For truth, justice and the American way

Never rely upon what “other people” say when you develop an opinion.

I have spent my life walking in the light of truth. I was taught early to follow the rules and speak the truth. As a small child, I was a whiz at numbers but had some difficulty with spelling, at least that is the way I felt at the time. In an early experience that I shared with my first-grade teacher, I was caught using a small note placed under my leg with my spelling words upon it while taking a test – cheating plain and simple.

Being caught I was sent out to stand in the hallway and then received a dressing down by my teacher which then resulted in my mother being called in and later my dad being brought in the loop for the final punishment at home.

Needless to say, I didn’t have the opportunity to hide a crib note under my leg when taking a spelling test again, I couldn’t sit comfortably for a while to take a test. But the experience re-enforced some of the lessons I had been taught – don’t cheat and don’t lie. A simple lesson learned is it’s much easier to tell the truth, you don’t have to remember and keep up with the lies.

Later in my life, as my career moved to journalism, spending a life in truth, being dependable and making sure no stone was unturned, allowed me to tell the stories of many folks who would not talk to other journalists, because they knew I would be fair and honestly share their story. That approach helped me earn over 20 state and national awards for the work. I fondly remember a boy who use to call me “Superman” because he thought of me like Clark Kent, saving the world.

As a journalist developing a story, I focused on getting three different sources who could confirm facts about a situation that may need to be brought to light in an article.

In recent weeks, I have experienced a lesson in the current human condition. There are folks in the world today that do not care about integrity of the information that they believe. They take the words at face value, placing no question on the source and the ultimate motives for what is being said. They do not look deeper to see if what is being said is even valid.

Some then use those words to formulate decisions that impact the lives of numerous people, to slander others with no foundation by repeating what has been said. That is now an easy adventure in our world which rotates around various social media platforms.

There is no accountability for those that do it. There is no way to fix the damage done by these people that propagate falsehoods and what is the sad commentary is some of them that choose this path are successful in hurting others and benefit from their efforts whether the ultimate gain is financial or gains in power within some position.

I have always believed that good wins over evil and still do. I read the back of the Book and that is how the story ultimately ends, but these little battles along the way that seems to allow evil people with evil intentions to succeed does dishearten. The only way to overcome it is if we all don’t believe blindly… do a little research and find three reputable sources when making decisions and conclusions that impact all of us. I pray for our people that we all do a better job of reaching for truth, justice and the American way.

The patter of tapping fingers

I can look back just a few years ago to when I had little exposure to the thoughts exposed on the internet. I saw it mainly as a vehicle for research as I sought sources for various topics I was writing about.

Then seven year ago, I realized that as a musical artist and actor, I had to begin the process of making a presence on the web or others would totally define who and what I was as a performer. Another side of that was engaging in social media. Connecting with others, seeing what was important to them in their lives through their posts and interactions and telling others what was important to me. It was like being Jimmy Stewart in the film “Rear Window.”

I could peer into other people’s lives but not through a window looking out into other people’s apartment windows but through the window we all now allow into our lives – a screen connected to the internet. The only difference was what is seen is what people want others to see. Unlike Stewart’s character in the film who was seeing people going through their lives without editing except for what happened outside of view.

As I have watched interaction over social media in recent months, I have seen that people often say things without concern for others. They are sometimes cruel, feeling free to express opinions that might at one time would have been shared with a circle of five or six, that now reach thousands.

Why does this matter? Well let’s think, if someone said something you might consider to be mean spirited or cruel about you or one of your loved ones and thousands of people had the ability to read it, does that matter?

Would it matter if what they said was the truth or an untruth? Would it matter if the words they typed just shared their opinion of you, but to your knowledge, they do not know you, never met you, but based on something they read, something someone else said, they reached a negative conclusion about you and shared it without consideration to its impact upon you?

It used to be public bullying and hate-filled gossip was limited within the reach of our small circle of friends, the school we attended, the business in which we worked, the town that we lived. If something was too much to take, often the choice was leave that group and move on to another group. Beyond that, national meanness or ridicule was left to celebrities, politicians and public figures. Pre-computer tabloids stuffed the ridiculous between their pages and the masses lapped it up like the final drops of spiked punch in the bowl.

Today, no one is immune to a social media attack. Sometimes, we get ourselves into these opportunities but what I find so distasteful, are those who choose to state an uninformed opinion on a subject and then feel emboldened to attack someone else as part of their thoughts who was not even engaged in their social media discussion. Then others pile upon their assertion creating a cascade of a false narrative that then causes harm or hurt to someone else.

The ability to sit and malign others has become a pastime for many. In some cases, it is done in anonymity. The impact of this seen in deaths resulting as a response to online bullying, and even physical actions against others spurred by things said within social media.

If I was not a public person, I would choose not to be engaged in social media. Now that would not stop others from possibly typing something about me, but at least it would not be something I could read without some effort.

We often say we stuck our foot in our mouth about taking the wrong path in something said. I don’t know what could be a proper analogy in the social media age but the tapping of letters into a keyboard can now move public policy, drive people to end their lives and even topple a government. It would seem to me that greater care should be given when letting one fingers do the walking across other’s lives! Next time you are led to tweet or share on Facebook or some other medium, think first then type. Do you really know anything about what you are considering to share? If not, maybe you should let others think you are smart by not typing anything rather than letting your fingers show your real hand.

Come as you are


If there is a place where folks come as they are these days, it’s on social media and often it does not reflect our best. Have you ever wondered what happened to dressin’ up when you go to town or when placing yourself in an environment to be seen such as online? When I was growing up in Chamblee, Ga. we would often make the trek to town.

In our case, town would either be downtown Atlanta or Decatur. Whether we were out for a day of lookin’ and feelin’ at Rich’s department store or a trip to Starne’s Barber Shop for a shave and a haircut on the square in Decatur, when we walked out our front door, we looked our very best.

Notice how I said “lookin’ and feelin’” rather than shopping. That is what women folks would do with youngsters in tow. They would look and feel, only occasionally would the trip bear fruit with something being bought. In those days, many folks, like us, didn’t have air conditioning at home. A trip to the store on a hot summer day was a welcome relief.

I never did get a shave at Starne’s but I sure did lose a lot of hair. Mr. Starnes gave me my first haircut as my cousin Arthur, who was in barber training, watched. I would soon be turned over to Arthur for several of my early haircuts. In looking at early pictures, I can only say they were fond of flattops.

Course as a child, being dressed up often would include a little bit of dirt within just a few minutes of putting on those clothes. I can still hear my mom saying “What am I going to do with you, you get dirtier than an east Tennessee coal miner.” But what is a young boy to do when there is a perfectly good mud puddle just waiting there to be jumped in?

I can still see my mom in a pretty dress gray gabardine outfit with matching black hat, gloves, handbag and high heel shoes.

Maybe the concept of being dressed up has changed. Maybe folks look at designer jeans and a T-shirt or sweats as the fashion of the day. All of them are ridiculously expensive. They are a lot easier to upkeep than walking out in a crisply starched shirt, tie and slacks each and every day.

I just don’t understand what happened to the custom of looking your best. I remember even when we would spend time on my grandparents’ mountain farm, folks worked hard and wore clothes that would carry that load. But when it came time to go to town for something, I remember grandma Kitty going to her cedar wardrobe and pulling out her blue Sunday dress to put on.

Even if folks were dirt poor, they made sure that when they went to town or school or wherever they looked the best they could afford.

Folks generally still dress up to go to church. However, in some churches they don’t even do that anymore. They just say ‘come as you are.’ Now, there is nothing wrong with this. Cause I know God welcomes anyone no matter if they are in overalls or hole-y jeans. But there is just something to be said to giving God your very best effort.

In the past, folks took pride in the way they looked, their dress, their grooming. My dad would never leave the house with a hair out of place. Was that vanity, possibly. But that is one impression of him that people who knew him still remember today.

Now I am not saying that I have never left the house without being perfectly dressed and groomed. I do occasionally run out to the grocery or the gas station in a less than dressed-up fashion.

While I never owned a pair of blue jeans until I was in my teens, I do wear them to town with a nice shirt and even on stage when appropriate.

My parents use to say “We’ve worked hard to get off the farm and out of overalls, there is no reason for you to wear them.”

That was no slight on farming or farmers on their part. When they were coming up, farmers like other country folk were looked down upon by city people and I am sure they endured their share of negative comments from those well-meaning city folks while trying to make a place for themselves in the city. While nostalgic to us today, their roots of walking barefoot behind the mule as the fresh-turned earth came up between their toes was something many folks worked to get away from, especially during the depths of the depression.

With some pairs of jeans these days costing more than a pair of slacks, in a way, I guess they are dressy in their own right. If you really want to get fancy you can buy them with holes already worn in them. I heard of folks in east Georgia making a fortune by firing buckshot at jeans for some company. They can be pre-washed and I imagine somewhere you can buy them pre-worn and be charged extra for somebody else breaking them in. No matter what, they are here to stay.

I guess the days of everyone wearing their best when they go to town is a thing of the past. It is amazing what new coat of paint and little fixing up can do to a house. It only makes since that we do the same for ourselves or we can just “come as we are,” no matter where we go. It could be a little embarrassing for some folks though, depending on what they were doing when they get the invite.