Friday, December 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: No Grey Areas by Joseph Gagliano

Joseph Gagliano was a central figure in the Arizona State University basketball point shaving scandal of the 1990s.  He has published a book about that event, his role in it and how his life took him there - and beyond.  I was asked to read the book and publish a reviews.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I was provided a complimentary copy of the book by the Cadence Marketing Group however the review is completely my own and I was never influenced by Cadence.

Admittedly I started reading “No Grey Areas” by Joseph Gagliano with healthy skepticism regarding motive.  He states in his introduction that he wrote the book in the “sincere hope for this story…to influence your thinking as you take your own steps.”

I didn’t buy it.  Even as I started reading it I wasn’t buying it.  It was as if a convicted felon was just trying to find a way to profit by his misdeeds under the veil of remorse.
An interesting thing happened from cover to cover.  By the end of the book, I cared about Joe.  I cared about what happened to him and I truly believed that he cared about what happened to the reader.  He transformed from Gagliano the felon, to Joe the walking, talking, cautionary tale.
He decent into bad decision making was gradual, but steady and unflinching.  An action junkie, Gagliano was seduced by the Chicago commodities market and the lure of easy money.  Scamming came easy for Gagliano, even as the voice in his head was telling him it was wrong, be it rigged Super Bowl squares, 900 numbers or, eventually, game fixing.
It was easy to push that voice back into the depths of his consciousness.  His story is even made more compelling by the legitimate success Gagliano attained through restaurants and then later in car washes.  He had the mind and the spirit to succeed in legitimate business but was unable to avoid the seduction of short cuts.  Eventually even doing the right thing couldn’t work out right and Joe found himself back in jail and writing his story.
While the allure of the book is the Arizona State basketball point shaving scandal of 1993-94, Joe’s story is much more.  More scams; more internal conflicts; more contradictions and, eventually, peace.  His road to redemption becomes more compelling as you read.
Most appealing is Joe’s writing style.  He’s good but not a professional – and it works.  Because it is his story and you can hear it in his voice.  At a time when life was bleakest he found salvation in an ex-football player preacher, an accepting parish community and true love.
I went from skeptic, to empathetic almost a fan.  I am rooting for Joe to make a go of life legitimately.  The breezy read will keep you engaged throughout and by the end you’ll want to see Joe make it as well – and maybe examine some of your own life choices.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy Holidays?

"This is for all the lonely people,
Thinking that life has passed them by"

- America, "Lonely People"

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, fellowship and goodwill.  The holidays are also, however, a dark time for many.  In several ways I’ve been reminded of this over the last week or so and it has made me tremendously sad.

Through a variety of events – both natural and man-made – my wife and I found ourselves flying solo for Christmas.  Christmas is also my wife’s birthday.  Because of the dual purpose of December 25th in our lives, we split the day into morning Christmas and afternoon birthday.  Usually we take the gang bowling at our local casino resort and make a night out of it – mostly because it’s the only place open!  This year it would be just the two of us with one friend along.  We would stay the night and have fun.  An ice storm pushed our departure to Christmas Eve and we had two nights there and I spent a lot of time walking around and observing.

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there.”  

- Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise”

One woman, loud and apparently exuberant, was playing a machine and loudly chiding it – talking to no one in particular but hoping someone would listen.  The sparkle in her eye was deceiving. It dissolved swiftly to an emptiness; a longing to be heard; to communicate; to have contact with another person. Funny at first, her act wore on those around her and they stopped playing along.  The more desperate she was, the more outrageous she would become.  Negative attention was still attention.  She eventually left, broke and broken. A smile on her face but a terrible sadness behind her eyes.

An older couple at the otherwise empty bar after midnight.  Eve was becoming Day but here last call was approaching and another drink was in order.  Faces red from time at the bar not from the ice storm outside, they talked at each other.  Heads down, no signs of closeness but a shared sadness was evident.

“Merry Christmas,” he said to her with not even a trace of a smile.

“Yeah…” she replied, never looking up.

No more words were spoken between the two.  Any intimacies they once shared were gone, beaten down by time and circumstance.  What it was that caused such obvious sadness wasn’t evident, but it was there.

“So many faces in and out of my life
Some will last
Some will just be now and then
Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes
I'm afraid it's time for goodbye again”

-          Billy Joel, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”

On the eve of the Eve a friend passed away in Vegas.  Young guy.  Bright, talented, larger than life in many ways.  The circumstances were sad but ultimately, after losing his wife suddenly a year ago, I believe that he gave up.  I cannot imagine the magnitude of that loss on someone and for him it was the beginning of the end.  Only a couple of days before Christmas he lost his battle with infection and a series of small strokes and went to join his beloved wife.

One of my very dear friends, family really, lost her dad a few days before Christmas.  The man could light up a room and everyone in it.  Now that light was gone. A husband, father, grandfather and all around wonderful man was gone after a very long and courageous battle with cancer. For nearly 20-years I was able to call him my friend and, while my sense of loss is deep, it does not compare to his wife, children and many grandchildren that will now see the holiday season as a sad time.

Are these life’s blows that cause one to find themselves in a casino bar on Christmas Eve, unsmilingly drinking away heartache or causing an isolation so painful that in a desperate desire for human contact you resort to making a spectacle of yourself?

I’d like to wrap this up in a neat bow and a deep and meaningful conclusion, but I’m not sure that there is one.  It just “is”.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Letter To My Hetero Life Mate

A Letter To My Hetero Life Mate


I was going to write a blog about procrastination, but I put it off until later *Rim Shot*. I will be here all weekend and don’t forget to tip your waitress and for sure order the salmon special!

There are times when I think that the only reason we are still friends is because we know too much about each other and that the statue  of limitations isn’t up for most of the stuff we have done. Then there are times like last week, when you constantly checked up on me, even with a quick text or call. You have no idea how much that meant to me. You are by far the best man I know.

There are things that will always remind me of you:
  •  Any time I see or hear a reference to “Remember the Alamo”
  •  Any time I see a hot dog vendor or hear a really bad Italian accent
  •  When I find myself lying in bed, with the same clothes on from the night before, but there are holes in the knees of my pants and my palms are filthy and have gravel pressing into them. (Dick move by the way)
  •  Any time I hear Batman’s girlfriends name
  •  Any time I see a Lamborghini and wonder how a fat guy could get in and out of that car
  •  Any time I take a 4 hour lunch break to play craps or miniature golf
  •  Any time I find out that somebody was “raised by wolves”
  • Any time I run into somebody named “Jose Marimba”
  •  Any time I turn a rental car in and they need to just throw it away instead of clean it out
You know, every day stuff!

And there are not so funny memories we share, breakups, illnesses, watching the fall of the World Trade Towers.  You were with me during some of the hardest parts of my life. Every step, and you and I know how rough some of those steps were.

Today we live 1600 miles apart and you are still there for me when I need you. Always giving me advice based on what’s best for me and not just your opinion. It’s like having my own Jiminy Cricket. You are also not afraid to tell me things I don’t want to hear or disagree with.

So today I am sitting here in my favorite pub, drinking bad coffee and laughing at all of our old mishaps and adventures. I miss seeing you every day but know you’re only a call or text away so I can get some of that old fashioned New England wisdom.**Chowda**

I will end this by saying it again; you are the best man I have ever known and thank you for all these years of your friendship. I look forward to many more years of this.

With love and affection (not in THAT way, but there’s nothing wrong with that…)

Your Buddy Chris

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Remember, Be Inspired and Smile

There are moments in our lives that are overwhelming emotionally. Weddings, births and various milestones are all legitimate reasons to become overwhelmed with positive emotion.  For some us, sports can generate that kind of emotion. Not all sports and not all events - and certainly not the same events for all people - but there are a few that resonate across the ages for each of us that count sports as an important part of their lives.

For me, the first such event I remember clearly was the 1980 Miracle on Ice. Watching the game at the time was thrilling.  We beat the Soviets.  WE BEAT THE SOVIETS!  It was a miracle and Al Michaels captured the moment brilliantly.

At the time, though, it wasn't an emotional event.  Later, looking back on it 5-10 years later it was an emotional win.  It meant more later than it did at the time.  Maybe it is the passage of time that makes us look back on the perceived simpler time of our childhoods, though I think that is the easy answer.

I think a part of it is that nostalgia but also a growing appreciation for the event and its times.  The magnitude of the accomplishment.  As the years go by, the accomplishment isn't diminished in the prism of time but it is magnified.  As time travels and the feat isn't duplicated, it's magnitude grows and its impact on the individual deepens.

As I sit watching "Secretariat" on cable (its not like we don't own two copies ourselves...), I think about every single time I watch the 1973 Belmont and hear Chic Anderson erupt "He's moving like a tremendous machine" and how I tear up every time.  The accomplishment was so extraordinary.  So unworldly.  I THINK about the moment and I get emotional.  The same watching the American boys celebrate on the ice in 1980.  Another watching the 2004 Red Sox become the "champions of the baseball world" after 86 years of frustration and heartbreak.

These may not be your moments, but as a sports fan, you have your own, I'm sure of it. These moments land on our own timelines and become our own personal milestones; markers of time that let us remember greatness and bookmark the most extraordinary athletic moments of our lives.

Ultimately, they are happy moments.  Moments that you can look back on and draw strength and inspiration from, especially in times that are less than stellar.  Use them to remember, to laugh, to cry to drive you to excellence in aspects of your own life; to make you transcend the divisiveness and acrimony that seems to slat and pepper each day lately. 

Let it take you back and take you away.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kap's Not Wrong...But He Is

It's been a while, but we've been busy - Fat Guys have lives, you know! - but there have been so many things that have sent me off to rant about that I've been totally frustrated and find myself wishing I had kept a list.

Finally, though, I have a moment (contain your excitement) and need to vent my spleen over this Colin Kaepernick brou-ha-ha.  Unlike so many expressing their opinions on social media, I apparently am near alone in thinking that this issue is more complex than memes allow.

Let me start with something really important: I don't agree with Kaepernick's choice of protest here.  HOWEVER, if you REALLY think that the reason behind it isn't valid, then you're living in a bubble. You can't look at what has happened in this country over the last 18 months or so and think everything is hunky dory. 

Kaepernick chose to stand up and have his voice heard by sitting down and he has caught a lot of flack for it from inside and outside the NFL.  He certainly has people talking, though regrettably not about the issues that need to be discussed.  You could say that's the fault of the listeners, not the speaker, but if you want your voice to be heard, you can't bury the lead either.

Here is where I think Kap erred.

The anthem and, by extension the flag, are broad representation of the United States of America as a whole. Neither are symbols of only oppression and divisiveness.  The Star Spangled Banner is an expression of freedom and democracy known around the world.  It is a symbol that our soldiers fight under, sure, but it also has flown (and been played) to honor our athletes in Olympics, welcomed countless millions to Ellis Island, provided broad opportunities for people to rise up through the lowest levels of society to make fortunes or even lead a nation.

Blatantly disregarding the anthem is to disregard all that have died in for this country as well as turning a blind eye to the broad spectrum of society that it represents and honors.  I am represented by that anthem and, perhaps more importantly, George Grevelis, the long gone founder of my family in America is represented by that anthem.  He never fought for his new country (they wouldn't let him, he was too old at the start of WWII and he was laughed out of recruiting offices all over the North Shore of Massachusetts, much to his lifelong regret), but he made it his home and raised sons who did serve and provided opportunities to his now countless great grand-children starting to make their way in, what was for him, a strange new land with limitless opportunity.

Before you think I'm going to get all holier than thou on you, we're not a perfect people.  That flag and then, after 1931, that national anthem, has overseen some horrendous acts of violence and state sanctioned racism. 

The anthem was played in concentration camps or, as we prefer to call them, "internment" camps of Japanese Americans during WWII.  The flag flew over slave trade markets for nearly two centuries before the Civil War.  It was the crusading flag in the banishment and attempted extermination of Native Americans.

These are not pretty or proud moments in our history, but for better or worse they shaped who we are and what we've become.  America isn't perfect but, for all her flaws, she's done a pretty good job being a beacon for the world; a ray of light in some of the darkest of times.  Much has been sacrificed by many - civilian and military alike - to get us where we are and more sacrifice will no doubt be required to make us even better.  The National Anthem will be the rallying cry that will call us all to do our duty like the many before us who already have.  Turning your back on all that represents has buried your point rather than enhanced it.  Ignoring all that is good and right in America by disrespecting the Anthem that now represents all of us, turns many away that would be in your corner.

NBA and WNBA players have protested and brought attention to the same issues you wish to be heard about in a way that educate and tried to bring people together, not by alienating most of mainstream America. They used a scalpel, not an axe. 

Again, I don't think that you're wrong in what you're trying to change, but it wasn't a well thought out way to go about it.  In my opinion, of course.

And a couple of final points before I close.

- Apparently to many of you the only people that can speak out about an issue are those directly affected by it.  Archbishop Iakovos, the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop for North and South America, marched with Dr. King (dark robes, big hat, beard,'ve seen him in the photos).  He was neither African-American nor oppressed, but he saw the plight of others and spoke with his words and actions.  Today's right wing social media would probably show him in a meme in his robes, in a full, ornate church with the words: "Tell me again how oppressed you are?" 

And what of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Lyndon Johnson?  All of whom were considered traitors to their class and/or race because of the causes they championed.  The thought that you have to be oppressed to understand it, say something about it or do something about it is simplistic - to say the very least.  Many of you running those memes out there on Facebook are many of the same people I read posting about what the underprivileged segments of our society really needs.  By your own logic there is no way you can know because you ain't them.

- Finally, remember a few months ago when you all were singing the praises of the recently departed Mohammed Ali?  Anyone recall all the hateful comments thrown his way in 1967?  Maybe you threw some yourself before praising him nearly 50 years later as a 'courageous hero'.  Fifty year hindsight can change the complexion of many issues and stances.  Keep that in mind as you attempt to tar and feather someone who might be making you a bit uncomfortable.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Living in Motion without Emotion - Life with Depression and PTSD

We started this blog to talk about stuff in our lives that make us want to rant. Stuff that makes us want to talk to the world in one way or another. Ted and I have an extremely connected sense of humor and communication. We talked about finding a forum where we could scream into the universe about things that bother us or make us happy and see what comes back. Little did we know that we would have thousands of views on our rants and ramblings. Some of our rants have been comical, some political, some about the heartbreaking state of our country and world. The connecting thread about all of them is that they are all genuine and come from our hearts. 

That being said, I have written this particular blog about eight times since we started, but never published it. I have spent time out of my life at my keyboard pouring out thoughts and just couldn't press that little orange button that says "Publish" on it. I don't know why, but I do know that it was a fear-based decision. A fear of what would you, the reader, think of me. A fear of rejection. A fear of ridicule. And for sure a fear of not being able to put my thoughts and emotion into words without sounding like a lunatic. (No promises on the last one by the time you are done reading this!)

Do you remember back in "the day" that freaking Jack-in-the-Box? Turning that crank over and over waiting for that sadistic clown to jump out? (Side note - who's idea was it to put a clown in there?? No wonder I hate clowns! Well those and Steven King!) Well, take out the devil jokesters and that is my life. Just waiting for it to POP.

I really never know when the feeling of guilt, pain, sadness and being overwhelmed is going to hit me. I don't know when my mood is going to change, when I want to isolate from people and conversations, when my emotions feel so overloaded that I just feel numb. It gets to a point, where I just don't want to feel anything. My thoughts go back to times and situations that I really don't want to visit. My mind is in control and my body follows quickly. 

It is a crazy merry-go-round. Once my mind is in control and I no longer have the ability to get off of the ride, my body starts in on the fun. Sleeplessness, anxiety, gastric issues, physical pain, headache and on and on. And once my body is in full swing, those issues pile right on top of the shit that started it all. 

I always feel like I have been hijacked when it happens. I don't have control and I am along for the ride no matter how hard I resist. I have to ride it out, see where it takes me, and hope it doesn't happen again any time soon. These rides can be short and with mild thoughts, long with very dark thoughts, short with very dark thoughts, long with mild thoughts... and all across the board. And again, I don't have control of it. 

That is one of the hardest things to say out loud, that I don't have control of it. I can't tell when it's going to happen and when it does I can't slow it down. I can mitigate it a little and sometimes, with medication, meditation and exercise, but that is just me and it doesn't always work! We are all different people. There is also the concept that we can "just stop it" when we feel it happening. If it were only that easy. 

What most don't know is that people with depression and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) are operating on a sort of "autopilot" and not always in control. PTSD and depression are exaggerated states of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us and believe it or not, we act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control. Those actions may not seem rational to you or society in general but please be patient with us. We most often cannot stop the anger, tears and other disruptive behaviors that are hard for you to endure.

The trauma we have endured has changed us and just like you, we want to believe that life can return to the way that it was and we can continue as who we were. Unfortunately, this isn't how it works. Trauma leave a large and deep-seated scar on the soul. I don't think it is possible to endure trauma and not experience a shift in our psyche.

There is also a misconception out there that PTSD is only suffered by war-torn Veterans. That's not true. It is caused by being in any traumatic experience; mental, physical or sexual abuse, car accidents, witnessing something tragic... there are a lot of situations that people deal with that change them.

We are not in denial, we are actually coping. It takes a lot of effort to live like this. Even if we don't or can't admit it, we know there is something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there's a problem, that is really code for "I'm doing the best I can". Taking the actions that you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus form what is holding us together. Sometimes just getting up and doing our daily routine is the biggest step toward the recovery we make. We need a safe space where we can find support and alleviate our stress.

Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, inside of us we know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we could use your face as the image of PTSD, since we have trouble directly addressing our PTSD and depression issues sometimes it is easier to address you. As hard as it seems, continue to approach us. We need you. Your presence matters. PTSD and depression create a great sense of isolation. In our post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by us. It matters that although we may lash our, don't respond and aren't ourselves, that you are still there, no matter what. Please don't give up, we are doing our best.

There are words and phrases that make me wince when I hear them. One of the questions I get asked a lot is "What triggered this depression?" Guess what? I don't know. Could be something obvious, could be absolutely nothing. Please don't get upset if our answers are not what you are looking for.

I don't like who I am in regards to this part of my life. I don't like knowing that this is a part of who I am. I don't like the dark rides and very dark thoughts. I don't like seeing those people who love me feel helpless or hurt because my words don't make sense to them and actions are worse. I don't like the feeling in my gut that this could be the cause of my death one day. 

I want to like being in crowds again. I want to be able to sit in a restaurant and feel comfortable with people sitting behind me. I want to laugh and joke when somebody comes up from behind me and touches my neck or shoulders by surprise. I want to have dreams that I want to remember. I want to react to loud booms and bangs with wonder and not terror. I want to be normal. 

Here is what I have learned through this journey though... "Fuck Normal". I have friends and family who don't understand me (and might never) and I have those that do. I have days that I can look in the mirror and forgive myself for all the bad shit I have done in my life and there are days that I literally do not look in the mirror because of who I will see. It's just part of my life. Part of my journey. Part of my story that I get to tell. Even as messed up as all of this is, I want to be a example to my kids and grandkids and not a warning. 

If you need are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others please call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or if you are a Veteran and want to speak to somebody who knows specifically what you are going through call the VA Crisis Line at the same number, 800-273-8255 and PRESS 1.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Violent Protests Furthers Their Cause, Not Yours

A day of non-violent protests erupted overnight in St. Paul when demonstrators pelted police with rocks, concrete, fireworks and more.  Twenty one officers were injured and 102 protestors arrested.

This doesn't help anyone.  No one's memory is honored by this type of action.  No one's cause is furthered. 

Rashad Turner, described as a Black Lives Matter leader in St. Paul spoke out against the violence in the Sunday edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“We condemn all acts of violence,” Turner said. “We want to be disruptive, but at no time is it OK to hurt other people.”

Disruptive they were, shutting down I-94 for several hours overnight.

Understandably they received attention.  None of it positive or productive.

Col. Matt Langer, State Patrol chief told the paper, “Our longstanding message has been that there are many places that people can gather and protest and demonstrate and exercise their First Amendment rights, but the freeway is not one of those places,”

In Minnesota it is illegal to be on an interstate highway on foot.

Governor Mark Dayton, who shocked everyone the day after the shooting by admitting that the shooting most likely would not have happened if the driver were white, condemned the violence and the shutting down of a major highway.

In statement he said:

“The occupation and shutting down of Interstate 94 last night were unlawful and extremely dangerous. Twenty-one law enforcement officers were injured by rocks and other projectiles thrown at them by some of the protesters. 
“I am deeply grateful for the heroic efforts of those men and women, who put themselves in harm’s way last night to protect the safety of all Minnesotans. I thank them for their professionalism and persistent attempts to resolve the situation peacefully. 
“I also thank the leaders, who were doing their utmost to stop this very dangerous escalation. Until then, the protests of the last few days have been lawful and peaceful. I thank everyone, who has shown restraint and tolerance. 
“Again, I urge all Minnesotans to remain calm and peaceful during this very difficult time. I urge everyone exercising their First Amendment rights to do so lawfully and without endangering themselves or others."

The violence has no place in protests.  The only agenda it furthers is that of those who feel that BLM should just stand for Bureau of Land Management; that this proves their point that the protestors are really just thugs; that we all are just jumping to conclusions; that Castile wasn't as innocent as what appears.  Hell, he has a HUGE criminal record after all (though all I could find is that he appears to be guilty of is DWB - Driving While Black). Rock throwing and attacks on law enforcement furthers their agenda - not the legitimate protestors' agenda.

The problem that is developing with the violence is the "us" versus "them" mentality; that if you support the police you must hate black people and if you support the Black Lives Matter movement that you necessarily hate the police.  Neither is true nor is it mutually exclusive to understand that there are legitimate issues facing people of color in the United States and that the police have a very difficult job and make split second decisions every day - 99% of which are correct.  More talking, uniting and understanding are necessary, not name calling, division and violence.

Friday, July 8, 2016

I don’t accept the “New Normal”

I was part of a Facebook group, until very recently, that was focused on Las Vegas Veterans. It was supposed to be about helping people and giving an outlet to Vets who needed help or wanted to help. Monday, when I quit the group, there was a post referring to Hillary Clinton not being charged in the e-mail scandal and it said “... the fix is in The FBI has caved in to the political pressure from the Establishment. Our only hope is that members of the American Military will remember their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC!"  Now today we have a Veteran who may have taken ideas like that and took matters into his own hands and murdered five police officers because he saw then as domestic enemies. We may never know exactly what was going through his mind, but that is what it looks like right now. I quit that group when I started seeing the “thumbs up” notifications from others like me, Veterans, and I was embarrassed and ashamed.

I don’t know how to feel from the past 72-hours. Honestly I am sick and appalled that we are where we are. Today I am watching the news in shock and feel numb. But I guess that is our “new normal” response to things like this. White cop shoots black man… Numb. White man shoots kindergartners… Numb. Black man shoots black man… Numb. White man shoots black parishioners… Numb. Black man shoots white cops… Numb. You can see it our response from our leaders and our communities, for fuck’s sake you can see it in the news reporting… same story, just change the names and city and get people to say “Thoughts and Prayers”. No change.

Our new normal is a world of extreme. To be in the middle is perceived as being weak and without dedication. You have to push the boundaries of morals and ethics to be popular and to be seen as outrageous to be heard. It’s not enough to say that you support the 2nd amendment, but we have to say that everyone needs to be a “good guy with a gun” and push to limit who is restricted from getting a gun. Even turning your back on the idea that people who are mentally ill or on the No Fly list or being investigated by law enforcement should be restricted from getting an AR-15 within 30 minutes and buying thousands of rounds of ammunition. 

We have to HATE cops, immigrants, minorities, the rich, the poor, the people who suggest change just to be taken seriously.

Our idea of balance is bloodshed. Our idea of justice is death. Our idea of right is ignorance to ideas.

Turn on any TV, log onto any social media and you will hear people talk about what we need to do to make things better: “If I was there, I would pull my gun out and shoot that bad guy” – yet you have never fired your weapon in a time of danger and stress and may have never even shot your weapon outside the safety of a range and maybe even without your ear protection. You don’t know. You don’t know what it feels like to pull the trigger when you heart is pumping out of your chest and you are shaking uncontrollably. You don’t know. Would you do some good that situation? Maybe. Could you do harm in that situation? Maybe. I hope we can figure out a way for you to never have to find out. Until that you have been in a situation where you can answer those questions, I would suggest to tone down that certainty rhetoric because right now, you have no fucking idea what you are talking about.

It HAS to be ok, to be pro-cop and at the same time know and understand that black people in this country are frustrated and scared. It HAS to be ok to be pro-2nd amendment and think that assault rifles should be banned and it should be really fucking hard to own a gun. It HAS to be ok to think that hate is wrong and that love is an option. It has to be ok. But today, it isn’t.

And I know that there are people reading this right now who read the last paragraph and think, “Of course, that’ how I feel.” I say to you, feeling is not enough. Wanting is not enough. Thoughts are not enough. Prayers are not enough. We have to do something… anything. Please.

Yes, black lives matter and cops lives matter. Guess what, Lives Matter. Our new normal does not have to be the way we have to live and it  is up to us to do something about it. 

Come Together, Before We Tear Apart

THIS is decidedly not the answer. 

A sniper ambushes police in Dallas, killing five, because he was mad at white people and wanted to kill white police officers.  This was met by an attempted escalation of hostilities by a former member of the House of Representatives.

I was looking very hard to find a picture I came across late last night of what the demonstrations in Dallas were like before the gunman cut loose.  It was a pair of Dallas police officers and a protester smiling together.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find it – it was lost amongst photos of carnage, chaos and confusion.
It was a picture of protesters and police doing it right.  A lawful demonstration that was by all accounts peaceful. The police were there to maintain order and used the opportunity for outreach. The way it is supposed to work in the United States.

After the shooting there was solidarity and shared grief.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Ting Shen/Dallas News)
There is no racial divide in grief, just sadness and loss.  In the span of 72 hours seven people were killed in racially motivated – or at least racially charged – incidents. 
In the aftermath, former Illinois Representative (a one-termer – thank you Illinois!) Joe Walsh, apparently while ironing his white sheet and hood, tweeted:

“Real” America?  REAL?  You mean WHITE America, Joey?

You know what is real, Herr Walsh?  Diversity.  Differences.  All shades of color.  THAT is America.  You don’t like it? Get the hell out. Walsh is Irish, right?  Then guess what?  YOU’RE not a “real” American either!

Real Americans celebrate our diversity and confront intolerance (any Colby class of ‘87s out there recognize that?).  Real Americans grow as our country does.  We’re inclusive not exclusive.  We don’t spin hate and divisiveness but recognize that our diversity and differences are what makes us great.
Obviously there are real issues here that need to be resolved. Dialogue is the key to understanding how we’re more alike than we are different and diffusing fear of each other. 

You know what we all want, black or white?
Our kids to grow up safely.  To be accepted for what we bring to the table, not denied a seat at it.  To “not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”  Opportunity to make a life for our families.  To live in peace.

I pray that we use this dumpster fire of a week to learn that we are stronger together and that dialogue and positive interaction is the only way to change, grow and move forward.
Any of these goals sound color specific to you?  No…they don’t to me either. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Black in the Wrong Place"

Here we go again.  Here.  At home.

Philando Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light a Twin Cities suburb.  He had a conceal carry permit, allegedly informed the police officer that he had one and had a handgun when he was asked for his license and permit. 
Shockingly he had both in his wallet in his back pocket.  I know that I usually leave my license out so it’s right there when I get pulled over, but hey…I guess that’s just me.

Castile went to get his information as allegedly requested by the officer or was putting his hands back down.
He was shot dead.  Apparently four times.

For being Black.
Solid school department employee.  Boyfriend.  Father figure.  Son.  Another African American male shot dead by white a police officer just hours after another African American male, pinned to the ground, was shot dead by Baton Rouge police.  The circumstances weren’t the same – no two incidents are ever the same – but the trend continues.

It seemingly never ends.
The most jarring video to me was not the shooting in Louisiana – though that was more than disturbing enough – but the livestreaming video of Castile’s girlfriend immediately following the shooting.  She was calm and respectful.  And she got carted off in handcuffs.  Her 7-year old daughter witnessing it all, the little girl at one point comforting her mother with the words “I’m here with you.”

Castile’s mother told CNN that she always taught her son to comply with police instructions and it sounds like that’s what he did.

And he was killed anyway.

Because he was Black.
Unless something truly unexpected and out of left field comes to light, Castile did everything he was supposed to do.  He followed instructions.  He followed the protocol that is taught in conceal carry classes from what I’m told, but he was shot anyway.

I have no answers.  I wish I did.
Castile’s mother said “I think he was black in the wrong place.”

I’d like to tell her otherwise, but I can’t – she’s right.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

"Unfriended" - Amazing It Took So Long

It finally happened.  I unfriended a long time friend on Facebook and pretty much cut ties over politics.  It was probably overdue.  We were close for a while but after a few moves we drifted apart.  It happens, of course, but social media and modern technology makes staying in touch easier than ever.

He was a middle of the road guy usually, but lately he had drifted more.  He was more bitter and chose to place blame on the administration. Not in a well reasoned way, but lashing out.  He was Trumpish in his insulting. 

He didn't have any trouble accepting the additional unemployment that was offered to him when he wasn't working.  Those same extended benefits that his newly beloved conservatives wanted to cut off several times.  However everything was Obama's fault.  Know what part of the conservative philosophy that you're missing there, bub? Personal responsibility. Maybe your 6 jobs in 10 years has something to do with YOU, not Obama.

And it wasn't just politics.  He insulted teams he didn't like, players that turned him off and he did it in a way that was holier than thou and it was grinding on me.

You don't like LeBron?  Fine.  Don't go online and call him overrated.  You just show yourself to the world as a fool.  And that's only one of dozens of examples.

This was constant and unending.  I was tired and had enough.

Today was the finale.  The final straw. I had to be

"He pledges allegiance to ISIS.  Lets see Obama and the liberals spin that!", he posted after the Orlando Club Pulse shooting.

Shut the hell up.

There is nothing liberal or conservative about this country being attacked.  About people gunned down in a club in central Florida.  There is no god damn spin to be had.  It was reprehensible.  It was evil.  It was hate and it was terroristic.

Just how did you think this was to be spun?  I'm liberal, sure.  I'm also absolutely insulted that he would insinuate that I would spin such a despicable act in some way to make it seem less awful that it was.  That there was any excuse. That a liberal is apparently incapable of loving his country or recognizing evil when he sees it.  It's a time for coming together and instead this guy just further tries to split people apart.


Go F yourself.  I'm done with you.  Enough is enough.  I've already written that civil discourse is possible and I'm done with you all that can't have one.

Yeah, I'm tired of thoughts and prayers, but I'm also tired of bitter, angry people that choose to insult, bully and use name calling to try and make a point - I get enough of that watching election coverage...

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Two Friends Walk Into a Bar...

A debate raged at the bar of the card club at Canterbury Park one weekend.  I was adamantly rejecting my opponent’s characterization of me as an extremist liberal whilst trying to make her understand that her boy, Donald Trump, was the bane of human existence.

Okay, that may be a bit of an over characterization of our conversation. 
The fact is, though, that while she’s not thrilled with Mr. Trump and has serious reservations about him, she is a conservative Republican and even though I’m not an extremist on gun control, I am a liberal leaning Democrat. 

Needless to say we have our differences- some of which are deep and likely never to be reconciled.
We’re also friends.  Her husband and I have been friends for years and she and my wife have grown close as well.  (Yes, you read that right – since last rant I have me a missus [her term before you rip me]…but I digress)  My friend is smart, funny, ambitious and strong (as is my wife, for that matter...). 

We can talk about anything and all is well.  Politics are a different story.  At the end of the day, though, the four of us can go out to dinner, have a good time and enjoy the company.
When I was in Washington D.C. and working for the House of Representatives, Ronald Reagan was President and Tip O’Neil was Speaker of the House. The two could not agree on anything as far as the direction of the country, the role of government or governing philosophy.  Yet they could remain friendly.  After Iran-Contra, Reagan wasn’t “Lyin’ Ronny”. When Ted Kennedy challenged a sitting President Jimmy Carter in the primaries, no one threw chairs.

At the end of the conversation we parted as friends.  There wasn’t any name calling.  There was conversation.  We won’t agree on everything political but that’s okay.  There is an ebb and flow to the political leanings of the country.  We live in the greatest country in the world where freedom of speech and expression should be cherished and nurtured.
Civil discourse and then compromise has served this country well for 240 years.  It’s very sad and disheartening to see politics and governance has become my way or no way.  Maybe the powers that be need to take a lesson from two friends in a bar?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hate Dipped in Chocolate Still Tastes Like Crap

I was standing in a long line at a pharmacy recently and the family in front of me was Sikh, so the father of the family was wearing a traditional turban. The teen boy that was with the family was wearing an Army ROTC uniform and I noticed that the uniform was immaculate. Before they could check out there was an issue and it took longer than normal. Being a person who is mostly oblivious to most things I didn’t notice what was going on with them because my attention was caught by a stuffed dog sitting on the display next to me that sang “Who Let The Dogs Out” when you pinched its ear. (Side Note, I still love that song and fathers day is coming up so… gift idea!)

Anywho, while the family in front of me was processing their transaction, and over the sounds of the repeating music, I heard the mother of the family in back of me say, “Fucking Muslims… I wish they would get their shit at other stores!” and then the father said “Disgrace to let that kid wear that uniform. He shouldn’t be allowed to wear something like that!” That is when their teenage son said, “I know that kid and he’s pretty cool.” Followed by mom saying, “I’m sure he is good at math.” And then daddy ended with (No shit) “Fucking Obama…”

NOW. What the ever-loving fuck? I turned around to see the delightful family behind me and say “How dare you! First of all, they are NOT Muslim and if they were, it’s obviously not their fault that you are standing in line a little longer so it has nothing to do with their religion or where their nation of origin. And I will also have you know that his uniform is being worn with honor and he is EVERY right to wear it! And Thank YOU little kid for not being a racist fuck like your parents! And “good at math” is the wrong racist stereotype for Muslims, asshole! And OBAMA??? What the hell does OBAMA have to do with ANYTHING???”

But when I turned around I noticed that both parents were demonstrating their 2nd Amendment rights with guns on their belt, dad had a huge scar on his face and mom was at least 5 inches taller than I am and outweighed me by at least 50 pounds. The kid looked normal but was wearing a “Limp Bizket” sleeveless t-shirt – an obvious psychopath. So instead, I pinched the dog’s ear about 8 more times in an action of defiance and disgust. I showed them!

I actually did walk out of line and came back later. I couldn’t be around that kind of open hate and ignorance and it made me sad. I was sad that I didn’t say anything, sad that that the Sikh family probably deals with this all the time but mostly I was sad for the kid whose parents were teaching him to be exactly the kind of person that I feel is putting this country in the state it where people think they need to “Make America Great Again”. Hate is hate and wrapping your religion, philosophy or opinion around it still makes it hate.

I thought about my own kids. I thought back to stupid comments that I have made in the past (yes, I am not a saint) and wondered if they stuck in their heads and were repeated. I thought about what they hear in school and if because it is coming from their friends, those kinds of comments carry more weight than their own upbringing or beliefs. I made sure to tell them about this encounter and asked them what they thought was wrong about it. To my happy heart, they pointed out exactly what I hoped they would… even saying that nobody even likes that song anymore! Jerks.

This being said, I also thought about that uniform and what that teen was learning by wearing it and participating in ROTC. Honor, Duty, Country, Commitment, Truth. All of those things lost in those comments made by those strangers standing 15 feet behind them. The shame brought to that uniform was by the people who are protected by uniforms like that and the people who volunteer to wear them, who run TO the gunfire and not away from it.

I have had the privilege of touring three places in my life that I think made huge impacts on my life; The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, The Vietnam Memorial and Arlington Cemetery. When you walk on these grounds I dare you to think that this county isn’t great already. I dare you to look at those names carved in stone and judge them based on their religions, color of their skin, creeds, backgrounds or the places of their births. Those people who are so quick to let hate fall out of their mouths most likely have never been to places like that the mean so much to our country and way of life. If they have, they didn’t let it sink in that there are all kinds of names on those stones, names from all around the world who wore the same flag on their shoulders and took the same oath. The names of men and women who gave their lives defending these same people who use their 1st Amendment Rights like a weapon and then hide behind it. Again, Hate is Hate.

So to the innocent family who stood in front of me at the CVS last week, I apologize. I am sorry for my lack of actions at that time. I am sorry that I didn’t stand up for your because I never ended MY oath to defend this country from enemies foreign AND domestic. I am sorry that I didn’t have the courage to speak my mind and let my heart show at that moment.

I do not apologize for the actions of those other people. I will not lower myself to that. I have a feeling that one day, maybe someday soon, they will need help and the person who comes to their rescue will not be just like them. They will be a different skin color, a different ethnic background, pray from a different text… I bet those words don’t come out of their mouths then.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Truth Versus Power: Free Brady!

Power wins.

Tom Brady's 4-game suspension was upheld earlier today by a Federal Appeals Court in New York.

This really comes as no surprise.  The appeals court proceedings seem to favor the NFL and observers felt that the suspension could very well be over-turned because virtually all of this brouhaha wasn't about truth, guilt or innocence.  It was about labor law and collective bargaining.

Ultimately a Federal court was not going to overturn what was collectively bargained by the players. I know that there are fans all over the country right now cheering and jeering at the Pats and their fans (like myself, I admit it) but they should think twice.

Through all the craziness over the last year over this debacle, a few things have been determined:

The NFL really botched things.  There were holes so big in the Wells report you could drive a truck through and inconsistencies in the way the League handled the measuring of footballs in the first place.  And you'd think after all the bad press and inconsistencies they would have been dogged and forth-coming when the 2015 season rolled around: measuring the inflation of the balls before games as well as at half time and after the game and tracking the results so they could prove their case.

But they did no such thing. 

Maybe it started that way but when the data didn't support the conclusion they jumped to they stopped?  They sure as hell didn't publicize any findings.  I'm not sure, but I would have expected, if the data supported Goodell and his minions they would have shouted it from the mountain tops.

They did not.

Instead they relied on labor law and, perhaps, they were correct. The majority, though not all, of the appellate court thought so. The collectively bargained power given to the Commissioner by the players allows him to punish as he sees fit.  Proof be damned.  Ultimately, though, the players did this to themselves. 

The problem is that the test case involves arguably the greatest quarterback who ever played on a team that has enjoyed one of the longest runs of continued success in NFL history and is nearly universally despised by anyone west of the Hudson.  Fans can't rally around Brady or the Pats.

But beware fans of other teams who are smugly self-satisfied right now.  The next time Goodell acts like this - and he will - and nails your player to the wall THIS will be the precedent he will point to when tells you, "though shit, I can because I can".

And I shall sit...smugly self-satisfied.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince and the Soundtrack of My Life

"We're gathered here today,
To get through this thing called life..."
Prince was a musical genius.  Like him or not, it is hard to deny that he was something special.  He could play the hell out of a piano and was one of the best guitar players of his generation.  Listen to him in the clip below and tell me he wasn't a wizard.
But losing a talent like that at a relatively young age isn't why I find myself feeling his loss so much; though that in and of itself is tremendously sad.
Prince carried me through a large swath of my youth.  His death carried with it the death of part of my past. 1999 came out when I was in high school.  Cruising North Shore beaches with my friends, senior dances and trips to Fenway Park were all soundtracked by "1999", "Little Red Corvette" and "Delirious". 
In college, Purple Rain stepped in and picked up where 1999 left off.  The week I moved into my dorm at American University in the summer of '84 to start a summer internship in Congress was the same week "When Doves Cry" hit number one.  The week I went back to Colby College for my sophomore year is when it was finally toppled.  That summer was one of the greatest on record and Prince's Purple Rain, along with Springsteen's Born in the USA, provided the music. 
Purple Rain was part of the soundtrack of my college years.  Parties, road trips and even the romance of my friend Dave and his wife were all soundtracked by Purple Rain.  I still know every word to every song on that album. 
As I write, Heather and I are watching the movie Purple Rain on MTV.  No, it wasn't a classic, but it means a lot to me.  While the music and live segments are tremendous, the fact that I watched it with my closest friends at the time in a dorm lounge on laser disc is what is special. It was also shot in and around Minneapolis - a fact that meant nothing to me then but means a whole lot to me now.
Friendships have come and gone.  Hell, friends have literally come and gone: two of my best friends, one from the 1999 years and one from the Purple Rain years are in heaven to greet Prince and I find myself mourning fresh again for them both.  Both young men lived the soundtrack with me.  And like Prince, they are gone.
These songs and this music is part of the soundtrack that is my life.  Music is woven into me like a tapestry.  I can't play a note.  I can't carry a tune in a bucket.  However, I have music in my head nearly all the time. Songs take me to a time and place very vividly, much like smells do to most people. 
The music and the memories of course remain but they are now different, inexorably altered by recent events.  Prince's passing has taken a part of my youth with it and I mourn for them deeply.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

To Be Able to Pee Like That Again...

My mom once told me that growing old isn’t for wimps.  I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but I totally get it now that I’ve hit fifty.  My knees sound like Rice Krispies, my back aches most mornings, my hair is grey and I’m asleep by 10, up before dawn.

This all didn’t happen overnight, of course.  My back went south at 40.  The grey peppered in my late thirties and now, during occasional on air stints, it shimmers silver.  The snap, crackle and pop in my joints started around fifty.  I shudder to think what sixty will bring.
Looking older than I is nothing new.  Parents of opposing teams in Little League wanted to see my birth certificate.  I had a relatively long-term relationship with the folks at South Peabody Liquors back in high school. Looking older may have been an advantage as a teenager, it certainly is no advantage now.

Some folks insist on aging me prematurely.  When I was 47 I stopped for coffee at a White Castle one morning before a work trip.
“That’ll be seventy cents at the first window,” said the voice in the box.

I pulled around wondering what the special was on coffee today.
“Here you go,” I said, handing over a dollar. “Why so cheap?”

“Your senior discount!” the older-than-I lady chirped to me cheerily.
“Um…I’m not quite there yet.”

“Really?” she exclaimed, making me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy.

“Hmmm…must be all the grey hair that threw me,” she added.  “It’s okay, I’ll let you have it anyway!”
Really???  Thanks!  It really was the least you could do after banging me over the head with how old I look - several times in a single interaction!

Last year Heather and I went to dinner at Treasure Island.  She had to make a stop on the way to the buffet so I struck up a conversation with the gentleman next to me.  When she re-joined me I excused us, explaining we were heading to dinner.
“It was nice talking to you,” he smiled. “I hope you and your daughter have a nice dinner.”

Good Lord!
At least I get an AARP discount now.

Last week, at a rest stop in Iowa, I glimpsed my future.

As happens when driving for a billion hours straight you have to pee and, usually, pee badly.  I parked at the rest stop and hustled on in.  I was well behind an elderly gentleman with a cane who had bellied up to the lone urinal by the time I got to the restroom.  I sidled into the stall nearby and proceeded to do my business, strong and steady. 
I heard the old man mutter under his breath, “Ah…to be able to pee like that again…”


Monday, March 28, 2016

Sometimes punctuation can cost you $20...

The above picture is one that I took on Friday. I have seen this sign several times and read it a few times and never thought it would have an impact on my life… until Friday. You see, this past Friday, this sign came with a little, tiny envelope on my windshield holding a little, tiny parking violation. I find it funny that they make these so small; almost to point out that the fine is really small and insignificant so you really shouldn’t worry about it much.

Now back to the sign in question. I have parked under this sign at least 20 times in the past two years. It is around the corner from my favorite coffee joint downtown. It is actually a pretty popular parking spot! It’s not open very much and when it is, I always swoop in to take it. It is close to the coffee shop, has some shade and is off the main street (it is off of Main Street, actually) so I don’t have to deal with traffic zooming past. I would say this is a prime parking spot and I also think that I am not alone in the thought that it was safe to park there.

When I read the sign the first time, I thought to myself, “Well, I am not a commercial vehicle, I am only going to be about 15 minutes, and it is not a Sunday or Holiday… I’m Golden!” I also thought that it was strange that they would have to say that commercial vehicles were prohibited because this parking spot is on the side of a building with no door to unload anything. So I parked in this spot time and time again, not worrying at all. And then Friday happened.

Finding this little gem on my windshield set me off like you I can’t describe, but let me try. I was as pissed off as when somebody texts me and then doesn’t answer my phone call 3 seconds later… no that’s not it. I was a pissed off as when the automated phone lady tells you to press #3 to talk to a representative and it goes back to the start of the recording… nope. As pissed as when I am next to a driver who is OBVIOUSLY turning right, but has to swerve left into my lane first in order to make such a “complicated maneuver”. Close, but not really close enough for this exercise. Nutshell: PISSED OFF!

I read the ticket and it said that I was fined because I was NOT a commercial vehicle. WHAT?!?! The sign says “No Parking Commercial Vehicles. Only 30 mins. 8am to 6pm daily”!!! Hold on… does it say “No Parking. Commercial Vehicles Only. 30 mins. 8am to 6pm daily”? Not being the sharpest bulb in the Crayon box, I picked up the phone and called. When I called the automated phone lady told me to press #3 to talk to a representative and it went BACK TO THE RECORDING!!! ARGH!!! I pushed #3 again and somebody picked up.

I explained that I received a parking ticket and before I could explain my mental dilemma, I was told “Sir, it’s only a $20 and you can contest it if you want to go through all of that.” I told her that I was going to pay the fine but needed clarification about the sign. She made an audible “HRUMPH” and let me explain. She told me that what I didn’t understand was the “implied punctuation” in the sign due to space restrictions and that no parking means no parking and that the “international symbol of a picture that was circled and had a diagonal line through it was internationally known.” Really… THAT is where we are going to go with all of this?

Now it was Friday and late in the afternoon so I gave her as much slack as I could muster and told her that I didn’t understand why the punctuation had to be “implied” since there was a period after the after 30 mins to shorten it from minutes! Obviously some punctuation was able to be used on these signs!

Her reply was simple and may be the best customer service reply I have ever heard because I had no reply but so say thank you and hang up… “Sir, I don’t make the signs and I have worked here for 9 years and you are the first person to call and not understand the sign and we write a LOT of tickets under those signs. Do you have any other concerns? The instructions to mail in your fine are on the ticket. Have a great day!”

Got my money order today… dropped it in the mail. I hated to do it. I am really really ranty because of it. But punctuation got me! $20 at a time, punctuation is paying for our roadways and repairs and the like. I bet there are a lot of grumpy $20 money orders sent in!!

At least I didn’t misread this sign!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Maybe THIS is Why "We" Don't Stand With Ankara?

The world is now standing with Brussels.  We red, white and blued our profile pics for Paris.  We were Charlie.  Now someone is asking the question:

Where were “we” for Ankara?

To refresh our short term memories, on March 13 a suicide bomber detonated an explosion in the heart of Ankara, Turkey, killing 37 people.  The group taking responsibility for this reprehensible attack was the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been responsible for several attacks on Turkey in recent years.
Back to the question.  James Taylor, a British national asked the question above.  It’s been chronicled in many places and I’ve seen it shared over social media.  (You can check out his entire post here)

Reading commentary on several sites regarding his statement, everything from anti-Muslim sentiment in the west to outright racism was the reason why “we” weren’t standing with Turkey as aggressively as we did for other victims of terror.
Before I piss off the world – well, the 39 of you that consistently read us – let me state VERY clearly:

ATTACKS LIKE THESE ARE AN ABOMINATION.  They have no place in civilized society and need to be condemned whether it is the PKK, ISIS, the KKK or <insert terrorist group here>.
Now…my take on why the world can’t relate to the Ankara attacks in the same way it did to 9-11, Paris and now Brussels. 

ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, freaking loons…whatever you want to call them) are not fighting for a cause.  They are criminals.  They are part of the majority religion of the region where they operate and have taken that religion and twisted it and contorted it to the point of being unrecognizable.  They use this twisted vision of Islam to commit atrocities so vile that they are beyond defending.  I know we’re all pissy because they kill westerners and chant death to the west, but they have killed more Muslims than any one group since the Crusaders. 
Turkish Kurds (as well as Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi and Armenian Kurds) have been fighting for their own country for centuries.  According the BBC article “Who Are the Kurds?” the Kurds are:

"…one of the indigenous people of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia.  Today, they form a distinctive community, united through race, culture and language, even though they have no standard dialect. They also adhere to a number of different religions and creeds, although the majority are Sunni Muslims."

At the end of WWI the Kurds were promised a homeland but as the boundaries of Turkey were redrawn, the promised Kurdish state never materialized.  Instead they were spread between five countries – minorities in every one.  The Kurds have tried for nearly a century to create their own state but every attempt has been met with violence and reprisals. 

Though they were the earliest fighters against ISIS, when they found themselves pinned against the Turkish border in the Battle of Kobane, Turkey refused to assist, instead, seeing an opportunity to be rid of more Kurds, they let them flounder until the US stepped in with strong air support helping the Kurds retake Kobane.

If that sounds a little genocidal to you, let’s not pretend that Turkey has no history in genocide.  Ask the Armenians how life was under Ottoman rule.  In less than 10-years over 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were slaughtered.  My own people, the Greeks, were brutally oppressed for centuries until overthrowing the Ottoman yolk in the 1830s (Greek independence, coincidently, is celebrated annually on March 25, just a few days from now).  This time they tried to allow ISIS to do their dirty work.
In that context, and the context of decades of brutal oppression by the Turkish government, a segment of the Kurds have taken to violence.  To domestic terrorism.  Make no mistake, it is terrorism pure and simple.  It’s wrong and it is despicable.  Killing innocents in the name of a cause is to be condemned. But a comparison between a decades long struggle of a violently suppressed minority (40,000 killed and an estimated 100,000 resettled along with a crushing of their ethnic identity) and the altogether different monster that is ISIS is a comparison between apples and oranges.

Once again I condemn the actions taken by the PKK on March 13 and I pray that God (Allah, whatever you want to call the deity) embraces the innocent victims and can bring some measure of comfort to their families.  That said, don’t expect me to change my profile picture for Turkey.