Monday, March 13, 2017

Legacy, or Aleppo

America went into Iraq and blew it up, (and lost over 4,000 of our sons in the bargain.) We did not go into Libya - we flew over, and helped blow it up. (We lost none of our sons.) We did not go into Syria, nor did we fly over; it blew itself up. (Again, America lost none of its sons.) Now they seek to blame President Obama for Syria being blown up because America did not go in to save it from being blown up, when going in would have meant helping to blow it up while losing many of our precious sons, besides.

Then, they say, "Obama should have armed the moderate rebels in Syria." Arm the moderates. First, doesn't "moderates" sound soft, especially when cast against the likes of those gangs fighting in Syria? Imagine the "moderates" - walking around with their fancy USA weaponry, and ISIS walking up to them and saying, "Give us those guns!" Then, imagine the "moderates" handing over those weapons immediately, and asking, "You won't hurt us, will you?" Next, the detractors would be accusing Obama of arming ISIS.

Obama's presidency has been a deliberate and consistent attempt to lower the world's temperature - literally, with his global warming initiatives, and figuratively, with his Iran nuclear deal, the opening to Cuba, and the draw-down of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Precious few of America's son have died on foreign soil on Obama's watch. That is by design. If no one else appreciates that, the mothers and fathers of American soldiers certainly do.

Still, there is Aleppo, and the Syrian diaspora. America must not be insensitive to their sufferings; neither should it saddle itself with the blame.

People everywhere have a right to protest; even to rebel. They do not have a right to have their own way. that has to be earned. Sometimes, to get it, one has to fight for it.

With the right to protest comes a responsibility to accept the consequences. The Syrian people protested against their leader, Bashar Assad. The protests became a rebellion. When the fighting started - the consequences - the Syrians skedaddled.

The American colonists, after living over 150 years under British rule, protested, and rebelled against King George. When the fighting started, the colonists stuck to their guns. Homes burned. Cities fell. Men, women, and children died.

The colonists fought on. There was never a guarantee that they would win. Ask the soldiers at Valley Forge. They were a wretched lot. Yet, they weathered their terrible losses and , after years of more fighting, they won their freedom.

President Obama realizes that no nation is so great that it can assume the responsibility of shaping the destinies of other nations. That responsibility rests with that nation's people. They, alone, must decide what they want, and whether it is worth fighting, and dying for. They do not need America for that. They need vision, courage, and commitment to their ideal.

The Syrians had a vision. They lacked the courage and the conviction to see it through. They claim to have wanted freedom from Assad. They expected someone else to deliver it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Barack, Let it Be

I have great admiration for Barack Obama and his presidency. I become increasingly uneasy with his apparent obsession with "legacy."

Outside of Abe Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation," presidential legacies tend to be mundane, and the stuff of nerds. You were president. Given great power, you had to do something. Let history decide if it was worth remembering.

I thought all along that President Obama sounded a bit foolish when, during his aggressive campaigning for Hillary, he openly appealed to voters - especially African-Americans - to protect his legacy by coming out and voting for her in. I cannot remember any other president, Democrat or Republican, imploring voters to protect him, as though only he and his accomplishments were encased in glass. If presidential legacies are as fragile as that, then none but the most stout should be safe.

Subsequent administrations may seek to "white-out" their predecessors' achievements, but the spirit of that administration will last through the ages, especially if that spirit is genuine. To tout the greatness of your deeds taint those deed with a haughty spirit.

Chill, Barack, chill. You smiled and lit up a nation, a world. That is the pearl of your legacy. No subsequent administration can touch that.

With Trump, More is Less

In observing Donald Trump, I am reminded of the "Seinfeld" episode in which Jerry is dating a women whom Newman has dumped. Jerry is dumbfounded. Elaine suggests, "Maybe there is more to Newman than meets the eye."

"Oh, no," Jerry responds, "there is less."

People - especially Republicans - struggle to understand, and then defend, Trump's outlandish remarks and antics, many suggesting, "Maybe he knows more than we think."

Oh, no. He knows less.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Po' Ass Can't Take a Whuppin'

“It’s a po’ ass that can’t take a whuppin’.” That bit of wisdom came to me courtesy of my uncle, Red Carter, many years ago. It still holds true today. And there is no better example of that than former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

The great heavyweight champion, George Foreman, after dismantling a ring opponent back in the early 70s, tempered the praise of ringside announcer, Howard Cosell, by saying, “Anybody can dish it out. A real champion is the man who can take it.” 

Again, it was George who tweeted this to Ronda following her devastating loss to Holly Holm in 2015: “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Foreman! Down goes Ali! We all got back up Ronda. So will you.” 

Except, Ronda is not made of the stuff of those great fighters. Less a champion, Ronda was more a product of UFC promotion, and the public’s twisted desire to parallel the triumphs of women in sports to those of men.

ESPN sports analyst, Max Kellerman, once compared the rise and fall of Ronda Rousey to the ups and downs of Mike Tyson’s career. Let’s see:  Ronda is 14-2, with one knockout and nine submissions by armbar. Tyson is 49-4, with 43 knockouts; the same number of KO’s as Rocky Marciano. (Not quite the correlation they were looking for, huh?)

Perhaps it is in the labeling: During Tyson’s reign as heavy weight champion, they proclaimed him “The baddest man on the planet.” During Ronda’s run, they proclaimed her “The baddest woman on the planet.” Ah… except, there is this rub:  In the fight game, only the heavyweight champion can reasonably call himself, “The baddest man on earth,” for only he is obliged to take on all comers to prove it. The champions of lesser weight classes – middleweight, welterweight, lightweight – are compelled to fight only men their size, or smaller. 

Back in the 40s, a two-fisted bartender, nicknamed “Two-ton” Tony Galento when asked if he could beat then heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, famously replied, “I’ll moider de bum.” Joe took the fight despite being outweighed by 200 pounds. He beat “two-ton” Tony down. Being heavyweight champion, Joe simply did his job. If some behemoth had challenged heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson, in that same manner, Mike would have had to do the same. Such responsibilities come with the territory. 

Proclaiming Ronda Rousey “The baddest woman on the planet,” meant nothing. If a 235-pound female shot putter had challenged bantamweight champion, Rousey, to a fight, Ronda would have laughed and said, “lose a hundred pounds, girlfriend, and then come back to see me.” That would have been a bantamweight champion doing her job. 

Ronda burst onto the UFC scene with one spectacular victory after another, most of which came within the first minute of the first round. Gorgeous, to boot, they packaged and sold her before she knew who “her” was – trumpeting Ronda “The greatest female fighter ever!” at one stage in this ballyhoo, a handler, at the mention of boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather, scoffed, “Ronda would ‘rad doll’ him.” They had gone too far.

Of mixed martial art’s many disciplines – judo, boxing, karate, jujitsu – boxing imparts the most enviable edge. To simply be able to punch ad adversary in the mouth is extraordinarily menacing. Ronda’s principle discipline is judo, where she earned a bronze medal at the Olympics. As MMA fighters go, her striking/punching skill is tolerable; her ability to defend against strikes, atrocious. Ronda was a “one-trick pony.” Deny her the armbar, and she becomes a punching bag for skilled strikers. Holly Holm, with her boxing background, maintained her distance from Ronda with good footwork, and then pounded her to a pulp. 

On December 30, 2016 Ronda Rousey marched on the octagon for what should be the last time. The initial optics were convincing  - she appeared in great shape. She wore her trademark “mean-mug.” But, she had not come to fight. Ronda was there to collect three million dollars and get the hell out of there – one last time – in under a minute. Mission accomplished. She took some punches, grabbed the money, and was out of there in 48 seconds.

There is a world of sports far removed from mere mortals. It steams with testosterone as toxic as the Venusian plains. It is a land of giants – of Shaqs, Gronks, and Phi Slamma Jamma. There, boxing greats like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson cut other great fighters to shreds, as though they held straight razors in each hand. And hitters, like Big George Foreman and “Iron Mike” lift 200-pound bruisers off the floor with a single punch. It is a land of men, unsafe for women and children.