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Perception versus Fact: Which Is Most Decisive?

What is there to say about the Jerry Sandusky case that hasn’t already been said? The arguments go on and on: “He’s a f****** scumbag who needs to be put down!”. . . ”He was sick and needs help!”. . . “Poor kids deserve better than this”… “The other coaches and ‘Joepa’ (Joe Paterno) knew this and didn’t say anything about it—they are JUST as guilty!”. . . “The football program at Penn State should be dismantled”. . . “The football program should be maintained, since it has nothing to do with what Sandusky did”. . . ”If the football program is discontinued, the players will suffer for it”. . . “Dismantling the program will show that powerful people cannot get away with this”. . .“It’s so typical—football and money are more important than the welfare of young boys”. . . “The president is only trying to gain sympathy by saying he was abused as a child, but that is irrelevant, as he knew about this and let it happen—string the bastard up!”. . . “Take down the statue of Joe Paterno—he’s a shameful SOB”. . . ”No, leave the statue. After all, Paterno didn’t actually commit the crime”. . . “That doesn’t matter”. . .

Do I adhere or subscribe to any or all of these perspectives?

As a professional writer and researcher, not to mention a rational and intelligent human being, I learned a long time ago never to jump to conclusions about anything, especially if I am on the outside and do not have all the facts. Unlike many others in America, I read and analyze and assimilate all the information, but I never jump to any conclusions, no matter how a situation looks. I am level-headed and responsible that way.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with supposed victims or believe that this sort of crime is okay; on the contrary, my heart goes out to anyone hurt by another, especially those involved in a case of personal violation. Likewise, I do not condone such behavior and believe that anyone actually guilty of committing such a crime should be duly and fairly punished in accordance with the laws that apply, as long as the evidence is there to substantiate the claim that the suspected and charged actually DID commit the crime in question. Still, evidence is always in question, including eyewitness testimony.

And then there was that original investigator who supposedly wound up missing and his laptop the only thing recovered. This looks suspect, but we STILL do not have all the information, so we cannot jump to one conclusion or another.

The reality is, however, that no one really knows what happened in every aspect of the case. No one really knows what went on in the mind of every person involved. No one really knows what the complete truth is.

“But the jury found him guilty on 45+ counts of child sexual abuse and other charges. Even many of the victims came forth and testified—“

Yes, I know that, but we, those who comprise the public forum, are not privy to every bit of information involved. Can we say with 100 percent certainty where the evidence came from, that said evidence and testimony both are reliable? Keep in mind that the public receives its information through the media, not always first-hand. Much of what we have acquired might be true, but because we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, we are still not 100 percent sure of anything.

This is/was a high-profile case, so presentation by all of those involved, including the media, is crucial for the sake of public support. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all the details, all of the ‘facts,” are in line with reality. High-profile cases have an image to maintain, and that image, whether reflective of truth or not, usually influences and sways the perception and opinion of the public, as it has done and is designed to do.

So what’s my opinion on the issue? I don’t have one, and precisely for the reasons explained above. I guess that IS my stance—that I don’t have all the information involved and so I am not jumping to any conclusions on the matter. That’s the safest and wisest place for me and for anybody who wouldn’t want to appear foolish or misguided.

Mob Mentality and Vigilantism

Despite what I have said above, many people will and already have reacted emotionally with self-righteous indignation regarding the case. Is this right? Well, it’s typically human, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it justifies the end.

Due to the firing up of public opinion, people think, even insist, they know everything pertaining to the case and that “there will be no further argument”. Others become so emotional over sensitive and controversial cases such as this they take up arms and follow through with their own brand of “justice” based on perceptions instead of facts as if they believe they are in the right. This generally refers to vigilantism, and it creates more trouble than it intends to overcome.

This is one reason why I don’t form any opinion over situations in which I have no part to play. In many cases, I could be wrong. Anyone could be. Then what?

The SO registry is a great example of this. Registrants have a variety of backgrounds, but all have paid their debt to society in the fashion dictated by the law of the land. Most, though guilty of some form of a crime, are not a danger to society, as recidivism is extremely minimal and the nature of most sex offenders’ crimes is inconsequential (e.g. some SO registrants were caught urinating in public while others were young boyfriends charged with having consensual sex with their underage girlfriends). Yet those with a mob mentality neglect to read the important details. Even when they do so, they STILL do not have all of the information on that particular case, and what’s worse is that most perceptions are inaccurate in the end.

What happens when a person kills someone who is actually innocent or who has already paid for his crime? That’s murder; it is a crime, it is socially immoral and (for those who are religious) it is a sin.

When vigilantes with inaccurate perceptions and lack of information allow themselves to fly on emotional adrenaline, their actions can make them criminals as well.

What’s in a name? Confusion Leads to Misperception

One example of misperceptions lies in the terminology used to refer to certain types of behavior. For the sake of being consistent with the above subject matter, I will use the most misconstrued term related to the subject of sex offenders: ‘pedophilia’.

Pedophilia denotes the ongoing attraction to and/or sexual preference for prepubescent children. This can be exclusive or non-exclusive, but it is always predominant. The criteria for pedophilia as listed in the DSM states “generally 12/13 or younger,” but this, in current times, is inaccurate. Most 12 and 13-year-olds (even many 11-year-olds) are pubescent and exhibit signs of physical sexual maturity and therefore would not fall into the target range of pedophilia. Doctor Allen Francis, who helped word the criteria back in the DSM IV, has said that the upper age of 12/13 was given for the purpose of establishing a general ‘upper limit’ for the age range in question and should not be taken literally. At the time he and his group delineated this description, 12/13 was common age for the onset of puberty. But biological change occurs earlier and earlier over time and arrives, on average, around age 9 or 10. Francis has subsequently stated that the target attraction/preference for actual pedophilia in modern times would likely fall in the ’10- and-younger’ age range. Simply put, pedophilia refers to the degree of physical sexual development (or lack thereof) and NOT to age. Due to the fact that the law categorizes those individuals up to age 18 as “children,” most people presume that the term “children” stated in the basic definition of pedophilia refers to everyone under 18. See why so many people are confused here? Apparently, these people are not able to distinguish between pathology and crime, or between nature/science/psychiatry and law.

The term “children” as used with regard to pedophilia, Frances explains, refers to prepubescent children only. Once a youth passes into puberty and is able to copulate, s/he is biologically no longer a child, despite legal definitions. This is nature and attests to the vulgar but true “old enough to bleed, old enough to breed.” This natural fact does not bend or change to the pressure of morality. The psychiatric world does not recognize an adult’s attraction to sexually maturing teens as pathological for this reason. As a matter of fact such an attraction is common, natural and normal. The inclination toward young fertility is evolutionarily “wired’ into the male psyche and kicks in on its own. The sheer number of adult males who have been and continue to be drawn to adolescents also attests to this.

In line with what I have conducted through my research, not all youth are necessarily “victims”. Many teenagers either consent or initiate with adults as well. One example is Vili Fualaau, Mary Kay Latourneau’s former student and current husband. He was 12/13 at the time and still insists he was not a victim. Heather Corinna, a sex journalist who has had extensive experience with teenagers, argues this point persuasively in her controversial article “Rage of Consent”. In her opinion, as well as those of many of her adult interviewees who, as teenagers, had ongoing sexual relationships with adults, sex between informed teenagers and adults is not always harmful to those involved. The term “victim,” although varying among schools of thought, is used loosely, so it is very much subjective; but it is still quite frequently used in error.

Another signification of the points made in previous paragraphs is that the various ages of consent around the world are considerably lower than in the United States. The age of consent in most of Europe is 14, and so sex between consenting 14+ and adults is, in fact, legal in those countries. As Doctor Richard Green states, these countries would not legalize a practice that would otherwise be indicative of a mental abnormality. Green was instrumental in getting homosexuality removed from the DSM during the 1970s and 80s.

By the way, the rates for teen pregnancies, STDs and child sexual abuse are minimal in Europe, compared to the United States where they are the highest. This is interesting, considering the latter is armed with countless laws designed to prevent these phenomena from occurring in the first place.

Adult-adolescent sexual interaction, which is not pedophilic, has a strong historical prevalence and has never been considered mentally aberrant behavior–until now by the ill-informed mob mentality noted above. The only place where the so-called “predator panic” exists is in North America, predominantly the United States.

For the record: I abhor both sexual abuse and pedophilia; these two forms of behavior are detestable and I do not condone either one, nor do I promote breaking the law. There are many valid reasons why sex between adults and youths should not be acceptable, such as emotional maturity and age disparity. My commentary here merely serves as a means of (1) clarifying the distinction of pedophilia in relation to adult-adolescent sex, (2) offering cultural, scientific and naturalistic explanations for adult-teen sex and (3) discussing the facts that support these schools of thought.

Sandusky and the Mob Mentality

As far as Sandusky’s diagnosis by experts in the field, I am not certain, but it might not be pedophilic in nature, depending on the sexual development of the lads whom he allegedly abused. If the claim against him is true and force was used, his issues might relate to other kinds of diagnoses. Again, I mention this to get people to retract their preconceptions based on the above information and through the list of source links below. Do not apply labels unless they are applicable.

“But his victims were all young, somewhere between 10 and 12. That would make him a f****** child molester and a pedophile—“

Well, “child molester” is such an emotionally charged term and usually reserved for those who engage in forcible sex. In the eyes of the law, he’d be considered a rapist, yes, if he actually committed those crimes; as for a pedophile, not necessarily. The two are not one and the same. Some pedophiles don’t molest, and those who sexually interact with adolescents are not necessarily pedophiles. Read the previous section again and visit the links provided below. A valid and solid viewpoint works best if it is an informed one.

To prove my point above, consider the following cases…

Some men (and women) have engaged with those youths under 13/14 and missed the diagnosis of pedophilia because the youths had already entered puberty.

One person that comes to mind is Jeffery Neuhauser, who was charged on two counts for having sex with a minor–two boys, one 13, the other a little younger than 13. Because he was evaluated as a non-pedophile, he was charged and tried as a “hebephile” (a pseudo-scientific term used by the legal system to refer to adults drawn sexually to young adolescents, although such an attraction is not recognized by the psychiatric community as anything aberrant). What happened? He was convicted (which, of course, he deserved if he had broken the law), but the judge (Terence Boyle) didn’t buy the government’s claim of a “serious mental illness” and tossed out the charge that would have sent Neuhauser to a mental institution upon the completion of his prison term.

Another case is that of Roman Polanski who, back in 1978, engaged with 13-yeat-old Samantha Geimer (nee Geisler) who was sexually mature for her age. A host of psychiatrists and a probation officer examined him and came to a unanimous conclusion that he was/is not—repeat NOT—a pedophile or a danger to society—just a law-breaker.

The above examples, only two of many, show why the sexual classification of pedophilia cannot rely on age alone, especially since each youth develops differently than any other.

So how should anyone classify Jerry Sandusky? The answer depends on the facts, which involve his background, his preferences, his state of mind and what actually happened regarding his case. That’s as far as we can go.

In the end, before anyone decides to form a judgment call on any situation, that person should conduct research and ascertain facts as necessary. Do NOT rely on second-hand knowledge or the news media. Education is a wonderful thing and will hopefully lead to the betterment of our society and how we treat one another.


Age of Consent

Corinna, Heather. Rage of Consent

Francis, Allen MD. DSM-5 In Distress: Needs to Reject Hebephilia Now

Francis, Allen MD. Hebephilia Is Not a Mental Disorder in DSM-IV and Should Not Become One in DSM-5

Franklin, Karen PhD. Federal Judge Tosses Hebephilia as the Basis of Civil Detention

Franklin, Karen PhD. Hebephilia Bites the Dust…Again

Franklin, Karen PhD. Hebephilia Controversy

Franklin, Karen PhD. Hebephilia ‘Hidey Hole’

Franklin, Karen PhD. Invasion of the Hebephile Hunters

Franklin, Karen PhD. Quintessence of Diagnostic Pretextuality

Green, Richard PhD. Hebephilia as a Mental Disorder?


Levenson, Jill S. PhD. Public Perception about Sex Offenders and Community Protection Policies

Rowan, Shana. An Uncomfortable Truth

Rowan, Shana. Killing a Sex Offender Does Not Equal Protecting Children

Rowan, Shana. Sex Offender Serial Killer: Urgent Call to Action

Tauro, Joseph, Judge. Final Statements on Todd Carta

Wikipedia Profile: Mary Kay Letourneau

DISCLAIMER: I want to reiterate that I am NOT a supporter of child abuse or pedophilia. My commentary serves only to clarify the appropriate meanings and applications of terminology, as well as to educate readers who seek the correct information regarding the subject matter. As per the main point of this article: Do NOT jump to any conclusions. Thank you.

August 27, 2012 Posted by | Cultural or Traditional Practices, Editorial-opinion, Research Projects, Social and Legal Issues | Leave a comment

The Death of Osama Bin Laden: the End or the Beginning?

On 2 May, 2011, the entire world cheered over the report of bin Laden’s death at the hands of an elite Navy SEALS team.

But is it the end or is it the beginning of something worse to happen?

The incursion that brought about the al-Queda leader’s alleged demise certainly got the man out of the way. Just as equally, however, that same effort would incite the predictable retaliation by a group of terrorists known for indignant and hostile reactions based on a self-righteous mentality. The 9/11 attack is proof of this.

The rest of the world is awaiting the response to this—an outcome which is surely perceived as a travesty by his followers—and it will come. Where or when this will happen is unknown, but one thing IS certain: that expected response will be just as horrific and bloody as that which marked the event of 9/11. The nature of al-Queda will not permit any other possibility.

So what does the world do to prepare for this reaction? What approach do we take? What measures should be initiated? What attitude should we assume?

Although the man who had planned 9/11 is now supposedly gone, the danger still lurks, as if he is waiting to lunge out from beyond the grave. The worst part of it is that we don’t know when, how or where the al-Queda will strike, so we are just as helpless as we would be if bin Laden were considered alive.

Still, many people (undoubtedly conspiracy theorists) have questioned whether or not the man is truly dead, insisting that this might be some elaborate scheme devised to promote trickery for the purpose of . . . Yes, that’s a great question. What reason would there be to conduct some deceptive plot to make the world believe Osama bin Laden is dead? How would al-Queda benefit from this? Why now at this specific time?

I suspect that the Navy SEALS, who were there, would know better than anyone else whether the man is living or dead. The news that immediately followed their mission suggests their confirmation that Osama is, in fact, dead.

With regards to the unorthodox burial of his body at sea, this is no mystery. If Osama were to have been buried on land, many parties, including American forces, would have access to his remains; burying the body at sea would make that access more difficult. Cremation is a viable option, too. This particular choice of disposal (burial at sea), however, seems to suggest that something is amiss—such as the identity of the dead?

Perhaps Osama is faking his own death to eliminate himself as a target, or to prepare for some secret plot against another nation?

That is plausible, though fantastic. That wouldn’t be inconsistent with regards to the nature of the Taliban, though; this faction has been known to conduct its affairs in such a manner.

Still, if that were the case, why now, at this specific point in time?

So I ask again: are we in a more promising, advantageous position now or are we worse off?

Only time will tell.

One thing’s for sure: Whether or not Osama bin Laden is actually dead, the conflict between the free world and al-Queda is far from over.


PERSONAL NOTE: These are merely my thoughts on the issue. I haven’t yet read the various articles, though I plan to do so soon. The myriad of points made above, in my perception, form the gist of the issue at hand. After conducting further reading on the subject, I will follow up with [likely] corrections and additional thoughts. If anyone has anything further to add, please feel free, only please be respectful of others. Antagonism, name-calling, verbal attacks and the like will NOT be tolerated, nor will they be published. Thank you.

May 9, 2011 Posted by | Cultural or Traditional Practices, Current Events | 1 Comment

St. Patrick’s Day: Erin Go Bragh

That special time is fast approaching again, the time when we all don green (whether we are of the actual heritage or not), clip on those three-leaf clovers, the derby shades and go drink a pint (also in green), and, if we’re lucky take part in a parade. Are you ready?

The interesting thing about St. Patrick’s Day (or St. Paddy’s Day, as known informally) attracts and involves people from all over the world, whether actually of Irish descent or not. It has become respected not only for its cultural heritage, but its grand colorful display as well, much like Christmas and New Year. This endearing and rambunctious holiday is even celebrated in South America and as far away as the orient (a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Japan? One cannot help but wonder what THAT must be like). This touch of the Gaelic culture and its traditions apparently has no bounds.

As for the famous parade, which draws millions of people every single year, this event has manifested in a variety of forms since the nineteenth century, and not only in Ireland; such pastimes have taken root in one form or another in New Zealand, England, Canada, Argentina, Japan, Korea, Australia, Montserrat, and, of course, the United States, where the greatest number of parades is traditionally conducted in a single country, from New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in the northeast; to as far as Savannah, Georgia and Tallahassee, Florida in the Southeast; to Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and San Francisco in the Midwest and far west. The parade has become a staple of cultural celebrations throughout the entire region of North America; the United States and Canada would not be alive without it.

But how did this holiday come to be? you may ask. Believe it or not, the holiday’s antiquated roots extend back to a point before the middle ages and during the spread of Christianity.

Interesting enough, Saint Patrick wasn’t even of Irish descent; he was born to an affluent Roman-British family in the 4th century, during which time the Roman Empire had authoritative control over Europe. At 16, Patrick was absconded into slavery and believed to have been taken to some still-unspecified place in western Ireland where he learned first hand the toils and struggles through which many there had been living. He was supposedly directed by God to escape his captors and flee back to Great Britain. He did so successfully and joined the Auxerre in Gaul (modern-day France) where he eventually became a Catholic priest. Ironically, his calling drew him back to Ireland where his teachings introduced the Irish to Christianity. In this sense, Patrick saved the country and led its people into a richer and more promising light. Despite the many other more successful missions there, he was held in most esteem, most likely for his passion and dedication to both the Catholic Church and to the people of Ireland. For this reason, he has come to be Ireland’s Patron Saint and champion of Irish Christianity.

The three-leafed clover, or shamrock, served several significant purposes in the evolution of the holiday. First, this was the means of how Patrick instilled the concept of the Holy Divine Trinity (three separate leaves yet one clover). Secondly, the shamrock became one of Ireland’s holy symbols (it is in the corner of the St. Patrick’s Day flag). Lastly, sometime during the early-seventeenth century, the color of the shamrock changed the holiday’s official color from blue to green when the phrase “wear green” took hold and referred to the tradition whereby all celebrants were to wear a shamrock somewhere on their person. Even today, those celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, whether Irish or not, wear green clothes and a shamrock to boost the level of religious and cultural significance inherent in the holiday.

So if one is planning on attending at parades or pub celebrations this year, no matter one’s true heritage, one should not forget to don something green—including the might shamrock—and drink a pint or two of ale (preferably green. On the other hand ALL ale will likely be green on St. Patrick’s Day), and, perhaps, say a prayer or two out of respect, spiritual recognition, and thanks and appreciation for St. Patrick and his commitment to a people and his faith. He is deemed one of history’s universal heroes for his diligence and his sacrifices.

Erin Go Bragh!

January 31, 2011 Posted by | Cultural or Traditional Practices, Seasonal Events, Tributes | Leave a comment

Old Traditions Still Live Well

Since it is that time of the year again, I thought this would be apropos. Let’s remember the past fondly at this time and appreciate the traditions that have brought us here. Although times have changed, those old traditions continue to live on within us.

Riu Chiu is a traditional Old Spanish Christmas song from the 16th century. For those of you who know Spanish, this will be an interesting novelty; those who don’t will find it a challenge. No worries, though, as I provide a translation.

Anyone curious about hearing this song will find a variety of recordings available and accessible throughout the Web. However, one of the most current and easily retrievable is in the realm of Pop culture. Believe it or not, The Monkees performed the first two verses (in Spanish) a Capella (without background accompaniment) at the close of their second-season Christmas show (broadcast date: 25 December, 1967). This is/was an interesting context to feature such a song, and it fit in just well. Such traditions have no limit as to the extent of their influence.



Riu, riu chiu
La guarda ribera
Dios Guardo’ el lobo de nuestra cordera
Dios guardo’ el lobo de nuestra cordera

El lobo rabioso la quiso morder
Mas Dios Poderoso la supo defender
Quisola hacer que no pudiese pecar
Ni aun original esta virgen no tuviera


Este que nacido es El Gran Monarca
Cristo Patriarca de carne vestido
Hemos redemido con se hacer chiquito
Aunque era infinito, finito se hiziera


Muchas profecias lo han profetizado,
Y aun en nuestros dias lo hemos alcancado.
A Dios humanado vemos en el suelo
Y al hombre en el cielo porqu’er le quisiera.


Yo vi mil Garzas que andavan cantando,
Por aqui volando, haciendo mil voces,
Deciendo con fuerza “Gloria sea en el cielo!”
Y paz en el suelo qu’es Jesus nacido.


Este viene a dar a los muertos vida
Y viene a reparar de todos la caida;
Es la luz del dia acueste mocuelo;
Este es el cordero que San Juan dijera.


Pues que ya tenemos lo que deseamos,
Todos juntos vamos presentes llevemos;
Todos le daremos nuestra voluntad,
Pues a se igualar con el hombre viniera.

(Refrain 2X)



River roaring river
guard our homes in safety
God has kept the black wolf from Our lamb Our Lady
God has kept the black wolf from Our Lamb Our Lady

Raging mad to bite her, there the rabid wolf did steal,
But our God Almighty defended her with zeal.
Pure He wished to keep her so She could never sin,
That first sin of man never touched the Virgin Sainted.


He who’s now begotten is our mighty Monarch,
Christ, our Holy Father, in human flesh embodied.
He has brought atonement by being born so humble,
Though He is immortal, as mortal was created


Many prophesies told of his coming,
And now in our days have we seen them fulfilled.
God became man, on earth we behold him,
And see man in heaven because he so willed.


A thousand singing herons I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exalting, “Glory be in the heavens,
and peace on Earth, for Jesus has been born.”


He comes to give life to the dead,
He comes to redeem the fall of man;
This child is the light of day,
He is the very lamb Saint John prophesied.


Now we have gotten what we were all desiring,
Go we together to bear him gifts:
Let each give his will to the God who was willing
To come down to Earth man’s equal to be.

(Refrain 2X)

Many of the ideas and motifs in this song, from the Virgin to the black wolf (symbolizing the devil and the temptation to sin, reminiscent of the serpent in the Garden of Eden) to the importance of purity, are still valued throughout the world today and in a variety of different faiths. Whether or not one believes in the literalness of such events, their meanings resonate with thoughtfulness and wisdom that can apply to everyone, namely to live a good, honest life and to be strong enough to defend those things that are important and dear to us.

This an inspirational song, and so I thought I’d share it with everyone. I don’t mean to direct attention to Christianity and ignore other faiths; that’s not my style. I respect all beliefs equally. I chose this particular song for its cultural, linguistic and historical significances, not to mention out of a desire to pay tribute to old traditions and how they have influenced us today.

Happy Holidays and Peace to all!

Disclaimer – As far as I know, this song is not strictly copyrighted, so I felt it safe to post. This song is also around five hundred years old, which infers the 75-year grace/restriction period is obviously expired. Again, no infringement is intended on this particular piece. If I am in error on this point, please let me know and I will gladly acknowledge the copyright owner.

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Cultural or Traditional Practices, Seasonal Events, Tributes | 2 Comments

Being Thankful . . .

Being both gracious and thankful are difficult in a time such as this when many are out of work, wars rage the planet, the safety of the environment is threatened, natural catastrophes sweep across the land and cause death and devastation on nearly a weekly basis. Still, there are many things in life, at this very moment, for which we are all thankful, if we try hard and think about it.

Personally, I have quite a bit in my life for which I am thankful . . .

Last September, I went to visit my sister and her husband in California where I developed serious health problems, namely a virus, which cleared up quickly, a rather enigmatic sense of disorientation and a bleeding ulcer in my upper-stomach.

When I got back home, everything went downhill . . .

My doctor ordered me out of work for approximately four months, during which time my supervisor had to find someone else to fill the spot due to the fact that I had been out of work too long. To make matters worse, the doctor instructed me to see a gastroenterologist immediately regarding my ulcer because it wasn’t healing as it was supposed to do and therefore might have been related to something more serious—even cancer!

That scared the hell out of me!

I didn’t have the money, but I qualified for financial assistance that could do nothing but offer a discount (it was an 80% discount), which helped. However, because I was out of work and was in no shape to write for clients (I am a professional freelance writer, among other things), I had no money coming in and could not even afford to pay that remaining 20% minimum.

Luckily, with what I had left over from my trip to California (which wasn’t very much), I was able to pay for the medical assessment, but not the tests the specialist had urged for me to have done. (I needed to live, after all). I was faced with, on the one hand, the leering medical bills that would eventually come as the result of the hospital exams and, on the other, the persistently burning pain in my chest. After much pondering and deliberation and enduring the growing apprehension over the former, I called and canceled both exams.

I was left with a hole in my chest and an ongoing sense of disorientation, and no way to take care of either one (my doctor had been prescribing medicine, but the ulcer was taking forever to heal and the disorientation persisted). I felt helpless.

About two months ago, I received notice that my beloved Sister–the one whom I had visited in California–actually did contract cancer, but it was breast cancer. I cried at the thought of her pain and losing her. She has been a major influence to me, and I could not bear to live without her in my life.

I was crushed!

So why do I have to be thankful?

Here are a few great reasons: (1) I didn’t have cancer and the disorientation in my head cleared up on its own; (2) I have no medical bills looming over me (and we all know how expensive they can be, right?); (3) I accomplished a substantial amount of writing—a draft for a novel and several short stories—and am focusing on my freelancing again (the lack of a job there for a while provided me time and reinforced my determination on that); (4) I have become closer to my family through all of this, which has reminded me how important I am to a lot of people (for a while, I was sure I wasn’t); (5) my sister has had her double mastectomy and is now gleefully on top of the world, and so am I; (6) I have grown stronger and more insightful through the entire process, which I realize was somehow intended; and (7) I have a deeper appreciation for life. This last one supersedes everything else. Maintaining a positive attitude has kept me going through all of it, and will drive me onward.

So what does each of us have to appreciate in life? Share your stories. They are certainly apropos this time of year, as well as all year ’round.

Start here: I am thankful for . . . .

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Editorial-opinion, Freedom of Speech, Health and Nutrition, Seasonal Events | 2 Comments

Health or Private Interests–Which Is More Important?

A couple of days ago, I read an article in a paper sent to me by a friend. This article covered a recent study conducted through the collaborative efforts of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Iowa State University. What this study found was something very disturbing to any rational [and uncorrupted] mind: Both inspectors and scientists working with the FDA to ensure that food is safe and edible have reported private interest groups stifling their attempts to rectify problems dealing with contaminated food products. As a matter of fact, these unnamed groups have even gone as far as to “influence” legislation associated with agriculture and food processing/distribution. Presumably, their members own stock in the food industry and obviously feel they have a lot to lose through the rejection of certain food products; instead, they want to protect their assets.

What is even more disturbing is that I wasn’t fazed the least bit regarding this; to me, such a story, as appalling as it is, would be considered nothing new.

What does concern me, however, is the collective well being of people living in the United States. Over the past few years, countless individuals have already become sick from E Coli, or have contracted egg-borne Salmonella. Even worse many have died from contaminated food products, such as peanut butter.

Case in point: a scientist’s job was threatened because he was going to report that a dead rat had fallen into the peanut butter vat. Simply put, if he were to say anything, either orally or on paper, he would lose his job—period.

And that wasn’t the only time something like that has happened. Many working for the FDA have been cast into silence for fear of winding up unemployed. In today’s economy, that’s not a very trivial prospect at all.

The legislation mentioned above would legally safeguard the jobs of these inspectors and scientists, or anyone else who would otherwise speak up. The private interest groups attempting to prevent such laws from being enacted want to ensure that those workers who would otherwise file reports don’t. If they were to get their way,these groups would exercise not only their financial power, but the legal freedom to do whatever they want.

That begs the question: Which is more important–human lives or money?

Don’t answer that!

Although, as said, I am not surprised by this kind of thing, it sickens me to the core. At least some of those working on Capitol Hill are not easily swayed and see the actual problem here. Will that be enough, though, to change or stop these intimidation tactics by those who would stuff their bank accounts, even at the expense of other’s lives?

What solutions or suggestions do I have? None, except that laws should be enacted to limit if not total forbid corporate interference. That’s not likely to happen, at least not in the absolute sense, and for obvious reasons. This has likely been going on for a long time.

Before you bite into and swallow your food, be conscious and careful of what you are about to eat. It could kill you.


Anyone wishing to read the article in question can go to: DailyTribune.com, click on the edition for Wednesday, September 29, 2010, and access articles written by Ann Woolner. The title is “FDA Inspectors often Experience Interference from Political, Corporate Interests.”

Happy reading!

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Current Events, Editorial-opinion, Health and Nutrition | 6 Comments

Memory of 9/11 – Wounds Need to Heal for Future Solidarity

My apologies for not getting this out sooner; I was a bit tied up the last few days and couldn’t make it on time. Still, regardless of the particular day, the sentiment is the same as is the importance behind the need to express it.

After the tragedy of 9/11 nine years ago, Americans have been aware of a new reality that they never, in their wildest dreams, suspected would befall them, at least not on their land. It woke them up to the dangers bursting forth throughout the world and reminded them that their country and their lives were not immune to such terrifying devastation. I don’t think they have settled right ever since.

As tragic as it was, however, 9/11 has its positives; it has forced Americans to be less complacent and self-assured. Yes, the death of some 3,000 innocent people should not be shrugged away, nor is it my attitude or intention to do so; but those who survive continue to gain perspective and strength from it and carry on.

But they don’t forget.

Now, Ground Zero is a lasting memorial, not only to those who are gone, but also to the integrity and fortitude of those who live. National pride and simple human respect are essential and beyond compromise.

Not too long ago, a group of Muslims proposed erecting a facility near the site–a center for Islamic congregation, or a mosque. Normally, this would not sound so offensive, but the instant backlash by throngs of non-Islamic Americans set the conflict in motion. What went wrong.

Nothing, except the location.

Yes, Islamic Americans have a right to build on public property or private if they already own it. This point has never been in contention. As a proponent of civil freedoms, I defend every citizen’s right to the extent of what the Constitution claims is entitled for her or him.

But this situation goes deeper than that, straight into the heart of America and its people. Symbolism comes into play here. Even though this mental state never hurt anybody or projected anything beyond simple meaning, the pride and pain American’s feel over the tribute put said symbolism into action so it becomes an actual living and breathing organism and entity involved in the rational thinking that Americans employ with regard to what they feel. Non-Islamic Americans are simply sharing those feelings with the Islamic community.

It’s only been nine years, and wounds suffered by this nation are still raw and fresh. Yes, Americans remember all too well, and anything that threatens that memory, even the placement of a structure, can trigger hostilities, especially if that structure is a mosque.

Is this biased? Perhaps, but rightly so, at least at this point in time. People need to heal, the nation needs to heal, and it will require time–a lot of time.

Obama’s recent proclamation regarding tolerance is a wise one, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With tensions high after the proposal of the Islamic center near Ground Zero, America as a nation must maintain patience and remain calm. Likewise the Muslim community would be advised to show some understanding with regards to why non-Islamics are acting so defensively to this proposal. At a time when they still hurt over their losses, many American citizens are quietly embroiled in their pain and resentment. Obama apparently understands this as well, which is why he found his proclamation necessary to make. If conflicts get too far out-of-hand, wounds will not heal and any relationship America has with the Islamic nation will likely grow worse or disintegrate altogether.

That’s why, even though the mosque’s placement at this point time seems inappropriate in light of the sensitivity radiating through the American consciousness, Obama’s need to permit its construction is ever so crucial for the sake of facilitating the healing process.

The most important perspective is the one that looks into the future and sees a stronger, healthier nation, one as diverse as the one that exists today but embodies a greater degree of cultural enlightenment. Only this way can America and the Middle East establish a solid relationship built on mutual trust, respect and a growing sense of peace.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Cultural or Traditional Practices, Current Events, Editorial-opinion, Tributes | 2 Comments

Mexican Immigration: A Complicated Issue

The Poor and the Desperate

It all started for me back in 1994. As a student and tutor at Michigan State University, I had the opportunity to interact and befriend people from all over the world and to learn from them. One such person was an Italian who had been living and operating two construction businesses in Venezuela, not far from Caracas. Vito was a short, gruff-speaking happy-go-lucky man in his early thirties who had come to the university to enhance his English-speaking skills, and I was lucky to have met him. He spoke and understood English very well—as if he had known the language for some time—but he still had a few issues with slang, colloquialisms and verb usage. I, too, gained some insight into Spanish, which ultimately led me to achieve a minor and go into translation. We were a nice fit and became friends quickly and easily.

During the summer of 1994, upon his prior invitation, I went down to Venezuela to spend two glorious weeks. This would be a vacation of a lifetime for me, and I looked forward to it. He picked me up at the international airport in Caracas, and we were on our way.

While we were driving down the highway that squirreled through and out of the city, I viewed plenty of wondrous features: graffiti-swirled buildings, street vendors offering their vast array of Latin American trinkets, and what I thought were interesting carvings in the sprawling mountainsides. Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed, with some surprise, that these features weren’t carvings at all, but the homes of the poor—shacks made of nothing more that feeble plywood (some rotted severely) with laundry lines strung here and there. Dirt paths led up into this community, which extended for miles and miles—-a sea of huts cluttered together with hardly any walking space for the apparently thousands of people who lived there.

“What’s that?” I asked Vito.

“Los pobres,” he said simply; “the poor people of the country.”

“The poor??” the words got stuck in my throat. “How can they live like that?’

“No tienen nada!” he said with the wave of a hand. “They have nothing!”

As we drove on, I found my attention peeled to the sight, which was all around us, as far as the eye could see. Sometime during this point, I couldn’t help thinking about the people living back in Detroit, those many inner-city families who constantly complained about their ongoing hardships. In comparison, they had absolutely nothing on these people. As a matter of fact, to these people in Latin America, the families in Detroit were rich, and I realized that that was not an exaggeration in any way. The sight I beheld produced a heated gnawing sensation that settled in my chest and in my gut. The sight itself would remain seared in my mind for several years to come.

When I traveled to Mexico City to visit another friend during the summer of 2003, I was shocked to see more of the same: sprawling hills filled with clumped shacks of rotting wood, strung together by rope and flimsy wiring. This phenomenon, apparently, had not been an isolated condition; the poor and downtrodden lived like this throughout the vast region known as Latin America, and that involved millions of people.

In personal reflection, I took count of my own life and I knew that I couldn’t ever live like that. How could anybody? That isn’t living; it’s barely surviving. I knew from witnessing this scene overwrought with hunger and disease-ridden filth that happiness was likely non-existent there, and where despair and the struggle to live thrived together, desperation surged–cold and heavy desperation!

That was understandable. Millions of people were at that time and still are trying to survive day after lousy day, with no end in sight, and they couldn’t do it.

On further research, I learned that employment there did not offer anyone a promising life. In the current time, the average wage for most laborers in Mexican business districts is approximately $5.00 (American equivalent) per day. That’s not much, even for the cost of living in Mexico and farther south.

What the hell can they to do? Go where economic conditions are better. That’s the only thing they can do. They need to eat; they need to pay the never-elusive bills . . . .

Where would that be?

The closest place is America—Los Estados Unidos!

The United States has fallen on hard times as well; the lower-income in this country is barely trying to make ends meet, if that’s even possible. Truth be told, however, if any American were to live in Mexico—or anywhere in Latin America—with only a dime to her/his name, s/he would fair far more worse.

Even now, as I think about it, I understand what Vito once told me when I had considered going back down there to live in such a perfect [weather] climate and what I thought was a lower cost of living: “Well, you better bring a lot of money with you, because you aren’t going make it here.” Today, that comment holds a load of meaning when I read about the constantly rising influx of immigrants from Mexico into the United States.

Immigrants are not intent on overrunning the United States; they are merely and solely human beings who are unable to survive in a country where the government and the affluent will not help them. They desperately need to do what they can how ever they can.

Minimum wage in the United States hardly does justice for those who live here, but it does miracles for those who make less than that as a total day’s pay in Mexico.


Their efforts to survive, however, have placed a burden on the American welfare system and have created a rift between countries. So emotionally and financially reeling has the issue become in the United States that immigration from Mexico has taken on a new name: Intrusion.

Is this title justified or merely biased.

Sadly, both.

‘Intrusion’ has both denotative and connotative negative implications as far as anything goes, but when it comes to immigration, that’s even more so the case. Why? The reasons are many, but they are just as much based on ignorance as they are on truth. As much of a riddle as that sounds, that’s what makes this dilemma both interesting and urgent at the same time.

Mexican immigrants arrive in droves through barricades and over fences where they come into constant contact with irate, stern-faced border patrol. Some are shot and killed due to the rash reactions of the emotionally charged as well as by those intent on doing their duty with calm demeanor. Needless to say that many immigrants resort to sneaking their way into the country. Once inside, thousands of immigrants settle and try to find jobs for a skimpy $4.00 per hour or more (keep in mind that minimum wage is around $8.00) by employers who disregard the law dictating that American businesses are prohibited to hire undocumented aliens. These business owners hire them in order to minimize costs on overhead. Other immigrants give birth to their children who, by constitutional law, legally become citizens and are therefore qualified to collect welfare, which their parents take and maintain as some sort of inheritance that they forward along to help their families and friends struggling back home in Mexico. Such is a relief to so many that would otherwise not have it. It is truly a means to salvation.

Does this sound like a mixed up scenario? Yes, and tricky, too. Why? This situation involves positives and negatives on both sides.

The immigrants whose children are born here thrive on a technicality: that which is one of our single most important laws, drawn from the Constitution: anyone whosoever born on American soil/territory is a citizen of the United States and has rights according to the laws of the United States. The parents, however, are not, but they easily receive benefits for which many citizens are commonly denied. Is this right? According to the laws of the United States it is because of the rights of the newborn youth. The problem comes in with regards to the parents (and other family members) who are not citizens. This is the gist: provide the benefits, and the infant’s rights are recognized; refuse to the undocumented family, and the infant’s rights are violated. It’s a double-edged sword.

Is this the fault of the immigrants?

No, the conflict falls on the part of the United States law, which, by its nature, created the problem in the first place. Why, then, are the immigrants being blamed for it?

Good question.

True, the immigrants take advantage of a loophole in the law. Still, they do it to better their lives in one of the only ways they can at this point in time. Don’t blame them for being smart enough to exploit such a loophole (anyone would do the same thing, especially if s/he knew it would make her/his life easier); address the law that fostered it in the first place.

In other words: the United States is shooting at the wrong target.

The Immigrants, therefore, are not the enemy, if an enemy even exists in the scheme of the overall schism that has caused a spike of bitterness and hatred to be thrust between two groups of people. The overwhelming sense of emotions shared by everyone on both sides is that which brought that spike down in the first place, not rational thinking.

Is that due to ethnocentrism? In some cases, that is the case. Mostly, though, I think it has to do with the fact that everyone involved—Mexicans and Americans—is in the same boat and, ironically, understands the others. Each person is trying to survive from day to day, and the resources available have become so precious to everyone. That shared struggle is likely to cause tension.

What about the claim of citizen’s rights over non-citizens? Yes, that, too, is a viable argument, as citizens should have first consideration over non-citizens. The newborns are considered before their parents, so the law is working as designed. Still, how do these newborns obtain and utilize their benefits without the help of their parents who cannot return to Mexico and leave their American-citizen offspring behind? They cannot, so the benefits of the children, in effect, go to hundreds of non-citizens as well. Hence: the problem. That’s the law, not immigration.

Let’s be honest, though: If everyone in the United States were doing well and didn’t need to rely on welfare, would anyone really care if Mexican Immigrants partook of the assistance of the American legal system? Probably not, and citizens would be more than likely apt to extend a helping hand to those in need—human beings helping human beings!

That’s one clue that tells us that the laws that are in place now are the real source of the problem. The good thing is that people have started to notice that.

The Case with Arizona

One senator has drawn up a proposal to change the law that he realizes has caused the problem with regards to infant citizenship. This proposal suggests that Mexican infants born in this country should not be recognized as citizens, especially when both its parents are not. If this bill is made into law, the welfare programs involved will not be available to any undocumented immigrants.

But wait a minute! Why should the infant have to lose out on that? The infant is not the one at fault either. This also betrays the Constitution.

The senator in question is disregarding one of the United States’ most fundamental and sacred documents—the Constitution—in an attempt to create a law intending to send all of those immigrants back home to Mexico where they will fall back into their once-sorry and near-meaningless existence.

What is wrong with this picture?

The senator has the right target (the existing laws), but the wrong reasoning, and this is liable to make the situation even worse. One can even say that the senator continues to target the immigrants, who, as said, aren’t at fault. One must employ the right reasoning in order to find the right target; both must be clear and in sync for a plan to work.

Another bill, which was signed into law by the governor of Arizona on Friday, 23 July, 2010, permits the regulation of immigration by requiring all immigrants to have their immigration papers handy or they will be arrested and/or deported. This means that anyone in Arizona can be stopped and scrutinized if there is a suspicion that that person is an immigrant. The law, in essence, singles out Latin Americans simply because they are Latin American. This is synonymous with racial and ethnic profiling and is therefore unconstitutional, so it is no surprise that the law continues to come under fire by a number of politicians and activists who threaten boycotting the state. One is the city of San Francisco.

Enter: The United States government. President Obama filed a suit against the state of Arizona for its attempt to change federal law, which the latter does not have the legal authority to do. See, the situation is growing more complicated already, adding to the mix the conflict between one authority and another.

The constitution, as authority, was already in place. President Obama’s suit against the state government of Arizona served primarily to address the issue of authority, but its principle was based on the premise that the Constitution should not be tampered with in any way. The president foresaw the danger involved and stepped in to stop it.

Yes, the law should be addressed, but not at the expense of changing the Constitution, which is the crux of our identity as a nation. That’s like saying: “Oh, the Mexican Immigrants are exploiting our welfare programs, so we have to change who we are in order to drive them out.” If that happens, everybody loses.

Suggestions . . .

The answers, I think, lie in creating new programs that are consistent with constitutional laws. This way, the United States government and its correlative systems can provide some assistance to the immigrants without threatening national identity or violating the constitution. Programs have been initiated before to accommodate particular groups, so why not in this case?

Recently, new stipulations have been developed to allow some immigrants the chance for quick citizenship: apply to a school or join the military. These two are a nice beginning, as they offer immigrants a means to a desired end and with an option that denotes choice.

Along with the above innovations, perhaps separate programs can be developed for these immigrants, just as previous programs had been in the nineteenth century to address the issue with slaves/African Americans. These programs can provide assistance to these individuals without cutting into already-existing welfare programs. Perhaps these programs can be financed by means of a fund reserved for immigrants and/or minorities. I know that such a fund exists, so it is feasible.

Additional ideas revolve around laws requiring undocumented immigrants’ permission to acquire employment in the United States, but only under certain restrictions and conditions. For example, one of these sanctions would be a time limit of, say, five years before the immigrants either become citizens or return home to Mexico. This would allow immigrants an opportunity to satisfy their intended objectives(s) for coming to the United States in the first place (i.e. [1] to make money, which would be limited to a certain amount per year, and/or [2] to become citizens), and to accomplish said objectives within the terms of constitutional law.

These suggestions are not detailed, but they do provide the basics on which new actions can be implemented. Any feasible solution would have to come about by way of laws and programs devised to both help and limit immigrants without undermining, denying or disadvantaging citizens’ rights. This way, no one is short-changed and illegalities are minimized if not eliminated altogether.

July 28, 2010 Posted by | Cultural or Traditional Practices, Current Events | 1 Comment

Slap in the Facebook: A Rude Awakening

Quit-Facebook Day

It’s amazing how many people continue to blame others for their own mistakes: “I thought Facebook would completely protect me. Now I find that the site isn’t perfect and the personal information in my profile is at risk of being exploited. That’s your fault Facebook!”

Actually, it’s not.

This is the simple 411 regarding Facebook: It isn’t perfect. No social networking site is. You should have known that when you considered posting your profile. There is always a risk; that’s the nature of online profiling anywhere. What did you expect, that those running Facebook would dedicate their lives to protect you and your precious personal information? I have news for you: It’s not Facebook’s obligation or responsibility to watch over YOUR personal domain.

“Oh yeah!” you would say, “then whose is it?”

Hmmm, now let’s think for a moment. Whose responsibility would that normally be to protect YOUR personal domain? How many parties are involved in the maintenance of YOUR personal domain? Two? Three? If Facebook isn’t accountable, who else is involved? Your friends? Your parents? You siblings? Well, why would/should they be? Is it their personal domain? No, not really. Besides, they wouldn’t/shouldn’t have YOUR access codes (i.e. sign-in/password) to perform maintenance on your private domain anyway. So, who else can do that? Who else can take responsibility for YOUR privacy? Hmmm, that’s a tough one, isn’t it?

Well, this is a shot in the dark, but what about . . . you?

Yes, you!

“But when it first started, Facebook ‘assured’ the public that it would protect all of my personal information and make certain that no intrusions would or could ever happen.”

As far as I know, Facebook never made that claim, so why should anyone believe it? Even if those running the site had inferred that, it is unrealistic. Total protection on the Internet is a fallacy, a myth, a misconception, a non sequitur as far as the nature of the Internet goes, especially when one considers past online behavior and the persistence of long-known risks and related dangers. Those on the Facebook staff know this, and you should, too.

Facebook is just like any other social networking site: It constantly promotes itself and employs strategies to draw the hits. Just like MySpace and YouTube, the site’s rating is contingent on how many surfers visit the site on a daily basis (I should know because I have had experience running sites and serving on the staff of various others); the greater number of hits, the greater SEO level the site acquires. Facebook is a business trying to incur a profit, not take on the role of your guardian or protector.

However, when it comes to Facebook’s ongoing development regarding the technological innovations designed to facilitate your experience on the site, the staff is trying, but it never guarantees that you are or will be completely safe. Going in blind and hopeful will only hurt you; you must be self-sufficient and ensure the protection of your personal space.

Here is a simple solution: If you don’t want people to gain access to personal information—don’t post that information in the first place! Save that for private emails, and don’t invite or accept an invitation from someone you don’t know. No one is twisting your arm.

By the way, no matter where you post, no matter what you do, if someone wants to gain access to your information, s/he will find away, through the instrument of your assistance or not. Spyware runs rampant for just that reason.

“This is simple, common knowledge,” some of you might say. “Why are you posting this? It isn’t necessary.”

Obviously, it is, since so many you seem oblivious to it and are complaining with the threat of leaving Facebook because it wasn’t as “perfect” as you had hoped it would be. Yet I still cannot help but wonder why you behave this way, since it is simple, everyday common sense.

“Well, the site appeared promising when it first came out,” you’d say. “We just couldn’t resist.”

Mmm, of course. That was excellent marketing on the par of Zuck and his people to ensure the venture would be a successful one. It worked—in a matter of months, a countless number of people signed up and opened profiles. Facebook is worth millions, and Zuck is now one of the richest people in the United States. He obviously was doing something right.

“But problems are occurring on his site,” you’d likely persist. “That’s not right.”

Perhaps, but that’s just the way it is. Don’t blame him for a system that you should have known was imperfect in the first place. Protect yourself! Facebook’s staff is is constantly upgrading its system, but you should never assume that such a system is fool-proof.”

“I heard that staff members there have been selling personal information. That’s just wrong!”

You’re right, it is. If the rumor is true, perhaps you should have been aware of it before signing up on the site; if it isn’t, forget about it. You should do further research on the staff to determine what is and what isn’t factual. After all, that’s what it means to be a responsible consumer. Know the facts before reacting. If the claim turns out to be true, collect evidence and take action, not before. Remember: A pattern of past offenses alone does not constitute evidence of a possible similar affront against you.

Also, this is an excellent example as to why one should not post private information on an online profile. The selling of a person’s personal information is not exactly a new phenomenon. Those conducting business prioritize money over everything else. As I said before: they are not here to protect you, only provide you an ongoing service.

In the meantime—and this cannot be stressed too often—remove everything you don’t want certain people to see and/or know. That’s just common sense.

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Current Events, Editorial-opinion | 3 Comments

Tribute to a Legend: Titanic Memoriam

To those whose aren’t aware today is a very special, if solemn, day. Ninety-eight years ago, a famous ship sailed off and made history, although not as those on board or anyone else at the time would ever have expected.

Here’s the basic story . . .

On Wednesday, April 10, 1912, the Royal Mail Steamer (RMS) Titanic, the second of three to be produced and launched, departed from the docks in South Hampton, England. She was loaded with cargo that included a brand new Renault and over 2200 people, including crew. The time was 12 noon, and the destination was New York.

The trip went along light and carefree, if a bit nippy with the north Atlantic winds sweeping overhead. The amenities on board rivaled the grandest hotels of Europe with elegance and opulent majesty (that said because she was known to have been the largest ship in the world at that time, slightly larger than her sister ship Olympic, which had been sailing at least two years by this time). The facilities included a racquetball court, swimming pool, Turkish bath, an onboard restaurant and Cafe Parisien for the younger crowd. The ship’s most wondrous showpiece, of course, was its grand staircase (the ship actually had two—one situated between the first and second funnels, the other just aft of the third). Wireless communication and elevators (also called ‘lifts’) made traveling a convenience as well. An eight-piece orchestra rounded off the ensemble of attractions with strings and piano, led by Wallace Hartley, who was all too happy to play for the passengers.

On Sunday, 14 April, the wireless operators (there were two, John Phillips and Harold Bride) received a number of ice warnings from ships in proximity. Of these, only a few reached the bridge, were briefly discussed and subsequently posted in the chartroom. One, in fact, was lightheartedly distributed among a few of the prominent passengers by White Star Chairman J. Bruce Ismay, who was sailing along with Chief Architect Thomas Andrews to “iron out the kinks” in the ship’s performance. The fact that none of these messages raised the necessary concern sealed the ship’s fate. At 11:40 p.m. that evening (ship’s time), during First Officer Murdock’s watch, the Titanic scraped an iceberg, which simultaneously and quite effectively punctured a series of holes in her starboard bow. One of the largest of these holes was 12 square feet—the size of an average adult human being.

Seawater began pouring in. The post office, on F- and G-Decks in the starboard bow, caught the brunt of it. Very few of the crew from this section, if any, would live to tell about it.

The ship came to a stop and Sixth Officer James Moody called for Captain Smith’s presence on the bridge. A small team, which included Thomas Andrews (who had felt the shaking caused by the impact), was dispatched below to assess the damage, but the final word came back: The ship was doomed.

“How long does she have?” the captain inquired to Andrews.

“I should say an hour, maybe two,” Andrews replied.

“How many people on board?” the captain then asked.

“Twenty-two hundred souls on board, sir,” someone answered just as succinctly.

The captain did the math in his head, and it didn’t take him long to come to the chilling conclusion: the ship had twenty life boats, enough space to hold a little more than half on board with each boat filled to capacity; their position was on the Atlantic Ocean, about one hundred and fifty miles from New York; and no other ships were in sight. The situation appeared grim.

The order went out to fire rockets. Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall and QM George Rowe (both of whom would survive) immediately set out to do it, eight in all. No one answered.

John Phillips continuously sent S.O.S. via wireless (even though CQD was the standard at that time —Titanic was one of the first to ever use S.O.S.) and never stopped until he and Bride were to flee the flooding wireless office later on that night.

Both efforts together—rockets and S.O.S.—were not enough. The most promising prospect for Phillips, however, was the Carpathia, but she was four hours away.

Throughout the night, several boats were loaded and launched half full. Almost fifteen hundred people were left on board, hoping for help to arrive.

It never did, at least not in time to prevent the significant toll in lives lost.

The ship took on a list, shifting to port, to starboard, and then to port again. As the bow dipped under the surface of the water, those left onboard receded further and further aft, toward the gradually rising stern. Some jumped into the water from the boat deck and A-Deck and made it to lifeboats waiting nearby; others drowned right away.

Around 2 a.m. in the morning on Monday, 15 April, the ship took on a more frightening angle. Hysteria raged. Only two collapsibles—A and B—remained, and those hundreds still on the boat deck were determined to get a seat in one.

Chief Officer Henry Wilde retrieved pistols to keep order, hoping never to have to use them. Several shots pierced the night air. Some passengers lay dead on the boat deck. Screaming rang out. All was lost, and most of those there knew it—including the captain.

“Every man for himself!” he finally issued through his bullhorn. “Everyman for himself!”

What little sense of order being maintained finally collapsed. One officer, it has been claimed, shot himself, though no one knows for certain. The boat deck slipped under water. Everyone either ran or held on for dear life. The collapsibles floated off the boatdeck as it went under. Seventeen-year-old Jack Thayer dove over the side (his companion, Milton Long, slipped down the side and was never seen again) while First Class passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie gripped the railing of one structure at the base of funnel number two and was washed clear as the ship went under. Second Officer Charles Lightoller, who had been struggling with Collapsible A, went under, was sucked against a vent, but eventually made it to upturned Collapsible B. All three would be among the few to survive the night.

The stern was swarming with crying people—pulling, kicking, and scratching at each other to acquire the uppermost vantage point, as if that would make a difference.

Suddenly, a deathly boom reverberated over the ocean. The ship broke in two, although in reality a part of it crumbled away just after of the third funnel (the aft-grand staircase lay in the center of this portion). The bow detached and headed for the bottom while the stern began filling quickly with water. In a matter of minutes, the stern assumed a nearly vertical position, pointing, like a finger, to the night sky. It, too, sank, leaving hundreds to scream and flail helplessly in the water. The time was 2:30 a.m.

Twenty boats floated nearby, and only one went back for those in the water—Lifeboat 14, manned by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Out of the approximately 1500 people struggling to survive, he and his volunteers saved only four (some accounts say six, but the jury is still out and nothing can be confirmed with absolute certainty regarding this total, only that the correct number was under ten).

The majority of the people from the Titanic who perished did not do so by drowning—they froze to death.

The water was 28 degrees.

The twenty boats bobbed along until morning when the Carpathia, commanded by Arthur Rostron, sailed at full speed into the site and pulled the survivors aboard.

Over the next few months, a number of ships were dispatched to search for possible survivors, but there were none. The bodies of 328 lost were eventually discovered, among them the famous John Jacob Astor and Wallace Hartley. A few remains were so horribly mangled that those who gazed upon them likely had nightmares for some time.

This day marks the anniversary of that terrible tragedy, and no survivor remains alive now. Please remember and pay honor and respect to those who survived as well as to the 1,496 souls who perished on that cold, cold night.

I will.

For more information on Titanic and her story, please visit Encyclopedia Titanica. This is one of the largest, most comprehensive and authoritative sources for the Titanic on the Internet.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | Tributes | 2 Comments