Sunday, June 21, 2015

What If...

What if my grandmother had not thrown away my dad’s comic book collection in the 1950s? As I detail in my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life, my dad’s uncle owned and operated a corner drugstore in New York City, and often would give him comic books. But then, as happened to many boys of that era, the most dreaded of youthful incidents occurred and the comic book collection was no more. Often, I have thought about “what if” that collection had been intact upon the passing of my dad. Of course, I would have saved some special ones, but, undoubtedly, I would have sold off most for an astronomical sum. In other words, I - and my immediate family, of course - would have been financially set for life knowing what I know now about what undoubtedly was in his collection. What path(s) would that situation have taken and/or altered?

At the time of my dad’s passing, I was in high school. For the most part, those friendships were cemented which, for arguments sake, lends me to believe very little might have changed on that front. I simply would have been the teenager now with more money, who did not have to rely on allowance or part-time employment. Perhaps, buoyed and consoled by the financial windfall, I even would not have grieved so much for my late dad; money is funny that way some times. But would I have been more responsible and grasped opportunities more, or even more reckless and shortsighted than I actually was in my youth? Naturally, little things probably would have turned out different, but, again for argument sake, nothing on a catastrophic level, right?


There is no question that I would have graduated from high school alongside those same friends. Unlike a lot of people, and despite certain aspects, I actually had an enjoyable experience. That said, now is where the story gets murky. Would I then have attended the University of Missouri-Columbia (“Mizzou”), or would I have taken another path that maybe would not have even involved college? Again, for reasons described in my book and for argument sake, lets believe that I still would have attended Mizzou upon acceptance. Being financially secure, though, I probably would not have had the need for a job during those four years. Thus, I never would have become a delivery driver that ultimately led to the demise of my 1970 Ford Mustang (the repairs simply became too costly). In this alternate universe, however, my Mustang would live because, given my financial circumstances, I would have had it properly restored rather than piecemeal repaired.

That caveat, though, is a minor aspect of this “what if” exercise, because there is a larger issue than the memory of an old car now long since gone. There are the memories of the friendships rooted and cultivated over that same period of time. At Mizzou, would I have met those few souls I now count among my best friends? For argument sake, probably not or, at least, not under the same circumstances. For starters, having no need of student housing given my financial circumstances, I definitely would not have lived on campus and in the dorms where we met. Having the means, I undoubtedly would have either rented or bought a nice, somewhat secluded off-campus house; I know this because I hated people even back then. So, that one little change of residence could alter everything. Then there are the summer months, in which, again, I probably would not have had an urgent need for a part-time job given further money-making investments of my comic book money. Thus, I probably never would have worked, or at the very least maintained my longevity, at Riverport Amphitheatre, where, by my unscientific estimate, it seems half my life was spent and one-third of my current friendships were gained.

And all of this “what if” because my grandmother never threw away my dad’s comic books that I eventually would have sold for millions upon his death! So maybe it is time that I forgive her for throwing them away? Nah, I still hate her for it! Happy Father’s Day!

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Racism, Symbolism & the Quest For Civility

Racism aspects aside, the Confederate Flag was, and still is, a symbol of rebellion and states’ rights - not to mention secession and treason - for a cause on the losing side of the American Civil War. Question is how many losing sides throughout history ever have been allowed to maintain and display their banners? Not many. It would seem, 150 years later, the United States is still trying to confront that question and reconcile the idea with American values and principles.

Don’t Tear Down the Confederate Battle Flag (National Review)

Two Thoughts on the Confederate Battle Flag (National Review)

Charleston Shootings Have Revived Demands That South Carolina Stop Flying the Confederate Flag (Reuters via Business Insider)

The problem of racism in the US goes far deeper than any flag though. While ridding ourselves of its symbolism from our sights may bury some feelings, it will not change institutional and ingrained racism that exists in hearts and minds. That is what needs to change, and it begins with parents and ends with proper education. Our education system is too focused on “teaching” self-esteem and sensitivity over honesty and truth toward understanding that lends itself to learning both. In some instances, for example, teaching the Nazi Holocaust is banned because of this mentality - despite its importance in learning how intolerance unchecked can manifest in one of humanity’s worst atrocities. This is one of several reasons I dropped out of education school years ago in my pursuit of becoming a high school history teacher. Even while doing my required teaching observations, I could tell that “teaching” had become parody. First with the self-esteem movement (which was just gaining traction at the time) and now with Common Core (which is neither “common” nor “core” in its methods and subjects), it is even worse.

Pundits and politicians want to hide behind the old and tired narrative of gun control whenever incidents like the recent Charleston shooting happens. In yet another of his narcissistic interjections, President Obama even called for the rejection of the “new normal” of mass shootings. Then, in true leadership fashion, he jetted off to fundraise and play golf. But, Mr. President, it is not the “new normal” because normal, law-abiding gun owners do not go on mass shooting sprees. As more details emerge, clearly this incident, like so many others, was a racially motivated one by yet another deranged individual...but yes, clearly it is our gun laws that need fixing. No, it is the deranged, the ignorant and the racists that need fixing. That is not a gun problem; it is a societal problem, that will continue to be discussed until we honestly and truthfully confront and reconcile it. 

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Keep Alexander Hamilton, Replace Andrew Jackson

Letter to 
United States Secretary of the Treasury 
United States Department of the Treasury

We, the undersigned, hereby petition the United States Department of the Treasury to reverse and revise its recent decision concerning the design of the U.S. $10 bill. As such, it is our request that the former Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, remain on the $10 bill, and that the former president, Andrew Jackson be removed from the $20 bill in favor of a historically significant American woman yet to be determined at a later date. 

In support of this petition, we present the following: 

Alexander Hamilton: Renowned aide-de-camp to General, and future president, George Washington during the Revolutionary War; co-writer of the Federalist Papers in support of the U.S. Constitution; supporter of abolition; first Secretary of the Treasury and founder of the U.S. financial system, including the Bank of New York and the First Bank of the United States.

Andrew Jackson: Despotic General and president; slave owner and trader; opponent to the Second Bank of the United States, and instigator and supporter of economic policies that led to the devastating Panic of 1837; slaughterer of Native Americans as both military officer and commander-in-chief, and staunch supporter of Native American relocation including the controversial Indian Removal Act (1830).

Sign the petition! -

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Countering Counterfactual History

Let me preface this by saying that I love the website HowStuffWorks. Recently, they posted an article about what would have happened if the American colonies had lost the American Revolution. Thorough in its depth, they get the first question correct of what probably would have happened to the colonists. But then things go a little awry in my opinion...

What If America Had Lost the Revolution?

1) Great Britain and Spain would have engaged each other over territorial control in the Americas after 1776, as Spain controlled the territory west of the Mississippi River at the time - constituting almost 2/3 of North America - after France ceded all their territory a decade earlier to both following the Seven Years War (Treaty of Fontainebleau; Treaty of Paris). It's possible that both countries may even have reached a detente of sorts, as the British were in no hurry to expand beyond the Mississippi and banned colonists from settling the area west of the Appalachians in order to maintain that buffer.

2) There would have been no Mexican Empire, because there would have been no American or French revolutions - itself inspired by the American Revolution - to inspire them to rebel against Spain. I am just not a fan of the inevitability of either. Pull that one small thread of a failed American revolution against a powerful empire, and I see others not being as bold to revolt against their own despite their circumstances. The French revolutionaries especially were deeply influenced by the words and deeds of the American founders, who, I believe, would have been executed regardless for their part in the rebellion against Great Britain.

3) Whichever European power seized majority control of the Americas, if any, eventually would have encroached upon, and probably slaughtered, the indigenous nations like the Comanches. 

Certainly, there are other subtle nuances of changes to the timeline that could be added to the discussion. But, in my opinion, these are the main highlights of the "what if" scenario.

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Monday, June 8, 2015

More Random Thoughts

The Middle East needs a community improvement project akin to The Marshall Plan in post-WWII Europe. From 1939-1945, the Allies blasted, bombed and broke the European continent in the steadfast effort to destroy the Nazi regime. Afterward, Europe was rebuilt and emerged modernized and stronger. The same can be accomplished in the Middle East...but there must be the uncompromising will to blast, bomb and break before rebuilding in order for it to join the modern world. Otherwise, we will continue to confront hostility and terrorism from regions seemingly unchanged since the time of the prophet that shall not be drawn. As it stands right now, though, it seems some have lost - or more accurately never had - the will to maintain the effort in favor of grandiose delusion and narcissistic self-promotion.

The two actresses America Ferrera and Vera Farmiga are the female version of the celebrity brain-twister game of Dermot Mulroney and Dylan McDermott. Given the continuing trend in Hollywood, the four should remake the 1969 movie, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The entertainment value just from hearing critics and journalists stumble over their names alone would be worth the price of admission. Besides, its subject matter on honesty and openness in questioning notions about love and sexuality seems ripe for an updated version in this era of same-sex marriage and gender transitioning debate.

Once upon a time, yellow and blue made green. At the very least, you knew for certain that the plastic bag was properly sealed. Now, blue and purple make for a hopeful guessing game of frustration. There are many “modern” items, though, that have violated the age-old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule, all in the name of so-called “progress.” You didn’t dare squeeze the Charmin®; now bears doing their business in the woods worry about it adhering to their hindquarters. Things were either Hefty® or they were wimpy; you knew which one to buy. Calgon® was an “ancient Chinese secret” that could take you away; now, it would be considered a stereotypical racial insensitivity that could put you away.

The history of agriculture and humanity’s development because of it is a familiar one taught since elementary school. But, there is an underlying element: a desire to alter perception. Before humanity even thought about cultivating crops, we as a species have experimented with all kinds of mind altering substances - alongside those gathered and hunted for nutritional sustenance - since the beginning of our existence. How else to explain such “primitives” discovering and using them in their daily lives and communal rituals; as Hydra says, “discovery requires experimentation.” From tobacco to cocoa, farming only made it easier. In the modern era, moral grandstanding and prohibitive legislation aimed to curb these desires essentially are antithetical to humanity’s history of drug use.

Who knows you best? Is it the first person you ever met, or maybe the last one? Every time you meet someone new, you must share your life story with them. Or, at least a condensed snippet of it. What you share is what they know, so different people may, and probably do, know different aspects to your life. Your closest friends may know about your habitual fantasy world, while your friends-with-benefits maybe know only your deepest fantasies. Over time, this becomes exhausting to acquaint and indoctrinate these to the latest member of your ever-expanding circle. It explains why some find it a challenge to embrace new people. Upon occasion it just feels good to re-connect with an old friend who already knows you, rather than attempt to connect with a stranger - because they can take you away, without the prerequisite experimentation.

©2015 Steve Sagarra