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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 65,368

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Life with the Lions

I just came back from my mail box. There was a nice card from a man I know casually, sending kind words of support regarding last week’s “road rage” shooting that seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his son. I’ve been acquainted with this fellow for over twenty years; we share an interest in local railroad history. His father used to work with my father.

His father had died as a result of choking on food. I went to the funeral, and found my general belief that American society has great difficulty in dealing with death reinforced -- though death, of course, is always difficult under any circumstances. I remember the pastor leading the ceremony, saying that she knew the deceased “always loved dessert,” and that in heaven, God provides a never-ending variety of sweet desserts which grow as fruit on a tree. Perhaps it’s just me, but that seemed a tad too close to Santa God for me.

I remember when my friend Lee died. It was unexpected. Several people said to his brother, Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons, that Lee had “died too young.” I remember Oren saying that Lee had died on exactly the day he was supposed to. It was still equally sad, of course, but in my mind, Oren was correct.

My childhood “best friend” stopped by the other day. We remain very close friends, now that we have become the Elders of our valley neighborhood. My friend said that when the gunman got into his vehicle that day, he was going to kill someone; it was my cousins’ bad luck to be the first people he encountered. I’d have to agree that a man who flew into a homicidal rage and shoot two human beings, because the vehicle ahead of him was going the speed limit, could just as easily killed someone else.

My cousin was released from the hospital. Physically, he has aged at least 20 years in a week’s time. I visit him for short periods of time, usually twice a day. In between, we talk on the phone, or by e-mail, to discuss thoughts that come to him when he attempts to rest. I take care of business with the insurance and the bank. On Tuesday, my cousin was upset that, if he didn’t get to the poll, it would be the first time in 48 years that he hasn’t voted. I assured him that he has a valid excuse.

I voted, of course. And I attempt to take care of other business. My youngest daughter, for example, had basketball practice yesterday afternoon, followed by the area’s “senior” soccer game. Earlier in the day, I went to a medical appointment. It was re-scheduled, as I forgot it last week; the doctor said I had a valid excuse.

I’m more tired, sore, and worn-out than I can ever remember being. Even though I was awake in time, I didn’t get the trash and recyclables down the driveway this morning for pick-up. I’m finding it difficult to keep up on “housework.” A couple nights ago, when I went grocery shopping, a republican official from my town keep approaching me, asking questions about possible support for her “economic development plan.” I couldn’t follow what she was saying the first time she cornered me; I didn’t bother to try the second and third time. It was like she spoke a foreign language. I was just too tired.

But the vast majority of people I encounter -- in person, on the internet, or on the telephone -- are good and decent folk, who are horrified by what happened. Senseless violent outbursts such as this not only damage the families involved, these events damage the community. I often speak about systems -- family, workplace, community, etc -- being like a mobile that hangs over an infant’s crib. When the worst of human potential is inflicted upon one family piece, the others shift in response, in a manner that truly shows the best in humanity.

In our way, when a young person loses their life in such a tragic way, we recognize them as messengers to the larger community. Their lives had a special meaning. At the same time that it causes an almost unbearable pain of separation for the family and friends, and shifts them into the suffering described as the wilderness, identifying that lesson is essential. It is as opposite to the “life is cheap” message of that thug, as that higher potential that the community displays.

It’s interesting to me, to consider the very different manner that people tend to behave in the contexts of dealing with tragedy versus “politics.” One unites people, and the other divides us into opposing groups. One recognizes that we are each part of a connected whole, while the other creates divisions. This isn’t to suggest that there shouldn’t be different opinions in things political -- surely, there should be -- but just as we benefit from having mutual respect in the realm of the socio-political debates, our society is being harmed by the harshness of the culture wars.

It’s that harshness that creates the atmosphere of anger, anxiety, fear, and hatred that saturates our nation. It builds a momentum that vicious thugs, such as the one who shot my family, mistake for license to unleash violence on an unsuspecting public.

It shouldn’t be this way. And it doesn’t have to be this way. With conscious effort, we can change the direction our culture is moving in.

H2O Man

Long days, long nights

This is the 4th in a series on the shootings in Bainbridge, NY, that seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his son. The gunman was a retired NYC cop, recently hired as a part-time deputy-guard at the county jail. It was an extreme case of “road rage” -- this chap was enraged because a 26-year old slowed to 51 mph to round a curve -- that has left our communities reeling.

On Friday, there was a hearing in town court, to determine if the District Attorney had enough evidence to hold the “suspect” in jail, until a grand jury meets in late November to decide if he is to be charged with felony counts. The hearing, which lasted about an hour, was attended by a large crowd. Besides police and lawyers, there were family and friends of the victims, as well as concerned community members.

I had arranged a meeting between the DA and our family before the hearing. My aunt and uncle are in their mid-80s; they do not need the added stress of worrying about a potential injustice at this time. I think the meeting with the DA, along with conversations with state police after the hearing, has eased their minds. And the same goes with their three daughters.

After attempting to dispose of his handgun and other material, the thug had gone to the NYS Police and attempted to file charges on his victims. Police reports show that he reeked of alcohol. After the police read him his rights, and placed him under arrest, he asked to be allowed to go on his way. When they made it clear he was not free to go, he became hostile.

The local justice of the peace, of course, ruled that there is sufficient reason to hold him in jail, pending the grand jury hearing.

A BCI investigator told me that the gunman’s family has had a series of harassing and threatening phone calls. Thus, when I spoke with the assembled media, I made it clear that we hold no feelings of ill will towards them. He devastated their lives, too. (His three children are young adults. Should they have children, “grandpa” will be a figure held in a distant prison, playing no meaningful role in their lives.)

I had coffee with my family afterwards. The outpouring of support from people, in the diner and on the street, was impressive. One of the nice things in these small communities is that most people know everyone else. Might not be friends, but people are friendly. Good people.. And there really are a heck of a lot of good people.

Saturday was the funeral and burial. Both my aunt and uncle were pleased to see so many young adults there -- people who had known their grandson from school and the local towns. They were particularly happy to see a group of youth who had their hair dyed in bright colors, dressed like their generation’s gypsies. “I like people who make statements about their beliefs and values,” my aunt told me. My uncle recalled when his son was among the first, in the mid-1960s, to grow long hair and dress “like a hippie.”

Our extended family ended up at my aunt and uncle’s house. Three of my four children were there (the oldest daughter is studying abroad). My sons spent time near the wood stove with my uncle. He mentions how cutting and splitting his firewood tires him out these days; he’s “only” two year’s ahead. I doubt that many 43-year olds could keep up with this 86-year old man.

Neighbors and town’s folks continue to deliver generous amounts of the best foods. You could easily have fed 300 people. And you could tell that the people who had prepared the food had taken the time and effort to make something special. For that is the way Good People are.

I was aware that, somewhere in the next town, another family was grieving. I understand that people try to make sense out of the senseless; hence, some of his family and friends are saying that “there’s more to the story,” that the victims were attempting to rob the gunman, that they had weapons, that they stabbed him several times, and on and on. Next they’ll say that Faye Resnick holds the key to this mystery.

It is human nature to try to make sense of these things, in the context of our experiences and level of understanding. I do not begrudge them for believing falsehoods, for the truth is too painful right now. I will speculate that at least some family members have know the murderer to have a terrible temper, and to have engaged in violent behaviors in the past. I have heard that he was very controlling, with his wife and kids.

As a human being, I am also attempting to make sense of this. And, of course, that is in the context of my life experiences, and my limited level of understanding. In terms of this forum, some of you may remember that I’ve always tried to advocate non-violence. I’ve used quotes from my two mentors -- Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter -- and others -- Gandhi and King -- to express the view that there’s too much fear, anger, and hatred in our culture. That we must counter these negative forces with compassion, understanding, and love. Those are the markers along the pathways to Higher Ground. These are the same guidelines I use when things are tough.

Later this week, I’ll post more on “why” I think this tragic event took place, and on what meaning I believe it has for me, and the community. Until then, you can be sure that old H2O Man will be busy, taking care of some business on this end.

H2O Man

Court & Change

“God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
-- Aeschylus

This morning at 11, there is a second town court hearing, to establish if the District Attorney has enough evidence to hold the man who shot my cousin and his son on felony charges. Four generations (possibly five) of my family will be at the court today, in silent witness to these events. Some had been concerned about justice -- for this is the very same court where, in 1998, the racist hate gang that attempted to kill my nephew got off with less than a slap on the wrist.

A lot can change in 16 years. For example, there is a new DA, who represents a younger generation’s awareness of the relationship between ethnic/racial identity and justice. I’ve known this man for many years, both through work and family friendships. I spoke to him on the telephone yesterday, and arranged for him to meet with our family a half-hour before the court hearing. I believe that my family will be as impressed with him as I am. Relieving concerns about potential systematic injustice is an important step in allowing my family to grieve.

As I was writing this, my younger son called. He reminded me that I, too, have changed. I need not play the role that I did in my nephew’s case. There is already enough anger and outrage, he said, and what the community -- and especially our family -- needs right now is for a calm, reasoned focus on justice. Not revenge, although numerous people wish that were possible. But the type of justice that allows healing. Drop by drop.

I’ll be picking up my youngest daughter from high school for the meeting and court hearing. She and I now live alone in our big house, where there was once the six of us, and usually at least one foreign exchange student or other friend of my children. She’s assisted me in planning out my strategy for contact with the police, the DA, and the media. She’s also been with me when we have visited my cousin’s daughter, and his parents.

My aunt and uncle are in their mid-80s, and have endured so many tragedies in their lives. It is difficult to see these good people in such awful pain. At one point, my uncle lightened the situation by asking my daughter, “Have I ever told you how I met your great aunt?” He went into a hilarious story about the mutual attraction that remains strong more than sixty years later.

Those family members that are my age or older talk about how violence has caused tragedies in our extended family over the generations. Old wounds resurface. Some types of pain never really go away. I feel honored, in what may sound strange, to be able to model the best ways to deal with these situations. I have a lot of hope -- and pride -- in the younger generation of this family. It hurts to have had one that I was so close to taken away at such a young age.

H2O Man

Re: Road Rage

"I can't believe the news today;
I can't close my eyes
and make it go away."
-- U2

My youngest daughter contacted me from school this afternoon; the buildings were on "lock-down," because there had been a shooting nearby.

I checked the news: a man had shot a father and son, after an incident of road rage.

Within a few minutes, I was on the phone with my Aunt. My cousin and his son had pulled over to let the guy by. But he stopped, walked over to their car, and spit on my cousin. My cousin asked what his problem was? The guy pulled out a hand gun, and open-fired.

My cousin is in surgery as I write this. His son is dead.

They are on the maternal side of my family. In our way, male cousins are known by the same word as "brother" (females as "sister". I had been at my cousin/brother's home last week. He's a retired carpenter; his son was employed as a carpenter. Both are laid-back, gentle people.

I just can't believe it.

Shaving Ed's Sullivan

…..bliss the moment arrived
Apparition, four brown English
Jacket christhair boys
Goofed Ringo battling bright
white drums
Silent George hair patient
Soul horse
Short black-skulled Paul
wit thin guitar
Lennon the captain, his mouth
a triangular smile,
all jump together to End
some tearful memory song
-- Allen Ginsberg

It’s been said that enough has been written about The Beatles to fill a book. (Maybe two.) I’d like to take a minute to add four paragraphs to that inventory. In the Liverpool of the late 1950s, each of the four young musicians were practicing, learning, and experimenting with sound for entertainment, and song for communication. Across the ocean, the Eisenhower America was the traditional dysfunctional family: layers of discontent, malcontent, and a search for meaning, all covered with an impenetrable icing of Father Knows Best, with Ike playing golf.

A generational shift in 19sixty brought a promise of fresh air children, with JFK and the best and brightest versus the five-sided beast. The Bay of Nixon, the Berlin Wall, and even the Cuban Missile Crisis were scary, indeed, but the Life Force was bringing collections of college students out of packed phone booths, and making statements at Point Huron. But Dallas turned out the light, and another darkness shined on America.

“Like a good little news organization, we sent three cameramen out to Kennedy airport today to cover the arrival of a group from England known as the Beatles. However, after surveying the film our men returned with, and the subject of that film, I feel there is absolutely no need to show any of that film.”
-- Chey Huntly; NBC Evening News; 2-7-64

Hindsight is 20/20, it is said -- but! 50 years later, I think that Mr. Huntly was wrong. You simply can’t believe everything you hear on the news.

Lennon & McCartney had a shared song-writing genius. With the synergy of the group’s music, they took over the American airwaves. Their manager, Brian Epstein, would make them more presentable, with suits, to the older generation. But within a year’s time, a growing number of American youth recognized them as coming from the wrong side of the tracks, with a more serious edge beneath the bright, cheery songs of puppy love and heartache.
While our corporations were thinking of “New!” Beatles paraphernalia to sell, an updated witch hunt took place.(Much of it as the result of but one of Lennon’s answers to a reporter.)

“Psycho-politicians are using the
Beatle music to hypnotize American
youth and prepare them for future
submission to subversive to
subversive control --
A systematic plan geared to
making a generation of American
youth mentally ill and emotionally
-- Rev. David A. Nobel; Communism, Hypnotism, and the Beatles

Hindsight, I know, but again: you can’t believe everything that religious “leaders” try to sell you. By the mid-60s, capitalism had rewarded the Beatles to an extent that they were in control of their careers, and living how they wanted to. And they were changing the ways in which young people thought. And the Power of Ideas is always more of a threat to a system of subversive control than are clothing, hair, and music styles -- unless those clothing, hair, and music styles speak to the Power of Ideas, of course.

In 1967, they released the album “Sgt. Peppers” and the single “Hey, Jude/ Revolution.” In ‘68, the Beatles released “The Beatles,” a double-LP known ever since as the “White Album.” These were two intense years in American history. Any serious student of that era has to take the Beatles’ influence on our society and culture seriously.

Rev. Noble was so moved as to publish a book titles “The Beatles: A Study in Drugs, Sex, and Revolution.” In my opinion, while his description of the group was a bit more accurate than the “communist threat” bit, he might have benefited from dropping acid and listening to their new releases while wearing headphones. Then he might have appreciated “Back in the USSR.”

“The Beatles are Divine Messiahs,
The wisest, holiest, most effective
Avatars (Divine Incarnate, God Agents)
that the human race has yet produced ….
I declare that John Lennon, George Harrison,
Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr are mutants.
Prototypes of a new race of laughing freemen.
Evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed
with a mysterious power to create a new
human species.”
-- Timothy Leary

It’s hard for a historian to fully appreciate an era that she or he did not live through. And that holds true for the influence of the Beatles. Their music has held up remarkably well, and for those of us on this forum of a certain age, individual songs bring back associated memories. I am hoping that some of our DU tribal elders will take a moment to remember, and then share with us how some of that era’s changes in thinking became manifest in their lives.

Thank you (you have a nice face),
H2O Man


Get up, stand up, stand up for your right
Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight
Get up, stand up. Life is your right
So we can't give up the fight
-- Peter Tosh

In the 1980s, there was a general depression among members of the Democratic Left. Despite the advances that appeared to have been achieved in the late 1960s and ‘70s -- which included Richard Nixon’s being forced to resign the presidency -- the election of Ronald Reagan marked a low point in American society. Image became more influential than substance. And so while the Reagan administration was as corrupt as any in our nation’s history, the public -- hypnotized by fireworks, flags, and red, white and blue balloons -- would re-elect the Gipper in 1984.

I was one of those “Mourning in America” ….working to prevent the tides of reaganomics and the immoral majority. There were, not surprisingly, a large number of people who had become convinced that their votes were meaningless. Indeed, they had concluded that participating in electoral politics was worse than simply wasting the time taken by entering the voting booth: it was investing in a scam that created the image of democracy, while robbing it of substance.

I respectfully disagreed then, just as I do today.

I’ve always believed the old saying that “all politics are local.” Grass roots activism is the surest place to find democracy. Real change can only be instituted from the bottom up. More, “democracy” isn’t a goal to be achieved, and then enjoyed. Rather, it is constant struggle, a mind-set that translates into on-going action.

My friends and I started with school board elections. A couple of local women, both registered democrats, were running for seats on a board in an overwhelmingly republican town. At the time, people did not have to be registered voters to cast a ballot in a school board election. They merely had to be at least 18, and a resident of the town for at least ninety days. This meant that there was a reservoir of potential voters that normally did not partyicipate in the school board elections.

We focused on getting two general groups to vote: the town’s young adults, and the inhabitants of low-income neighborhoods. To be sure people actually voted, we set up car pools. By the third time we brought a large group into the school to vote, the powers-that-be began to panic. They knew that our two candidates would win. And even though they would maintain a 5 to 2 majority to control the board, the following year could very well mean we would take a 4 to 3 lead.

When people get anxious that way, they often do stupid things. So it was in this case. School officials began “campaigning” in front of the desk, near the voting booth. Then, they attempted -- without success -- to prevent our people from voting. A few days later, the Center for Constitutional Rights put them on notice that they had violated the law. But, because both of our candidates won, we did not need to take it further.

When any group, especially a “minority,” decides an election, others take notice. This was the case when our group began registering both young adults and those from low-income neighborhoods. In one of the three area counties, the board of elections attempted to discourage our efforts. We did not become discouraged -- quite the opposite. As Minister Malcolm X often said, when you make your opposition squeal, you know that you are doing the right thing. Soon, they began to ignore the completed forms we were mailing in. A letter from the ACLU proved useful in encouraging them to do their jobs correctly.

The effort to discourage people from participating in election contests has a long history in our country. Neither of these cases that I spoke of were big, in terms of state or national influence. Yet they were important in the context of the struggle to vote. They are part of the program, currently headed by republicans at state levels, to deny basic rights to those they believe should not have a say in government. And it’s not just non-white people, or females. It’s young people, especially college students, and poor people, no matter what color or sex they happen to be.

These two cases also illustrate a few very important factors when it comes to elections. First, it is essential that changes begin at that grass roots level. That’s the only foundation upon which to build a real movement. And real movements produce real leadership from within their ranks -- something that the state and national committees cannot currently do, even if they wanted to.

Second, a real movement to bring about change -- to institute social justice -- has to include both young adults and the poor. These are human resources that corporate partiers purposefully marginalize. It’s not a coincidence that, in general, it has been only the black community that has invested in organizing and registering the young and the poor. The Hispanic community appears to be prepared to do much the same. This dynamic alone makes the Washington elite take notice of them.

In closing, I’ll advocate that everyone vote in this election. I’m not concerned if you vote for only democratic candidates, or if you vote what some might consider a protest ballot. Just vote as your conscience dictates. Vote knowing that there are forces at play that would deny you the right to vote, if they can. Vote as a citizen who takes the responsibilities of citizenship seriously.

And then, in 2015, let’s work together, to organize and register those on society’s margins. It’s taken a long time for our country to become as dysfunctional as it currently is; it will take a long time, and a lot of hard work, to turn things around. But we can, and must, do so. Voting in November is just a first step.

Thank you,
H2O Man

Boxing: Golovkin vs Rubio

Tomorrow night, HBO will present Gennady Golovkin vs. Marco Antonio Rubio at 10 pm/est. The bout is being held in Carson, CA, and is for Golovkin’s middleweight “title.” The real middleweight champion is Miguel Cotto; however, most of the boxing community recognizes Golovkin as the best fighter in the division. Should he win, it seems likely that he will be able to secure a bout with one of the bigger names in either the middleweight or super middleweight division.

Going into the bout, it seems probable that the hard-punching Golovkin will win. He was a top amateur, and has won all 30 of his professional bouts -- including 27 by knockout. While he has been ready to fight any middleweight, those who have been ranked higher have thus far refused to step into the ring with him. He is currently the “most avoided” person in the sport.

As a result, Golovkin has been fighting the best of the division who are willing to face him. It came as no surprise that Rubio eagerly agreed to fight Golovkin, who will be making his west coast debut. Rubio, 34, made his pro debut in 2000, and has faced many of the best fighters of his era. While some boxing journalists refer to him as a “journeyman,” it is more accurate to view him as a gate-keeper in the division. Although he has come up short when fighting the very best, he has won 15 of his last 16 bouts -- losing only a 12-round decision to the much larger Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., who entered the ring as a cruiserweight.

Rubio’s record stands at 59-6-1, with 51 knockout victories (and 3 knockout loses). Three of those recent victories came against undefeated young contenders, looking to reach the top of the division. Each of the three ended in a knockout. If you consider him in the context of those last 16 bouts -- the only defeat coming against an opponent who literally was three weight classes higher -- you have a top contender, not a journeyman.

Rubio not only hits hard enough to knock out anyone he hits cleanly, but he has a solid delivery system. More, if he hurts an opponent, he knows how to keep them in serious trouble, until the referee saves his victim from more punishment. That is, of course, the result of having so much high-quality experience.

In the professional ranks, Golovkin has really only been fighting near that top level for about two years. I had the pleasure of watching his American debut from ringside in September of 2012. He was as impressive as advertised. The feature that makes him arguably the most exciting fighter today is his extreme punching power. He can end any fight at any time with a single blow -- and this includes by way of his awesome body blows.

Golovkin is not a physically intimidating fighter, such as a Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Nor does he seek to mentally destroy his opposition before a bout, as does Bernard Hopkins. Part of the attraction is that, outside the ring, Golovkin is an upbeat, polite, and respectful individual, with a happy, somewhat toothy grin. If you saw him in a public setting, he hardly resembles what might be expected of the most feared man in the sport.

Indeed, even while engaged in a fight, Golovkin never appears to be loading up on a punch. Thus, the punches that can end a bout seem almost effortless. Watching him perform from a ringside seat provides for a much better opportunity to gauge his power. When I saw him hitting tough Gregorz Proksa (who was 28-1, with 21 knockouts), he was raising welts with his body attack. He scored knockdowns in rounds 1, 4, and 5. Proksa was brave indeed, and was absorbing brutal punishment before the fight was stopped in round five. I remember very well how the crowd gave out collective groans as Golovkin was landing vicious punches in rounds four and five.

The crowds attending boxing cards do not, as a general rule, strike me as a compassionate lot. Too often, those who purchase tickets believe that they are entitled to bloodshed. However, when the referee ended the assault on a bloodied, dazed Proksa, everyone had seen enough. And those who truly understand the sport knew that they had just watched a special talent.

Golovkin is heavily favored to win tomorrow night’s fight. And most likely, he will not only win, but accomplish that victory by way of knockout. Here’s why I think that:

First, throughout his career, Rubio has been a slow-starter. He rarely enters the ring fully warmed-up. There is always a risk of being “caught cold” when you haven’t properly warmed-up. Rubio’s first two loses (against opponents who’s combined records were 35-1) came within two rounds. And, in other bouts, he has been hurt -- though he stayed on his feet -- in the first round. Clearly, Golovkin is the wrong guy to fight if not fully prepared. (The three minutes that constitute a round in boxing are far, far longer if you are the fellow being hurt inside that ring!)

Assuming Rubio goes a few rounds, viewers will notice that Gennady Golovkin is a very patient fighter. He has a very high level of “ring intelligence.” Thus, he pursues an opponent like a predator, aware of their every move, seeking to force them into making a mistake. The pressure he puts on forces an opponent to try to keep him at a safe distance, although there is no safety zone inside that ring. Perhaps most impressively, Golovkin has the ability to punch “between” his opponent’s punches with great accuracy. This includes the ability to place his punches (which is distinct from, for example, James Kirkland, the other guy about the same size with extreme power).

I think that it is most likely to end with Golovkin’s superior hand-speed, allowing him to counter Rubio during an exchange somewhere between 4 and 6 rounds. At this point, I’d favor Golovkin over any middleweight. The only two fighters that I think could beat him in 2015 would be Andre Ward at super middleweight, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., at a “catch weight” between junior middleweight and middleweight. However, in a year’s time, he will be reaching his peak, and potential fights with those two would need to be re-evaluated.

This doesn’t mean that Golovkin is flawless. He is not. And, just as Rubion can’t afford to make any mistake in the ring, neither can Golovkin. Rubio’s best chance will be to try to move Gennady backwards. If he can do this -- even part of the time -- he will be looking to land a hard shot at the end of an exchange -- especially if Golovkin steps straight back. If that happens, look for the boxing journalists to call it “the upset of the year.”

Enjoy the fight!

The Lost Hosts Awaken

“Oh say, can you see it’s such a mess;
Every inch of Earth is a fighting nest;
Giant pencil and lip-stick tube shaped things
Continue to rain and cause screaming pain …”
-- Jimi Hendrix

The 2014 elections are almost upon us. The very least that all citizens should do is vote. Never take the right to vote for granted, because as we have witnessed over the past decades, there are forces at work that seek to deny people the right to vote. Voting is more than a “right,” it is a responsibility. We should vote in each and every election.

Vote your conscience. Vote based upon your values. If you believe in voting the straight party line, good. If you vote, based upon each individual candidate, good. Vote for democracy, vote for social justice. Vote in every national, state, and local election.

Yet informed voting is the minimum of the rights and responsibilities we have as citizens. If we are indeed “informed,” than we recognize that while voting is important, it is surely not the solution to the many problems facing our culture. It is of value in terms of many of the individual issues that are important -- from voting rights to reproductive rights, from marriage equality to public education. The advances made in these areas are as significant as the right-wing reaction to them is dangerous. We can not afford to take them for granted.

Still, within our own life-times, we are witnessing a negative transformation of our nation, from an admittedly imperfect constitutional democracy, to a high-tech feudal state. The symptoms of our social pathology range from never-ending wars, the destruction of the living environment, to economic injustice, to hundreds of commercials for medicines to ease the pain of existence.

“Seraphim, the lost hosts awaken.”
-- James Joyce

Frequently, when I discuss “systems” on DU:GD, I use the model of a mobile, like those that hang over an infant’s cradle. If we think of the United States as a mobile, it certainly isn’t one that we should hang over the heads of future generations. It isn’t a balance of bright Sesame Street characters. Rather, it is a military-police state, which consumes massive amounts of energy, and emit’s the toxins of anxiety, depression, fear, and hatred.

Individuals and sub-groups definitely do contain human goodness: an obvious example is found in the medical community’s ability to cure disease. Still, the economic system creates inequity in people’s ability to access healthcare. More, when the greed of the few relies upon the defiance of Natural Law, not only is “preventative healthcare” snatched away from much of the public, but the life-support systems are poisoned.

So long as “war” is the central organizing force in our nation, it will remain impossible to institute social justice. There are certainly advances that have been made -- for example, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s made real progress. Yet, it seems like every week, there are news reports of another murder of a young black man, by either a police officer or a George Zimmerman fantasy cop. The war mobile, by definition, demands an “us versus them” mentality. Indeed, this was what Dr. King spoke of in his April 4, 1967 address at the Riverside Church. He took a holistic approach to the war in Vietnam, racism, and poverty. He noted that unless America underwent a radical revolution in values, wars like that in Vietnam would continue to take place in other regions of the world.

When one piece attempts to shake the mobile, the other pieces become entrenched; if the single piece continues to threaten the balance of power, it is removed from the mobile. King, of course, understood his fate. But he believed his sacrifice could awaken the sleeping giant, and motivate thousands of the little pieces on that mobile to create a shift in its balance.

If that radical revolution in values was important in 1968, it is a thousand times more urgent today. Again: none of the serious problems we are confronted with can be fully resolved, so long as we remain a military-police state. For such a state must create an “us versus them” level of consciousness, that saturates large portions of society. We are divided by sex, sexuality, “race,” economics, religion, and political and social ideology, among others.

The external mirrors the internal: this country fears and hates; it is feared and hated by others; and it literally becomes fear and hatred in essence.

We have been lied to since our early childhood. You and I have been taught to believe in “leaders.” Hence, we continue to believe that those in Washington, DC, can change the direction our culture is headed in. This, despite the sad fact that, as the pace builds momentum, the overall quality of elected “leaders” drops in quality, ethics, morals, and conscience. Indeed, as long as we head in that direction, this cannot be otherwise. Still, despite the evidence that is daily shoved in our faces, we expect otherwise.

Real change -- the absolute transformation required to begin to move our nation in a different, healthy, life-sustaining direction -- can only come from the “bottom” up. From the grass roots. From putting into practice our “inner-Dr. King.” For while Dr. King was a powerful man, the measure of his power’s ability to institute meaningful change was found in the masses of people who stood with him.

Birmingham, for example, did not change because one inspired human being told the Truth. It changed, because hundreds and thousands of people understood the Truth he told, and internalized it, and then acted accordingly. These people were willing to sacrifice, to make change. This required more than a willingness to face the brute force of Bull Connor, and his thugs, dogs, and fire hoses. It was more than their willingness to go to jail. For in order to be willing to take those brave steps, they had accepted King’s teachings that they had to be willing to sacrifice their feelings of anger, resentment, and hatred of their oppressors and the system that sought to dehumanize them. Indeed, King taught that these negative emotions dehumanized them.

We can change America. We can create that revolutionary transformation that Dr. King spoke of. But we cannot accomplish this by investing all of our energies in the same manners that fuels the negative, that builds the momentum that is hurling us in the wrong direction. It is a human potential, on the individual and group levels. And it takes the exact same amount of energy to add to the positive force, as to the negative.

That said, the only real question is: how far are you willing to go?

Thank you,
H2O Man

Hey! (Yes, You!)

(Ab)normally, I post about boxing here. Tonight's an exception.

Instead, I want to talk about high school sports. Rural, small school sports.

My youngest daughter's soccer team just played a team that, for over a decade, has been one of the best soccer teams in upstate New York. And her team won. Not only that, but they won because my little girl stepped up, and played the best game ever.

I've sat ringside, to watch Ali versus Frazier. I've watched lots of sports. Championship teams.

Tonight ranks.

"Kids for Cash"

Here is a link to something that I believe will be of interest to the DU community:


I’ve been friends with Tanya’s family since the mid-1960s. (All three of her brothers were good amateur boxers.) This has to do with her outstanding work with the juvenile justice system, an area of our society that needs reform.

Thank you.
H2O Man
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