Free Hugs, Anyone?

I don’t spend much time on Facebook these days … it mostly annoys me and I haven’t time to waste anyway.  But, I pop in a time or two a day, and one of the pages I typically check out is the Jon S. Randall Peace Page.  I was working on a post for this afternoon at the time, my usual political fare, but when I saw this, I just had to share.

FREE HUGS for anyone who may need it.

There are “Free Hugs” campaigns all over the world now.

His name is “Juan Mann”. He supposedly started it all in 2004, or at least made it more popular.

He had been feeling depressed, going through some tough times, some personal difficulties. He didn’t think anyone cared…until one night a total stranger, perhaps sensing his plight, hugged him. Juan Mann felt like a different person, so he wanted to do the same, to see if one man can make a difference in people’s lives.

Just for the heck of it, he went out, made up a sign that said “Free Hugs”, and stood in a busy section of the city. He said he was “scared absolutely sh*tless.”

free-hugsAt first, of course, a lot of people just stared at him, some making fun of him. Many people were hesitant, understandably distrustful of a man offering a hug.

Then, an elderly woman walked up to him. She just looked at him, then she hugged him.

She told him that “it was the anniversary of her daughter’s death, and that her daughter’s dog had died that morning. She was sad because she no longer had any real link to her daughter. She came into the city looking for a sign and found me, a 22-year-old guy who had no idea what he was doing, holding a literal sign. I was just putting it out there and hoping for the best.”

That’s how the original Free Hugs campaign started.

Then the video came out, and everything went crazy after that.

It started after a member of a band decided to videotape Juan Mann one day. Juan Mann didn’t hear from him until he had fallen into another depression after his grandmother had died. He would receive a tape from the band member – it was the videotape chronicling Juan Mann’s Free Hugs campaign, simply telling his friend, don’t give up, “This is who you are.”

The tape was eventually uploaded to Youtube, and the rest is history. The video has become one of the most watched videos on the site, encouraging people to hug each other, a random act of kindness to make make someone feel better. For those of you, who may not have seen the video, it will be in the comments below.

Recently, writer Kim Corbin, who started her own campaign “Free Hugs Across America”, caught up with Juan Mann in Australia and interviewed him.

He was asked whether another viral hug campaign is needed again in today’s world, where hate and divisiveness runs rampant.

He said, “I think they can help change the world, but that’s me being ambitious. If more and more people connected with more and more strangers, locals, friends, and family, that could only be a good thing. I mean we’ve got one planet and we’ve got to share it. We need to start looking at it in that light – we have one planet to share – we don’t need to focus on the divisions between nations, on borders and disputes.”

He mentioned a few of the current free hug campaigns, such as the Global Free Hugs Day campaigns which runs every year, as well as other events in something like a hundred countries every year.

He also mentioned Ken Nwadike Jr., who started the Free Hugs Project, which started in response to the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Nwadike has made major news headlines for his peacekeeping efforts and de-escalation of violence during protests, riots, and political rallies.

The Free Hugs Project’s mission is “Continuing the nonviolent movement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. . .. to spread love, inspire change, and raise awareness of social issues.”

Nwadike has put himself between police and protesters, hugging both, and he has recently spoken out about homelessness and mass shootings. He has been at Charlotte, North Carolina, Parkland, and he has even been at KKK rallies.

Nwadike said, “I think that starting the conversation with kindness rather than hatred will get us a lot further. Communities are divided because of fear, hatred and misunderstanding . . . many people have the same desire to connect more and show kindness to others, but are afraid to initiate it. Most people want others to take the first step so they can kindly respond. I like taking the first step and hope to inspire others to do the same.”

Juan Mann said, “He [Nwadike] inspires me. The fact that he’s willing to go into conflict zones, to get between the people and the police, to put himself at great risk to try and promote peace on the front lines is quite impressive.”

There is also the Human Hug Project, whose “mission is to raise awareness of PTSD by giving love back to humanity, one hug at a time. They travel across the country hugging at every Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals.”

There are now many free hug videos out there as well, some with individuals who are blindfolded. One blindfolded person stood in London with the sign, “Trust yourself to hug a Muslim”.

Some free hug proponents, like Juan Mann initially, also ran afoul of local laws. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, two men were arrested by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for offering free hugs in a public space.

No matter what anyone says about the Free Hug campaigns, official or nonofficial, even virtual hugs online, they have made a difference to people, like the elderly woman who first hugged Juan Mann or the people who received hugs from Ken Nwadike Jr.

And, as they have proved, anyone can be “Juan Mann” and that “Juan Mann” can make a difference.

Now, don’t you just feel like going out there and hugging someone?  Well, what are you waiting for … GO!  Go hug somebody … and then somebody else … start a hugging movement in your neighborhood!

♫ Blowin’ In The Wind ♫

This morning’s post was my reflection about the divisiveness in this nation, about how far apart those on the political right and left are, and whether there is any hope for a meeting in the middle, or whether we are bent on the destruction of the nation.  When you spend as much time as I do reading, observing, researching, and thinking about these things, you don’t just flip a switch and bring your head back to a happy place.  The darkness remains even long after the post has been scheduled and put to bed.  Tonight’s song is a reflection of what I see happening, what I think and feel.

This song was written by Bob Dylan who claims that he wrote it in about 10 minutes one afternoon. He put words to the melody of an old slave song called “No More Auction Block,” which he might have learned from Carter family records. In the evening, Dylan took the song to the nightclub Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, where he was due to play a set. Before playing it, he announced, “This here ain’t no protest song or anything like that, ’cause I don’t write no protest songs.” During this first performance, Dylan couldn’t read some of his own handwriting and made up some of the lyrics as he went along.

The Dylan version of this song was never a hit – it was a cover by Peter, Paul & Mary that made #2 in the US in February 1963, introducing many people to the music of Bob Dylan, who was an obscure folk singer at the time.

“There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain’t in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it’s in the wind — and it’s blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some … But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know … and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong. I’m only 21 years old and I know that there’s been too many … You people over 21, you’re older and smarter.”

One line, the one in bold typeface, says so much about our troubles today.

As I like both the Bob Dylan and the Peter, Paul and Mary versions, I present you with both for your listening pleasure.

Blowin’ in the Wind
Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, ‘n’ how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, ‘n’ how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Blowin’ in the Wind lyrics © Audiam, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

United We Stand … Divided We ???

Sean Spicer … remember him?  The first to claim that Trump’s less-than-stellar inauguration had drawn bigger crowds than Obama’s in 2009, he soon tired of being forced to tell so many lies on behalf of Trump that he resigned his position as White House Press Secretary and returned to private life.  So, what’s he doing now, you ask?  Why, he’s Dancing with the Stars, of course!DWTSThat’s right, folks, Sean is going to be paid between $125,000 and $295,000, depending on how long he remains on the show … as compared to the $180,000 per annum he earned as Trump’s mouthpiece.  Now, the show’s host, Tom Bergeron, is not at all pleased with Sean’s gig, and put out the following statement:Bergeron-statementNew York television critic James Poniewozik also sees it as a bad … really bad idea …

“To treat Spicer, and his reason for notoriety, as a harmless joke is to whitewash the harm of what he did, which was to say things so absurdly false that he invited his political side to join him in denying their own eyeballs, to encourage people to believe that facts don’t matter if they hurt your team.”

But Sean sees it differently.  He claims his appearance(s) on DWTS will “bring the country together” …

Sean Spicer Visits "Extra"

“My overall hope is that at the end of this season that Tom looks at this and says, bringing people together of very diverse backgrounds, whether it’s in politics or other areas, and allowing them to show America how we can engage in a really respectful and civil way, is actually a way to help bring the country together as opposed to bring it apart.”

Which brings me to my topic of the day: the divisiveness in this nation.

In any nation at any time, there will be conflicts, issues that divide the pro-business right and the pro-humanitarian left.  It has always been so, and that isn’t going to change, probably ever.  Most often, this is a healthy thing, leads to the best possible solution, a meeting of the minds.  But, today that divisiveness, which I have often enough referred to as ‘the great divide’, is at the highest level since the end of the Civil War in 1865.  Having a highly controversial political figure on an entertainment show is not going to change that.  And make no mistake, Sean Spicer is still lying for Donald Trump, as a senior advisor and spokesman for a pro-Trump super Political Action Committee (PAC) called America First.great-divideToday, there is no middle ground … the right has gone to the extreme right, and the left has moved further left than ever before.  There is no room for moderates, no tolerance for bipartisan lawmaking, and very little civil discourse taking place.  You’re either with us, or you’re ‘agin us’. Social media is a large part of the culprit here … sites like Facebook and Twitter could be venues for respectful, meaningful dialog, searching for answers to better understand ‘the other side’, but instead people have turned these sites into a venue for spewing hate and ugly reactions.

While I fully support the 1st Amendment right to free speech, there are times that unfettered freedom of speech does far more harm than good.  Conservatives and liberals, right and left, will never completely see eye-to-eye, will always be ideologically divided, but the state of affairs we see today cannot endure.

On June 16, 1858, President Abraham Lincoln gave an address after accepting the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as that state’s US senator.  An excerpt from that speech is apt today …

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”

The situation was different then, the ideology different, but in some ways not so different after all.  Then, as now, there were some who believed that people with darker skin had less value.  That, certainly, is one of our issues today, but others are more complex.  Today, we fight over whether there is more value in large corporations having nearly-unlimited profit margins, or in protecting our environment and rescuing all life on earth.  Today, we fight over whether it is the role of government to assist those who cannot, whether temporarily or permanently, meet their own financial needs, or whether those people should simply be left to die.

Today, we fight over whether health care is a right for everyone, or a privilege for only the few.  Today, we fight over whether or not every Tom, Dick and Harry should have access to guns that were meant for one purpose only:  to kill.  Today, we fight over whether LGBTQ people are to be afforded the same civil rights as the rest of society, or whether they should be looked down on and treated as ‘sub-human’.  And today, despite the mandate for a separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution, we fight over whether one specific religion has the right to impose their beliefs, their will, on all in this secular nation.

The above are only a few of the issues dividing this nation, but they are highly-charged, emotional issues, and they are leading us down a path that can only end in disaster.  Shortly after Lincoln’s speech, we ended up in a Civil War.  In that war, there was a line of demarcation – there can be none this time, for on any given street in this country, you will find people on both ends of the spectrum.  In the Civil War, the north wore blue and the south wore grey … in this war, everybody looks essentially the same.  The civil war divided families, brother fought brother.  This ‘war’ has already divided families, destroyed decades-long friendships, and led to bloodshed.

Sadly, the people who we have elected to govern this nation, are only widening the divide.  It is in their power to bring the two sides together, to ‘reach across the aisle’ and set an example for the people of this nation.  It is their responsibility and duty to do just that, but they have chosen to shirk those duties, to help widen the gap, to breed even more hatred and division across the nation.  Unless things at the top change drastically, this is not going to end well, my friends.  Sean Spicer is not an ambassador for good will, but rather is as much a part of the dividing wedge as any.  Watching him tap dance and likely end up on his arse is not the cure for what ails this nation.

I offer no solutions, for if I were that smart, I would be sitting in the Oval Office, or have an office on Capitol Hill.  I only know that we must do something soon, else the United States will be torn asunder, and likely end up in tatters.  All I ask is that you … think about it.

The Boiling Frog

Most of the blogs I read on a semi-regular basis are political or historical in nature, but there are a handful that I try to catch once a week or so for their humour or feel-good value. Recently, our friends Ellen and Benjamin introduced me to a new one, Nuggets of Gold. Nuggets is usually humorous and/or uplifting. The blogger, Joy of Roses, is a very lovable lady, and about once a week I pop in there for a smile or two and a hug. Yesterday, however, she took on a more serious tone, just for the day, and wrote this post which I think puts into words something that most of us feel at a gut level but have tried to avoid voicing, rather like the elephant in the room. So, allow me to introduce you to Joy of Roses, and please think about her words … I hope they are not prophetic, but they are certainly reflective of our situation today. Thank you, Joy of Roses, for this well-written and thoughtful post and for your permission to share it.

Nuggets of Gold

543a8fdd4c2da63aa371d571bbc809ba

When I was in school and first studied about Hitler I remember feeling sickened by what I learned. It was mind boggling to me how a Country could let someone so evil take over power and do all the horrible things that he did!

What I grew to realize was that he wasn’t outright evil all at once. It was a growing thing. He didn’t call for the extermination of the Jews right away. He started slowly taking their rights away, and then encouraging people not to buy from them and so on. He persuaded people to believe that he was doing the right thing for the Country, that he would make Germany great again. He was disgruntled about how Germany was.

There are articles that say that his stare could be mesmerizing and intimidating and he would use that when making speeches and making eye contact with others. It…

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The Twilight Zone Presidency

A day late to the party, I was reading Jeff’s post over at On the Fence Voters, and he was doing a wrap-up of yesterday’s news … you know, Trump referring to himself as the “chosen one”, picking a fight with Denmark, gloating over conspiracy-theorist Wayne Allen Root’s nauseating praise of Trump … and suddenly my jaw dropped. I try to stay on top of the news, but I had missed this one. There’s a new media outlet in town, folks, and this, as Jeff says, will leave you feeling like we truly are living in the Twilight Zone. Take a look at what he has found out about Epoch Times … but first, take a few aspirins and perhaps have an antacid handy, for you may feel ill by the time you get to the end. Thank you, Jeff, for this enlightenment …

On The Fence Voters

I was too young to remember the original television series The Twilight Zone, which ran on CBS from 1959-1964. But I do remember watching those same shows, which ran in syndication for several years in the late 60s and 70s. Yes, I’m dating myself here. So for those who have no recollection of the series, the host, Rod Serling, would appear at the beginning and introduce each show with a short monologue explaining what we were about to see.

The show was unique for its time and entered into strange and often highly imaginative themes that bordered on the bizarre and extreme. After the last few days of President Trump’s continued hijacking of all available oxygen in the media world, I found myself remembering the legendary series and thinking that we have indeed entered The Twilight Zone. Even a guy with the innovative imagination of Rod Serling would have had…

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It’s Not About Abortion – It’s About Life

Yesterday, Planned Parenthood announced that it would withdraw from the federal family planning program known as Title X.  The Title X Family Planning program was enacted in 1970 as Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies, and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under Trump’s hand-picked Alex Azar, attached a new condition on receiving Title X funding – that the recipients, such as Planned Parenthood, can no longer make abortion referrals.  This, my friends, is nothing more than the federal government attempting to inflict the beliefs of the Christian evangelical community, a vocal minority of the population, on everyone in the nation.  It is an attempt to make religious beliefs into public policy.  It is a huge step away from being the secular nation that we started out to be, that we need to be.

But let’s be clear … while the intent may be to deprive a woman of the right to have an abortion, this is not about abortion.  This is not about whether a woman has a right to decide what is right for her, in some cases having an abortion.  This is about whether a woman has a right to live or not.  Planned Parenthood is not just about helping a woman get an abortion, and in fact that is a very small percentage of what they do.

planned-parenthood-servicesAs you can see, money spent on providing abortions is a mere 3% of their total, AND … NO FEDERAL MONIES are spent on abortion.  Now, look at some of the other things they do …

  • STD and HIV testing and treatment
  • Birth control
  • Screening for reproductive cancers (like breast, cervical, testicular, and prostate cancers)
  • Pap tests and well woman exams
  • Vaccines
  • PrEP and PEP (medicines to help prevent HIV)
  • Pregnancy services and prenatal care
  • Transgender health services, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Vasectomy and other sterilization services
  • Condoms

Planned Parenthood saves lives.  In many rural areas, they are the only provider of the above services that may save a woman’s life.  Or a man’s, for you may note they also do screening for testicular and prostate cancers.  They provide prenatal care … the anti-abortion group might do well to consider that they are robbing that fetus they care so much about of such things as the vitamins to ensure they are healthy, and regular screenings to detect any potential problems that might be avoided with timely treatment.

Evangelicals have been calling for the government to ‘de-fund’ Planned Parenthood for decades, but instead of de-funding it, the government set a criteria that they could no longer make abortion referrals.  Planned Parenthood said, in essence, “Okay, keep your money then … for there are times that a woman’s life and health depend on abortion.”

There’s a certain irony here, too, that a large portion of what Planned Parenthood does involves birth control and family planning education, both of which significantly lower the need for abortions, and yet those who claim to be “pro-life” are depriving women of those services as well.

I do not applaud Planned Parenthood’s decision, but I do support it … it was the right thing for them to do.  However, I do not support the government’s imposition of the criteria, I do not support the evangelicals who coerced the government into setting the criteria.  Those evangelicals call themselves “pro-life”, but they are not.  They are not considering the lives of the thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for birth control, annual checkups, family planning services, and much more.

There will be backlash over this.  I do not know what the end result will be, but somehow, we must continue to fund Planned Parenthood.  They do not provide abortions with Title X funds, but only with private funding.  They provide a tremendous service to women, they save lives of both babies and mothers, and they are an integral part of women’s healthcare, especially among lower income women.

I came across a short video on Scottie’s Toybox that I think explains the issue quite well … please take a minute or two … well, actually 7 minutes, but it is well worth the time spent.

Are we going to be held hostage in other areas by the evangelicals?  Are we going to let them dictate, for example, that there must be mandatory religious classes in schools?  Are we going to let them tell us that it is okay for employers to discriminate against LGBT people?  The United States is, appropriately, a secular nation, not as some would believe, a Christian nation.  Twenty-five percent, fully one-fourth of this nation are non-Christians.  We are Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists and agnostics.  We have a voice, too.  We pay taxes, too.  We contribute our skills and ideas as much as any.  And 50.52% of this nation are women.  We pay taxes and have a voice, too.

Abortion is not the root of all evil.  Often a woman has an abortion because she is unable to provide for her child.  The world is already over-populated and the last thing we need are more hungry mouths to feed.  Those same people who call for an end to all abortions, also fight against their tax dollars going to help feed and shelter those children once they are born.  Pro-life???  I don’t think so … just anti-women.  If you ever doubted that it’s still a man’s world, doubt no more.mans world

Good People Doing Good Things … Best Buddies and More

My first ‘good people’ of the day came to my attention thanks to my youngest reader, Benjamin, who emailed me with … “Namaste, Miss Jill! It’s me, Benjamin! We, Gem and me, found a good people for you! Gem read it to me and I told her, that’s a good people thingy for Miss Jill. Bye!”  Well, he was right, this is perfect for my “good people thingy” … thank you, Benjamin!  Don’t you just love it when a 5-year-old is already taking notice of the good people in this world?


Michell Girard is a hero, at least to one person, Chris Barrington.  Ms. Girard was Chris’ teacher many, many years ago, and she must have been an exceptional teacher, for when Chris was found wandering alone on a highway outside of Gatesville, Texas one day back in June, hers was the only name he could think of to give the Sheriff’s deputies.  You see, Chris is autistic and severely developmentally delayed, and functions at the level of a six-year-old child.

Chris had been living with his father, but his father was in the late stages of leukemia and was not able to get out of bed to care for Chris, so Chris struck out on his own.  When the deputies found him, he had been walking around for two days, and other than his father’s name, the only other one he could come up with was his teacher from way back when, Michell Girard.

When the Sheriff’s office contacted Ms. Girard, she asked …

“What happens if I don’t take him? Will he get in a group home?”

When told that no, he would be institutionalized, she responded …

“Not on my watch, he’s not!”

You’ve gotta love that lady!  And that is how Chris Barrington came to live with a woman he hadn’t seen in years.  Chris’ father died a short time later, on August 1st, and Ms. Girard has applied for permanent guardianship.

There are a lot of things in life that most of us take for granted but that Chris had never known … simple things like … a birthday party!  Says Ms. Girard …

“He’s never had a birthday present, a birthday party, he’s never had Christmas, Thanksgiving, nothing. So, this year is going to be full of firsts.”

But he had a party this year!birthday-cakeAnd that’s not all … he took his first boat ride!  Ms. Girard posted on Facebook to see if any of her friends knew of somebody with a boat who would be willing to take him for a ride … just around Lake Waco.  Enter Jimmy Bennett, owner of JMB Fishing …

“You know, there are so many things that kids want to do. They want to go to Disney. I have one that wants to go to Hawaii on a shark fishing trip. Chris is happy to come out on Lake Waco and ride around on a boat. That’s all he wants to do.”

Check out the video …

Ms. Girard definitely qualifies in my book as a ‘good people’ … and from the looks of it, Chris Barrington is embarking on a fun new chapter in his life!


As I was digging for more information about Michell Girard and Chris Barrington, I came across another story that led me to an organization …Lisa-RuthMeet best buddies Lisa Buchanan and Ruth Godding.  The two met 20 years ago, through an organization called Best Buddies International, a non-profit that is working to end “social, physical and economic isolation” among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

When they met, Lisa Buchanan was president of the Best Buddies chapter at Marymount University in Virginia.  Per Lisa …

“We hit it off right away. We started talking on the phone. We just did all the on-campus things through college, like Halloweenfest and Christmas parties. Then when I graduated I wasn’t technically in Best Buddies anymore, but I still kept in touch with Ruth.”

The two have spent many good times together.  Lisa is now a schoolteacher and the mother of 13-year-old twins, of whom Ruth says …

“They were very cute babies! I was very surprised they were twins. Wow! There were two babies! I wasn’t expecting that one.”

Godding-Buchanon.jpgBest Buddies International highlighted Ruth and Lisa’s story of enduring friendship this month. According to the organization’s founder, Anthony Shriver …

“Ruth and Lisa’s 20-year friendship is really what Best Buddies is all about. It’s truly a testament to the power of friendship and inclusion. Genuine one-to-one friendships like this change lives, and it’s why we’ve spent the last 30 years working to connect people who may not normally be friends and changing the way people think about individuals with special abilities — everyone should have a best buddy.”

Best Buddies’ Mission Statement:

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The IDD community that Best Buddies serves includes, but is not limited to, people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities.

Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Our programs empower the special abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society.

our-visionAnd they have had a global impact …

Best-Buddies-2Best-Buddies-3Best-Buddies-4

Take a look at their website  … I think you’ll agree that this organization also qualifies as a ‘good people’ and deserves a two thumbs-up!


Once again, good people just dropped into my lap and I didn’t have to look far.  Underneath all the noise and detritus in the news these days, there are these people, real people, making a difference in the lives of others.  Kind of restores a bit of faith in the world, doesn’t it?

Too Little, Too Late, But Still …

There have been some positive signs that perhaps this nation as a whole is sick and tired of the white supremacists and their rhetoric, sick and tired of seeing white people with notions of superiority thinking they have more ‘natural rights’ than others.  It’s far too little, too late, but still … it’s a start.


And it only took five years …

In 2014, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, to death.  It was not the first, nor would it be the last case of a white cop killing an unarmed black man, but it was the case that brought the #BlackLivesMatter movement to the forefront of the public eye.  In almost every one of these cases, the police officers have gotten off scot-free, even kept their jobs.  On Monday, a New York City Commissioner James P. O’Neill made a decision that will, hopefully, set a new precedent, by firing Officer Pantaleo, and stripping him of his pension benefits.

Garner’s crime five years ago was that he was allegedly selling cigarettes outside a convenience store.  For this, he paid with his life.  It is my opinion that Officer Panteleo should have been tried and convicted.  The department had a rule against using the chokehold he used on Mr. Garner, and Garner said, “I can’t breathe”, but still Panteleo didn’t release his hold.  Blatant cruelty.  And yet, despite Mr. Garner’s death having been ruled a homicide, Panteleo was never charged.

As I said, this is a case of too little, too late.  Pateleo should be in prison, but instead he is in his lawyer’s office trying to force the NYPD to reinstate him, his benefits, and pay him back pay for time lost.  And, it took James O’Neill five years to decide to fire him.  When they say the “wheels of justice” turn slowly, they aren’t kidding!  Still, it is a small step in the right direction.


A slippery slope …

The 1st Amendment right to free speech is a slippery slope and has been the cause of much disagreement throughout time.  At what point does free speech cross the line and become punishable?  At what point should speech be silenced?  Some would answer “never”, but most reasonable people agree that there must be limits, but rarely agree to the terms of said ‘limits’.  In this age of social media, the question becomes even more relevant, for there are those who believe that hate speech is protected under the 1st Amendment, and spew their hate all over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for all the world to see.

Last week, social media outlets Facebook and Instagram suspended the accounts of James Orien Allsup, and Twitter had already suspended his account in late 2017.  James Orien Allsup is a white supremacist who marched with the other white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and whose hate speech can still be seen on YouTube.  There will be some, no doubt, who will cry “Foul!” at the move by Facebook and Instagram, but frankly, I support the move.

I am a staunch advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  However, in my book there is a line.  When you publicly threaten or incite violence, then you have shirked the responsibility that accompanies those rights.  I say the same about media outlets such as Fox and Breitbart that engage in conspiracy theories that have already led to violence and loss of life.  I applaud Facebook and Instagram, and would urge YouTube to remove this man from their platform as well.


The New York Times is doing an excellent series titled The 1619 Project:

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

I will be including some of their works in future posts, but I urge you to check it out for yourselves.  Racism, white supremacy, white nationalism … whatever name you give it … is ugly, and in this country, it is increasing at what I consider to be an alarming rate.  We need to tackle this subject, to take off the window dressing and show it for what it is … arrogant hate.  A friend sent me a meme recently that I think should be made into a poster and mailed to every member of any of the 1,000+ hate groups around the country! racism-for-dummies.jpg

If You Give A Kid A Gun …

In this era of Trump, we’ve heard some pretty stupid things, but something I read just this morning takes the cake.  With the subject of gun control back in the headlines in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton a couple of weeks ago, the NRA is spewing their message once again about “a good guy with a gun”, etc.

Florida is one of the states considering a ban on assault weapons, so the NRA jumped into action, sending one of their leading lobbyists and former president of the NRA (1995-1998), Marion Hammer, to speak to a group of economists. marion-hammer.pngMs. Hammer’s first argument against the proposed amendment to ban assault weapons was that Florida Governor Rick Scott “solicited and offered significant financial incentives to gun manufacturers to come to Florida to bring more jobs”.  And now, the poor gun manufacturers may suffer a financial loss if assault weapons are banned.  They’ve got my deepest sympathy.  Hey!  I’ve got an idea … let’s send them “thoughts and prayers”, shall we?

But, Ms. Hammer’s second argument for why Florida should drop the ridiculous notion of saving lives by banning these guns that were intended only for use by the military, is even more ludicrous …

“How do you tell a 10-year-old little girl who got a Ruger 10/22 with a pink stock for her birthday that her rifle is an assault weapon and she has to turn it over to government or be arrested for felony possession?”

pink-assault-riflePick your jaws up off the ground now, take a deep breath.  Yes, she actually said that.  What sort of an idiot gives a 10-year-old child a damn assault rifle???  Anybody … ANYBODY who would give a child a gun of any sort, let alone an assault weapon, deserves to be drawn and quartered!!!

This is not the first time Ms. Hammer has come onto my radar.  About a year ago, I dedicated an entire post to her when she asserted her power to force the state to issue certain questionable gun licenses.  I was appalled that someone who doesn’t even hold a position in government had the sort of power she had, that she was able to browbeat and intimidate government officials to do her bidding.

Lest you think that most of the nation has better sense than to place firearms in the small arms of children, read this excerpt from an article in The Guardian last year …

A 2012 report by the Hunting Heritage Trust and the National Shooting Sports Foundation states: “It is important to consider more hunting and target shooting recruitment programs aimed at middle school level, or earlier.”

The report lays out a “Youth Hunter and Shooter Ambassador Program” strategy, in which kids are encouraged to influence their friends to get into guns. “Youth ambassadors and others should focus on getting newcomers to take a first step into target shooting through any means … The point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms.”

Young children looking to get into shooting have plenty of options when it comes to guns designed just for them. A 2014 article on NRA Family, an NRA-run website, profiles Marlin’s “new kid-friendly rifles”. The writer enthuses that Marlin’s “new XT line of .22 rifles … are not just sized for kids; they’re completely designed for kids”.pink-gunsAnother article on the NRA Family website suggests kids might also think about using Thompson/Center HotShot rifle, “a tiny gun intended for the very youngest shooters”. A company spokesman explains that gun targets “the six- to 12-year-old range”. These come in a variety of fun colour options.

Ms. Hammer was instrumental in the passage of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that allowed George Zimmerman to get off scot-free after murdering an unarmed young black man, Trayvon Martin.  And, while Governor Scott was happily giving tax incentives to companies like Colt and the Russian Kalashnikov (makers of the notorious AK-47), there was the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in 2016 that killed 49 people and wounded 53 more.  And then in 2018, the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died and 17 more were wounded.

gun-ad-kidOh yeah, folks, the answer is not only more guns, but let’s start ‘em off as soon as their old enough to hold one in their hand.  Right out of the cradle, so that by the time they are teenagers, they will already own an arsenal that includes at least 3 or 4 assault rifles and maybe even a grenade launcher or two, eh?

♫ Love | Song Around The World ♫

For a number of reasons, I have not had a song in my heart for several days.  That was likely to continue until … our friend Ellen, knowing of my frame of mind, sent me a song today with the message …

“I think that you need to take a few moments to listen to this song …”

Listen I did, smile I did, and this song I wish to share with you all today.

The song encompasses musicians from ’round the world, and the message is, quite simply, “We are all the same”.  It is in the same vein as We Are The World, and Coca Cola’s, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing, a message of inclusion, of humanity … of love.

Among the musicians are …

Kim Churchill, Newcastle, Australia

Taimane, Waikiki, Hawaii

Tal Ben Ari “Tula”, Tel Aviv, Israel

Olodum, Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil

Sophia Scott, Boulder, Colorado, USA

William Barton, Mount Isa QLD, Australia

Mana Maoli Collective Youth, O‘ahu, Hawaii, USA

Jose Ikotela, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tushar Lall, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Glodi Dinga, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Rupak Dhamankar, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Vanraj Shastri,  Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Prasad Rahane,  Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Paco Soto,  Aguilas, Murcia, Spain

Love

Playing for Change

It’s been a long time coming, coming
Seeming like we all been running, running
Feeling like the wild west, gunning, gunning
Listen to our elders shunning, shunning
Flipping on the news, be talking, talking
All about the problems, shocking, shocking
We put on our headphones walking, walking
We put on our headphones
Where did we all go wrong?
Love, love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Where did we all, where did we all go wrong?
(Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love)
All I see is faces, color, color
All the other races, other, other
Why couldn’t you just be my brother, brother?
We don’t have to kill one another, kill one another
All around the world, we are one, we are one
All around the world, we are one
Where did we all go wrong?
Love, love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Where did we all, where did we all go wrong?
(Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love)
Yeah we got the same blood, blood
We got the same blood, blood
Will it be enough, ‘nough?
Will it be enough?
We got the same heartbeat
We’re living for the same dream
We got the same bloodstream
Where did we all go wrong?
Looooooooove….