November 30th, 2011:


I like to watch morning TV as I eat breakfast and get prepared for my day of writing and editing. Yesterday, Nov. 29, was a study in contrasts, an example of American institutions and our way of life, especially in Los Angeles, home to about 4 million of us.

Regular shows had been pre-empted by the Michael Jackson involuntary manslaughter trial sentencing. Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor had quite a lot to say as he told the somber, stone-faced Dr. Conrad Murray that he’d be spending the next four years in LA County jail. Most of the local TV and radio shows were focused on the emotional event; it was a hometown happening, after all (the Jackson family compound is just a few miles from me). It was an example of the American justice system in action played out on the world stage because of Jackson’s fame and notoriety. I couldn’t help but think it was a kind of odd destiny: an extremely talented entertainer who was losing his grip on life meets a doctor who yearns for the buckets of bucks while forgetting his ethics.

If you believe in the continued cycle of life, whether physical or spiritual, then Michael Jackson is the winner. Dr. Murray has lost his career and he will have a devil of a time paying back the ordered restitution of over $100 million.

In another part of town, there was a different kind of celebration: 7,000 people were being “anointed” (my words) with U.S. citizenship. The local show on Fox, “Good Day, LA” was covering both events and switched between them. Jill Reynolds, a show regular originally from Canada, had been in the U.S. since she was 22. She was enthusiastically giving up her green card after 20 years here. She was definitely in the minority in the crowded facility; it was announced that most of this batch of new citizens were originally Filipino or Mexican.

 I’d never seen this ceremony before, and it was quite touching to see such an immense crowd holding and occasionally waving small American flags. Several uniformed U.S. servicemen were getting their citizenship. After being introduced, each one proudly marched to the front of the assembly hall and “spun” around in that unique military fashion before saluting the crowd. One of them was from India originally.

For me,  the most poignant part of the ceremony was when  these new citizens stood up, hands over their hearts to say the Pledge of Allegiance and  to take the Oath of Allegiance to their new country.  Although the camera didn’t reveal the talented woman, a professional voice then sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The camera did pan onto Jill as she recited those historic words of allegiance, and I could see she was crying. I didn’t need her inspiration, I was already in tears myself.

No matter what we go through as a country and despite the difficult times in the past few years, I am very proud to be an American!

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