THEM is US

BY RON STEELMAN – June 4, 2020

PRELUDE
There was only one black kid in my 4th grade class. He didn’t seem so different from me at all: except for two things: a) his dad was a doctor, and rich; and b) I doubt his mother bought his clothes at the church’s ‘Trading Post,’ where my mom bought used clothes for me and my two brothers. When we were born that little black kid and I didn’t have any choice over the color of our skin.

EPISODE #1 – “The Maid”

It was 1954 and I was a happy nine-year-old. It was just about time for lunch and my little brother and I were sitting at the kitchen table waiting to grub up on our baloney sandwiches. It was ‘Saturday cleaning day’ and every other week my mom hired a Negro woman to help her clean. This was long before the proper terminology was “Black” or “African-American. Several of the maids were older and would often regale us with stories about their hard lives. None of them owned a car. My mother had to go across town to pick them up on the South side and then take them home. Mom would also try to help them out financially, even though we were barely middle-class. Often Mom sent the maids home with their pay and a full bag of groceries. One of the older maids would even con my mother into stopping at the State Store on the ride home. Mom didn’t drink at all, so seeing her scurrying back to the car from the booze store with a brown bag made me laugh.

This particular Saturday there was a new maid named Jesse, a beautiful, shy girl, maybe 17 or 18-years-old, and very polite. She was several cuts above me in the “polite department”.  Now, I had learned I could be funny at age five when I cracked up our neighbor and my parents over some stunt I pulled. So the poor maid became a test audience for me. I was hoping to create a little laughter to wash over me again.

Mom had just placed my milk and the chocolate syrup on the table. As I stirred the chocolate into my milk I thought of a wonderful “joke.”  So. . .I said to sweet, proper Jesse, “I guess your skin is brown ‘cause you drink a lot of chocolate milk, huh?!” That was a real knee-slapper for a nine-year-old clown (we didn’t call it “stand-up” back then).

You could hear the tire screech as time came to a dead stop. Something was wrong. I looked at Jesse, who looked away from me and quietly looked down at her plate. Tears slowly filled her eyes with several drops coming down her cheek. Ouch! What had I done?

My mother apologized several times. I don’t remember what I said or did at that moment, other than feeling     very small and wanting to crawl under the table. Seeing the hurt I caused made me realize the power of my words. What a comeuppance! Until then I thought all my jokes were hysterical. That’s the moment I decided to cut all racial jokes from my fantasy stand-up act.

Later I learned of the song in the Broadway musical South Pacific, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song is preceded by a line saying racism is “not born in you! It happens after you’re born…”

EPISODE #2 – “Watching my black and white TV”

I had a lot more to learn about this black and white thing.
“The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a civil-rights protest during which African-Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest segregated seating. The boycott took place from December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956, and is regarded as the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation. Four days before the boycott began, Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was arrested and fined for refusing to yield her bus seat to a white man. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ordered Montgomery to integrate its bus system, and one of the leaders of the boycott, a young pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged as a prominent leader of the American civil rights movement.” -– History.com

The Little Rock Nine  Governor Orval Faubus attempted to block nine African American students from enrolling in the Little Rock, Arkansas Central High School in 1957. President Eisenhower sent the National Guard to force the integration of the school. The Governor had no choice but to integrate.

 

Elizabeth Eckford walking through a crowd of white students. . .all by herself.

 

These integration situations made me wonder, why do these white people so hate these black people?

(Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

 

 

Elizabeth Eckford, as she appeared at the Little Rock Nine reunion at Little Rock High School in 2010.

(Photo: Platon)

 

Was I taught to be a racist? No, absolutely not. I was simply born WHITE and that got me part way there. None of my Black Vs. White experiences were violent confrontations. They were intimate moments when I began to learn who I was in the grand scheme of things. While watching the black and white confrontations on my black and white TV I decided who I didn’t want to become.

EPISODE #3 – “The Soldier”:

I fell in love with California in 1957 when we went to see my uncle’s family in San Diego. I was dying to go back. Now it was 1958 and my mother said, “You will turn 13 on May 20, so let’s go buy your bus ticket before then so you don’t have to buy an expensive adult ticket.”  My mother grew up in the Depression, so being frugal was in her bones. I was thrilled she was focused on buying the ticket, and not on the fact that I was going to travel by myself all the way from Columbus, OH to San Diego. She supported whatever I wanted to do.

I think my mother must have gotten some heat from her friends about letting little Ronnie travel alone all the way to California. They warned, “You just never know what kind of terrible people he’ll meet on that bus.”

Mom finally caved and contacted the Traveler’s Aid office in the St. Louis bus station. She told me I was to check in there when we changed buses. I thought that was silly, but who wanted to argue? I was going, wasn’t I!

Mom and Dad took me to the tacky Greyhound station in downtown Columbus at about 11 p.m. one early June night. That station was the pits back then and those busses were more like donkeys than greyhounds. My parents pestered the driver several times making sure he knew I was traveling alone. He was unimpressed. He seemed to be distracted, more worried about the quality of the engine and the tires. I didn’t care. I got to ride shotgun in the front seat across from the driver. So, off we went. The dark highway danced ahead of us in our headlights. I couldn’t wait to get there, although I was probably asleep in an hour. Unfortunately, the driver must have been a psychic, for we broke down in a couple of hours as we crossed the Indiana state line. Delays. New bus. Behind schedule. Onward.

We had a short bathroom break in Indianapolis. When we re-boarded the bus, my shotgun seat was taken, so I found one further back next to a negro soldier. I wanted to talk to the soldier because I had seen the Little Rock Nine on TV. They had to be guarded by the troops President Eisenhower sent to force the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. I don’t recall seeing any Negro soldiers on TV back then, but I wasn’t really noticing those things yet.

This soldier was real “spit and polish”, even though he couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty years old. His private’s uniform was crisp and you could see your face in his shiny shoes. Clearly, I thought his uniform was cool. He was quiet; guarded, I guess. After a while he warmed up to me. He must have figured that the chubby, friendly white kid wasn’t a threat.

Of course, the air-conditioning decided to crash in our rattletrap-Greyhound and it got stinky-close in there. Some opened their windows, the ones still working. The soldier shed his uniform jacket, folding it very precisely and putting it up above the seats. That’s when he rolled up his shirt sleeves and I saw the scars on both his forearms. Neat rows of horizontal scars, several on each arm.

“Wow,” I said. “Did you get those in a battle?”

He quietly explained and slowly mimed to demonstrate, “In my neighborhood we all had to carry straight razors.”

“Oh,” I said. “You mean like switch-blades?

“Much sharper,” he said, holding his hand out. “You snap your wrist out to open the razor, pull fast to the left to cut someone, flip the handle over in your fingers and cut back to the right. These scars on my arm happened before I learned how to do that.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of fights.”

“These were from one fight. I practiced flipping it back and forth. I can cut someone four or five times before they know what happened, before they can move their arm away.”

Through the night I listened to the stark differences between his life and mine. He told me many tales about racial inequities in his violent neighborhood. There weren’t any racial issues in my ‘white bubble’ of a neighborhood.

We had fallen into catnapping in the early hours of the morning. The bright lights woke us as we rumbled into the St. Louis bus station. We were both hungry and wanted breakfast. I asked him to wait a minute, though. I sheepishly revealed that I had to check in at the Traveler’s Aid office. He said, “No problem.” Happily, the door was locked and the joint was empty. So I was vindicated. I didn’t need no stinkin’ Traveler’s Aid. At 13, I was now an adult world traveler!

Our first stop was at the restrooms. I noticed weird signs marking two bathrooms for men. I didn’t think St. Louis was in the South, but Negros were forced to use different bathrooms and drink water from separate fountains. In St. Louis?! We stepped up to a lunch counter right outside the station door. We sat up on the stools ready to order and immediately the counter guy snaps at me, “I can serve you, but I can’t serve him.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t believe the hate in his voice. My soldier-friend quietly said to me, “I’ll see you in a few back at the bus.”

All of a sudden I got angry and I looked at the counter guy and barked, “Hey, if you can’t serve him, then you can’t serve me.”

The soldier gave me a surprised look. We went off together and found a place approved for “Negro breakfasts.” The food and the company was fine, but ever since then I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth for St. Louis. At that point my exposure to race in America was just beginning.

EPISODE #4 – “Count Basie’s Drummer”:

Cut to summer of 1961. I was fifteen years old, and had just finished my Freshman year playing drums in the high school band. I got a call at home from my former math teacher. He wanted to know if I would like to attend a private party at the classy local Cabana Club. Why? Because he knew I was a drummer and might like to hear the band that was going to play there.

I said, “Gee, thanks. What band is it?”

“The full Count Basie Orchestra, complete with his famous show drummer, Sonny Payne.”

I was just beginning to learn all about jazz and famous jazz musicians. I already had some of the Count’s records and couldn’t believe he was playing locally. When I arrived I was introduced to Mr. Basie and Mr. Payne. Mr. Payne invited me to sit right next to him during the entire performance. I was ga-ga watching and listening to all the musicians. He was such a nice man. He even invited me to sit-in on the last number. I was terrified I would mess it up somehow, so I declined (more about that later). I asked him for his autograph and I’ll never forget what he wrote: “Thanks for asking. – Sonny Payne.” He was a class act and I never forgot how kind and gracious he was.

EPISODE #5: “A New Kind of Summer Stock”

Summer of 1967 I got my first union acting job at a professional Actors Equity theater based at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Antioch was a bastion of liberal studies, professors and students and thus was one of the first theaters in the country to employ “color-blind” casting that summer. I got a big kick out of the fact that the actress who played my sister in a production of Moliere’s Tartuffe was an African-American lady. The cast didn’t care. The audience didn’t care. And I certainly didn’t care. Her husband was also an actor/director there who helped me get my next acting job at the professional McCarter Theater based at Princeton University. And to boot, when the season ended, they let me sleep in their apartment when I went into NYC for more auditions. Nice people.

EPISODE #6:  Count Basie (part 2)

In 1978 I was the creative director at an advertising agency in Columbus, Ohio. A client of the agency was  a chain of popular music stores. We booked Count Basie and his orchestra to record five radio and television commercials to promote the music store.

Count Basie was getting pretty old and tired by then, but when the lights came up he was the consummate professional flashing his happy smile. I showed my storyboards for the commercials to him so he knew how the they were supposed look. Of course, he performed the music perfectly and knew how to play to the cameras.

When we were done shooting the
videos,he signed one of my scripts
with the following:

 

“Ron, you are my man.” – Count Basie

* (I really wish I had had the confidence to sit in with the Count Basie Orchestra when I was a kid. However, working with him at this level kind of made up for that missed opportunity.)

THE CODA:

We all must work to understand each other as best we can. White, black, brown, or yellow, we’re all human beings living together on this planet. I realize my experiences were not violent confrontations. They were intimate moments when I began to learn who I was in the grand scheme of things and learned who I didn’t want to become.

I also learned about the heinous Cornerstone Speech that purported to describe the “great truth” of white supremacy and black subordination upon which secession and the Confederacy were based: “that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.” 

We must eliminate the racism. Let us start by voting for a new moral leadership in the U.S., one that will eliminate the systemic racism that is blowing our country apart. And restore trust in our police and legal system.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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What I Said About What They Said

What I Said About What They Said
by Ron Steelman
2-2-19

I have loved quotes since I was 15 years old. My favorite quotation book from that time is still on my bookshelf with my favorites underlined. When I read a good quote I save it in my “keeper file” hoping to find a good place to work it into a piece I’m writing. But I’ve got so many now, it popped into my brain that I could simply use my current batch of quotes all in one blog post, annotating along the way with some of the Affirmations/Principles of Humanism. I can do this because I have a very large. . .artistic license. So here goes. . . 


Paula Poundstone 3rd cd cover“I’m an atheist. The good news about atheists is that we have no mandate to convert anyone. So you’ll never find me on your doorstep on a Saturday morning with a big smile, saying, ‘Just stopped by to tell you there is no word. I brought along this little blank book I was hoping you could take a look at.’ ”
      —Paula Poundstone, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, 2006.

I always say the same thing at this point. Yes, I’m an atheist, but more importantly, I’m a Secular Humanist. I don’t go door to door proselytizing, but I’m happy to explore Humanism with anyone who stumbles onto my blog. Welcome!


winnie-e1472495518630“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.”
      —A.A. Milne (creator of Winnie-the-Pooh )

Thousands upon thousands of people have become Humanists because of the Bible. Many other famous writers are atheists. Famous Humanist writers include Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alice Walker. Also many composers, who ironically had to write “sacred” music for the church in order to make a living, were atheists:  Brahms, Verdi, Vaughn Williams, Camille Saint-Saëns, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dimitri Shostakovich, Richard Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and on and on.


Alice_Walker“I understood at a very early age that in nature, I felt everything I should feel in church but never did. Walking in the woods, I felt in touch with the universe and with the spirit of the universe.”
– Alice Walker

For many years I hiked in the mountains with my wife and my good friend Rick.  It was better than church. And we were allowed to talk if we wanted! Although most of the time we were just there, quietly sensing our little place on those mountains and on this big earth. We were in awe of the mountains and the sky. And for four years in the 1980’s when we were able to sail on Long Island Sound, the power of the wind to move our boat through the water was truly a spiritual experience.


Nietzsche“There’s not enough love and goodness in the world to permit giving it away to imaginary beings.”
          – Nietzsche

“Humanists are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.” I haven’t had an imaginary friend since I was five.  These days I try to be ‘Good Without God’ and let empathy help direct my goodness to others in the world.


true-friends“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”
–  Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I’ve always said that my oldest friends were the best, but with my new friends from my Humanist group, I feel we try harder to understand each other. And in turn that has led to some beautiful, true friendships.


large_rec-201701251556“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” –  Bill Watterson

Yes, Bill Watterson drew that cartoon, and gave Calvin his imaginary best friend, Hobbes.  I think people loved his cartoons for the humor, but also enjoyed how these two were such good friends.


Not All There robertfrost-copy
“I turned to speak to God

About the world’s despair
But to make bad matters worse
I found God wasn’t there.”

A Masque of Mercy
”The kind of Unitarian 
Who having by elimination got 
From many gods to Three, and Three to One, 
Thinks why not taper off to none at all.”
        —Robert Frost

Sometimes poetry can cut to the chase like a surgeon’s knife. It’s true, nothing fails like prayer. . .because there is no God. However, we also think that we Humanists can overcome the world’s despair because,  “We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”  It’s up to us to solve the world’s problems and the God we are waiting for has failed miserably. It’s in our hands and we are the ones who must try.


595px-Ruperthughes“As for those who protest that I am robbing people of the great comfort and consolation they gain from Christianity, I can only say that Christianity includes hell, eternal torture for the vast majority of humanity, for most of your relatives and friends. Christianity includes a devil who is really more powerful than God, and who keeps gathering into his furnaces most of the creatures whom God turns out and for whom he sent his son to the cross in vain. If I could feel that I had robbed anybody of his faith in hell, I should not be ashamed or regretful.”

—— Rupert Hughes, “Why I Quit Going to Church,” 1924

I’ll comment by quoting from another of the Affirmations of Humanism:  “We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.”

And finally:

“Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity, of application of new ideas of scientific progress for the benefit of all.”
– Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize in ChemistryNobel Peace Prize, Humanist of
the Year – 1961)

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A REAL HUMANIST

A REAL HUMANIST
by Ron Steelman

* ( Languishing in my Drafts folder since July 29, 2018)

 

I love NPR (National Public Radio, listening primarily through WNYC in NYC, where I am a sustaining member)! I heard this on the radio yesterday and wanted to share it because it is a living example of the Secular Humanist philosophy (although I have no idea if Mr. Il Soo Choi is a Secular Humanist).

 

From NPR’s “Weekend Edition – Saturday” – July 28, 2018 

Segment Title:  “A Postman Signs Off”

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Il Soo Choi retired this week after 22 years carrying letters, magazines, catalogs and packages to 643 addresses on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He’s an immigrant from South Korea. His wife has worked in nail salons. Their daughter is a minister. The postman left a note in the mailboxes of the people along his route this week as reported by The Wall Street Journal. It is a kind of hymn to New York.

Interacting with people of various ethnicities, cultures and religious backgrounds, I’ve gained a love, respect and appreciation for humanity, Il Soo Choi wrote. I’ve encountered a billionaire, a TV anchor, a foreign diplomat, countless doctors and professors. I’ve interacted with both the wealthy and the poor working in Manhattan. The homeless lady, who used to sit by the Vietnamese restaurant, was both a friend and mentor. I believe that we can learn a great deal about ourselves in life when we open up to the world around us in this land, in this city. I’ve learned and gained so much by encountering each of you. It has been a privilege to serve as your mailman.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

LISTEN TO IT HERE

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NO RELIGION FOR CHILDREN! PERIOD.

NO RELIGION FOR CHILDREN! PERIOD.
(but Secular parents, I got a book just for you!)

By Ron Steelman

July 25, 2018

Every day I am reminded of the corruption of moral values actually caused by religion.  Children may not understand exactly what is going on in the today’s ridiculous news, yet they are likely to model some of this behavior as they mature. Here are a few of headlines in the news that make me question what is currently being taught by religions. Most people believe that religion is supposed to teach moral values, not illustrate ways to ignore them.


Catholic
We’ve got the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” with manikins dressed up in papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, revealing the ornate and decadently expensive trappings worn by priests, bishops, etc.

 


Painted_in_Mexico_Met


There were several other art exhibitions featuring famous religious paintings. They were promoted in the newspaper with a photo of three very young children who had been plopped there and left to stare up at a painting of a crucifixion. Nice.

 


Uncle_Dick
Then there’s the extensive story about a bishop who sexually molested an eleven- year-old boy for years (who knows how many others). It included an excruciatingly sad story of how the boy’s entire life was ruined and how only now at age 60 is he finally in recovery and able to confront the
bishop (who is still alive).



Why do these things bother me?
Why am I angry about this? You’ve heard all the answers before. I will review them briefly, then attempt to explain why I must never stop protesting. And, why we should not abdicate the moral teaching of our children to any religious organization.

Numerous people have told me personally that their parents sent them to Sunday school for a moral education by themselves, because their parents had better things to do. Total abdication.

Let’s start with the most egregious example of abdication. Clearly, the Catholic Church has a serious problem with pedophilia. The “black collar” crime is documented by several national organizations and it continues today. My point: why would any parent send their child to a church that cannot (make that, “will not”) keep the pedophile priests away from their child? How can a pedophile priest possibly teach your child about morals and values while they are committing depraved, immoral acts on them?

Two other examples demonstrate how the things children see can corrupt their view of right and wrong.
a) What is right about making children study a painting of a crucifixion? The things children see impact their lives forever. Believing in the fantastic tale that Jesus was the son of God, and yet God sent his son to be crucified, is something adults can choose to believe. However, children shouldn’t have this gruesome fairy tale foisted upon them. When they are grown, let them study all religions and if they buy any of it, then they can choose to believe. Many have grown up in the church and still don’t understand the “why” of that crucifixion story. 

b) The way churches spend the money people donate has got to be confusing. When I was a kid, my church gave me those little envelopes into which I would make my own offerings every Sunday. I thought the money was going to help feed and clothe the poor. I wondered why that money was being used to buy expensive things for the church and for the ministers and priests. The photo above from the Met exhibit is surely an example of how the money can be squandered.
gold-candlestick-holders-pair


WHICH REMINDS ME
In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, Rev. Parris wanted golden candlesticks for the altar, and according to the character, John Proctor, the reverend preached about them often. Proctor resented Parris’s rich tastes because he was a poor farmer and considered Rev. Parris to be a 
greedy and ungodly man.



But how can I give my kids a moral compass without sending them to church?
When I first heard of the idea that children should not be exposed to religion until they become adults, I was surprised by the concept. The more I read and studied, the more I am in favor of it. The main worry of parents is that if they don’t have a religion and don’t send their children to church, those kids will become  unsavory characters who will commit some evil act. . .which will then cast a bad light on them. LOL!

Parenting_Beyond_Belief_coverI know you skeptics are saying, “But shouldn’t it be the  church that teaches them their morals? How could I possibly do that?”

Don’t get all nervous, now. I’m not suggesting home-schooling like the fundamental Christians. I believe the best ‘how-to’ book for guidance on is: “Parenting Beyond Belief,” by Dale McGowan. It’s a straight-forward common-sense approach. If there is a better book out there, someone please let me know.

McGowan has pulled together a vast array of voices to give you guidance, including (just to name a few): Julia Sweeney, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, Penn Jillette, even Mark Twain and the man who wrote the lyrics for the The Wizard of Oz, Yip Harburg.

How do you raise ethical, caring kids, without religion? Check out “Parenting Beyond Belief.” Or, recommend it to friends/relatives with small children (and no, I do not get a commission). 

Parenting Beyond Belief website

Meet the Author

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An Immigrant Recites the Gettysburg Address

What Really Made America Great
by Ron Steelman
6-26-18

I recently saw an old film from 1935, “Ruggles of Red Gap.” I remember seeing it on TV years ago. and I loved it then. But now I love it for a different reason. It has a powerful, patriotic scene that illustrates why immigrants have always been important to our country, not only for their patriotic spirit, but for how they have always been a big part of what “Made America Great” in the first place!

Ruggles_of_Red_Gap

Zasu Pitts, Charles Laughton, Charles Ruggles, Maude Eburne – in “The Ruggles of Red Gap” (scroll down for video clip)

In this film, the famous actor, Charles Laughton, recites the Gettysburg Address in a unique setting to say the least. The Gettysburg Address had great personal significance to Laughton because at the time he was considering taking up American citizenship (he became a U.S. citizen in 1950).

I like this film for several reasons:

1.  It is a comedy (that should be enough right there, actually).
2.  My wife and I are cinephiles.

3.  The film is one of my favorites because it stars Charles Laughton in the first comedic role I ever saw him in, compared to all the other roles for which he was famous, like: “The Private Lives of Henry VIII,” “Les Miserables,” “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “I, Claudius,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Spartacus,” and many others. He is extremely funny and I wish he had done more comedies.
4.  The film has a stellar cast with wonderful character actors, like: Mary Boland, Charles Ruggles (same name as the title character), Zazu Pitts, Roland Young, Leila Hyams, and tons of  grizzled old cowboys (all with weathered, rawhide-like faces).
5.  And, there are some interesting stories in the trivia department to tell about the “making-of” of the film.

But first, watch this video clip, then later we’ll share some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits.

 



Pardon Me While I Vent a Little

Amid the current border crisis I am sickened by the anti-immigrant policies being ginned-up by our politicians.  Those officially seeking asylum from violent countries are being turned away. Those entering at other points are being arrested and having their children taken from them and sent to facilities in many far-away states. There appears to be no plan to reunite parents with their very young children. These policies are abhorrent and illegal. They are anti-American, anti-human-rights, and anti-humanist. We can only hope that the dimwits in Washington will return the children to their parents soon.

I just heard of an argument by a Trump supporter that these people applying for asylum should not be allowed in because they are not seeking the correct form of asylum. The Trump supporter claimed that in order to be accepted for asylum, they must be fleeing “political” persecution. That is simply not so. They explained this away by claiming that these people were simply fleeing bad economic conditions. That also is not so.

Here is the actual wording from the law about asylum seekers:  “Asylum has three basic requirements. First, an asylum applicant must establish that he or she fears persecution in their home country.  Second, the applicant must prove that he or she would be persecuted on account of one of five protected grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group. Third, an applicant must establish that the government is either involved in the persecution, or unable to control the conduct of private actors.”

I believe the operative phrases here are:  “particular social group,” and “government is either involved in the persecution, or unable to control the conduct of private actors.” The particular social group is poor people who happen to live in a country where the government isn’t protecting them from private actors, ie. gangs trying to put their children into violent gangs.

The ‘Steelman The Humanist” International Human Rights Court has spoken!


hunchback_promo1

Charles Laughton as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”


TRIVIA TIME:

>  Edward Dmytryk, the film’s editor, said that Charles Laughton became so emotional during the scene in the saloon where he recites the Gettysburg Address that it took director Leo McCarey 1-1/2 days to complete shooting it. According to Dmytryk, the preview audiences found Laughton’s close-ups in the scene embarrassing and tittered through the speech. When substitute shots of Laughton from behind were inserted, the audience found the reaction shots of the other people watching him very moving, and the second preview was extremely successful.

>  Charles Laughton referred to his reading of the “Gettysburg Address” in the film as “one of the most moving things that ever happened to me.” Laughton recited the address to the cast and crew of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) on the last day of shooting on Catalina Island and again on the set of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). He performed the Gettysburg Address many times on radio, television, and included it in his one man show all over the country.

>  Nazi Germany banned the release of any German-dubbed version of this film because of the Gettysburg Address speech.

>  There’s another marvelously loose scene between the wonderful Leila Hyams and Roland Young as they perform the song “Pretty Baby” on the piano and drums, respectively. Parts of it look improvised, and I would swear that Hyams and Young are going to break out of character at any second. They seem to be having a ball and that’s contagious to the audience.

 

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Easter & April Fools

He_Is_Risen         Steelman_w_Fool_Hat
Easter is on April 1st this year.  So I’m wearing my custom made hat (1982).

Easter & April Fools
by Ron Steelman
March 30, 2018

If you’re struggling over the idea of going (or not going) to church this Easter, just let it go. It’s OK. I might point out that this year Easter falls on April Fools day, which is always April 1st. You can draw your own conclusion from this revealing coincidence. But more importantly, I’d like to share some facts about the changes in our culture. More and more people are leaving their religions and turning into “NONES.” I’ll explain.

Here are some amazing facts from a Scientific American magazine article (April 2018):

“In recent years much has been written about the rise of the “nones”—people who check the box for “none” on surveys of religious affiliation. A 2013 Harris Poll of 2,250 American adults, for example, found that 23 percent of all Americans have forsaken religion altogether. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 34 to 36 percent of millennials (those born after 1980) are nones and corroborated the 23 percent figure, adding that this was a dramatic increase from 2007, when only 16 percent of Americans said they were affiliated with no religion. In raw numbers, this translates to an increase from 36.6 million to 55.8 million nones. Though lagging far behind the 71 percent of Americans who identified as Christian in the Pew poll, they are still a significant voting block, far larger than Jews (4.7 million), Muslims (2.2 million) and Buddhists (1.7 million) combined (8.6 million) and comparable to politically powerful Christian sects such as Evangelical (25.4 percent) and Catholic (20.8 percent).”

Here is the link to the full article from Scientific American.


You are not alone if you are considering leaving your religion. For me, it was easier to believe in Christmas than Easter. . .I think because we got presents. I still believe in giving presents to the people I love, although I just never could buy that virgin birth thing. Easter was even more off the believability charts.

Reason and rational thought have led me away from religion in search of a positive philosophy of life. I found that in secular humanism.

The moral compass I’ve found in secular humanism far outshines what I gleaned from my Christian upbringing. There were too many contradictions, too much double-talk, and those blatant hypocrisies. I joke that April Fools Day is my high holy day. I say that because I love humor and jokes. I don’t really enjoy playing April Fool tricks on people. However, I am enamored of Shakespeare’s fools. For years I was an actor performing in many of Shakespeare’s plays. I especially loved the comedies and the role of fools in Shakespeare’s plays.  The fools made the king laugh, and yet often imparted a certain amount of wisdom. For example:

God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.
    -Feste, Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5

Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.
    -Feste, Twelfth Night,  Act I, Scene 5

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be
a fool.
     -Touchstone, As You Like It, Act V, Scene 1


When I was in high school I was in the band. But I booked actual paying gigs playing my drums for rock and roll and society dances. For a couple of years I borrowed the tympani from my high school and played Easter services at a church. I only did it because I needed the money. I carted the tympani to the church, and played a big showy piece called “Christ our Passover.” There was a big organ, a 40-member choir, a brass quintet, and me, banging away in the big finale. As I looked out over the people in the sanctuary, I saw everybody in their finest, the ladies with their fancy hats, and even the littlest of boys were wearing ties. I felt like such a hypocrite. These people were buying it, yet I was just there for the money. I felt that maybe they should find a tympanist who was a believer.

It took me many years to finally get the courage to stop going to church. They have this habit of telling you that you will burn in hell if you don’t believe in God. Guess what? Since then I found out there is no hell. So if you’re on the fence, don’t wait. You’ll be much happier. Turn yourself into a “None!”

Some people may put a lot of pressure on you to keep going to church (or mosques or synagogues or whatever). Just ask them if they want you to be a hypocrite. If they say “yes,” you know that’s not a good idea. I don’t mean to be flip about this. Leaving a religion can be similar to PTSD. However, the main area of difficulty seems to be for those who have trouble letting go of their belief in hell. I’m serious. I’ve read the studies. Rejection by family members is another big problem. There are many books about this issue. Check out some of the writings of Dan Barker from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  It was doubly hard for him, because he was an evangelical minister for 19 years.  Ouch!  
Smile_No_Hell_Black

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What Humanists Espouse

WHAT HUMANISTS ESPOUSE
By Ron Steelman

Humanist pc Front Final web

If you want to know what secular humanism is all about, simply read two short documents below.

The message in these two documents is pretty much the same, but stated in slightly different ways.  The “Affirmations/Principles” document below, from the Council for Secular Humanism, is the first piece about Humanism I read back in 2001. When I finished reading it, I stood up and saluted. These were positions I had been thinking about for a long time.

For years I had gone off searching for a set of morals and values that were not connected to any brand of theology. vitruvian-man-leonardo-da-vinciAnd yet, I wanted a connection to something larger than myself. And what I found here on these pages was a name for that connection: Humanism.  I just didn’t know there was a name for it. I had heard about Renaissance humanism, but didn’t know how it had evolved in our modern era. There it was and it contained every aspect of the type of philosophy I could support.

I am a member of the Council For Secular Humanism (CFI)  and the American Humanist Association.

If you haven’t read these before, please let me know what you think of them in the comments.


From the Council For Secular Humanism
3106964_origNow a program of the Center For Inquiry 

Affirmations of Humanism – A Statement of Principles
Drafted by Paul Kurtz

  • We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
  • We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
  • We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
  • We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
  • We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
  • We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
  • We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
  • We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
  • We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
  • We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
  • We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
  • We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
  • We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
  • We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
  • We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
  • We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
  • We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
  • We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
  • We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
  • We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
  • We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

From American Humanist Association 
“This is not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe.”
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Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III, a Successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.


Humanist Manifesto is a trademark of the American Humanist Association
© 2003 American Humanist Association

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