Based upon what’s been going on in the world of terrorism during the past few years, here’s what I think may be in store for Americans in the next decade or two.
LOUD NOISES. These will come from handguns, rifles, grenades, homemade bombs, professional bombs and many other devices aimed at harming school children, police officers, members of our armed services and anyone else who may be standing around minding their own business when the devices go off. Like it or not, we have become a gun/bomb culture.
TERRORISTS AND NUT CASES. Often these will be the same persons. Some will be followers of ISIS. Others will simply be twisted souls who sprang from the womb destined to one day attack their fellow humans. Most of these nut cases are already among us, percolating. There’s no surefire way to identify them. Perhaps the greatest advance of the next 25 years will be to develop a foolproof method of pinpointing nut cases before they explode.
When I first began my teaching career it was in an inner city school where extreme poverty permeated nearly every child’s life. It hung in the air outside the chain-link fence surrounding the school like an oppressive fog, waiting to engulf my students as soon as the school day ended. Knowing what they were headed toward at the end of the day was by far the hardest part of my job.
For some of us, it’s hard to imagine what life is like for a child who steps outside that fence to face poverty. We take so much for granted - from turning on the lights to opening a refrigerator to grab a snack to having a safe place to sleep at night: We don’t even think about having to live without these simple luxuries. But kids waking up in poverty may not know when they will have their next meal.
In Florida we obsessively measure and grade our public schools and students. We test beyond educational sanity to obtain those scores. We’ve spent billions on the testing industry with little to show for that investment other than over-tested kids and angry parents. We’ve graded schools for more than 15 years now, but in the larger picture, have seen little improvement in learning. As educators predicted, what we have seen is schools located in some ZIP codes consistently that are rated as A and B; and schools in other ZIP codes are consistently rated D and F.
While our beautiful county is thriving, not every community is enjoying the same quality of life here. That’s why the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners is moving ahead with two special redevelopment plans that will bring more money, business opportunities and infrastructure into our struggling neighborhoods.
The board recently approved the Southside Community Redevelopment Plan in St. Petersburg. This plan will help the city pay for job training, business loans and housing for citizens who are stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. Over the coming year, our agenda includes adopting a plan to lift up one of the most impoverished communities in unincorporated Pinellas County, Lealman.
Even though it’s located just off of busy Interstate 275 and just a few miles from downtown St. Petersburg, most of the nearly 19,000 citizens in Lealman live in a different world. Many people in this community are forced to live in substandard housing at exorbitant rental rates. Drugs, prostitution and assaults are common problems with a crime rate that’s twice as high as the rest of the county.
Do you ever talk to yourself? I hope so. I’d hate to think that I’m one of the few persons who communicate out loud with themselves in the privacy of their homes, cars or the Zimbabwean jungle. Wherever.
I grew up hearing nasty comments about self-talkers. “Stay clear of that guy - he’s always muttering to himself.” “Beware of old ladies who sit in their rocking chairs and squint into the sunlight and talk to their cats even when there ain’t no cat within a mile.” Stuff like that.
Now I’m older and I know better. Talking to oneself is not only harmless, it can be useful. For example, instead of going to a psychiatrist to discuss your worries and conflicts, you can air your problems in your own home. It saves a great deal of money, and the solutions you arrive at on your own are usually as helpful as the ones a Freudian analyst might suggest.
At a recent city commission meeting in Belleair Bluffs, Largo Fire Chief Shelby Willis warned of the dangers posed by lightning, and told how to avoid becoming a victim.
A Largo man who was struck and killed by a lightning bolt last month was not anticipating danger, she said. The storm was a ways away at the time and no lightning was in the area. He thought he could get in his walk before the storm arrived. He was wrong. Dead wrong.
Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from a storm. Willis said the storm’s edges are the most dangerous place to be. Thunder is the key sign of danger, she said.
Walkin’ Lawton Chiles may be the last of Florida’s governors who cared about Florida through action. He showed genuine concern for local families. During his tenure, necessary human service programs expanded, the environment had effective regulatory programs, public health flourished with strong programs regulating food service, sanitation, infectious disease, and maternal and child health.
I met Gov. Chiles and his wife Rhea on three occasions as Pasco County’s health officer. He appreciated government workers and reached out to them. I never had an invitation to visit Jeb Bush or Charlie Crist. I had thankfully retired and did not have to suffer the Rick Scott agenda of agency downsizing and staff purges characteristic of his administration.
Florida memories of Chiles have faded. The effective selling that government is bad and can’t do anything right has been the mantra of conservative Republicans who have accomplished little more than to devastate services and purge many talented state employees. That’s their legacy.
Here’s how to have some fun on a slow night. Get a toy gun, not a real one.
Then obtain a CD copy of “Whiplash,” a marvelous film, one of 2014’s best. It stars J.K. Simmons. He won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Terence Fletcher, an egomaniac and sadist who teaches jazz music at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory.
Settle down in your living room with your pistol, your popcorn and “Whiplash.” Then spend the next hour or so brandishing your fake firearm at Fletcher while screaming, “Die, you miserable dog!” or similar compliments. If ever a fictional character deserved to be put down, it is Fletcher.
Americans were appalled last June 17 after Dylann Roof walked into Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Church and allegedly murdered nine people because they happened to be black.
Roof is different from most mass murderers. Unlike Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaevm, James Eagan Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injured 70 others during the Aurora, Colorado cinema attack, or Adam Lanza, who is accused of slaughtering 20 kindergartners and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Roof managed to stand apart by allegedly declaring his hatred for black people.
This misguided, wannabe white supremacist also managed to spark a nationwide controversy that has pitted people against one another over the Confederate flag and allegations that white people danced in the streets while celebrating the church murders.
Maybe it comes back to us in a daydream - a memory of a great moment in sports that helps cement a sports superstar’s place in history.
For whatever reason, those of us who follow sports love to talk about who’s the best of the best in their fields - the deadliest fireballer, the greatest passer, the toughest defensive lineman, the fastest base stealer. We all have our favorites.
An article about a remarkable achievement involving a retired NFL great that I read recently led me to reflect upon the superstars who I admire the most. In whittling the list down to five - which I must for the sake of brevity in writing about them - I’ve looked beyond their statistics: they must have strength of character - as opposed to just being a character.
Beef ‘O’Brady’s Trivia Night SEMINOLE – Beef‘O’Brady’s, 1-799 Park Blvd. N., now offers Trivia Night every Monday, 6 to 8 p.m. The winning team receives a $50 gift certificate. There will be a $5.49 burger with fries special every Monday night. To register a team, call Angel or Mike at 393-2880.
Craft classes at Bay Vista ST. PETERSBURG – Bay Vista Recreation Center, 7000 Fourth St. S., offers craft classes Mondays from 1 to 3 p.m.
They include paper crafts, polymer clay sculpting, felting and more
The cost is $30 for four classes, plus a craft fee.
For more information call 893-7124 or visit www.stpeteparksrec.org.
Life of Birds video CLEARWATER – The Clearwater Audubon Society will present a program on Monday, Aug. 3, 6:30 p.m., at Moccasin Lake Environmental Education Center, 2750 Park Trail Lane.
Cost is a suggested donation of $1 per person. Call 793-2976.
One of the BBC’s “Life of Birds” video programs with David Attenborough will be shown. Popcorn and sodas will be provided.
Manga Book Club TARPON SPRINGS – Manga Book Club, Aug. 3, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Tarpon Springs Library, 138 E. Lemon St. Youth Services Program. Ages 12 and up.
If you like manga, graphic novels and anime, then this club is the place for you! Hang out and meet other teens who share your interests. Each month, new titles and series will be selected to read and discuss. Members also will enjoy watching popular anime episodes.
Train Weekend LARGO – Ride the miniature trains of Largo Central Railroad on the first full weekend every month in Largo Central Park. The next weekend is Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2-3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rides are free, but donations are accepted.
For more information, call 587-6740 ext. 5014 or visit the “Train Weekend” page at LargoEvents.com.
Military Order of the World Wars meeting CLEARWATER – The Clearwater Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars meets for lunch on the first Tuesday of each month at the Belleair Country Club, 1 Country Club Lane.
Social hour starts at 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch and a short program.
Military officers who are retired or are on active duty or former officers and their spouses or widows are invited to attend. The MOWW also welcomes new members.
To make reservations or to inquire about becoming a member, call George Smith at 786-5578.