Friday, August 24, 2018

Why Pick on Charlie Daniels?

I've been a little tough on Charlie Daniels of the Charlie Daniels Band as of late and I wanted to explain why. Like Charlie, I grew up in Tennessee and remember hearing his music and thinking "this is different" and I liked it. Now I wasn't a massive country music fan but "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was a classic and back then, believe it or not, country musicians rarely used fiddles in their music (they used slide guitars and such). Charlie has always struck me over the years as Johnny Cash-like, in that he seemed to be going his own way, which I respect.

But a little over a year ago I stumbled across a tweet Charlie on his twitter account and while I don't recall what it said exactly word for word, I do remember it jarred me. As I scrolled further and uncovered his pattern of tweets I remember thinking maybe his twitter feed had been hacked.

After it was clear it was apparently him making these remarks, I remember thinking and maybe even commenting, this man isn't an artist, he's not sowing peace and love with his music, he's spewing negativity, fear, and division like a common cyber troll.

Now twitter is full of people (and bots) spewing hateful diatribes but to see a successful (and presumably wealthy) musician essentially criticizing poor folks from other countries who come to the USA for a better life was, as I said jarring... and personal for reasons I'll explain in a bit.

But Charlie ain't some backwoods cyber troll who hasn't been anywhere, done anything or experienced life, this is a man who tours relentlessly and I'll assume has left the country on more than one occasion.

As a traveler, did he not experience, as I had, the incredible warmth and hospitality of some of the poorest folks on the planet? How could he, or anyone tweet the vile ignorance he was tweeting, if he had? And then the scripture and other inspirational messages he tweets, they run completely counter to the occasional divisive rant.

Sure, Charlie has every right to his opinion and if he wishes to demonize people with different customs or more often simply with different political viewpoints (but still very much a patriot) that is his right.

But then this week I received my Middle Tennessee State University alumni magazine which had an interesting article covering Charlie hosting an event to help U.S. Military vets, a very worthwhile cause Charlie has worked on relentlessly. I applaud him for that.

I was thinking maybe I was wrong about Charlie so, let me see what he's up to and I checked on Charlie's twitter account again and after some very inspirational posts, saw this doozy of a tweet about an actual song he'd written that I'm sorry, it plainly smacks of Xenophobia.

Here are the lyrics he posted.

Now it may seem harmless on the 1st read through, but I can tell you with some degree of certainty and expertise that in ALL MY TRAVELS, no one has ever told me to "love it or leave it or go back to where I come from". Quite the opposite, in fact, they've literally offered a free meal, a place to stay, etc. The hospitality from complete strangers in other places has always blown me away.

Charlie is telling people from outside the USA that they must conform and not try to "change it" if they come here. Conforming is something you are forced to do in Cuba and other fascist regimes, not the USA.

More likely, he's watching his version of the U.S. slipping away and wants to hang on to it. I get it.

But the reality is his version of the U.S. is a very narrow version that is only real to him in his world. It doesn't match my version and my world and sorry but I'm as much of a citizen and patriot as Charlie. And by the way, my version doesn't match 299,999 million other people who are as much of a citizen as both Charlie and me.

So I wrote an email to the publishers of the MTSU Magazine, mostly with the intention of praising them on a fine product that seems to get better each issue, of which I was sincere.

But I also took the opportunity to alert them about Charlie's twitter account which contains tweets counter to the theory of the University's premise of a welcoming place of learning for an increasingly international student body. Students from all over the world come to study at MTSU and I, for one, am very proud of that fact and of my University in general for its growth as such.

Well, I'm not, or at least I don't mean to be picking on Charlie.

Charlie is old (82), and that fact sincerely didn't occur to me until some folks wrote to me as I had never considered him as an old man.

I haven't seen him on TV in years, and like many celebrities, he was just kind of ageless in my mind, stuck in time, with a white beard, boots, wrangler jeans, perhaps some tobacco in his jaw and a fiddle in his hand with an almost Santa Clause like joviality when he played.

The last thing I want to do is pick on an old man who reminds of Santa Clause... or anyone for that matter.

Even in this graceless age, in my mind, only incompetent corporations, repugnant ideologies, etc. should be attacked, not individuals, unless they lead such nonsense or are being repugnant in their views.

I don't wish to be a contributor to the noise that passes as political dialogue these days, I don't know enough to have what I consider to be informed enough opinions (yeah, I know that doesn't stop 99.9% of the pundits and social media commentators) to always offer something of value. I try to limit my comments to things I either

1) Have some particular expertise or unique POV or
2) Feel so very passionate about I simply can't remain silent.

BUT I still know the difference between right and wrong and it seems the world has gotten it mixed up. It has me wondering if it's me that's all mixed up suddenly. I believe

- Lying is wrong.
- Intellectual Dishonesty is wrong.
- Demonizing others to gain an advantage is wrong.
- "Whataboutism" to justify your own wrongdoing is wrong.
- Hypocrisy is wrong.

Charlie is from Tennessee and I'm from Tennessee and when he tweets out vile stuff he's fulfilling a hateful stereotype that I've spent my entire life trying to live down. That's why this is personal.

The Tennesseeans I know are (mostly) a good bunch of folks who are like the folks in other countries where I visit, they will bend over backward to be hospitable and nice, politics be damned.

But besides that, when Charlie or anyone, be it the Homeland Security folks at the airport or a random stranger on the street, treats a visitor badly then I feel it reflects poorly on me. That's another reason it's personal.

How can I travel all over the world, absorbing the unconditional love and kindness of strangers while folks in my own home country are being nasty to visitors or newcomers here?

I'm sorry but quoting scripture and wrapping yourself up in the flag doesn't make you a good human being or even a good American.

And writing blog posts about how bad the political discourse in this country has become is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest when you, yourself are actually driving and contributing to the problem.  That's called "hypocrisy" I believe?

I'm not saying Charlie is a bad human being, on the contrary, he's just a human being, which means he's good, he's bad, he like all of us has unique gifts, some good traits, and some deep flaws.

Charlie Daniels has WAY more influence and sway than I do and it pains me to see him use it to divide, demonize and spew what frankly is ignorance, especially when I know better.

As I said, when someone... anyone, mistreats a traveler or visitor, it's personal to me.

So, it occurred to me that while Charlie travels, he probably mostly just travels in the USA on tour with his band where people know and adore him.

This man, I assume, has worked hard for what he's achieved and has somehow been convinced if poor people immigrate to the USA (legally or illegally), it's going to take away his livelihood and legacy? I don't know, I'm not a mind reader but I'm trying to empathize and see where he's coming from. 

So I thought, why not go on a trip with Charlie to somewhere they don't know who he is?

I could empathize and see where he's coming from and he could empathize and see where others are coming from. We'll go somewhere he can get treated like a normal human being, a normal traveler so he can see what I see when I travel.

What kind of impact would that not have, not just on Charlie but on all his followers and fans?

And if we filmed it, even better. I always said "no celebrities" but in this case, I'd happily make an exception and lest you think I'm just doing this to be self-serving, if he didn't want a camera present, no problem there either... I love to travel without cameras, it is definitely more authentic.

Bottom line, my offer to Charlie for him to travel with me (my treat) for just a few days to some.. any developing nation and get to know the farmers and regular working class folks could have a huge impact on him.

He's a champion of the working class, I think he'd love it and his tweets and his life and his outlook would change and by nature, so would his followers.. or some of them.

 Not because I have that power, but because true, authentic travel has that power.  Travel is better than any self-help book or expensive seminar you can take, I promise.

A guy like Charlie, 3 days tops and he'd see a difference. A week, forget about it. Life changed... forever.

I don't hate Charlie Daniels.

On the contrary, I love the guy and the good he represents.

What I hate is what he's kind of become, which is a celebrity spokesperson for a political dynamic that spews divisiveness, bigotry disguised as political discourse, and xenophobia.

America is better than that and so is Charlie Daniels.

Travel is just a conduit to let the good beat out the bad. Lord knows I need it from time to time and by the looks of the discourse in this country, we all need it.

Charlie - I don't mean to troll you or pick on you and if it appears that way, I'm truly sorry.

I really want your people to call my people (me) and let's figure this out, my brother. Take a little break from touring and farming and let's go on a little trip to rural Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, etc., etc. etc. and meet some of the finest salt of the earth people on this incredible planet.

What do you say, Charlie, want to go be a Tennessee Volunteer somewhere cool with me?

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Journalist Are Unsung Heroes

Journalists in the U.S. these days often get a bad rap, some of it perhaps not undeserved. But worldwide, journalists routinely risk prison, harassment or their very lives in order to speak truth to power and shine the light on corruption and criminality of those indulging in mankind's worst impulses. 

They go to dangerous places and asks dangerous questions about powerful, dangerous people and many pay with their lives, leaving behind families who love them, all for little pay, fame or glory. Would I do the same in their shoes? I can't say with any certainty that I would. Which is why I so greatly admire those who choose to do what's right over their own personal safety and too often pay the ultimate sacrifice to uncover the truth in places where Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press can get you killed. 

The truth is more powerful than any government, company or individual and eventually, it will not be suppressed. The folks who bring it to bear are truly some of the world's bravest heroes.…/russian-journalists-killed-while-prob…/

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Surgeon General on Fox News - Americans Are Dying From Starvation?

U.S. Surgeon Gen. Jerome Adams named a "Power Player" on Fox News with Chris Wallace this morning. Here are his views on Climate Change and a direct quote: "We know that the science says that man IS having an impact on the climate but we also know that people are DYING from not having JOBS, not being able to FEED THEIR FAMILIES."

I hope the intent wasn't to try to suggest that the USA (Home of the most powerful economy in the world with 5% of the population consuming 20% of world's resources) is struggling so much to feed its population that we can't do anything about climate change.

Do you know anyone in the USA that is literally starving? If so, please do let me know ASAP as I'd like to help. I don't know much about the Jerome Adams or his political affiliations nor do I care. But I know what I saw and he came across as nervous, ill-prepared, ignorant and not up to the task of being our Surgeon General. I hope he simply misspoke and these are not truly his thoughts.
Kids in Haiti

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Journalism. A Brave Choice? Increasingly So.

The next time you hear someone complaining about "fake news" consider that for every politically motivated, hatchet-job hack there is probably at least one real, dedicated reporter risking their life for truth and justice in countries all over the world, some in theoretical democracies I've visited such as, Mexico (13), Philippines (4), and Honduras (3).
Countries with highest numbers of media killings in 2017:
  • Mexico: 13
  • Afghanistan: 11
  • Iraq: 11
  • Syria: 10
  • India: 6
  • Philippines: 4
  • Pakistan: 4
  • Nigeria: 3
  • Somalia: 3
  • Honduras: 3
I think it's safe to say none of these courageous, departed folks were wealthy either. Follow this LINK to read the story.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lead Singer of The Smithereens Dies

Lead singer of The Smithereens died this week at age 62. It ain’t easy being a moderately successful musician I guess but these guys impacted a lot of music in the late 80s and early 90s.

Was driving to Destin Fla. once in the mid-90s from Nashville & saw them by chance perform for a small crowd at a spot called Florbama I think it was. Happened to see them on the marquee and I pulled over. I was alone and mourning some failed relationship or something I thought was the end of the world in my tiny little self-absorbed world. Don’t recall but I remember I was in a morose mood.

Then I saw these guys. It was literally me and 50 folks at an outdoor patio kind of thing and we were ALL front row as if they were playing a fraternity party or something & half the folks didn’t even know who they were it seemed.

Yet these NJ boys rocked it like it was an arena concert and this was the most important show of their lives and we all had a ball...Band, fans, and bystanders. I got back in my car and got on with my journey a bit lighter and a tad more joyful. A long ago but cherished memory.

They got it. Details matter. Passion matters. Respect the fans & the audience. Don’t take them for granted and they will be loyal. Always give your best or don’t bother. RIP Pat DiNizio. You did at least one good thing and I suspect many, many more.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Verizon Fios Removes Univision. Univision Hints it's the "R" word?

To my amigos outside of the TV business, this is a standard bearer dispute between two large multi-billion dollar media companies. It is happening more and more because as viewership and ad revenue plummet, broadcasters depend more and more on the "retransmission" revenue stream from cable & satellite companies like Verizon, Direct TV, Spectrum, etc.

Disputes like these happen so often these days, most consumers don't even pay attention until it actually affects them. This is business and it's ugly yes, but it's not racist, it's just a stupid, shortsighted and probably greedy business move.

Univision's old owners and management team, (which is today shedding viewers to Telemundo, the internet, etc,) did more to hurt the "diversity" of voices in the early to mid-2000s by insisting U.S. Latinos only spoke, understood and watched Spanish Language TV despite a plethora of research to the contrary.

This dishonest stance prevented or I should say delayed, Latino talent and TV shows getting on mainstream, "general market" TV by years and did way more damage to "diverse voices" than this little dispute with Verizon, a blip on the radar, will ever do.

Fast forward to today and there are more minority and diverse voices on TV than ever before (not to mention OTT - Over the Top and the internet). There are so many voices on TV, internet, OTT, etc. period, that you can barely hear what anyone is saying unless your initials happen to be DJT and you have your finger on the button, then people do seem to pay attention to your every word.

Imagine playing tennis on an ever-expanding but still crowded tennis court with 1,000 other tennis players. That's the content universe today and sadly not much play is getting elevated.

Networks are DESPERATE for attention because ATTENTION = REVENUE.

All that said, I understand how easy it is to think people are treating others differently solely because of "who" they are.

In this environment of 24/7 racism, sexism, and any other "ism" that gets people wound up on CNN and other channels, these terms have basically become TV genres in and of themselves.

Again, this is mostly a symptom of large media companies worth billions, freaking out because they are losing viewers (and hence revenue) and will do anything to try to shock people into watching, including screaming racism and further slicing and dicing the viewing public in any way they can to garner their dwindling share of that divided market.  It's a race to the bottom with no winners, least of all viewers.

Doesn't mean racism doesn't exist, of course, it does. Doesn't mean it's not terrible, of course, it is.  it just means this particular instance is about one color and one color only - GREEN baby GREEN. So don't get your colors all mixed up. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

60 Minutes Brave Expose on Big Pharma

QUESTION: Why is TV called a medium?

ANSWER: Because when it's well done, it's rare.

Old joke but very proud of 60 Minutes tonight who went up against a huge ad category (Big Pharma), when they broadcasted an expose on Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn sponsoring and congress passing a bill that helped Pharma Companies avoid DEA enforcement and ensure the flow of opioids continue to feed an increasingly addicted nation (many in her home state of TN) resulting in over 200K deaths.


Money of course. So sad how politicians continue to $ell u$ out at every turn. But very brave of 60 Min. to eschew Pharma ads (I counted $0 this week) in order to expose this travesty. Could not have been an easy choice. We need more journalism like this. Thank goodness (and our founding fathers) for the 1st amendment.