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RICH IN THOUGHT Flags, Courage, And Defiance


Maybe it’s the A’s lousy season that has me grumpy or maybe it’s the influx of social media I have going to stay on top of things, but I can’t remember another time where things were so upside down. Since about June some national stories, and their aftermaths, just have me shaking my head wondering what the heck is going on.

In June, Dylann Roof killed nine people during a mass shooting at a church in South Carolina. It was a dreadful and tragic event. But because of one nut-job who had his own racist manifesto along with a Confederate flag in his car, a dramatic backlash against all things Confederate has swept across the country.

The battle flag of the Confederacy, an actual part of US history, and flown by those proud of their Southern heritage is now the apparent symbol of hatred and racism. Newsflash: That flag flew over battlefields, not over slave quarters.

But in response, and not wanting to offend – a big no-no in today’s society, retailers have pulled anything with the stars and bars. NASCAR has condemned its display at its events and even the Dukes of Hazzard syndicated TV show has been cancelled because of the General Lee, an orange Dodge Charger with the Confederate flag on its roof, appears in episodes despite no hint of racism or hatred in any of the storyline by the good ol’ boys of Hazzard County. Even here in California, a state senator has jumped on the bandwagon with a bill to ban the use of Confederate names for schools, buildings, and other public facilities.

Only a few weeks later did the next “what-the heck” (my editor won’t allow me to use my actual words) moment occur.

During the ESPY awards I was shocked to see the Arthur Ashe Courage Award given to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner who two months earlier appeared on the cover of Esquire Magazine with an article discussing his/her “transformation” from a man to a woman.

This was a disgrace to the award which is named for the first black tennis player to be ranked number 1 on the planet and who died with dignity after battling AIDS that he received during a blood transfusion for heart surgery.

It’s also a slap in the face to more deserving athletes who defined “courage” such as Lauren Hill, a freshman basketball player who was suffering from terminal brain cancer, the runner up for the 2014 AP Female Athlete of the Year, or Noah Galloway, a veteran who lost most of an arm and a leg fighting in Iraq but still managed to compete in extreme sports and who contended in “Dancing With the Stars.”

Former recipients include Pat Tillman, Muhammad Ali and the four men who tried to prevent the 9/11 attack on Flight 93 – courageous people performing courageous acts.

But this is 2015, so this award for courage, traditionally given for those that do something noteworthy, amazing and generally beneficial for society, was given to a decades-old Olympian from a reality TV series who got breast implants and now wears a dress.

We also have the anti-police sentiment by a certain segment of society that continues to spread itself, and just as my blood pressure lowered after Jenner, there’s the Sandra Bland fiasco.

She was the one in Texas that resisted a police officer – a popular “thing to do” nowadays – and ended up showing how a routine traffic stop can lead to a shouting match and combative struggle. She was arrested after she refused to get out of her car and taken to jail. Three days later she was found hanging in her jail cell.

The Harris County medical examiner ruled the death a suicide resulting from self-inflicted asphyxiation – simply put, she hung herself. A separate investigation that revealed Ms. Bland had a rather extensive illegal driving history with violations that included DUI’s and failure to pay fines associated with at least 10 infractions, determined her death “…was a tragic incident, not one of criminal intent or a criminal act.”

Despite the unbiased investigations and her medical history of mental illness, her family, in denial about her publically stated depression, is still demanding additional autopsies and investigations.

The irony of the situation is that Bland’s sister, Sharon Cooper, who’s been all over news broadcasts blaming police for her sister’s death – or “murder” as she phrases it – refused to come to her sister’s aid when she was called to help post her bail.

According to published jail phone recordings, Bland was trying to put together $500 for a bond payment and none of her family, including her sister Sharon, was willing to assist. You don’t think abandonment from your own family will instigate a depressive episode with suicidal thoughts or actions?

Now we have the one-year anniversary protests of the Michael Brown-Ferguson incident or as locals like to call it, their annual midnight 100-percent off sale.

These “protests,” or since I’m a call-it-like-you-see-it kind of guy, “rioting,” come after a number of investigations justifying the Brown shooting and acquittal of Officer Darren Wilson. Facts don’t lie, but stories and spins can be far-fetched.

More irony in this one; on the first night of the protests, the police end up shooting a guy with a gun that was out protesting the police shooting a guy.

The nation is muddled in political correctness. The confederacy fought to preserve an evil institution and you should be ashamed if your ancestors fought for the South because your flag is the moral equivalent of a Nazi swastika. Courage is defined by your “identity’ (despite your chromosome make-up) and wardrobe choices if it meant you feared to let others know about it. Challenging lawful orders by police is acceptable because if force is lawfully used and you were in fact guilty, you are unaccountable for your actions because it’s society that’s broken, not the criminal.

I’ll agree to that last part, society does appear to be broken.


Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.