Covert Matters Digest

My Word 

The Art of Being Offended

By Harry M. Covert 

How to be offended? Let me count the ways. In this era when everybody is always exasperated, hurt, insulted, outraged and provoked by something, I am beginning to feel as though there should be a national day for crybabies.

Frankly, I’m offended. I’m a Native American, born and raised in the good old US of A. I’m offended at the faux fight to make the Washington Redskins change its name. This comes up often; and if anyone challenges this nonsensical stance, they become a pariah, insensitive, un-American or, politically incorrect.

I don’t feel the least bit troubled that as a boy we played cowboys and Indians in our neighborhood. Nor do I find it a slight to watch western movies where Indians are part of the story. What better hero than Tonto, the loyal sidekick of The Lone Ranger?

It’s a different time, of course, but we had cap pistols. We didn’t run around and try to hold up gas stations, or grocery stores with these toys.

Certainly there have been inequities in society and not all good. Isn’t it time to stop acting as immature adults and be grownups?

I’m not offended either when I read or watch one of my favorite British sleuths, Miss Marple. Throughout the Agatha Christie stories, Miss Marple uses the phrase, “Americans have a lot to answer for.” Or, I learned that British hotels looked down on their American cousins to provide “American rooms” and “television rooms.”

Offended? Absolutely not. “American rooms” back in the ‘20s and ‘30s had plumbing in individual rooms.

Attention-seekers bring up the Indian/Native American issue almost yearly; and, in my mind, it’s stupid. 

I’m offended that Indians can run all kinds of gambling enterprises on their properties outside of federal, state and local jurisdictions.

I don’t intend to be insensitive here, but it’s somewhat silly going through life being offended?

Consider the daily abuse for sports figures, reporters and columnists, attorneys, judges, sheriffs, preachers, teachers, speeders, umpires, referees in all sports, and business owners. The list goes on and on.

Nicknames like Indians, Redskins, and Braves honor the history of the nation. Back in Jamestown, Pocahontas was an Indian. Oklahoma’s Jim Thorpe was an Indian. Pro footballer and wrestler Wahoo McDaniel was an Indian. Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys, was proud to be part Cherokee. One college shifted its name from the Indians to the Tribe. Now really, to what does this refer? Certainly not the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Even the often besmirched U. S. Supreme Court has affirmed usage of Redskins for the professional football team. In the continuing saga, I wonder how many Indians and Native Americans buy tickets to the Landover games.

Maryland’s history includes The Nanticoke, Piscataway, and Susquehannock tribes. Each made its positive mark on the Free State.

It’s high time to stop being offended all the time. We are who we are and should be proud of that. There are so many opportunities out there for everyone. I doubt it will ever occur, but, if it does, would Rome name its new leader the Pope-ess? Or, Holy Mother?

In Potawatomi, Kemo Sabe is a wonderful word meaning “trusty scout” or “faithful friend.” Instead of wringing offended hands, think about being either or both.

As the old saw is remembered, “call me anything; just don’t call me late for dinner – or payday.”

This column appeared in Feb. 15, 2013

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Bryan Porter’s Race to Reduce Crime

By Harry M. Covert

In one of the more memorable trials in Alexandria’s Circuit Court the young lawyer was making his first major murder prosecution.  In a dignified blue business suit, power tie and sporting new cufflinks he cut the figure of a veteran trial lawyer.

On that date, the Virginia courtroom was filled to capacity.  When asked if prosecutor and defense attorney were ready Bryan Porter stood eagerly and in a firm voice answered “Yes, Your Honor”.  If there was any anxiety it wasn’t seen this day in the Franklin P. Backus Courthouse on King Street.

The former Alexandria police officer presented the case for the Commonwealth with fact after undisputed fact. Following a brief lunch break it was rather obvious the local defendant was going to be on the losing end. He was, too, and sent to a long time penitentiary sentence.

While Porter was all business he broke out into a nice smile.  His success wasn’t spoiled amid the handshakes and congratulations.

From that time, Porter has tried some 800 felony cases, many misdemeanors and handles most of the murder and violent crime cases before the Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office.

On Saturday past, Feb. 9, Bryan Porter threw a big party in Del Ray’s Pork Barrel restaurant to announce his candidacy for the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney. S. Randolph Sengel, longtime chief prosecutor, will retire from the office he’s held for three decades. His term ends at the end of the year.

Porter praised Sengel for his leadership. “The city is losing a sterling public official.”

He pledged if elected, “you’ll elect someone who believes in protecting the people. I give my word to prosecute with humility. And I will vigorously work to have policies that reduce crime.”

Bryan wondered if he’d have a crowd. He was more than pleased. The turnout was about 500, including Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, Mayor Bill Euille, new Vice Mayor Alison Silverberg, City Council members Justin Wilson, Del Pepper, Tim Lovain and John Alexander. Delegate Rob Krupicka, a former councilman, was also joined by Dak Hardwick, chairman of the Alexandria Democratic Committee.

Joining the local throng were many local business leaders and Benjamin Katz of the Virginia Attorney General’s office. He is a former prosecutor in Alexandria.

Sheriff Lawhorne will be campaigning for reelection as Porter seeks his first time in the Nov. 5 election.

Sengel has been one of the most influential political leaders in the city and state and will be a major player in the coming race.

“Bryan is an excellent trial attorney,” Sengel said. “He’s lived the life of law enforcement and has been blessed to work with our staff of high standards.”

Lawhorne will be seeking his third four-year term as sheriff. He is considered the most popular and most effective sheriff in the city’s history. He praised Bryan and his family. “John and Bonnie Porter taught their family great values and they live those values.” Bryan’s brother Scott is an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington.

For the occasion, Porter also donned a business suit. It was evident he was ready for the political business.

This column appeared in the issue of Feb. 14-21, 2013.