Sunday, August 22, 2010

Will A Religious Center Consecrate or Desecrate America?

What makes a country great, what makes our country great, and one of the greatest on earth, is not that our laws allow us to do but what we will fight to allow others to do, even if it is something we, ourselves, do not necessarily believe or support. 

What many of my "liberal" friends never got, when I began writing on the LNG issue, is that regardless of what I myself believed, everyone deserved to hear the truth and deserved to hear both sides of the issue. Everyone deserved to hear what the real issues were and from there determine whether or not they wished to pay the consequences for higher or lower energy bills. 

I went from being labeled a far left liberal, homeschooling my children brainwashing them so they'd never fit into mainstream  business, to being labeled a far right conservative. A sell out to the big corporations and in the back pocket of this, that or the other person or corporation, etc., ad nauseum.

The fact of the matter is that what makes what you believe so great is the fact that you have the freedom to believe it. If what you believe influences people around you, changes others lives, has a bearing on how others earn a living, pay for education, feel about themselves, hopefully you have given careful thought and consideration to what you believe. Hopefully, you have studied the pros and cons of what you believe. Hopefully, each of us has enough integrity to change our beliefs if  we discover what we believe was based on "misinformation" or simply, the more we find out the more our beliefs change. Sometimes the base of what we believe stays the same and we just become more knowledgeable about it, other times our belief changes, completely.

Regardless of whether or not we change a belief, what makes us great as individuals is when we fight, when we defend, the rights of someone we do not agree with to speak out, to actions, to freedoms, we ourselves do not necessarily agree with. It is this that makes us, collectively, a great nation. This is the reason so many wept, around the world, when our towers were hit September 11th. More than dreaming of our material riches they dream of the day when they can speak, can live, openly and with no fear of retaliation with a collective nation of people who, unabashedly, will come to their defense if the need should arise even if they do not have the same belief because beyond the individual beliefs is the unifying conviction that humans should be free to find their belief, not have it forced on them.

We have limped here. In many places around our country we are here in the name of some laws, only. Our justice system lags far behind even those. It is only when we, individually, and collectively, open our mouths, stand firm with our feet, and say, "I do not believe as you do, but I will defend to my death your right to believe it" that our country has a hope of becoming that which we yearn in our hearts for it to be. For that which, world wide, others already know it to be. 

I know Keith Olbermann is considered by many a liberal, maybe even far left, who has evolved from a sports commentator to a political pundit in an ongoing feud with Fox's Bill O'Reilly.  I trust, by now, you know I don't pick people by what their politics are, I chose to listen if the idea they are conveying is sound and their research is solid. On the issue of the supposed Muslim Mosque allegedly to be built at "ground zero" I find Mr. Olbermann's remarks well worth listening to.  

We cannot expect to call ourselves free and great and think we will not be tested. How just or fair would that be? Our belief in the Torah, the Bible, the Quran, the Kitab-i-Aqdas, or an Atheist manifesto means nothing if it is the only book we are allowed to believe in, the only book our country protects.  We are better than that our beliefs and convictions run deeper.

From Lincoln's Gettysburg address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (From the Nicolay copy of the Gettysburg Address, on permanent display as part of the American Treasures exhibition of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.)

Interestingly, public reaction to the speech was divided along partisan lines. The next day the Democratic-leaning newspaper, the Chicago Times, commented, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States." In contrast, the Republican-oriented New York Times was complimentary.The newspaper printed the entire speech, calling it "a perfect gem" that was "deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma." The Republican predicted that Lincoln's brief remarks would "repay further study as the model speech."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wait for It!

I spent most of my teen years either on the ball field or in the gym. Yeah, I know, to look at me now you would hardly know it, but would it help if you knew I spent most of my time as a coach? I coached my first team when I was 13 years old. The Parks & Recreation director back then was Fred Lindstrom and his assistant was Kent Rice. After him was Nancy and I am very ashamed that her name has flown right out of my head as Nancy let me use her apartment on numerous occasions for slumber parties and there's not much more that teen girls could ask for than a woman in her mid-twenties with an apartment she's willing to loan out for slumber parties!

As a coach of a ball team you spend 90% of your time doing drills, repetitively hitting balls to the kids. Infield flies, outfield flies, grounders, hoppers, chest thumpers, line drives, flubbers, pop ups, dribblers, and so forth.  You learn real quick that the kids start getting antsy, and bad things happen when kids are antsy, if you don't hit around the field quickly, peppering each location with three or four balls for those kids to chase while you move on to the next area, all the while keeping your eye on a dozen and a half 40" kids, swarming about, making sure one of your line drives don't nail them in the noggin.

One year Cindy Marincovich was pitching and she could throw hard! Man, that girl had an arm on her but the problem was she didn't have much control until her arm got tired. At practices I would have her pitch to me, instead of doing my usual toss up and swing, just to get her arm worn out a bit before she pitched to the girls. I was looking out at the field, determining where I was going to place my hit, when Cindy wound up and sent a zinger, wildly, straight at me. I tried dunking but it got me right in the chest and knocked me on my butt. I saw stars and literally was gasping for air. Cindy was yelling, "I'm sorry, sorry, sorry," so loud my dad came running down from where we lived on Pleasant Ave to the Gray School field to see what Cindy was so sorry about. I had the stitches outline from the softball on my chest for two or three days, I kid you not. Cindy still apologizes for it!
At the age of thirteen the hardest part of coaching was learning how to throw the ball up and hit it out to the kids. It takes a lot of eye hand coordination. Packman had barely come out on the market so it wasn't like there was a lot of opportunity for eye-hand coordination training in those days. It took a lot of time, patience and continual practicing. Over and over again against the garage door with a tennis ball until I had it down pretty darn good and could hit the ball 3 out of 5 times, then 7 out of 10 times and finally 19 out of 20 times, consistently. 

Next, I worked on placing the hit exactly where I wanted the ball to go.  It got to the point that I could, finally, take my eye off the ball and be looking out at the field, the opposite field, of where I intended to hit the ball. I should say it appeared that I took my eye off the ball, I was always aware of where the ball was at. I wanted the kids to look at body, to read the language of my hips, of my front leg, the tell-tale signals a batter gives indicating where they are going to hit, most of them not even realizing they are giving those signals. I didn't just want my infield reading those signals, I needed my outfield to be just as alert. Every time the ball was hit my whole team moved. The only time there was a reprieve was when our pitcher struck someone out. Even on a walk I wanted everyone to be ready for a steal. I hated using deep right as a hidey-hole for the least talented. In my book the right fielder needed to back-up first base, not be out deep playing with butterflies.

I coached softball, baseball, and basketball for a total of 27 seasons from the time I was 13 until I was 25, coaching up to the time I found out I had Hodgkins Disease. During that time I also refereed and umpired. I thoroughly enjoyed coaching and thoroughly despised officiating. Parents are very nasty when you call Suzy out for running the bases out of sequence or when there is only one ump for a game (you) and no, you aren't going to "get off your lazy ass and hustle out to second base and then back to home plate" in order to be on top of BOTH of those calls for a game for FOURTH GRADERS!

I expelled from the field some very, very notable locals who felt that it was appropriate to scream profanities regarding the possibilities that my birth was not legally recognized or that I may not be human but perhaps a female canine and I do believe that the first time I heard THE "EF" WORD aimed directly at me was at the age of 14, at Gray Field and by a prominent member of society. I immediately stopped the game, told the team that the woman either left the field or they forfeited. It was the second to the last game of the season and the team was on their way to the championships. The parents yelled at the woman to LEAVE and, she was the team's coach! After hearing what happened the next day Fred suggested to the woman that she resign as coach and the woman agreed. 

I miss Fred Lindstrom, terribly. One of the nicest, kindest, best kind of guys to have working for a community  and an honor to have as your friend. The park on Niagara is named in memory of him. I really wish they would pick another one cause everyone calls it Peter Pan Park.

I learned a lot coaching. Much more than this short post can contain. Most of it I have used throughout life. Place hitting I could have used in high school softball when, finally, in my junior year, we got a girls softball team. The only problem there was I twisted my ankle and pulled a tendon playing flag football with the family (thanks Dad, now I'll never be a pro-softball player, drama) and was on crutches for almost three months that spring. I finally got to use those skills in the adult league slow-pitch.

In slow pitch the most important thing is patience. You have to learn to wait for it, because if you wait for it it will come. THE PITCH, it is inevitable, that is what slow pitch is designed to do, give the batter a hitting chance and players a catching chance. I was a cocky player, but then again, we all were. I played for Chartroom Chuggers. Kind of cracks me up who was on the team. Two of the players are now on the "Keep Astoria Totally Quiet After 8 pm" neighborhood watch that shows up at Astoria City Council meetings to complain about loud trucks playing loud music driving up and down 16th street, "so fast that someone's going to get killed one of these days!" That really blew my mind.  If I blink twice I would swear just day before yesterday it was her and I driving Terry's black pick-up down 16th St, flying over the hump on Irving with The Car's Candy-o baring out the windows. And how many people did we kill back then? Will, I guess I don't know about her but me? NADA!

 Anyhow, slow pitch, one fun thing to do was to point out where you were going to hit. You had to watch doing that. A good pitcher could mess you up pretty bad if you were too cocky about it, I learned that fast, much to my chagrin. I learned that, much like many other games, it was better if the opponent wasn't aware of your talent, if you didn't telegraph it to them, much less flaunt it. 

Sometimes, however, it didn't hurt to let particular someones know that you do have a certain amount of advantage or a certain ability. 

A year after I had treatments for cancer and was declared "in remission" was a rough time for me. I was not with my current husband (although he will tell you now that he was keeping an anxious eye on me). I was dating someone else -who I later found out had been arrested for domestic violence- after a melodramatic break-up with someone I had dated off and on for 7 years (before and after first husband). I was playing for a co-ed softball team going by the name of "Mayhem". It was the final game of the tournament and we were fighting it out with the melodrama ex's team. I was out for blood. 

I remember my current husband being in the stands, and I remember him, at one point, talking to someone on our bench. He tells me now that I had a huge strawberry on my thigh that was bleeding and he was very afraid I was doing a lot of damage to myself I was playing so intensely. He wanted someone on the team to pull me out of the game. They all laughed at him and told him if he didn't value his life why didn't he give it a try. Back then, mind you, I had been radiated right across my thyroid and was operating on no, nada, nyett, hormone replacement. I was having wild cycles of emotions, and, at the very young age of 26, going through menopause. I self-medicated with hops. During this game, I felt no pain.

We were home team, down by one run, going into the bottom half of the last inning. We got one out right away. The next batter got a double and then I was up. There are a few times in life that everything lines up very nicely and although I had told myself not to do it when I got up to bat my ex hollered, "Come on guys, pull it in" and motioned for the outfield to move in, indicating I wasn't able to hit it any further. A few of them hesitated. He insisted they move in. He was playing rover (the 10th position in slow-pitch softball, between left field and center field) and he had moved all the way up to grass line of the infield and looked at me with a mocking grin. I looked at him and, of course, pointed my bat at him. He stepped into the infield. I took two pitches and I honestly have no idea if they were strikes or balls. The third pitch was the one I wanted, the one the pitcher had been throwing all evening on the third  (or fourth) pitch, the one I was waiting for. I was standing as deep in the box as I could, I let my shoulder drop and I stepped into it just so, just so it would go, riiight abooout there.  You usually don't want a fly ball to the outfield on a coed team if you are a girl because most of us can't hit it far enough to give runners a chance to advance before one of the guys catch it and throw the runner out. Even though the outfield is supposed to be gal-guy-gal-guy (or whatever, as long as it is every other) once the ball is in play guys can run around and be ball hogs and during championship games, yeah, that's what they are going to be.

But this time all I had was open field. I really could have hit it to any of the fields but I knew the others were leery of the ex's decision to move in. I knew the ex was cocky sure I was too full of myself (and Schlitz) to hit it past him, especially when I pointed it straight at him. And I knew, if I waited for it, the pitch would come. It did. I hit it. It sailed, and sailed, and sailed ... right over the ex's pompous head. And he ran, and ran, and so did our runner on second and our runner on second made it home before the ex made it to the ball and I made it to first and didn't go any further because I didn't have to. And We Won (and I did to touch the bag, Martin Bue)!

So, to all who have been wondering what the hell has been going on lately, all I can tell you for now is, wait for it.