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When I was a teenager I didn’t see this movie because of the music and the fashion -not my thing. Last night, I finally watched it with my wife and daughters. Honestly, I was stunned by the movie’s misogyny and racism. A gang rape is handled with casual indifference as is a beat-down of an innocent group of Latinos. It’s like, whoops that happened. In one scene a girl begs John Travolta’s character to let her wipe off his sweat. And on and on. At least “Last Exit to Brooklyn” and “The Accused” had a moral core. You knew badness when you saw it. With “Saturday Night Fever” it’s all just so… whatever. I can’t imagine this script getting made today, let alone written. Am I over-reacting?

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When I was in college, I took a course on rhetoric and debate in 20th century America. In it, we looked at numerous famous speeches made by famous people: Lincoln, Jefferson, King, etc. Learning from great persuaders how to fashion a rational and emotional argument would later become useful as a copywriter and presenter. During that semester, no document we studied was more powerful than Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail.

I am not being glib when I say Letter from a Birmingham Jail is one of the finest pieces of long copy ever written. No question Equal Rights was and is a big idea. I like LFABJ better than King’s more famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Not because of content (both are awesome) but because of circumstances. King was alone in a jail cell when he wrote it.

On this, the anniversary of what would have been MLK’s 91st birthday; I think it a fine thing to reexamine this seminal document. An excerpt follows. The full text is linked below it.

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

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I’ve parlayed my passion for freshwater and saltwater aquariums into a YouTube channel: Lush & Salty Aquariums The channel is only a few weeks old – a wee fry. But I’ve been going at it pretty hard. Labor of love. Anyway, You Tube says I need at least 100 subscribers before they’ll really lets me use the platform. Will you help a fish nerd out? Just go to the channel and hit subscribe. Lush & Salty Aquariums

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One of the many reasons I started this blog (way back in 2004) was to develop my skills in WordPress. Blogging had taken off as a ‘thing’ and I wanted in. Nothing works better than working it out for yourself. I believe the cliche’ is “learning by doing.”

Here I go again. I’ve parlayed my passion for freshwater and saltwater aquariums into a YouTube channel: Lush & Salty Aquariums

Lord knows I’ve been watching fish nerds for years now. Drooling over ‘coral porn.’ Well, now it’s my turn to be a creator. Admittedly, I’m late to the YouTube party but what’s that other cliche’: Better late than never. Lush & Salty is only a few weeks old. But I’ve been going at it pretty hard. And I’m finally getting comfortable with the platform’s many tools. Come on in for a dip. The water’s fine: Lush & Salty Aquariums

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Two giant companies are merging into a behemoth. They hire me to write a manifesto honoring the union. It must be celebratory but reassuring too. People from both sides are scared, fearing redundancies. The new sales force needs a clarion.

I ask to be paid a modest sum. The project manager counters but promises more work if things go well. Work is scant. I’m hungry to write. And this assignment is in my sweet spot.

Over the course of two nights, I write like a man possessed. I read the mantra over and over, barely whispering, making sure each word sounds just right, feels right, is right. Changing a pronoun. Altering a line break. Technically, a word is just a little thing. But each one is in fact a puzzle piece. They either fit together properly or they don’t. It’s hardly the Iliad. But it’s what you do.

Finally, I press, “send.” And off it goes into the ether.

If you would like to see what I wrote or want me to write something for you, hit me up. I’m ready, willing and super able!