The Glorious Gift of Rejection.


Part I


Early on, my mother told me I was a smart aleck and that no one would come to my party if I had one.  The ditty she recited was, “Smarty, Smarty, had a party and nobody came.”

Facing such a horror I never had a party, for, indeed, I knew what my mother said was true:  I was a smart aleck.  But we all crave acceptance, and a smart aleck has only one method — to try even harder and thereby to become an even more obnoxious smart ass.  In high school I wanted to be class president, but who would want a smart aleck representing them?  No one.

I couldn’t make the football team in high school and basketball was a pretend sport for me.  The only place I could shoot hoops was in my dreams.  I did, at least, develop a sort of “look-at-me” kind of walk, and I boxed a little.  But in my second fight I got knocked out on my feet by a big Swede with a big neck and a pin head.  The only sport I was good at was talking.  I was a champion big mouth.

I thought maybe I should go to the Naval Academy at West Point – be a big time sea captain or something.  But I was slightly red-green colorblind and couldn’t see the letters in that silly spot test, and I was rejected out of hand before I even sought an appointment from some Wyoming politician I didn’t know.

I went to the University of Wyoming located, as it was, in my hometown.  You had to belong to a fraternity in those days if you amounted to anything.  The frat boys got all the girls because they had a frat pin for “pinning” one of those cute little sweethearts.  No girl wanted to be seen with a guy who had no pin to pin, who lacked that sort of social genitalia.

At that time I was working on the railroad as a brakeman and I came to my eight o’clock class covered with coal dust and wearing bib overall work clothes.  I also was a night bellhop in the local hotel.  My parents were not bankers or business people, and only kids whose parents were, or who were athletes or who were very, very nice, or who had those towering grade averages – in short, only those who might amount to something someday and thereby bolster the reputation of the fraternity got rushed in rush week.   Besides, I had pimples.

Breathlessly all during Rush Week I waited for some sign from the frat boys.  I had no phone.  My folks had moved off to Bolivia where my father worked in the tin mines.   But surely they could leave a note or something at the basement room I rented for ten dollars a month with another kid, the room, one of those with the unfinished concrete walls next to the landlady’s laundry tubs.  But no.  Nothing from the frat boys.  Ugly silence.

And worse, one had to muster a response to the interminable, unrelenting painful inquiries from one’s peers, “What frat did you pledge?”  What was one supposed to say with an arrogant shake of the head?  “I’m independent.”  And that’s what I said.  What else was there to say – that I was such a repulsive cipher that even the several lower-rung fraternities that were begging for the leftovers wouldn’t have me?

That was my early introduction to those glorious gifts of rejection.  I’ll talk more about it, that is I will be asking, is rejection something to be longed for, coveted, fought for and adored?  Well, stay tuned.



63 responses to “The Glorious Gift of Rejection.

  1. Like. Will wait for next installment.

  2. What a coincidence. About 14 years later, I also attended UDub and rented a concrete basement room next to the laundry tubs, but by then the rent had risen to $20 a month. I went a few rush “teas,” truly awful, supercilious experiences (suits, high heels, white gloves — even though in the fall a darker color was more appropriate), where I was told if I pledged I would be prohibited from dating an independent. This offended my sense of Freedom as I was dating my husband of soon to be 50 years, a fierce independent and coalminer. From then to now, I don’t remember joining anything except the Democratic party and AARP.

  3. Excellent !!!!!!!!

  4. I have known rejection. Fear of and actual rejection by girls drove me to tears many times as a youth. But, I kept trying and with the help of some nice cars I became popular in some limited circles. But, rejection for what you are is hard; race, gender, sexuality, too poor, too short, too fat, too tall, bald, too skinny, too dumb or too smart… that hurts. To be hated and cast out for an immutable characteristic or circumstance sometimes leads to self-hate.

    Rejection for who you are and what you believe is ennobling in my mind. When you are rejected because you refuse to laugh at the targeted person, or harass them, or because you help the outcast, or because you defend your ethics when it would be easier and more profitable to join in and go along. I welcome that sort of rejection. I think Rostand’s Cyrano said words to the effect of … I stand not tall, tis true, but alone. If I am rejected for speaking truth to power and for defending the defenseless then I have earned an honor and I will wear that rejection as a laurel wreath.

  5. Independence is power.

  6. ” I think all great innovations are built on rejections.”

    Louis Ferdinand Celine
    French writer and physician (1894-1961)

  7. Take solace Gerry in knowing that someday there will be a library or some other building at the Univ. of Wyoming with your name on it. As long as that institution exists, you will be remembered. The son of a tin miner. Leave the airports to the Ronald Reagans of the world.

  8. George J. MacKoul

    Wonderful beginning, your gift of making the listener want to hear more is a wonderful talent. I can’t wait to hear the rest of this one. Although I have read most all of your books, I suspect these incidents were the cause of you becoming a leader and not a follower, which I deeply admire in you.

  9. I await Part II
    I miss your pearls of wisdom on TV
    Did you mean to say naval academy at west point? 🙂

  10. Gerry,

    I attended Snead State Junior College in Boaz, Alabama for two years. Obviously, that’s as far as I could get there since it was indeed a junior college, but the price was right. When I went there, tuition for a full load was $67.50 per quarter, and I had a $100 scholarship! I couldn’t waste that! I got a job working for the Physics, Biology and Chemistry professors to make up the difference. Then I was lucky enough to receive a loan to complete my BS at Auburn University. A few weeks prior to the start of the fall quarter, I received a big envelope of material about attending Auburn, plus some material that kept mentioning the word “RUSH.” I didn’t have a clue what RUSH was, so I decided not to go down to Auburn two weeks early to attend it. If I didn’t know what it was, it surely couldn’t be necessary. When I got to Auburn, I kept my mouth shut and just listened to other people. Finally, I figured out what RUSH was and I thought I surely must be the most ignorant soul who ever attended college. All these years later, I don’t feel insecure. If I don’t know what something is, I just ask.

  11. Bravo Bravo I love the independents……you are the greatest gerry(-:

  12. Awesome, Gerry! Sometimes I don’t immediately comprehend the composition, or what makes it sparkle, but my mind comes alive when it “sees” a diamond.
    Thank you,

  13. Maybe being a “Smarty smarty” is only intimidating to and avoided by (professionally) people who DON’T play fairly by the rules.

    Some people say Judge Judy is a “Smart aleck” – but only those who have something to hide.

    You took that double -edged-sword and turned it into an attribute in the courtroom – which comes through clearly in this video with another “smart aleck” who had something to hide once again.

    You can even see your “Look-at-me- kind of walk” put to positive use – which proves to me there is a TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING!
    (And I believe ALL your clients of 60 years would agree!)

  14. If the above doesn’t get posted it’ll be because others do NOT have your abilities and therefore you don’t want them to start “practicing” these things. That’s ok. LOL

  15. “As long as that ‘insitution’ (library) exists you will be remembered.”

    May I have some of whatever you’re drinking or smoking?

    Even laypeople on blogs TODAY still talk about Clarence Darrow!!

  16. With acceptance comes stifling obligations and burdens. To be rejected is to be free. Embrace the energizing fresh breath of liberty.

  17. I, too, was Gamma Delta Iota, a large, ancient and honorable organization and the very first not to discriminate due to sex, creed, color, national origin, age, political affiliation or sexual orientation. My father was an M.D. who had earned his way through medical school by working on the line in a rolling mill at Reynolds Aluminum and with the help of my mother, an editor of Chemical Engineering papers for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    He encouraged me to go out for rush, but my mother’s terminal illness had just financially wiped out our family and, even though I knew he would have hocked everything he had to make it happen, I could not justify such a waste. I told him I didn’t want it (a lie, since many of my high school friends were attending rush), got as many grants and scholarships as I could find and a part-time job while I attended school. I turned down a scholarship to a school that was 250 miles away and would have also racked up bills over and beyond the actual scholarship and stayed at home where I could live under his roof, taking care of his house and my aging grandmother.

    Did these experiences make me stronger, better, more able to cope with what life throws my way? Who knows? That is beside the point at this juncture. I can’t go back at get a “do-over.” Life doesn’t work like that.

    I do believe, from reading your blog that your experiences seem to have had a profound impact on your life. If the rush committee had pushed a little note underneath the door next to the basement laundry, I do not think the world would have ever known the Gerry Spence who has accomplished what he has accomplished in the world.

  18. Andrea Sullivan

    Gerry- I wait impatiently for part II… I am one who thinks rejection should not be fought for although it seems we do this just as a way to receive attention from the parent who ignores what they see as “Smart Alecks” rather then seeing the child as the ambitious one…

  19. Full Moon is upon us.
    Great time to go streaking in the neighborhood Gerry.
    Great way to confront fears of rejection…..running (or walking briskly)around buck naked by the light of the full moon.
    I dare you : )

  20. My Sicilian Grandma “Emma” used to say: “Fa Mala Pensa, Fa Bene Escorda”..think about the bad things forget the good things (you’ve experienced or done)..because that’s how you get to be a better person, a better human being humbled and growing from a low place rather than looking down, haughtily from a high horse…it’s good thing for the soul and spirit to get your ass kicked once in a while..

  21. Rejection does not get easier. At 62 I am subjected to it by someone I believe to be the love of my life, up to this point anyway. I try not to take it personally as her affinity for grog… The real question I have is why am I placing myself in this virtually hopeless, untenable predicament. I do have a somewhat lengthy track record for sabotaging myself so perhaps therein lies a clue. Any thoughts from any and all would be appreciated

  22. You pick such painful subjects…..rejection is something some of us have spent our whole lives trying to get over. Character building yes, but if one thinks about it too long the sting is still there. One thing about knowing the sting of being rejected though is, hopefully we are humbled by it and do not do it to others.

  23. That rejection, at that time, has helped you become the compassionate human being that you are. And the world rejoices. I am sorry for any hurt that you still may feel from so many years ago, but my God, man, you have made such a success of your life by helping others. Thank you, and thanks for your books.

  24. Gerry Spence is one of a kind.

    When I asked him to represent me in 2002, when Wall Street bankers, and their service agents, stole my home of 26 years, which also sunk my residential fire sprinkler business, he told me he was too busy to represent me (I was happy that he responded, most attorneys did not give me this common courtesy).

    At least Gerry said “no thanks” which was fine, however, Gerry did something no attorney had ever done. He gave me advice. He said “You can’t let these bankers get away with this”.

    Taking his advice, I fought pro-Se, for the next eight years. I still have not gotten my hearing, since the Supreme Court declined to review my case for the second time; Ozenne v. Chase Feb 2010.

    A motion to the original Judge Jury, made in November of 2009, has been unanswered. Since filed I have declarations and requests for Judicial Notice (that the appeals court have failed to grant me a hearing)

    One reporter, who called me in early 2009, Mike Hudson, has a book released this month called “The Monster” by reporter Mike Hudson. It documents the practices in nearby Orange County of Ameriquest, who originally caught me in this web of greed.

    I love Gerry Spence.

    God Bless you brother.

    Gary Ozenne

  25. When parents are very poor they oftentimes take their frustrations out on and use their offspring as “whipping boys.” That’s why,in my opinion, very poor parents are NOT a good judge of their own children.

    Sometimes it becomes a lifelong habit and you can even find out when they are 75 years old that they also had Attention Deficit Disorder throughout adulthood and the rage that accompanies it comes out in the home.

    Why parents are never allowed on juries, I guess.

  26. Rejection does not get easier. At 62 I am subjected to it by someone I believe to be the love of my life, up to this point anyway. I try not to take it personally as her affinity for grog… The real question I have is why am I placing myself in this virtually hopeless, untenable predicament. I do have a somewhat lengthy track record for sabotaging myself so perhaps therein lies a clue. Any thoughts from any and all would be appreciated

  27. Wonderful reflections. I also look forward to the next bit.

  28. To the question: “Is rejection something to be longed for, coveted, fought for and adored?”

    If you’re talking about the most underpriviledged children today and GANGS, yes.

  29. Should Jesus Christ’s rejection be a guide in how we deal with rejection?

  30. As we grow older together (you with an obvious head start and way in the lead), I too wonder where the voices of the heroes I grew up with and cherished have gone. Yet, like a much needed call in the wilderness of our digital isolation (THEY call it progress), your words find us…Thank you. Stay tuned indeed…but don’t keep us waiting too long (who know if we’ll make it to tomorrow.) Your reader in SoChi (Southern China).

  31. Gerry:

    I AM Rejection. I began my ignominious journey through life in December of 1940 as an embryo within my 15-year old mother and was somewhere around 6-weeks of age. It was serendipity that Roe v. Wade had not been yet decided, else the ultimate rejection would have occurred and my story would have ended. Already, being Rejection, I knew not what rejection was.

    However, it was not long after my voice was heard by the four walls when the Day of Infamy occurred and my father, whomever he may be, decided it was to difficult to raise Rejection and joined the Merchant Marine – – – never to be more than a figment of my imagination.

    Because of her unforgivable sin, my mother and Rejection were cast out into a winter snowstorm. While rudging through knee deep snow toward a little town of Akron, N.Y., an epiphany occurred and suddenly I knew I was Rejection. Rejection knew but did not understand what that name meant.

    That blessed ignorance was not last for long. My dear mother had to make a “Sophie’s Choice.” Rejection was sent to live in several foster homes, the last of which was a chamber of horrors. By this time, Rejection was 5-years old.

    Rejection would beg the readers’ indulgence for he must digress for a moment. Most people I inquire of tell me that they do not have one specific first memory. Usually they relay a collage of bits and pieces of memories, which they refer to as their first memory. Well, Rejection remembers his first memory. It was on August 6, 1945. Why would Rejection remember such a specific date? Not the actual date at the time, but Rejection certainly remembers the terror racing through his mind and body – – – when church bells pealed at an odd time of day, police and firetrucks’ sirens wailed incessantly, people were outside running, screaming, laughing, hollering, and crying. The babysitter ran outside and locked me in the kitchen – – – REJECTION of Rejection.

    But I tarry. Back to the chamber of horrors, one of the ultimate rejections occurred daily. Rejection was hated, notwithstanding Rejection’s foster parents received $15 a week from Catholic Charities to house and feed him in 1948. During mealtime, Rejection sat on the floor eating boiled chicken’s feet, pig knuckles, tripe, and canned vegetable.

    Rejection was beaten and stabbed with a diabetic’s hypodermic needle for the slightest of infractions. Frequently, in the afternoon when his foster parents’ 15-year old son came home with two or three friends. They would grab Rejection, drag him into the basement and sodomize him while forcing 5-year old Rejection at the same time to perform oral sex on one of his tormentors. Rejection was rejected as a human being. With a hunting knife to his throat, Rejection was threatened with death were he to reveal the horrors laid upon him. The violations heaped upon Rejection caused thoughts of murder to creep into his mind. For the first time, Rejection could accept the rejection but not evil hatred, which accompanied it.

    One night Rejection, with hatred and revenge enveloping his whole being,, he tiptoed into the basement to retrieve a hatchet – – – his torture would soon be over, consequences be damned. Rejection sneaked into the bedroom of his sadistic malefactor, raised the hatchet over his sleeping head, and thought, “I’ll never let people touch me again.” With that, Rejection, with all of his might swung the hatchet down toward his target. Rejection was greeted with cacophony of screeching, screaming, begging for help. Rejection was terrified for he had failed. The hatchet only grazed his tormentor’s scalp, partially scalping him. Blood filled the air like rain. The police were summoned. Rejection spent the night in a Buffalo jail cell. Protective Services retrieved Rejection and placed him with his grandparents, the very ones that rejected Rejection and his mother some four years earlier.

    Their feelings toward Rejection still smacked of their failure to find a “back” alley abortionist. Eventually, Rejection’s mother married a man sixteen years her senior, who subtly rejected Rejection as a step-child.

    Rejection’s “wall” of armor was that of being a “smart aleck ” and a “scrapper.” Rejection did not take shit from anybody. Screw with Rejection and you had a fight on your hands. Rejection usually receive a “smart” licking, but the tough guys rarely squared off against him again.

    Although rejection was a “first string” line backer and center on the football team and star on the swimming team, he had built his protective shield all too well. Finding that being a “wise” guy protected the wall about him, Rejection exacerbated his rejection.

    Rejection’s reputation spread far above him. Every teacher he had had been warned about that horrible delinquent, Rejection.’

    Ahh, but Rejection did have a beautiful girl friend through his last three years of high school, whom he loved dearly. However, as a flight attendant for United Airlines, she met and married another. Damn, rejected again.

    Finally, Rejection was accepted as an airline pilot for Eastern Airlines, and over 20-years he would take no shit from any captain. Not many wanted to fly with him. Nothing changed for him when he became captain; he was “spit and polish.” whereby such policy was rejected by his crew members.

    Rejection retired from Eastern when it filed bankruptcy back in the eighties, and went to law school. Rejection settled in one of the poorest counties in the State of Florida. Rejection knew all too well the feeling of rejection. Therefore, he could not reject the beaten down Black people, who seem to be the largest minority in his county. The Black’s knew he hated the oppressors of their county and would go the “mat” for them, no matter the consequences.

    The first oppressor was the State Attorneys Office, where the only thing important was another “notch” in their gun-belts. Justice be damned — just screw that Black and that new bleeding heart, liberal attorney Rejection trying to defend him.

    Rejection was not rejected by TLC. In 2004, at 62-years of age, his life took on a different perspective. After he left TLC and began to use his rejection to his advantage in practicing law. However, he has never been able to remove any of the blocks of the “wall.” Soon, 80% of Rejections business was from the poorest of the poor — the Blacks of his county. Few if any, could pay me anything that resembled “green.” Most of jos pay consisted of $5 or $10 dollars per month until their bill is payed of, which, of course will never occur, but we are all content with the arrangements. Some of his clients pay him yearly — some owe him a cake at Christmas, some a pie at Easter, some fresh tomatoes, okra, or peaches is the summer, and others a card to just keep in touch over time.

    This is my last comment, for this writing has gone on far too long. Where I Rejection received the most rejection was from the TLC list serve. I am not one to hold back my words, feeling, or beliefs because they may be
    politically incorrect. I hate racism and will call out a racist wherever I find one. When I did that on the list serve trying to calm a volatile situation down. The shoe was on the other foot — now I was rejected by many who are in the highest positions with TLC. Hell, they even wanted me kicked off the list-serve. Having had one friend who survived the Bataan “Death March” another who never got past the beach-head on Iwo Jima, and lastly a good friend of my father’s who drowned below decks on the Oklahoma
    – – – consequently, I hate Japs.

    Few of the people at TLC have any experience with living history at that time. Secretly, many warriors contacted me privately, most of whom I never met personally, accepted me for who and what I was. Most of the members of TLC believe in abortion — I, Rejection, am a perfect argument against killing babies — for ANY reason. I do believe in a woman’s right to choose. Notwithstanding, they made that choice when they choose to sleep with a man.

    TLC is not an organization of brothers and sisters as I once thought. They are nothing but a microcosm of the rest of our county. Thank God, I still have my wall of protection wherein I can hide my rejection, yet still allows me to say it like it is.

    So Gerry, I am not sure if your “glorious” gift of rejection is a gift to you. As for me, it is a curse. I have never had a happy life, whereas, I have had many happy times. Be it glorious or a curse to me, it has been an unknown gift to the poor and oppressed whom I serve. Unlike you, however, I have never made a profit of lawyering in eleven years, never taken one single penny as mine. Nevertheless, I have invested my whole IRA of more than $450,000.00 to keep my doors open to help those less fortunate than I. Now, I ask you – – – is rejection glorious or a curse?

    From my heart,
    Rick Reno

  32. Thank you for gifting us with the honesty and humility that comes with public rejection. Dig deeper! Draw a bigger circle that is more inclusive. Your life tale reminds me of the Edwin Markham’s poem which goes something like this; “They drew a circle that kept him out, heretic, rebel, thing to flout. But love and I have wit to win, we drew a circle that took him in.” God bless the smart ass who grew up and got a license to kick ass!

  33. Thank you for sharing…..I always look forward to your words of wisdom…:)

  34. Mr. Spence I just finished listening to your audio book about “how to argue and win every time”, and having just read this brilliant article….. WOW
    I know you’ve heard this a thousand times but.. “Thank you, you changed my life!. Thank you for giving us this great gift”……

    I wish you well

  35. “As I have discovered by examining my past, I started out as a child. Coincidentally, so did my brother. My mother did not put all her eggs in one basket, so to speak: she gave me a younger brother named Russell, who taught me what was meant by ‘survival of the fittest.’”

    Bill Cosby

  36. Gerry, related to this, I loved your story (I think it was in Trial by Fire) about the young law student who asked to work for you, and you told him the story of your own rejections to teach him the power of accepting himself (when no-one else would). Brilliant.

  37. “I look back on a long life. Thankfully I have forgotten much of it. ”

    great quote!

  38. Regarding Rick Reno ’04:

    After reading his testimony, three things strike this juror right off the bat:
    l. Born in 1940 but attended TLC in ’04 at age 62?
    2. First paragraph he ” Never knew his father” but further along in testimony:
    “A good friend of my fathers……etc. so I always hated Japs.”
    3. It is incomprehensible to me that any child who had gone through what he claims to have gone through as a young boy, as an adult, could EVER believe it would be “just fine” to bring more unwanted children into the world to go through what he has – NOT TO MENTION man’s horrendous problems today world-wide from over-population
    4. The Airline story is questionable also since he was NEVER in a position to “Not take any “SH*%”- as an underling- from his Captain SUPERIORS.

    Something is askew here; too many red flags.

  39. HOWEVER, in conclusion:

    5. He is HAPPY now and is doing what makes HIM feel needed and important, which is all any of us can ask for on our deathbeds. So…………..

  40. Dear Mr. Reno,

    The story of your life sounds so fascinating and could be used to enlighten the public so much that I wonder if you have ever considered writing a book about it. ie, your autobiography.

    Back in 1992 – an author by the name of Dave Pelzer wrote a smashing best-seller titled : “A Child Called It”, which was HIS autobiography. The two of you seem to have had similar horrendously abusive childhood backgrounds and we are always told to write about that which WE KNOW – and which is what Gerry Spence did and probably the main reason for most of his wealth.)

    Maybe you could still write it!

  41. I was rejected by girls from age 6 up to 17 and then realized I was liked guys. Same kind of rejection?

  42. Mr. Spence,
    Like many others, your writing is a great blessing to me and I am thankful for your sharing, your insights, your self. I can see the half century mark of my own life, within walking distance. I have had a set of experiences – rejection – over the past few years that have thrown me into upheaval (and very nearly a complete breakdown), to a place I never considered a possibility. Every institution I believed in has proven itself …not just lacking, but mostly void of truth… causing me to question my life’s meaning.

    I flounder a little, looking for my path. Something, some things I was sure of, I no longer know. I do know this-that the things that broke my heart in the past have found a way to break my heart again. Perhaps I needed the wake up call to see the injustice right in front of me.

    Perhaps this will be a good thing some day. Maybe it is already. Thanks for another shove in a good direction.

  43. Thank you for that truth. Rejection just means you’re wasting your time with people who have closed minds OR feel threatened by you and who wants to do that?
    lol as the masses say.

  44. I just learned at the age of 68 that 69 years ago on this coming November 22nd, the day of my birth in 1941, that I was adopted. It was a shock to learn this and to subsequently learn that every one of my aunts, uncles and cousins (about 50 people in all) have known this all my life and not one has ever mentioned it. Once my roller coaster ride of emotional responses to this news slowed down, I realized that although I was rejected by my birth mother, I was ACCEPTED by two wonderful people who moved my brother (also adopted 2 years later) from the Long Beach, CA where my father had worked in the ship yards in support of the war effort (moving from Nebraska to CA in the late ’30’s to where the jobs were) to a wonderful rural community where we could thrive. Certainly rejections of one sort and another followed – not getting “picked” for this and that. But it’s amazing how in retrospect I can see that nearly every “rejection” in my life has turned into a blessing! Patience is not my strongest virtue but good things DO seem to come to those who wait. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to the next installment!

  45. And a million thanks from us all for always having said what Groucho Marx said too: “I never joined any group that would have someone like me for a member.”

    Otherwise, you would have been as mediocre as the rest of them and we would not be on here today! 🙂

  46. Just thinking. But wouldn’t ANY mother of a teenage George Carlin have told HIM that HE was a smart aleck – UNTIL it started paying the bills so well?

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  49. Honored Mr. Gerry Spence- Isn’t it true that simply by the failure to accept we commit rejection? By acceptance we draw the reality of love and being into our experience, and by rejection we shut ourselves off. I hope that dear Rick Reno will somehow be able to forgive Japanese for a transgression committed by a past generation. It would help to free him, as his service to the poor has done. For all he has endured, to complete acceptance.

    I was raised in the conservative religious flatlands of New Mexico-Texas during the time of segregation, and the only black person I remember from then was the old “boot-black” fellow who would shine my father’s boots on the alley behind the bank, always with a delightful and melancholy clackety-click-clack rythm. I remember my father treated him kindly and they visited, and Dad would leave an extra tip. But I knew the N-word. It was used commonly, as if about an alien species, and most white men- my father included- were engrained with prejudice to one degree or another. They were products of their times. When I got out of college and took my first job away from home, it was- of all things- as a social worker in Watts District of Los Angeles, just after the riots. The place was burned out, and it was a time of killing and burning- Kennedy, King, Kennedy, Vietnam, Chicago- and the scent of revolution was in the air, and the little white farm-boy from the plains was now surrounded by black people, not all of whom appreciated his intrusion. But, for the first time, I learned their names: among them tired and broken old Joshua McCaleb, a sharecropper from Mississippi, who had worked the same plantation his grandparents and ancestors had as slaves, but as a “free-man”, though his debt at the company store, where he bought food for his wife and eleven children, each year happened to exceed the amount he had earned after the cotton was picked and baled, and so each year he was deeper in debt. (Does this sound familiar in the America we have made?) After his wife died, old Joshua just gathered up his children and few belongings and caught the bus to LA. Life would have to be better there. The young white boy from the plains was astounded to find that slavery still existed in America. In old Joshua he was witnessing a virtual museum-piece of historical slavery. Possessed of more age and wealth of experience, he would never make eye contact with the inexperienced kid who happened to be white and wore the dubious cloak of authority as an agent of government. He didn’t know I considered myself his servant, and his only answers were, “yes Suh”, “no Suh”. I’ve always remembered him heart-broken. I don’t know if he was defeated, because I couldn’t know him: I didn’t deserve to know him. Though illiterate, he may have been more intelligent than I, more gifted, and certainly infinitely more noble. He was devoted to his children, with love his only resource. He was a man, equal to any, and greater than many.

    Leaving my conservative religious roots was an escape from innocence, and what I was learning was unsettling, upsetting. I had met, face-to-face, Injustice- unmasked, a naked, elemental, portentious condition which could not leave things as they were, an unfathomnable knowledge of a collective sin. Out there on the darkening horizon was the war which I had avoided by joining the Reserves, a privilege of my station and race. Old Joshua’s sons could go there for me. It was all bleeding together, crazy, dreamlike, uncontrolled, swirling up and around, like one of those skystorms above the plains, that sent finger-like funnels probing down out of the distant foment. Flashes within. Brooding.
    One day I was in down-town LA on “business”, dressed in my little suit and tie, and found myself within one of those indescript, amorphous buildings, dark inside with narrow, confining hallways and old brass folding grates shuttering the small elevators, so you could see the opposing wall of the darkened shaft ghost by as you were lifted, or dropped quickly and noisily through the distance. The only other passenger on the ride down happened to be a huge, pitted-faced black fellow who seemed to loom over the white country-boy as the small cage descended. He stood quietly, and nothing was said. When the old brass screen finally folded back and I was about to escape I felt the clasp of a great hand over my shoulder, so strong it held me in place, and a low, melodic voice spoke from high above, saying, “Brother….are you okay?” He waited for me to answer.
    I am not a church-man now, but to this day, that remains the greatest sermon I have ever heard. Those few words changed my life. I guess beginning with that moment I became a liberal. In his way, isn’t that what Rick Reno is asking with his practice of law, in the story he has told, “Brother….are you okay?; Sister….are you okay”? Isn’t this what Gerry Spence has asked through the years?: Are you okay?…Can I help?
    Is there, of any of us in any time, a better question to ask? Is there a greater service in life?




  53. Cathy Lindberg, Esq.

    Since I am currently digging out of upstate NY and wondering why I moved here, this blog is making me smile!
    Keep going…
    Cathy Lindberg, Esq.

  54. I believe you and I’m outta here.

  55. Wish I could give ya a BIG hug for that cause I’m chuckling so hard and I needed that! Made my day!!

  56. would you please run for god… fill my oppressed soul with hope… are the ultimate american….thank you

  57. anything you might be able to do to influence this rabid church group closely resembling activities of the anti Christ to remove them selves from us, stop slandering, or in any way interfere with our lifes would be helpful.

    They tend to go about recommending unneeded surgeries, follow us in streets threatening to arrest us if they are not performed, further organize church people to walk about with bible in hand stating that we are not wanted in this town, etc.

    They appear where we have coffee, remain mute, then after they depart the activities begin.

    After one session, with all mute, a strange coincidence occurred, after they left we overheard two people stating we were to be picked up and purged.

    In Eureka they had people walk into restaurants and offer money to managers to have us picked up. I would confront them, stating that was entrapment.

    We have a society that hunts and allows these people to act, without knowledge or our consent.

    They are reminiscent of the KKK. They are analogous to the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, having slandered Von dreadfully, and connected porno to our sight. The porno, smut, we witnessed in the church, which Blain confessed to, should be an issue that is done with.

    They are visiting guests with their habits, punishing the poor for having knowledge of his habit. It is a vendetta.

    Von served them, buying kitchen supplies, garden supplies, reimbursing electrice, maintaining the church, both indoors and providing extensive landscaping. He was always in my company and his behavior was exemplary.

    I agree neither with their theology nor do I approve of their actions.

    When criticized, Pastor Blaine, in a fit of anger, told Von not to return, and that further, he could not pick up his clothes, or food. Von lost his entire monthly funding due to the Pastors actions.

    It is inconceivable that they should interfere with us in any manner.

    Historically, the church was not successful with a ministry to the poor.

    They verbalize that they cannot be bothered by the poor.

    Christ built his church on advocacy and love. They refused to speak with us regarding any actions of advocacy. Their acts of slander are from ignorance and hate. Indeed they are a hate group.

    We both attempted indepth conversation with them, they were told of the estate matters and the concerns we had of the doctors that brought mother to an untimely death. They are interested in the collection of money at the guests expense, and, at the same time, slander and rob their guests.

  58. Are we at the tipping point of our freedom? Your blog provokes me to ask of myself; and, of your readers.

    The operative word that resounds with me is defiance; to be shared by us, to be sure; against the phantom despot of today: the corporate oligarchy. Are there some companies that are really too big to fail? You are all not really sure, are you? Are we truly consuming too much oil; in our cars, and in our lifestyle? In fact, the US military is the biggest consumer of oil on the planet, but did you all know that; or, not? The idea then is that the burdens are increasingly falling on the common people of our nations; but the responsibility lies in the hands of the privileged few.

    All rebels, as in the Southern Confederates; the Filipino Katipunan; the contemporary revolutionaries in Egypt, Tunisia, Libia, were defiant in their battles against a king, colonial power, dictator, or some sort of despot who held a license over their destiny that was unbearable in some way.

    Bill of rights advocates and citizens of today may be coming to their senses soon enough to realize that the despot today is not a figure as easily identifiable as a mere king; it is “the corporation” as a legal fictional holder of unlimited authority over us. What does it matter who rules over your life; if the result is the same deprivation of life and liberty? Is not the enforcement and preservation of the rights enumerated in the good Bill of Right, best tested in the country where they are so well articulated together with the Constitution of the United States? The rule of law is in place to prevent the abuse of power, which in the case of the US corporate entity is the power to make money as the sole purpose for being. So, I submit, there are no corporations; they are part of one corporate culture; one legal brotherhood that has grown entirely out of proportion in a zero sum game of the pursuit of happiness. The happier they get the worse we all feel; the more money is concentrated the less we can count as our own.

    However, before we jump to a conclusion, please pause to assess who is our enemy? What is the common good (pursuit of happiness) of life today? What do the corporations and the governments and the vested interests of all institutions all want us to have in common? What is the blood bond that they share, and what institutions directly and indirectly support the integrated relationships in an oligarchy? Blood may be thicker than water; but, money is thicker than blood. I will call the enemy entitlements! Those needs of companies in the body of rights that corporations have to sustain at our expense.

    Can we defy the entitlements we are learning to live with today? Well, the only gate of heaven open to the common man in the US today is the Law.

    The law is being subverted by the sense of entitlement that comes with the acceptance of being part of the super-culture of today. Entitlements may as well be called rights, but that noes not mean that they are rights. The process of interpretation in the common law is the pendulum that swings from side to side. The common man may not even see the base of the pendulum because it has swung over to the far left side, and that is not the side of the individual, because it is the side of the common good, so to speak.

    The common good is not defined in a document written to exhault the individual. Indeed, how could it be? The Constitution of these United States defined life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the purpose of the individual freedoms provided for in the bill of rights. The protections were written so as to the limit the power of the governmental branches so as not to encroach upon equal protections provided to all of the citizens.

    The individual has come under the crushing burden and weight of the re-defined common good. The common element, being the prevailing component in the equation, also means that the common evil is also the standard by which events are measured. For example, in my life time, I can recall when the imperialism of Japan and Germany was the enemy. After that, the Soviet empire became the dark shadow over the US in the cold war of 50 years. Now the global radical muslim movement against US imperial power Is the common demon in the clouds above everyone in the world. The preservation of the common good as it is currently defined, is now extending the power of government functions over all private activities, and to all activities within and without these United States and the geographical borders. Well, the US agencies are every where in the world, physically on the ground, today! The reach from the heavens through the satellites has no limit.

    So where are we? Well, we are all herded together, on the various political types of “reservations”; or, camps of today, holding areas, way stations, check points, tv screens, monitors, cell phone devices, etc; essentially waiting for instructions from the gate keepers, case workers, bureaucratic ministerial functionaries, prison guards, public address systems, etc.; who, and don’t ask me how it happened, have turned us all into a profit center to maintain their entitlements. Their job is to see that we do our job. Our job is to secure their jobs forever.

    What did we do before we bought into this scheme? Well, before we answer that question, what was life like before it was fractionalized and monetized to fill the coffers of the companies, institutions and bureaucratic layers of administration that require that they be supported by our contributions toward their well being, in perpetuity. Life was simple before the way is is now so complicated. Who would have ever thought we could have a mortgage for the term of one hundred years?

    Simple living depends on the feelings and behavior that you find in family and village community life. In other words, individuality was the normal standard for an every day hero. Gatherings were to be enjoyed and remembered as a pleasure and the sources of fulfillment. Today, the goal is to reconstruct family and individual values piece by piece, with an attitude to be shared again, which means that temptations have to be overcome and eschewed. Family life has become populated with phantoms from the world of sit-coms or reality tv, that are present at all private gatherings inside many homes.

    Excessive indulgence and consumption to get just stuff has been the ideal for over 50 years. Values, values, values…individual, family and community. Do we still feel strong enough about any of them to defy what has been imposed on us with the engines of modern technology?

    What do you think about this? Involuntary and compulsive behavior and thinking has been well explained and should be understood by all of us. For example, Eckhart Tolle talks about the constant thinking that goes on inside the mind which never turns itself off. The reason it goes on and on is that the mind has to be forcefully subdued; as by meditation; or the simple desire to achieve total silence; ie enlightenment. Please extend the idea to all noise, inside and outside of your head. The radio, the tv, the monitor, or whatever; just fills the space and time in our life with layers of information, like never before; for example, like “the bloomberg screen” of data and the financial urgency of corporations fed to us as though it is now our primary concern in life; and so we live in the age of hip hop and rap because all the noise is endless and seamless from every where.

    One of my favorite reads is “the Book of Five Rings”, written by Mushashi, in the Japan of the Samurai golden age. He explained why he was unbeatable by any of his contemporaries; and concluded with the book of the “void”. If you know all of what exists; you also know what does not exist. He knew from study and discipline all forms of combat and strategy; therefore, he could defeat all strategy with his own. If you know the difference between the truth and the void; you know ever thing there is to know.

    If you don’t know what the difference is between the truth and the void, you are bewildered. We are, my new best friends, bewildered!

  59. revel in individualism, for your one of the few who has a personality, most are sheeple craving peer acceptance and swayed by media propaganda.

  60. Humility is the spice of life. Life is the mother of humility. Rejection is merely the package mother uses to deliver this spice-gift which we can use to make us sweeter or more bitter. Lee Levenson – The Romano Law Group – Lake Worth, Florida

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