Columns

Being Grateful for What I Can Be Grateful For

September 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I remember when
my grandfather
would talk to me
during those times
when the world’s
troubles and woes,
the likes of
extreme poverty
the fear of A-bombs
and Jim Crow
were keeping everybody
on their toes,
he’d say,
“No matter
how life was going,
you need to know
we’d best
be grateful
for anything|
we can be grateful for” so

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The Great Dumpster Fire Of 2020: What Will Be Left Amidst the Ashes?

September 14, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s that time again. The world is burning. The sky is hazy from smoke in the Southland, Bladerunner-orange over San Francisco, and a tenth of the state of Oregon is under evacuation.

I’ll try not to write the same column that I did last year during fire season.

Or the year before that.

Or the several years before that.

With the media screaming about these fires it finally seems that the “unprecedented” angle is having its last gasp. Gavin Newsom is sick of climate deniers, and the connection between the extreme heat and the fires seems to finally be unquestioned.

As I write this on a Friday afternoon, my friends and family in the Bay Area can’t leave their homes for fear of toxic air. Family in Portland are watching a megafire come their way.

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When I Think of Love

September 8, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

When I think of love,
I think of how
it has safely
taken me through
life’s dark clouds
and drowning seas
as well as through life’s joys
and well-earned victories;
I think of how love
has been sung
as “the only thing
that there’s
just too little of”
and being that that’s one thing
I’m truly certain of
I feel compelled
to speak to
all the madness
and sadness
I see to the right and left of me
in a society,
falling behind

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Labor Day in the Midst of a National Crisis: Dreaming of a Just Recovery

September 7, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This weekend we celebrate Labor Day, but how many of us have any idea where the holiday came from or what it celebrates?

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882 in New York City and was proposed by the Central Labor Union (CLU) at a time when American workers were struggling for basic rights such as the eight-hour day. The CLU moved the “workingman’s holiday” to the first Monday in September in 1883 and urged other unions to celebrate the date as well. The movement grew throughout the 1880s, along with the American labor movement itself with 23 states passing legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday. By 1894 Congress followed suit and Labor Day became a national holiday.

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Do We Call On Our Black Anger or Our Black Love?

September 3, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking of how my people have overcome so many things in this country. For centuries.

You name it, we’ve overcome it. But we just can’t overcome the anger that comes with being Black in this society.

It’s a Black anger, if you will, because it’s ours alone, a form of anger that’s always there, beneath the surface, like a low-burning flame that needs a rush of air to get it really going.

And, since it’s usually the actions of angry White folks that gives our anger oxygen, we can’t ever fully relax it because, in our experience, we never know when we might have to react to what a White person has done – to one of us. Or a number of us.

When it’s least expected.

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What Rough Beast Slouches Toward the White House to Be Reborn? Thoughts on the Contemporary Republican Party and the Future of America

August 31, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s hard to know where to start. What did we learn from the GOP convention last week?

Nothing new.

We already recognize, to paraphrase Yeats, what rough beast is slouching toward the White House to be reborn. Other than heedless deregulation and reactionary white nationalism, Trump’s Republican party doesn’t actually stand for anything.

Of course those two things are of central importance for the shadow government of the radicalized rich who are the only real beneficiaries of the last four years

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Thoughts About ‘Being Black in Tucson, AZ’

August 25, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been a member of our group, “Being Black in Tucson, AZ,” for a little while now, commenting on a thing or two, but I’ve never introduced myself to you.

That being said I’m an 82-year-old dude who spent the first 24 years of his life “Being Black in Tucson, AZ.” Since then I’ve lived in San Diego which is just an hour away by plane and five hours away by car. I didn’t want to go too far. Because I dearly love my hometown.

For its physical beauty and power that make it a spiritual place for me: hiking trails in Sabino Canyon above refreshing pools and streams; powerful Sonoran winds that you can lean against; frightening monsoons that give the Santa Cruz River a chance to roar; majestic saguaros with their lovely blossoms.

For how far it has come since the Jim Crow days of my youth when people like me were limited as to when we could

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A Tale of Two Convention Weeks: Biden Acceptable Under the Circumstances?

August 24, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As we gear up for the horror show that will be the Republican National Convention, a few thoughts on last week’s Democratic affair.

Those of us who, like me, think it is imperative to defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming election, breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when Joe Biden delivered the speech of his lifetime and signaled that he might just see himself as a candidate on the cusp of a New Deal moment. Clearly, he is right to view the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent economic disaster as a moment of profound threat and opportunity.

Biden is similarly spot on to point to the climate crisis and what we need to do to address it

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My Sunshine on Cloudy Days

August 17, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

To feed my spirit
every now and then,
in moments,
nowadays,
I find myself,
singing “My Girl”
like I’m on stage
with the Temptations,
because “hey,”
like David Ruffin
and them,
I’ve got a woman who
makes me feel like
“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day” too,

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Going Back to School in the Midst of a Global Pandemic:  Fear, Loathing, and ‘Virtual’ Learning

August 17, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s hard to imagine a worse way to start a school year, from top to bottom. As with his dreams of a glorious economic “reopening,” President Trump’s authoritarian fantasy of forcing the nation’s return to school has backfired in a big way, with polls everywhere showing a majority of parents and students unhappy with the idea of being bullied into the classroom whether that be in K-12 or higher education.

Also, it turns out, that many local school districts have refused to play along, listening to public health experts rather than the go-back-to-work-and-die crowd. In places where schools have reopened, we were immediately greeted with outbreaks of COVID-19.

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The Widder Curry: ‘Religion Should Not Be Used as Vehicle for ‘Sales’ on a Regular News  Program.’

August 17, 2020 by Judi Curry

What is offensive to some may not be offensive to others

By Judi Curry

I realize that we cannot agree with everyone at any time. I realize that businesses must cater to their advertisers in order to stay in business. I also know that in my writings I frequently offend some while others are in total agreement with what I have to say. I also know that I do not have to read, listen to, or watch things that I disagree with, nor do you. But when I am “blind-sided” and put in a position that I object to, I react as I am reacting today.

Not too long ago I watched KUSI news all the time. I even did some reports with “Turko”. Then I discovered that the owners of KUSI and I do not agree politically, and I ceased watching their programs.

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Reliving My High School Days

August 12, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

After writing a piece about how an old photo briefly took my mind off today’s troubles in the world I’ve found another that does the same. Very nicely.

This one was taken in 1996, catching me smiling and clowning at the 40th Reunion of the Class of ’56 of Tucson High – in a room full of 58-year-olds feverishly reminiscing about days gone by and about how fast those years have seemed to pass by.

The conversations were all over the place. There was, of course, the obligatory topic that every generation brings up about “The kids of today” and how we were better than them in our time.

The big questions of the night were “Who you like, Clinton or Dole?” and “What about that Michael Jordan and the Bulls, huh?”

I must have heard “So the Yankees are in the World Series again, what else is new?” a few times.

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What Should Post COVID-19 Crisis America Look Like?

August 10, 2020 by Jim Miller

The American Federation of Teachers Lays Out a Bold Vision of a Just Recovery as San Diego Green New Deal Alliance Launches

By Jim Miller

This summer I was proud to see that my national union, the American Federation of Teachers, was thinking big at its biennial convention in late July. Clearly, the activist spirit sweeping the country was in the (virtual) air.

Building on some of the work my brothers and sisters and I did here in San Diego along with others in our statewide union, the national AFT followed the lead of California and passed both a resolution endorsing the Green New Deal and a wide ranging call to move beyond the necessary but narrow bread and butter response we have seen from the national and local AFL-CIO to thinking comprehensively about how we should pivot and seize the opportunity that this crisis presents to build a better future.

The resolution in support of a Green New Deal calls on the 1.7 million members of the AFT

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A Kind of Ode to the Gray in My Hair

August 7, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

This is a kind of an ode
to my wild
and wiry hair
that’s ever so gray
that, particularly,
looked so beautiful to me
as I checked it out
in the mirror one day
because I happened to be thinking
how some old people like me
look at their gray hair
in utter despair
and turn it
into godawful colors
that hadn’t ever been seen
anywhere.

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Enjoying an Old Photo As a Momentary Relief from Reality

August 4, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Looking through a picture album to distract me from Trump lying and whining as people are dying and as federal troops violate the rights of protestors, one picture, in particular, caught my eye.

It’s a one of me standing on the top step leading to the front door of the first house I ever owned, a house that my daughter, Debbie, owned at the time. It was the summer of 1976 and I was taking a break from helping Debbie with her Lamaze training shortly before Cedric, her first child and my first grandchild, came into the world. Her future husband was out to sea with the U.S. Navy.

I don’t know what was on my mind at that moment in time but it very well could have been what had been on my mind for some time, thoughts of my daughter parenting a child as a teen like I had.

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‘It’s Alright. We’re All Dying’: Summer Chronicles 2020 #7

August 3, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

“It’s alright. We’re all dying.”

This is the feeling I get while consuming American media and walking the streets of downtown San Diego in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. I said these words to myself the other day as I made my way around a pack of maskless tourists by the harbor, heedlessly ignoring any need to be concerned about their health or that of anyone else’s.

On this particular date, we were experiencing what was a record number of new COVID-19 cases but that was no reason to interfere with vacation nation. We’re all dying, but it’s alright.

That was the refrain in Michael Ventura’s classic 1980s essay, “Report from El Dorado,” where he brilliantly outlined American media’s schizophrenic character. As Ventura puts it:

Media keeps saying, “It’s all right” while being fixated upon the violent, the chaotic, and the terrifying. So the production of media becomes more and more schizoid, with two messages simultaneously being broadcast: “It’s all right. We’re dying. It’s all right. We’re all dying.” The other crucial message — “We’re dying” — runs right alongside “It’s all right.”

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Let an Old Man Hip You to Something

July 29, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve always
thought of myself as hip,
up on things,
tuned in, with it, aware.
And then along comes a serious health scare
seemingly out of nowhere
and I’m feeling a bit square,
not so tuned in
and with it
and aware
because when I got word
that we could maybe
bring this deadly disease
to its knees
by wearing masks
and not getting too
close to each other
and washing our hands frequently,

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Baseball in the Summer of Dread: Summer Chronicles 2020 #6

July 27, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

The pandemic belongs to Swole Daddy. In case you missed it, Swole Daddy is the mascot of the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). He is, as his name aptly signals, the super buff cartoonish dinosaur who joins the cheerleaders on top of the dugout in the empty ballpark during games. Actually, his name is Sseri, but “Swole Daddy” took off on social media and it stuck.

“We love you, Sexy Dino,” the meme exclaims. Yes, a jacked dinosaur wearing a necklace is as good as it gets this year, really.

As FiveThirtyEight recently noted, statistically speaking, the NC Dinos may just be the best KBO team to ever take the field at this point in the season. That’s the kind of thing you learn if you take a few moments off from obsessively checking the daily polling and political punditry on the site and scroll over to their sports analysis. Here is where sports and politics meet: in the strange alchemy of the daily numbers. They create their own reality as they seek to document it. The tool of measurement grants an aura to that which can be quantified and reified.

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Sports and Politics Mix Together Quite Nicely If You Ask Me

July 22, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

There are a lot of folks who are complaining about black athletes drawing attention to Black Lives Matter, saying “Politics and sports don’t mix.”

Have to say that’s news to me since, in our country’s history, particularly, if black athletes didn’t confront the racism inherent in our society and in our politics, there would have been very little notice of a people’s struggle to achieve equality.

I think back to July 4, 1910. On that day Jack Johnson, an African American, entered the ring in Reno, Nevada to face Jim Jeffries, the “Heavyweight champion of the world,” in the “Fight of the Century.”

J

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Underneath the Flotsam of the World: Summer Chronicles 2020 #5

July 20, 2020 by Jim Miller

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens

–“The Red Wheelbarrow,” William Carlos Williams

By Jim Miller

So much depends on the first step out of bed, the first sip of coffee, holding the morning silence for as long as you can. The chair where you sit, the angle of the morning light, letting the moment unfold on its own. Don’t look at the phone, don’t turn on the radio or TV, never start staring at screens. Morning is only morning when you own the time, when you wake up on your own terms and don’t give your day away before you’ve even started to live it.

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Jiving Kids by Reopening Schools Just Would Not Be Cool

July 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

The orange faced man in the White House is talking about reopening schools and, in my way of thinking, that just would not be cool.

Jiving aka bullshitting children is something we should never do and opening their schools would be saying to them that everything is cool.

It seems like my work in this area is not yet done as I spent 37 years in San Diego City Schools opposing shining young folks on.

It wasn’t my intention to take on such a task when I began teaching. It was something that came to me out of the blue one day back in the early 60’s when my sixth graders and I were sitting at a school assembly.

A South African exchange student from a high school nearby had us literally “oohing and aahing” as she showed us slides of breathtaking mountains and glistening coastlines and splendid waterfalls and forests and deserts and grassy savannas.

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The Deep Desert of Summer: Summer Chronicles 2020 #4

July 13, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Silence lives inside the heat. That’s the feeling you get when you drive to the desert and park your car by the side of the road to hike in the morning. You need to keep track of the time so you don’t hike so far that it hits 100 degrees before you return. Even if you don’t get lost, that kind of heat for too long is what makes the desert dangerous in the summer. So, you’re careful but you still go, out toward the hills on a warm morning.

The nice thing is that the further you get from the road, the more distant the sound of the occasional passing car or truck, although this time of year there aren’t many. Then there is nothing but the hum of insects and your feet on the rock and sand.

Step, step, step. One foot after the other in your own particular rhythm.

As you walk you go deep inside yourself even as you lose yourself in the vastness of blue sky and the bright sun flaring off the mountainside in the distance.

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Freestyling My Thoughts on a July Afternoon

July 10, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Life a bit crazy,
hazy,
spacy,
racy.
Like looking at reality
through a grease spattered
kitchen screen,
trying to make sense
of a wide scope of happenings,
white dudes
thinking they’re supreme,
possessing superior genes,
spelled j-e-a-n-s,
if you get my drift
and know what I mean.

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Lift Every Voice and Sing

July 6, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I remember days when Mr. Sydney Dawson, one of my two favorite teachers, would raise his baton and we, the Dunbar Junior High Chorus, the best in the city of Tucson, would stand tall and proud and sing the Black National Anthem out loud, ending with:

“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won”

That song, one I’ve never heard anyone sing but black people, has kept us afloat, kept us scratching and crawling and marching, pursuing a victory that perpetually has seemed both elusive and out of reach. Much like a fantasy.

And then I look up one day and I hear a man on ESPN say that at all the opening games of the next NFL season, the game will begin with the words “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the opening line of my anthem, and I thought I was in an nonparallel universe. As this seemed so out of sync with reality.

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You Are Already Where You Want to Be: Summer Chronicles 2020 #3

July 6, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

You already are where you want to be. Forget the story in your head and the world of screens. Wake up at dawn and hit the street early before the masses crowd the sidewalks and go. Anywhere, everywhere, just walk. This is the ritual of the moment.

In my neighborhood, it means learning the landscape of yards — lush green garden boxes, forests of sunflowers, clusters of cacti on the edge of a canyon. Relearn how to look and listen, see the things you never see. What is most important is what happens to be there at the dead end of the unpaved alley.

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Summer of the Black Veil: Summer Chronicles 2020 #2

June 29, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s the summer of the black veil, and a good number of us are none-too-happy about it. While many understand it as a reasonable public health mandate that serves to protect others, and, in fact, makes it possible for us to be more in the world during a pandemic with less fear of doing potential harm, others see it as an instrument of oppression. Of course, the obvious explanation for this response is the facile politicization of masks in the service of Trumpism, but could there be something deeper going on as well?

If we go back to the 1917 flu pandemic, we know that anti-mask politics in the service of “freedom” were evident then even as many more people died than have at present, so there is a precedent for the current derangement. But perhaps, at another level, the fear of the mask speaks to a profound American aversion to any sort of emblem of isolation.

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Keeping the Legacy Going

June 25, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

In these times of social distancing and isolating I’ve managed to still find something to celebrate. Like high school graduations.

I take my hat off to a brilliant descendant of mine, Alonzo (A.J.) Morgan, my great-grandson, who just moved his tassel from the right to the left at San Diego’s Lincoln High.

And I’m particularly proud that he’s following my path by accepting an athletic scholarship at my alma mater, the University of Arizona in Tucson, my hometown. Sixty-four years after me.

Different sport, though. I played basketball during my college days and he’s going to make his way on the gridiron.

We, however, both played each other’s sport. I could cut a figure on a football field and he can play some hoops – and we both have played a number of other sports. But we both dedicated time and effort to our favorite sport, the one we wanted to really excel in.

I can’t even begin to express how stoked I am in his decision to go to my school.

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Summer Chronicles 2020 #1: Hope Is in the Streets

June 22, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Hope is in the streets. In the midst of a pandemic that brought an economic collapse during which a series of police murders inspired an international wave of protests, a new era is being imagined, one that would rise out of the ashes of a dying, corrupt order. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Yes, the ugliness is still very much with us in all its myriad forms, but amidst the teargas, rubber bullets, fascist tweets, and posturing, the young are demanding the impossible. What is wonderful about this is the fact that they don’t care what those who “know better” are telling them. They don’t care about what’s realistic or likely to move the needle in the November election. And they certainly don’t care whether you approve of their rhetoric and demands.

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‘A Nose Is a Nose …’

June 16, 2020 by Ernie McCray

Ewww!

by Ernie McCray

Lately I’ve found myself saying “Ewww!” a lot.

It began over a week ago on a nice easy summer day.

I was reading a great book and two young friends of ours were painting our hallway.

An odor suddenly enters the room. It’s weak at first, and then it blows me away. I mean it was like a farting contest was going on in my nose between contestants who had trained by eating pots full of spoiled pinto beans.

In those moments I wondered:

“Is there a broken sewer in the neighborhood?”

“Did someone dump a truck load of rotten eggs in the backyard?”

“Is a dinosaur decomposing in the canyon our house is in?”

I thought I heard someone walking in the patio and I almost asked “Hey, is that you, Pepe Le Pew? Pig-Pen?”

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Hey California Democrats in Sacramento! Do the Right Thing and Tax the Billionaires

June 15, 2020 by Jim Miller

California Dems Need to Avoid Catastrophic Cuts to Education and Vital Social Services

By Jim Miller

The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent economic collapse along with the national uprising against police brutality and systemic racism have cast a glaring light on the nature of American inequality on the healthcare, criminal justice, and economic fronts. It has never been clearer that as most Americans struggle, the elite thrive. As a recent Forbes piece put it back in April, “Billionaires are Getting Richer During the COVID-19 Pandemic While Most Americans Suffer”:

According to the Institute for Policy Studies, billionaire wealth has boomed, while over 26 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March. The percentage of taxes paid by billionaires has fallen 79% since 1980.

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