BASKETBALL AND NAZIS

I love hoops, but this is actually about the state of our city and country, and honesty in our politics.

I was watching the UCLA men’s basketball team Saturday. The Bruins barely squeaked by Washington, 64-61, only because transfer teen guard Johnny Juzang put on an incredible show. He scored half the UCLA points, 32. That’s a lot for a college game. Any NBA player would take that total gladly.

At halftime he had outscored the entire Washington team, by himself. In the previous game he scored 25. Three games earlier, in a tough one-point loss to Stanford in overtime, he scored 27, and there was a 12-1/2 minute stretch where Juzang scored all 21 of his team’s points. But what’s this got to do with Nazis?

JOHNNY JUZANG IS AMERICA

As I was admiring this talented young man I was thinking — he sure is LA, all the way, a black kid with an Asian name, blazing his own trail, and in fact he personifies what America stands for… or used to stand for, to the world. (And could again.) The American dream that draws strength from our melting pot of immigrants. Where hard work, persistence and talent mean more than where you’re from or what your name or race is.

His father is Creole, his mother Vietnamese. African-American Asian-American All-American Boy.

He’s from Studio City. Hardcore karate enthusiast as a kid, plays piano “well.” He put together a website in eighth grade to launch his own clothing line. He graduated from high school in three years.

AND WITH A 4.0

It’s early, there are many rivers to cross, but Johnny Juzang could become an NBA star. A name and face everyone knows, paid tens of millions of dollars a year.

And still get harassed, threatened, hurt or killed by the police, or a racist mob. Ask Chris Rock, Denzel Washington, or any pro athlete or famous actor of color. In America, now and throughout our entire history, every American of color has had to pause to think, as they step outside their front door — will I make it back home? Will my parents, my kids?

MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME

Juzang transferred here after his freshman season at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, an elite basketball program with eight national championships. I wonder how he was treated there, especially off campus, in the Land of Rand (Paul) and Mitch McConnell?

Lexington’s Cheapside Park is now known for summertime Thursday evening concerts, but it was once the largest slave trading center in America. The man who murdered Heather Heyer with his car in Charlottesville grew up in Kentucky, an hour’s drive straight north from the University. It was only 11 years ago that KKK thugs beat a 16-year-old boy who they thought was Hispanic nearly to death, at the Meade County Fair. As of 2017 there were four active Klans in KY.

But don’t kid yourself. Juzang could hear the same racist rot in Westwood, and probably has.

THE INSURRECTIONISTS

Who adore lying, cheating, womanizing, draft-dodging, tax dodging, etc etc etc grifter, bully, seditionist Donald Trump like a messiah to be obeyed without question, would probably hate on Johnny if they met him on the street. They don’t know him, but they can see he looks different from them, and so they hate him. He’s the enemy. For Trump’s cult, they love that he hates the people they hate. (But really, narcissists don’t love or hate, it’s only me, me, me.)

Not every one of the 73.5M Americans who voted for Trump are racists. But, they all voted for a man who goes out of his way to speak nicely about murderous white supremacists. Racist haters. Nazis. That should be a deal breaker, folks.

MIDNIGHT OIL

Nearly every last one of those followers are descended from immigrants to America. Unless they are pure lineage Native Americans. Remember 1987’s “Beds Are Burning,” by Australian rockers Midnight Oil? How could such a revolutionary song (“the time has come, it belongs to them [aboriginal people] — let’s give it back”) become a huge world-wide hit? Especially in the apathetic Eighties? And now, forgotten?

Of course not even most of those who voted for Donald Trump would have joined the shameful insurrection at the Capitol. But that part of his following is armed and ready to fight. And kill. Do you think the Jan. 6 insurrection was the end of it? Their brave leader (“you go on, I‘ll be leading from back here”) has already declared, echoing a famous CA Republican, that “We will be back… in some form.” (Terminator Trump?)

WE ALL KNOW HOW WE GOT HERE

The abject cowardice of the Republican Senators and Representatives that we saw on display last week, leaves no more to be proven. But how do we get out of this mess?

Did you think I was going to reveal some wisdom, some plan that you hadn’t thought of? Ha! But maybe we should start with simple honesty, and make plans from there. Why not?

I‘ve never denied being an idealist. So maybe, in this unique time when so much has been turned upside down, it is the perfect time for idealism.

Politics, national and local, like it or not, affects all our lives. I recently read, from our smart, tough, compassionate CA Congresswoman Katie Porter, about what makes a real leader. “Speaking truth, pursuing justice, and helping future generations succeed.”

Maybe it’s that simple. But it’s a daunting, tall order. I saw someone brush off an objection recently on social media with the dismissive, “It‘s just politics.” So anything is allowed because it’s “just politics”? No. There are a handful of good ones out there. I think Porter is one, and our Congressman Ted Lieu. I know very little about ex-Sen. Claire McCaskill but I do know this: when she voted against confirming Trump’s terrible pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, she knew her political career in Missouri was over.

JFK wrote a bestseller in 1956 titled “Profiles in Courage,” describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight U.S. Senators, and the price they paid. I think it’s time for volume two. And a separate volume for Santa Monica.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com