Confessions of a Recovering News Anchor

Posted in Uncategorized on July 12, 2022 by michaelcogdill

I write this watching the sun rise over the sea in July. July is a ratings month in television

So, it’s a sight my erstwhile life seldom allowed.

But careers are not life.

Great as they can be, they do not throb with the utmost meaning. They are means to an end. I made a great living in television. Some of the stories effected good change, affected hearts and minds in a good way. But the demands steal from us. We trade time for money. We miss events we can only imagine, now that the time has gone.

This morning, some ways I would trade time differently.

I would bring my parents to the shore with me. They were proud. They should have lived more of my life with me.

I would buy the damn boat sooner. A scarcity mentality kept me from it. I’d have gotten my captain’s license and gotten far away, long ago.

I’d be more generous with myself. My forbears taught me this. I got caught up in the harvest instead of the banquet. More strangers would come to my proverbial table.

I would work out then as I do now. It’s easy, taking youth for granted. Now I get to work at it, hard. I would have then.

I would be better at walking toward what sustains us and away from what depletes us. I would be plenty less codependent.

I would spend much more time with people who know the difference between a smoke bomb and a volcano. Yes, that’s code for not pitching a fit over nothing.

There would be more quiet time. More contemplation in faith. Less noise of nonsense

Speaking of, I would speak less. Hear more.

I would become a better son, better husband, better boyfriend, better father. On some of these, it’s not too late.

It’s never too late, long as we carry a pulse. Eat the cornbread, run another mile, believe no lies about too old, too sad, too disadvantaged. I would be more honest with myself and others about how I am. They call this being vulnerable, when we let ourselves be seen for who we are. I believe such vulnerability is strength.

After so much time behind neckties, before cameras, amid all that rectitude, it does me good to confess some things.

I hate milk, love hot weather, and I drink like a ten year old girl. I despise drunkenness, love sex, hate meanness, and will run on a beach when it’s 105 degrees. I detest human suffering, believe generosity and kindness make us civilized. I know not every emotion we feel ought to come out of our mouths. My mother taught me not to tell everything I know, or feel, but to take inventory of it, find what’s worthy. I believe Zig Zeigler was right, want to get what you want, help others get what they want. I have never played golf, and never intend to. I would rather throw a baseball hard against a wall, then go see a game. I love to write, to read the greats, I enjoy the catharsis of swearing, and go around in a constant prayer for grace and of gratitude. I have never had a beer in my life. I love weight training and can’t stand an exercise bike. I have no use for redneckery, but will love on a redneck nonetheless. To me identity politics is a sure tool to divide a life by two, then shatter it. I have beautiful friends, from way back, and zero tolerance for cultivating enemies. I love to be alone, and I enjoy a crowd, especially when people are having a good time. I adore femininity in a woman. I love the water, despise the cold, and could not give a damn about hockey. Football to me is a sport, not a way of life. I love a symphony, Bluegrass and Earth Wind and Fire. I am 61 years old, determined to live like he’s 25, and I have a four and a half year old daughter whom I absolutely adore. I love some good church, an old spiritual, and a new idea spoken well. I realize some of this makes me an odd boy. I don’t mind. There are fewer regrets in simply being yourself.

Fewer still in getting better at it.

There’s more I could say. I’ll keep it to myself. Let the sea have its say.

Massacre Fatigue, A Call to Awakening

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2022 by michaelcogdill

Grieving with Uvalde.

I doubt the small community contains enough small caskets to cope.

We must not contain our heartbreak.

It must show.

Across the arc of my career in television news came so much of this. Sandy Hook. Mother Emmanuel. Las Vegas.

I am tired.

Weary, trying to fathom what goes off in the mind of a mass murderer. Nor will I abide the notion that nothing can be done. We are a civilization too much written in the blood of innocents. The civilized and the baseline thoughtful know to safeguard children from bodies of water, lawn mowers, venomous snakes. We all know it is too easy for the deranged to place hands on a weapon not even the police in America routinely carry.

We all are weary.

I grew exhausted of carrying such tragedy on my breath to the television audience. Perhaps the audience is so tired, it no longer fully hears it. Inured. Numb. Detached from the gore, as if a violent film plays constant noise and pulp in the background of the everyday. Here, now, to this audience I implore awakening. Let us waken a civil intolerance of conspiracy theories of denial and the misbegotten politics of machismo. Our capacity to dread violence must return to normal.

The ground of Texas awaits the remains of children whose closing breaths came in terror. Law officers nurse wounds of being outgunned by an 18 year old deranged boy who tried to kill his own grandmother. A brave border patrol agent is among them, having stopped it with his service weapon. He will think of what he heard and saw in there the remainder of his life. I am sure he will pray to stop thinking of it.

How are we to think about it?

I suggest first we feel.

Empathy with Uvalde will serve us well.

Our collective blood as a nation has been shed.

In it is written our grief, and our calling.

Decency: A Calling, A Movement

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2022 by michaelcogdill

I was raised during the Civil Rights Movement in America.

The attack on people of color in Buffalo reminds us we are raising our children in the enduring need of simple decency.

We each have a responsibility to a decency movement in America.

There is tolerance of indecency among us.

It is a malignancy, hating someone for the color of his skin or shades of culture, the place of her origin, the dialect of a man or woman’s tongue. This cancer spreads in our tolerance for gory words, overheard by 5 year olds at dinner tables. It is OUR disease of OUR culture riven by cells of vitriol WE allow. Filthy, cancerous words and thoughts are tolerated from our halls of leadership to the schoolhouses of our legacy. I am dis-eased by what I hear now in America. It ought to break every heart and pain every mind, this latter day indulgence of what threatens death to our civilization. It is murderous.

This outrages me. I hope and pray it outrages you.

Socrates reminds us an unexamined life is not worth living. As I examine my own, just now, I see a man who has tolerated too much from people around him. Misbegotten words from the mouths of men and women I know and respect have run out unchecked by me. They struck me hard. They cut open the center-most heart instilled by the people who raised me, and who love me still. To this moment I regret not raging against the outrageous.

And yet….

Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior reminds us rage will not cure this raging among us. “Darkness can not drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate can’t not drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I arrive at this moment wrestling with what love must look like here. How does a man as furious as I am right now temper his tongue with anything that feels like love? The words at its brink are the stuff of back ally brinkmanship. But if I enter the brawl with words of stupidity, I become a fool and nothing good or decent wins. I must not. I will not. Such words are bigotry all their own.

So here, now, I heave a sigh and do no bidding of rage. Instead, I must let disappointment do the talking. May love find a pulse in the artery of what follows.

If you believe a racist giggle or a prideful insult does no harm between friends, I want to run you from this blog page. But no, you stay. If you believe public mockery or private shaming belong in our discourse, I desire asking you to leave. But you stay. If you wear a cap with code words that translate to profanity unfit for the mouth of a child, I WANT to run you out of my gym. But no. You stay, as well.

I am an imperfect man with a responsibility to peace. It will be sought here, and so will wisdom, such as I am. Dr. King’s “weapon of love” helped codify some decency into our laws. Simple. Human. Decency. I will seek to place decency here. I pray it will win hearts and minds amid this great and gory outrageousness of now. The plowshare of no resistance must get beaten into a sword that cuts the malignancy of bigotry from the tissues of our times. It must get done with a strong and loving arm.

It must be done in peace.

We must become better than what we have allowed. Better than how we have been. This malignancy has but one healer, and he, and she, are — ourselves.

This is a movement still calling to us all. We must carry it out, lest we fall.

The Merits of a Well-held Tongue

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2022 by michaelcogdill

America is a meritocracy.

We celebrate accomplishment, of thought and deed. We ideally carve away what does not belong.

These faces of Mount Rushmore upheld that you and I are the government. Rushmore is a monumental reminder and calling to live up to our highest ideals. Sometimes in SILENT awe.

My calling today aims toward the virtue of silence.

Thomas Hobbes smartly said, “Words are the counters of wise men and the money of fools.”

Hobbes posited that human beings are naturally selfish creatures. Naturally depraved and selfish and full of foolery unless we seek the betterment of ourselves. LEARN better.

Alas, in the closing days of my television news career, I counted few people wise of word. Some. But also many more viciously gushing noise at me. Misinformation. Disinformation. Propaganda. Spin. Fully told lies and hatefully spoken opinions bereft of a solitary pebble to support them.

These all poured into my social media and email inboxes. Some into my mailbox, a few from nattering members of Congress who thought me a sympathizer and a sychophant because of my address.

Because of my very honorable profession, I was deemed a supporter of totalitarianism, a tool of it, a snowflake, a lib, and several more foul things I’ll let you imagine. Many of these speakers vomit way more words than they have ever read.

The tone of it more fit for Sasquatch than Rushmore.

I am none of the fool that fools have presumed that I am. Nor is any of us a fool when we speak kindly a thoughtful, well-grounded truth or opinion in Locke’s ideals of freedom.

Too many do not.

We are not self-determination government by hostile meme. That is self-inflicted ignorance. We have books everywhere. We ought to be smarter than that.

I am disappointed. I have witnessed people say and forward so many outrageously false, inhumane, thoughtless, ignorant things I never thought I would see when we lived more civilized. Outside the uncivilized swamps of social media.

My very wise and kind mother and father would tell me as a boy that when people said such things then, mostly just one to another, they were just showing their ignorance. And to pay no attention to it. Now instead of passed notes in class or gossip on a corded phone, Ignorance gets a billboard — on places like Instagram and Facebook.

I am weary of it. If you are, as well, I would love to hear from you here. Otherwise I would not. Vitriol is unwelcome here.

Let’s all pause a quiet moment, looking at this picture of some random people looking up to titans of our creation and re-creation as an America. There are many more worthy of looking up to, and they are people of color, immigrants, women, others who quietly made a great difference in this great country and around the world. Who were and are its government by the people, too.

On This President’s day, this is a call to admire the power of American free speech, handled wisely, eruditely. And otherwise the power of silence.

There’s great merit in both.

Finding What No One Else Can Hear

Posted in Uncategorized on January 9, 2022 by michaelcogdill

Sidney Poitier was not born an Academy Award-winning actor.

He became one.

He heard a voice within himself no one else could hear.

Only since his death on January 6 have many come to know of Sidney Poitier’s Bahamian farm roots. He grew up with a heavy island dialect. It led to rejection after rejection in his climb toward acting.

But rejection would not kick the man’s aspirations.

It would not silence HIS voice.

In the face of so many saying NO, he worked as a janitor in a theater in exchange for acting lessons. He listened to the radio to refine his voice, his future, never losing contact with his past.

His story reminds us we all have a voice. A unique one. To unearth it from the ore of imitation and the ordinary is to discover a gem. A natural work of art.

As unique as the iris of your eyes.

The world would come to see and to hear the high art of Poitier. He would lend his well-discovered self to some of the finest theater and cinema ever done.

It takes some daring, some courage, to work so hard at simply being yourself. To dare unearth the gem and let others see, and hear.

So it is with every human story, yearning to be told well.

His sure was.

What about yours?

The Face of Human Possibility

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2021 by michaelcogdill

Eighty years now, and the infamy is still staggering.

So is what’s possible in human beings.

December 7th, 1941, Japan unleashed 353 airplanes on Pearl Harbor.

The pilots killed more than 2,500 Americans that morning. They set key pieces of our Pacific fleet aflame. Some of our boys swam through fire, desperate to live.

Today in Hawaii, people will gather at the memorial to the USS Arizona. There she lies at the bottom, still bleeding oil to the surface, drop by drop, day by day. In her hull lie the drifting remains of 900 crewmen, never recovered.

A few brief years ago, I reported on 2 women who were there. Witnesses to carnage, and something more.

The Entriken sisters were identical twins, working as nurses in the Navy. When I met them, they still bore the gravity of what they had seen. Yet they shone with twin smiles, perfect hair, teased way up tall. They carried that dignity of calm wisdom that pretties the mind.

“I heard the bombs shattering everything, shaking the ground,” one of them said. “So I ran out on the lanai just in time to see one of the planes just over my head. He was so low, the Japanese pilot looked down at me, square in the eye. He saw me. I could see his face.”

She still could.

They shared just a moment’s humanity in the inhumanity of war.

She remembered out loud the burned boys and the many days’ work to ease suffering in the hospital. She and her sister waded through the gore of Pearl Harbor.

Those decades later, in front of a TV camera, she quietly recalled that single face of her enemy, flashed down through the infamy.

Today, the United States and Japan are friends, critical allies against common threats in the Pacific. We defeated Japan at Midway, and vaporized her people with nuclear bombs to gain surrender and an end to World War II. Since then, there has been reconciliation, a grace between our people. Forgiveness of what to all the world seemed unforgivable.

We help protect the Japanese people now.

America is strong that way.

Humanity is capable that way.

It is unbelievable to this reporter how we as Americans attack one another now. Identity politics and propaganda get slung around as if we’re in civil war. Eighty years after Pearl Harbor, we live in this great country, facing down pandemic and global antics, forgetting what America has overcome.

I pray we remember who we have been in the world. Who we remain. A triumph. A pursuer of peace. A stalwart.

A young nurse eighty years ago today looked up into the face of a young boy she did not know and would never forget. May we see the face of each other now, and remember the oneness of what is possible on this planet, small thing that it is, in a universe far larger than the wickedness of the day.

Her Name Was Montana. And She Was Good

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2021 by michaelcogdill

This is an epitaph to a golden retriever. She was better than this man who loved her

Sweet Montana died peacefully at 6:23 tonight, with her great head under my hand.

My heart is so heavy.

The cancer had returned, and so had an infection. She fought so hard, squeezed every ounce of living from her life. She knew she was so dearly loved. She knew it was time.

I am so heartbroken. Heartbroken beyond words. And so grateful.

She came out of nowhere. Her previous owner had died very suddenly of cancer, and I had the chance to rescue her. She rescued me instead, and carried me across these last 6 years with such nobility and courage and grace. Night after night, waiting for me, pure in how she loved — she was so very good.

There’s a vignette in my novel, She-Rain that contains my favorite sentence in the entire book. It speaks here of my heart.

“He wanted her to lie near the clear water”s music until the end of the world.”

Such peace is my longing for her. Mercy I have given her It is so small a gift, given how she has gifted me.

There has been so much death and loss in life of late. I am weary of it. My fortitude — immense since I was a boy — is staggered. But our God who makes such good dogs will see me off the ground.

My love to all of you who have so loved her, and me. I write this through tears as I turn from her one last time. But no, she will walk beside me always. There is no complete absence when there has been the presence of so good a dog.

Montana

Date of birth unknown. October 9, 2021.

Thank you staff of Upstate Veterinary Specialists. Your mercy is sure and strong and true.

Haunted, By Goodness

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2021 by michaelcogdill

I haven’t posted of her in a while.

I am now, for I am haunted by the goodness of my mother.

There’s no believing it’s been almost a year since she died with her hand in mine. She left my hand, but left me something that cannot be held.

Miss Polly lived her modesty, quiet in her goodness. She spoke well of others. Unkindness saddened her. Sweetness elated her. Her smile came as easy as dawn. Her soul knew no moonless night, even on her saddest road. She loved everyone, doted on those who could do nothing for her. She made everybody feel like they had a mother in her. She had one child, me. I shared her with many, many more. She was ahead of her time in the seasons of civil rights, she was right about not telling everything she knew, she would abide no wrongheaded talk.

Speak well. Do well. Her insistence.

My mother was heard to say she was proud of my career, but more proud of who I am. The truth is I need to be a far better man to live up to that. To live up to so deeply good a woman.

This is my haunting, or at least some parts of it. I keep the rest to myself. Pondering my mother’s ways in the heart of manhood made strong by her.

Haunted, By Goodness

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2021 by michaelcogdill

Tantrum In Blue

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2021 by michaelcogdill

There’s artistry to a thunderhead.

So high. Risen so fast. Loud and hot and beyond control.

Tonight we have a lightning fit going on. A tantrum of blue, turned loose at 100 million volts. Summertime having its say.

Lightning flashes around earth about 3 million times every day. Perilous and lovely.

Before we had science at today’s level, imagine what humankind thought of thunder and lightning. Imaginations rampant, and wrong. People no doubt thinking the world about to end, when it’s just the earth having a day. A day like any other.

Normal.

Creation, being itself.

Science helps us understand the world, and our place in it. Kepler, Pascal, Hawking, on and on. But Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. I believe rather than doomsday, we ought set our imaginations to the music of the beauty in things.

Especially when it’s a thing way bigger, and stouter, than we are. A rhapsody, and a tantrum, in blue.