February 2023 Letters: Memphis Police, Governor DeSantis, Old Joe and Teachers

Listen to this article

Welcome to the second month of the year, February, which is Latin for the number “31.” Since I believe Groundhog Day should be a national holiday, I considered running the same column as last month. Then I realized my audience is not bright enough to understand why and would just flood me with more unwanted emails. As a result, I forced myself to read what was on your mind and replied to a few letters just to keep you off my back. Enjoy.

Dear Jim,
What could possibly have triggered five Memphis cops to beat a man to death during a basic traffic stop? It wasn’t color since all parties involved were Black. How much worse would the reaction have been among the Black community had the officers been white? This all seems so senseless.
Angry as Hell

Dear Angry,

If what happened in Memphis shows us anything, it is that bad cops can come in any color and weeding them out is a problem for law enforcement. Too often, bad cops get a chance to move onto another department instead of being put through the dismissal process and placed on a national Do Not Hire registry. But this is not the only lesson to take away.

This time, the Memphis Police Department did not wait for the five cops to go through the legal process. They were fired quickly which helped to placate the local community. It is something all communities that have experienced a similar incident want. Would they have been fired had they been white? It’s a question that begs an answer.

I also can’t help but wonder what is going on in the Memphis Police Department and the community they police to cause five officers to blatantly beat a man to death while knowing their body cameras are recording the event. Did they really think someone was going to erase the damning evidence? Did they think the street cameras recording the beating were going to mysteriously disappear?

What I do know is five men do not beat a man to death with their fists and billy clubs without thinking what they were doing was either justified or its recordings were never going to see the light of day. They do not suddenly snap at the same time. Rather, because they were part of a special group to clean up troubled neighborhoods in Memphis, they most likely thought they were just doing their job and the public a favor.

In the end, nothing changes unless police departments nationwide begin working together to rid this nation of bad cops. Until then, it is just a matter of time before this happens again.

Dear Jim,
I am so angry at President Biden. How can he defend having classified documents in his possession when after he, and countless others, attacked Donald Trump for having some? This is just another example of hypocrisy from the left that is covered up by an all too supportive media. Don’t you agree that Biden should be impeached for this?
Finished With Joe

Dear Finished,

There are many differences between Biden and Trump being in possession of classified documents. Let’s take a look.

Trump denied being in possession when the media first reported the story. He later claimed the documents were declassified by him, something he is not allowed to do. He forced the government to take him to court because he refused to hand over the classified documents. After exhausting the legal process, blaming the left, and lying about being in possession, Trump was forced to hand over what he kept at Mar-A-Lago.

On the other hand, when Biden’s own people found classified documents in an old office, they immediately notified the proper people. They allowed Biden’s offices to be searched rather than cry foul, use the legal system, or deny being in possession of them. Biden and his team have been transparent throughout, which is what we citizens complain our leaders fail to do.

Furthermore, Biden has never been in business with the Soviets, friends of North Korea, or sold out our national interests to foreign influences in order to profit. Since these are things Trump cannot claim, I think there is a huge difference between what the two have done.

Finally, I am willing to bet if the feds searched the homes and private offices of most of our senators, past and present, as well as a few higher ranking congressional leaders, they would find classified documents. While they are not to leave them outside of their official office while serving, I bet they take them with them while they travel back and forth between their homes, second homes, vacation spots, and official trips because like people in most professions, they take their work home with them.

Dear Jim,
As a retired teacher, are you shocked by the number of teachers who warned their administrator that a six year old was rumored to be in possession of a gun and did nothing about it, like what happened recently in Virginia? How is this even possible?

Dear Seething,

There are basically two types of administrators; great and horrible. There is no middle ground and the number of great ones are in decline because they seem to be too smart to get involved with a broken system.

My first teaching job came with a principal who was simply counting the days to retirement, a vice principal so disconnected from teaching that students knew she had their backs, one counselor who was addicted to betting on the horses that he could be found with the day’s racing forum on his desk, and one other counselor so overwhelmed, she had no clue she would drop dead from a stroke in a few years.

By the time I retired, I had a principal anxiously applying for every superintendent posting, two assistant principals applying for every principal posting, and one other assistant principal in her first year on the job who was nothing short of amazing.

I worked with administrators who were wonderful, uplifting, and so great that when they moved on, their replacement was unable to continue to simply maintain what they inherited. I also worked at sites where the principal was so inept, the staff simply learned to work as if they did not have one. I have seen principals fired in the middle of the school year and threats of staff walking off the job over rumors of a great principal being transferred.

There have been principals who went to bat for me, bent over backwards to accommodate me while my first born fought for her life, and who saw things in me that made me want to go the extra mile for them. There have also been principals who threatened me over my job, worked to make my life as difficult as possible, and who made sure I knew I did not have any support.

However, I can’t say any of these people would not have dropped what they were doing the moment I turned to them with a concern over a weapon. How three different teachers’ concerns went unheard is beyond my imagination, but I have a feeling it is the end result of a systemic problem. We may not want to believe a six-year-old is capable of shooting someone at school, but in a nation with over 400,000,000 guns in the hands of private citizens, we should be more surprised this sort of thing has not happened more often.

Dear Jim,
Why in the world would Governor DeSantis remove AP African American History from the Florida curriculum? What is he afraid of?
No Fan of DeSantis

Dear No Fan,

In DeSantis’ attempt to reach out nationally to conservative voters, an overwhelming group of white people, he has decided to placate them by saying there is only one version of history that has unfolded in our country. Any present day politician who believes this fails to see there is a multitude of experiences lived by our citizens today.

The white experience is not absolute. Taken further, the experience of chronically poor white people has more in common with the experiences of other racial groups who are poor than it does with wealthy whites. This is why, I believe, the left is more open to people of all experiences. They see a nation that has a complex past and the more we understand it from the perspective of others, the easier it is to come together as a whole. Meanwhile, the right sees our complex past as a path toward divisiveness which is why they are constantly talking about the better days we once enjoyed.

The fact is, if you are a person of color, there is a very good chance you and your ancestors have yet to enjoy the sort of past Republicans speak of. Our past is not like an episode of Happy Days, filled with white people smiling through life without there being any people of color in it despite the GOP trying to paint that picture. There is also no path forward where this nation can thrive again modeled by such a narrow perspective.

DeSantis and the rest of the GOP may love to chide the elitist left for all their college education, but the truth is, education has opened the minds and helped lead this nation forward while the right relies on anchors like Richie, Potsie, and the Fonz to hold us back.

I imagine, for DeSantis, life is much simpler when it is narrowed down to simple black and white issues and far too complicated for him to grasp the many shades that exist between the two. Each of those shades has a different past worth learning about.

Dear Jim,
Is it possible to be a great stand-up comedian without being controversial? It seems all well-known comics piss off one group or another? Why is this?

Dear Perplexed,

A comic who plays it safe is not all that funny because the best comics make us do two things; laugh at ourselves and laugh at other people. The challenge is can they do this while in the presence of those who might be offended? Now, thanks to the internet, it is more challenging when people dig up jokes made by comics decades prior and use them as “proof” of the sort of person they are today. Great comics either have an iron clad approach that works wonders, or the ability to read the changes of our culture and see the humor in them.

The real problem may be a changing culture that has lost the ability to laugh at itself when its patterns of behavior are pointed out by a person looking for laughs. But then, those people tend not to attend a comic’s shows nearly as much as stand outside the venue with a sign in protest.

Dear Jim,
Why is it necessary for the footage of the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband to be made public? Is this really vital to the preservation of democracy?

Dear Angry,

No. An attack like the one on Pelosi’s husband is not the right to be viewed by any and all. It is nothing more than internet rubbernecking and does nothing for the good of society.

Dear Jim,
Why is it every year there is controversy over who performs at halftime or who sings the national anthem at the Super Bowl? Who’s to blame for this?


Dear Wondering,

No one is to blame for this. It is the end result of people freely voicing their opinions. It might be nice if they kept quiet until they actually viewed the performance, but we live in a world where people demand changes to decisions that have no real impact on their lives.

My guess is, all of this is the result of the NFL trying to reach every demographic they can with their Super Bowl performers. The weird thing is, people tend to talk mostly about two things the next day; the game and the commercials. I imagine Chris Stapleton singing the national anthem is an attempt to engage one group of viewers while Rihanna is another attempt to reach an entirely different group.

Personally, I want to see Benny the Barking Seal perform his rendition of the national anthem while at halftime we are entertained by the Steve’n Seagulls, Until then, I will boycott the performances offered by the NFL.

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez at their press conference before Super Bowl LIV

Dear Jim,
What is an example of a perplexing thought that keeps you awake at night?
Deep Thinker

Dear Deep,

I am unable to sleep at night because I wonder why in a nation where citizens are dropping dead left and right from Fentanyl, our government can’t figure out how to execute a criminal with a drug cocktail without botching the procedure.

Dear Jim,
Is there hope for humanity?
Worried as F*#k

Dear Worried,

No. However, false hope will continue to be slickly packaged and sold to fools around the globe until one day a meteor smashes into the planet and ends this fiasco we refer to as, “intelligent life.”

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go try on my new socks which are guaranteed to improve my balance, increase my endurance, and make me appear ten years younger. If they work, this will be the last time you ever hear from me. If they don’t, they will go into a storage tub with my once a year deodorant, self-tying shoe laces, jogging shorts with adult diaper, and a six pack of pens with WiFi.