Don’t tell transgender kids where they don’t belong, tell them to be the best they can become

A number of years ago, I was in a local watering hole, a gathering place for the LGBT(etc.) community, and I was informed by one of the late-afternoon regulars that I had no business sitting at the bar.

“This is where the boys sit,” he said. “You should respect that.”

It didn’t matter that I was the cleaning lady at this particular haunt, spending anywhere from three to six hours (depending on carnage left behind from the previous night’s hijinks) each morning applying spit and polish to the facility, including the very bar and stools that accommodated my antagonist’s and his sourpuss friends’ fat asses.

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox

It only mattered to him (and some, but not all, of the others) that I wasn’t a gay man and must be put in my place. Or, to be more accurate, reminded where I didn’t belong.

“I’ll sit wherever I like,” I responded. “I’ll sit on your face if I feel like it.”

It was one of many unpleasant exchanges I experienced at that bar and, over time, it became quite apparent that a number of “the boys” preferred that I didn’t share their oxygen.

Another e.g.: I was the sole soul in the bar one day when one of the grumpy pants walked in and, after gazing upon the emptiness, strolled my way and stopped at my post.

“Tell me something,” I asked after some awkward banter, “you’d prefer it if this was an all-male gay bar, wouldn’t you? You don’t really want me in here, do you?”

“Honestly, that’s true,” he replied.

“And if there was a gay man in here you wouldn’t even be talking to me, right?”

“That’s also true.”

I didn’t belong.

I bring this to your attention because it’s open season on transgender kids, specifically girls, in many parts of the United States, Utah lawmakers being the latest group to tell trans youth that there’s no room for them in the playground.

Check that. There’s actually plenty of room. The trans females just aren’t welcome. They don’t belong.

Actually, that should be singular, as in female. Of the 75,000 kids involved in high school sports in Utah, a grand total of one is a transgender student athlete taking part in female sports. One. Out of 75,000.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Governor Spencer J. Cox laid it out for all to read in an enlightened letter explaining why he attempted to veto the push by Utah lawmakers who would outlaw transgender female athletes. The Guv didn’t get his way, with legislators vetoing his veto on Friday, and the ban on transgender female athletes is to become law on July 1, but I ask myself this: What is it that has the backers of HB11 so frightened?

They say it’s necessary legislation to protect female sports from a scorched-earth destiny, as if Utah’s one student in 75,000 is bound to multiply like Biblical fish and loaves of bread at a gathering of Jesus’ followers. But, in reality, they’re flailing at an enemy that has not yet presented itself. It’s like that asteroid we keep hearing about, how it’s bee-lining toward Earth and will one day wipe out the human race upon impact. Except that asteroid never arrives.

Certainly transgender female athletes have grown in volume and some, like collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas and a handful of others at below-elite levels, have experienced success, yet you wouldn’t say they’re plentiful and there’s scant evidence to indicate they soon shall arrive in numbers that would fill Pasadena’s Rose Bowl to overflowing. There’s little to no danger of female sports disappearing like Maya civilization, regardless how loudly the naysayers squawk.

So, what these lawmakers are actually doing with all their bombast is telling kids—or in Utah’s case, one kid—that they don’t belong. They don’t fit in. They are pariahs.

And that’s a helluvan ugly thing to say to a kid. Such a shame.

I mean, if it’s hurtful and gutting for transgender adults to be ostracized, what impact does it have on fragile minds still in the early, exploratory stages of life? It can be ruinous. Deadly even, as Gov. Cox indicated by citing suicide and suicide ideation rates among transgender youth.

No doubt the decision-makers in Utah and other jurisdictions in the U.S. believe they’re doing what’s right for female sports, but, again, there’s no evidence to support the notion that the distaff portion of the playground is in danger of extinction.

This needs to be about the kids and their growth, not adults with a religious or political agenda putting up road blocks and trying to shove them into the bleak and shadowy fringes of society.

I can confirm that’s a very scary place to be, at any age, which is why I literally weep for the kids in America who won’t be allowed to play.

Captain Canada (Caroline Ouellette), Captain America (Julie Chu) and baby Liv makes it a forward line

First of all, the birth of Liv Chu-Ouellette is a beautiful story that should be celebrated.

Little Liv, who arrived on Nov. 5, is healthy and her parents are full of joy. Nothing else should really matter.

Except, in this case, there’s a delightful sidebar. Like, Liv has two moms, and they’re both very good at hockey. One, Caroline Ouellette, captained Canada during its gold-medal crusade at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and her other mom, Julie Chu, is a former captain of the United States national women’s team who was wearing the Stars ‘n’ Stripes in Russia.

Julie Chu, left, Caroline Ouellette and baby Liv.

That’s right, little Liv’s moms are Captain Canada and Captain America.

Although they’ve butted heads for many years on the international stage—one getting the upper hand at the Olympics and the other at the world championships—both moms are teammates with Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (Ouellette was preggers with Liv when they won the Clarkson Cup last spring) and both coach the Stingers at Concordia University.

Let us not, however, think of this strictly as a feel-good sports story. It’s a life story, first and foremost, with a hockey backdrop.

The fact we’re discussing and celebrating the birth of a daughter to a same-sex couple is another noteworthy testament to the progress the LGBT collective has made and, even though many people (mainly gospel sharks) pooh-pooh the notion that same-sex parents can raise children properly, evidence from numerous studies endorsed by the American Psychological Association suggest that kids of lesbian couples are as well-adjusted in most critical social areas as their heterosexual peers. Eve and Eve works just as well as Adam and Eve.

Among other things, here’s what the APA has stated:

  • There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armest, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997); On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
  • Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
  • Research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish (Patterson, 2004; Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001).

So there’s that.

This is also another example of the deep chasm that exists between women’s and men’s sports vis-a-vis gays. While any gay male skating in the National Hockey League today remains deeply closeted, two of the world’s premier gay female players are out, proud and having babies, happily presenting daughter Liv to followers on an Instagram account.

I think we know what would happen if the respective captains of the Canadian and American men’s entries at the Sochi Olympics—Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise—posted a pic of themselves with their new-born on Instagram or Twitter. That’s right, the Internet would break. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and not even Donald Trump could put it back together again.

At a time when horror stories of sexual harassment and the ongoing hissing contest between two men with nuclear weapons are prevalent, feel-good tales with happily-ever-after endings seem scarce. Caroline Ouellette, Julie Chu and baby Liv have given us one.

Bless them.

Sleepless and drunk on world news as the beat goes on

The sirens were loud and objectionable, much like so many newspaper and television opinionists, when they first awakened me just beyond 11 o’clock, about three hours after I had lowered my eye lids on Friday night.

patti dawn swansson

They are wailing again, two and a half hours later, disturbing my sleep for the final time.

This is the worst part of living downtown. The noise. Although I normally find the small hours of the morning a time for peaceful reflection, it is different this night. More sirens. My upper body is in conflict, with pain in my shoulders suggesting I’d participated in a sporting endeavor not so long ago, and I feel hung over, which isn’t possible given that a pint of the nectar last passed my lips on Tuesday, about dinnertime. All I’ve done in the three days and four nights since is research, write and watch TV.

Perhaps I’m drunk on the news, much of which is sour and somewhat scary.

When I was a kid, we feared the Soviet Union, convinced it would lob nuclear bombs in our direction. There was a nut named Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin. He was the boogeyman of my youth. Now it would seem that the boogeyman lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump has provided ample evidence for me, and others, to consider that he is off his nut. A crazy man with nuclear codes. No doubt he frightens citizens beyond the boundaries of the United States, perhaps not as much as many of his own people, though.

For the most part, I’d ceased contemplation of nuclear war in the 1970s. Now, with Trump presiding over the 50 United States and territories that include a weather-ravaged Puerto Rico, which he largely ignores, apocalyptic thoughts sprout again as North Korea flexes its military might and the president responds by ratcheting up the rhetoric of war.

If he has surrounded himself with women and men of sane, rational thought and structure, not to worry. Except, as he emphasized this week, his is the only “attitude” that matters. He vows to do “what’s right for the world,” because North Korea is “really a world problem.” I imagine North Koreans see Trump as “really a world problem.”

My mind is in scurry, darting to and fro, from Trump and nuclear warheads to people who like to play with guns…to ruinous, deadly wild fires in California…to ruinous, deadly weather in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico…to a ghastly sexual harassment/assault scandal that has toppled a Hollywood movie mogul…to the hate and hostility being spewed on social media, most notably Twitter. So much chaos and destruction of life, property and hope. So many days of despair.

Nothing can be done about Trump, fire or hurricane weather, and there seems an unwillingness to holster gun play, but women have risen up against sexual predator Harvey Weinstein and those of his ilk. Also Twitter. A 24-hour boycott of the social media platform by many women has spawned a promise from Twitter to be better. Less uninvited, vulgar sexual improprieties. Less hate language. Less violence. Less nudity. Less obscenity. Alas, no mention of zero tolerance.

That beat shall go on as surely as the wailing outside my window.

The sirens. The sirens. They persist. But what is there to be alarmed about? All of this is just the world being the world.

Mr. Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins go to Washington and call on President Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House…

I’m very pleased to have the Pittsburgh Penguins here at the White House, which, by the way, is a dump. A real dump. Really run down. Bad. But I’m very pleased to have the Penguins here anyway. This is a great team. Great team. Skate beautifully. Shoot beautifully. Truly wonderful at hockey.

And look how many of them are here! There’s never been this many hockey players in the White House at one time. There’s at least twice as many here today as there were to see Obama last year. Maybe more. Great turnout. Biggest crowd ever. They stretch all the way to the East Wing. Did you know that half of the Penguins stayed home last year? That’s true. They stayed home. Not this year, though. They wanted to meet Trump.

You know what I like best about hockey players? You know what I like best? They aren’t sons of bitches. And you know what athletes who aren’t sons of bitches don’t do? They don’t take a knee. They stand for our great flag and our great country and our great military and our beautiful national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner is a beautiful song. Gorgeous song. Isn’t it a gorgeous song? Why would anyone want to disrespect that?

I understand one hockey player raised a fist during the anthem the other night. That’s right. Raised a fist. That’s not as bad as taking a knee, but they should still fire the son of a bitch! Fire him. Get him outta here! That’s what my great friend Jerry Jones would do. He’d fire his ass. Jerry gets it. He knows Trump is right. If that hockey player—and I don’t know his name, but I can guess his skin color—continues to disrespect the anthem and the flag, I’ll have to send Vice-Puppet Mike Pence to the next game to stage a protest walkout. It’ll cost the taxpayers a ton of money—a couple hundred grand at least—but you can’t put a price tag on our beautiful flag. No price tag.

But I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that, because hockey players aren’t like football and basketball players. They’re happy to be here. Just look at all those smiling faces. So many of them. Great crowd. Record turnout. They love their Trump. That’s why Melania and I are so delighted to welcome them.

And, by the way, I want to set the record straight on something: Melania is the First Lady, not Ivana. I don’t know what Ivana was thinking when she called herself the First Lady on NBC. Fake news! She was my first wife, but she isn’t the First Lady. Is Marla gonna want to be First Lady, too? Everybody wants to be Trump’s First Lady. It’s amazing. Amazing. Crazy. But there can only be one First Lady, and everyone knows it’s my daughter Ivanka.

Who’s the real First Lady, Ivan or Melania or Ivanka?

I don’t think they have a First Lady in hockey, do they? Probably not. It’s a man’s game. They still allow hitting, not like the NFL. The NFL’s not the same game anymore. Hit someone and it’s 15 yards! Penalty. Can’t touch anyone. Flag football. Hockey’s not like that. Full of tough hombres. I watched a game once and couldn’t believe it. So tough…so tough. Couldn’t believe it. Tough hombres.

I was talking to the team captain, Sidney Crosby. He comes from a small town on the east coast of Canada. Very small town. Smaller than my hands. I shook his hand and you know what he said to me? He said, ‘My oh my, President Trump, what big hands you have.’ That’s what he said. What big hands I have. Big hands. Biggest hands he’s ever seen. So all that stuff that the evil media has been writing and saying about my hands, fake news!

The media’s so unfair to me. And they’re unfair to the Penguins, too. Especially Sidney Crosby. So many in the fake media have been critical of him for coming to visit Melania and I at the White House. So unfair. I told Sid the Kid—by the way, that nickname Sid the Kid…I think it’s the greatest nickname I’ve ever come up with for an athlete. I guess other people have used it over the years, but I never noticed it. Never heard it. I named the Broad Street Bullies, too. I named lots of them. Most of ’em. The Great Gretzky. Named him. The Rocket. Named him. The Finnish Flash. Trump named him. Because Trump knows hockey. Not many people know this, but did you know that no NHL team has ever won the Stanley Cup with a Mexican on the roster. True. No Mexicans. My name is on the Stanley Cup—it’s the biggest type face—but no Mexicans. None. And that’s one of the ways we can make America great again…by keeping Mexicans out of hockey.

This has been a great day for the Penguins. Special day. Especially for Evgeni Malkin—he’s the first Russian to come to the White House who we haven’t had to hide. Gino knows I’m a friend. You know that, right Gino? Sure he does. All the Russians know I’m a friend. I’m the reason they don’t have to defect anymore to come over here and make millions of our beautiful American dollars. I ended the Cold War. Stopped it. Ordered them to bust down the Berlin Wall. Told them to ‘tear down this wall.’ Famous quote of mine. Look it up. True friend of the Russians. All immigrants, really. There are very fine people on both sides of the ocean. I married two of them.

I’d like to stay and spend more time with Gino, but I’ve got a tee time with my very good friend Bob Corker. We’re gonna golf and discuss day care. So I’ve got to scoot. Melania and I want to thank the Penguins and let them know that there are some nice parting gifts for them on the way out. They’re beautiful, soft towels. Gorgeous towels. I brought them home from my trip to Puerto Rico. Fabulous towels. Best towels for sopping up a hurricane.”

Yo! Cam Newton! Some of the women who escaped from the kitchen actually watch football

Cam Newton must think Katie Sowers is funnier than a barrel full of Three Stooges.

I mean, she’s a she who talks about the “routes” receivers run in the National Football League, and that, to Cam, is high comedy. A real knee-slapper. A regular riot. Why, it’s Seinfeld-worthy.

Jourdan Rodrigue

Oh, yes, a “female” discussing the intricacies of the manly enterprise that is professional football is such a gut-buster that Cam simply could not contain himself on Wednesday when a “female” fed him a query about one of the people who catch the passes he throws for the Carolina Panthers.

I know you take a lot of pride in seeing your receivers play well,” said Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. “Devin Funchess has seemed to really embrace the physicality of his routes and getting those extra yards. Does that give you a little bit of enjoyment to see him kind of truck sticking people out there?”

As soon as the word “routes” passed Rodrigue’s lips, Newton closed his eyes and began to smile and sway, waiting for her to finish.

It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes, like…it’s funny,” the Panthers quarterback said, flashing a toothy, dumb-ass grin like he was in the front row at a Chris Rock stand-up show at the L.A. Improv.

Ya, funny Cam. That must be the reason the San Francisco 49ers hired the aforementioned Katie Sowers as a full time coach to work with their receivers. For comic relief. And, say, Sowers is one of those lesbians, isn’t she? A lesbian teaching receiver “routes?” Even more reason to yuk it up, right Cam?

Hey, come to think of it, maybe Jourdan Rodrigue is a lesbo, too. Ya, that must be it. That would explain everything. No straight girl would ever talk about “routes.” If straight girls talk football, it’s about the color of the uniforms or the tight tush on Gisele Bundchen’s hubby, Tom Brady. Only a gay girl would get into specifics like a go route, a hitch screen and slants. And it’s sooooo darn funny when she says it.

I wonder what else Cam Newton thinks is funny to hear females talk about. Car engines? Power tools? The payload on a Chevy Silverado pickup?

Poor Cam. Apparently he missed the memo about women being allowed out of the kitchen. One of them, in fact, strayed so damn far from the kitchen that she almost got herself elected president of the United States last November. Hmmm. Wonder if Hillary Clinton knows anything about football. Probably not. Otherwise she’d have punted Bill to the sidelines when he brought Monica into the huddle.

Annabel Bowlen with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

At any rate, ol’ Cam has put a whole lot of knickers in knots with his antiquated, offensive stereotyping of women, and you’d think he’d know better. A whole lot better. He is, after all, a black quarterback and, once upon a time, many, if not most, of the deep-thinkers in football were of a mind that African-Americans were, well, just too dumb to play QB. You know, like Cam believes a female reporter is just too dumb to talk about pass “routes.”

Supposedly, we weren’t smart enough or had the leadership qualities or whatever it took,” says Warren Moon, the sole black QB in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “At every position, for African-Americans, conquering that myth at quarterback was so important.”

It wasn’t until Doug Williams delivered a Super Bowl championship to the Washington Redskins in 1988 that the tall foreheads became convinced black quarterbacks actually knew the difference between an X and an O, a go route from a corner route. Even at that, there remain holdouts to this day. The New York Giants, founded in 1925, have never started a black man behind centre. In 92 years.

Apparently, that’s where Newton is re women. In 1925.

Remember, though, this is the guy who was too dainty to get his hands dirty and his uniform wrinkled in Super Bowl 50. He totally flatlined and the Panthers were beaten by the Denver Broncos that day. And to whom did NFL commissioner Roger Goodell present the Vince Lombardi Trophy? Annabel Bowlen. Yup, a woman.

Ain’t it funny how that works, Cam?

About Vietnam and Las Vegas…a president in Puerto Rico…Tom Petty and the Traveling Wilburys…rude noise on The Voice…learning about Will & Grace…October baseball…and shining in 2019

Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…

I spent the entirety of my Sunday watching the final six installments of the Lynn Novick/Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War and went to bed emotionally spent and softly weeping.

Such atrocities. Such carnage. Such an unnecessary waste of human life.

I awoke 5 1/2 hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, and clicked on my TV. I began weeping again. Another atrocity. More carnage. More unnecessary waste of human life, this time on our side of the world, in Las Vegas.

You wake up in the morning knowing the world will have changed overnight, but you don’t expect this kind of change. Fifty-eight people taken to the morgue. Approximately 500 whisked away to the ER at five different Vegas hospitals. That’s almost 600 people killed or cut down. By a man who, due to silent voices in his head and a disturbing, horrific sense of right and wrong, took a piece of pure Americana—a country music festival—and buried it in pure evil.

The physical toll is shocking, the worst human slaughter in modern-time United States. The emotional fallout is much greater.

Approximately 22,000 innocent, happy concert-goers are victims. Their friends and loved ones are victims. First responders are victims. Doctors and nurses are victims. Jason Aldean, on stage closing the Route 91 Harvest Festival when bullets from high-powered weapons began to rain down from a 32nd-floor room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and other performers are victims.

So the country to the south has been crippled. Again.

The Olympic Mountains

When I look out the main window of my humble home on a clear day, I can see the United States of America. Literally. The Olympic Mountains are off in the distance, standing tall and firm across the Juan de Fuca Strait in Washington state. It’s a peaceful, picture-postcard setting, totally at odds with the chaos, confusion and killings that occur far too often behind them.

It’s easy for us on the north side of those Olympic Mountains to feel smug and say these types of mass murders are “an American thing,” but do we really want to go there? Americans are our neighbors. Our friends. Even if we find them a tad loud and obnoxious when they visit, they’re North American kin.

Besides, it’s not like we’re immune to the depravity of minds that either snap or plot evil in Canada.

It was only nine months ago, remember, when a young man strolled into a Quebec City mosque and opening fired. By the time he walked out of the Islamic Cultural Centre, six people lay slain and another 19 were wounded.

It’s all so sad.

One of four students dead in Ohio.

The Vietnam War documentary, which aired on PBS, is a superb, enlightening and gripping work from Novick and Burns. It is a harsh reminder of the violence that prevailed during the 1960s and early ’70s—it definitely wasn’t all flower power, groovin’ and great rock ‘n’ roll like some Baby Boomers would have you believe—and I’m sure it opened eyes to the shameful deceit, cunning and flat-out criminal activity of people in the White House. The most heart-tugging and tear-inducing segment for me was the sight of students lying on the ground, dead, at Kent State after the Ohio National Guard had gunned them down. Innocent kids, killed by their own government. I can still hear the haunting refrain “four dead in Ohio” in Neil Young’s classic protest song Ohio. Sigh.

Speaking of government, did U.S. President Donald Trump actually tell people in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to “have a good time” and toss them paper towels? Well, yes, he did. Oh my.

Okay, it’s about Tom Petty. My favorite Tom Petty stuff was the stuff he did with Nelson, Otis, Lefty and Lucky, aka the Traveling Wilburys. Now, with Petty’s passing this week, there are only two of the Wilburys left—Lucky (Bob Dylan) and Otis (Jeff Lynne). George Harrison and Roy Orbison had preceded Petty to the big rock concert in the sky. Petty (Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.), Dylan, Lynne, Harrison and Orbison only recorded one album together —Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1—and it’s brilliant. Those boys could really get after it. There’s a second album (I have the both on vinyl), but Orbison had already left us.

The Traveling Wilburys: Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison.

My favorite Traveling Wilburys tunes…

  1. Handle with Care
  2. End of the Line
  3. Rattled
  4. Not Alone Any More
  5. Poor House

Gave The Voice a try last week, but, sorry, I cannot watch if Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson are sitting in two of the four judges’ chairs. They both seem to be of the misguided notion that the show is about them, not the contestants. The hokey Adam Levine-Blake Shelton bromance wore thin about six years ago, but Cyrus and Hudson make the show unbearable. Click.

I’m told Will & Grace are back on TV. Hmmm. I didn’t know they had left. So, because I missed them during their first go-round on the small screen, I thought I’d give the new season’s first episode a look-see. I must say, that was a funny show. And imagine my surprise. There are gay characters. Who knew? Must check it out again. (Sidebar: Debra Messing has gorgeous hair. Love the color, which also happens to be my color.)

I love October baseball, even if I don’t have a cheering interest. Actually, I found myself root, root, rooting for the New York Yankees in their wild-card skirmish with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. I’m not sure what that means. I mean, I’ve always been an ABTY ball fan—anybody but the Yankees. So why was I cheering for them? I think I need to book some time on Dr. Phil’s couch.

If I was still in River City, working in mainstream jock journalism at the Winnipeg Sun, I’d be required to attend a hockey match this very night between the hometown Jets and the Tranna Maple Leafs and pretend it’s important. I’m glad I’m no longer in River City working in mainstream journalism.

According to my October horoscope, “2019 will be your time to shine.” Excuse me? 2019? What the hell am I supposed to do until then?

U.S.A. is the “greatest country” for breast implants, prisoners and not much else

While National Football League players and other athletes took a knee and United States President Donald Trump took a pass on everything that’s really important in the past few days, I repeatedly read and heard that the United States of America is “the greatest country in the world.”

Excuse me? You mean “world” as in planet earth? Third rock from the sun? Terra firma?


I mean, the only people who believe the U.S. of A. is the cat’s meow when it comes to countries are the people who actually live in the self-anointed land of the free and home of the brave. The rest of us? Not so much.

No doubt the U.S. of A. has its endearing qualities. Off the top of my head, I can think of two—Jimmy Stewart movies and Patsy Cline tunes.

Americans talk like they invented and bottled freedom. And, to be sure, they have the freedom to choose one liar over another in their presidential election, Vlad (The Bad) Putin’s influence notwithstanding. They’re also free to take a knee, pack a sidearm, brew weak beer, make fun of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, root, root, root for the Cubbies, and give the Yankees the Bronx cheer. But celebrity justice, the world’s largest collection of Elvis impersonators, a scavenger (bald eagle) for a national symbol, and an addiction to war aren’t exactly what I’d call selling points.

Let’s be clear. I’m not here to bash America. Love the place. Had wonderful times there. Love the people, especially in the Midwest where the constituents remind me of good Canadian prairie stock. But that “greatest country in the world” stuff is a bit much. The U.S. of A. is the global great like Homer Simpson is a card-carrying member of the Mensa Society.

In its annual rankings of the best countries in the world, U.S. News and World Report lists Switzerland, Canada, the U.K., Germany, Japan and Sweden ahead of the United States.

  • Forbes magazine has the U.S. at No. 23 on its list of best countries to do business.

  • In the Freedom in the World rankings from Freedom House, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Canada, Iceland, U.K., Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Japan and Germany rate higher than Uncle Sam.

  • In a U.S. News and World Report survey of millennials, Canada was chosen the best country in the world. The U.S. was fifth.

  • Best country to live: Australia first and Canada second (America wasn’t in top five).

  • Best country for dating: Brazil came out on top (America wasn’t in top five).

  • Best country to start a career: China, Germany and then the U.S.

  • Best country to be an immigrant: Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Norway. (U.S. seventh.)

  • Lifestyle9 rated the best countries in the world to live: Monoco is first, Canada fifth, the U.S.A. 11th.

  • Best quality of life in the world (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development): Norway, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada. The U.S. came in at ninth.

  • Best health care: Andorra, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway (U.S. 35th).

I searched over, under, sideways and down (apologies to the Yardbirds) to find a source that listed the Republic of the United States as the “greatest country in the world” and I discovered the grand sum of zero. Only in select categories does the U.S. top any list—plastic surgery, breast implants, filthy rich people, death by violence, small arms imports/exports, and prisoners.

Oh, there’s one more: Taking a knee.

Donald Trump—you, too, have the right to remain silent

Put down that brick, mortar and trowel! Construction on the Great Wall of Trump, intended to keep rapists and druggies confined to Mexico, can wait.

Kim Jong Un and his nuclear weapons? Put the Rocket Man on hold.

Donald Trump

Tearing apart Obamacare? Tax reform? Revamping NAFTA? Stamping out international terrorism? All minor inconveniences compared to the heavy issue that has just landed on the doorstep of the humble shack at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.—ridding the sports world of bums and creeps who dare tweak the presidential beak.

Oh, yes, U.S. President Donald J. Trump has declared it open season on Colin Kaepernik, Jemele Hill, Stephen Curry and those of their ilk.

Just last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a paid Pinocchio for the Apprentice President, wailed against the evils of ESPN co-anchor Hill, demanding her ouster from the cable station’s dinnertime SportsCenter program. Hill had been a naughty girl, don’t you know. Basically, she called the POTUS a POS, and we can’t have sports personalities exercising First Amendment rights.

So fire her!

Steph Curry has no desire to attend a White House function to be saluted along with his National Basketball Association champion Golden State Warriors teammates? Fine. Trump issues a hissy-fit tweet that the “invitation is withdrawn!” No White House for you!

And we also have El Presidente in full howl and delivering off-with-their-heads urgings during a group hug in Huntsville, Ala., a sermon that was shallow in scope and dizzying in narcissism. Seems Agent Orange is unamused by National Football League players who kneel or sit and munch on bananas (hello, Marshawn Lynch) during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, so he’ll have to deal with that pesky Kim Jong Un and his nuclear play things at a later date. More urgent is the uprising by large lads in pads who are equally unamused by racial inequality in Trump’s America.

Colin Kaepernick

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” the Commander-in-Chief huffed and puffed on Friday, attempting to blow the NFL house down. “You know, some owner’s gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired. And that owner, they don’t know it—they’re friends of mine, many of them—they’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country, ’cause that’s a total disrespect of our heritage, that’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for, okay? Everything that we stand for. And I know we have freedoms and we have freedom of choice and many, many different freedoms, but you know what, it’s still totally disrespectful. And you know when the NFL ratings are down massively—massively!—the NFL ratings are down massively…the No. 1 reason is they like watching what’s happening with yours truly.

“You know what’s hurting the game? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking a knee when they are playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave.”

Trump failed to mention that Americans also have the right to remain silent. He should have tried it.

I mean, seriously, the president of the United States of America advocating the dismissal of professional athletes for exercising a Constitutional right? Kind of like Pope Francis excommunicating Catholics for kneeling in prayer, wouldn’t you say? (Not that I think Trump is pope-like.)

Tommie Smith, centre, and John Carlos, right.

Sports and politics aren’t meant to blend together. The games people play are intended to be a diversion, something to provide an escape from the realities of an oft-nasty and angry world. And, I suppose, Trump unwittingly accomplished that very thing by diving gob first into the playground with his off-the-rails rant against the NFL and the way it conducts business. After all, if the POTUS is talking sports, he isn’t talking about blowing North Korea and the rest of the world the hell up.

The thing is, crapping on out-of-work quarterback Kaepernick and pooh-poohing increased safety measures to reduce or eliminate scrambled brains (he stopped short of suggesting the game has become sissified) isn’t productive. Chances are we’ll see an increase in the volume of players kneeling this weekend.

I wish sports and politics were separate entities. Games should be games and life should be life. But it’s never been that way and never shall be. The 1936 Olympic Games were about Hitler’s Germany. Tommie Smith and John Carolos turned the 1968 Olympic Games into a political statement. Terrorists turned the 1972 Olympics into a horrible tragedy. There have been boycotts of varying degrees at half a dozen Olympic Games. And tell me sports and politics didn’t meet during hockey’s 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.

But I’m okay with Trump imposing his political position on the NFL…just as long as he doesn’t expect Colin Kaepernick, Jemele Hill and Stephen Curry to apologize—or be fired—for doing the same thing.

Things that are on my mind this morning…

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Random thoughts in the wee hours before dawn’s early light…

I keep reading about the United States being the “land of the free?” What makes the United States the “land of the free?” What freedoms do Americans have that we don’t enjoy in Canada? Oh, that’s right, they get to play with guns and we don’t. How’s that working out for them?

I no longer use the phrase “You know you’re getting old when…” I now say, “Now that I’m old…”

As the day when there are 66 candles on my birthday cake approaches, I surrender to the reality that time is running short for me to take my first selfie. That is not, however, on my bucket list, so I shall be ashes in an urn before I engage in that self-serving ritual. I’ll continue to talk about myself, write about myself and look at myself in the mirror, but snapping a selfie is a non-starter.

I really like my dentist, but why does it cost so much to have her peer into my mouth? How do we know dentists aren’t ripping us off?

I find it interesting, also odd, that I can fly clear across an ocean to England for less money than it costs me to fly most places in Canada.

Someone told me that Americans would never be so dumb as to elect Donald Trump president. No? Then explain the voters in Minnesota electing a professional wrestler as governor and the voters in California doing the same with a body builder.

The Spice Girls: Did I miss anything?
The Spice Girls: Did I miss anything?

While watching Mel B on one of the late-night gab shows recently, it occurred to me that I could not name one Spice Girls song. So you tell me, have I missed something?

Someone once said, “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” and I agree. Whereas certain of my childhood friends go on Facebook to reminisce about the good, old days, I sometimes wonder if I even had a childhood or good, old days. They drop names I don’t recognize. They write of events I don’t recall. For example, the other day someone posted a comment about walking to high school in a group that apparently included moi. I have no recollection of that. I remember almost always walking to and from school alone or with one of the Lowery girls.

I witnessed the rarest of sightings the other day: Two people sitting in a pub, talking to each other instead of playing with their smart phones or tablets. That was nice.

I was a 10-minute walk from the Royals on Saturday, so I had a choice: Make that 10-minute walk and watch Kate and Will deliver the Royal wave, or sit in the pub and order another pint. I’m pleased to report that that other pint tasted real good.

Why was security on highest alert when Kate and Will arrived in Victoria on Saturday? Were the motorcycle cops and those men in sun glasses and long, black limos afraid one of our homeless citizens would insult the Royals by asking for spare change?

If the cost of rent continues to soar in Victoria, I might soon be one of those homeless citizens begging the Royals for spare change.

I missed the Royal wave from Kate and Will.
I missed the Royal wave from Kate and Will.

I have nothing against the Royals. I have something against fawning over faux celebrities. Or any celebrities, for that matter.

I tried to watch The Voice last week, but I can’t get past Miley Cyrus. I’m not sure what it is about Billy Ray’s little girl, but she’s a most irritating bit of business. Her nails-on-chalkboard voice is grating and those teeth that look store-bought don’t seem to fit her mouth or face. She’s over the top with her rebel-with-a-cause schtick, too. I’ll pass on The Voice this year now that I know she’s a coach.

On the matter of The Voice, the adolescent bantering between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton became painfully tiresome about three seasons ago. How often do those two mooks have to call each other an “idiot” before the audience and producers decide the schtick is just childish and not funny?

I was a fan of country music in the 1980s, when I hitched my horse in Calgary. That was a wonderful decade for the genre, with the emergence of George Strait and Clint Black and Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson and Randy Travis and Reba and Alabama and Dwight Yoakam and Roseanne Cash and Ricky Van Shelton. So what happened? When did Nashville become a haven for the vocally challenged? I mean, you’re telling me that Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan are mega-stars? George Strait and Alan Jackson were right when they sang Murder on Music Row. It’s a crime what’s happened to country music.

I really like Renee Zellwegger. She makes me laugh.

Colin Kaepernick is no Ali, but he’s got people listening and talking

patti pride
patti dawn swansson

Let’s not get silly and compare what Colin Kaepernick is doing to Muhammad Ali’s refusal to heed Uncle Sam’s call to arms.

Yes, Kaepernick has taken a stand by sitting/kneeling during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner at National Football League games, but when the San Francisco 49ers commence their 2016 crusade he’ll be the backup quarterback. His protest against police brutality and the oppression of black people/people of color hasn’t cost him his livelihood. His bank account is no less ample. He’s in no danger of being arrested, cuffed, hauled into court and sentenced to five years in prison.

Ali was dealt every bit of that hand. And more. Including death threats. Yet he was all-in. He had “no quarrel with them Viet Cong” so he wasn’t going to drop bombs on, or shoot bullets at, innocent brown people come hell or hoosegow.

By way of comparison, Kaepernick’s posture has, at worst, earned him enemies who see him not as a caped crusader for colored people but, rather, as an anti-anthem, anti-military and an anti-America ingrate who ought to just play football and zip his lips unless he plans to pledge allegiance to a country that he believes has come undone.

But when did doing and saying nothing become acceptable?

Maybe Rosa Parks should have given her seat to that white man and moved to the back of the bus where the black folk belonged to save herself from finger printing and time in jail.

Maybe Martin Luther King Jr. should have stayed home to mow the lawn instead of marching through the southern United States and spending time behind bars.

Maybe Gandhi should have just bought government salt rather than walk more than 200 miles to collect his own and spare himself yet another stretch in jail.

Maybe Tommie Smith and John Carlos should have played nice by putting on their shoes, unclenching their hands and smiling for the cameras.

Maybe Jesse Owens should have skipped out on the 1936 Olympics and let Hitler have his way.

Maybe Harvey Milk should have stayed in the closet.

Maybe students at Kent State should have gone to class instead of carrying signs, marching and shouting.

Maybe all those young people shouldn’t have taken sledge hammers to the Berlin Wall.

Maybe Marlon Brando should have accepted his Oscar as best actor for his role as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather rather than send an Apache woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, to deliver a speech about the misrepresentation of Native Americans in film and on TV, at the same time drawing attention to Wounded Knee.

Maybe John and Yoko shouldn’t have acted like a couple of layabouts and gotten out of bed.

Maybe Johnny Cash should have worn more colorful clothing.

Maybe Nellie McClung should have stayed home to cook and clean for her hubby and their five children rather than make so much noise about women voting and being “persons.”

Maybe the drag queens, transgender individuals, cross-dressers, butch lesbians and gay men at the Stonewall Inn should have simply tucked their feathered boas between their legs and peacefully piled into paddy wagons rather than kick up a fuss.

Maybe all those draft dodgers who sought refuge in Canada should have been turned back at the border.

Maybe punter Chris Kluwe should have kept silent and not exposed homophobia among the Minnesota Vikings coaching staff.

Maybe Branch Rickey should have hired Jack Roosevelt Robinson to shine his shoes rather than sign him to a Brooklyn Dodgers contract that made him the first black man to play Major League Baseball.

Maybe what Colin Kaepernick is doing won’t amount to anything. He’s no Ali. He’s no Jackie Robinson (who, by the way, would not salute the flag or stand for the anthem toward the end of his life). He’s no Rosa Parks. He’s no Gandhi. He’s just a backup quarterback clinging to a high-paying job that grants him a lifestyle of privilege.

But, he’s got people talking. And thinking. He sees something that he believes isn’t right. He’s trying to fix it, as are other athletes who have begun to parrot him. How can that be wrong?

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