Thursday, January 20, 2011

For Sergio, Jan. 25, 1972 - Jan. 20, 1991

On January 29, my family will celebrate my father’s 77th birthday at my brother’s new house in Connecticut. As tradition holds, we celebrate the other January birthdays in our family at the same gathering. That includes my sister and her husband and my wife.

There is another significant January birthday for me. My best friend, Sergio, would have turned 39 on January 25. He was murdered 20 years ago today, January 20, 1991. He fell victim to a “random act of violence,” a crime that occurred all too often in New York City at the time. He was five days away from celebrating his 19th birthday. It was Championship Sunday, when the last four teams in the NFL playoffs squared off to see who would face each other in the Super Bowl.

Sergio was a big New York Giants fan and they were set to face the 2-time defending world champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game. Back then the NFL still played their Championship games at 1 pm and 4 pm, rather than 3:30 pm and 6:30 pm as they do now. The Giants had the late game, so Sergio took his younger brother out side to throw a football around as they waited. Sergio never got to see the big game.

The call from Sergio’s sister was the worst call I had ever received in my life. Weeping, she said he had been shot and didn’t know if he was going to make it. I frantically gathered up our friends and drove to his house. Police had cordoned off the house and there was a large blood stain on the concrete in front of the front gate. We rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Sergio was already dead.

This tragedy forever altered my life. At the time I was in college studying architecture and madly in love with my high school sweetheart. Fate took me away from both. I dropped out of college and joined the US Army for the GI Bill. My sweetheart—who later became my fiancĂ©e—dumped me for another man and when I got out of the army, I pursued a career in law rather than architecture. I met my wife in college and we have an amazing five-year-old son. None of that happens if not for the events of January 20, 1991. That is the irony of life.

There has been an empty place in my heart over the last 20 years. I wonder what kind of man Sergio would have become. How his children would have grown up with mine. What memories we would share. Luckily, I have our other friends who are all like brothers to me. We’ve shared life and death together. We live each day thankful for each other and lamenting the loss of our dearest friend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


... Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

From American Rhetoric

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

About Hope

My friend, Tracey, has a great blog post today on the evils of Hope. Hope being evil? According to the ancients it was. That's why Hope was in Pandora's Jar. It was the greatest of all evils because it deluded humans into believing they could defy the will of the gods.

Hope is part of our survival mechanism. If we look at our emotional framework as an evolutionary construct (90% of human history was pre-civilization, meaning we were hunter-gatherers struggling to survive most of our existence) Hope arose as a means of survival. Survival of the Fittest as Darwin proposed not only includes the physically and mentally strong, but the emotionally strong as well.

When times were tough, when there was no food and villages were starving, those that not only had the strength to survive but also the belief that they would survive did so. It allowed them to believe that there was another day to come. That they could find an animal farther down the Savannah, or a source of water, or a berry bushes on the other side of the mountain path, etc.

Remember, humans were originally nomadic people. That's how we populated the Earth. Without Hope this would never have been possible.

So, we may begrudge Hope for deluding us, make us believe that the impossible is possible , but Hope, above all, has made us human.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy New Year to one and all. May this new year be better than the last.