Pregnancy Update – Third Trimester

Christina is officially in the third trimester! The big 3. The final stretch. The big belly. Reality knocking at our door. Theodore is quite the active baby and kicks Christina repeatedly in one spot. I actually felt him kick one time and I pretended to love the experience – in truth, it felt like I was in a Ridley Scott production of Alien. Baby clothes are starting to accumulate, and we are covering the wall of the baby room with owls. Christina has weird food cravings and is quite the picky pregnant women – the only meat she cares for now is shrimp. She was actually worried about not gaining enough weight, but I quickly looked up Filipina growth charts and reassured her that she was average weight in a petite-Asian world. Several times we thought Max was smelling her belly because of the baby; we later found some food stains were in the vicinity.

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I recently went to a friend’s wedding where everyone was either pregnant or talking about their kids. I felt left out of the conversation like a younger brother whose older brother is going through puberty. The advice that expectant parents receive is always the same:

“You aren’t going to get any sleep.”

“Say goodbye to your free time.”

“Blame all his bad genes on your wife.”

I agree with most of this advice, but I think it falls in the same category as corny advice one receives at a wedding…“A happy wife is a happy life.” Although corny, I know it is partially true, and I am mentally preparing myself for the changes in the future. One of the biggest things I need to work on is constant worrying. I find this a pathological attribute of most parents, and I am by no means immune. I worry about Teddy now, and I know it will get worse when he comes into the world. That is why my single greatest preparatory step during these last three months is stopping myself from worrying. Is this even a possibility? I am not sure at this point, but I am committed to trying. I am trying to pray more to God and giving Him my anxious thoughts – easy to type but hard to do in practice.

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What is the key to not worrying? From what wisdom I have gleaned, it is to understand what is and is not in your control. I can not control every aspect of Teddy’s life. I can do my best to help him in life, but there is always a limit. I am attempting to step back and let Jesus take the wheel. If that sounds corny or reckless, just ask yourself the outcomes of your own anxiety? Have they come to fruition? Or more than likely just ruined many precious hours of your life? My request is not corny advice that is obvious, but rather advice on controlling anxiety – without prescriptions. What works best for you? I am always open to your wisdom.

Is Your Mind Coddled?

Since there is so much in the news right now about the Supreme Court, I wanted to post this commencement speech from Chief Justice John Roberts…

Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

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First and foremost, this is not a speech related to the Kavanaugh fiasco or any type of sexual assault. It is a speech addressing the problem in today’s world of “speech” censorship. From the left and the right, people are becoming “offended” by opinions that don’t fit their worldview. On the left, this is destroying universities with call-out cultures and “trigger warnings;” students are being taught that opposing views do not have to be debated but rather chased down like a modern-day Salem Witch Trial. On the right, opposing views are looked at as “Fake News” or a conspiracy theory which gains credibility in dark corners of comment sections. Our echo chambers have gotten worse within the past decade because of our tailored media outlets.

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The real problem arises once we start teaching children – and ourselves – that the echo chamber is how the real world should operate. Instead of preparing the next generation to grow mental muscles, we are taking all the weights out of the cerebral gym. Instead of strapping on a good pair of mental hiking boots we are paving the jungle of differing opinions. This blog is a direct result of my most recent book: The Coddling of the American Mind – How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (both self-professed liberals). These two authors wrote an Atlantic article on this very subject, and that article morphed into a book after it became one of the most read articles in the magazines’ history. I highly recommend this book and the authors speak about three “Untruths” that are being taught in our society…

  1. “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker,” or the idea that exposure to offensive or difficult ideas is traumatic
  2. “Always trust your feelings,” or the notion that feeling upset by an idea is a reason to discount it
  3. “Us versus them,” or homogenous tribal thinking that leads people to shame those whose views fall outside that of their group

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Let me give you an example of these “Untruths” in action. Imagine an Asian student at a college and a white student innocently asking him for help with math homework. On many campuses, this question could be construed as racist and the Asian student would be supported by a Campus sponsored policy to reprimand the white student. Continuing the story, the Asian student could voice this example through social media where friends could voice “Us versus them” remarks with little rational argument: {copy-paste the following} white bigot, white privilege, misogynist, xenophobic, etc. This may sound far-fetched, but worse examples have happened on campuses. This was an example from the “left” but the antagonism from the “right” is just as bad – think about Trump’s Twitter feed. These “Untruths” lead to greater anxiety, depression, and anger among all political groups. I am not condoning hate speech or being an outright ass. I am condoning thoughtful dialogue and a thick skin because the world is not an echo chamber – our democracy depends on differing viewpoints and a populace with a good pair of hiking boots. What do you think?

My Craigslist Adventure

As a self-published author, my life consists of reading, writing, and begging people for reviews on Amazon. Before I started publishing on Amazon, I never realized how vital it was to have multiple reviews next to a title. The big publishers have no problem with this “star pursuit” because they have designated reviewers. The small guys have to scrape and sweat for whatever they can get. Amazon makes this almost impossible because even if someone buys your book, they cannot review it unless they have made several purchases in the past. Besides Amazon’s consumerist barriers, there are the barriers to people’s motivation. I have asked dozens of people to write me a review after reading my book – maybe 1% actually follow through.

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This dismal response rate is due to several factors: people are busy, people don’t care about my self-published book, people don’t like to write, and people don’t understand the importance of the almighty star. I currently have three books on Amazon. One has 16 reviews, and the other two have 1-2 reviews. Guess which book I sell multiple copies of each month? The one with those glorious stars! The other two books are just as good – if not better – but receive no lip service! If you need any more proof of this phenomenon, just be conscious of your own Amazon buying behavior; you will look at the number of reviews and the overall rating – if a product has no reviews it is not even considered. In an attempt to ameliorate my star situation, I went to Craigslist. 

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Craigslist and I have been friends for some time; in the past, I found countless deals, affordable apartments, and cool roommates from the eclectic site. I posted in the Community section that I was a “Local Author looking for people to read my book and write an honest review.” I got a few responses right away from people who requested my book and a meetup. My first email conversation went something like this…

“Hi I would like to read your book, I love reading.”

“Great I will send you the PDF.”

“Would you like to meet up and discuss it? I’m a 47-year-old blonde who likes long walks…” 

At that point, I thought I either found a true fan of my writing or someone who wanted me to be her divorce rebound; after showing my wife the email, I figured it was the latter. My second contact was with another local author who wanted to meet up to exchange books. We went back and forth on the time to meet and settled on Sunday at 3:00 pm. This was fine until my Fantasy Football draft got rescheduled to 3:00 pm. I frantically emailed him back several times that we would have to reschedule. There was no response until 4:00 pm…

“I waited here an hour for you!”

I felt like crap about this mix-up but who waits for someone pass the 30-minute mark? What person thinks…

“It’s 40 minutes past our meeting time…I’ll give them another 20”

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My star search had two strikes. The last message I got was from a foreign guy with poor English. He wanted to meet to discuss the book and practice English. I sent him the PDF and asked for the review before meeting up with him in a week. The day came and I drove to a very rural Mcdonald’s. One would think that a middle-of-nowhere Mcdonald’s would have mostly white people. This Mcdonald’s was like a United Nations and I spent the first 15 minutes asking people if they were the person I was looking for. Finally, I found my target in the corner. He was from Saudi Arabia and very friendly. The only problem was that he didn’t read my book or write me a review. For the next two hours, we talked about Saudi Arabian culture. During that time I was confronted by a Michigander who asked us if we were Christians – he subsequently preached to us for 15 minutes. I was also stared at by a family when our conversation turned to ISIS and me taking a trip to Mecca. This scenario was made worse by my ungainly beard and my obscure knowledge of Middle-Eastern history.  In the end, I never got my stars but I might be on the FBI watch list. Please if you are reading this, check out my books below and write me a quick review – it will save me some Craigslist adventures in the future.

Tackle the Library – Plato

We’re all the Chihuahuas 

Would you Like More Tranquility?

Would you like more peace and tranquility in your life? Would you like to gain contentment and step away from the endless cycle of desire? Would you like to get a  handle on your negative emotions? I for one want all of these things and I am willing to make a bet that you would also. The word “tranquil,” is an oxymoron in our crazy world of nonstop meetings, errands, social media updates, and version 2.0 technology purchases. How can we obtain the “good” life? Philosophers and religious leaders have been searching for this answer for millennia. I picked up a book that focused on this question through the ancient practice of Stoicism – A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine. This is an excellent book that introduces the main principles of a frequently misunderstood way of life. Before reading this book, I always viewed a “stoical” person as someone who had no emotion – like a robotic-British-guard who can’t respond to pestering tourists. This view was completely off track…

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Stoicism began in Greece and was an amalgamation of several philosophical schools. The three main principles of Stoicism are as follows:

  1. A Stoic’s highest values are virtue and tranquility.
  2. A Stoic desires contentment with what they have – not what they would like to have
  3. A Stoic accepts what is outside of their control and accepts whatever their external environment throws at them.

Virtue in a Stoic sense means living a life that’s aligned with the ultimate purpose of a human – that is to be rational. This rationality leads ultimately to the pillars of virtue: temperance, courage, wisdom, goodness, honesty, righteousness, dignity, integrity, trustworthiness, decency and merit. To be entirely rational, one must be in a tranquil state. A tranquil state is one in which no negative emotions exist. To be completely tranquil, one must not let their external environment control their feelings. For example, a Stoic person in an argument would not become angry from insults and would maintain their tranquility – leading to preservation of their rational base of virtues.

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A significant enemy of tranquility is desire. This is especially true when the desire leads to discontentment. Stoics aim to rid themselves of this “desire loop” by appreciating what they already have. This goal is obtained by the practice of “negative visualization.”  To practice negative visualization, just imagine the people and things you love as suddenly vanishing. For example, imagine if you woke up today and there was no roof over your head; rain was pouring on your head, and you were shivering with cold from the dampness of the room. Thinking this makes you immediately appreciate your warm blanket and strong roof – two things that you normally take for granted. Another example is imagining that your wife or husband has died. This thought is deliberate but temporary – it doesn’t make you depressed – but instead makes you joyous with your current possessions. This practice is commonly performed among religious individuals who regularly pray – thanking God for His blessings because those blessings are very transitory.

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Finally, to achieve complete tranquility, we must understand what things are outside of our control. This is a challenging concept to practice, but it is a life-changing concept when implemented. We cannot control what other people say or do. We cannot control what is going on in the news. We cannot control the millions of variables which bombard us on a daily basis. When things upset us that are outside our control, we must push it out of our mind immediately. This doesn’t mean that we give up helping people but rather it requires us to make better goals. We can only go about our day doing our “best” to help make the world a better place. That is much different than the goal of “making the world a better place.” Trying your best is in your control. Changing the world for the better, unfortunately, is not in your control. This subtle change in mindset leads to considerable changes in anxiety, depression, and discontentment. Stoicism complements well with Christianity, and I feel that these two philosophies combined make for the best possible life. I know a lot of religious people who are very anxious and discontented with their day-to-day existence. Ancient philosophy doesn’t have to be relegated to the dusty shelves of a library – there is wisdom all around us.

Stoicism is so important that I am going to make it the next installment in The Tackle the Library Series. Release date June 2019.

Andrew Jackson vs. Donald Trump

I’ve been delaying this post because I felt uninspired to write about America’s seventh President – Andrew Jackson. Jackson is a big name in history for good and bad reasons. His face adorns the $20 bill and his name is often compared with our current President – Donald Trump. I am not going to write a dry list of all Jackson’s accolades, but instead, I just want to focus on three major components of his presidency. First, however, I must mention that the biography I read was American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, by Jon Meacham. My lack of inspiration with Jackson may partly stem from Meacham’s style of biography which was disjointed and a little heavy on 19th-century gossip. I like biographies which start from birth and end at death – American Lion focuses primarily on Jackson’s presidency – making it difficult to follow a timeline.

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Upon the completion of a book, I always have a few key takeaways that stick in my mind. For Jackson, I have three major points that I want to discuss. First off, Jackson was easily caricatured by politicians but in reality, his personality was far from the public imaginings. Jackson is responsible for the powerful presidency we know of today and this shift in thinking made him appear as a despot. Behind the scenes, Jackson loved his country and wanted to protect it like a father – he was highly successful in this arena. My second takeaway was that Jackson was a stubborn man who had conflicting philosophies. This was most pronounced with his views towards Native Americans and slaves. Jackson is responsible for the Trail of Tears which forced Native Americans to move “yet again” from land in the South to the West. This policy was due to Jackson’s belief that different races of people could not cohabitate together – separation or subjugation were the only solutions. My third takeaway was that this erroneous philosophy did not apply to the States in the Union. During his tenure, Jackson prevented South Carolina from succeeding and held the States accountable to federal laws; preventing a civil war and strengthening the power of the Supreme Court.

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As one can see, Jackson was a complex man who had conflicting philosophies which resulted in policies with negative and positive outcomes. Is the country better off because of Andrew Jackson? Like most Presidents’ track record, this is a hard question to answer. I think overall, Jackson did benefit the country by keeping it together during a time when it was falling apart at the seams. His policies with the Native Americans were disastrous, and that is why I have a hard time liking Jackson. This brings me to my comparison between Jackson and Trump. Donald Trump is a complicated man who is easily caricatured. He is either vilified by the left or overly praised by the right. Jackson changed the strength of the Presidency and Trump is continuing that tradition. I believe just like Jackson, Trump loves his country. But I also think that just like Jackson, Trump has some philosophies which cause contradictions – both helping and hurting the nation.

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For a long time, I caricatured Trump in my mind. After reading Jackson’s biography, I have changed my mind about our current President. Trump is a very intelligent man and in my opinion a political mastermind. He knows exactly how to rally his base and precisely what to Tweet – ensuring his message is spread throughout the internet. Many on the left think he is an idiot for his comments just like intellectuals thought Jackson was mad for some of his statements. Trump and Jackson are strategists. Some of these strategies have good outcomes for the country while others do not. The point I want to make is that both Trump and Jackson have flaws, but they also have strengths. It is our job not to caricature and be petty but rather to be rationale and discerning. When we caricature we dehumanize. When we dehumanize we become a caricature ourselves. Does that mean I support Trump? Yes and no. Just like Jackson, I have my critiques, but just like Jackson, I think Trump’s biography will give us a more complete picture. At this point in time, however, I am unenthused to write about Trump.

PS – The more I read, the more I see myself as an Independent in the realms of politics. I think party politics close ourselves off from seeing the other side. Thoughts, comments, or questions on anything I said…please send me a message.

Pregnancy Update – Gender Reveal

I’m back and feel rejuvenated. I needed that break, and I appreciate all the support from my readers. August was a quick month because the whole family went on a vacation to Rapid City, South Dakota. I didn’t know what to expect, but the Great Plains did not disappoint. We saw Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, and a whole host of wildlife: bears, bison, prairie dogs, elk, deer, snakes, and fat motorcyclists.

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The highlight of the trip was Mount Rushmore for obvious reasons – my favorite President – Theodore Roosevelt – was smiling down on me. Of course, every Oldham vacation entails a large amount of calorie consumption, and I yet again had a special moment in the ice cream aisle. The whole time on vacation, Christina was pregnant and using the baby as an excuse to eat an endless stream of junk food.

“Jon I want more cereal!”

“You just finished your second bowl.”

Her stomach throbbing in anger, “Are you trying to starve the baby!”

The Oldhams are not the type to lay idle all day, and we went hiking and biking nearly every afternoon. My back was bothering me from a previous injury, so Christina and I got into a routine of asking each other the “Two B questions” – “How is the baby?” and “How is your back.” I highly recommend checking South Dakota out and exploring one of America’s most underrated states. 

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Usually, I am sad to come home from vacation, but on this occasion, my emotions were swinging in the opposite direction. This anomaly was due to the fact we were scheduled to find out the gender of the baby. My views on the gender reveal are mixed. My Amish side tells me to wait while my millennial side tells me to take a peak. We decided to find out the gender mainly because it gets old calling the baby an “It.” The day came this past Wednesday. We were both excited to the point that Christina was unable to sleep and I was unable to control my armpit sweat. I threw on a white shirt, and Christina waddled into the doctor’s office – it should be noted that this waddle has placed her higher up the ladder of pregnancy dominance. We were beckoned into the ultrasound room by an elderly-limping nurse. Years of finding baby sex organs had worn her friendliness into a subtle light, like a dying star in a distant galaxy. I quickly got on her good side by asking a million questions about the baby and the ultrasound. The fetus came on the screen and looked much bigger than the last time. It was moving and kicking – giving the old lady a run for her money. She checked the kidneys, spine, heart, gut, brain, and overall growth – all healthy and normal. I was thanking God during this time and smiling with the revelation that my baby was blessed beyond measure.

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The final moment had arrived – the gender reveal. I was putting my money on it being a girl. I felt this way because every person told me it would be a girl – based on the logic that I would get the opposite of what I wanted – a boy. I wanted a boy because I think boys are easier to raise after puberty. Boys typically don’t care about getting cards on birthdays or arranging bridal showers or bringing up a decade-old argument – typically girls do. Hence, I wanted a boy, but I knew God would help change my mind with a little girl. The white and black blob moved on the screen, and the old sage moved her instrument towards the inguinal region. My fate as a father was only a couple of centimeters away. I tried to keep myself calm by convincing myself that my daughter would feign romance with a “Bad Boy.” One more centimeter. I tried to convince myself that my daughter would be one of those girls who didn’t give the silent treatment when mad. Half a centimeter. I tried to convince myself that my daughter would take after my easygoing personality and not the emotional typhoon of the Philippines. All of a sudden the baby moved slightly and all was clear. It was clear before the nurse even had to say anything. There before my eyes was the sign of the future. It was a protruding mass between my unborn child’s legs. A cocktail weenie instead of a taco.  A baby boy. Theodore-Wallace Reynaldo Oldham. I guess both God and Teddy were smiling down on me that day.

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PS – I’m sure God will give me three girls now…and I look forward to it 🙂

 

August Nap

This blog brings me a lot of happiness but I feel the need for a little vacation. For the month of August, I will be taking a break from posting and I will be back after Labor Day. This break coincides with a trip I am taking to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. Pictures will come in September – especially me getting a selfie with Teddy Roosevelt’s granite head. I am still working diligently on my larger writing projects: Tackle the Library – Indian Independence and my novel American Chestnut. Take a siesta this August and refresh yourself for the fall. I always thought Labor Day should be the official start of the new year.  See you in a few weeks.

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Pregnancy Update – Week 16

Christina is now four months pregnant; far beyond the last update concerning the journey of my sperm. I didn’t know what these first few months would hold, but I have learned a lot already. On two occasions we have gone to hear the baby’s heartbeat. These visits were my first experiences at an OBGYN office – arguably the most inhospitable place on earth for men. Going to the gynecologists’ office as a man is like going to a bridal shower with pap smear party favors. I was given dirty looks from the receptionists, the waiting patients, the nurses, and the doctor who did the ultrasound – as if I were defiling their feminine sanctuary. All the men in the building simply stared at the wall in fear; this was made difficult by the fact that all the walls were covered with posters advertising incontinence pads. Maybe one of the weirdest things about being in the OB office is the fact that all the pregnant women formed a dominance hierarchy.

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This hierarchy – like most things in the feminine world – was communicated through passive aggressiveness. While staring at the incontinence poster, I overheard a conversation between two pregnant women. The first pregnant woman was midway through her term with just a moderate amount of belly. The second pregnant woman was due at any moment and looked as if she were carrying triplets. Every time the smaller pregnant woman said something about her pregnancy, the bigger lady would one-up her…

“I have felt some movement, and I have had some cramping.”

“Ha, you think that is movement, my kid was like MC Hammer last night…I haven’t had a day without my whole body feeling like it was run over by a bus.”

It continues…

“Well, I have had difficulty sleeping, and my doctor says I need to take a medication for low thyroid.”

“Ha, I haven’t slept for three months! I have anemia, constipation, and cravings for the discontinued McRib.”

The smaller pregnant woman eventually demured and admitted defeat. This process is highlighted further by the clothes worn by pregnant women. Christina has a tiny bump now that looks like she is bloated – not something she likes to hear. In an attempt to climb the dominance ladder, Christina has started to wear tight shirts with pronounced stripes. All fat people know that striped shirts are of the devil – something I avoided like the plague when I was a plump boy shopping in the Husky Section of JcPenny. For a pregnant woman of 16 weeks, a striped shirt is like stuffing a preteen bra with toilet paper – an ideal optical illusion.

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The striped shirt is just a segway to the ultimate dominance of the pregnant woman and the reason why all pregnant women bring their men to the ultrasound. Let’s bring it back to the OB visit; I am still staring at the incontinence poster, Christina is wearing the striped shirt and has both hands on her stomach. I look around the room, and most of the women are in the same position – some wearing even tighter outfits that make stripes look like child’s play. Christina gives me a look, and she takes my hands and puts it on her belly. I start to rub her stomach, and at that moment I realize I am just a pawn in a dangerous game. All the women around me have a scorn expression on their faces and are giving their husband’s the evil eye. A husband rubbing his wife’s pregnant belly is the dominance equivalent of a young man getting on his knee during the proposal –  suffice it to say, Christina was pounding her chest in triumph. Just then, however, the large pregnant women stepped past us…

“It’s so nice that your husband is here with you and he wants to rub your belly. My husband is deployed to Iraq…he’ll miss the child’s birth.”

Around and around we go – who will win no one knows. Here’s to the next four months of dominance positioning and many more life lessons.

PS – The baby’s heart is healthy and everything seems to be going well. Please keep us in your prayers.

 

Malcolm X – Darkness to Light

This week’s blog is a complete 180 compared to last weeks blog on John Quincy Adams. I am still trying to read all the Penguin Classics, and because of that I just finished The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley. Malcolm X is a mystifying character in history, and I didn’t know anything about him before picking up this classic. This is one reason why I highly recommend making it a goal to read the classics – you will be forced to read books that expand your worldview. We can’t improve discrimination or racism without empathy – one of the best ways to practice empathy is by stepping into the shoes of someone else through biography. 

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Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska – he shortly moved to Lansing, Michigan where he lived until the age of 14. At 14 he moved to Boston to live with family and eventually found himself in Harlem at the age of 21. While in Harlem, Malcolm Little – Little was his original last name – lived a life of crime, drugs, and racketeering. His lifestyle caught up with him, and in 1946 he was arrested for larceny. The prison he was sent to was unique in the sense that it promoted rehabilitation and education. Malcolm began to read and participate in debating events. His family in Michigan had moved to Detroit and while there became involved with a new movement called “The Nation of Islam.” Malcolm’s brother introduced him to the preachings of Elijah Muhammed – a radical black leader who preached a twisted version of Islam. Malcolm converted to Islam in prison, and upon his release in 1952, became a full-time disciple of Elijah Muhammed.

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Elijah Muhammed with his follower Muhammed Ali

Malcolm got rid of his last name and replaced it with an “X” to represent his crossed out African name which could never be discovered. The Nation of Islam was a movement targeted towards frustrated blacks who were sick of discrimination and “white” Christianity. Elijah Muhammed taught his members the following about the white race…

“Though he was a black man, Mr. Yacub, embittered toward Allah now, decided, as revenge, to create upon the earth a devil race – a bleached out, white race of people. From his studies, the big-head scientist knew that black men contained two germs, black and brown. He knew that the brown germ stayed dormant and being the lighter of the two germs, it was the weaker. Mr. Yacub, to upset the law of nature, conceived the idea of employing what we today know as the recessive genes structure, to separate from each other the two germs, black and brown, and then grafting the brown germ to a progressively lighter, weaker stage. The humans resulting, he knew, would be, as they became lighter, and weaker, progressively also more susceptible to wickedness and evil. And in this way finally he would achieve the intended bleached-out white race of devils.”

It gets worse…

“But finally the original black people recognized that their sudden troubles stemmed from this devil white race that Mr. Yacub had made. They rounded them up, put them in chains. With little aprons to cover their nakedness, this devil race was marched off across the Arabian desert to the caves of Europe…When this devil race had spent two thousand years in the caves, Allah raised up Moses to civilize them, and bring them out of the caves. It was written that this devil white race would rule the world for six thousand years.”

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Malcolm X truly believed these falsehoods and regularly recited the message that all white people were the devil. This obviously was not well received by whites, and prominent black leaders like Martin Luther King denounced the separatist hate speech. Malcolm X actually didn’t want desegregation and believed there was no way for the white race and the black race to cohabitate. Eventually, Malcolm X became more prominent then Elijah Muhhamed and was kicked out of the organization. Once he exited the cult-like Nation of Islam, he traveled to Mecca to see for himself what Islam sincerely offered. While in Mecca Malcolm saw people of all races and realized that all his former beliefs were lies. He came back to America a new man…

“In the past, yes, I have made sweeping indictments of all white people. I never will be guilty of that again – as I know now that some white people are truly sincere, that some truly are capable of being brotherly toward a black man. The true Islam has shown me that a blanket indictment of all white people is as wrong as when whites make blanket indictments against blacks.”

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Unfortunately, the changed Malcolm X did not have enough time to reverse his public image of hate – on February 21, 1965, he was shot 21 times by assassins of the Nation of Islam. I understand the reasons behind Malcolm’s hate speech and I respect his change of views later in life. We all have the capacity to hate – no one race has a monopoly. Malcolm taught me the danger of fundamentalist teaching and the power of real knowledge – we must seek the truth if we desire to rise above the ignorance of the past.

The Gagged President – John Quincy Adams

Awhile back, I took a break from my goal of reading all the presidents’ biographies because I was getting burned out with white men politics and I knew you guys were yearning for more variety. It’s been a few months since my last presidential post and with this season of Independence upon us, I decided to return to my mission.  The next president on my list was John Quincy Adams and I picked up his biography by Harlow Giles Unger. I was excited to read about the son of John Adams because I enjoyed learning about the elder statesmen and his family through David McCullough. John Quincy Adams was born on July 11, 1767, in Braintree, Massachusetts. He accompanied his father to France in 1778 and from there went to Russia as a secretary assistant to the ambassador – he was only 14 years old. John Quincy was a precocious student steeped in classical education and was more worldly in his 20s than elder ambassadors at the time.

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Excelling at diplomacy and statesmanship, his career accomplishments are staggering: American minister to six European countries; negotiated the end of the War of 1812; freed African prisoners on the slave ship Amistad; served 16 years in the House of Representatives; restored free speech in Congress; led the anti-slavery movement, and was the 6th president of the United States. John Quincy Adams’s actual time in the presidential office was not very successful because he appeared too aristocratic; his past-times included reading Tacitus and writing poetry – the opposite interests of Andrew Jackson who usurped him after one term. I want to focus however on Adam’s post-presidency accomplishments – accomplishments which changed the course of American history.

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John Quincy’s later life is a lesson on how to respond to hardship. After losing reelection in 1828 and burying his son who committed suicide, he felt dejected and considered leaving political life forever. A flame of hope flickered for him when his local district in Massachusetts approached him to run for the House of Representatives. He became the first ex-president to sit in Congress and became a man on fire in the new role. For the past 30 years, slavery was a topic seldom discussed in government. It was such a hot-button issue that politicians didn’t even speak a word of it on the floor of the House or Senate. This changed however with the addition of the slave state Missouri and the ever-expanding Western boundary of the nation. New states were trying to come into the Union – with each addition, the balance of power between the south and north shifted.

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John Quincy had always been an abolitionist, but it wasn’t until his time as a Representative that he pushed this mission into politics. He stood on the floor and spoke the unmentionable words – Southern politicians denounced him and his “traitorous” rhetoric. He wrote in his journal during this time…

“It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?”

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He would bring up the issue of slavery so often that the Southern politicians created a “gag rule” which would table any mention of the subject. The “gag rule” prevented any debate or discussion and whenever John Quincy tried to talk he was screamed at by Southerners until he was forced to sit down. After countless petitions and arguments, John Quincy was able to argue for his case – at one point he held the floor for two straight weeks. All of his excessive arguing against censorship and slavery led to him being a national hero and beloved member of Congress for those in the north. His driving force would lead to laws that reversed the “gag rule.” His later debates on abolition would influence a young representative from Illinois – Abraham Lincoln. John Quincy was the political matchstick which ignited the fuse leading to the Civil War. The sixth president died in 1848 two days after collapsing in the House of Representatives. His life was filled with education, service, failure, and accomplishments. More than anything, John Quincy Adams, bounced back after defeat and led the country as one of the most preeminent moral leaders. Failure is never the end – it is just the catalyst for a better beginning.