Friday, July 17, 2009

The Economy Mantra

Let's Get this straight. The economy is bad and has been bad for the past couple of years at least. It's going to take time to get it turned around. But let's not allow this economic quagmire to keep us from living.

Times are tight, but we still need to breath, eat, make love, laugh, recreate rather than spending time crying.

Now before anyone accuses me of being out of touch or delusional, here is some quick background.

Before the down turned economy came into vogue, back in 2006, I was laid off from my job. If that wasn't enough, nearly a year after being laid off, my house was foreclosed on. Then if that wasn't enough, health problems I had gotten under control 15 years ago, had resurfaced. So if you're keeping score at home - lost job, lost home had health problems.

Thank God my wife still had her job and health care. But we had to stay with friends for a couple of months until we found another place to stay. Also thank God for my father who helped financially. Prior to getting sick, thank God for the part-time security job that I loathed, but helped tied us over.

All this happened long before the bottom dropped out in the economy. What made it worse, is we didn't have the daily economic media coverage or peer group to share in our pain. In fact, many people couldn't relate to our situation at the time. So we mostly kept it to ourselves.

Fast forward to 2009. We've been in our townhouse for nearly two years. I haven't found another job, but I am able to collect disability due to my health condition - which has at least stabilized. Throughout the whole ordeal our two youngest sons didn't skip a beat, maintained good grades in school and continued with extracurricular activities - even the ones that cost money. Our oldest son, who is grown is trying to make his way in the world and lives with another relative. We are no doubt blessed to have weathered the storm and now have a testimony.

My long winded point is, throughout all these trials, yes we got frustrated, but rarely discouraged. We kept the faith. It was difficult at times, but we maintained our sense of humor. We tried our best to maintain the normal routine, sans a few changes. Sure my wife and I haven't been able to go on another cruise just yet, or take the family vacation to Orlando. But we're here.

No question we're still working at it and not where we want to be financially, but the economy is no longer our mantra as a reason for not doing something. I encourage all to try and avoid this as well - be positive, no matter how bleak the situation may appear. If your a person of faith, lean on that to help get you through. Also lean on your immediate family and don't be afraid to tell your friends and others what's going on in your life. If you don't talk, chances are you may miss an opportunity for someone to help you.

I understand some will disappoint or just ignore your plight. But just keep rolling on anyway.

Not matter how low your financial situation sinks, still take the opportunity to offer a helping hand to someone else, it will help someone and also make you feel good in the process.

People lived through the dust bowl, the Great Depression, we can survive and overcome this current economic downturn. That's what I believe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Farewell, Michael -- Not Goodbye

Michael Jackson, pop superstar and entertainer extraordinaire, was celebrated in a memorial service at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, California on Tuesday, July 8, 2009. Although the center was filled to capacity by an orderly, respectful audience, the majority of the actual observers watched by way of television around the world. Millions, if not billions, of people stopped to take the time to pay their respects to the person who Motown Records President, Barry Gordy, pronounced to be "the Greatest Entertainer of All Time."

As the youngest member of the former Jackson Five pop music group, Michael went on to develop an explosive career that rocketed him to the top of the charts consistently. He transformed the pop music world through his innovative dance routines, music videos and magnetic music. He was the barrier breaker for African Americans in terms of opportunity and product distribution in a profession well-known for robbing African Americans of their music, credits, opportunities and profits.

Personally, he was one of the most charitable entertainers in the industry, as well as gracious. He was also known as an astute businessman, which will well serve his children and other beneficiaries of his estate. However, his personal life was also troubled, something already well-documented. It is not necessary for me to recount it here.

Nevertheless, in death, just as in life, there are many who still do not understand him, nor the world from which he arose.

The memorial service was a respectful, classy home-going for someone whose genius can not be denied. Time Magazine writer, James Poniewozik, found the service to be "...gaudy and strange...". How little you know about African American funeral customs! We believe in celebrating the life of the deceased with the elements or reminders of what the deceased did in life. It is a positive expression of grief by those who care. Attend an African American funeral service and you will find many of the same elements. Michael's just happened to be on a grander scale because he lived on a global scale. Attendees in the Staple Center are to be applauded for their display of sensitivity and respect.

Much controversy still surrounds Michael's life and death. Legal squabbles, rumor and inuendo will continue for a very long time. None of that is of concern to me. Yet, I believe people need to remember what can easily be overlooked.

When this is all said and done, the real tragedy is that there was a man who lived. He was part of a family who loved him. He had young children he was raising who he loved and who loved him. That family is now without a son, brother, and uncle. Those children are now without a father. Their grief is real. Their loss runs deep and will continue for the rest of their lives. Once the media finds another "hot" story and everyone else has gone back to their own personal lives, the Jackson family will still have to cope with missing their Michael.

If you have ever lost a loved one, then you know how they feel.

For the public, Michael will continue to live on through his music, his videos and his charities. He connected with the masses on the basis of our humanity. Although his family must say, "Goodbye," for us it is not. It is only, "Farewell." We are greatly blessed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

And Miles to Go Before I Sleep...Robert S. McNamara

Robert S. McNamara died at his home today, July 6 at 5:30 am. For those of you who may not know, he was the the former Secretary of Defense under the administration of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon S. Johnson. President Kennedy recruited him for the post in 1961, when McNamara was president of Ford Motor Company and served for seven years, longer than anyone else had ever done.

He was 93 years old and had been in failing health for some time, according to his wife, Diana.

Publicly, McNamara was a staunch defender of US involvement in Vietnam, despite intense opposition. Even his own son participated in public demonstrations against the war. Yet, McNamara insisted more troops and more arms would conquer North Vietnam's government and influence in Southeast Asia. As we know, it did not. The US ended up having to withdraw, beaten by the North Vietnamese as the French had. Before the war was over, 100,000+ American military personnel were killed and many more returned home physically, mentally and emotionally broken.

In his memoir published in 1995, "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam", McNamara reported he had serious doubts about the ability of the United States to prevail over "...a guerrilla insurgency that had driven the French from the same jungled countryside..." as early as 1967.

In an Associated Press interview given just before the book's release, McNamara admitted, "We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of our country. But we were wrong. We were terribly wrong." [Emphasis added]

In the same memoir, McNamara reported he and others in the administration failed to ask themselves five critical questions concerning US involvement in the war:

"Was it true that the fall of South Vietnam would trigger the fall of all Southeast Asia? Would that constitute a grave threat to the West's security? What kind of war — conventional or guerrilla — might develop? Could we win it with U.S. troops fighting alongside the South Vietnamese? Should we not know the answers to all these questions before deciding whether to commit troops?" [Emphasis added]

After leaving the Johnson administration, McNamara became president of the World Bank, a post he held for 12 years. Upon retirement, he championed the causes of nuclear disarmament and aid to the poorest nations by the wealthiest. Unfortunately, he will always be remembered as the champion of US involvement in the Vietnam War -- a war he came to deeply regret.

His greatest legacy, however, is one that has been overlooked by Washington DC since then. It appears the hard lessons were not learned, nor the five critical questions asked by administrations and Congress that came after. Supposedly promoting the "principles and traditions of our country", we have become embroiled in Iran, Iraq -- and now with increasing intensity, Afghanistan. What is our goal?

Did anyone ask the five critical questions before committing our troops?

Mr. McNamara, you learned those lessons the hard way and tried to pass them on, but it looks like we still have miles to go before we sleep.