Thomas McKenzie
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Three Dead Men


Gerald Ford was the first president I can remember. My earliest memory of politics comes from the night before the 1976 presidential election. I was five years old. My parents were explaining to me what voting was. I asked them to make a ballot for me. They wrote the names "Gerald Ford" and "Jimmy Carter" on a piece of paper, and put a box by each name.

I proudly checked the "Gerald Ford" box and handed it back to them. They smiled. I remember being surprised when he lost, but not overly concerned. I went on with my life. So did he. He seems to have been a good man who lived a long, good life.

The first time I remember hearing the name Saddam Hussein was when he invaded Kuwait. It was three days before my 19th birthday. My only real fear at the time was that there would be a draft, and my (then) fully pacifist self would be forced into some sort of combat operation. My sister J-- was living in Germany. She called and told me that I could flee to her home if there was a draft. My goodness I was small minded.

When the U.S. caught him, I assumed Saddam would be tried in The Hague, would be convicted after years of trials, and disappear. But, our government wanted the Iraqi people to have justice. Makes some degree of sense. Personally, I have been afraid he might escape at some point, given how volatile things are. He certainly deserved what he got--more than what he got. But, I still think the right thing would have been to shuffle him off to Europe where he would have a fair, quiet trial and disappear into the dustbin of history.

My first connection with James Brown was through Eddie Murphy. James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party on Saturday Night Live. Yes, I was too young to be watching such things. But I would sneak into the living room on Saturday nights, plug in my ear phone in the jack, and watch SNL until my parents caught me. You can thank my cousin M-- who used to show me SNL he had recorded on Betamax.

James Brown was not a pleasant person. He was no Saddam, but he was no Gerald Ford either. But he was an entertainer. One of the greatest. I can't say I will miss him, but I certainly would have missed what he brought to American music.

So CNN is flipping between images of three dead men. And I am left to ponder the passing of old men, while playing with my wife and young girls. What a strange world we live in.

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