Reality… A Fleeting Fundamental

By Burt Prelutsky

I assumed I would have to wait until Jimmy Carter, 91, died before the outpouring of love and respect over the passing of a public figure would make me quite this nauseous, but, then, I hadn’t counted on Muhammad Ali passing at the age of 74.

Ali was a very good boxer. Some have insisted he was the best, while others have claimed Joe Louis or Sugar Ray Robinson were better. For the record, let me confess that in my opinion, being a boxing champion ranks near the bottom of the list when it comes to human achievements. Even serving in Congress is one step up.

It amazes me that a man who refused to serve in the military could be regarded by so many as courageous. This is a guy who explained he wouldn’t serve because “No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger.” Well, no Viet Cong ever paid his way to the Olympics so he could win a gold medal, either.

Furthermore, as excuses for not serving his country go, not having been called a name by the enemy is pretty pathetic. At least so far as I’m aware, not a single Polish American, Italian American, or Jewish American ever bugged out of WWII simply because no German had ever called him a wop, a Polack or a kike.

As sportsmen went, he was the Trump of his generation. He referred to his opponents as “ugly,” “a bum,” “too dumb to be champion.” He referred to himself as “The Greatest,” but called Sonny Liston “a big ugly bear who even smells like a bear.” His singular achievement was that he was the first person to introduce trash talk to professional sports.

In his own personal life, he wasn’t much better. He was married four times and had seven children. He had another two with women he didn’t bother marrying.

Even after Ali was tested and found to possess an IQ of 78, (below 70 is deemed feeble-minded), he boasted “I said I was the Greatest, not the Smartest.” (Cute, but questionable as valid bragging material for gaining respect for “his” race?)

Although he was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in honor of his father, whose own grandfather had been a slave, at the age of 23, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and converted to Islam. One might regard that as peculiar, seeing as how it was Arabs who had been the major slave traders in Africa, the very folks who had put his ancestors in chains. But, then, I suppose irony is lost on people with 78 IQs. (The slave trade conducted by Arabs and Muslims continues even today in Africa and the Middle East.)

Not too surprisingly, Barack Obama, upon learning of the ex-boxer’s death, said, “Muhammad Ali fought for all of us,” going on to compare him to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Whether it comes to thieves or vile narcissists, it often does take one to know one.

In seven hours of testimony during a deposition about Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Cheryl Mills, Mrs. Clinton’s counsel and chief of staff, replied “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall” 189 times. That works out to 27 times-an-hour.

Now I’m not one to call someone I’ve never even met a big fat liar, but Ms. Mills is only 51-years-old. So she is either a bigger fibber than Pinocchio and Brian Williams put together or she is clearly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and should seek help immediately before she manages to forget her own name and where she parked her car.

If race relations in America are worse than they were in 2008, I would venture it’s because, instead of seeing the likes of Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, Condoleezza Rice and Jason Riley, being front and center, we’ve had an endless parade of arrogant black racists, including, but not limited to, the Obamas, Cheryl Mills, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, Prof. Henry Gates, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Jeremiah Wright, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Marilyn Mosby and Obama’s go-to guy on racial matters, Al Sharpton. And when these vermin haven’t been telling lies about the unnecessary deaths of four brave Americans in Benghazi or trashing cops or shredding the Constitution, they’ve been hailing thugs like Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and Trayvon Martin, as paragons of virtue and martyrs ‘in the cause of civil rights’.

I understand why, if the charges against Trump University are true, there would be a class action lawsuit. But keep in mind, the course at most cost $35,000. My question is why there aren’t similar lawsuits against most of the other colleges and universities in America?

In sums often running as high as several hundred thousand dollars, these institutions are ripping off students and their parents, offering courses and even majors in such obvious scams as Black Studies, Hispanic Studies, Lesbian Studies; and, for the more scholarly element, the history of comic books and the comparative study of TV sitcoms in the various decades.

Even at the very pricey Yale, the students are petitioning to be freed of the requirement to read the likes of Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer and Swift, because they’re old, dead and white, although there’s nothing to prevent them from devoting their time to reading the drivel by the likes of Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. But it’s not the authors or the subject matter that really concerns them. It’s reading, itself, that puts them off their feed. But that’s what comes of raising a generation that writes with its thumbs, limits its communications to 140 characters and are convinced that “for” is spelled “4.”

At least the graduates of Trump U were presumably prepared to go out and make a living buying and selling something useful, like real estate.

Although a few people had already let me know how offended they were by the amount of attention that was paid to the death of a gorilla and how little was paid to the crash death of Blue Angel pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, I have decided that I would focus on the difference between the public send-off that Muhammad Ali, a draft-dodging braggart, received and the one given Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer (ret.), who recently died in Arizona, at the age of 85.

Schaefer had been the military attaché at the U.S. embassy in Tehran when Islamists seized the compound on Nov. 4, 1979, and 66 people were taken hostage, all because Jimmy Carter had betrayed the Shah of Iran, ushering in the Ayatollah Khomeini and four decades of world-wide Islamic terrorism. From the beginning, Col. Schaefer was singled out for special attention. As the ranking military officer in the embassy, he was accused of running “a nest of spies” and treated or, rather, mistreated, accordingly.

He was paraded blindfolded in front of TV cameras and threatened constantly with immediate execution. He would eventually spend 150 days in solitary confinement in a freezing cell, with damp floors and only a thin blanket for warmth.

He would later report that he used a pin to punch a code into his Bible on a daily basis to help him endure the ordeal. “They were breaking me down both physically and mentally. I could feel myself losing it.”

Release came after 444 days of captivity. It was no coincidence that the hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981. It was the very day that several thousand miles away Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

On the flight home, by way of a symbolic salute, the co-pilot gave up his seat to Col. Schaefer just as the plane entered U.S. airspace. After retiring from the Air Force, Schaefer spent many years speaking to students and adults on the subject of facing and overcoming adversity, a subject he knew far better than any decent American ever should.

In 1998, Schaefer said that the United States should re-establish relations with Iran for strategic reasons. But in 2013, he denounced the Iran nuclear deal, calling it “foolish.” I suspect that “foolish” was the word he used for public consumption. In private, I’m sure there were several other words he used in describing it and the men, Obama and Kerry, who brokered it. He said he didn’t know any Iranian leader who could be trusted. I suspect he said much the same about the American leaders at the time.

Col. Schaefer is survived by his wife of 63 years, Anita; two sons; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Not to mention a grateful nation.

There will be a small service at Arlington National Cemetery in the Fall.

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