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Skafish NPR Interview With Live Piano Performance

Posted by Skafish on

When my first holiday jazz album, “Tidings Of Comfort And Joy – A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas” was first released in 2006, I was interviewed on the Chicago National Public Radio show Eight-Forty-Eight with host Steve Edwards to discuss the record. On the show, I also played live piano versions of three of my album tracks. We also talked about my musical background, and the origins of the Chicago punk scene.

I’ve put together a visual compilation which helps to tell the narrative of the interview, and features many never-before-seen images.

Enjoy! Skafish

Current Events/News

Skafish on the Radio

Posted by Skafish on

OK, I’m not going to move in next door  — well, at least not yet! But, I am going to be live on local radio. I will be a guest on WJOB1230 AM talk radio, on the show “Flying Around The Sun,” hosted by Mark Mybeck and Phil Rapchak. The show is broadcast on Thursday December 8, 2011 at 9:00 PM United States Central Time.

In addition to conversation, we’ll also be spinning some cuts from my first ever holiday CD, “Tidings of Comfort And Joy – A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas,” and my album “What’s This?  1976-1979,” which documents the first punk, new wave, alternative, and indie recordings ever made in Chicago.

You can call into the show live and ask me a question at 219-845-1100. Listen and watch a live stream of the show by logging on to from anywhere in the world. If you’re in the Northwest Indiana/Chicago area, you can also listen on your radio at 1230AM.

Mark the date on your calendar and join us!


Current Events/News

And the winners are…

Posted by Skafish on

Sarah Andrews of Evanston Illinois, and Bob Pittenger of Warsaw Indiana are the two winners of the Other People’s Rejection Letters free giveaway book contest. Thanks to everyone who participated as it’s been a lot of fun! FYI, I’ve got another exciting Skafish giveaway contest coming up in just a few days. — Jim Skafish

Current Events/Musings/News

Mick Jagger tells Larry King it’s just luck

Posted by Skafish on

I have always liked Mick Jagger both as a songwriter and a front-man. He’s my kind of performer because he takes charge and dominates the audience like an alpha-male lion tamer, just as a great entertainer must, especially in the context of the huge arena concert where so many things can go awry. As a front-person, one must always feel like he or she is playing in the Super Bowl to win and be the MVP – every single performance. This is the mindset I have always tried my best to have as a performer, and with my unbridled audacity, I fondly remember one reviewer referring to me as a “Mutant Mick Jagger” back in the day.

So when Mick Jagger was slated to be on Larry King Live recently (in part to promote the re-release of the Stones’ classic LP Exile on Main Streetalong with a companion film documentary of the time period), I was excited to see the interview. In watching Mick and Larry, I was somewhat surprised at how animated and engaging Jagger was, but most of all, quite startled by his humility. (Usually legendary rock stars like Jagger & humility are never spoken of in the same sentence.)

When Larry King asked about the enormity and longevity of the Rolling Stones’ success, Mick came right out and credited it to luck, along with being in the right place at the right time. In addition, Jagger also referenced hard work, the fans, and a certain degree of being tactical.

Instead, Mick could have easily told Larry, “Because we’re fucking great!” or “We’re the worlds’ greatest rock n roll band,” which he certainly could have gotten away with saying. Yet he didn’t, and that showed a great deal of awareness on his part regarding the actual reality of how and why The Stones’ success and fame happened. He didn’t let his ego get in the way, which would have been easy to do because of the level of success he’s received throughout his career. Mick may have called it like it is, but are luck and being at the right place at the right time really what they appear to be?

The word “luck” suggests something incredibly fantastic that happens to us seemingly out of the blue and at random with no actual cause behind it. However, “luck” is never really what it seems to be as things really do happen in our lives for a deeper spiritual reason than what meets the human eye. Even for those who are spiritually cynical, physics does indeed prove the immutable law of the universe that for every effect, there is an initial cause. In short, there is always a reason behind everything that happens to us.

As many of you already know, I have been trained by great spiritual masters since I was a teenager, and can easily speak with the spirits of the dead. And I understood from a spiritual perspective exactly what Mick was saying, as synchronously, I had been thinking of this very subject a few days before his interview with Larry King. When Jagger refers to being lucky and being at the right place at the right time, he is actually speaking to something that is quite spiritually profound.

There is a great metaphysical/spiritual phrase that states, “When nature supports a decision, you know it’s the right one.” In practical terms, what does this phrase really mean and how does it apply to musicians and entertainers like The Rolling Stones?

Presumably, every artist who gets into the game initially has a dream and the desire to make it. Then, they work hard and try their best to hit it big. Often, there is a business push by a record label. Yet, is that enough for someone to become successful? Of course it isn’t.

Becoming successful takes way more than what the artist or anyone associated with them can do to make it happen, as many artists who work hard and have talent never hit it big. Jagger spoke to that quite eloquently when he mentioned in the interview the often sad truth that there are a lot of artists who are talented and work hard but don’t ever make it.

For those who do strike gold like The Stones, something else outside of themselves must happen in addition to their hard work, talent and business push. The energetic universal force of nature that humans cannot control must support it, like a cosmic tidal wave that carries us in a certain direction. And this force has absolute direction, precision, intention, and purpose in our journeys. It brings people, things, and occurrences into our lives with precise synchronicity and perfect timing. This is all beyond what any of us can humanly do for ourselves. Think of it like being taken on a wondrous ride in a rocket to the moon or the magical miracle of winning the lottery.

In pragmatic terms, we witness this cosmic phenomenon when things just fall into place, miracles happen and everything comes together in a way that appears to be out of the blue. Never forget that if one thinks of all of the uncountable variables that would have to occur to make it big, and then stay there as The Rolling Stones have for multiple decades, they are humanly incalculable and/or controllable.

Why did Mick Jagger meet Keith Richards? Was that random? Why did their song Satisfaction sell ten million copies in the mid 1960’s? Why do things seem to keep falling into place for The Stones? Is it all an accident? The phenomenal success of The Rolling Stones represents a situation where nature clearly supports the decision.

Again, if someone is not spiritually minded and just dismisses it all as the luck of the draw with a  little bit of business and talent thrown in for good measure, physics clearly dismisses that line of thinking by proving that everything that happens has an initial cause behind it – it is never at random. I just like to look at those provable causes from a deeper, more metaphysical and spiritual point of view.

Even as I reflect on my own artistic career, there have been times when nature supported what I was doing which was far beyond my own efforts and control (even though I was obsessive about it all, lol). The mere idea that I made it to the international stage within four years of debuting in Chicago without ever granting interviews, playing the game, or having any big money behind me speaks to this truth. The fact that I connected with Miles Copeland who signed me to an international record deal and put me in the classic film, Urgh!  A Music War (which is what I’m probably the most well known for at this point in time), are examples of nature supporting a decision which was not of my doing.

When my most recent album, What’s This? 1976-1979 was finally released on April 1, 2008, it was over thirty years later, and for decades, it seemed like it would never see the light of day. However, when it was supposed to, it was released. The phrase, “When nature supports a decision, you know it’s the right one,” applies to that record being born. And I’m so grateful to have witnessed the meaning and implications of this great spiritual statement many times.

Whether Mick Jagger understands it spiritually or just in a practical sense, he’s wise enough to know that there was something that has been happening all along which facilitated The Stones’ great success that is far beyond hard work, the fans, and being tactical. Whether any of us think of it merely as luck and being at the right place at the right time, or as something quite spiritually profound, it is the atomic force of this universe which can move mountains in a heartbeat that does it. And every so often, we see how nature does that in such a remarkably precise, magical and wondrous way with artists and entertainers like The Rolling Stones.

Current Events

Even Bono Can’t Get a Break

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I remember my band and I being on the same bill with U-2 at an outdoor concert in Dublin, Ireland in late July, 1980. I recall it so vividly because it was held at an ancient castle which was stunningly beautiful, and there were approximately 35, 000 people there — a huge audience for us, except that since our musical gear never made it through customs, we didn’t play that day. I only had like an hour or two of sleep the night before, and we flew from England to Ireland in this tiny private plane. Also on the bill that day were headliners The Police, along with XTC, John Otway, and Squeeze. At that time, Bono and U-2 were in the process of coming into their own.

As the years went on, I came to see Bono in a very different light than merely as the singer of U-2. I started seeing him as the ideal 21st century rock star model: one who isn’t self-indulgent and self-destructive like so many celebrities who marry multiple models. Rather, as someone who actually puts himself out there right on the front lines to make this very dark planet a better world.

If the universe is going to bless someone with the kind of fame and money Bono has, I really believe that they owe it to the world that gave it to them to make good use of it and try to help others (versus getting wrapped up into something so obviously self-undoing as drugs, alcohol, having sex with uncountable numbers of people, punching photographers, throwing tantrums, etc).

And giving back is exactly what Bono has done. From AIDS, to poverty, disease, hunger, to trying to assist Africa, he has been a wondrously tireless activist. He doesn’t just show up for the benefit concert on a private jet; he is in the trenches with political leaders all over the world, seemingly unafraid, courageous and committed. I can honestly say that if I ever had that type of success given to me, I would only hope to handle it in the same way Bono has.

So when I noticed that he had to have emergency back surgery right before a new leg of a U-2 tour was to occur, I held him in deep thoughts of healing and recovery and wished him the very best. Of course, I assumed everyone else would do so, too. After all, “Why wouldn’t somebody like Bono?” I asked myself. He’s not a jerk, isn’t impregnating waif-like models all over the world, or someone who cancels shows because of vanity problems.

As I read the story on CNN, I started breezing through the comments section to see what people were saying, assuming that it would all just be warm and fuzzy well wishes and thoughts of healing. But to my utter shock, the postings contained some of the nastiest, most vicious things one could imagine, especially because they were stated without cause or reason (except perhaps jealousy, dumbness, and shortsighted mean spiritedness). It just shows the state of our culture, where everyone has an opinion and has to open their mouth, but often, without anything of value to say.

People were referring to Bono as an egotistical ass, wishing that he would break his neck too, and saying that he did this on purpose to copy Bret Michaels in order to get more media attention. One person was snarking that since he’s 50, he can now join AARP and get discounts on senior citizen concert tickets, while someone else stated that his nose should also be removed in surgery to get it out of America’s politics. One cynical post on Twitter even said the Bono had to have emergency surgery to remove his head from his arse.

Of course, there were also sentiments from many on the CNN comments board who expressed utter outrage at the viciousness of these statements, as they are without any tangible or rational cause. Of all the rock stars and celebrities on earth, Bono is perhaps the one who has done the very most for the well being of this planet, incalculably given of his time, money, and has self-sacrificed (even to the point where his fellow band members have considered replacing him because they want to make music more often).

Whether someone likes Bono’s music or not is irrelevant. His worldwide efforts to help save the planet and its people should be applauded and championed not just by humanitarians, but by everyone. Hopefully, his tireless work will help to assist in healing this disease-laden world, and set a wondrous example for all performers and people to emulate. Also, for the record, I think he’s really a great singer and performer too.

Current Events

The death of Michael Jackson and the short attention span entertainment history

Posted by Skafish on

With Michael Jackson’s death, we see how the attention span of pop culture regarding entertainment “history” is just centered in the ever fleeting moment of what is considered (and how I hate this word) “relevant” at the time. What’s considered “relevant” is what those who are talking about “history” can relate to. That usually pertains to someone or events that are current, as it’s all about “Now!”

Remember that America is a country that replaces grand old magnificent architecture with generic shopping malls and cheap pre-fab construction, which is also “Now!” So on cable “news” television shows where the question is asked, “Who’s the greatest and biggest entertainer of all time?” I’m sure we can all guess who wins that pseudo-historical contest: Michael Jackson. Because he just died, and with all the fanfare surrounding his passing, Michael predictably wins the top vote over the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

What’s even more disingenuous than Jackson being rated higher than the Beatles or Presley without any analysis of factual historical data to back it up, is that just a few years ago, I heard scores of musical critics referring to Jackson as not being “relevant” any longer. Oh geez. He was yesterday’s news because he didn’t sing through vocoder pitch correction like Chris Brown, or shoot anybody and/or get shot, like a rapper. But suddenly, because his death is a sensationalized media event with all of the obligatory controversy needed to boost ratings, he is now once again deemed, “relevant.”

Even though Jackson holds the records for the biggest selling album of all time with Thriller, both Elvis Presley and the Beatles have had more number one records than Michael. In total, both Presley and the Beatles have sold more records as well. But let’s put all three of them aside for a moment and look at two other factors in the debate of who is king.

There are two other major 20th century phenomenons who have been forgotten in this supposedly historical media analysis of who’s the biggest and the greatest – and those two are Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Most of you could probably buy Frank Sinatra as a contender for the crown, but Bing Crosby!?!

I bet some of you are not even sure who Bing Crosby actually is, except that he’s the guy who sang White Christmas, which by the way, was the only song to ever enter the American pop charts 20 separate times, from 1942 to 1962. Before I lay the true stats on you, let me say that I am not particularly a fan of Bing Crosby’s, but I am a fan of Michael Jackson.

As I Tweeted on Twitter a few days ago, Michael and I share the same birthday and we grew up only ten minutes apart. Plus, when my father was the president of the local musicians union, he booked the Jackson’s for some shows long before Michael become famous. Energetically, I have always felt a connection with Jackson.

However, separate from my likes and dislikes, I am passionate about wanting entertainment/musical history to be told accurately, which is something that hardly ever happens. I’ve witnessed it personally being done to me, especially in Chicago, where revisionist history is at a shocking high. My own historically provable contributions to musical history have been attempted by many to be erased in Chicago, or at the very least, greatly trivialized.

First, in real history, not pop culture history, Bing Crosby was the king of entertainment in the first half of the 20th century and can arguably be considered the top entertainer of all time. He was the first to ever be a major force in the development of three emerging mediums back then: recordings, movies, and radio broadcasting. Crosby conquered all three and merged them together.

Simply as a recording artist alone, it is estimated that Crosby made over 2000 commercial recordings, which is far more than any other singer in history – even 400 more than Sinatra. With 38 number one records to his credit, Bing scored more number ones than anyone else in the 20th century. From 1927 and 1962, he scored 368 charted records under his own name, with an added 28 as a vocalist with various bandleaders, for a grand total of 396. With Sinatra at 209, Elvis with 149, and the Beatles having 68, no other artist even remotely can compete with Crosby. By 1980, Bing had sold 400 million records, and the number has greatly increased since then to over a half a billion. In addition to that statistic alone is that most of those sales occurred when the world was infinitely less populated and the recording industry was far smaller than during the times of Presley, the Beatles, and especially the heyday of Michael Jackson in the 1980’s.

As a film actor, Bing has sold an estimated one billion, seventy-seven million tickets, and is rated as the third most popular film actor ever, behind Clark Gable and John Wayne. Crosby was an Academy Award best actor nominee three times and won once. He introduced 14 Academy Award nominated songs and won for 4, which is more than any other film star ever. From the years of 1915 to 1980, he was the only film actor to be the number one annual box-office attraction five times, while between 1934 and 1954 he appeared in the top ten 15 times. A staggering 29 of the 55 feature films in which he starred between 1932 and 1971 placed in the top-10 grossing pictures of the year.

As a radio star, Bing’s radio show attracted an audience of 50 million, which was simply unheard of. (Again, remember that the world was less populated then.) He appeared on approximately 4000 radio broadcasts, with nearly 3400 of them being his own programs. From 1931 until 1954 on network, and from 1954 until 1962 in syndication, Crosby was a major radio star longer than any other performer in history.

He was also the first person to have radio broadcasts recorded to tape, and was even taken to court by NBC for doing so. After Bing won that court battle, other entertainers began doing the same thing and recorded their own radio shows, which then became an industry standard. Billboard magazine referred to Bing’s daring move and subsequent victory to be the most important entertainment story since the invention of talking pictures.

So popular was Crosby, that during the Second World War, he raised an unequaled $14,500,000 in war bonds and also raised millions for charity by creating the first and longest running celebrity pro-am golf championship, where he played host for 35 years.

So, if we look at the stats, Bing Crosby should certainly be considered the king of entertainment, surpassing Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles and Michael Jackson. So why isn’t he universally considered to hold that crown?

It’s because that as an icon, he was already an older man when he died in 1977, unlike Elvis, Jackson or John Lennon, who all died young, and people hardly look back through time to find the truth. There’s always the sense that those who identify with and relate to a time period want to immortalize THAT period, as they feel it belongs to them – and that means making their icon or icons the biggest and the best, even when it isn’t historically accurate. Hypothetically, if their idol is the biggest and the greatest, they can vicariously be a part of that number one position as well. So, just as I’ve experienced in Chicago, people make up history as they go along which is designed to suit their fancy, and if enough people say something, then it becomes perceived as fact.

Keep in mind that Sinatra and Crosby must be considered in any accurate debate over who’s the biggest entertainer of the 20th century, not just the names of Elvis, the Beatles, and Jackson. With all of these legends, they have had an incalculable impact on culture in similar and varying ways and have changed the world at large. However, defining and quantifying that impact is somewhat a matter of opinion, and unfortunately, a popularity contest.

If you’re a fan of Jackson’s, then he’s the best and vice versa with Elvis. Again, I’m not a particular fan of Bing Crosby’s even though I respect his greatness and talents. But in this media circus regarding Michael Jackson’s death where history may be revised once again, someone needs to advocate for the historical facts – and if we look at what is provable, Bing Crosby wins that contest, hands down.

What is so unfortunate to me is that the very definition of the term “history” is supposed to deal with what happened long before as it actually occurred, not just now or in recent memory — and revised to suit people’s fancies at that. As our culture becomes ever more opinionated, disposable, fickle, and immediate, the sense of accurate, dispassionate entertainment history becomes more and more lost to the sensationalistic, inaccurate media explosions and exaggerations of the moment.

Bing Crosby statistics from

Current Events

Still, there’s No Liberation Here

Posted by Skafish on

At around Midnight a few days ago on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009, I happened to notice a news story on CNN about an 11 year old boy named Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover from Massachusetts, who had been taunted, bullied and harassed daily for almost one year straight because he was perceived as gay.  Days before he would have turned 12 on April 17, unable to take it any longer, Carl committed suicide by hanging himself with an electrical cord in his home.

At the time, his mother was cooking dinner, and when Carl didn’t come downstairs from his third floor bedroom to eat, his mother went upstairs to find out why.  To her indescribable shock and horror, she lived every parent’s worst nightmare when she found her son.  Immediately, she cut the electrical cord with a knife given to her by her daughter, Carl’s sister, to try and free her son, but it was too late.  He was dead.

All of the torture, abuse, threats, names and relentless bullying got the best of him, and as no one at the school or any authorities came to his defense in any meaningful way, Carl couldn’t take it anymore.  He was an African American boy who dreamed of growing up, becoming President one day and changing the world – but those dreams are forever gone.

According to the story, his mother, a woman who had survived breast cancer and homelessness, called the school every week, pleading for them to intervene and do something to stop this and protect her son; and of course, as usual, the school didn’t do enough to protect Carl.  Predictably, the school tried to defend itself with some prepared official media statement designed to exonerate themselves of any wrongdoing which was probably drafted by a lawyer.  Why?  Because now they really do care; not about the safety and life of Carl Hoover, but about getting sued.

I felt such a rush of sadness, emotional grief, and tears, not only for him, but for so many people who have been so relentlessly tortured, bullied, harassed and abused.  Some have committed suicide as they felt there was no way out, while so many others have even been murdered – all because of perceived sexual orientation, and gender identity.

When I heard Carl’s story, it was painfully easy for me to relate to, as I’ve been through it myself as well: from the kids on the playground constantly making fun of me, alienating and abusing me, to junior gang bangers chasing me home threatening me with knives in grade school.

In high school, I was harassed daily by students and teachers alike. I remember the high school band teacher choking me on an out of town choral band trip while everyone just stood there casually and watched.

When I was playing piano accompanying talent show singers at a high school talent show, the football jocks kept slamming the lid that covered the piano keys on my fingers to try and break my fingers while I was playing.  Here’s how it went: they’d slam the lid down, I pulled my fingers back just in a knick of time, then they did it again, and so on, till I eventually slipped and fell off the riser I was on.  The fall gave me a serious bleeding gash on my leg – enough to get stitches, but as you would probably expect, I kept playing.  Even back then, the show must go on was my motto and creed.  Later I found out the wound did indeed need stitches, but it was too late for that, so the scar remains, as do so many from that time period.

Emotionally, psychologically, physically and systematically, I lived through this abuse virtually every day I was in school — and I never threatened, harassed or physically hurt anyone else — ever.  So no, I didn’t deserve it as some people have cynically said, merely just because people didn’t like me for being different, a “faggot,” or because I was considered annoying or strange.  One moronic local even had the audacity to recently post a blog that it was my strangeness that actually killed my father, who transitioned into spirit when I was just 15 years old.

Upon graduating high school, I thought I could live my life as I wanted, and be forever free of this abuse, but I quickly learned how that wasn’t true when someone pulled a gun on me in a Hammond, Indiana White Castle hamburger joint parking lot because my friends and I looked so strange.  This person didn’t pull the trigger thankfully, but just stood there pointing the gun and laughing at me for a while, then he smugly walked away.

I had the same shocking disappointment again when I entered the world of rock ‘n’ roll, as I naively thought that rock ‘n’ roll housed the disenfranchised.  Again, I thought the abuse would finally end – but it didn’t at all.  It was just now done by narrow-minded vicious audiences and critics, as rock ‘n’ roll is a tremendously conformist art form and not a place for real misfits, but only for “acceptable” ones.  Being just a smidgen different is hailed as brilliant, but if you’re really out there like I’ve been, you’re in trouble.

Where do you think the ideas came from to write such songs as Knuckle Sandwich, Joan Fan Club, and No Liberation Here?  They were written from a lifetime of horrible personal experiences and a sense of the never ending pain and terror that one only knows if they’ve lived through it or seen someone they love experience it like Carl Hoover’s mother and sister did.  I frequently receive emails from people as young as early teenagers who have been touched by the message of my work, sharing their stories of alienation, social ostacization and abuse wilth me.   

In Knuckle Sandwich, I say the words that people use to taunt me with:

Hey little boy you want a sandwich to eat
It can make your mouth flow
and it tastes pretty neat
I can feel good when I feed you some food
You’re gonna eat my knuckle sandiwich on white 
Can’t throw a football you don’t know how to fight

Your legs are thin and your arms of flab
And your stomach is mush
and you walk like a fag
Don’t come around I’m gonna give it to you
You’re gonna eat my knuckle sandwich on white
Can’t throw a football you don’t know how to fight
©Copyright 1976

With Joan Fan Club, I put myself in the role of the tormentor in the song.  Journalists knew that the piece was autobiographic by proxy, but there were some “fans,” who actually thought that I was just some asshole rock star getting off on making fun of someone for being fat.  Remember, I was the one who was abused — never the abuser.  This was just my very singular artistic way of writing protest songs.

I knew the composition was a social statement that needed to be said, and that it would be relevant decades later, as proven today where the cultural obsession with females being thin is probably at it’s all time highest.

However, I had no idea who painfully prophetic and close to home the song would one day hit.  In recent years, a young boy committed suicide with his father’s gun because of being tormented at school for being different and fat.  His father is a friend of mine I grew up with who used to listen to the very early Skafish band rehearse, and is now a local police officer.  I remember going to the wake in support of him and his son.

The lyrics to Joan Fan Club mirrored this exact kind of bullying:

Hey fat pig we’re gonna push you down the stairs
That’s right, we’re gonna touch your little pizza face
Fat! Hey fatty, you’re a real fox
You know the whole school wants to go out with you
Can I have your autograph?
©Copyright 1977

No Liberation Here was written for people like Carl Hoover and those who have been murdered, or were tormented to the point of feeling that they needed to commit suicide, for being perceived as gay, “acting gay,” being gay, or not manly by our archaic cowboy culture standards:

We don’t have a right
No liberation here
We can’t walk the streets now
Our faces get beat now
We will not pretend
that we have real rights
Here prison does not need bars
Bloodshed today and we know it will not change
We live in shame
©Copyright 1977

Back in the 1970’s, many in the world of rock music accused me of whining about my fucked up shitty little life, and furthermore, who the fuck cares anyway, they mocked.  Of course they’d say that – they didn’t suffer in the same way I did, so they have no empathy.  But I wasn’t just writing about me – it also represented the overwhelming social issues that I clearly saw that hardly anyone else noticed, and I wrote those pieces as modern protest songs.  Back then, I saw the present for what it really was, and I psychically saw how it would evolve in the future.  I knew over thirty years ago that the brief and seemingly real freedom that was enjoyed if the 1970’s was not going to change anything in the long run or last.  In fact, I knew it would get much worse – and it did.

I have the battle scars to prove it, but thankfully, I’m alive and well, so I’m not complaining.  But unfortunately, what happened to Carl Hoover happens all too often, and the list of those who have lost their lives to suicide and murder for these reasons is too long to mention here.

And it speaks to something much bigger than just one child who unnecessarily and tragically lost his life.  It reflects on the tremendous hypocrisy of America.  If Carl Hoover was bullied for being black, and called the “N” word, there would have been tremendous outcry and swift action taken against anyone would have even uttered such a word.

But of course in this culture, it’s still ok to attack, harass, discriminate, taunt, physically assault and even murder someone for being perceived as gay.  Keep in mind, he wasn’t a young man who ever identified himself as being gay – it was merely the perception that he “acted gay” that did him in – meaning, he didn’t talk like a junior thug and had a more feminine demeanor, which in our cowboy culture, is the ultimate sin.

And one might ask how a country that prides itself on freedom and equality for all is so terribly hypocritical, where gender orientation and sexuality is still such a hot button?  Fortunately, at least there seems to be some awareness and sensitivity regarding racial discrimination and people with disabilities, but even in those areas, there is still a very long way to go.

If the school officials and proper authorities would have acted to protect Carl Hoover in the way they should have and could have done, he would still be alive today.  According to one report, right before his suicide, a girl threatened to beat him up and kill him, and the school’s solution was to make Carl and the girl eat lunch together for several days to “work it out.”

There are several factors that spell out America’s hypocrisy quite clearly:  First, religion plays a huge part in all of this.  With the Christian right morphing Jesus Christ into the ultimate homophobic hit-man, anyone who is perceived as gay (therefore labeled as gay), is ok to attack.  We all hear religious zealots citing the “Word of God” as explaining why it’s ok to discriminate, hate, and even murder.  Have you ever seen the posters that say, “God hates fags?”  Well supposedly, if God said it, then it is a fact, just like the sun rises in the morning.

But there is no way of really proving that God ever said any of this.  People assume that their religious beliefs are irrefutable facts.  And even within the different groups of those who do believe, there are so many variations on such ideologies, that it is ludicrous to simply use the “Word of God” as the justification for such attitudes and actions.  But religion is a terribly powerful and damaging force in this instance as it incites hysteria and mindless action in the masses who don’t think for themselves.

Secondly, we live in a culture that embraces and celebrates the worst and darkest sides of masculinity: men who are violent, ruthlessly powerful, greedy and rich, recreationally cheating on their wife or girlfriend as a validation of their manhood, sexually promiscuous with lots of “hot babes” who are used and dismissed, and asserting controlling, domineering behavior.

To be perceived as gay is to be viewed as weak, effeminate, someone not manly, and ultimately less than a real man.  So just as dogs attack the weaker of the pack to assert primitive dominance, the same thing happens to those who are perceived as gay.  They are attacked verbally, physically and on all levels.

Third, many people are consciously or unconsciously afraid of what might be lurking within their own sexuality.  They might fear that they have gay tendencies and that it’s like a cancer growing within them.  So by hating, it means that they’re normal, manly and a regular guy.  Since many are not as comfortable with their own sexuality as they pretend to be, their internal insecurities become hot buttons and are turned around on others who don’t represent male stereotypes as it holds up a mirror.

Boys who are young are especially sensitive about these issues, because they’re understandably insecure in their own sexuality and manhood, only beginning to come into their own male identity, and filled with fear.  So it gets projected outward and onto someone who can be perceived as gay.

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover paid the ultimate price for other’s insecurities and hatred thrust upon him, and he took his own life because of it.  How many more times will someone die before our primitive society grows up and simply allows people to live in freedom and peace?

Most of us have all heard of the Matthew Shepard story, who was a 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and subsequently murdered in October 1998, near Laramie, Wyoming.  This was all done for only one reason – because he was gay.

Another example of this heinous type of torture was the murder of 15 year old Lawrence King, an eighth grader in California who came out as being gay and wore makeup and nail polish.  He was shot in his school classroom by a 14 year old fellow student and died in February 2008.

Forget the illusion that the entertainment field and pop culture presents: that everyone is happily living in harmony together: gay, bisexual, straight, transgender, the weird folks side by side laughing with the normal folks, tra la la.

If you’re perceived as gay, “act gay,” or are gay, the reality, as it stands now, is that your job, reputation, social standing, property, legal rights, physical safety and actual life are still all at risk in America.

For more information on how to stop the bullying, here are some valuable websites:

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network:

Resources for stopping bullying:

In the uk:

© 2009 Jim Skafish 

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