Two More Books Coming Down the Pike, Political Elixir and Notes from Copa. Enjoy a Couple of Chapters from Political Elixir.

  Political Elixir

by John Trotter

© Big Daddy Publishers, 2016

 

 Lion-Small

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     John Trotter is a lawyer, historian, and educator by training. He graduated summa cum laude in History at Columbus State University, earned a Masters of Arts and a Doctor of Education at the University of Georgia, and earned a Juris Doctorate at Mercer University Law School. Through the years, Dr. Trotter earned a living as an educator and as a businessman. He founded the Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), a for-profit teachers union 21 years ago in Georgia, establishing it as the most feared advocacy group for teachers in Georgia. In 2014, Dr. Trotter, along with co-author Norreese L. Haynes, published The MACE Manifesto: The Politically Incorrect, Irreverent, and Scatological Examination of What is Wrong with American Public Education, a more than 600 page tome on issues in public education that most politicians and educrats are afraid to touch. Dr. Trotter has three children in the U. S. and has a wife and a step-son in Brazil where he lives part of the year.

 

Political Elixir is John Trotter’s poignant story of politics told within the textured fabric of the American South as woven by threads of race, sex, class, power, hate, love, hope, and redemption. Trotter’s story is deftly crafted with the nuanced images which can only be created by a literary artist who has experienced such scenes up close.

 

“This is a damn good novel!” – J. B. Stanley

“I couldn’t put it down!” – Norreese Haynes

“This novel is a page-turner!” – Sharlene Gipson

“This masterpiece of story-telling is destined to be a number one political novel for any time period, location, or culture. It ought to be in the library of anyone interested in politics and culture.” – James (Gunny) Yawn

 

PREFACE

     This contemporary political novel is rooted in Jackson, Mississippi; Atlanta, Georgia; Salvador, Brazil; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: and Washington, D. C. Southerners are uniquely concerned about roots – where you are from and where happenings took place. We Southerners are more place-bound than any other Americans. We want to know your background and who your parents are.

This is the story of how class, race, sex, hate, power, love, hope, and redemption are interwoven in life. The backdrop of the story is two near octogenarian white men who are enormously wealthy and fathered two sons by two Negro maids who worked in their respective homes. These two men, who were close friends since their glory days at Ole Miss University and the University of Georgia Law School, are scions of huge family wealth. One knew from the beginning that he had sired a little colored boy. The other found out very suddenly many years later. Both men have big dreams for their mixed-race sons, their African American sons.

This is the story of how all of their lives intersected and formed a powerful bond.   A story of redemption, born of mistrust and doubt. The near aborted relationships remained intact, though sometimes dangling by the proverbial threads. The bonds of family and brotherhood prevail.

This novel is quintessentially a Southern political novel with a contemporary national backdrop. The cultural themes which are addressed here are often left unspoken in polite Southern society – white and black. There has always been a tenuous mixture of the races in the American South, whether in the co-mingling of DNA or just in the social and political interactions. Many things were and are understood but left unsaid or only spoken of in hushed tones, as when a slave woman’s baby came out very light in color and the madam of the plantation secretly and stressfully mulled over whether her husband was the father or one of her sons had just sired another child. Words remained unspoken or muted. A thunderous silence hovered over the plantation. And black people of America do not have one monolithic hue but represent a kaleidoscope of “blackness.” A true fifty shades of black.

My great-great grandfather, Col./Rep. Robert A. Alston, was murdered in the Georgia Capitol on March 11, 1879 as a result of his undertaking to outlaw the convict lease system, a heinous system of peonage of the newly Freedmen in Georgia. The convict lease system has been described as “slavery by another name.” Alston had a first cousin, David T. Howard, whose father was Alston’s uncle. Howard was born a slave in 1849 and later became the first licensed mortician of color in Georgia. He was one of the wealthiest African Americans in Georgia around the turn of the century. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attended David T. Howard Elementary School, and Howard was a key leader in raising the money for the first African American high school in Atlanta, Booker T. Washington High School, where Dr. King attended. Atlanta’s second African American high school was named David T. Howard High School. Some of Atlanta’s luminaries who attended David T. Howard High School were Walt (the Clyde) Frazier of the New York Knickerbockers’ 1970 World Championship team, Vernon Jordan who serves as President Bill Clinton’s attorney and close friend, and Maynard Jackson who was Atlanta’s first African American mayor and whose name sits atop the world’s busiest airport.

David T. Howard had a white brother from the Decatur area who represented Georgia in the U. S. Congress for many years, was a friend and close ally to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was a legendary criminal attorney in Georgia, William Schley Howard, the grandfather of Georgia’s former and popular Lieutenant Governor, Pierre Howard who was considered progressive on the issue of race in Georgia. Congressman Howard and Governor John Slaton (who, by the way, was featured in President John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage) both honored David T. Howard, speaking at the former slave’s funeral in 1935. I am quite certain that nothing was publicly mentioned about the two Howards’ familial relationship. Understood but unspoken. Polite but silence. The Southern way.

Perhaps this novel will help Southerners and non-Southerners alike understand how far the American South has progressed when it comes to race…and perhaps how far we Southerners and Americans still have to go. By the way, Robert A. Alston has several descendants here in Georgia who are of mixed-race heritage, among whom are my children.

John R. Alston Trotter

October 10, 2015, Newnan, Georgia, USA

AUTHOR’S NOTE

     I am writing this note in Rio de Janeiro, a couple of nights after the Republican Party Presidential Primary Debate of January 14, 2016. I wrote the first few chapters of this political novel late in 2013 right around the time that Mr. Norreese Haynes and I were in the process of publishing an over 600 page tome entitled, The MACE Manifesto: The Politically Incorrect, Irreverent, and Scatological Examination of What is Wrong with American Public Education. I spent a good bit of time in Brazil in 2014 and 2015 and worked on the novel more earnestly. All of the candidates for President, both Republicans and Democrats, had not yet announced their candidacy but the field was beginning to take shape. I finished writing this novel in the early fall of 2015. Most of the novel takes place contemporaneously with the happenings on the national political landscape. Current events in the world are mentioned as the novel takes place. For example, the massacre in Chattanooga is mentioned but not the massacres in Paris and San Bernardino. I made absolutely no adjustments to the conversations in the novel to reflect what transpired subsequently to its completion in the early fall of 2015. The perspectives given in the novel are authentic to the time.

John R. Alston Trotter

January 16, 2016, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

CHAPTER 1

     My name was Medgar Samuel Wright Kennedy.  My last name was legally changed later in life.  I was born in Jackson, Mississippi on October 31, 1970.  Though my mother waxed eloquently when giving me my Christian names (including Kennedy which she just borrowed from the deceased President who was murdered in Dallas a few years earlier), around the house and at church and later at school, I was simply called Pumpkin because of the date of my birth. Pumpkin Kennedy.  A little bit oxymoronic, considering the almost regal sound of the name Kennedy in America.  When I started junior high school in the 8th grade, I shortened the nickname at school to Pump which sounded much more masculine.  It could imply a pump-action shotgun which I owned or the pumping action of my adolescent hips which I had not yet developed. But, I was determined not to go to Hinds Jr. High School with the name Pumpkin.

My father is white.  Very white and very rich.  In Hinds County, Mississippi and really throughout the state he is still very powerful, though getting along somewhat in age.  Joseph Samuel Lauderdell.  Sam Lauderdell to those who just know him by reputation.  Joe Sam to his family and close friends.  In our family, he was Big Sam, and I was Little Sam.  My mom registered me in kindergarten as Sam Kennedy, though even the teacher called me Pumpkin.  Everybody seemed to know everybody in the black community.  So, I couldn’t escape “Pumpkin.”  I guess that I had a certain auburn hue to my hair, making the name Pumpkin stick.  The curly hair turned lighter and more auburn color in the summer months and then darkened as the winter rolled around.  By the time that I was entering the 8th grade, afro haircuts were fading away and fades were coming in, of which I was grateful.  I had a heck of a time growing a decent afro but the razor worked quite nicely on my “good hair,” as my people call hair like mine.

Let’s get back to Mr. Joe Sam.  Joe Sam Lauderdell impregnated my mother when she was working for him as “a domestic” (a term that my mom preferred over the term “maid”) on January 14 of 1970 and, as I mentioned, was born on Halloween, two weeks late.  My mother said that I was hard-headed from the very beginning.

“Son, you’re just like your daddy!  Just like him!”

“Who’s my daddy, Momma?”

“You don’t worry who your daddy is.  You worry about who you are and who you gonna be!  You got good blood in your body, Pumpkin…good solid African blood.  Only the strong made it over here.  The rest died on the way.  You hear me, son?”

“Yes, Momma, but where’d I get all this light skin?”

“You don’t question God, son.  God is a miracle God.  God is an artist.  You go to church every Sunday.  Do all black folk look alike?  Do all black folk have the same color?  Do all white folk look alike?”

“No ma’am.”

“Alright din…you dis leave it up to the Good Lord.”  When my momma got a little irritated with my constant questioning her about my background and about my daddy, she would revert back to some strong black lingo that she learned growing up and working in the cotton fields (yes, cotton was still being picked) of Pearl, Mississippi which is right across the Pearl River from Jackson, Mississippi.  Pearl is a small community in Rankin County which began the municipal incorporation process in the middle of the Civil Rights movement in 1968 and was granted its charter by the Mississippi legislature in 1973.  It is predominately white in population and was pretty oppressive when my momma was very young.  She was determined to do well in school, speak proper English, and to secure a job with the rich white folk in Jackson city.  She preferred working as a “domestic” over being a “field nigger” (as she said) any day.

My momma answered an ad in The Clarion-Ledger, and that’s how she met Mr. Joseph Samuel Lauderdell.  The anonymous ad read:  “Looking for a high yellow, proper talking maid to work in the Belhaven community.  Must speak standard English and read well to young children.  Must have fare complexion and be nice looking.  Include a photo.  Respond:  Domestic Help, P. O. Box 150, Jackson, Miss.”  No zip code was needed back then.  The photo requirement was the juggernaut for my momma because none of her family or friends owned a camera.  There was no WalMart back then to take a photo.  She finally had to save enough money to get a Passport photo made at the Post Office, and she included this photo in her response.  Lucy Broughton was now an official applicant for service to Mr. Joe Sam, one of the most powerful men in Jackson, Mississippi.  He liked what he saw from the neck up.  His only question was the backside.  He left a message with Lucy’s momma (my grandmomma, Earnestine Broughton) that he wanted my momma to come for an interview at his home on Peachtree Road in front of Belhaven College.  He lived a few doors down from the famous Southern writer, Eudora Welty.

I have heard my momma telling her sisters that Sam Lauderdell couldn’t keep his eyes off her body.  He just kept checking her out all over.  She said that she felt somewhat uncomfortable but also flattered, having the most powerful young man in Hinds County gawking all over her.  He had two children, a boy who was six and a girl who was three.  He married later than most men in Mississippi, at the age of 28.  He married a hot and sassy socialite wife of 21. But, she was bored with him or he was bored with her – or perhaps a combination of both. When I was born, Mr. Sam was 36 and already considered Jackson’s brightest and most powerful young businessman. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was born into the lucky sperm club. When it came to Mississippi Bank & Trust Co., I have heard Mr. Sam in later years explain his meteoric rise in the company by simply stating in his laconic fashion: “My daddy owned the joint.”

As I said, I heard Momma say many times that at first Mr. Sam couldn’t keep his eyes off of her, and just a short time later, he couldn’t keep his hands off of her.  His wife took their children often to see their grandparents in Oxford, leaving Mr. Joe Sam at the house alone.  This is when Momma worked overtime…deep into the night.  I was conceived in overtime, and my momma certainly expected that I would bring her time-and-a-half pay.  She was right.  When I was born, she got an immediate raise, from $40.00 a week to $60.00 per week.  Bus fare was only 15 cents back then, and my momma was stepping in high cotton, as they would say. All was kept quiet on the east bank of the Pearl River.  The family all knew deep down who my father was.  They spoke only in hushed tones, a little bit proud but a whole lot scared.  They knew that I was born to be different. As I mentioned earlier, I was conceived in the early hours of January 14 (almost on Dr. King’s birthday) and born on October 31, after my momma and Mr. Sam himself kept my momma’s pregnancy as quiet as possible through an angst-filled summer. Mrs. Lauderdell assumed that my mother had gotten knocked up by Jabo Jackson, a legendary high school athlete from Pearl. The domestics had strategically planted this rumor, with my momma’s unspoken imprimatur, because Jabo was a very light skin Negro. Jabo never protested the rumor.

Mr. Joe Sam never officially claimed me – until many years later.  But, he would often ask my momma about “Little Sam.”  When Mrs. Lauderdell was out of town, my momma would take me to the Lauderdells’ spacious house in the Belhaven neighborhood, and all of the domestics in the neighborhood would steal away to come to the Lauderdell Manor to see “Little Sam.”  One day, Big Sam came home early from the bank and caught my momma showing off Little Sam to her domestic friends who worked in the neighborhood.  He sort of got a kick out of their oohing and aahing over me.  Big Sam deadpanned with a twinkle in his eye, “He is a cute little fellow.  I know that his daddy is proud.” The maids just nervously cut their eyes toward me and quietly snickered.  It was almost like they were so proud to have one of us in the new line of Mississippi Royalty.  Yes, I am told that from birth that I caused quite a stir and was quite a hit.  But, secrets surrounded me. © Big Daddy Publishers, 2016.

 

CHAPTER 22

     Fareed made sure that he let me out in front of the Lancaster estate instead of driving me up into the driveway. He knew that Jake was working against him becoming the Chief Bellhop at The Club. I too thought that it was wise. I didn’t mind the short walk. I always need the exercise.

“Charley’s time to shine, right?” Fareed asked.

“Yes, sir. It’s his night. I came over from Jackson to support him. He’s always supported me, and I wanted to show him some love. Lidi and our children will be here a little later.”

“You’re going in for the pre-meeting?” Fareed chuckled.

“You’re right. My father and godfather call these meetings ‘the meeting before the meeting,’” I stated.

“Between you and me, I think that Charley is a hell of a politician. Better than Rand Perry.   But, he does make the white folk a bit nervous. He’s so seemingly wide open. This is his disarming style. But, he is coy to the max. He’s always got an agenda. If he could get the money folk behind him, his potential is unlimited. The black folk love him. He takes care of the people in his district. They love him. He might not have the same kind of refinement that you have, but he can get the butter from the duck. He can be of great asset to you in the black communities in Mississippi.”

“We’ve – or I should say ‘I’ve’ – already discovered that. I think that our futures might be hitched together for some time to come. I feel like I have known him my entire life.”

“That’s his true gift,” Fareed assured me.

“Mr. Jimmy Lee says that he reminds him of Bill Clinton.”

“Except for the pussy,” Fareed guffawed. “He’s fiercely loyal to Jen, and that’s why the women voters like him so much. They know the word on the street. They know that he doesn’t mess around on Jen, and they have a mess of yougins’.”

“They’re all supposed to be here tonight.”

“Y’all have a great time, OK? Let’s get some money lined up for Charley. That’s all he needs. No one can out-politick him!”

“We’re gonna try. Hey, I better get into the meeting before the meeting. You know how white folks are about getting to the meeting right on time!”

“Do I!” Fareed stated emphatically and laughingly. “Take care, my man.”

“I will call Uber to take us home. You enjoy the evening.”

Fareed drove off, and I nonchalantly walked toward the house. I didn’t want to break a sweat. I could already smell the pigs roasting, and I thought that I got of whiff of Miss Doot’s Brunswick Stew too. My mouth began to water.

Doot saw me coming down the driveway. She was in the back watching the roasting pigs, and she was sweating profusely. She came up hurriedly to greet me but resisted her usual bear hug because of her perspiration. “Baby, it’s so good to see you! We gonna have a big, big day today! Mr. J. Charley’s gonna shine like a greased pig! He’s a piece of work,” Doot gushed. Obviously, Doot was still under the spell of Mr. J. Charley Westmoreland. He introduced himself as such to Doot when she first met him, and she never fails to call him “Mr. J. Charley.”

“Come on in here, Baby. Mr. J. Charley, Mr. Jake, and Mr. Joe Sam, Sr. – deys already started talking in the study. Pro’bly already hittin’ the sause and smokin’ dem stogies. Don’t you smoke dem nasty stogies, Baby,” Doot sternly warned me. She always has warned me about “dem nasty stogies.” “But, Miss Doot, that’s why it’s called ‘the smoke-filled room,’” I retorted. “Hmm,” was all Doot utterred. For some reason, she has always hated “dem nasty stogies.” “Well, you come on back here. Deys waiting on you.”

Miss Doot opened the door of the study and made a big fuss about the smoke, waving her two hands vociferously. I heard my godfather say, “Come on in here, Doot, and have a Fuente with us.” Doot just abruptly turned around, shook her head, and headed back out back to check on the roasting pigs.

“Heah, heah! Here’s the future Govenor of Mississippi and future President of the United States, Mr. Joe Sam Lauderdale,” exclaimed Mr. J. Charley Westmoreland. My godfather and pop chimed in, “Heah, heah!” We started engaging in the usual pleasantries, and as the small talk continued, I couldn’t help to be amazed at this most unlikely scene. Here was a man who was going to be honored tonight, with many of the most successful businessmen in Georgia lined up to fill his campaign coffers with the maximum donations allowed under law. He was the son of an uneducated domestic worker (or “maid,” as was the common term of the day) who had not quite turned 16 years old when she gave birth to this budding politician and member of the Atlanta City Council. He was now poised to be elected to the Presidency of the Atlanta City Council, a position that was often a stepping-stone to the mayoralty of Atlanta, the Grand Dame of the South. He was married to a very beautiful and intelligent wife, and they are the proud parents of seven children. When he was in his teens, he learned that his biological father was the richest man in Georgia – and his father’s family has been the richest family in Georgia for about 150 years. But, until tonight, this J. Charley Westmoreland had never stepped inside his father’s house nor had carried on any substantive conversation with him.

This same young man was confident. Supremely confident. Was this confidence inherent in him, due to his genetic make-up or due to his survival skills as a young African American male? Did his young and uneducated mother instill this confidence in him, out of necessity of avoiding the pitfalls of the streets or out of her belief that his parentage one day would thrust him into the limelight and she wanted so much to have him ready for this very moment this evening? Who knows? All I can say is that his mother did a masterful job of raising J. Charley Westmoreland. Will this man one day be leading his father’s company, Lancaster Industries, not a charismatic, colorful, and sexy industry like Apple or Microsoft or Coca-Cola but an industry that deals with iron and steel, building railroad rails and spikes, steel trestles for construction of high rises, stadiums, and other structures – and most notably the iron seats in virtually every major professional sports facility and all but two football stadiums in the Southeastern Conference? Will he be ready and able to run Lancaster Industries, as his half-siblings live on trust funds? I asked the same questions about me? If politics does not pan out for me, will I be ready to run my family’s banking conglomerate in Mississippi and will I be ready to expand its operations into other southern states as Regions Bank left Alabama a few years back? These questions just seemed ironic and so very poignant. These two old gentlemen in this rather regal study, the best of friends and successful and very happy in their advanced age, strangely fathered two sons of African descent in two different states and are now joyously sitting here discussing the political futures of their scions. Life is strange.

I look at my handsome father. He is still handsome at around 80 years of age. He still has a headful of white hair that looks even more white against his very tan face, a face that anyone can tell has been in the sun often, not from hard work but from leisure trips on his lavish fishing boat anchored at Fort Lauderdale’s Bahia Mar Docks or on his small yacht which is parked in front of his multimillion dollar home on Fort Lauderdale’s most exclusive canal on the beautiful inter-coastal waterway.   I was raised in Jackson, Mississippi and raised on the Peal River that runs through the city. I grew up catching bass, catfish, and bream, not red snapper, blow fish, and snook. But, my father officially embraced me while I was still a teenager and I have since taken many trips to Fort Lauderdale with him, catching fish off the docks or from the canal in his backyard and even on many trips out in the deep sea. I must admit that I am very happy that we embraced each other. I could have been bitter about him not officially embracing me from the moment of my birth. Life is too short to be bitter.

My father never remarried. I don’t know if my untimely birth had anything to do with this. I like to think that it did. He has just three children. Two by his former wife and me by my mother. I am not suggesting in any way that he remained sexually celibate. Not by any means. He was and perhaps still is what the younger generation would call a quiet “player.” My godfather has shared some stories about my father’s younger days at Ole Miss. And I have heard the rumors from time to time. I am keenly aware that his blood flows in my veins and in my children’s too. We share his genetic make-up. I have heard that the women were crazy about him, and he was crazy about them too. But, he did not brag. He did not speak of any sexual exploits. He was discreet. Inordinately discreet, and this is what made his frat brothers and others like him so much. The young ladies at Ole Miss were drawn toward him, but he never threw this in anyone’s face. He just played it off as luck or humorously explaining that the girl had a seeing problem. This sanguine, even keel, and humble personality made him very popular among his frat brothers and served him well in business. As I look at him now, I see that he hasn’t really changed a bit. He is a studied contrast to his best friend, Jacob Grant Lancaster. Mr. Jake is brash, ribald, pushy, mercurial, and bald-headed with an ever-present ruddy complexion. He’s hard-charging, just like he is tonight. He wants his new-found son, J. Charley Westmoreland, to be successful. He wants him to get elected to be the President of the Atlanta City Council and eventually to be Mayor of Atlanta or perhaps Governor of Georgia, after serving as my Chief of Staff at the White House. He already has his definite plans, and he will push and push until he sees them through. J. Charley has the same hard-charging personality but his sweetness comes from his mother’s genial soul. J. Charley has that same gifted genial quality that attracts the voters, especially the elderly ladies in his district. They just adore Charley and will hasten to tell everyone within earshot that they are Members of Team Charley. He even issues them membership cards to that effect, and they pull them out to show to others. Personally, I have seen J. Charley in action among voters in Georgia and Mississippi, and I think that he is a genius. I think that he would be a better Presidential candidate than me, but our fathers have determined that I have the needed pedigree like the current President. I shared my feelings about this matter with Mr. Jimmy Lee Jackson, but, like Dad and Pop, he too thinks that I have the necessary pedigree. If I am so fortunate to become the President in 2020, I know that I will want Mr. J. Charley Westmoreland as my Chief of Staff at the White House to have my back, and all three of the elder wise men will insist on it too. I wouldn’t resist because I too think that he would be perfect for the job.

“Son, what do you think?” Jake proudly asked his son, emphasizing the appellation “son.”

“About what?” Charley inquired?

“About tonight,” Jake responded.

“I like what I see so far. I like being included in the white man’s meeting before the meeting,” Charley said while bursting out in laughter.

“Well, you deserve it, son. You are one hell of a politician and are my son, although that’s not for public disclosure for now. Let’s just keep that between the four of us and, of course, Mr. Jimmy Lee Jackson,” Jake intoned with special emphasis on the respectful “Mr.”

“Well, the Apostle is my godfather. Always has been.”

“Where did this ‘Apostle’ title come from?” Jake asked.

“That’s what all blacks in the know call Mr. Jimmy Lee Jackson. He brings good news. He’s like an ambassador or an apostle. I think that one of the old pastors started calling him that and it caught on. Of course, he loves being called ‘the Apostle.’”

“Apostle Jimmy Lee Jackson,” Jake muttered while shaking his head. I think now that I have heard it all. But, God does indeed have a sense of humor. I have probably used the N word in reference to him more than any other person in my life.”

“Yes, sir. One of his other nicknames is Great Santini. S-A-N coming from what all black leaders in Atlanta knew that you invariably called him, ‘that skinny ass nigger.’”

“But, I just did that when he really pissed me off. Only when I was mad at him,” Jake explained.

“That makes my point. You keep asking me why it is OK for me to use the N word so much but you can’t. First of all, I don’t use it contemptuously like you. You use it when you are mad. You use ‘niggER,’ and I use ‘niggAH.” I use the word affectionately…”

“Nah, hell you don’t always use it affectionately!” Jake retorted. You called that pastor in Mississippi ‘a low-down, hustlin’ nigger!’ I heard it with my own ears.”

“First of all, my Daddy Jake, I CAN use the word any way that I want to; you CANNOT.”

“Why?” Jake hastened to ask.

“Because black folks have been excluded from so much their entire lives – excluded by white folks – that we have decided that this is verbal territory that we consider off limits to white folks. In this terrain, no whites allowed. We do what we can to try in our meager way to level the playing field. The N word has been used so contemptuously toward us and our forbearers for generations that the mere thought or witnessing of white people using this word is destabilizing and unnerving. It’s just an area where you cannot go. It’s off limits, and if a white person thinks that he or she can use the word callously or contemptuously, then all hell’s gonna to break out. But, being black, I have earned the right to use the word. And, yes, Tommy Brown, the pastor in Mississippi who calls himself ‘Double Down Tommy Brown’ because he wants twice the money that other pastors get during political campaigns is, in my mind, a low-down hustlin’ nigga. Now, I said it but you cannot, my white father.”

When Charley got through giving his exegetical lecture on the N word, a thunderous silence was in the air. Charley, looked his dad straight in the eyes and demanded, “Now give me some of that muddafuckin’ bourbon!” When he said this, we all burst out into laughter. My dad laughed so hard that he was crying.

When the laughter subsided, Charley told Jake, “Now you get used to that word too!” Again, more laughter.

Strangely enough, this verbal combativeness that Charley was willing to display at such a meeting impressed his biological father. Jake intoned for everyone to hear, “J. C., I can see clearly that you are my son, son.”

“We do have our ways, Daddy Jake. My mom always said, however, that you were mean as cat shit and twice as nasty – her exact words, by the way – but that you could be so sweet that sugar wouldn’t melt in your mouth, if you really wanted something. So, I’m hoping that you really want to have a father-son relationship.”

“I do. I do, son. I have had my mean days, but that was in the business world and sometimes, son, you have to be a sumbitch in the business world. But, I have always been sweet to my family, and you are my family, J. C.”

My dad jumped in to lighten up the conversation, “Oh, I see Charley is J. C. now.”

Jake immediately said, “It’s a father and son thing, right, J. C.?”

Charley winked and nodded his head, “You got it, Daddy Jake. And by the way, that low down, hustlin’ nigga pastor in Jackson went to Morris Brown with me. He got a 14 year old girl with Down’s Syndrome pregnant and never claimed the child and never met the child to this day. I ain’t ever liked the muddafucker, and I ain’t gonna let him fuck over Little Sam’s campaign in Mississippi. I’ll kick his muddafuckin’ ass and he knows it.”

Again, a quietness set in the meeting. Charley commenced to talk. “I know that this is our first meeting of any substance, and I don’t want to come across as vain or crude, but this is who I am. Unlike my brother here,” and he patted my right knee with his left hand, “I don’t have the education and the refinement as you guys call it. I went to Carver High, not Episcopal High. I went to Morris Brown and I finished, but I wasn’t able to go to law school. But, unlike Roach, I knew who my father was since I was just a toddler. My mother always told me that my father was a rich white man. That’s about all I knew for years until I got older and was more inquisitive. Hell, Roach’s father was a judge, and the judge never knew him, met him, or claimed him. The judge died when Roach was five.”

Jake’s curiosity got to him and he interrupted, “Who’s Roach and who was his father?”

“Roach was my best friend growing up in Grady Homes. We were tight. Very tight. Called ourselves brothers.”

“Well, his real name was Jacob – yeah, just like your name – Lowenstein, Jr. His mother named him after his father, the judge. She didn‘t give him a middle name.”

“Judge Lowenstein?” Jake asked.

“Yes, sir. I guess so. But, he died when Jake was about five.”

“Exactly. About 40 years ago. I knew him well. From business dealings in court and even socially. Died of pancreatic cancer, I believe,” Jake recalled.

“Well, he never claimed Roach. Roach never met him. But, Roach recalled that his mother would dress him up and take him down to the Fulton County Courthouse on Pryor Street. He never knew why he had to dress up. She would dress up too and go inside an office. She left the area and he waited on the benches while the clerks looked after him. He said that he was sure that the judge must have seen him but they never met. Roach said that after those infrequent trips to the courthouse, they would have chicken that night with their noodles and vegetables. One night, they even had steak. Then, the judge died when Roach was five.”

I decided to get in on the conversation. “Charley, where it Roach now?”

Charley didn’t answer immediately. A tear welled up in his eye. “I presume in Heaven. I hope so. No, I know so. He was killed when he was 19.”

My father followed up, “What happened, Charley, if I may ask?”

“He got shot, right in the heart. A drug deal gone bad. Right on the corner of University Avenue and Sylvan Road. A waste. A total waste. Roach had so much potential, and I think that if he only had hope of meeting his father one day that he wouldn’t have turned to drug dealing. See. I had hope. I had the hope that one day my father and I would connect,” Charley said as his voice tailed off.

Jake obviously wanted to keep the atmosphere light, and he bellowed, “Heah, heah, we have connected son, and I am the more blessed because of it. And in front of my closest friend and Little Sam, I want to say that I am sorry that we didn’t connect earlier – no, let me restate that. I am sorry that I did not reach out to you earlier. And, by the way, how did your friend get the name ‘Roach’?”

“He was quicker than a roach when the lights came on when the police arrived. If the police arrived on Sylvan Road, Roach would be on Windsor Street before you knew that he was gone. He was never cuffed by the police, and for a young black man to be able to say this growing up in the ghetto, that was amazing. Plus, he never liked the name Jacob – no offense, of course.”

“None taken,” Jake shot back.

“It was tough for him just growing up with a last name of Lowenstein. He was popular but when anyone wanted to get under his skin or were pissed at him, they called him ‘Jew Boy.’ So, between, Jacob, Jew Boy, and Roach, he preferred Roach. He was quite a legend on the street. The drug lords would tell the younger guys, ‘Be like Roach’ when it came to avoiding the police.”

“Say, son, I have this fellow who keeps coming by here asking for a donation to his church. I don’t know him from Adam’s house cat. I asked him if he knew you, and he said that he did. Hold up. I have his card right here on my desk.” Jake reached over and picked up his card. “Bishop Rufus Trumaine Dawson. Do you know him?`”

“I know him.”

“What’s the deal with him? He’s been by here three or four times in the last six months knocking on the door and brazenly asking for a donation.”

“He’s a self-appointed bishop of a church that doesn’t exist. Hell, if he didn’t have a dog and a tallywacka, he wouldn’t have anyone to preach to,” Charley said while laughing.

“But, why does he keep coming by here?”

“I guess that he figures that he will score a donation or two up here in this neighborhood. Probably thinks that some folks will give him a donation just to get rid of him.”

“Well, I haven’t given him a penny. He’s getting quite irritating.”

“Just tell him not to come back anymore. Be stern with him. Look, there’s a lot of hucksters out there. I’m not an expert on white churches but I know black churches, and I know that there are a lot of scam artists out there. I see those white hucksters on TV. Same thing. They just have money to get on TV. Black folks usually hold pastors in high esteem. The black church traditionally has been the communication center for the black community. Historically, black folks didn’t own radio stations, TV stations, or newspapers. Well, they own some small radio stations and newspapers. But, historically, people got their news from church. So, the pastors held a lot of sway. I don’t know. But, I presume that in the white churches that the bank presidents and so forth don’t kowtow to the pastors. Is this not true?”

Jake thought for a second. “Well, if they get to meddlin’ too much, we just get rid of them. We don’t too much have that problem at The Cathedral, though.”

“That’s my point. This ain’t true with black churches. There’s a saying, ‘Don’t speak against God’s anointed.’ Black preachers scare the hell out of church members with this saying. This is why in politics it’s so effective to get an endorsement from a black pastor. I know that churches are not supposed to be political according to federal law or they might lose their tax-exempt status, but that’s bullshit in the black church. Black pastors are going to be political, and I don’t know of a single black church which has lost its tax-exempt status. I don’t argue with how the system works; I just work the system. That’s what we are doing with Joe Sam in Mississippi. It’s effective. It’s powerful. That’s why I can’t let any pastor like Tommy Murphy Brown think that he can buck the system and demand double-down money,” Charley opined.

My father asked, “So, he gets the same as every other pastor?”

“No, sir. He gets his proportion, depending on his church membership. He just can’t demand a double portion of what he should get. I’ll give him what he deserves and not a penny more, and note that I said ‘I’ll,’ not ‘we’ll.’ None of this will be officially connected to the campaign. It will just be a pastor appreciate gift,” Charley said with a slight chuckle. “But, it will work.”

My father was more talkative than usual. He asked Charley about what he knew of any portending threats to me and my family.

“I hear from my godfather that his sources, Conrat Rudy and Edgewood Eddy, have it on close sources that there is some rumblings about the Klan and the neo-Nazis out west having lots of concerns about Mississippi having a ‘nigger’ (and I’m quoting them) as the top law enforcement officer in the state and that they see this as a stepping stone to the governorship. They are going to keep their ears close to the ground. I learned a lot from Mr. Jimmy Lee through the years. He taught me to always have some close white friends to have my back. I have a close confidant, Eddie Butch Thomas, who, if not a card-carrying member of the Klan, is at least a respected legal resident of the Klan nation. He moves with ease in and out of different klaverns. I can trust this man with my life. He’s a real character. But, he knows what goes on with the crazies. After all, he’s one of them. But, he likes money, and he’s smart enough that he knows that he too needs me. I have gotten him and his friends out of a mess or two of trouble right here in Atlanta. I mainly have to go through the Apostle. But, we get it done, and EBT – as he is ironically called – appreciates it. He got into a mess in Jonesboro about 15 years ago, and I had to call on Spider Woods to get his ass off the hook.”

Jake queried, “Who’s Spider Woods?”

“He’s a heck of an attorney – that’s who he is. Grew up white trash. Went to the old Bass High and O’Keefe High in Atlanta before dropping out of school. Started working for old man Portman in construction. They found out that he was smart as a whip. He got his G.E.D. and went to Atlanta Law School. He didn’t have to have a college degree to get in. He finished with a breeze and aced the bar exam. On the Southside, he’s the go-to-attorney. Plus, his uncle is powerful on the Jonesboro City Council. I knew Spider from Atlanta. I just gave Spider a call. He knew that my money was good. Spider just made a phone call, and all charges were dropped against EBT.”

“If we have any problem in Mississippi, all I have to do is call EBT or meet with him, and he’ll have 100 to 200 mean-looking white guys with beards traveling to Mississippi on their Harleys. They are very intimidating. They can back down any local klavern. Plus, it will help their image. You know. Fighting to protect a black candidate. Believe it or not, these guys are businessmen. You might not like their products – many times it is illegal drugs – but they have their sense of honor.”

Jake obviously wants to change the subject. “J. C., what do you see going on in the Republican Presidential Primary, year 2016, son?”

“It’s the damnedest primary I have ever seen. There’s a damn good chance that Trump or Carson will win. Both are outsiders and saying very politically incorrect stuff, and I think that the Republican base is loving this. The Republicans have won big in the last two Congressional cycles, and their base don’t see any results. But, if the Republicans expect to win the White House, they are gonna have to darken the ticket. I agree with my godfather. Their best ticket would be Rubio and Rice. That eats into both the Latino vote and the black vote. They just have to eat into some of these votes. Say, 15% to 20%. That’s all. But, it appears to me that the Republicans keep learning dumber. That’s where Joe Sam comes in. If the Republicans lose again in 2016, Joe Sam will be looking good in 2020, unless Carson is still out there. But, at least Joe Sam will have been an experienced Attorney General and Governor. But, hell, Carson could win the nomination. I wouldn’t put it past him. But, someone would have to come on strong now to take out Trump. Trump’s message is resonating.”

My father inquired, “What is Trump’s essential message?”

“That the U. S. is getting fucked over by Mexico, China, ISIS, and perhaps now by these so-called Syrian refugees because our politicians are stupid. The American people are fed up with the cowardice and/or stupidity of our so-called leaders and they want someone who will kick ass. Trump’s message is resonating. It’s hitting some raw nerves. Americans – especially the Republican base voters – are looking for a Patton, a McArthur, a Black Jack Pershing, a Churchill – someone who just doesn’t give a shit and is willing to kick ass. That’s why he keeps going up in the polls when he says impolite and politically incorrect things. The media almost faints when he metaphorically farts at the dinner table, but he just doesn’t care. I don’t know if you guys have ever followed professional wrestling, but I liken it to him being like Dusty Rhodes. Dusty was the Dream. The American Dream. In fact, Dusty called himself the essence of the American Dream. The Republican voters are seeing Trump as the essence of the American Dream, and they see the weenie politicians as the heels that the Dream will take on, like Dusty always took on Ric Flair and Ole Anderson. Hell, these red-meat voters don’t give a rat’s ass about some damn policy statement that the media keeps hounding The Donald for. They love hearing him say that he will build the wall and make the Mexicans pay for it. I hope this explains it. Y’all know anything about wrestling?”

My father replied, “I’ve seen it on TV a time or two but can’t say that I am an aficionado of professional wrestling.”

“That’s one thing that you rich folk missed out on,” Charley said with glee. “But, I can’t say that I know a damn thing about the opera. But, opera would have to be damn good to beat the acting and drama of wrestling. My momma used to go to wrestling every Friday night at the old City Auditorium for Paul Jones Promotions. She used to tell me all about those days. It was right up the street from Grady Homes. But, by the time that I came along, they switched it to the old Omni. I was a Dusty Rhodes fan all the way. Hell, we all knew that it was fake, but the drama was great. People like drama. People know that Trump’s not going to get the Mexicans to pay for no damn wall, but Trump’s smack talk is good. Just like Dusty. Dusty could talk more smack talk than anyone. He could talk. And, Dusty transcended race, just like Trump is transcending race. I’ve talked to a lot of brothers – and some sisters – who like The Donald. Hell, he’s a celebrity. If he wins the primary, he can beat Hillary, if he puts someone like Condi Rice or Carson on the ticket with him. Hell, he could put J. C. Watts on the ticket with him. You know that his uncle was the state president of the Oklahoma NAACP. He just has to colorize the ticket. I don’t know if Rubio would be enough. It might. But, if he put Condi Rice on the ticket with him, that would take care of his foreign policy deficit and he’d definitely get some sisters crossing over. Sisters are gonna vote for sisters. He might get up to 30% of the black females to vote for this ticket with Condi on it.”

After this soliloquy about wrestling, Jake leaned over to my father and in an intentionally loud whisper, uttered, “J. C. is a political genius, and I don’t mean J. C. Watts.” We all chuckled a bit before I asked my new brother, “What about the Democratic Primary?”

“Hillary will win, despite the emails. She will stumble across the goal line. I just don’t think that the Justice Department will indict her, despite the fact that it was probably someone close to Valerie Jarrett who leaked the whole story to The New York Times. There’s no love loss at all between the Obamas and the Clintons. I personally just don’t see Biden getting in the race. It’s so late in the game. This is a grueling race. He’s run – what? – twice before. I just don’t think that he has the stomach for it. I think that Sanders will beat Hillary in New Hampshire, but she will come back in South Carolina and then take the SEC Primary. But, by the time the Democratic Convention is over, she will be bedraggled…”

Jake jumped in, “Bedraggled? Damn, son! We don’t even hear that kind of language at The Club!”

“I read a lot. I am an inveterate reader.”

“Inveterate, heh? I should say so!” Jake observed proudly.

“Yeah, she will be bedraggled, beleaguered, and disemboweled by the time the campaign heats up after Labor Day,” Charley stated, knowing full well that his biological dad was taking proud note of his verbal felicity.

“Y’all hear that, boys? This is my son waxing eloquently about politics,” Jake proclaimed.

“But,” Charley noted, “the Republicans seem to learn dumber when it comes to race and ethnicity. They seem to be tone deaf in this area.”

Jake threw his hands into the air and bellowed, “That’s why we have the political elixir in the room with us. Isn’t this what Mr. Jimmy Lee calls you, Sam? He mentioned this phrase to me too. He says that you are the political elixir for the Republican Party. Of course, Dr. Carson might just be the political elixir himself if he gets the nomination. But, we are taking our chances with you, son.” Big Jake has always liked calling me “son.” Now he has three sons, I suppose. Bubba, Charley, and me. I have no problem with this. If the world only knew that Georgia’s richest man has two black sons! I found myself quite amused.

“About tonight, what’s the lay out?’ Charley asked very pointedly.

“Well, son, we have the crème de le crème of Atlanta’s business leaders chomping to bits to give you money – the max – and to get to know you. You just need to be yourself, J. Charley Westmoreland. You’ve gotten this far without the help of any one of these mulettes who will be here tonight,” Jake replied.

“What’s a mulette?” Charley asked.

“Well, a mulette ain’t a mule. Ain’t but a handful or less of us who are mules. You mean you never have really heard this term, son?”

“Can’t say that I have. We might call’em dogs and pups.”

“About the same thing. The big money guys are mules. They can call a meeting and all of the mulettes will show up. The mulettes are the people like the President of the Chamber or Forward Atlanta or the Publisher of the AJC or the head of AT&T or the big guy at SunTrust. You know. You get the idea. Now the biggest mule of all was old man Woodruff who lived a few doors up. In fact, he was also simply called ‘the Boss.’ Neighbors and I are probably – well, no doubt – the two biggest mules. You know Neighbors, right?”

“Not personally. I did meet him one time. Briefly. He won’t remember me.”

“He will too. That’s one of his unique gifts. He might meet some politician briefly, but his takes note of him, tells his staff to do a brief half page bio on the politician and file it. Later on, if he needs your vote, he will charm the hell out of you by telling you exactly where he met you, where you went to school, where you go to church, what your favorite movie is, etc. That’s how he always – and I mean always – gets favorable zoning decisions for all of his big projects, and he only does big projects. And I usually get some of the work too.”

“He’s the biggest real estate developer in the south, right?”

“Absolutely. No doubt. He will need you greatly in the future. Normally, he would send two or three of his folks to this kind of fundraiser to give the max. But, I am sure that he will also be here personally tonight. He knows nothing about our filial relationship. He just thinks that I have taken a liking to you.”

“Filial, heh?”

“Yeah, son. Filial. I learned a word or two behind those arches in Athens and over there in Oxford, and I read a lot too. Remember that you and I are more like each other than either one of us realized. If I had been raised in Grady Homes, I might have been you, and if you had been raised up here on Tuxedo, you might have ended up an ole bastard like me. So, let’s don’t judge each other anymore. Now it’s teamwork. I guess that I am part of Team Charley now!” Jake guffawed. We all laughed at this observation.

“Actually, son, I consider you a big part of my legacy now,” Jake continued. “I hear that you are loyal to Jen. Good. I ain’t ever stepped out on Miss Lucy – well except with your mom. I might be a sumbitch, but I have been loyal to that sweet lady, and she’s put up with a lot of shit from me. I’m proud of you, J. C.,” Jake whispered as a tear rolled down one eye. “Damn, I am proud of you. God does work in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. Miss Gurney made us learn that poem in the sixth grade. I have quoted it many times in my life, but never with more meaning than today.”

My father gently inquired, “Jake, don’t you think that we need to join our guests? There’s probably several out on the compound now. I wouldn’t want us to appear to be insensitive hosts.”

“Absolutely! Come on, Team Charley, let’s go kick some ass!” Jake quickly exhorted. He struggled to get out of his big leather chair, and his son darted over to let him hold on to his strong forearm. This poignant moment was actually causing me to tear up a bit. This crusty old curmudgeon was not hiding his age or his weakness in the flesh from his son, his own flesh.

I heard Jake whisper to Charley, “Knock’em dead, son. Kill’em with that Charley charm which I have heard is legendary.”

“I gotcha, Dad. I gotcha. I won’t let you down,” Charley said almost inaudibly.

Charley went out there and dominated in the most unobtrusive way. His charisma was real. Undeniable. All of the guests, including Mr. Neighbors, were immediately attracted to his warm smile – and to Jen’s magnetic smile too. Charley had the guests enraptured even on boring issues like water scarcity. Of course, their children and our children were inside most of the time, watching TV, playing games on their phones and tablets, and just hanging out. The smaller kids were a bit more rambunctious, running in and out of the house or playing on the large mezzanine area that protruded toward the compound and covered much of the huge Portuguese-like veranda on the back of the house which sported three huge hammocks which the young kids were having a blast playing on. The weather was splendid, and the humidity could have been worse for an August evening. Charley and Jen were in their element. I could see the future Mayor of Atlanta. J. Charley Westmoreland was a piece of work. God’s handicraft. I have the utmost respect for my new brother. I don’t really know what my future holds. I am existentially enjoying life, taking daily leaps of faith.

My father walked up with a glass of Jim Beam and Coke in his right hand, and he hugged me with his left arm. It felt good. He has known me my entire life, since I was in my mother’s womb. Though he may have felt constrained by southern traditions and his business life not to openly claim me as his own, I never doubted that he cared deeply for me, even when I just knew him as Mr. Sam, the man larger than life. Since that eventful day before my senior year in high school when he and my mom told me that he was my father, we have been very close, even if we did not always hug each other. So, this hug felt unusually nice. There’s nothing life a father’s hug. H asked, “What ‘cha thinking, Champ?”

“I’m thinking that J. Charley Westmoreland might be the political elixir that you and Jake are looking for. He’s much more the politician than I will ever be. Look at him now. He’s got these bigwigs already eating out of his hands.”

My dad responded, “Sam, you have always been an athlete. A great athlete. And you know that when your number is called, you have to get out of the dugout and step up to the plate. Your number has been called. The races that we are all looking at are made for you. You have this destiny. It’s your time to bat, even if there are other hitters who might be better natural hitters. It’s just not their time. For what we have been planning for you, you are the perfect candidate. Charley is perfect for what he is doing here in Georgia. Don’t shrink back. Don’t doubt your own abilities just because you see someone like Charley who swings the bat effortlessly and knocks it out of the park.”

“I’m not. I’m confident. But, I just didn’t want to be selfish. I just wanted you and Jake to know that if you thought Charley might be the better candidate for your vision of what needs to take place that I wouldn’t be one bit upset. I would happily go along. He’s incredibly talented.”

“He is. He is gifted. Very gifted.”

As we were standing there talking among ourselves, we witnessed Charley’s wife and my wife mingling among the big time donors, laughing and schmoozing these businessmen as if they were experienced politicians themselves. Of course, it didn’t hurt that both of these ladies were undeniably beautiful and sexy, even when they were not trying to be sexy. Jen is 5’3” and was wearing a cute pink and lime-colored sun dress which showed much of her shoulders and back. Lidi at 5’6” was very graceful looking in her 100% cotton peach-colored Polo knit shirt and her light blue Bermuda shorts which could not help but to accentuate her Brazilian rear end. The occasion called for “summer attire,” and most of the guests dressed informally, though one younger donor came in seersucker pants, white buck shoes, and a madras tie. He seemed particularly interested in talking with the ladies, even the elderly Miss Lucy.

As my father and I were talking, we saw Jake excuse himself and head over to the resplendent veranda and get up into the grand hammock which was the size of a twin bed. We wondered what had taken hold of him, but we resisted going over there when we saw Miss Lucy breaking away from her conversation with the young snappily-clad dandy and Jen and Lidi. She headed straight over to Jake presumably to check on him.

She inquired, “Baby, are you OK?”

“Yeah, just a little light-headed.”

“Is it your sugar? You need Doot to get you some orange juice?” she further inquired.

“Maybe. I’m not sure if my sugar is low or if I’m just exhausted, getting ready for this big event and all.”

Miss Lucy motioned for Doot to come over. “Doot, would you mind getting my husband a big glass of orange juice?”

“No, Miss Lucy. I’ll get it right away.”

Miss Lucy sat on the side of the huge hammock and put her right hand upon Jake’s rather large belly. “Baby, I’m so proud of you.”

“Why, baby?”

“Because you have been working yourself to a frazzle over helping Mr. Westmoreland, and you’ve only known him for a few weeks now. You have opened up our home for him, Jen, and his seven children, as if you have known him for years. You are stretching your boundaries. Their background is quite different from ours. Yet, you are showing me that you are now open to diverse ways and different people. I thought that when Dean Phillips had been preaching on this sort of thing at The Cathedral all these years that you were just sleeping through his homilies.”

“Sleeping?”

“Yes, sleeping,” Miss Lucy laughed. “The dean hardly gets through his opening joke and you have already begun bobbing your head with your eyes closed,” she kidded her husband.

Jake demurred. “No, baby. I was just relaxing. Cogitating and ruminating upon his every word.”

“Oh, really?” Miss Lucy laughed.

“Yeah, really. That’s the best way to learn. Relax and cogitate. Ruminate upon the meaning of his homilies. I have been doing this for years. I have been learning by space repetition. That’s what psychologists say is the best way to learn. By space repetition…”

Before Jake could finish his elocution about learning by space repetition, three of Jen and Charley’s youngest children came running into the Veranda, playing tag. The youngest girl, Sadie, jumped up on Jake’s stomach from the other side of the giant hammock from where Lucy was sitting, and a brother and sister partially got up on the hammock on the same side, knocking off Jake’s reading glasses. Jake was shocked and so was Miss Lucy, but they both laughed heartily.

With his reading glasses dangling off one ear and three of his newly discovered grandchildren sprawled across his body, Jake looked up at his devoted and patient wife of many years, and stated, “And by sudden impact.”

“Sudden impact what?” Miss Lucy inquired.

“You learn by space repetition and by sudden impact.”

Miss Lucy just rolled her eyes and got up and went back out to the compound to make sure that everyone was OK.

When Miss Lucy left, Jake noticed Jimmy Lee Jackson mingling around and assisting Doot while she was keeping everyone’s plate and glass full. Jake sent one of his new grandsons out to get the funny-looking man in the burgundy polyester pants which were way up in the water to come over to see Jake. The little boy went up to Jimmy Lee Jackson and told him that Mr. Jake wanted to see him. Mr. Jimmy Lee moseyed on over to the hammock. He leaned over and whispered to Jake, “There’s been a lot of rumors floating around about Jimmy Lee sightings lately.”

“Yeah, I know. My own daughter vows and declares that she saw you all dressed up while coming out of Brooks Brothers at Lenox a few months ago. Bubba told her that she must have mistaken you for someone else.”

“Well, I thought that I’d better come up here in character to help dispel these rumors,” Jimmy Lee offered as an explanation.

“I see,” Jake simply stated. But Jake started back up, “Jimmy Lee Jackson, you are one strange dude, and although you grew up down in Buttermilk Bottom and I grew up here on Tuxedo, I gotta a feeling that you and I are going to be close brothers until the day we die.”

“Now don’t go gettin’ sentimental on me ‘cause you think that you’re gonna die,” Jimmy Lee responded.

“Nah, I think that I’m gonna keep on livin’ until I’m a hundred,” Jake laughed.

“And I’ll still outlive you. But, let’s change the subject and talk about getting Fareed in as the Chief Bellhop. With Fareed as our eyes and ears, we’ll have The Club on complete lockdown.”

“Damn it, Jimmy Lee! You are always angling,” Jake said, as Jimmy Lee helped Jake out of the hammock and the two strolled arm-in-arm into the study to discuss Fareed and other matters of The Peachtree Driving Club, but not before one of the members of The Club who was attending the fundraiser hollered out to Jimmy Lee, “Nixon’s the One!” and the inimitable Jimmy Lee Jackson looked over his shoulder and blurted out the customary and usual response, “Four more years.”

Jake immediately queried his new buddy, “Where in the hell did this Nixon shit come from?”

“Let’s talk about it in the study, friend. I won’t tell folks that you drink your Beam with Pepsi. You got some of those Fuente Maduros?”

“Yeah, but I want to know it all! I want to know about this Nixon shit, about these pissant pants you always wear, and about this so-called disease that you and Inman concocted…Passadalogia. What kind of crock of quackery shit is that? Acute fixation on the past! Boy, you and Inman Arcineau ought to have been arrested,” Jake guffawed.

“Don’t call me ‘boy,’ you redneck cracker,” Jimmy Lee retorted in good humor.

“Well if you’re goin’ use such a highly charged and ethnically insensitive pejorative, at least say cracka and not cracker,” Jake quickly retorted.

Mr. Jimmy Lee Jackson simply smiled and closed the door of the study but not before they both heard Miss Doot’s voice echoing down the hall, “Y’all don’t be lightin’ up dem stogies in there!” © Big Daddy Publishers, 2016.

 

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The MACE Manifesto: The Politically Incorrect, Irreverent, and Scatological Examination of What’s Wrong with American Public Education

 Enjoy reading a couple sections from The MACE Manifesto (Chapter One and the PREFACE).

The MACE Manifesto: Part One – Expounding Theories

Let us just tell you how things really work in public education.

Chapter One

On Learning & MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning. 

By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

     At MACE, we are concerned about students actually learning information, not just having good bullshit feelings about themselves.  We believe that if students actually learn information and therefore have knowledge, then they will indeed have good feelings about themselves, if this is really paramount.  We are talking about actually teaching the students information, not engaging in all of the John Dewey hackneyed social engineering, viz., trying to change the students’ beliefs, feelings, values, dispositions, or attitudes about the world or their environment.  The current Outcomes Based Education (OBE) and Common Core Curriculum which are being pushed nationally by the very flawed Race to the Top (RTTT) federal program and other groups like the National Governor’s Conference, the Belmont Forum, and UNESCO might have some merit but the overriding agenda seems to be a reengineering about how students think and how they interact in group dynamics and what kind of value that they attach to situational-type ethics and morality.  It is ironic that our “learned” men and women of the ivory towers and of the corporate elite are now intent on tearing down the bright line standards of right and wrong and even exchanging the possibility of teaching our students veritable truths for the mental mush of deconstructionism.  We have heard of junk bonds on Wall Street.  Well, we are entering the age of junk learning in our public schools.

When our educational wackos (usually Ivy League graduates who are non-educators but assume educational advisory roles in policy-oriented foundations) could not get the History Standards blessed but instead were condemned 99 to 1 in the U. S. Senate in January of 1995 (the only dissenting vote was cast by Democrat Bennett Johnson of Louisiana who thought that they were not condemned enough!), these same social engineers went back to the drawing boards to change the language to make their agenda more palatable, but the same mental mush is on the educational dinner plate.  With groups like the Pearson Education (the largest educational company in the world which profits big time from the publication of textbooks, workbooks, study guides, teachers’ guides, tests, evaluation materials relative to these standards, etc.) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (whose “cousin,” Microsoft, which waits with baited breath to sell uniform apps relative to these so-called standards) pumping millions of dollars into the operating costs of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), the tail was seen clearly wagging the dog.  With the billionaires’ not-so-subtle push and shove for the Common Core Initiative, our students are now at the mercy of being manipulated by the likes of the Bilderbergers.  Get ready, folks.  Public education is now goose-stepping to the rickety cadence of globalism and has adopted the one-world-curriculum quicker than Halliburton can grab a government contract.

It is this type of junk learning that these programs and these groups are pushing on our public education children, but not on the children who go to private schools where learning information is a premium, where scoring high on the SAT or the ACT is pertinent, and where getting accepted to one of the Ivies is very important.  No, the schools where Bill Gates or President Barack Obama send their children actually learn information from respected teachers who are authorities in their fields.  The water-downed junk learning that is being pushed in our public schools today would not be tolerated in the plush private schools where many of these educational junk pushers actually send their own children.  This is the height of hypocrisy.  At best, it is the public schools being used for social agenda; at worse, it is a deep-seated and condescending gnostic philosophy that drives these self-perceived elitists to try to do what they perceive is best for the “craftsmen” class of people.  It stinks like the shit from a disemboweled hog, and if you ever confront these “knowing ones” about their elitist mindset, they become nervous like dogs shitting peach seeds.  Remember that it was H. L. Mencken who stated, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.”

We want students to be able to read and to understand what they have read; to be able to recite the multiplication tables right off the top of their heads; to be able to write cogent, logical, and understandable paragraphs in the King’s English; to be able to locate states, countries, major rivers, and mountain ranges on a map or globe; and to be able to demonstrate a coherent knowledge of United States and World History.  It is these types of information that make the student a literate person and enables him or her to be considered culturally literate. Most of what is being pushed by the federal government and educational “think tanks” today is not content learning; it is bullshit learning or mind-altering attempts to change how students see the world around them.

The educrats and social-engineers wrap the Common Core Curriculum (which has been adopted in some form by most of our States) in good sounding phrases like “college or career readiness,” but they apparently have a social agendum instead of a true educational agendum.  Trying to change or propagandize the “whole person” is no better than exclusively foisting “whole language” upon non-readers instead of drilling them in the phonics approach which has effectively helped children to learn to read for generations.  All of these flawed and misguided attempts to skirt, avoid, and chunk good, hard memorization of information is destined to sink just like the Titanic.  These so-called “educational leaders” decry learning “fixed facts” but it is “fixed facts” which are tested on the SAT, the ACT, the LSAT and other entrance exams.  (Now these academic gnostics are trying to change even these tests.) Are these educational gnostics trying to keep the masses from entering into world of leadership, hoping rather that they will just be content being “workers” in the new global economy?

Public school education should be about learning information and learning how to think critically based upon the information that has been learned, not some jived-up hocus-pocus Captain Kangaroo I-feel-good-about-myself bullshit.  This is not how students are taught in private school education or in law school education or in medical school education.  Our public school students have a severe information deficit.  They are just ignorant.  Not stupid (well, some are), but just ignorant.  We have high school students who can’t tell you in which century the American Civil War occurred, if George Washington or Abraham Lincoln was the President during this war, or who the United States fought during World War II.  They can’t tell you if eight times eight is 64 or 32.  They can’t tell you what the difference is between a noun and a verb, much less properly string them along in a verbally correct sentence or a cogent paragraph.

The information deficit is horrendous and our airhead education professors and educational policy wonks think that it matters more what these students feel about globalization or so-called global warming.  I fear for a mental meltdown in our public schools because of a lack of learned information.  The acquisition of learning is rather boring and has to be committed to memory.  You learn from a qualified teacher, a repository of knowledge, or an authority on the subject, if you will.  Or, as a friend often says, the students need the sage on the stage and not a guide on the side.  All of this “student-centered” learning is bullshit.  The students don’t know enough to teach each other hardly a thing.  It is the pooling of ignorance at best, and at worst it is the sacrificing of the advanced students to use them as tutors for the struggling students.

Teachers should be allowed to study in detail the subject areas that they teach.  Teachers should usually teach only one subject area but some teachers prefer more than one subject area to break up the mental monotony and to keep themselves fresh.  But, requiring a teacher to teach three or four or even five different subject areas a day is certainly a punishment on the teacher (and this is usually why a dumbass administrator would think of assigning these many lesson preparations to a teacher) but it is also a travesty on the students because the teacher cannot become the expert that he or she needs to be to command the authority in the classroom.  Students can sense when a teacher is just trying to stay one chapter ahead of the students.  Such dumbass subject assignments are unconscionable.  In the old days, this hardly ever happened, but with the new genre of dumbass administrators, they do such multiple-subject assignments just for the joy of watching fellow human beings suffer…like a sadistic kid burning ants.

Not only should teaching assignments be limited to one subject (and to two subjects in emergencies or if the teacher requests another subject), but nearly all of the bullshit education courses (be they in the colleges of education which ostensibly prepare people to teach or in the inane “staff development” courses) should be ditched.  Yes, ditched.   Colleges of education probably should be limited to a class in the teaching of reading (for the primary grades), methods, educational psychology, research, and statistics and that’s about it.  All of the made-up-courses-for-education-professors-to-have-jobs should be jettisoned.  Teachers in Grades Four through 12 need to be saturated in their subject areas, be they in Math, Science, History, English, vocational areas, etc.  When the teacher walks into the classroom, the students should be able to sense immediately that this teacher in an expert in this field of study.  The ability to command respect is important.

So, this chapter is about learning, and MACE’s theory of how a student learns.  If a student actually learns something and gets accepted into a college or a university and later to a medical school or an engineering school or a dental school or a law school based upon the performance of his or her acquired knowledge, then this student will automatically feel good about his or her learning.  Positive feelings come after real learning, not before.  Our numb-skulled educational emotion-pushers have it all backward.  If you learn, you will feel better about yourself, but giving someone false feelings based on some ill-advised educational pep squad will leave a young person emotionally-jaded and mentally-disjointed.  The young people need to be told the truth, viz., that they need to get their asses in gear, burn the midnight oil, and actually learn something.   With this backdrop, let us lay out MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning.

We have all heard of the chemical formula for water, viz., H20.  Two elements of hydrogen combined with one element of oxygen results in water.  Probably most have some notion about Albert Einstein’s E = MC2.  Energy equals mass plus the speed of light squared.  I am not capable of elucidating upon Einstein’s revolutionary Theory of Relativity and how mass can be converted into energy, etc.  I am just an old school man who has observed through the years what equals Learning, and I can assure you that it is not what today’s educrats keep foisting upon unreceptive teachers in particular and upon the public in general.

Actually, in the United States we have no official Theory of Learning or Philosophy of Education.  None whatsoever.  Hence, we fall prey to the latest fads which usually emanate from the colleges of education.  Most of these fads do not work, and the teachers know this instinctively and experientially.  So, what does work?

MACE believes that DAM or D+A+M = Learning.  What is MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning?  MACE believes that you have to have three essential elements in place or learning will not take place.  But, it is not so binary as it may sound.  Obviously, with varying degrees of these elements in place, you have varying degrees of learning taking place.  But, the principals, superintendents, school board members, educrats, and politicians don’t have a clue about these three essential elements which constitute learning.

Discipline 

     The D stands for Discipline.  Discipline is a key to learning.  A very important key.  In fact, a field of study was formerly called a “Discipline.”  You have to have self-discipline to study.  Without discipline, there can be no study.  But, we never hear the politicians and policymakers say one thing about “discipline” when they announce their grandiose schemes for school “reform” (which never, never work, by the way).  It is never discussed as even something desirable, much less something essential.  They simply think that they can come up with more things for teachers to do and more standardized exams to be administered to the students and then learning will take place.  That’s like trying to put Kool-Aid into the gas tank instead of gasoline and putting oatmeal in the engine instead of motor oil and expecting the car to run.  It won’t run no matter how mad you get at the mechanics and drivers.  It won’t run…because you have substituted Kool-Aid for gasoline and oatmeal for motor oil.  More teacher perspiration and stress, more detailed and minute lesson plans, and more inane, ridiculous, and innocuous reports to be filled out will not result in learning.

The first essential element in the Learning Equation is Discipline.  The teachers have to be supported when establishing and maintaining discipline in the classroom, the students have to know this, and the students have to engage in self-discipline.  A student who insists on being defiant and disruptive has to be swiftly removed from the regular school environment so that the rest of the students who are engaging in self-discipline might learn.  If the incorrigible students are allowed to remain in the regular classroom, then limited learning will take place.  It is just that simple.

Order has to be in the classroom.  Learning cannot survive in chaos.  Order is the anti-oxidant for the classroom, and chaos is the cancerous condition.  Chaos cannot survive where order is maintained.  Order cannot be maintained without the teachers having the full and unqualified support from the school administrators.  In order for a healthy classroom (Learning) to exist, then Discipline (the anti-oxidant) has to reign in the classroom corpus.  Not intending to speak lightly of a very serious malady, I can only compare today’s conditions in the classrooms of many schools as cancerous, and our educrats and superintendents want to ignore this condition or to offer Band-Aids for a ravenous and raging cancer.

The U. S. Army and the U. S. Navy understand the need for discipline.  Football coaches understand the need for discipline.  The F. B. I. understands the the need for discipline.  The Prison System even understands the need for discipline.  Why don’t the politicians, policymakers, principals, superintendents, and educrats understand the need for discipline?  Perhaps they really do, but it’s not in their best interests (financial or otherwise) to call for discipline and to support discipline.  There is a blind-spot with the so-called educational leaders when it comes to this essential element of the Learning Equation.  Without Disciplne, Learning will not take place.

Ability 

     Ability is the second essential element in the MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning.  In Brazil on the nightly news last night, I saw a 14 year old being admitted to one of the prestigious universities.  He obviously has more academic ability than most students.  On my Facebook the other day, I posted a photo of a young African American, Cameron Clarke, who recently made a perfect score on the SAT.  He too has more talent for academics.  My colleague and co-author, Norreese Haynes, has a young son who is seven years old.  He tests off the charts.  Some of the most prestigious private schools in Atlanta have offered substantial scholarships for Zyair to attend their schools.  He is simply blessed with superb academic skills.  Not all students are so blessed.  Some are actually slow.  Most, by definition, are average in their abilities.  But, we don’t hear policymakers in educational circles talk too much about different levels of abilities.  We hear them talk about differentiated learning styles.  We hear them issue hollow statements like “All children can learn.”  Who doubts this?  But, can all students learn at the same pace and at the same depth and level?  Do all students actually want to learn? We get ahead of ourselves discussing motivation at this juncture.  Motivation is the last of the essential elements of Learning.

Our youngest son Matthew did a piano “recital” as a five year old in front of the entire student body and parents.  His teacher told us that Matthew was “a natural” when it came to music.  Our older son Robert is like me.  He wasn’t blessed musically but was blessed athletically and eventually earned a football scholarship to college.  Although Matthew was not blessed athletically in general, he shocked everyone with his ability to run the 400 meters in track – although he initially just called it “the one time around.”  The first time that I saw him run, as a freshman, he won a varsity invitational meet.  He even shocked his brother.  But, he is not motivated by music or track, but has a strong motivation to excel in drama and photography – but, again, we get ahead of ourselves talking about motivation.

Why is it that we can easily recognize and admit that some people are blessed as computer whizzes or great in music and art or great in basketball or track but we don’t want to admit that some students are just more talented in Math, English and Literature, Foreign Languages, Science, History, and Government?  What about great at working on automobiles?  Great at wood-working?  Great at electrical work?  Not all students are the same.  Not all have the same abilities.  Not all have the same talents.  Shouldn’t it be incumbent upon educators to be talent scouts?  In what areas are certain students highly talented and therefore highly motivated?  Certainly not all have the same levels of motivation.  Our teachers today are told that all students have to learn from the same pattern and that different classes even have to be on the same subjects on the same days at the same time.  How boring!  How unrealistic!  How cruel!  No wonder the motivation of so many students is stifled!  No wonder so many 16 year olds just drop out of the school process as soon as they can!

Motivation 

     If a student is not motivated to learn, then a student will not learn, and there is little that a teacher can do to make this student learn.  If a kid goes to see the dentist, a dentist can prescribe the best dental hygiene for the kid, but if the kid (or adult) is determined to eat a bunch of junk food and refuses to brush or floss his or her teeth, then the kid will have rotten teeth, and there is not much that the dentist can do to prevent this.  The same goes for a student who attends school (really against his or her will) and simply refuses to learn.  Our educational policymakers and superintendents and educrats want to put the blame for this lack of learning on the teachers, but the teachers can only do so much.  A lawyer can defend a client, but the lawyer cannot acquit a client.  A physician can treat a patient, but he or she cannot heal the patient, especially if the patient persists on eating an unhealthy diet, smoking, doing drugs, and drinking excessively.  A teacher can teach a student, but the teacher cannot learn the student.  This is even bad English.  You cannot learn anyone.  The learning is incumbent upon the student.

The motivation to learn is a social process, a cultural phenomenon.  I had a professor at the University of Georgia, Dr. Eugene Boyce.  He had served as an educational expert/advisor all over the world.  He developed the theory that the motivation to learn is a social process from his many years of observation in Ethiopia, Kenya, China, and the Soviet Union as well as at the Lab School at Florida State University.  (Ironically, Dr. Boyce had served as my mother’s principal at Columbus High School back in the early 1940s and taught me at the University of Georgia in the early 1980s.)  He observed that it was the social fabric from whence a student came that provided the motivation to learn.  If a student in Africa attended what he called a “village-tribal” school, then they did not bring a great deal motivation to learn to school.  If, however, a student had a great desire to join the diplomatic services and attended what he called a “colonial-missionary” school, then the student was highly motivated to learn.  In the totalitarian schools in China and in the U. S. S. R., there was not much diversity. The peer pressure was enormous when it came to learning.  Therefore, the motivation to learn was there.  The teachers in China and the U. S. S. R. did not use fancy and esoteric pedagogical methods or differentiated teaching styles to accommodate differentiated learning styles.  They taught English by simply holding up an object like an apple, saying, “This is an apple.”  The entire class in unison repeated, “This is an apple.”  Guess what?  The students learned English…or brought much consternation to their parents and to themselves.  Misbehavior was simply not tolerated.  The same holds true for such monolithic societies like Japan, Sweden, and the holy land of learning, Finland.

Let’s talk about Finland.  I was reading an article last night where a so-called educational expert in the United States recently visited Finland.  You would think from the way we adulate Finland that Finland puts its students through a battery of annual exams.  This is far from the truth.  I think that they are given a test at the end of their high school years, and this is it!  Yes, Finland doesn’t spend a lot of time examining the students (or, as we say, “weighing the pigs”).  They actually teach the students.  They grant enormous freedom and creativity to the teachers who are highly respected by the public just as lawyers and physicians are.  The teachers pretty much decide what they are going to teach…just like we advocated at the very beginning of this book.  This was the way it was in this country forty or more years ago…until the horrendous “accountability” movement out of California spread like a cancerous tumor all over this country and metastasized 30 years ago with the promulgation of A Nation at Risk.  Panic set in all over this country, and words like “achievement,” “performance,” and “accountability” took hold like ticks on a Tennessee blood hound.  It might be hard for some of our readers to grasp but the concept of “accountability” is a foreign concept to Finnish teachers.  The teachers just act like and are treated like professionals.  They have fun in the classroom, and often they digress from what might seem to be the subject.  The kids have fun, and the kids learn.  There is indeed a difference between robots and professionals.  Oh, yes, for the record:  The Finnish students who don’t seem very adept or interested in an academic curriculum are funneled into vocational education around the age of 15.  Perhaps this too makes for “better performance” of the Finnish students.  Comparing American public schools to Finnish public schools is like comparing the Compton’s Encyclopedia to the internet or comparing Lake Lanier brim to Cape Cod snow crabs.  It’s just not a fair comparison.

A professional doesn’t need a snoopervisor telling him or her what to do.  They don’t need to be told how and when to do it either.  Today’s teachers are so overwhelmed with inane, stupid, counter-productive, and insipid rules that they can hardly make a decision on their own, including what color wall paper to use.  All of the fun, all of the creativity, and all of the professionalism have been taken out of the job.  It would be the same for physicians if they are told whom and when and how they can treat.  Furthermore, consider that the physicians were told that they had to write down specific plans that they were going to use when seeing their patients – and then these written plans were reviewed by some faceless snoopervising government physician who was intent on climbing the corporate government ladder.  Or, apply this same set of ridiculous rules to attorneys.  What if the State provided a snoopervising attorney telling each lawyer which legal strategy to employ with his or her client?  Again, each time a lawyer interacted with a client or a potential client, he or she had to write down specific plans to be submitted to Big Snoopervising Lawyer who would red-ink them with nasty notes, telling the frightened lawyer to re-submit the plans for further review.  This, dear reader, is what is going on in the public schools of the United States.

The teachers are treated like tall children in the United States, like hired hands who have to be told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.  The educrats today are actually demanding that elementary teachers jump and clap at certain times, in such reading curricula as Reading First.  Or, the Seventh Grade Social Studies teacher in one middle school in the large school system has to be teaching about the Battle of Antietam on the same day as the other Seventh Grade Social Studies teachers throughout the system.  As my grandfather would say, I’d rather have an enema…while eating an onion sandwich.  How disgusting that the treatment of teachers has become!  They are now treated like Russian serfs but we expect them to get the same results as Finnish professionals!

For the students to learn, they have to be motivated to learn.  Right now, they are bored to death, and I don’t blame them.  The pabulum served up to them each day is boring as whale poot, to quote one of our deceased lawyers.  Or, to quote my colorful grandfather again, this delicious curriculum of tasteless cardboard is enough to bore the pee-wadden out of the students – and don’t ask me what “pee-wadden” is.  Many of our students are simply disengaged.  Their heads are now in texting, tweeting, Skyping, and sleeping – and we’re talking about during class.  Some deal with the boredom by playing cops and robbers with the teachers and administrators, and some simply use the school scene as a place to grab a couple of free meals and a place to sell drugs and make some money. For many students, school is simply a place to “hang out.”

Georgia’s true drop-out rate for students entering the 9th Grade and dropping out of school before graduating hovers close to 40%.  Has anyone ever asked why the drop-out rate is so high?  Isn’t it obvious that many of our students are disengaged and just bored?   Ever since the promulgation of A Nation at Risk in 1983, our country has been on a futile path trying to make academic scholars of all of our students.  We have been trying to catch the much-heralded Finland or Sweden on standardized test scores.  Why?  To make the politicians feel good?   I don’t know.  We have eliminated very useful vocational training for those many students who choose to drop out of school rather than to feel stupid in the Calculus and Chemistry classes.  They know that they will never use Calculus or Chemistry.  I know it too.  Heck, I have earned two doctorates from prestigious universities, and I never use Calculus or Chemistry.

Why not allow these students to take courses in subjects and areas in which they have a great interest and something that will really prepare them for life?  If a student is simply not that academically inclined but prefers to work with his or her hands, then what in the hell is wrong with this?  There are still seamstresses out there in the world today.  There are still mechanics.  I know because they constantly work on my cars and vans.  In fact, the place where I have been taking my son’s older model Mercedes lately is owned by a husband and wife.  It is called Ma and Pa Kettle’s.  This husband and wife team can both work on cars, but in recent years, Tammie mainly works on the books, deals with customers, and orders parts.  The couple’s daughter and son also work at the business.  This is a thriving business. What is wrong with Auto Mechanics and/or Auto Body Shops being put back into the schools?

I remember the young men at the older Archer High School in Atlanta who grew up in Perry Homes, then one of Atlanta’s notorious housing projects.  Mr. James Whitehead taught them to repair the bodies of wrecked vehicles.  They were good at it too.  They won several State competitions, and when they graduated from high school, they could easily get jobs in the auto repairs shops in the Atlanta area.  But, when the Atlanta School System under the dubious leadership of Superintendent Beverly Hall went on this farcical mission of raising standardized test scores, the different vocational shops and magnet programs bit the dust.  They were simply closed down.  I remember seeing Mr. Whitehead, a proud teacher, wiping off lunchroom tables at Campbell Elementary School.  They took away his ability to prepare these young kids with a future.

I graduated from Jordan Vocational High School, the first municipally-supported vocational high school in the country.  It started in 1905.  When my sister, brother, and I all attended Jordan High, we never took any vocational classes, but they were available.  Some students took welding shop, wood shop, auto shop, electrical shop, and electronics (and electronics was very advanced for the 1960s and 1970s).  Why not have these shops and more at all of our high schools?  Brick masonry, construction, painting, sheetrock, plumbing, truck driving, secretarial, and janitorial?  Why not?  I have known many a person who has made a good living with their own janitorial service.  Businesses hire these services every day.  Secretaries are still hired.  Truck drivers are still needed.  When my father was in the U. S. Navy during World War II, he was sent to Baltimore to be trained as an electrician before being sent to the South Pacific.  When he returned to his alma mater, this same Jordan High, to teach and coach, for a while he taught electrical shop.  He often talked about his former electrical students who came back to visit him, and they were making much more money than he was, even after he became a principal.

We have to find out what may interest a student.  What are his or her talents and likes?  We should serve as talent scouts.  We need to find out what the students are motivated to do.  If they are not motivated to excel in the academic subjects and have no desire to attend college, then we have to provide some programs that will motivate them.  Otherwise, they are indeed just a drop-out waiting to happen.  As drop-outs, their chances of being a drain on society and actually being prone to criminal activities significantly increase.  The monies that are spent on these additional programs can be realized in the less monies spent on prisons and the incarceration of our youth.  It takes about $40,000 per year to house one prisoner.  Maybe there’s just too much money in the school-to-prison pipeline for the powers-who-are to get interested in keeping these young people out of prison.  They are privatizing the prisons just as quickly – perhaps more so – than they are trying to privatize the schools.  You know that we always say that it is always about the cheddar.  Just like it makes no sense for some people to try to improve the blight of urban schools because these schools contribute to abysmal standardized test schools and therefore justify the new endeavors to let the corporatists get their filthy hands on the school money, by the same measure, some corporatists make loads of money by having young people incarcerated for many years.  Where do most of these young convicts come from?  The urban schools.  The same “failing” schools are sending their former students to the State Penitentiaries as fast as you can say “convict lease system.”

This does indeed remind me of the old convict lease system in Georgia.  It was in the interests of the Bourbon Democratic leaders to get judges appointed or elected who understood the “labor problems” in Georgia after the Civil War.  Slavery was no longer an option, but labor was needed.  Judges understood that long sentences were expected for often trumped-up or petty crimes.  The convicts were leased out to very prominent families (some of the richest families in Atlanta today) and to politicians (like Bourbon leaders Alfred Colquitt, Joseph E. Brown and General John B. Gordon who swapped around the Gubernatorial and U. S. Senatorial seats like they were playing musical chairs).  My great, great grandfather, Robert A. Alston, was DeKalb’s sole State Representative back in the late 1870s, and he chaired the House’s Penitentiary Committee.  He did a major investigation of the private Penitentiary Companies which leased convicts (most of whom were ex-slaves) from the State and offered up a scathing report which was carried in most of the major newspapers of the country.  In the process of trying to outlaw this heinous system (where there were upwards of 20% attrition rates in the convict camps), Alston was murdered in the Georgia Capitol on March 11, 1879.  The news of his murder was published all over the country, including The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

So, what does all of this have to do with the schooling process?  Our children are being sacrificed on the altar of standardized testing.  The standardized tests have become the false gods of public education.  Note that I said “public education.”  If standardized tests are so good, then why aren’t private schools bowing down to them too?  The standardized tests are necessary for the powers-who-are to be able to point out how schools are “failing.”  If the schools are “failing,” then politicians can find ways for the corporatists to get their hands on the school money.  It’s really not about improving our schools.  I can assure you that our schools – black and white – have gotten much worse since A Nation at Risk whipped up so much frenzy, resulting in statewide testing, national standards, accountability, performance-based-this-or-that, “achievement” awareness, and benchmarks.  All of the hullabaloo about “performance” has resulted in less learning.  As we have said often, focusing on weighing a pig and constantly measuring the pig’s weight will not result in the pig getting fatter.  The pig needs to be fed and allowed to eat.

I read somewhere that Albert Einstein once said the following:  “Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” At my old high school, Jordan Vocational High School, we knew instinctively that our standardized test scores (it would have had to have been the SAT or ACT scores back then) would probably have fallen significantly lower than our counterparts at Columbus High School (where my mother and her sister and my father’s brother and sister attended).  Most of the wealthy folk, business leaders, and highly educated sent their children to Columbus High (and later to Hardaway High also).  The military personnel associated with Ft. Benning sent their children (among whom was Speaker Newt Gingrich) to Baker High School.  Heck, our school was composed of a solid middle class as well as the working poor, the “mill kids” from Bibb City and North Highland.  I am talking about the white school, prior to integration.  If the test scores of all of the schools had been publicized like they are today, then we would have been slightly embarrassed and perturbed.  We already had a chip on our shoulder.  We didn’t need the school system or the State to tell us that our school was “failing.”  Our school was not “failing.” Many of the Jordan graduates went on to be Generals in the military, captains in industry (in fact, the largest company in Columbus today was until recently headed up by a Jordan graduate who now serves as the Chairman of the Board for this company), and mayors of the city (including the current mayor of Columbus).  But, when my father was the only assistant principal of Jordan (and it was the largest high school in the State around this time), Mr. Taliaferro (aka “Mr. T.”) was a very erudite, rotund, and jolly man, and he didn’t fret over the fact that not as many Jordan students were National Merit Scholars (it had its share of them, though) as the other schools or that not as many of its graduates went on to college as the other schools.  Each school in Columbus had derisive nicknames, and ours were “Lint Heads” and “Rednecks.”  Mr. T. understood the population base that Jordan was serving.  Some from the other schools referred to Mr. T. as “Big Red” (in reference to his girth and his ever-present red blazer supporting the “Red Jackets”).  He told my father and the teaching staff:  “We’re just going to the best that we can with what the parents send to us.”  Lots of wisdom in this statement.  If the parents send us students with just so much discipline, ability, and motivation, we’ll just do the best we can with what they send to us.

Conclusion 

    MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning is rather simple, although I tried livening it up with some examples.  You have to have discipline in place, both externally in the classroom and internally within the student.  Without discipline, there is no hope for learning. Learning will be aborted from the very beginning if discipline is not in place.  This is so basic but so many numb-skulled educrats, superintendents, and politicians ignore this.  It’s like trying to travel to the moon without oxygen on board the space craft.  Second, a student has to have the ability or aptitude to learn. Students have different requisite skills and proclivities to learn.  I don’t think that I could ever learn to be a computer programmer.  I hardly even have an idea how computers work…or how automobiles work for that matter.  (As as aside:  My father took auto shop in high school before later attending undergraduate school at Auburn and graduate school at Peabody-Vanderbilt on the G. I. Bill after World War II.  He always knew how to work on cars.  But, my brother and I did not inherit any of these tendencies.  None whatsoever.  Daddy often said that Dan and I were “mechanical nitwits.” LOL!)  A student has certain abilities and talents.  What are they?  Can we expect each student to perform at the same rate and depth as any other student?  I don’t think so.  Next, we have to focus on motivation.  If a student is not motivated to learn, then he or she will NOT learn, regardless of who is the teacher in the classroom.  Hence, it is incumbent upon classroom educators to be able to find out what the student’s interests are and to be freed up enough from the bureaucratic manacles and curricula constraints to tap into these interests.  Discipline + Ability + Motivation = Learning.  DAM=L.  © Big Daddy Publishers, 2014.

PREFACE

Jump on Board for the Fecal Exam:

American Public Education is Full of Shit!

By Dr. John R. Alston Trotter and Norreese L. Haynes 

The Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), once described by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “that radical teachers union,” was founded in 1995 in Georgia and continues to drive the petty, small-minded, insecure, angry, and abusive administrators crazy in its attempt to protect and empower the classroom educators of Georgia…one member at a time.  There were many predictions in the early years of the swift and abortive demise of MACE, but what we have witnessed is many school administrators (if we may use this phrase loosely) who have whimpered away via early retirements or forced transfers rather than the premature death of MACE.

It was never easy starting and keeping up a for-profit (yes, not a mamsey-pamsey “non-profit” which ostensibly exists only for its members’ benefits but whose staff is as lazy as a bunch of buzzards) teachers union which responds with all due alacrity to its members’ needs because of the good ole profit motive (not unlike Chick-Fil-A or Avis Rent-a-Car or Publix Grocery Stores).  The profits were not always there, and financial survival was always in the forefront of our collective mind.  So, we had to constantly worry about having sufficient money to operate and at the same time to offer the absolute first class and undisputed best service that any organization could offer to teachers in Georgia.

John and Norreese

Norreese Haynes (L) and John Trotter (R)

We wanted to get this “for profit” thing out of the way at the outset.  It has been addressed from time to time in the media about MACE being “a for profit union” as if this was anathema, and we simply state from the outset that we like “for profit” companies and don’t apologize for building a union on the same concept that Bill Gates built Microsoft or Steve Jobs built Apple.  Would you really want to purchase some “non-profit software” for your computer or purchase a “non-profit cell phone”?  Ha!  We are working from Windows 8 now and both of us use iPhones.  Our country was built by “for profit” companies, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.  At MACE, we have never received a nickel from any government or governmental agency.  We don’t go after grants and have never received a grant or any tax-favored status.  We have earned and continue to earn our dollars by pleasing our members, one teacher at a time.  We pay taxes to the State of Georgia and to the United States of America.

We remember one teacher reading in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about MACE being different…that it was a “for profit teachers union,” and this teacher called the MACE Office and stated:  “I don’t care how you are organized.  I just want to stay a member!”  We had assisted this teacher in getting an administrator off his back.  That’s really all the teachers want these days.  They just want to be left alone to teach.  All the harassment and all of the bullshit evaluations which are so skewed, biased, and laughable are driving them crazy, and they really have no one to turn to except MACE.  I jokingly say that the dispossessed and disemboweled and disenchanted and dispirited and dejected teachers in Georgia (and in other states as well) have only three True Friends…the Good Lord Himself, Wal-Mart, and the MACE teachers union.

 At MACE, we know that you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.  This is has been the mantra at MACE from the jump street.  This is an undisputed fact.  This phrase was used in the opening article that we wrote in the first issue in The Teachers Advocate! magazine in the Fall of 1995.  Our message has not changed one scintilla.  While other groups may be tossed to and fro with each fad coming down the educational pike or each knee jerk reaction that the Georgia Governor or the Georgia General Assembly may come up with about how to “improve” public education in Georgia, MACE has remained constant, steadfast, unshakeable, and unmovable.  Immotus, baby!  We have agitated, irritated, and fulminated against the shabby, unprofessional, and sorry-ass treatment of teachers in Georgia, but we have never vacillated.  We have protected and empowered many a classroom educator in Georgia…while scaring the shit out of the sorry-ass administrators.  (Note:  Not all administrators are “sorry-ass” but we think that this characteristic is reaching majority status today, if it hasn’t already done so.)  Some of these administrators don’t have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot and many have such sour dispositions that it looks like they were baptized in lemon juice.  Or, as Hap Frazier used to say, “They’re mean as cat shit and twice nasty!”

Some may ask, “Why does MACE have to be so mean in dealing with the administrators?”  Well, we have to provide the proper antidote to the administrative action already taking place.  Today, unlike the years when we grew up, the teachers are essentially treated like dog shit.  Forty-five to fifty years ago and earlier, teachers were the kings and queens of their classrooms, and the administrators for the most part backed them to the hilt.  The students knew this.  Their parents knew this.  This was how it was.  Even the parents usually tore into their children when they got into trouble at school.  Most of these parents just took the word of the teachers about Johnny’s conduct and didn’t even think of trying to indict the teacher when the teacher disciplined Johnny.  Now, however, the teacher immediately goes on trial when he or she writes up Johnny and asks the administration for help.  The administrators know that Johnny’s irate and irresponsible and crazy-as-hell mother or perhaps both parents will be storming the school and calling for the teacher’s scalp for singling out Johnny for his defiant and disruptive behavior.  Heck, it’s like war…the Hatfields & the McCoys or Auburn vs. Alabama.  There is so much bad blood between the crazy-ass parents and the already beleaguered, beat-up, and badgered teachers that these weaseling, booger-eating, scared administrators would rather stay angry and abusive toward the teachers to get the teachers to cower down to the parents and not report Johnny so that he or she would not have to face these nutty-as-a-fruitcake parents.

Folks, this is what is going on in these dysfunctional schools these days.  You may think that we are just using fanciful language to try to cause hysteria about what is taking place in our public schools, especially in the urban areas, but we are not.  We actually may even be toning down what the egregious and unconscionable conduct of the disruptive and defiant students and their irate and irresponsible parents as well as the angry and abusive administrator.  What is taking place in the war zone schools is so outrageous and incredulous that the educrats in Atlanta, Georgia (and other state capitals) and in Washington, D. C. can’t even fathom what to do about these schools and if they knew what to do, these gnostic, elite, and effete educrats wouldn’t have the ball to even try it.  They have, as one keen educator observed, parakeet balls.  They come up with bullshit programs like No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top, programs which neither address the abysmal and abject condition of zero discipline (no, not zero tolerance; we said, “zero discipline”) and the year-around open season for students, teachers, and administrators to beat up on teachers at will with impunity.  Teachers are actually the most abused professional people in the country.  Do you think that medical doctors or attorney would permit their patients or clients to come to their office and shout obscenities at them?  Would they tolerate some faceless and feckless state bureaucrat to come and randomly observe them while they treat their patients or counsel with their clients?  Would they countenance the notion of allowing some state snoopervisor to demand that they submit they daily and weekly plans for meeting with their patients or clients?  Ad infinitum.

We’re not talking about all of the schools.  Not all the administrators shit in their pants when these nuts-for-parents show up at school; some administrators actually have a backbone and are not afraid of them.  But, these administrators don’t last long.  The superintendents find them to be “inflexible” and are really concerned that they will not be company men and women, that they might have too much integrity and not be pliable enough so that the superintendent can be assured that they will jump though circus rings like trained animals.  So, eventually these administrators with integrity and backbone are slowly bled to zap them of their moral vim and vigor, and they are often simply corporately executed.  All of the other administrators get the message and realize that they need to eat the shit given to them, not question the demigod of the school system (viz., the superintendent), and be a good little boy or girl until he or she can draw his or her full retirement.  Having integrity in American Public Education (APE) is a liability to your career and health.  This is no lie.  No exaggeration.  Just cold and depressing facts of the bullshit that is part and parcel of APE.  APE is currently screwed up beyond comprehension, and those who risk pointing out how fucked up public education is in the United States will be ridiculed and derisively dismissed.  We purposely used the phrase “fucked up” to shock you.   Are you shocked?  What if you were in a classroom where this phrase and its derivatives were bandied about each hour by the so-called students, without any fear of reprisal?  What if a kid blurted out to you in front of the entire class, “Hey, bitch, turn the fucking lights on!”?  What if a student looked at you and stated, “Bitch, I’ll shit in your mouth.”?  This happens.  Teachers have told us of being talked to exactly like the quotes above – and we have heard many, many more anecdotal stories of such disgusting behavior from these so-called students.

One teacher told us, “I have been called ‘bitch’ so many times that I thought it was my middle name.”  The discipline in our public schools is waning rapidly, and in our urban schools, it essentially does not exist at all.  The school without discipline is nothing but a warehouse trying to herd young people like herding cats.  Can’t you imagine trying to herd 1,500 cats at one time?  Do you think that the cats would follow directions?   Ha!  Just like all health begins in the colon, all healthy schools begin with sound discipline.  One famous scientist stated that there is but one great disease of the body, and that this disease is a lack of drainage.   Another famous medical doctor, Max Gerson, developed the Gerson Therapy to reverse degenerative diseases.  One of the salient features of this Gerson Therapy, from my understanding, is a constant elimination of filth and toxins in the body by regular enemas.  Our collective educational corpus in the United States is full of hardened, toxic, stinky, loathsome, and deadly shit.

American Public Education (APE) needs many good enemas to clean out (1) the small-minded, ignorant, petty, bitchy, angry, and abusive administrators, (2) the naïve, useless, in-your-way educrats, (3) the money-making, opportunistic, and recently-retired-superintendent consultants/insultants, (4) the whoring , sluttish, and narcissistic superintendents, (5) and the I-don’t-give-a-damn-and-you-can’t-do-shit-about-it, thuggish, and hell-raising students.  Yes, the first thing that APE needs if we are serious about cleaning up the mess and healing our public schools is a series of educational enemas.  Stay with us in this book, and we will show you in smelly, irreverent, and politically incorrect details about the bullshit which has a stranglehold on today’s public education in America.  It will be a scatological examination of the fecal control of public education.  It will be wild, perhaps a little unorganized (reality itself is messy and unorganized and hardly ever homogenized), entertaining, but it will be the truth.  We won’t spare a thing.  Not one scintilla.  We intend to offend.  We write so as not to be misunderstood.  In your guts, you may think that we’re nuts, but in your heart, you will know that we are right…and that we are just crazy enough to tell the truth.  Ha!  Put on your helmet, folks.  It’s going to be a ride!

For the record:  If you are from up North and think in any way that the teacher union situation in Chicago or New York City is anything like what is happening in Atlanta, Georgia or Birmingham, Alabama or Charleston, South Carolina or Jackson, Mississippi or Memphis Tennessee, you are sorely mistaken.  Comparing what is going on in places like New York City to what is going on in Columbia, South Carolina is like comparing a watermelon to a raisin.  The teachers in the Southern states where there is no collective bargaining are treated like dog shit.  Really.  Real dog shit.  We can’t really speak for the Northern, Midwestern, and Western states.  The State of Florida is a unusual place.  It is located near Cuba, but everything south of the Orlando area is considered “the fifth borough of New York City.”

Quite frankly, we don’t see teachers being treated much better — if at all — in Miami, Florida than in, say, Atlanta or Birmingham.  So, we don’t think that collective bargaining is the answer to how teachers should be treated.  And, believe it or not, we have never and are not now calling for collective bargaining in these states.  We are not calling for a wholesale adoption of the radical tactics of Saul Alinsky.  We will exercise our First Amendment rights and picket to expose the most egregious and unconscionable actions of some of the more depraved administrative souls who seem to delight in inflicting pain on their fellow humans.  This book is a call for radical action, but not a call for more tired, worn-out, divisive, and ineffective collective bargaining.  We are simply calling for decent human beings to be placed in administrative roles who know how to treat teachers professionally and with courtesy, trusting their decisions, discretion, judgment, and wisdom when it comes to curriculum and student discipline.  Treating teachers as tall children, threatening their jobs on a constant basis, and talking down to them as a matter of pro forma administrative conduct will only exacerbate the current problems in American Public Education (APE).  Respecting and empowering the Classroom Educators will breathe life back into an institution that is essentially on life support right now — with the business moguls and opportunistic politicians doing their best to pull the plugs. © Big Daddy Publishers, December 12, 2012.

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Coming Soon…The MACE Manifesto. The Politically Incorrect, Irreverent, and Scatological Examination of What is Wrong with American Public Education

Coming Soon!  The MACE Manifesto!

       A witty, winsome, and wise tome written about the stuff that passes for public education, Dr. John Trotter and Mr. Norreese Haynes do a great service for Americans by exposing this sham and farce which poses as “public education” but really serves as an Educational Industrial Complex which provides huge salaries for appointed superintendents whom they describe as “educational sluts” and for opportunistic businessmen who circle the road kill (viz., public education) like hungry buzzards.  These buzzard-business tycoons are now driving, according to Trotter and Haynes, the curricula  of the public schools and engineering the biggest heist of public funds for private use since the post-Civil War days when Jesse and Frank James saw that the banks were where the money was held and therefore drew the conclusion that they would start raiding the banks and not the poor Civil War widow down the street.  Trotter and Haynes use many interesting metaphors and real life experiences with teachers to illustrate just what has been happening the last thirty years in American Public Education…or, as they say in “APE.”

       John Trotter and Norreese Haynes say that this is a “politically incorrect, irreverent, and scatological examination of the bullshit that is involved in American Public Education (APE).”  Indeed it is!  They unabashedly delve into a scatological examination of the “bullshit,” sparing no feelings.  They make no pretense of being gnostic and effete educators; yet, when you read the book, you know that they know their stuff and that they are intrepid enough to tell the truth and appear to be impervious to pain.

Big Daddy Publishers is proud to publish The MACE Manifesto.

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