Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category
Even though I’m a sports fan, I rarely watch the ESPY Awards. But I made a point of it this evening, as I knew Caitlyn Jenner would receive an award for courage (the Arthur Ashe Award, to be exact).
Some have given Jenner a very hard time since she came out as transgender months ago. This mostly is because of two things: One, the former Bruce Jenner has been a high-profile athlete and media personality since he won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon in 1976. And two, Jenner was married to Kris Jenner — matriarch of the Kardashian clan — for quite some time. (They are now apparently on the road to divorce and seem to be living separate lives.)
I said months ago when then-Bruce Jenner admitted that he saw himself as “she” that many people were missing the point. Whether Jenner is outwardly male or female, the soul inside is still the same. And we need to start understanding that people are a diverse bunch, and stop condemning people for being different.
I know, I know. Most people don’t condemn people. (Thank goodness.) It’s only a vocal minority that does. But as Jenner said tonight at her ESPY Award speech (my best paraphrase), she can handle criticism. But the young transgender children out there cannot…they are being bullied, shunned, and treated worse than their peers for the simple fact that they carry more of their differences on the outside.
I wrote about Leelah Alcorn a while back, too. She was a young girl who had a family that totally did not understand her, and parents who were so rigid, they only would refer to her by her birth name of Joshua. Not by the name she knew herself as, Leelah.
The Alcorns did everything they could after their child’s suicide to show that “Joshua” was a normal boy in interviews. They also said they “didn’t believe in that” when any reporter tried talking to them about their biological son’s transgender identity. And they made the funeral service private, kept away Leelah’s closest friends, and took down Leelah’s final note asking for acceptance and tolerance for others (as they had that right, ’cause Leelah was underage).
So I am certain that Caitlyn Jenner understands what’s at stake for transgender youth.
I’m also certain that Jenner understands just how important it is for the entire LGBT community to have positive role models.
Much is made of what Jenner wears nowadays — the hair, the clothes, the shoes, the makeup, etc. And I understand why. The Kardashian clan is widely followed; they are famous for being famous, the lot of them, and the paparazzi cannot help themselves whenever any of them are around. (Why that is, I haven’t the foggiest. But it is undeniably true.)
But I would rather there was more focus on what Caitlyn Jenner is saying rather than what she wears, who she goes out with, whether her divorce is in train or whether or not her family agrees with her decision to be open about her new life as a woman.
What Jenner said tonight about acceptance, about trangender people needing to be respected, was vital. So if you haven’t seen her ESPY speech yet, you really should seek it out. (If you need a quick read, check out this one from Yahoo Celebrity.)
I’m very glad that someone has finally said what needed to be said, though if you’d have asked me a year ago, the last person I thought would ever say it would be Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner.
Please read these words, ponder them, and then ask yourself this question:
What can I do today to be more tolerant, more accepting, and more nurturing?
Folks, I just watched the documentary on Glen Campbell’s life, I’ll Be Me. And I need to talk about this, because what Glen Campbell is going through is important.
You see, Campbell has Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed in 2011 at the age of 75.
But rather than quietly go into a nursing home, he, his family, and his doctors agreed that Campbell’s music was still with him. So they decided on one, final tour…with I’ll Be Me recording every step of that tour, along with the decline in Campbell’s memories and mentation.
Bluntly, to do something like this with what remains of your mind and talent is extraordinary. It shows fearlessness, a bit of humility, and maybe even compassion for the self, while it also showcases glimpses of still-brilliant musicianship and excellent vocal control.
Campbell in some senses was very fortunate, you see. He didn’t lose his vocal quality in his age — at least, he didn’t lose much. (Some smoothness, maybe. But it’s recognizably the same voice and he still has much the same range in I’ll Be Me.) He was always an excellent musician, and knew exactly how to sing his songs…and that’s still there, up until his final song, “I’m Not Going to Miss You.”
As a musician myself, I don’t know if I could do what Campbell did. I don’t think I could’ve walked on stage and not known if I could play my clarinet or my saxophone as well as I wanted. (Much less what the clarinet or saxophone even was until I started playing.) I don’t think I could’ve risked going on stage and not knowing what the songs were, or losing track of the music as I went…I think it would’ve been too difficult to even contemplate.
Yet Campbell could still play his guitar at times with a fire and passion that was astonishing.
The last thing that went for him was his music. It was imprinted on his brain and soul in such a way that while he started to lose language, he could still sing — and sing with feeling.
His youngest three children joined him on that tour, as did his wife. They all did their best to support their father, and helped to create some magical memories for not only themselves and their family, but for the concertgoers as well.
I’ll Be Me is both a heartwarming story of courage and redemption along with extraordinary musicianship, and a heartbreaking story as Campbell starts to fumble and lose control of his final gift.
I was very moved by I’ll Be Me. And I hope that this movie, now that it’s been shown on CNN, will somehow help to spur research into Alzheimer’s disease.
Because not everyone will be as lucky as Glen Campbell, and still be able to make beautiful music into the twilight of his life, nor will they be as fortunate to have an understanding and empathetic family around them.
We need to find a cure for this terrible disease. So our musicians, like Glen Campbell, can keep doing what they love until the day they die — rather than be placed in an extended-care memory facility (as Campbell apparently now is, no doubt because that’s where he needs to be).
Folks, I’m a very proud American today.
The United States Supreme Court said today that same-sex (LGBT) couples can legally marry anywhere in the United States. And that their marriages should be recognized — wait for it — in all 50 states (and the various U.S. possessions, like Guam and Puerto Rico).
This is a win for marriage equality advocates everywhere, yes. But to be honest, it’s also a win for honest fairness.
Look. I got married in Illinois, years ago. But when I moved to California, then to Iowa, no one cared where my marriage had been performed because my husband and I were not a LGBT couple.
Yet if a same-sex couple had married in California, and then moved to Michigan, say, that same-sex couple’s marriage wouldn’t have been recognized in Michigan. Until today.
And you know that’s not right.
Personally, I’m glad that Anthony Kennedy sided with the four liberal justices of the Supreme Court on this one. Because what was going on just wasn’t fair; it was discriminatory toward LGBT couples, and there was no excuse for it.
If you can excuse an anecdote here — my late husband Michael and I wondered, not long before he died, when the United States would recognize that LGBT weddings were just like any other weddings. We both thought, back in 2004, that it would probably take at least fifty years for the country to understand that LGBT people are just like anyone else, and deserve the same rights and privileges afforded to us as a more “traditional” male-female marriage.
And now, finally, that day has come.
(Boy, am I glad to be wrong on this one!)
We mere mortals often misunderstand sports stars.
We can’t help it. Their lives of money and fame seem glamorous in the extreme. They can fly anywhere they want in the off-season, and seemingly don’t bat an eye. They can drop hundreds of thousands of dollars in Las Vegas in a night, and walk away unscathed.
No mere mortal can understand that.
Yet there’s a more human side to these stars. They have hopes and dreams just like anyone else. They want to please their parents, just as most people do…and they want to do something special, something no one else expects them to do, just like everyone else.
In 1993, basketball star Michael Jordan seemingly had the world at his feet. His Chicago Bulls team had just won three NBA titles in a row. He was the best player in the NBA. And he’d just celebrated his enormous success with his teammates and his father, James Jordan.
Then his father James was murdered.
This threw Michael Jordan into a tailspin. He loved his father. Loved him without reservation. And without his father, life did not seem to have much savor.
All of this was chronicled at the time, mind. Michael Jordan’s relationship with his father was very well-known. And Michael Jordan’s grief was open and palpable — a wound that would not heal.
Then Michael Jordan did something completely unprecedented. In his prime, he walked away from the NBA — and became, of all things, a minor league baseball player. The Chicago White Sox organization signed Jordan, and assigned him to play in Double-A for the Birmingham Barons.
The conventional narrative was that Michael Jordan had completely lost his head. Why would anyone want to walk away from fame and glory, and put up with the indignity of striking out several times a night, much less having to ride a bus everywhere he needed to go rather than taking short plane rides on luxury jetliners?
The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Jordan Rides the Bus discusses this time in Jordan’s life. It makes the case that Jordan’s odyssey in the minor leagues has been completely and totally misunderstood.
You see, at the time, sportswriters tended to believe that it was either all about Michael Jordan’s ego — the best basketball player in the world believing he could be just as good at baseball despite not playing it since high school — or that maybe Jordan had such a big gambling problem, then-NBA commissioner David Stern had unofficially given Jordan an ultimatum to stay away from the game for a year.
But neither of those things was true.
Jordan was grieving. He loved his father. And his father had asked him, apparently more than once, if he’d go play baseball again. His father must’ve remembered games Jordan played in high school, and believed that as an athlete, Jordan could compete at the highest level in any sport Jordan wanted to play.
But baseball is a game of timing. Repetition. Day after grinding day of hard work will lead to results, yes…but you have to be willing to put in that hard work.
The conventional wisdom was that Michael Jordan would not do that. He was a mega-star. So why should he?
Yet Jordan Rides the Bus disproves that theory, too. Michael Jordan actually worked hard every day, and improved so much that in the fall of 1994, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League — where the most talented prospects get sent — in order to keep working on his swing.
I also learned several other things about Michael Jordan from Jordan Rides the Bus that I’d sensed, but had never before been explained.
You see, even before James Jordan died, Michael Jordan had become burned out by the game of basketball. This may seem very strange to us mere mortals, but ask yourself this: Have you ever been burned out by something you love?
Then ask yourself this question: What would you do if you’d just lost the person you loved most in the world?
What Michael Jordan did is a testament to hope and faith. He somehow believed, deep inside, that trying something new was necessary, perhaps in order to help himself heal from the deep wounds inflicted by his father’s murder. He had to know that he’d not succeed immediately, and that perhaps he’d not succeed at all.
But he did it anyway.
He put up with the jeers from the sportswriters, who didn’t understand. He put up with the multitude of fans, some of whom assuredly asked him, “Why don’t you go back and play with the Bulls? You’re so good…why do this?” (And some, I’m sure, were not nearly that polite about it.) He put up with the difficulties of the minor leagues — the lousy hotels, the bad food, the long bus rides, the poor lighting of the ballparks.
And he did so with class and grace.
This was possibly the worst time in Michael Jordan’s life. So to embrace change, and turn it into something hopeful and optimistic, is a story worth telling.
Ultimately, Jordan did not become a major league baseball player. Instead, he went back to the Chicago Bulls and led them to three more championships. He resumed his place as the best player in the NBA.
But his coach, Phil Jackson, said that Jordan’s odyssey in baseball’s minor leagues made him “a better teammate,” and also quite possibly a better person. It reminded Jordan of how hard it was to become a professional athlete — something Jordan hadn’t thought about in a long time — and how much he’d taken for granted.
Hope. And faith.
Those two things can take you very far indeed, albeit not perhaps everywhere you want to go.
Even if you’re Michael Jordan.