Archive for October, 2012
The most important thing about Paul Kurtz, my mentor at Prometheus Books and Free Inquiry in the late 1980s and early ’90s, was that he gave his energy to people, who could then go out and create / write / organize in ways they would not have been able to otherwise. It was a wonderful gift he gave to me and others. I know many people owe their careers in academia, publishing, and activism to him. I do. I salute you, Paul, and thank you. I know you faced death bravely and with that curiosity you brought to every facet of human experience. (Obits: The Buffalo News, NYTimes, and Free Inquiry.)
Postscript [October 30]: “Jonathan Kurtz said his father was not afraid of death and spent a ‘joyful’ final day telling jokes and discussing his favorite football team. ‘His true religion,’ his son said, ‘was the NFL and the Buffalo Bills.'”
The so-called Boy Scout Perversion Files describe more than a thousand molestations of boys by men who took them into their care. The scoutmasters my brother and I had aren’t on the list. I’m surprised by how emotional I was when I looked it up just now. We had a really good troop – an active and fun, funky bunch of dads and kids. The fellow who took over the troop toward the end of my tenure as a boy scout, and who stayed on for decades, was a spirited, single man, prone to irascibility but dearly devoted to scouting; I never got a weird vibe from him. The national director of USA Scouting Operations at the time lived a street down from my family, and his son, a star athlete, was in my troop.
I wasn’t the best scout – I typically returned home from camping trips dirty and often wet and cold as well, even in the summer – but I looked forward to our troop meetings and all our camping trips. I always felt included and protected, and I learned a ton that I still know.
These perversion files are sickening in so many respects, but not entirely surprising. Boy Scout troops were, if possible, even more ripe arenas for ephebophiles than Catholic parishes were not too long ago. They provided easy access to a larger strata of men, for one. And then throw in the whole “camping adventure” thing. Oh, boy: *awful*.
In our troop we had kids who were really hurting and vulnerable. Many were poor. Many had broken families. But they were looked after and were safe when they were around the men in Troop 209, Raymond Baptist Memorial Church, Fairport, NY. I believe that.
Mike Niman was a fellow college journalist back in the late 1970s and early 1980s at SUNY/Buffalo. He was an activist in the true sense of the word — indefatigable and heading somewhere – and he founded a student newspaper (originally called, and wittily so, “The Other One,” and later titled “The Alternative Press”) to provide information and insight not found in the mainstream student newspaper, at which I was an editor. Mike was adversarial but always very friendly and thoughtful, friendlier and more thoughtful, typically, than most of his adversaries, if I remember right. Mike (the photo above links to his Facebook page) is now a communications professor at Buffalo State College, and still an activist and author whom I admire. Yesterday he published a column called “The Dirty Dozen,” in which he laments that a number of important issues are being ignored or “downplayed” in the United States Presidential campaign. “These issues are engulfed in a deafening silence, both on the part of candidates and the media. This is inexcusable. This toxic silence prevents us from having national policy discussions about crucial issues at the only juncture, election time, where we the people have a voice.” Near the top of that list is *poverty*:
“Yes, it sucks to be struggling in the middle class today, with so many middle-class families descending into poverty. This is why we need to stop ignoring poverty, which sucks even more. Our social inequality numbers are off the charts, with the one percent amassing wealth at a greater rate than even during the Gilded Age, while the number of Americans in poverty skyrockets, and the desperation of that poverty continues to fester. Tens of millions of Americans regularly suffer homelessness, food insecurity or malnutrition, and a lack of access to healthcare and decent educational opportunities. This is more than an issue that true values voters should abhor. Such social disparity is corrosive to a democracy and threatens to unravel the very fabric of society. Poverty leads to desperation, violence, pandemic health issues, and social and political disengagement. It is shameful that candidates, in their rhetorical obsession with the middle class, choose ignore the poor—or worse, scapegoat them as if it were the scraps we throw to the poor, and not our wars and corrupt financial sector, that crashed the economy and grew the debt.”
Today I was officially certified as a “Social Media” expert by Hootsuite University. Hootsuite U. is a nifty online educational program that local Vancouver “social media management dashboard” company Hootsuite has provided to students in my Digital Marketing course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. It’s kind of nice, as a teacher, knowing that my students have such thoroughgoing back-up to the lectures, textbook, and in-class activities they are getting from me. I must say, the Hootsuite training and webinars reminded me why I need to be humble: I learned a ton, and it took me more than one try to pass some of the tests.
Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday, one whose name I obey, happily. This year I will be spending the day in two countries, starting in the land where I was raised and ending in the wonderful home I’ve found in Vancouver, where beauty and creativity abound everywhere. (I love that ad, above! The “Lab Art” show will be worth a visit, no doubt.) I’m a grateful man.