As with everyone, my life is a personal journey. Recent events have illuminated surprising and unknown pieces of my foundation. As I continue my adventure, I intend to share my thoughts

0n relationships,

current events, and the multifaceted landscape of our society.

So why the title "The Cotton Picker Scat?" It ties into some great family history of mine!
My literary research thus far has proven to be priceless. I want to share my failures, my joys, my successes, my lessons. My story.

Because what is mine, may also be yours.

I'm glad you're here! The journey of the cotton picker continues…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Regarding the Children of Men

A friend began telling me his story, without any warning, and without getting my permission as to whether or not I wanted to hear it. I was not asked if I wanted the pain of his experience to become a part of my consciousness. We were just talking, and the next minute I was hearing about the most horrific things. Things I could not imagine happening to a young boy. I was so stunned I didn’t have the strength to tell him to stop. I felt trapped, but I was his friend. I had to support my friend by listening.

It’s been many years since my friend told me his story. When he was a twelve year-old boy, a male relative would sometimes invite him over when he and his buddies would have beer-drinking parties. On several occasions, the relative would have him strip so that he was totally nude, tie a rope around his genitalia, and parade him around the room. The other men would laugh, beat him, call him lewd and sexually demeaning names, and totally degrade him. Sometimes, another male partygoer would bring an additional young boy to abuse. The boys were often called upon, under threat of violence, to perform oral sex on the men.

The current headline-grabbing, head-snapping news regarding Penn State has completely overtaken the media. Having been in social services for most of my professional career, I am a bit surprised at the pervasiveness of the behavior, and the length of time over which it occurred. I was not surprised when I heard the title the perpetrator held, or the venue in which it occurred. Sexual abuse perpetrated onto young boys by trusted men in power or holding celebrity status is an unfortunate yet common event.

However, there is one note in this story that continues to ring in my ear. Many of the victims are referred to as children. The ‘child’ I saw this morning bravely telling his story on television had a full beard. I assume that most of the victims are men now. I imagine there are many who are dealing with alcoholism, and experiencing failed marriages and/or relationships without knowing why. Many may have single or multiple convictions, based upon unresolved anger that led to uncontrollable behavior. Many of these victims may lack self-esteem and have become unbelievably passive, their desire to fight having been drenched and ignored long ago. Almost all, whether it is topical or buried, are probably very angry. The acts were unspeakable. And unspeakable acts are usually consumed without benefit of being examined, let alone being resolved.

Children are presented with cultural situations very early in their lives. They understand what is okay to talk about, and what is not. They get a sense of who is supposed to be trusted. Teachers, relatives, religious leaders, celebrities, community/political leaders, people who are in the helping professions, etc. The dangers of the internet are promoted continuously.  Yet many child molesters and pedophiles are people with whom the child knows, and with whom the family has trusting relationships.  And when a trusted person does something that just ain’t right, conflict occurs and the child doesn’t talk about it because it wasn’t supposed to happen and stuff that wasn’t supposed to happen does happen anyway…and the child internalizes it as being his (in these cases) fault.

Many men have somehow survived the silence, somehow navigating through the pain and the struggle to lead a “normal” life. You know these men. They are your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, the guys on your bowling league, the men who attend your church, the 10-years sober gentleman in the local AA group, the anchorman you watch on CNN. The fathers who are determined to establish a safe haven for their children, free of any sexual or verbal abuse that was prevalent in their own lives as children. I know many men like this. I have heard stories of abuse, neglect, pain, suffering, and the tremendous anger, shame, and guilt that can accompany such damaging events. With help, support, therapy, the coin can be flipped. But it’s not easy. It may take a few generations for the victim’s family to recover.  

Please, fire the coaches, fire the president, and rid the school of anyone who should have mandatorily/morally reported these abuses. Clean house. To me, that is an expectation. For many of these male victims, what has been sealed in the past may burst scarily and uninvited into the present. I encourage us, as a society, to take care in how we communicate our thoughts. No rape jokes, no funny stories like “did you hear the one about the coach…” blah-de-blah-blah-blah. Pay attention to the bathroom humor that is already a result. Not all victims of sexual abuse live in Pennsylvania. One may be sitting next to you, existing silently in shame and embarrassment. Be aware of your own biases, and perhaps your own uneasiness with this subject. Otherwise, the real crime of child sexual abuse becomes trivial, and more perpetrators are hatched. Those of us who hear, who question, who are angered, who are appalled, but NOT abused…we are not the victims.

A boy was violated, without any warning, and without his trusted relative getting permission as to whether or not he wanted it. He was not asked if he wanted the pain of this experience to become a part of his consciousness. They were just talking, and the next minute he was feeling the most horrific things. Things he could not imagine happening to him. He was so stunned he didn’t have the strength to tell him to stop. He felt trapped, but the man was family. He had to support his family by…being quiet.

Flip it. Pray for the men who are our children.

If you are a victim of male sexual abuse, consider visiting www.MaleSurvivor.org

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanks, Mr. LaRussa! From a Chicago Sock

Pitchers Dennis Lamp, Floyd Bannister, and Cy Young winner LaMar Hoyt. Fielders Harold Baines, Ron Kittle, and Tom Paciorek. Designated hitter Greg "The Bull" Luzinski. And to wrap it up, the penultimate catcher, Carlton "Pudge" Fisk. These men were just the core of my favorite baseball team roster, the  1983 American League West Championship-winning Chicago White Sox. The White Sox heretofore had not participated in a post-season game since 1959. Prior to that, there had been no post-season appearance since the 1919 'Black Sox' debacle. That's a long time to survive without a championship coffee mug.

Winning UGLY! (Literally)
The leader of the pack in '83 was manager Tony LaRussa, who was given his first pro-baseball managerial position by Chicago in '79. A few days ago, LaRussa retired from baseball after crafting a career  that began as a player back in the 70's. Though I realize talent, skill, athleticism, and good management  are a must for a winning team, pride and spirit is what gets the fans going and makes us happy. The team possessed a loyal fan base dying for some good baseball. A crumbling Comiskey Park was hanging in there, patient but sad as its new home across the street was being planned.

I was living and working out-of-state in 1983. Beginning that spring, I listened to each White Sox game I could via radio. Soon it appeared that my Sox would be appearing in their first post-season game in almost a quarter of a century. A local friend assured me that a buddy of his in Chicago would be able to get us tickets for one game. We drove over 350 miles, but the 'assurance' never worked out. Standing on the northwest corner of 35th and Wentworth Avenue during a day in early October, we ended up scalping a pair of tickets for about a hundred bucks. Fortunately, the tickets were legit and decent. Unfortunately, the Sox lost the game (and the AL West series) to the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore fielder Eddie Murray was on fire that year, and the Orioles went on to win the World Series.

LaRussa was fired in 1986, to the disgruntlement of many Sox fans. He was picked up by the the Oakland A's, winning a couple of AL championships and a World Series while introducing us to bash brethren Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. In 1996, he was hired by the St. Louis Cardinals, where he led them to two World Series and multiple post-season appearances. With his retirement, he scores near the top of many "Coach with the Most" lists. Baseball Hall of Fame? Right this way, sir.

As for Chicago, there would be a stream of managers and notable players that would pass through the Sox clubhouse after LaRussa's departure. Fregosi, Torborg, Manuel; Belle, Thomas, and newly-announced manager Robin Ventura. Since LaRussa and the '83 Sox, the White Sox have gone on to appear in four post-seasons of play: '93, '00, '05, and '08. My sheer joy, delight, and jars of tears cannot be virtually shared regarding my man Ozzie Guillen and the 2005 World Series Champions, THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX!!

So thanks, Mr. LaRussa, for all you did for my team. As far as I'm concerned, you put the Sox on the modern map of baseball. I'm not a devote historian, nor am I a master of statistics. In the 80's, I was just a young man looking to feel good about my childhood team. To me, sir, you will always be the founder, creator, and father of modern Chicago White Sox baseball. And for that, this long-time south-sider will be extremely grateful. You brought respect to a historic southside team in need of acknowledgment for how they played, not for where they were located. You helped change the perception of the Chicago White Sox, and you personified a winning attitude. You lit the fire that became the flame.

Enjoy your retirement, Mr. LaRussa. God bless you, and thanks again. See you in Cooperstown.