“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
Before I became the fine film aficionado I am today [sic], I remember my passionate ‘two-thumbs-up’ for Mel Brooks’ and Blazing Saddles (1). It was just funny. The fact it drove my parents ballistic? Just more beans for the campfire. Yes, mi amigos, some bits just get better with age.
“At least I don’t have to wear a name badge”
At one level I understand what I heard a co-worker say earlier this week. Whether he realized it or not, he was making a socio-economic statement marking his place on the ladder. But in this first dizzying week of our new leadership, I gave second thought to all the people whose work drives our everyday lives and includes wearing a name badge. You’ve seen them too. Fast food workers, wait staff, nurses, retail bankers, police officers and anyone in the military. Makes sense, right? It’s a practice that permits us to tie ‘what they do’ with ‘who they are’. It’s important. Who among us, during our 3rd call into Customer Service, hasn’t been asked, “Do you remember who you spoke with?”
Your new blue jeans were perfect. Who do you thank? Why that would be Inspector 33. You see my point. The work each of us does is as much of an autograph as any scribbled signature on the game-winning baseball.
The baseball didn’t win the championship game. It was the people who threw, caught or hit said ball into the left-field bleachers who won the day. But it’s even bigger than the team roster. There is a host of folks off the field whose names never get inscribed on the artifact. The hot dog buns didn’t show up by accident. Someone ordered them long before the precious steamed cradles to our frankfurters reached our hands. And who wouldn’t covet a front yard lawn like that of the turf in a stadium? Did it cut itself? I think not.
This week, I tip my hat to all the unsung civil servants in our government who keep our food supply safe, fight air pollution or serve in one of hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world. Carrying a badge like an American passport has its’ privileges if you’re a Citizen who gets into a jam overseas.
Look up. I haven’t even thanked our scientists and the uber-geeks at NASA who keep our satellites flying, monitoring the Earths’ atmosphere, beaming back empirical atmospheric data about our home rock we can’t get any other way or from any other source.
In this same week, these same people got gag orders from the new administration. “Don’t talk to anyone that isn’t in your agency”. Uh? Aren’t these the same people we pay for? To their credit, the EPA, the Park Service, the USDA and a host of others have all shown their badges of courage and pushed back. The White House retreated. Duh.
It concerned me this week to learn the Voice of America (VOA) is watching its apolitical Board of Governors disbanded. In place of their sage guidance, former campaign workers Matthew Ciepielowski and Matthew Schuck have been appointed as co-CEO. These two 20-somethings now control the message and a $800M budget. Preceding this move was earlier congressional action that authorizes VOA (which includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast networks) to now broadcast inside the USA. Does anyone else see a celebrity TV star getting to put his personal stamp on these networks as troubling? What is VOA going to say to the millions who listen from around the world and now, at home?
But don’t bring it up with the Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Director of National Intelligence because they don’t sit on the National Security Council anymore. But Steve Bannon does. Apparently, Bannon’s credentials earned in support of white nationalists is compelling.
I know this is wearying (and I haven’t even touched on healthcare), but I wonder if this isn’t some form of purposeful deluge designed in hopes we don’t notice some of it for the scale of all of it.
This week was International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan 27). On this day, we remind ourselves of what happened to so many of the Jewish refugees and other ‘undesirables’ aboard the SS St. Louis. As the Washington Posts’ Amy Wang writes, “the St. Louis was a German ocean liner that set off from Hamburg on May 13, 1939. Almost all of those sailing were Jewish people, desperate to escape the Third Reich. The destination was Havana, Cuba, more than two weeks away by ship…A ship full of refugees begged the U.S. for entry. They were turned back.”
Apparently, even back then, ‘we didn’t need no stinking refugees’.
Bergen-Belsen anyone? Anyone here for Bergen-Belsen? Last call.
Later this past Friday, the White House announced immigration bans on people from Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Libya, for a time period of 90 days. It suspends the admission of all refugees for 120-days. And just for good measure, it calls for “the complete suspension of Syrian refugees for an indefinite period.”
As of this morning (01/29/17), a federal judge in Brooklyn has issued a temporary stay on the President’s Executive Order relating to those being stopped or held at our airports.
It should be noted that none of these countries have ever produced a terrorist whose done anything on our shores…not one. Not 9-11, not Fort Hood (TX), the Boston Marathon; not San Bernardino, Oak Creek (WI); Orlando or the airport in Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood (FL). But these countries are primarily Muslim. So with the stroke of a pen, we can now trumpet to the world that in effect, there is a religious test for entry into the United States. Though there is no mention of him in the Koran, ISIL propagandists now believe in Santa Claus because for them, this is a gift money can’t buy!
And if you’re of Japanese descent? Chances are someone in your family was issued a badge. Listen to the sadness, even now, when grandchildren speak of their one of the 120,000 “Japs” rounded up and shoved into internment camps as a result of Roosevelt authorizing the deportation and incarceration of them via Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942. It should be noted 62% of them were U.S. Citizens.
On a brighter note, in LaGrange, Georgia and “Seventy-six years after a black teen [Austin Callaway] was kidnapped from a Lagrange, Georgia jail and brutally shot to death, the police department has apologized.
Police Chief Lou Dekmar made a statement to the community on Thursday night in the Warren Temple United Methodist Church addressing the department’s lack of protection that led to the lynching of 16-year-old Austin Callaway, who was arrested on charges of attacking a white woman and was awaiting trial in jail…”
Those in the local audience (including descendants of Callaway) pointed to this as a tangible contribution to healing current divisions between the police and the community in which they serve. Badges serving well.
Or consider Jim Koffarnus, a snow plow driver for the city of Menasha, WI who, seeing a man stuck in the snow in his wheelchair, along with another good Samaritan, got him free. Then, the two of them got the man home, the snow plow clearing a path of more than 2 blocks ahead of the wheelchair and the second, slowly following the other two from behind. Said Koffarnus, “Had to get him home. I didn’t want him to get hurt or anything like that.”
Once accomplished, it was reported Jim quietly went back to his regular route. If it hadn’t been for others passing by, no one would have known. Clearly, neither man involved did what they did for the credit. But isn’t that the way it is with so many badge holders. They just “do” because they know it to be right.
Experience matters. Having voices to recount our mistakes (and our random acts of kindness) matters. It’s our way of signing the ball; having together seen something important through to a good and useful conclusion.
From the time of George Washington’s Farewell Address [Read it for yourself at:http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp] to now, it’s never been more important to listen to Sister Mary Clarence when she tells us to wake up and pay attention. The Republic depends on each of us speaking up, standing up and even marching in our streets to insure we are seen AND heard. But walk with awareness because in North Dakota (among some 9 or so other states), there’s legislation being proposed that makes it OK to run over a protester if they’re in your way.
Do not pin your citizen badge on lightly. There are consequences for actively participating in this experiment we call democracy as surely as there are should we choose to sit quietly on our hands and pretend none of this has anything to do with us.
Turns out, we do need our stinking badges. I would encourage you to say “thanks” the next time you see someone wearing a name badge. And you? Wear yours with honor this week. Don’t be afraid to flash it every once and awhile. We’re depending on each other like few other times in our short history.
As Dylan Thomas writes, “…Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”
Mary Tyler Moore
December 29, 1936 – January 25, 2017
Beloved TV icon who symbolized the independent career woman, dies at 80. So much to say. I caught myself flinching when I heard the news. So many others, far closer to Ms. Moore than any fan could be have written so much. Her obituary in the LA Times can be read (along with a cool photo gallery) at http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-mary-tyler-moore-20170125-story.html
In the meantime, Ms. Moore, you earned your badge and it’s stamped in the hearts of millions like me whom you helped, encouraged or simply made smile for a little while when Life was raging elsewhere. You had ‘spunk’. Such a gift. We are better because of you.
Thanks to the people at Brainpickings (see below), listen to this rare BBC radio recording made just after WWII as Dylan Thomas reads his poem, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”. I would like to think Mary Tyler Moore can identify from her own life and that of ours, right now.
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
POETRY CORNER…Sort of…
- To my fellow geeks…the anthology of quote and counter quote reference s – “stinking badges”: http://www.quotecounterquote.com/2010/10/we-dont-need-no-stinking-badges-or.html
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Poem by Dylan Thomas. More on his backstory at a really cool website for this kind of thing. Stop by them and see what I mean: https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/01/24/dylan-thomas-do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night/
- Closing pic: Statue of Liberty in Tears: Good writer I’m now following on WordPress. Lillian The Home Poet. Read her poem, The Tear Drop. You can visit both at: https://lillianthehomepoet.com/2016/09/29/the-tear-drop/. Closing pic accompanies her poem, https://lillianthehomepoet.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/statue-of-liberty-in-tears2-0.jpg?w=636
VOA: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/donald-trump-voice-america-234078 (among other sources); Trump reshuffles National Security Council: http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-signs-order-to-revamp-national-security-council-1485641329; International Holocaust Remembrance Day – you can read more about it at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Holocaust_Remembrance_Day ; additional sources include: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/white-house-holocaust-memorial-day/index.html; Boarding the SS St. Louis: http://www.thejewishchronicle.net/view/full_story/5087070/article-For-St—Louis-passengers–70th-reunion-could-be-their-last; You can read the Washington Posts’ Amy Wang and her article at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/01/29/a-ship-full-of-refugees-fleeing-the-nazis-once-begged-the-u-s-for-entry-they-were-turned-back/?utm_term=.8a90d41acb68; Also see: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/detained-york-airport-cairo-wake-trumps-executive-order/story?id=45109972 and http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/donald-trump-executive-order-immigration-reaction/index.html and http://www.npr.org/2017/01/28/512164295/veteran-who-worked-with-man-stopped-after-immigration-ban-talks-about-colleague; Japanese Internment Camps: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans, photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Newspaper_headlines_of_Japanese_Relocation_-_NARA_-_195535.jpg and is part of the public domain because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. Austin Callaway: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/police-apologize-black-lynching-austin-callaway_us_588b6ebfe4b0cef5cf877f88; Snowplowing Angels: http://wbay.com/2017/01/12/plow-driver-comes-to-aid-of-man-stuck-in-the-snow/?cid=social_twitter_abcn
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