Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Referee's Survival Guide --- Becoming a Referee

The following is an excerpt from The Referee's Survival Guide: Practical Suggestions for Soccer Officials by Jeffrey Caminsky, available on Amazon, as well as a bookstore near you.

Becoming a Referee

For more than a century, soccer has captured the affection and imagination of the world. Simple to understand and inexpensive to play, it has grown from its roots in ancient times to a modern game with standardized rules and organized leagues that span our planet. After a  slow beginning in this country, it is now growing by leaps and bounds. While informal games need only a ball and players, formal competitions also require a neutral decision-maker, in order to settle the unavoidable disagreements that come during the course of any athletic competition. By officiating, you advance the growth and understanding of this wonderful sport in ways that future generations of players will come to appreciate. The level of play in any part of the world is often determined by the skill of the officials, and without skilled and dedicated referees, American soccer cannot continue to grow, and American players cannot hope to compete with the best the rest of the world has to offer.

While becoming certified as a soccer referee is an important step toward developing a deeper understanding of the sport, in many ways it is only a beginning. Taking a referee class and passing the examination just gives you a badge and whistle, and lets you get paid while running about the soccer field. The task of becoming a referee will last as long as you officiate, for no matter how good you become, you will always be learning, constantly improving your understanding of the game and the people around you, and continually refining your skills. The moment you stop learning, you will stop growing as an official. And the moment you stop growing, whatever skills you have developed will begin to fade.

Why am I Here?
One question each new referee needs to ask is “why do I want to be a referee?”  The answers can be many and varied:

Some—particularly younger officials, for whom refereeing may be their first job—are mainly interested in earning some extra spending money.

Some want to officiate because they love soccer, others because they want some exercise.

Some referee other sports as well, and want to add soccer to their schedule.

Some may want to help their local club, or be there to help their son or daughter officiate.

Others may like the thought of controlling events—or simply enjoy bossing other people around.

Whatever the reason, you can succeed as a referee with effort and dedication. But honest self-assessment is something every official needs, and your motivation for beginning a career as a paid referee may give you clues about possible strengths you will have as an official, as well as some weaknesses you may need to address.

For Love or Money?
Players and spectators will not care why we are officials—what motivates us, what drives us to become better, or what our particular circumstances might be. They want only a well-trained, competent, and impartial referee to keep the match safe, enjoyable, and fair. For our part, however, realizing what motivates us can help us  understand what drives us to succeed, and what will sustain us through the challenges that lie ahead.

Success as an official will come from dedication and a sense of professional pride. Without both, the best intentions in the world will not help. Whatever our personal motive for becoming a referee, any one of us can excel. One official’s willingness to work hard to earn the extra money that comes from working top-level matches can drive him toward excellence every bit as much as another’s simple affection for the game her father taught her when she was young. What matters is not what brings us on to the pitch, but what keeps us there. In most cases, successful referees simply enjoy the job, enjoy the pride of a job well-done, and enjoy being of service to others. If we start with this, then we only need to apply ourselves and start developing the skills necessary to succeed.

Personality and Character
Over the course of our lives we will see an infinite variety of personalities. Some people are shy,  some anger quickly. Some wear their hearts on their sleeves. Some never seem to lack for friends, or for a funny comeback.

There is, however, no single “referee personality” that can assure success on the field—nor, fortunately, any type of person who cannot become an outstanding soccer official. Each of us has our own unique strengths and weaknesses, and any one of us can become a great referee. But to do so, we must be able to look at ourselves honestly, and recognize the kind of person we are. This can remind us of  the  strengths we have that can help us, as well as the  weaknesses we will need to overcome.

A referee’s character will count for more than his personality, since it will be character that will determine how well the referee can stand up to the challenges on the pitch. But if we look at the referees we see beside us on the pitch, it will become apparent that many of best ones share some important characteristics that help them succeed. Some of these traits will come more naturally to us than others, but all of them need constant care and attention, and many of them will help us in other walks of life.
Common Traits of the Successful Referee
While any type of personality can result in a good soccer referee, many qualities are common to highly skilled officials around the world. Most of these traits are aspects of their character that they either had naturally or developed over time, and many of them are essential to success as a referee. What this means to the new officials is that there will be some aspects of your “on-field persona” that you must nurture and develop in order to feel at home on the pitch.

Probably the most important character trait all referees share is a strong sense of personal integrity. Honesty on and off the field is essential to anyone hoping to convince others to trust him. A soccer match requires the players to rely upon the referee to make often-difficult decisions during hotly contested matches, and the Laws confer nearly total discretion on the officials to do what is best for the game within the rules. An official who lacks the personal integrity to see things honestly, and to see that everyone, including the officials, behaves according to the Laws of the Game will not get very far as a referee. Players and colleagues will come to be mistrustful of the official’s intentions and impartiality, and if a referee loses the trust of the players, then the loss of match control is never far behind.
Though we often fail to appreciate it, players and spectators are willing to forgive an occasional mistake by the officials, so long as they seem to be trying their best to be fair to both sides. One thing they will not forgive is dishonesty.

As important as integrity is to a referee, it is meaningless without the courage to do what the official knows to be right.

Whether it is denying an appeal for a “handball” that the referee deems to be unintentional, turning a deaf ear to loud appeals for a penalty kick by a team whose star striker has tripped over the ball rather than a defender’s foot, calling a penalty kick late in the game for a foul that only the referee and the defender know happened inside the penalty area, or keeping the offside flag down because a player who is racing ten yards past the last defender was onside when the ball was kicked, the referee cannot make the call that will cause the least amount of grief. Rather, he must make the call that he believes to be the right one.

Soccer is a game of energy and excitement, and disappointment over a call, or no-call, is often expressed angrily and loudly. But we have other tools for dealing with expressions of disappointment that get out of hand. Avoiding the problem by making the wrong call is not one of them.

Courage and integrity will carry an official a long way. All the courage in the world will not matter, however, without the ability to make decisions quickly. Soccer is a fast-paced, highly intense game, where the play is ever-changing and the action can cover the whole field in a matter of seconds. A referee who takes too long to make up his mind about what has just happened may find play leaving him behind; and the referee who waits for prompting by the players to announce a decision will be seen as weak and easily persuaded.

While decisiveness is necessary, patience—on the soccer field, as in life—is a virtue.
Referees hoping to appear decisive and alert often have more time to announce a decision than they realize. Waiting an extra second or two before blowing the whistle can often prevent a great many problems:

Waiting an extra second may allow a stumbling attacker to recover his footing, and continue on to score.

Waiting an extra second may show whether the ball will go to the offender’s teammate, or to the side that was fouled—and whether whistling will allow a tactical foul to succeed in disrupting an attack.

Waiting an extra second may determine whether a goal will score despite a foul inside the penalty area, thereby sparing the referee the embarrassment of pulling the ball out of the net while explaining to an exasperated team that the goal is disallowed...but to punish the foul they will get a penalty kick, instead.

Patience involves more than waiting to see how play develops. A patient referee will often take his time dealing with a troublesome player or coach to maximize the effect of any card given for misconduct— perhaps giving the troublemaker the opportunity to bring his temper under control, or waiting until tempers have cooled before speaking to a player about a controversial call. This is because a wise referee will try to use every available tool—the voice, the whistle, the card, sometimes the “stare of death”—to keep the match under control. And a patient referee regards time as a resource to be used, avoiding the rush to take actions that will only make things worse.

The benefits of patience are many....up to a point. The challenge for the new official is learning when to be patient and when to be prompt.

The reason that soccer confers so much discretion on its officials is because everyone presumes that the referee will be fair and impartial.

There is more to fairness, however, than simply treating both sides equally. A referee who relishes playing “gotcha” with the players— lowering the boom for trifling matters, or imposing disproportionate punishments for minor offenses—may be treating everyone the same, but is hardly being “fair” as far as the players are concerned. Unfairness to everyone is, after all, hardly a recommended path to success in any walk of life, and soccer is no exception.

Being “fair-minded” on the field means more than treating everyone consistently. It means that the referee treats everyone with respect, and avoids intruding needlessly on a game that rightly belongs to the players. There will be times when this will mean coming down sternly on a player or coach whose behavior is simply unacceptable. We do not, however,  have the power to do so because soccer thinks that we are infallible. Rather, the game entrusts us with our authority because someone has to make a decision...and everyone is counting on us to be fair.

Good referees will know all the rules and be able to apply them fairly and impartially. A great referee will understand the needs and motivations of the players, and empathize with the challenges that face them on the field of play.

Empathizing with the players does not mean that you are willing to tolerate rough or reckless play. It does mean that you will be able to sense a player’s frustrations, whether caused by disappointment or a painful knock in the ankle, and use this knowledge to help you manage the game:

A referee empathizing with a player will be able to tell the difference between a frustrated player who needs a moment to calm himself, and a nasty player who must be dealt with harshly.
A referee able to empathize with the players will sense the difference between a game in which players accept hard, physical challenges with good spirits in the course of a sporting contest, and a game in which tempers are rising due to the level of contact.
A referee who can empathize with the players will have the ability to distinguish between trifling fouls that have no effect on the game, and apparently minor contacts—such as a painful rap on the heel, or a routine-looking trip that disrupts a promising attack—that will make players angry unless they see justice being done.

Referees who have played the game have an advantage in this regard. Their on-field experience will help them read the body language of the players and let them understand instantly how a play is likely to affect tempers on the pitch. Those who have not played soccer, or some other sport at a competitive level of play, must find some way to develop this ability on their own.

Coolness under Fire
Ernest Hemingway once defined courage as “grace under pressure.”  Though known for his love of bull-fighting, he may well have been talking about soccer referees.

Soccer has provoked riots as well as devotion among its fans, and has grown to become the most popular sport in the world largely because of its capacity to excite our passions. But soccer’s ability to draw on raw human emotion presents a challenge for its referees, for while players and spectators watch the game with their hearts, referees watch with their eyes. If we allow our feelings to overwhelm our judgment, we risk chaos on the field. We are there to maintain order and keep everyone focused on the game. Everybody is counting on us to keep a level head, even when the disappointments of the moment have interrupted their own capacity for rational thought.

Some of us are naturally excitable. Most of us have a variable temperament, depending on our mood and on what is going on around us. Few of us are naturally inclined to relax in times of stress, or given to react to expressions of anger or insults by remaining calm and doing our best to ease whatever tensions are simmering around us. Developing this ability may be the biggest challenge to anyone striving to be a top-notch referee.

People who lack confidence often compensate for their insecurities by adopting an air of superiority. Looking down at the rest of the world may prop up a weak ego, but will never help a referee on the soccer field. While some can get away with being arrogant and brilliant, conceit by a referee can cause all sorts of self-inflicted problems, and being arrogant and clueless is a recipe for disaster in all walks of life.

Under the Laws of the Game, the referee’s decision is final on all points concerning the fact of play. Soccer, in other words, regards the referee’s judgment as infallible, so far as the game is concerned. Unfortunately, some referees take this to heart and approach the players with an attitude of arrogance and privilege, rather than with empathy and understanding.

A wise referee will realize that nobody is perfect, and that the reason he is blowing the whistle at the game is not because he knows more about soccer than anyone else, but because somebody has to make a decision on the field and that he, at least, has actually read the rules. Cultivating an attitude that the participants are inferior, because there is so much about soccer that they do not know, will not help a referee control himself, let alone the players. This, in turn, will limit how far the official’s abilities can take him. On the other hand, the referee who develops an attitude of sympathetic understanding to the player’s concerns—recognizing that we referee to help them play the game rather than the other way around—will have more success on the field and find no such limits on any future advancement.

Unfortunately, humility is often well-deserved, and one whose ambitions far exceed his talents had best be humble, or be prepared to come to grief on or off the soccer field. But a strong ego and healthy confidence in ourselves and our abilities, tempered by the knowledge that we are not above making a mistake, can make us strong and resilient in our jobs as referees, and elsewhere.

Though perfection may have no need for improvement, the rest of us can all use a little work. Recognizing that we are not perfect can lead us to better ourselves. But modesty by itself is no path to success at any endeavor. Unless we have the confidence in ourselves to make the calls we know to be right and stand strong in the face of criticism, we will always be second-guessing ourselves. Perfection is an ideal that is probably beyond the grasp of any of us, but knowing that we have tried our best can give us pride in a job well-done.

Good Work Habits on the Field
Humans are creatures of habit and tend to revert to form during times of stress. It should come as no surprise that most accomplished officials have adopted and cultivated on-field habits that sharpen their performance.

Sloppiness is often a state of mind. While an official can often get away with cutting corners on the field—walking rather than running into position on the field; using weak or ambiguous mechanics; failing to run the ball to the end line, and the like—it is not an approach that leads to excellence. Many times, officials come to grief not because they are poor referees, but because their work habits have left them out of position at the critical “moment of truth” for the match, or because they made the right call but used a faulty signal which led to an unexpected turn of events on the pitch.

As a new official, it will be easier for you to begin training yourself to do things the right way from the outset, than it will be to break old, bad habits later in your career.

In soccer, as in most sports, there is a premium on hustle. There are benefits gained by being alert and moving quickly into position and penalties to suffer by being slow to react to changing events. Officiating soccer is no different. The official who can anticipate and react to play as it is developing will usually be in place to spot a foul and prevent trouble. The official who always lags behind play will need luck and well-behaved players to maintain order on the field.

Hustle depends more on habit and mind-set than it does on raw physical speed. Many older referees somehow manage always to be in position wherever they are needed, even though their younger colleagues could leave them far behind in a foot race. Experience, though, can only teach us where we need to be. It is hustle that will get us there in time.

A Commitment to Fitness
Of course, all the best intentions in the world often founder when confronted with the real world. For the referee—even a referee blessed with an abundance of talent, resourcefulness, courage, and the patience of a saint—the determination to hustle into position is useless without the legs to get there.

Soccer is a physically challenging game, demanding a high level of fitness from its officials. Referees often run more than six miles during a game. Assistant referees may find themselves doing three or more miles worth of running, often sprinting at flank speed. Some referees try to use officiating to give them the chance for some fresh air and exercise. Successful referees all have some form of fitness regimen to keep them in condition, to enable them to officiate at their best. Experience teaches all of us that it is much easier to stay in shape than to get into shape.

Knowledge of the Game
Lastly, all good referees need a thorough knowledge of the game. While “facts of play” are often judged at the discretion of the referee, a misapplication of the law is a violation of the rules. If it affects the outcome, the mistake can cause a match to be replayed.

Knowing and understanding the Laws of the Game is necessary for anyone who wants to officiate the sport. Immersing yourself in the game’s history and traditions is a good way to continue your education as a referee. It will give you a more complete understanding of the “whys” and “wherefores’ of the game, and deeper insight into some of the fine points of the rules.  More importantly, understanding the reason for each rule will let you apply them all at the right time. Knowing why a particular Law exists lets you keep things moving smoothly on the field, helping you sense when to apply which rule, as well as when an infraction can be overlooked as too trivial to stop play. And being able to place each rule in its proper context is essential in order to make each rule work as it is intended.

Watching as much soccer as you can, whether live or on television, will show you how other referees react to events on the field and hone your sense of when a contact is a foul, and when a foul is so trifling that it is safe to let it pass. It will also sustain you when you encounter the dilemma every soccer official confronts at some time—the  unexpected, whether in the form of an event not covered in the rules, never covered in your training, or one which simply leaves you scratching your head in wonder. When this happens, the deeper your understanding of the game, the better equipped you will be to solve whatever problem confronts you. You may not remember the rule, but you may very well remember the solution.

Copyright ©2007 by Jeffrey Caminsky

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Surviving Attacks by Crazed Gunmen: The Politically Correct Guide

If faced with a crazed gunman:
(1) Immediately run to the nearest Gun Free Zone. This will stop the attack, since any armed attacker will be unable to follow you.

(2) If he does follow you, point forcefully to the sign designating the Gun Free Zone. This will remind the attacker that guns are not allowed, and that he will have to leave.

(3) If he does not leave, point again and ask whether he saw the sign. You may ask this question multiple times, in an increasingly insistent tone of voice. (Do not ask if he can read English, however, as this may be considered insensitive and racist.)

(4) In the unlikely event that this does not work, and it appears that the attacker still intends to kill you, you have the option of leaving the Gun Free Zone and proceeding to any nearby place where armed good guys are present.

(5) Survivors should make broad generalizations concerning "doing something" about gun violence. In doing so, you should avoid limiting your suggestions to dealing with armed criminals, since this is a coded assertion of privilege and may be deemed discriminatory.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rights, Responsibilities, and the Constitution

The reason the Constitution speaks more of rights than responsibilities is that it was written to protect the individual from the Government.  That is why, as written, it specifies and limits the powers of the central government, and spells out many of the things that the Government is forbidden from doing.  While that has not always kept the Government on its leash, it gives us a point of reference to help those of us who are interested in such things discern what the Government should and should not be doing...and to let us see where we've gone off track.
The Founders presumed that most people, enjoying the freedom to make anything out of their life that they wished, would be responsible for themselves.  And part of the obligation of each generation was to teach the lessons of personal responsibility, shared obligations, and the importance of community and tradition, to each succeeding generation.
With the advent of the Welfare State, a growing number of Americans have become more interested in what they can get from the Government than with providing for themselves.  With personal responsibility now becoming seen by many as more of a lifestyle choice than a prerequisite for self-government, we can now see clearly where this will lead us in the not-too-distant future if we don't change course rather soon.   
"Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.” 
~ Ronald Reagan, from his first inaugural speech as governor of California, January 5, 1967

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dad...We Miss You

It's been nearly four months since my father died.  In the time since then, our family has undergone many changes --- some from simply mourning the loss of someone we loved, others from happier events, such as the wedding of my daughter.  Through it all, my writing has largely been put on a sabbatical.

Today would have been my father's 92nd birthday.  We visited his grave at the National Cemetery in Holly to wish him a happy birthday, and had a toast in his honor over lunch in Fenton.

This is the obituary I wrote for him.

Wallace Caminsky
October 28, 1922–July 6, 2014

Wallace Caminsky was born on October 28, 1922, the oldest child of immigrant parents. Growing up in Hamtramck, his family was hit hard during the Depression, and he grew up watching his parents scramble to make a living. Graduating from Hamtramck High in 1940, he briefly attended college, until the outbreak of World War II. Enlisting in the Army, he worked as a cryptographer on a command ship in the South Pacific, the USCGC Ingham, where he saw action in the Philippines and other islands.

On his return, he graduated from Wayne State University, majoring in English. In 1948 he married Alice Luniewski — also from Hamtramck — and soon began a family of his own. His first son, Jeff, was born in 1951, and a second son — Chris — followed three years later. Working in the auto industry, he moved from Ford Motors to Chrysler in 1957, where he worked for the next twelve years. Active in politics and current events throughout his life, he was deeply shaken by the Kennedy assassination, and was a member of various human rights groups during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. He remained interested and involved in current affairs until his death.
Eager to expand his horizons, he started law school in 1964, attending night classes at the Detroit College of Law and graduating in 1969 — the same year his oldest son graduated from high school. After practicing law with the firm of Kazmarek and Nedzi, he became an administrative law judge in 1975, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1987.
Interested in literature as well as sports and current events, he wrote poetry and short stories, and published two books: All Fathers Are Giants, a collection of short stories; and Words for Other People’s Music, a collection of his poems. 
He leaves behind a loving family, including his devoted wife, Alice, his two sons, Jeffrey and Christopher and their wives, Navona and Catherine, grandchildren Jason and Julia, and great-grandchildren Alana and Elise.
Wallace Caminsky died on July 6, 2014, after a long illness.

Happy birthday, Dad.  We love you, and will always miss you.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Shadows of Love

Love can inspire us to see beauty, and also to seek it in those around us...and, sometimes, in those who are gone. And if God is love, then perhaps we can understand where many of our most touching thoughts and ideas come from.
In 2009, a... man and the woman he loved took some wedding photos in the empty house they hoped to live in forever.  Two years later, as she lay dying from a rare form of cancer, her greatest fear was that her baby daughter would never remember her. And so, to reunite the two of them...and show their little girl what Mommy was like on the happiest day of her life. And so, as he was leaving a house once filled with so many dreams for the last time, a still-grieving father managed to give his wife a last present, and his daughter something to treasure for the rest of her life.

Mom's Memory Lives On...

Love endures...joyous, sometimes bittersweet...but always heartfelt.  And wherever it appears, the Universe smiles.

Source: Melanie Tracy Pace / Loft3 Photography

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lessons Unlearned

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana, The Life of Reason
I think many of the political problems we seem to be having these days stems from our differing perspectives on human history and experience:
In the main, whether by dint of personality or education, conservatives tend to show more respect for tradition and institutions.  This stems from a reading of History that shows (a) most innovation leads to failure or disaster; (b) there are few things new under the sun; (c) most "innovations" have already been tried...and were discarded for a good reason; (d) there are some human values that we simply have to accept a priori, since applying sterile logic to the human condition leads to a sterile and withering nihilism that is not conducive to human growth; (e) as our capacity for unintended consequences appears to know no limits, we need to be very careful when making changes; (f) a page of history being worth a volume of logic, experience will be a better guide for us than abstract logic; and, therefore, (g) small, incremental changes are likely to lead to better results than grand plans based on the hope that we can remake the world to our liking.
It seems to me that modern-day liberals (as opposed to Classical Liberals, who would likely be described as "conservatives" in today's political climate) tend to scoff at tradition, and set their sights on remaking the world into something better.  This, in turn, leads to (a) a rejection of History as a guide to the future; (b) the belief that Man is infinitely malleable; (c) the belief that one can devise solutions to problems through the use of logic, rather than practical experimentation; and, as a consequence (d) the conviction that the "masses" must be led to the future, since they are incapable of knowing what's best for them; and (e) the conclusion that ultimate wisdom is to be found in educated elites, rather than History, Experience, or Tradition.
Personally, I think we're far better off muddling through as best we can and tinkering at the margins to make things better, than we are trying to devise "grand plans" to solve all our problems in one fell swoop.  Evidence for this abounds, even if we limit our search to the last Century:
Exhibit A:  Soviet Russia
Exhibit B: The War on Poverty
Exhibit C: Modern Feminism, and the entire PC movement
Exhibit D: Obamacare
It is all well and good to be a dreamer and idealist, and to devise grand notions for making the world a better place.  But as tradition notes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and it's usually unwise to fix something that isn't broken.  The conceit that humans can foresee all the consequences of what they're doing leads us to farce and tragedy; and I suspect that our descendants will be looking back on our Age of Folly and shaking their heads...wondering how their ancestors could have been so stupid.
Of course, that may not prevent them from making their own stupid mistakes.  But it seems to me that one benefit of looking at the past is to see and learn from the mistakes of others --- including the conceit that "Our Era" has the answers to problems that have plagued Mankind since the beginning, and that human folly is limited to the past.
I hope one day, humanity can master this lesson; it's one that our generation seems never to have learned.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago

On the Friday before my twelfth birthday, I went to school looking forward to the weekend.  I'd hoped to get my first record player as a birthday present, and since next week was Thanksgiving, I had a shortened week of school ahead of me as well.

The day went ahead largely as planned, although I wasn't looking forward to a math test in Mrs. Albee's class at the end of the day.  But I sailed through my morning classes, and after gym class proceeded to my science class, still dreading my upcoming math test the next hour, but starting to get excited about the weekend ahead.

As we settled into our seats, a teacher from down the hall came to the door, and whispered something to Mrs. Jewell, the nice old lady who was our science teacher.  I caught a whiff of what he'd said --- "Kennedy's been shot" --- and a cold shiver ran down my spine.  Mrs. Jewell calmly relayed the news, and none of us paid much attention to the rest of class.

Next hour, Mrs. Albee told us that the President had died, and our principal made the announcement over the speaker.  I still had to take the math test, and then faced a long walk home; there, my mother was in tears:  Kennedy was a hero in our house; and those tears lasted for a long time.

President Kennedy embodied the hopes and dreams of an entire generation, and symbolized a country brimming with confidence and idealism, committed to freedom and liberty, and ready to make the world a better place.  Those dreams were shattered on the streets of Dallas that day --- November 22, 1963 --- and the country has never been the same.

In some ways, the country is a better place today.  In many ways, it is not:  in those days, the president rode in an open-topped car, to be closer to the people; the streets of Washington were lined with open monuments to democracy, rather than barricades against terrorists; we didn't need to be searched before boarding an airplane; and we were filled with hope and optimism about the future.

Time marches on; and fifty years later, America is not the same place.  Every year, the shadow of a small boy eagerly awaiting a birthday feels his heart being ripped out.  And the dreams that died with President Kennedy in Dallas continue to haunt us.

But after fifty years, the torch has been passed...and, sadly, it's time to move on. Memories fade, the human spirit heals, and life goes on.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.