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Ed Justen By Ed Justen • June 18, 2018

Random Thoughts - #Sunday200

Journalists have a time-honored reporting tool called The Reporters Notebook. Basically, it is a weekly column of intersting items that reporters note though their daily travels, but really didn't warrant a full news story. When I was an intern reporter for a local newspaper, each reporter was assigned to a city, so the weekly notebook column, usually published on Saturday, was based on events in community. ("Remember to shovel your sidewalks!" was usually a popular wintertime entry).  
 
I don't keep a Reporter's Notebook type log of personal items, but here are a few things that have been rattling around my head the last few weeks.  
 

Fly the rainbow flag

 
 With bad news coming out at nearly an hourly clip, its hard to find something on the media landscape the provides hope and inspiration. Enter Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Netflix’s reboot of the popular Bravo series from the early ‘aughts. While the original version focused rebuilding lives of lost men in liberal New York City, this edition is based in the southern capital of Atlanta. In between transforming wardrobes, redesigning homes, styling unruly hair, and generally bringing reclusive men out of their shells, this edition of the Fab 5 have dealt with racial issues, the region’s ubiquitous conservatism,  helped many a 20-something find the strength to accept and embrace their homosexuality, and even stared down their own demons in front of millions of viewers.
 
The first episode of this reboot was especially meaningful to me, as they helped a 55-year-old to clean up his look and his life, giving him the tools and confidence to re-engage with his ex-wife for a second go-around ( they’ve since remarried ). In the new series premier, they worked with a local church leader, their first female client, to not only clean up her own home, but also to finish the construction and design of her tiny town’s church community center. Let that sink in for a second; five gay men contributed to the completion of a church community center in the heart of bible belt Georgia. The return of her gay son to the church community caused more than a few tissues to quickly loose their effectiveness.
 
I could go on and on about this show; instead, I’ll encourage you to spend the $10/month for the cost of Netflix to see it for your self. After spending the week soaking in news reports about families being separated at American borders, it was nice to see something inspirational.  
 
Bro(s) in elevator arms
 
Coming in from an evening walk with the pup, I rode the elevator with two “Bro” types who obviously spent the day on the golf course. One was telling the other about how he hid a friends phone purposely so he could watch the friend freak out. As I exited the elevator and headed down the hall, I head the same guy talking prior to the elevator door closing.
 
“Wow. People and their dogs. I just don’t get it man.”
 
Really dude? I mean, the guy was obviously a jerk when I heard him tell the story about the phone. In the 45 seconds it took us to get to the fourth floor I didn’t engage him, and my pup sat quietly. What did we do to elicit that response? And how unaware of your surroundings to not think I wouldn’t hear you speak those words before the elevator door closed?
 
I get that maybe you don’t think time with a pup is well spent, but it can’t be any less enjoyable than spending the afternoon on a hot golf course with your other dude friends pulling childish pranks. Grow the f___ up.
 

America the not-so-great

 
The July 4th holidays are coming up, and I’m having a hard time finding a reason to celebrate. In America today, a person with dark skin can still be shot for the crime of walking down the street, and there is a small but ever-growing chance that if you go to school/the movies/church/a concert/the mall/an art show/sightseeing/ that you may never come home again, and not because you were in a fatal traffic accident. Voting rights are being trampled upon, the President of the United States is showing dictatorial traits, children are being torn from their parents at the border, and good luck if you are a women who needs family planning assistance.
 
Why on earth would I want to celebrate any of that? As this piece suggests, we’ve evolved from America the Beautiful to America the Cruel.
 
Juliette Kayam, a former homeland security advisor to President Obama, penned a poignant letter to the current generation of school students who have never known a world without school shootings, apologizing for the failure of adults in power during their lives for failing to secure their own homeland.
 
"You have reminded us that our homeland security is ultimately about your capacity to return home” Kayam says responding to the nationwide March for Our Lives action in March, "whether from school, church, the movies or a concert -- even your own backyard.”
 
In the past few years, I have joined my activist band friend to play a spontaneous concert near the town center prior to fireworks. This year, I’m reconsidering whether that is a  good use of my time and talents.