Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Over a week ago, yours truly took the hit for loudly disclosing on social media: LeBron doesn't shake hands at the end? There's your legend right there........ This 'triggered' black folks on my timeline like it was no one's business! The mere fact I pointed out a foul act I believed current (as of this writing) Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James committed at the end of Game 4 of this year's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors that I thought would be good for discussion, turned out to be a preconceived 'hit' on another black man, one who's accomplished a lot in his fifteen years in the league. My contention with players like LeBron is that I do not hate him, I dislike the noise around him and I find it extremely odd to promote a player to a status of The Greatest Ever when his finals record is sub. 500 (3-6). Perhaps this says more about us as Black people than it is one individual player.
For the record: let me state that Draymond Green of the Warriors not shaking hands with the Cavaliers Tristan Thompson is just as bad and I should have pointed it out. I did apologize for my error when I went back and saw on several social media posts that LeBron did bump fists with the Warriors as he left the court, possibly the last time in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. I did mention that 'I stand corrected' so to all of you out there, let me state I stand corrected. The most important thing I hope you the reader gain from this is that we must learn to 'separate' in this generation. A professional athlete's actions on the court or the field are totally different than what's going on in his personal life. If LeBron's doing things off the court to improve his community, that's great. If he's involved in producing media programs which improve his brand, excellent. If he's a humanitarian aiming to improve the lives of his generation and the next, cool. If I as a fan root against him because he plays for the wrong team, he's fair game and not an attack on his personal life, but since we're in this reality where folks may not see the point above, what he does on the court is fair game, what he does away the court, off.
I brought up Kobe Bryant to another author who simply doesn't like him because they support another team and not a Lakers fan as I am. That's cool. We can have those debates because that's what sports is all about, right? Yankees versus Dodgers. Lakers versus Celtics. Steelers versus Cowboys. That was the world was like in the sports world before professional sports leagues, Madison Avenue and brainwashed sports fans bought into the hype that the great player comes first before the rest of the team. I grew up watching championships between teams, not players. Doctor J. was the greatest player of my generation, but he played for the Philadelphia 76ers that I rooted against. Does that mean I'm 'not down' with Julius Erving because heÂ faced the Showtime Lakers when it mattered most in the NBA Finals? Dr. J's personal life and his accomplishments would be discussed briefly on CBS if at all, but they were not part of the story. His 'legacy' wasn't the engine so many of our sports analysts on networks like ESPN, Fox Sports One and the rest thrive on. I would say this year's NBA Finals using 1970's-80's logic could have been just as compelling if storylines focused on other players on the Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers instead of the superstars, the records, the statistics, the noise that consumes us all.
The noise ladies and gentlemen, is an endless mishmash of opinions, ranging from one coast to the next. Now that LeBron's focusing on free agency and where he will play next, expect the chatter to be at a fever pitch. Of course, this is all done for ratings and the NBA has a stake in this too. They do not want to go back to filming playoff games at 11:30pm on late night television. I experienced that and in a league with Dr. J, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many other legends playing at that time, I can see why the league is so dead set on promoting the individual great player over his team. It makes sense, for them.
Does it make sense to us? The honest to goodness sports fan who loves to talk trash online and in person, the fans who buy the expensive seats in the nosebleed section chowing down on expensive food while enduring long lines at the concession stand? Why can't we just argue what happens on the court on or on the field? I find these Greatest of All Time debates laughable because in another twenty years we'll have this same discussion about a different player who may have a better Finals record than LeBron and Jordan and we'll all be in a rush to define him as the 'G.O.A.T.' You know it's going to happen. You know the next generation will have as much disdain as this one when it comes to their players. Their musicians too. Michael Jordan was the best player in my Generation X era, hands down. LeBron James is the Millennial all time favorite. Post- millennial? Who knows?
Let us learn to separate the player from the philanthropist, the athlete from activist, the baller from businessman and we'll continue to debate on whom the Greatest is, and who's the Latest.
Yesterday was extremely hard for me because my father wasn't here to celebrate his special day. It's been a few weeks now since he left us, but every day since that night I feel his loss. My wife wisely stopped me from posting my thoughts on social media, since it would imply that I am seeking attention. I'd rather post them here in the cold digital vacuum of cyberspace so whoever is going through the same experience of losing a father as I have, will hopefully gain some strength from what I'm about to say.
My father and I shared a bond that will never be broken, ever. We were close but not too close. I know that if I needed to talk, share an important word or talk about an accomplishment I've achieved, he would be there. Yes, 'Chuck the Cook' as he was formally known would be there for me proving it more than once on occasion. I can't say enough of the times he would go out of his way to treat our family to a day of amusement parks, restaurants and trips out of the city. There may be one or two of you out there who has never experienced that with your father because of whatever situation you were in, but I can say to a young man like me, those moments meant a lot. Those are the times you sit in the dead of night alone in your room with your arms crossed and head down as you fight through the pain, the loss of a man you cared about. You weep, you mourn, you want to blame everyone and everything, including God that your father isn't physically there anymore but I have to say you must also thank The Creator for the time you spent with him. You have to part your lips and just say thanks for the life you shared with the one role model, the man in your life who you looked up to.
Father's Day from here on out will be a difficult day. It will be one where you watch friends, family on social media pose in pictures with their fathers and you look at the empty space in your home and lament the fact he is no longer there and he will never come back, ever. All you can do is stay away from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, lay down on your couch or bed, close your eyes and remember the days when your father was alive. Remember the sage advice he gave you, the dinners prepared, the laughter from the jokes he said, all of this.
The day has now passed and if the Lord allows, there will be one more to move on and live the life that's in front of me. I cannot forget the life with my father that's now behind me but the man I grew up with for years will never be forgotten. The fact his absence casts a long shadow hurts inspires me to live up to the morals, the attitudes he taught me, the productive actions I learned from and more. I'm deeply proud to have had a father I loved so much and always will. One day cannot define that, and shouldn't.
The human mind can only take so much. Day after day ever since the beginning of this new century, our hearts have been flooded with news story after news story. A good majority of which can be described as 'clickbait' on the internet designed for you to read opinionated articles from writers who mean well, but are as much to blame for the decline of critical thinking on our planet. When 'think pieces' do nothing but denigrate and demolish one's consciousness or insult our intelligence by creating babble without substance, this is something that is mentally unappealing, and should be erased.
A couple of days ago, I blocked one such site that had followed me on my Twitter account. The 'nefarious' website which should focus on issues that affect me and my specific race, does nothing but. Their content is column after column of negative viewpoints of the male gender which does not address the issues that truly matter like homelessness, illiteracy, the impact of gentrification, and so forth. What this website offers is nothing short of propaganda against my gender and fixed sexuality, which if you're born as a Black man you've come to expect unfortunately.
Sadly, if I want to read positive yet realistic press about Black people, I have to go to archives.org and pull up past issues of the California Eagle newspaper which ran as the Owl in 1879, changed its name to the Eagle in 1912 before ending publication in 1964. Coverage of the newspaper concentrated on establishing hubs for Black people to get away from the constant stigma of racism in the city. Where else would you see Black people write articles of how to operate a business, build a community such as Val Verde, or discuss issues such as inequality and police brutality. All of the conversations we should engage in instead of following pop culture which I have to say, is a dominant culture driven society that excludes us unless we create a sensation the dominant society likes such as say, the Harlem Shake?
The Eagle was a Black-owned, independently run newspaper under the leadership of Charlotta Bass, the second owner of the weekly who didn't care about pop culture unless her people were involved in it. She wasn't like our so-called 'superstar sistas' who run to social media to complain about Black men, denigrating them, calling them out. Ms. Bass was a woman who made it her mission to uplift the entire race, not just her gender. This is where our current sistas of influence fall short.
My mind is the most important property I have right now. It doesn't need to be crowded by clickbait articles from men and women who are unprofessional in relating with their audience. The content in their articles doesn't cause you to think for yourself, but rather think whether or not it's worth it to support such a publication. This is why I keep insisting to everyone to think for yourselves. Do not let any so-called Black or general website or publications change your hearts even if they profess to back the audience they claim is their target.
I invite you to read the links below. Read what a true Black woman and pioneer did for the city of Los Angeles and beyond. She took the root of the problems affecting her people and saw it grow to a powerful force for all.
A year or so ago I wrote social media is a medium where no one literally cares what you have to say. One year later, I've been proven right. There are a million people who access numerous sites claiming to have a 'voice', even the individuals whose viewpoints are outside the 'norm'. Perhaps this is a reach, but shouldn't social media be used to have constructive discussions with each other rather than tearing down someone who has a viewpoint we do not like?
I like peanut butter but I understand there are people who don't like the taste, the smell, whatever they find wrong with it. I may post on Twitter or Facebook, 'I love peanut butter' and sure enough, here come ten, fifty, one hundred users who will chime in with their claims of why they hate it, and offer the most outrageous reasons for it. A few users will present personal opinions, maybe a smidgen of fact, but the rest will speak their minds and will curse you out, demean you and even disrespect you if you have a differing opinion or a fact they do not like. This is the world of social media now, and it's getting ridiculous. This is why as much as I would like to, I don't choose to get into conversations online where the focus is to vent and to prove your opinion is a fact that can never be question. I'm sorry, but according to the dictionary (any one will do), there is a clear choice between opinion and fact (once again):
OPINION - a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter (bold and italics, the author)
FACT - a piece of information presented as having objective reality (bold and italics, the author)
Unfortunately, in today's social media think piece environment, objectivity (definition: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations) is virtually nonexistent. Of course, all one needs to do is to create a hashtag such as #peanutbuttersucks and I guarantee it will be shared to over a million users that day or night without the facts but a ton of opinions as stated before.
But in the end, does it really matter what you or I think? Should anyone care? You may know of someone who expresses an opinion or two on YouTube or the Twitter but at the literal end of the day, what will it mean? Does it as I've said before, impact my life? Even if I considered to stop eating peanut butter due to the avalanche of negative tweets against it, I'll continue to eat peanut butter because I enjoy it. Maybe you reader, hate peanut butter for whatever reason but last time I checked, it is simply your opinion and because it affects you more than it does me, I refuse to adhere to your argument. Does it mean that I'm wrong? Hardheaded? Misguided for eating peanut butter? No. All it means is that you did not have a strong enough convincing argument to make me change my mind, which is the aim of social media today.
Yes, social media's 'agenda' is multi-layered and as we have seen in the past decade, quite appealing to the multitude who are looking, searching for a topic to claim as their own, a cause to get around, an opportunity for the racial or gender oppressed to 'speak up', have a voice. It doesn't mean the voice is accurate or makes sense, but in most cases on the web, we've seen these voices at work. When there is forceful opposition to whatever the ideology the voices present, it muddles and ruins any chance for a serious, honest debate.
Think for yourself. Do not let anyone or anybody intimidate you into thinking as they do. That isn't what free will is all about. When the voices dictate how you think and say based on their own opinions, then you've become another causality of social media. Don't let that happen to you.
This may not be the last time I write about him, but I will say at least a few things before I let him go (for now) and resume my life all over again. Tonight marks two weeks that he left us and although I'm not sure whether or not I'll ever see him again, I know that he will live in my heart forever. That much I'm sure of.
I don't want to make it seem as if I'm the only person who has lost a parent nor will I be the last. It's just an overwhelming feeling and if I in some way help anyone who may be going through the same situation now or in the future then I think I've done my part. Charles Sr. as I've said before had a great sense of humor, always considerate when it came to anyone in need and spoke his mind when he wanted to. Maybe he wasn't perfect, but he didn't have to be in my eyes. What mattered to me was that he taught me how to become a gentleman, do my best in school and in life, and enjoy what makes me happy the most. My father showed all of that to me whether he prepared meals at the old Stockyard Steak House (or Airliner Café before that), taking to Dodgers and Rams games, or spending time in conversations where I saw the best and worst of him.
Without saying too much, Charles Sr. was everything I am now and plan to be for the rest of my life; smart, resourceful, funny and more. He would express how proud he was of me but I should say how proud I am of him. He survived the Korean War, which is ironic considering that North and South after sixty five years have decided to reunite. What more could I say that I have not shared in previous posts? All I can say now is that I'm my father's son. I carry his name, his genes and most importantly, his spirit. Only the Creator knows what the next chapter will be but as long as I live, I will do my best to honor my father by representing him in how I think, act and speak. This is all I will say for now except for one more thing:
I love you Chat. 'Love' always in present tense, never in the past. You were a great father and I was proud to be your son. Nuff said.