Zebra-striped Caps and Gowns for Everyone!

Okay, so here’s the issue: our local high school suddenly shows off new graduation gowns that are supposedly a blending of the girls’ gold and the boys’ black, with a small WW insignia below the collar. Cue the firestorm!

My Facebook newsfeed filled with tears and girls posting that they weren’t going to be caught dead in such a thing. I completely understand if you think it’s ugly. Listen: my high school varsity baseball team wore all yellow. Yellow. We were friggin’ VIKINGS, and our secondary color was maroon. We could have represented survivors from a bloody (maroon) battle, but instead we were … canary-like. We were bananas. We never struck fear unloading from our (yellow) bus at away games.

I get the ugly thing. It’s a matter of taste. And tradition? Well, team uniforms change. Is there really a deep tradition in presenting the graduating class in either black or yellow (sorry, the girls’ gowns are not all that gold.) I guess I’m suspicious when someone uses the term tradition when it comes to a once-in-a-lifetime event. Is your sense of tradition offended because you aren’t wearing the same gown as your older brother? Do you line pics up on the piano and want visitors to be sure to know you went to the same high school?

The argument about senior pics not matching graduation day pics is certainly valid if you require continuity in your scrapbooks. “This is my senior yearbook photo, but they screwed us over and made us wear a different gown at graduation.” Meh. As a parent of a senior, I’m not particularly thrown off by the change. I don’t see any aunts or uncles being skeptical that our kid actually graduated, lifting a hand and saying ‘wait a second, what’s going on here’. Heck, I’m hoping like crazy for a sunny day next June that creates photos that look nothing like those silly studio light head shots.

So what are we really upset about? Let’s dive in …

There have been recent cases around the country of transgender kids wanting to wear the color gown in which they identify. In Chicago, a girl went through her entire elementary, middle and high school career as an outgoing, happy, well-adjusted kid. She was a cheerleader and on the homecoming court. She had a weighted 4.65 GPA and is headed to the University of Chicago on a full ride. But midway through her senior year, a parent of a friend discovered the dirty little secret that she had been born a male. Holy hell ensued because, well, that’s certainly worthy of holy hell. How dare this girl say she’s a girl! I mean, how dare this boy who everyone knew and loved as a girl claim she’s a girl!

After all, look at what happened when we allowed gay boys into the showers with our straight boys. Look at the devastation that occurred. There were orgies and beheadings and, well, civilization has never been so disrupted. Did we learn nothing from allowing those nine black kids into Little Rock schools 60 years ago? Blacks were going to rape our precious white daughters. The American education system was doomed. Some of us blame the Vietnam War on those nine little black kids (it came after that, right?) And if not for them, we would have beaten the USSR to the moon!

The School Board in that Chicago suburb at first told the offended parent to pound sand, to which she reacted by writing a check to an attorney and threatening a lawsuit for NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES. I mean, c’mon, how dare a girl (I mean boy) have long hair, wear feminine clothes, and choose a female nickname? How can an offended parent be expected to sleep at night when such crimes are happening? It was in the Bible, wrote the offended parent’s attorney. Yes, he wrote, this is a public school that’s two blocks from a lovely Bible School, but our Christian values are offended (and the Bible School has a $4000 tuition.)

This premise, of course, also applies to cisgender kids (those whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) who are offended with requirements to wear “BOY” or “GIRL” uniforms in a public school.

So the School Board did what School Boards sometimes do. They held a gown burning party and ponied up $16.50 times 453 students to buy zebra striped (no, I’m kidding, they were all-black) gowns for everyone.

The next step, of course, was to grab pitchforks and torches and practice catchy “Hang the tranny” chants.

It went like this:

“What do we want?
To hang the tranny!
Whose going to do it?
We are!”

Jesus, it cramps my fingers to even type that.

So let’s review where we are. Our school district has been around for 47 years. I have no clue when girls were required to wear yellow (gold, dammit!) and boys were required to wear black. Did they have gowns here in 1969? Or the early 70s? Someone out there knows when it began. And now we are faced with change. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the new gowns. But it’s just a taste thing. I’m not sure how the NHS collar will look with the gold neck. But on a scale of 1 to 10, the gown is about a 1 on my indignation scale. Eh, a 10 would mean I was leaving the country over it. And, most of all, nobody has invited me to wear one anyway, so …

I guess I look back at the Chicago case and wonder what would have happened if the School Board had voted into the RULE BOOK that kids could wear the color gown of their choice. If they had recognized that the Earth would not have suddenly stopped rotating had they encouraged kids to be themselves and told Gladys Kravtiz (awesome Bewitched reference!) and her lawyer to mind their own business.

And why do we seem to always bow down to that small group that inconveniences the hell out of all the rest of us? Why are we treated so shabbily just to mollify a few? The answer is that it’s what our founding fathers required of Americans. It is what makes us great (not those red baseball caps made in China.) What concerned our founding fathers were the pitfalls of a tyranny of the majority, acknowledging that in a free and righteous society we needed to ensure that the majority did not make laws without regard for the rights and welfare of the minority. It’s in the US Constitution. Amendments and junk. I swear. So blame all those expensive ramps into libraries that granny uses on Hamilton and Madison. Those men somehow knew she would get hooked on the Twilight vampire series.

My final word is that if you think the gowns are ugly and it pisses you off that administration didn’t ask for your feedback, I hear ya. But let me introduce you to a solution: fire up your World Wide Internets and type your way over to The Google. Once there, search for the price of 200 cap and gowns. Then poke around for nifty fundraising ideas. If it’s easier to bitch than attack your way to a solution, well, the multi-color gown you’re wearing in June will likely be your last, so have Mom shoot lots of Polaroids. Is that overly snarky? I’m sorry. But if it really means so much to you, and if you are legitimately offended by the style and the fact that you weren’t consulted, it’s your move. Outsmart the lawyers and the administration, and rise above the finger pointing and the vulgar hate.

Good luck, Class of 2018. Be better than us adults. Make us proud. And, as the song goes, wear sunscreen.

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Taking a knee in America

If you don’t believe black people endure institutional racism, then of course taking a knee appears resoundingly disrespectful. But what if your son was attending Harvard University, and every time he returned to his dorm from an off campus party, police put him against the wall to be frisked. On the cop’s shoulder is sewn an American flag.

And Michael Brown did a shitty thing by shoving that old clerk, and there was no hands up surrender. But police in Ferguson and the surrounding towns were writing thousands of jaywalking citations and a slew of other absurd fines in order to directly fund their departments. Anyone remember the Georgia speed traps on their way to Disney World? Imagine those speed traps on a daily basis, with no recourse but to pay the fine.

If your loved ones were being harassed by police, what would you do? If you were rich, yet no team of attorneys could change how your cousins and your uncles were treated by police on a daily basis, what steps would you take?

What if your President watched a march that was made up of 100% white supremacists, yet claimed there were many fine people among them? These are people who would lynch your son and laugh about it.

So you are a rich athlete, with the world stage. What do you do? Some took a knee. They aren’t stomping or burning the flag. Think of the athletes as bowing to half-mast. Something in America is wrong to them. To many black people, there is great suffering at the hands of police. Statistics bolster their argument.

Kneeling isn’t intended to disrespect soldiers. Let’s not forget that 1/3 of our military is of color. Listen: not one athlete taking a knee is thinking Fuck you, Marine. He is thinking My sister’s kid mouthed off to a cop and was beaten with a club so badly that he may not live.

White people who don’t fear police call these athletes ignorant, spoiled punks. Is that really the side of history you want to be on? Take a moment and recall the Little Rock Nine. Allowing black kids into schools with whites was going to end the civilized world. White girls were going to be raped. There would be disease. And in the ensuing 60 years, innocent black kids are still being followed around convenience stores and thrown against walls to be frisked.

Pro athletes are taking a knee because being black in America is not the same as being white. Being black means you are more likely to encounter police violence. You are more likely to be shot or choked to death for selling illegal cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner.

Let me ask all my 2nd Amendment friends what they would do if their government turned on them. Let’s see some Fed boys roll up in Crown Vic and demand to search your castle with no warrant or cause. What would you do if police or the Feds came after your family, started throwing you up against the wall? Yet you call Antifa scum and pro athletes who take a knee are “shameful” sons-of-bitches?

Again, what side of history do you want to be on?

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A little school-related news …

South Canaan, PA — Western Wayne High School senior Ty Alpaugh has been named a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists in the 63rd annual National Merit Scholarship program. She is the first Western Wayne student to achieve the honor in the District’s 47 year history, according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). Ty, daughter of Cole and Amy Alpaugh, of Lake Ariel, is among the top 16,000 students nationwide who earned the distinction of semifinalist.

According to NMSC, about 1.5 million students entered the 2018 program by taking the 2016 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The semi-finalists comprise the highest scoring entrants in each state and represent less than one percent of the top-scoring U.S. high school seniors. These academically talented students earned the opportunity to compete for some 7,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million to be offered next spring.

In order to be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. About 90 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

For more information on the competition and the scholarships, go to www.nationalmerit.org.

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Who belongs on the sidelines?

Someone recently asked me what type of credentials are required for covering high school sports. Can anybody walk down to the sidelines at a high school football game and take photos? Are there privacy issues for student-athletes? Should those pictures appear on social media without permission of the subjects? What’s to protect high school athletes – say a swim team – from being exploited by a pervert with a telephoto lens?

To begin with, I’m not an attorney. My expertise is solely from my experience as a photojournalist for newspapers, magazines, and a Philly based yearbook company dating back to 1983. I have covered every level sport from U6 soccer to every Jet and Giant home game over a three year span – as well as hundreds of Yankee and Met home games. I shot from the field at the 1986 World Series, and sat out rain delays in the Yankee dugout for countless hours. For Baltimore Oriole games at the old Memorial Stadium, there were no photographer seats. We used to kneel on the field in front of the box seats and hope Rick Dempsey didn’t bowl us over.

High school sidelines are meant for photographers who have a legitimate reason for close access, and who do not create issues with officials. It’s not a place for parents to get better pictures “because I pay an arm and a leg in school taxes”. Parents are also biased to one team, and the last thing a sideline judge wants in his ear is an angry parent swinging a Nikon. He has enough on his plate with irate coaches.

Priority is split between press photographers and home and away yearbook photographers. Both photographers’ pictures reach a large number of people and the work is memorialized for all. Think of it this way: recall the last pre-K event that was held on stage, and the 40 parents crowded close to get their snapshots. Wouldn’t it have been better if everyone sat back and enjoyed the show while one professional photographer took all the pictures?

Another category of photographer is the pro who shoots to sell directly to parents. They provide a service, the same as any vendor. It’s generally the AD’s discretion if pros are required to pay admission, by the way. In most cases, a pro will offer a few free pics for publicity, or be sure to buy a hotdog or two. Keep in mind that schools are publicly funded, but remain private property. While a school is private property, the games being played are public events. There are no model releases required to publish high school sports pictures. If a photographer presents him or herself in a professional manner and is a legitimate vendor, they are generally granted sideline access.

Safety is also an issue. If a photog began unfolding a tripod on the sidelines of The Meadowlands, he or she would be ejected. And a photog who doesn’t pay attention and clear out of the way of end-arounds is a danger to himself and to athletes. Accidents happen. That last out of bounds shove in the back can cause an unavoidable collision. But with reasonable care, there’s no real peril with sideline photographers.

The perverts? Well, diligence and communication weed them out. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, go to the AD with your concerns. Ask the photographer, if you have the chance. I was on a shoot when some creep with a cell phone tried taking video of my kid. It happens. Don’t be shy. Tell someone in charge what you saw. Tell the campus cop. Perverts seem to work in the shadows. Do your part to make sure there aren’t any shadows.

To circle back to the original topic, you have to look at what the goals are in how sideline spots are allotted. ADs and school administration want publicity, and for parents and students to have access to photos. Most of the time it works fine with minimal oversight. League championships sometimes have their own rules for sideline management, but that’s still a case by case basis. We live in a new age of social media. It used to be the newspapers that people turned to for sports pictures. Now there are blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Who’s to say that a newspaper with 20,000 circulation is a more legitimate source than an Instagram photographer with 30,000 followers?

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What, Me Worry?

Worried about transgender soldiers simultaneously serving our country and destroying America? Let’s easily solve this by making one change: stop worrying about it. Turn off Hannity and Laura Ingraham and Rush. Trust me on this: you’re being brainwashed into embracing the latest and greatest bigotry. The far right tactic is to find nuggets that seem somehow true, and then pound away until they are cold hard facts. But remember there was a time when unit cohesion was used to segregate the military. Yep, blacks were not worthy of fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with whites.

The tyranny of the majority has focused its angst across the board. Jews are “this” and Muslims are “that”. Women are weak, and transgender folk are suicidal mental cases. Sharing gym showers with gays will surely turn our kids gay, and there are studies to prove it. They might not be scientific studies, but why would that matter?

It’s tempting to compare this rhetoric to the German military in the 1930s. But I won’t.

Want to lower your blood pressure? Stop believing that you have to care what sex, religion, color, or whatever people are that make them unique. Just move along. Worry about the jerk who cut you off in traffic, or whether your kid’s homework is done. Stop obsessing over what’s up that “odd looking woman’s skirt” unless you want to share what’s up your wife or grandmother’s skirt. And, seriously, is your granny such a beauty queen?

Again: reasons to hate are everywhere. There are plenty to find by twisting the radio dial a quarter turn. There are countless bullshit excuses. The minutia will seep from under any rock, under any door. Remember The Blob? But do you really want to go down on the side of history that built those ovens?

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(Blind) Human Rights For Dummies

Chapter 1

You are in charge of a large staff of middle-aged white men. Congratulations on your success! But you face a dilemma when seeking a new hire.

A black man applies, and it’s whispered in your ear that it will cause disruption, that some employees won’t want to work next to someone ‘like that’.

A woman applies, and it’s whispered in your ear that she won’t pull her weight because women are the weaker sex.

A Jewish man applies, and it’s whispered that he won’t be trustworthy. Same with the Muslim who applied that day.

A woman in wheelchair applies, and it’s whispered that your doorways are too narrow.

A gay man applies, and it’s whispered that male employees will fear being seduced – or “looked at” in that certain way.

A transgender person applies, and it’s whispered that everyone’s health premiums will increase and bathrooms won’t be safe.

People whispering in your ear will line up to add their reason why hiring any of these people will be a disaster. Statistics can be cited to bolster any argument. It takes strength to step away from these voices, to look at people as human beings rather than a collection of stereotypes used in rhetoric. The simple solution is to blindly hire the best human being.

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Who needs to ratchet it down?

“As your congressman on the House floor, I will do anything short of shooting them. Anything that is lawful, it needs to be done because illegal aliens need to quit taking jobs from American citizens.” – Rep. Mo Brooks, one of the Congressmen at the baseball field shooting

also:

Opposes restrictions on the right to bear arms. (Aug 2010)

Loosen restrictions on interstate gun purchases. (Oct 2011)

Voted NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. (Feb 2013)

Supports Amendment to prevent same sex marriage. (Aug 2010)

Voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. (Apr 2011)

No EPA expansion of regulated waters. (Jul 2014)

Build Keystone XL; it’s now passed environmental concerns. (Feb 2013)

H.Amdt.219, an amendment to strip a particular provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, thereby preventing the Pentagon from considering allowing illegal immigrants granted executive amnesty into the military.

In a radio interview with the Will Anderson Radio Show, Brooks stated his opposition to undocumented immigrants serving in the military, saying, “These individuals have to be absolutely 100 percent loyal and trustworthy, as best as we can make them, ‘cause they’re gonna have access to all sorts of military weaponry—even to the point of having access to weapons of mass destruction like our nuclear arsenal. And I’m gonna have much greater faith in the loyalty of an American citizen than a person who is a citizen of a foreign nation.”

In 2010 Brooks signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity to not vote for any Global Warming legislation that would raise taxes.

Brooks opposed the Electrify Africa Act of 2013 (H.R. 2548; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the President to establish a multiyear strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa develop an appropriate mix of power solutions to provide sufficient electricity access to people living in rural and urban areas in order to alleviate poverty and drive economic growth.

Brooks co-sponsored H.R. 127, which would have removed all funding from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, and any amendments made by either act.

On May 4, 2017 Brooks voted to pass the American Health Care Act, which would repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In an interview in 2014, he stated that “8 million undocumented workers, 500,000 young immigrants should be deported”.

On August 4, 2014 Brooks went on The Laura Ingraham Show and Ingraham played Brooks a clip of Ron Fournier warning that the Republican Party could not survive as the “party of white people.” Brooks responded: “Well, this is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party… And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else. It’s part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, creed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things.”

Brooks voted yes on terminating funding for NPR.

Voted YES on banning federal health coverage that includes abortion.

Supports prohibiting human embryonic stem cell research.

No family planning assistance that includes abortion.

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Quote of the Day

“I’m Muslim, I’m Jewish, I’m Buddhist, I’m everybody ’cause I’m a people person.” – Shaquille O’Neal

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What $20 Billion Buys

Trump’s wall will cost $20 billion.

The new Evergreen Elementary School in Lake Ariel, PA, cost $20 million.

The wall is the financial equivalent to building 1000 new, state-of-the art middle schools.

There are 500 school districts in PA, which means the Commonwealth could build two state-of-the art middle schools in EVERY district for the price of the wall (or every state could each get TWENTY of their own if we aren’t greedy.)

The United States spent $14 billion on school construction in 2014.

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Meals on Wheels

Our relatively low income family takes enormous pride in helping veterans remain in their homes with a meal or two each day. It is a small tax burden we welcome.

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