ignorant actions of gathering like this in the face of a pandemic! If you rolled out the corpses of the 100,000 that this thing has killed on to the boardwalk, people wouldn't come. However, because the threat isn't immediate, and because people are too thick headed to postpone what they DESIRE instead of doing what is right, some of these people will get sick, and some of those who do will either die themselves or transmit the virus to those who will die.

     For Northam, he evidently (at the time, at least) lacked the moral and intellectual fortitude to forego acting in a manner that he would condemn in others in order to attain photo ops to further his own agenda. I am quite sure Northam would blast Trump for his Michigan idiocy, yet here he is hypocrisizing himself for what I assume is to curry political favor.

     A virus is stupid and egalitarian. It doesn't discriminate between smart or stupid hosts, black , white, or any other color hosts, gay or straight hosts, or religious or atheistic hosts. It just does its thing provided the opportunity. It isn't even malicious: it's a mindless predator of primitive derivation.

     Science and religion don't converge often. How ironic would it be if a virus, at the bottom of the evolutionary realm, were to decimate humans, at the top of the evolutionary realm, because we refused to use the gift of intelligence bestowed upon us via evolution or a creator due to the Biblical sins of greed, pride, and vanity? Eschewing common sense in favor of transient happiness may be the curse of humanity, emanating from its supposedly greatest asset. 

Copyright Marc Cascio; all rights reserved.

Comments? Write to chuckwrites@yahoo.com

"That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement--Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)

 
Life In the Time of Corona (Sixth In An Unlimited Series)
 
 
"That Stupid Mask" Is NOT a Political Statement
By
Robert Sihler
 
Chuck's Note: Robert Sihler lives in Driftwood, Texas, where he works in special education in the Dripping Springs Independent School District. His passions are rock climbing and mountaineering and getting his children to roll their eyes at him! He often moonlights as a climbing guide and instructor. He originally posted this piece on Facebook; it is reprinted here with his permission.

 

I don't do politics and religion on my Facebook page. There are people I like and love who have widely different views on these things than I do-- both to the left and to the right-- and it just isn't worth fighting about this with any of them. On a personal level, I like them more than I dislike their positions.

But I feel compelled to throw my own worthless two cents in on a particular subject: masks.

I'm of the Atticus Finch school, which is that you should try to see other points of view. 

So far, most people reading this will agree, but here's where the split will happen:

A majority of Americans, including me, want the nation to reopen. But among that majority is a majority that wants to be careful about it.

And this is where we are splitting now. Suddenly, wearing a mask or not wearing one has been turned into a political statement by conservative media. Either you are a brave patriot eschewing masks and flouting distancing guidelines, or you are a coward trembling in your living room under the sway of the deep state and the media and, predictably, George Soros, and, preposterously, Bill Gates.

My friends, this is completely false.

 

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First, let me say that I'm personally not that concerned about covid-19 affecting me. I have always had a strong immune system. On the rare occasions I do get sick, I recover very quickly, and without medical treatment. So although I could be tragically wrong, I suspect that if I contract the virus, I will be asymptomatic or that I will experience mild symptoms that will pass quickly.

Next, I do understand the frustration and desperation building out there. I am lucky to be among those staying home but still getting paid, and I am supplementing my income by working online as a copywriter. Not for a second do I dismiss the worries of those who have been out of work for weeks now and are facing a financial and mental abyss.

Finally, I think I look plain stupid wearing a mask. For a while, I didn't bother wearing one except where it was required. But now I am wearing one in enclosed spaces where others are near.

You can call me a coward if you like, but as I've already said, I'm not really afraid of the coronavirus for my sake. I wear a mask because I have no idea if I might be carrying and so I don't want to risk passing it on to others if I happen to sneeze or cough while I'm standing next to a bunch of people in the bread aisle.

Over the past couple of months, I've continued going to grocery stores and convenience stores. I've probably climbed more than I did the previous two months. I've been spending money and supporting local businesses, not cowering behind the couch at home and wishing it would just all be over.

You might be of the mindset that masks and distancing are pointless and we might as well just get it over with. If you are, I know I can't persuade you. But if you're of that mindset and you intentionally get close to people when you know many are trying to avoid that, why are you doing that?

What if you are an asymptomatic carrier and you infect someone and that person dies? How would you feel about that? Are you that person who knowingly serves a person a food he or she claims to be allergic to just because you don't believe it? I mean, I get tired of all the accommodations allergic people demand, too, but I'm still not going to crack my pistachios over the head of a person with a nut allergy. So why can't you make your statement from a distance?

When I put on that stupid mask, it's not for me; it's for you.

When I put on that stupid mask, it's not a political statement. And it isn't one for most people wearing them.

Unfortunately, it has become a political statement to not wear a mask and to not distance yourself from people you don't live with. It's been turned into a loyalty test, loyalty to Trump.

It doesn't have to be this way. Here in a pretty red area of Texas, I routinely see bearded guys in big pickups wearing masks indoors. There's no way more than a few of them vote D. They're going to vote for Trump, but they're wearing masks because they get that the virus is not political and that they may have vulnerable loved ones; there are a lot of old people here, and Texans, for all their faults, do have strong family bonds.. 

Vote however you want in November. If you vote for Trump and Trump wins, I'm not going to have a meltdown and unfriend you because I think that will really show you, lol. And if Biden wins, I hope most of you who vote for Trump won't do the same. I expect better from all of us because of the connections we had way before all of this. And, as always, I'll climb with anyone regardless of politics as long as you're a solid partner.

But please reject this false dichotomy being peddled for the sole purpose of dividing us. You can wear a mask and still vote for Trump. If you won't wear a mask, you can at least respect the distance others want and expect. Trolling is fun, but it's not funny when lives could be at risk.

You can also be a Biden voter and be completely fed up with some of the restrictions. That's okay, too; some of them are ridiculous.

I remember Ronald Reagan's calm and compassion after the Space Shuttle disaster had the country in tears. I remember George H.W. Bush's competent leadership when the Middle East was blowing up and we thought war was coming. I remember Bill Clinton trying to comfort and heal after Columbine. I remember George Bush rallying a shocked nation after 9-11; his words moved me, and when Trent Lott and Tom Daschle led Congress in singing "God Bless America," I had tears in my eyes and felt proud to be an American. And I remember Barack Obama trying to lead us out of a terrible recession that hurt so many people.

All of those presidents and their policies had flaws, but they tried to unite the nation in times of crisis. They stepped up to the moment. History will judge their efficacy, but they did try.

Today, we have a president who hasn't even tried to do that. As polls and facts and numbers have increasingly gone against him, he says he never said what he is on video saying, he moves the goalposts, and he pursues division, not persuasion or correction or reconciliation.

If you like Trump, okay. If you don't, okay. But it's clear he's not going to lead us out of this. Please, let's stop talking past each other trying to score points and instead talk to each other. If I can have rational conversations with family and friends who vote differently than I do, so can you.

And you can wear a mask in the grocery store or at least stay away from others if you won't. It's not hard and it's not much to ask, and it's not violating your rights under the Constitution.

Stay safe, be well, and climb on!

Copyright, Robert Sihler; all rights reserved.

 

Life In the Time of Corona (Fifth in an unlimited series)


Life In the Time of Corona (Fifth in an unlimited series)

Chuck’s Note: My longtime friend Steve Slavsky wrote these comments after reading an article in The Intelligencer of New York Magazine entitled “Even Naked, America Cannot See Itself: In a time of plague, willful blindness is a coping mechanism” by Zak Cheney-Rice. Steve’s thoughts are reprinted here with his permission.

WHERE IS OUR DEMOCRACY HEADED?

By

Steve Slavsky

     

     I have been concerned for several years over the fast growing economic gap in the United States and what it may portend for the future.  Having studied revolutions that have occurred in many countries over the past 300 years, especially those since 1900, I believe we are reaching a very dangerous time in history for our democracy.  

     Things can go in many different directions, and no one knows the future, but I personally believe that we can't survive with our current state of affairs.  It is not just the leadership, which is skewed toward maintaining or increasing inequality. It is the failure of us, as Americans, to alleviate the problem.  

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

     Do I know what to do about it?  Not really.  What I do know is that everything about our freedoms and our rights can be lost if we, as a country, move too far to the right or the left.  What's kept us going all these years is the ability to listen to each other and to compromise. That ability seems to have almost disappeared.  

     As I get older, I realize more and more, that the opportunities I had as a lower 

middle-class kid just aren't there for the majority of American youth anymore.  Education has always been the way to move up the ladder of life and it's becoming less and less available for those who need it most.  
     I'm reminded a lot of the Roman Empire, and how its collapse led to a very dark time for the world.  Not that it was really that great before that time--there was essentially a dictator and a plutocracy.  Unfortunately, I see many parallels all over the world today.  The U.S. doesn't have a dictator, but it certainly has a plutocracy whose members are only interested in enriching themselves with no interest in the common good.

Note: Steve Slavsky grew up in the Bronx where he attended public schools before graduating from the City College of New York. He served six years active duty in the Army and then worked for the Department of Defense for 27 years in the acquisition field.  After retirement, he spent nine years consulting as a federal acquisitions expert.  

Copyright: Steve Slavsky, all rights reserved.

Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)

Life In the Time of Corona (Fourth in an unlimited series)
(Note: The following was written by my son Marc Cascio, who is in his 28th year
of teaching high school and coaching youth soccer—Chuck Cascio)
 
REALIZING ‘PURPOSE’ IN THE TIME OF CORONA 
By Marc Cascio
     
     Before he died, my Grandpa Wells used to stand guard at the doors of the Sunrise Retirement home where he eventually passed away. Nobody, not even my mother, could explain why he assumed this role: certainly nobody asked him to and, though he had once been a stalwart and aggressive man who survived D-Day and was a known entity to high-up generals, in his later days he would have been ineffective at stopping nearly anyone who invaded the home. Still, every morning, as the other elderly people shuffled here and there and busied themselves with whatever filled the time, my grandfather took up his post at the door, and there he remained.
     
     I understand now. My grandfather was a man of action and had been for his whole life. He was on his own early, and the perpetual motion of the military provided sanctuary for his restless nature. If he was cleaning boots, he was doing so for a purpose, regardless of how important he viewed that purpose. By acting as a sentry, he created meaning for himself, and that meaning gave him purpose. He probably knew he wasn't really protecting his house any longer, but nobody said as much and the sense of  purpose fed his restless soul.

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     If nothing else, I have come to understand the meaning of purpose through this whole damned virus thing. I MISS my work! I MISS my students and my players! The time that I get to spend with my own family is wonderful, yes, but I miss feeling like more of a contributor. I know some may be inclined to think by saying that I am guilty of a transgression against my family, but part of my self importance is derived from my own children seeing me work hard and seeing me try to help others. I cannot divorce myself from that, and the days seem soooo long sometimes.

     The other day, in a moment of unwitting precociousness, our 13 year old, Zoey, said she misses school because it gives her purpose. I am not surprised. My mom doesn't need to work, but she still does. She works at a Sunrise facility and (sorry mom), but she is probably older than some of the residents. Yet she won't stop working. She will brave the virus, because not working is a worse fate. My dad's retirement too is a paradox: He works as hard now as he ever did, and that is harder than most everyone I know. His work gives him purpose. He won't stop.
     
     It is wrong, of course, to feel sorry for myself when I still have my health and when we are in a much better spot than many whose life and/or livelihood have been ripped away, but I still feel the absence of purpose. And I now understand what drives an old man to stand by a door protecting nothing in one sense…and everything in another.
 
Copyright: Marc Cascio, all rights reserved.