My first hero was Uncle Remus. He was my friend, as well. All the songs he sang and the stories he told were magical to my young mind, and I loved him. The stories of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear were as much a part of my youth as listening to Bible stories. Even the story of the Tar Baby stood out in my young mind as powerfully as any ‘virtue’ story recited from ancient scripture. That didactic story and others left an impression on my young mind to be more kind to my friends and playmates. And Br’er Rabbit’s words, “Don’t fling me in dat Brier Patch” resonates as much in my adult life now as it did when I was a kid.
Joel Chandler Harris wrote the Uncle Remus Black American Folk Tales around 1881. Mixed with song and told using Harris’ version of the Deep South Black American dialect of the time, to me, the stories were everlasting.
But there always seems to be an ending to every good thing, and when I grew older, one of my ‘educators’ informed me that Uncle Remus stories were not to be told! “Those stories are racist, and I won’t allow them!” she said. “Those books should be destroyed and forgotten! They have no place in our modern society!”
“Uncle Remus is my friend,” I replied timidly. “And I love the songs and like to hum them, and I love his stories.”
“He isn’t real! He’s made-up! And so are those racist stories spoken in that racist language!” the teacher shot back.
After contemplating what the teacher said, I figured it must be time to move on to another hero. So, I looked around to see who was available. About that time, a few of my closest friends discovered Bill Cosby. I already watched The Cosby Kids on Saturday cartoons, so I quickly made the connection to Bill. It wasn’t long before I was laughing through all his stand-up comedy. He was the funniest comedian I knew, and I was a regular watcher of the Bob Newhart Show. Yeah, I know, that’s pretty crazy for a kid, but I found him to be hilarious.
Bill Cosby was not only a funny guy, I recognized him as a great human being and a good community leader. I figured he represented his black community well, and I always took notice when he encouraged inner-city kids and others to work their way out of poverty and drugs and make something of their lives. I was not inner-city, but I was young and had dreams to leave my hometown and make it big in the world. Bill Cosby’s words gave me confidence I could accomplish that.
Well, move forward 45 years or so, and I am working as a professional writer and broadcaster, and so many of my childhood heroes have either fallen from grace or have died. Those who passed on, like my buddy George Carlin, have shows and gigs that will live on forever. Visit YouTube and search for Carlin’s videos; there’s enough of them to keep you entertained for days.
Well, we all know the modern-day sad story of Bill Cosby. Little did his adoring fans know; he had ghosts in the closet. He had some twisted and sick inner sides to his persona that led him to do stupid things that made him a soft target for the #MeToo people, primarily the woman or women he sexually assaulted. There are some things you cannot hide from. There are some things you cannot buy your way out of. Some things will come to haunt you, even years after your involvement. I remember well the day not long ago when I watched as Bill was taken out of court surrounded by some tough looking authorities. They took him off and he disappeared behind bars somewhere in that subculture we know as the U.S. prison system. I thought to myself, “Wow, there’s a man who fell from grace like he was thrown out of a jet airplane!”
So, where’s Bill now? He’s still a funny guy – comedians are born that way; their funniness does not disappear when they get locked up. At last check, Bill was living in his own cell at the state penitentiary, SCI Phoenix, in Skippack Township, Pennsylvania. According to some recent video interviews I’ve seen on the internet, his fellow inmates said he is doing well and just as funny as ever. Well, we all know funny stuff is relative. Maybe he still cracks jokes, but those jokes arguably don’t have the luster when delivered by a guy wearing a prison jumpsuit and eating bologna sandwiches. One such likely looking bloke said on the video, “I asked Mr. Cosby how they were treating him.” “First class service,” Cosby shot back.
Forty years ago, nobody would have thought that cool comedian who did the voices for the Cosby Kids and later became Dr. Huxtable – the all-round great dad, husband, and doctor on The Cosby Show would be serving time behind bars. But who would’ve dreamed we’d be seeing a lot of crazy things that seem common place for us now – living in the third decade of the 21st century where buzz phrases like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo conjure up a plethora of stark images in everyone’s mind. Cosby, whose black life certainly matters to me and a lot of other diehard fans, got body slammed by #MeToo. Some might suggest in an ironic turn of events that Bill’s body slamming years ago caused him to get body-slammed – right into prison today. He is doing time because justice got served.
If you compare the Black Lives Matter group with the #MeToo group; what do you get? There are some similarities. Stay with me here and think about some of these, just for the fun of it. Both groups are made up of people who are basically “Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!” The context of “it” gives the respective groups their impetus – the drive to push, protest, and demand change! And in some cases, to see that offenders get sent off to prison where they likely belong!
Think about it; BLM folks are tired of black folks getting the shaft at every turn – and it’s been going on for years. I guess in a manner of speaking, #MeToo folks are sick of exactly the same thing! We’re talking about two subcultures of people who want to pursue happiness in the Land of Liberty without being harassed, treated in an undignified manner, and oppressed. The only difference really is one group identifies by race, the other, by gender.
So, when will the United States as a nation ever arrive at a comfortable place with these issues? Do you think it’s even possible, given what you know and what you have seen?
Some voices strongly suggest a good place to continue addressing race and gender issues is at the top – like at the top of the U.S. leadership platform. In a land many claim is void of real heroes, logically some might turn to the one individual who is the most powerful and visible human on the planet – the president of the United States.
Consider the following comment by Donald J. Trump. This famous quote was taken from a taped interview with Billy Bush of Access Hollywood in 2005. Imagine these lines voiced in Donald J. Trump’s own voice, because he really did say this. “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” And then he goes on to say his now famous line, “Grab em by the p****.”
Anyone who wants to claim that Trump should not be held accountable for stuff he said fifteen years ago should remember the ancient phrase, “Our words will condemn us.” It doesn’t matter when it was said; the fact it was said speaks to the mind and character of the speaker.
And concerning race, in the heat of the midterm elections, who can forget Trump casting southern border refugees and asylum seekers as criminals and terrorists? I can’t. For me, that was the final straw where I no longer felt compelled to give that bombastic fool the benefit of the doubt any longer.
Too bad we live in a time where we have to mute the TV when kids are in the room when somebody quotes the president. If we can’t trust the U.S. president to set a positive pace on this issue and be a real leader, who can we trust? I think the answer is obvious. Let’s look closer to home.
So, I have a mission for you to perform! This is for anyone who wishes to play along. What I would like you to do is please find and list one individual who is a real and honorable hero who has not fallen off the pedestal yet. Maybe they are teetering on the edge! I know there are some out there. List them! We need to have a list.
I’m certain you have at least one hero in your life who has not let you down, and let me guess – it’s likely they are someone who is not famous. Perhaps your mother or father, aunt or uncle, or someone in your community who has, for years, been going about doing good. Tell us who it is in the comments. I’m anxious to hear about them.
Crusaders come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Certainly, those who crusade against oppression, sexual crimes, and everything in-between should be allowed to protest and demonstrate, which is within their rights – and be free from a bunch of harassment. Perhaps that’s a good place to start rebuilding relationships and trust – as a massive collection of humans, don’t judge those who think and look differently and who might protest differently than us. At the very least, do no harm. And that goes for everyone.