Thursday, May 30, 2013

Too much of a good thing is scary


In my opinion, I’m a good citizen. I think America is a great country and I feel lucky to have been born here. I love fireworks and draught beer and apple pie. And the sight of the American flag swells me with pride.

But … there comes a point where patriotism becomes nationalism. And that scares the heck out of me.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with waving the American flag and cheering on our interests and working towards the best for the good ol’ U. S. of A. But wrapping yourself in it and shaming others for not doing so isn’t the least bit patriotic. In fact, it’s downright wrong.

This is a great country that we live in. And we do a lot of great things for ourselves and the rest of the world. We should revel in that and shout from the rooftops the great things that we do. We should all be proud of our endeavors in fighting world hunger and poverty. We should be ecstatic over our scientific accomplishments that have helped all of humanity.

Unfortunately, however, I find that we tend to rally around the wrong things. We rally around war. Death brings us together. Consider the fact that all of our national holidays are centered around war.

This past Sunday I stood along East Avenue in Lockport watching the Memorial Day parade — an annual event put together to honor the soldiers who have given their all in battle to keep this country safe. It was a great reason to be proud to be an American.

I watched as politicians walked by. Police. Firefighters. Girl Scouts. Boy Scouts. Bands. Dance troupes. All grinning from ear to ear, proud to be Americans. There was even a group from Thorold, Ontario — but American by choice … at least for the day.

But alas, too much of a good thing. A sign put me over the edge. Maybe you were there and saw it. Maybe you thought nothing of it. Maybe it irked you, too.

“IF YOU DON’T STAND BEHIND *** OUR TROOPS *** PLEASE STAND IN FRONT OF THEM”

Maybe I’m touchy but here’s my breakdown of the sign: “If you don’t stand behind our troops” is really a way of saying “If you don’t support the war — any war” … and “Please stand in front of them” can easily be construed as “take bullets for them” or “sacrifice yourself.” An uglier interpretation could be “kill yourself.”

I’ve seen variations of this sign as bumper stickers for years. It’s nationalism parading as patriotism. It’s crass on a bumper sticker. It’s disgraceful in a Memorial Day parade.

To those of you thinking I’m overreacting or misinterpreting, please tell me what you think the sign means. I’d love to be wrong. But I don’t think I am.

Scott Leffler supports the troops. That’s why he wants them brought home. Today. Send him nasty-grams or notes of agreement on twitter @scottleffler. Or feel free to write a letter to the editor.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

We need to work on our narrow minds


Another week has come and gone and once again the crazies on the right have decided it was national “Use Barack Obama as a Pinata Week.”

This week’s highlights of lunacy involved, among other things, whether the president was wrong to allow a marine to shield him with an umbrella and whether the president used HAARP to create the EF 5 Tornado that wiped out Moore, Okla. in order to distract the nation from Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate and Phone Records-gate.

But today I’m going to focus on something that truly set me off the other day. An email. I try not to pay attention to forwarded emails. They tend to be stupid. And usually divorced from reality. But I made the mistake of paying attention to one the other day calling into question President Obama’s congratulations of NBA player Jason Collins.

The president took the time to call the basketball player in late April, shortly after Collins publicly announced he was gay. President Obama wanted to "express his support" and tell Collins that "he was impressed by his courage," according to a White House official.

This angered some on the right, allegedly because the president doesn’t personally call the families of those who have died in war — in addition to the fact that there’s nothing brave about being gay … so they say. The use of the term “bravery” should be “reserved for heroes in combat (and such) who have made much bolder decisions under the risk of injury and/or death in the service of others.”

I would certainly occur that being gay — in and of itself — requires no more bravery than my being white. Or male.

But being publicly gay does require a certain degree of courage, as made evident by the comments made by ESPN’s Chris Broussard who quickly pointed out that Collins is — in his opinion — a sinner. While Broussard’s comments weren’t vitriolic or mean, they do illustrate a certain attitude that is still prevalent among many people: Gay = bad.

Some take it much much further, going so far as to say that the evils of homosexuality are responsible for the degradation of society. One particular loon said that the Tornado in Oklahoma was indirectly due to Collins.

Fred Phelps Jr., son of Westboro Baptist Church minister Fred Phelps, tweeted the following using the moniker @wbcfredjr: “OK Thunder's Durant flips God by praising fag Collins. God smashes OK. You do the math. #GodH8sFags #FagsDoomNations #FearGod #GodH8sU”

So in his estimation God took dozens of lives in Oklahoma because someone didn’t hate homosexuality enough. This is the “God” they believe in.

I’m not sure which theory sounds more insane: That President Obama decimated Oklahoma to distract us from the non-controversies that the GOP is trying to stir (as discussed in last week’s column) or that God decimated Oklahoma because he was mad that someone’s gay.

My point — albeit rather roundabout — is that homosexuality still carries a stigma with many people in society. And as such, “coming out” certainly does require a degree of bravery — especially in a high profile job like professional basketball player.

You don't have to carry a gun or run into a burning building to brave. Anyone can be a hero. Even a gay basketball player.

Until we learn that the most simple among us hold the same importance in the world as “the few” — until we abolish the idea of some live being more valuable than others, how can we call ourselves enlightened?

After all, it is the meek who are destined to inherit the earth.

Scott Leffler hates tornadoes, hypocrisy and stupidity. But has only love for the meek. Follow him on twitter @scottleffler.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"The Second Gull War"

In Lockport we have an ongoing issue with seagulls which have overrun a parking lot which will some day be a Walmart.

Last year, in fact, Walmart was sued for killing some of the gulls when they tore down a building that was on the lot.

For some reason, you see, seagulls are protected. Flying rats. Protected. Go figure.

Anyway, here at the Lockport Journal, our "cub reporter" Joe Olenick is doing a story about Walmart's efforts to get the birds to go away so they don't get injured while the megastore is built. And our "senior reporter" Bill Wolcott referred to the incident as "The Second Gull War."

Made me laugh ... and ponder the fact that I haven't updated my other blog — http://birdwar.blogspot.com/ — in far too long. I should get on that.

Be safe, my friends. The bird war is real ...

Friday, May 17, 2013

White House displays sense of humor ...

This is legit. Check the original post here

I think this displays a certain amount of hubris. But ... it's still kind of funny. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rooting against America is un-American


Politicians annoy me. Democrats. Republicans. Even my fellow Libertarians. People’s motives never seem to be for the betterment of humanity and always for the betterment of their kind.

This is illustrated perfectly in the current round of scandalgates that are circling the halls of Congress. Between Benghazi, the Associated Press phone records seizure and the IRS overwhelming interest in tea party activists, Republicans are having a field day at Democrats’ — and particularly President Barack Obama’s — expense.

From what I’ve seen from these scandals so far, there isn’t much to any one of them. But piled on as a perfect trifecta in Thursday’s news, it sure seems as though the president will have a hard time surviving it. If Republicans weren’t already trumping up the word “impeachment” before, they’re surely testing it out now.

The worst part of this is that Republicans — by and large — couldn’t actually care less about what happened in Libya (that’s where Benghazi is, although I saw a statistic the other day that says that while 41 percent of registered Republicans believe that saga to be the biggest scandal in American history, 39 percent of those who believed so didn’t know where Benghazi is).

I also can’t imagine they feel bad for the Associated Press reporters who had their phone records snagged by the Department of Justice. I tend to view the GOP as skipping over the 1st Amendment because it gets in the way of their favorite one.

Now the IRS thing, I’ll give them credit for that. That story is just ridiculous. We all know that Republicans hate the IRS already anyway. And that bit of absurdity went after their people. So I’m sure they are genuinely upset about it.

But aside from the IRS shenanigans, I can’t help but feel that the GOP’s primary interest in these tawdry affairs is the amount of damage that it could potentially do to the president. Basically I believe that they’re much less interested in either correcting or preventing wrongdoings than they are in pinning any wrongdoings on President Obama.

What I want to know is: Why do Republicans hate America?

This is the same question that Republicans asked whenever Democrats questioned anything George W. Bush did. It was a stupid question then and I realize that it’s a stupid question now. I ask it facetiously.

Except …

It does genuinely seem un-American to me to root against President Obama, his policies, prosperity and even peace — all in hopes of bringing down his presidency. Some people are actually rooting for chaos because they think it will make Obama look bad.

Yes. It was equally un-American for Democrats to root against President Bush. But we’re dealing with the here and now. And here and now the GOP is willing to sacrifice anything just to get at Obama.

So I guess my real question is: If you’re willing to root against America — in the name of America — how can America possibly win?

Scott Leffler is a real American. He fights for the rights of every man. He also used to watch wrestling as a child. Follow him on twitter @scottleffler.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Random thoughts from a random mind


Having had hot dogs and been to the drive-in in the last week, it is now officially summer — no matter what the calendar says. Now I just need the kids to get out of school and the real Leffler family frolicking can begin. Yes, we frolic … as should you.

I’ve been lucky enough to get out on my bike the past few weeks and see Eastern Niagara County from a slower vantage point than I usually do. I’ve made trips as short as a couple miles and as long as 22 miles. It feels good to do it and I’ve noticed that when I put a few miles on the bike, I’m more inclined to eat better, too. Maybe I’ll be healthy some day. Maybe.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve gone from around 220 pounds to about 180. In fact, the photo that accompanies this column doesn’t even look like me, I’m told. I guess that’s a good thing. I’ll have a new one soon. The weight loss is due to a combination of a better diet and exercise. But mostly stress. Seriously, not eating will do wonders for your figure.

I was hoping to lose about another 10 pounds before next Saturday in hopes that I’d look better in my dress, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I got donut sticks the other day … and my oldest daughter spends all her money on ice cream and then forces me to eat it. She’s such a bully.

Oh, yeah, you read that right. I said dress. I’ll be wearing a dress. Again.

For the third year in a row, I’ll be one of a couple dozen guys participating in the “Peaches and Creme Fashion Show,” a fundraiser put on by Anne Scinta LaSota, team captain of Maurice’s Relay For Life. The fundraiser, held at Lockport’s Palace Theatre at 7 p.m. on May 18, will hopefully be bigger and better and bolder than the previous ones, which were already pretty incredible events, I might add.

Tickets for the show are available from any of the guys in it — including me — for a mere $10. Or you can get them at Maurice’s. They’re also available at the door the night of the show for $15.

Please come out and watch me make a fool of myself. I usually do it for free, but since this is such a good cause, help us raise money to fight cancer? Please?

I mentioned the drive-in earlier. I saw “Oz, The Great and Powerful” and “Iron Man 3” with my girlfriend and her wonderful children. Iron Man was pretty decent, but I was really blown away at how much I like the Oz prequel. I truly appreciate unique adaptations of things that we think we already know. It’s why I’m equally excited about The Great Gatsby. Also the new Star Trek movie which comes out next week. Zachary Quinto is perfect as Spock.

I hope there will be plenty of movies in my near future. It is summer, after all. Let the frolicking begin.

Scott Leffler is a Doctor Who fan whose columns run on Fridays now. Fridays are cool. Follow him on twitter @scottleffler.