Letters to Jim: June Gloom? Not Yet

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It’s June, it’s summer, and it is time to sit poolside and get caught up on what my readers have to ask. As usual, I have answers that will blow your mind and make you rethink everything you ever considered, or at the very least cause you to roll your eyes. So, lather up with sunscreen, grab your favorite cold drink, and while you wait 30 minutes for your food to digest before jumping in the pool, read my fan mail. It may save you from a life of self-destruction.

Dear Jim,
You were a history teacher for part of your teaching career I am interested in knowing your take on using our public schools to teach about topics like white privilege and cancel culture. Do you believe these, and other controversial topics, should be taught in our classrooms or should we stick to the more generic brand of history taught?
Historian at Heart

Dear HH,

History is impossible to teach in our public schools because it requires delving deeply into the question of Why. Consequently, it is watered down, along with all other social studies, to avoid anything debatable. Can you imagine our kids’ knowledge of Mathematics and Science without the teaching of complex courses? Imagine these two subjects taught at their most basic levels and nothing more.

History is no different. Filling the heads of kids with names, dates, and events means nothing without the true study of why these people matter, why a particular date stands out over others, and why events unfolded as they did.

The problem with why is it ends up with theories for answers and not concrete proof since you must include as many perspectives on history as possible. Do you really believe lessons written primarily by white researchers, published by white owned publishing houses, and sold to schools with predominantly white kids is the same history from the perspective of natives, blacks, women, immigrants, or at the highest levels, other nations?

The sad thing is our nation has stifled this sort of teaching for decades and it is now rearing its ugly head in courses like Math, Science, and Literature as there becomes more discourse over what to and not to teach children. If this continues, public education will be nothing more than just trying to entertain kids in as noncontroversial manner as possible while mom and dad are off working themselves to the bone.

Dear Jim,
In your opinion, is it possible to achieve true enlightenment or is this just another myth sold to us by people looking to profit off our insecurity?
Seeking

Dear Seeking,

Well, since you are only asking for my opinion, I will attempt to answer this. No.

No, it is not possible to achieve true enlightenment because what is enlightening to one may well be abhorrent to another. The path toward enlightenment is much like the path to wealth or fame, or anything else for that matter. All are individual journeys that when we hand them over to others selling us their way result in never fully finding what we seek.

For that matter, it is much like the study of History in as much as both require the student to examine why from as many perspectives as possible, maintain an open mind, and realize you may well come to a realization others do not see or agree with. However, if you are truly enlightened, you can accept this rather than feel threatened by different perspectives. You are secure enough in your thinking to not worry about someone disagreeing with you while accepting enough of others different from you knowing maybe they know something you do not know.

In the end, enlightenment is an endless pursuit done more out of curiosity than a desire for wealth or fame. My suggestion is to keep an open mind and be willing to consider the words of anyone because you never know who might drop a thought into your mind that opens your thought process toward something new.

Dear Jim,
Are you surprised to see Ukrainians winning a war against the mighty Russians? How is this even possible?
Perplexed

I hate to burst your bubble, but Ukraine is not winning the war. They just have not lost. The Russians have been their own worst enemy more than the counter attacks of the brave men and women of Ukraine. The fact Russia has not steamrolled the nation does not mean they have not succeeded in destroying pretty much anything and everything they have set their eyes on.

The images I have seen show a completely devastated Ukraine, one that will take decades to rebuild once this mess is over. They have only been able to hold out as well as they have thanks to the military aid they have been receiving from NATO nations.

However, journalism is also like History (are you sensing a theme yet?) and the perspective of the storyteller of events as they unfold creates an image in our mind. I hate to say this, but it is in our government’s best interest to create an image of Ukraine succeeding and Russia flailing away like a bunch of numbskulls. The fact is, if we knew the real depth of human atrocities going on there, we might feel more compelled as citizens to demand direct intervention from our military. Instead, we get stories of bravery and Russian casualties dominating the coverage.

Personally, I can’t help but see the coincidence this past week of greater coverage of local mass shootings at a time the Russians are making headway in the Donbas. Maybe it is a coincidence and then again maybe coverage of these shootings is a ploy to keep us from grasping just how bad things are in Ukraine.

Dear Jim,
If you could sit down and have a three-way chat with two other living people, who would they be?
Just a Fan Wondering

Dear Just,

Two people come to mind immediately. I would get a kick out of sitting down and talking about life in general with the Dalai Lama and Charles Barkley. All I would have to do is ask one opening question and let them do the rest. On the surface, they are people who have travelled down two very different paths in life, but both offer up perspectives that are explained in ways I find thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe my editor, Tim Forkes, can arrange this. Of course, knowing him, if he can, he’d give the assignment to our Claudia Gestro.

[Editor’s comment: “No.” For a look at some of Claudia Gestro’s most recent work, we provide her interviews with Angels Pitcher Michael Lorenzen, Angels Manager Joe Maddon, Dodgers Third Baseman Freddie Freeman and Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts]

Dear Jim,
When will this nation do more than just realize we have a gun problem, but actually start to do something about it? If the deaths of over a dozen school children are not enough, what is?
Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

Whatever it is going to take is far more horrific than the deaths of school children.  There is a political party, the GOP, who claims to be pro-life who are nothing more than pro mass shootings. Once a baby pops out of the womb, Republicans are done with supporting their lives. They can make all the claims they want about the killers being mentally ill, but when they support easier gun access laws, take money from gun manufacturers and the NRA, and offer up nothing more than thoughts and prayers after a horrific school shooting, then they are the enemy of our children. They are every bit as mentally ill as any mass shooter and are not fit to hold office.

Unfortunately, these politicians have the full support of crazed gun owners who think they are the last line of defense when all hell breaks loose. They can’t fathom the hate they spread and threats they make is the major threat this nation faces. Instead, they see a mass shooting and will go out and buy more guns because they have a greater fear of losing the right to own them.

Change doesn’t happen unless voters decide to make it. Unfortunately, our nation is divided into multiple pockets where voters live among more like minded people who elect idiots who find the one or two key hot button issues voters feel strongly about and just go along with them for the sake of getting elected.

A political party that refuses to admit when there is a problem and is willing to pull together to solve it is just driving the country off a cliff. When politicians make it more difficult to drive cars than buy a gun, they fail to care about the well-being of all citizens. When we see an increase in mass shootings instead of a decrease, politicians fail to address a problem they do not want to admit might be hard to solve. When a party of politicians are more concerned about their post shooting talking points than the shooting itself, we are represented by pure evil.

If these children are not enough to make you vote for someone who supports curbing access to guns and ammunition, then nothing else will. If we can’t be bothered enough to honor their lives by going to any lengths needed to make real change in this country, then we deserve all the mass shootings that come our way.

Dear Jim,
I feel like we are in the midst of a great period of inventions or breakthroughs that will take mankind in an entirely new direction. Of all of these, is there one you are the most impressed by?
Geek

Dear Geek,

We may well be in the midst of an era of breakthroughs but unlike you, I am not impressed. What’s the point of increasing our lifespan or making life easier for us if it results in us failing to save the planet we have been gifted? There is no number of breakthroughs that will prevent Mother Nature from doing the inevitable thanks to man’s failures.

However, thanks to man’s inventiveness, many of us may never see the full force of global warming thanks to the worst invention in the history of mankind. This single invention stands to prevent us from fulfilling our full potential in an instant and until we find a way to rid ourselves of its pointlessness, the future may never be enjoyed. I am talking about the invention of the gun.

Dear Jim,
What is one of the biggest contradictions about you? We all have them, and I was wondering what it is you might be guilty of.
Nosey

Dear Nosey,

I have always prided myself on being an outside the box thinker, the sort of person who can offer a perspective many would never think of. As a teacher, I disliked the educational system that seemed determined to rely on canned approaches that placed children in boxes with labels even at the expense of those who were simply different.

The contradiction is, I love boxes. My wife will be the first to tell you this. I place all my crap in boxes. I stack them orderly with labels written with a sharpie. Heck, I even like the clean boxy look of home designs because they allow me the peace of mind to think outside the box.

If I can’t find a box, I use a crate. I just used a dozen crates as the base for a new bed rather than buying a box spring. I prefer boxing over MMA. When packages arrive at our house, I love to examine the box and think if I have a use for it before placing it in the recycle bin.

At this moment, my feet are resting on a box that has another, slightly smaller box inside it rather than shop for a stool that will be packaged in a box. Instead of buying expensive and nice-looking stands for my adjustable Bowflex dumbbells, I used the boxes stuffed with Styrofoam they came in. I have a shoebox for sweat bands, one for arm warmers, and another for headbands made from old t-shirts in my garage gym.

My shop area is filled with labeled boxes for screws, bolts, tools, and almost anything else I have. Important documents to shred are first placed in a box and once it is filled, I have a second box before it becomes time to shred. File cabinets have important stuff placed inside boxes that fit neatly and hold up the unimportant stuff that I place in file folders.

It seems all my outside the box thinking has resulted in innumerable uses for boxes. However, when I die, I will be cremated, and my ashes will be scattered anywhere just so they do not end up inside a box. Afterall, I’d hate to feel boxed in for eternity.

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Until next month, may June bring you much joy and an endless supply of useful boxes. If you haven’t any use for them, send them to the Los Angeles Post-Examiner in care of my editor, Tim Forkes. He needs them to store all my articles in.

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