‘I’m with the champ’
I had the good fortune to meet Muhammad Ali in 1974 when I worked at Rutgers University just before he fought George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle. He had been asked by the Black Student Union to speak and, by chance, they used my office in the school gym as his holding room before he spoke.
When I shook his hand, my first impression was that he wasn’t a very big man compared to the football linemen I played with in college. At 6-foot-3-inches and 220 pounds, he was the size of a halfback, not a big heavyweight fighter as I expected and certainly not the size of Foreman. Of course, what made Ali great was his hand-speed, courage and smarts as a boxer.
Ali spoke to a large audience of students dressed for a fashion parade in Super Fly outfits with most male students looking like pimps and the women looking like hookers. Ali made fun of those kids since he was modestly dressed in the usual Black Muslim outfit consisting of a black suit with a white shirt and little black bow-tie.
Ali’s speech was just what those students needed to hear, speaking about his transformation from Cassius Clay, a womanizer, to becoming Muhammad Ali, a child of God. If anyone else had spoken with such admonishment about the Super Fly mindset, none other than Ali could have done so without the audience throwing tomatoes at him.
I was a bigger fan of Ali’s after his talk and learning what a sincere and spiritual man he actually became as Muhammad Ali, a great fighter and a great spokesman for peace.
Perhaps the most entertaining sidebar that evening was Ali’s stunning girlfriend, Veronica Porsche. Unlike the outspoken Ali, she was quiet and stood apart from the fans surrounding Ali. Many young men, not knowing she was with Ali, saw this beauty standing alone and probably thought she was just another spectator.
I recall dozens of men trying to start a conversation with her. She calmly listened to their flirtations, then quietly said to each of them, “Excuse me, I’m with the champ,” pointing to Ali.
J.C. Smith, M.A., D.C., Warner Robins
What’s behind the pushback?
My grandmother had a wonderful saying that came to my mind while reading Rinda Wilson’s recent article related to transgender issues in The Telegraph: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” This saying is particularly relevant when the author, Wilson, decides to play the role of sexual development expert and “inform” us without the prerequisite knowledge base for assuming that position. I would not dare pretend to be an expert in this highly complex, emotionally charged and politically divisive area even though I did successfully teach courses related to sexual development, abnormal psychology, psychopathy, and mental health for over 40 years in college and university classes with my doctorate in psychology.
To clarify a major point that Wilson makes in her article, “gender identity disorder” is no longer classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association or the American Psychological Association since the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM-V) was adopted in January of 2016. The DSM is a kind of “Psychiatric Bible” for mental health professionals in diagnosing and treating mental disorders.
While it is certainly true that some people diagnosed as transgendered do have serious mental issues or high suicide rates, it is not true of all. It is also true that white males over the age of 70 have a higher suicide rate, it does not mean that all old men are mentally ill. So, when Wilson cites the work of psychiatrist Paul McHugh as believing that transgender identity is always a mental illness, she needs to be honest and admit that there are tens of thousands of other psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who disagree with McHugh’s conclusion. He is in the minority, clearly. I might also add that Professor McHugh is now often referred to as “infamous” by his former colleagues at Johns Hopkins. By the way, it should be noted that until 1973, homosexuality was also labeled as a mental illness by the psychiatric community.
It is not my purpose to discuss or critique the various kinds of psychological or medical/surgical procedures which may be used in working with transgender individuals in this short article. In reality only about 33 percent of transgender people report some form of gender-conforming surgery according to the Human Rights Campaign. Wilson suggests a conspiracy by liberal media to keep ideas about transsexual surgery failures from being aired, but my short research online finds hundreds of comprehensive articles which honestly describe both benefits and risks.
Looking at the broader picture, it would be useful for conservatives like Wilson to be honest with the public about the real reasons for all the current publicity related to transgender as well as “religious freedom” legislation proposed in some states. Do we really need a state law that requires a person to present his/her birth certificate to enter a public restroom? Most of us understand that the conservatives’ push for “religious freedom” and “protecting bathroom facilities” are both attempts to strike back at the Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage legal. So, these proposed new laws are clearly designed to legalize both prejudice and discrimination so that conservatives can “take back America.” How shameful.
Bill Curry, professor emeritus, Wesleyan College
Two candidates for the highest political office this country has to offer were, in fact, sitting U.S. senators during the greatest spending spree this country has ever — repeat — ever experienced and can never repay. Do they and their fellow big spenders really think for one minute that this can continue unabated? Think America, think.
Ken Brown, Byron
I think Basque Flores owes both me and Charles Richardson an apology. I know that Ryan endorsed Trump, yesterday. If Flores was as sharp as he puts on, he would know that it takes a few days to get a letter posted. He should know if he ever wrote a real letter, rather than snide aside to what other people say.
Jim Huber, Centerville