Is Lee McCullum’s death part of pattern of abuse in this country?

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon

While I realize that I am not a star blogger and my reach may not be great, some of you who have read my blogs may notice a pattern; I call a lot of things abuse. I suppose that if I was looking in at me, the blogger, I might invoke the phrase “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

To me abuse is what other people would call injustice. Or unconstitutional behavior. The link I see is between these various types of “abuse” is that all of these horrible phenomena, domestic violence, the killing of unarmed young black men, child abuse, etc. is that in each case, there is a psychopath or sociopath who is illegally pushing their agenda, destroying someone’s life, terrororizing men women and children, taking people’s choices away from them and really emulating dictators like Qadafi and Assad, even if they only control a household. Having these little fascist empires in our country, if you open your eyes to the reality, is enough to make any real American’s blood boil.
Understanding this I can only make a case that I think is important to make, both for people who consider the effects of injustice and also those who may be less concerned about protecting people at risk who are the victims of these psychopaths and sociopaths. Those who are less concerned, in my opinion, are having their society and economy destroyed by the collateral effects of social issues in our country that end up costing us in terms of social instability, crime, and a number of other problems that cost us money and promote the deterioration our society.
So what does Lee McCullum’s death have to do with abuse and your society and your pocket book? First, if you haven’t heard about the Chicagoland incident, McCullum was a young black man in Chicago who was featured in a CNN documentary. Involved in gang activity and homeless for quite a while, McCullum tried to turn his life around by throwing himself into his studies and his improving his grades. The result was the he was voted prom king and was accepted to a university that he never was able to attend.
The fact that Lee became a target because he wanted to change his life cuts right to basis of what Abuse is. I will ask you to imagine, as an example, a woman who is in a domestic abuse situation. She is subject to a situation that flies in the face of what we say our country is. She is not able to make her own decisions and she is subject to terror and threats of death if she exercises her constitutional rights. I bring this up because I know that most of you will accept this situation as an abusive situation. McCullum is weak in the face of enemies who are able to control his life and, in the end his death; it’s their decision, not his.

For some of you the idea that Lee McCullum is a black man in a violent city is the whole story and it ends there. I have to wonder if some people might see this as the outcome of already bad situation: a damaged city and damaged neighborhood that is pretty much standard for the inner city. In other words, people who are cursed by having the bad luck or bad sense to be part of a poor minority in a bad place. End of story. Not our problem and not something that we can be asked to worry about. It’s such a big entrenched problem, how could anyone possibly be asked to consider it a social issue that can effectively be addressed. Easier to attack problems like the deterioration of American Eagle Habitats; Eagles don’t have gangs and drugs.
I will continue to assert that our constitution and our culture does not allow for these “they asked for it” conclusions that seems to mass around abuse issues like flies. No one asks for these things to happen. And I they don’t, they deserve our support and protection. That it has become “institutionalized” in the form of a criminal society such as a gang, in this case, doesn’t justify it.

Lee McCullum had dreams which, from the word go, should have caused us to jump on the bandwagon. This is not just about a disadvantaged black youth who tried to pull himself up by his bootstrap. This is a story about an American who wanted to get himself together and go to college. And, as little as some people would like to consider it, he wanted to live. Not jumping on that bandwagon and allowing this to happen over and over again is part of our path to ruin. It is tacit support of abuse and terrorism at its most fundamental level.
Do our bold words in the bill of rights serve as a nice talking point but become inconvenient when we are called to act on them? For those who really don’t care I will offer up these facts. Hundreds of domestic violence victims die at the hand of their abusers each year. This from the Huffington Post: “Black Americans are four times more likely to be murdered than the national average. What’s more, four out of five black homicide victims are killed with guns.” Adult survivors of sexual abuse run into more than 40 million in number in this country.

Really don’t care? The ACES study and other studies document a striking connection between even relatively mild negative childhood experiences with crime and incarceration. There have also been a surprising number of studies that deal with prison populations; these studies show a major connection between adult criminals being in prison and child abuse. So the behemoth prison population that we have in this country and we all pay an immense amount for, is likely driven by pointless abuse in childhood. While not as well documented, the depression, mental and physical problems that are part and parcel of the collateral damage of any form of abuse and neglect, costs us dearly in the form of disability payments, insurance, and decreased productivity in the job force. While not measurable, I can’t help but wonder what Einsteins and Teslas have been lost to us through this senseless destruction of human beings in abusive situations.
Back to Lee McCullum, who will never have a chance to make another choice about his life, I don’t see gang tats and videos. I see Lee’s parents depressed and helpless. I see children and adults walking scared in their own neighborhoods, a perfect manifestation of hopelessness filling their minds in the form of Lee’s death. I see his daughter growing up without him, knowing that power and terror won the day and ruined her life. I see that people will see that no one cares enough to intervene. Abuse won the day Lee and his girlfriend were killed and what makes it worse is that he knew it was coming, as unstoppable as an avalanche. Can you blame some people for not embracing the American dream and sharing your flag waving enthusiasm for the boot-strap theory, the Horatio Alger story?


Suck it up: Blog Version 2

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon


A while back I wrote a blog called Suck it up. The blog can be seen here.

Why would I revisit the same blog. As we write, we learn. The original blog was important for me in that it pitted me as a writer against the idea of weakness. As Americans, especially as males, we are taught to suck it up. It’s a fierce and indomitable force in male psychology.

But what is lost through abuse? It’s life. When you get beyond the original damage, damage that is not a choice but is a programmed reaction to certain experiences as infants and children, you get to the crime: the theft of the living of life on a level playing field. If life is difficult enough, wearing a yoke of stone that prevents you from seeing the world clearly simply makes the task of daily life much like treading water.


For those of us who are the victims of abuse of any kind, there is always a temptation to find a way to muscle our way out of the demons that eat at our soul. “Muscle” is a perfect word because you are always supposed to be able to find a way to overcome your fears and the obstacles to living up to your full potential by punching your way out of the box you’re in; it’s part of our heritage to be “warriors”. The sad part is muscling is the last thing that you need to do. To understand what you are trying to “suck up” is really the key.

What the original blog discusses that is important, important for abuse victims and the purveyors of the “suck it up” mentality, is that we are not, by nature, glorious warriors who gird their loins and go into battle. As babies we are empty vessels who respond to a specific set of actions by adults. What that means is NOT that if you are genetically weak in some way that you will be adversely affected by less than optimal parenting. It means that the equipment you are given as an infant will create issues immediately and in later life if you are not nurtured correctly. This is not an issue of character or “good upbringing” but a biologically programmed reaction.

This will upset many people who would like to think of humans as the masters of our own destiny but it shouldn’t. In the long run, we are masters of our own destiny. But what happens in the case of children lacking decent care as babies is what is called “failure to thrive”. Babies don’t and can’t decide to have this happen in a fit of weakness; their perceptual abilities are not up to the task of making that kind of decision. And what occurs over time are symptoms such as a predilection for substance abuse, health issues, a tendency toward involvement in crime and recidivism. What is worst of all is that many of these horrors are based on an altered perception that comes with a failure to thrive. I’ve come to call this perception “shit colored glasses”.


And here is where the rubber definitely meets the road. If you have a synthetically produced perception of failure, persecution, paranoia, etc that follows you around and refuses to exit the premises, you will approach every situation, new and old, with all those monkey’s on you back. The horrible kicker is that, more often than not, these perception are not seen as “wrong” but normal. If reality is an internal trench war, then how can you see your way clear to “the light” that people speak so freely about? The deck is stacked against you and you aren’t fully aware it’s happening.

So why a second version of this blog? After all, I could have written a new one J. What has become obvious to me is that all types of abuse, and there are many of them, result in this same long term live in demons. Some people can get past this…to some extent, but there is always wrestling with damaged perception.


What brought this to my attention and, perhaps a more critical reason to re-write this blog, is my particular form of abuse. Not having experienced one of the more sensationalistic forms of abuse, I had myself convinced that what I had experienced was not abuse, just perhaps some bad parenting that could be ignored with enough sucking it up. The problem is that my life has been characterized by a rather rabid desire to avoid just about anything positive that wasn’t absolutely necessary even if it meant a sub-standard life. No risks, no noticeable achievements, being trapped in dead end jobs, staying in toxic situations long after it was obvious it was time to go. A life controlled by fear and ruled by the hope that nothing threatening would happen to me, ever. All this was a trade off for a false sense of safety which became my holy grai. From certain points of view a silly, unworthy life.

And, more to the point, there has been a sort of odd “fog” that has characterized my perception since I was a child. The fog itself has helped block any sense of initiative or ambition and also has kept me anesthetized from a sort of a knee jerk anxiety that is always present. Lacing the fog is an insidious “fear” of getting shafted. The creepy thing about this fear is that, more often than not, there has always been a real-life manifestation of the “threat” actually appearing in the form of hostile or neglectful figures in my life. Over and over again.


I don’t feel sorry for myself. But that last part is the creepiest part; I am not one for mysticism. And yet, like many people I have encountered the same “people” and “situations” over and over again with enough variation to initially convince me that history isn’t repeating itself, at least at the beginning. This underscores the power of the “shit-colored glasses” to do an incredibly effective job keeping you off balance and ruining your life.

The result of living this kind of life is a loss of life. At the age of 57 I can definitely attest to the fact that I have lost ground that I will never regain. And I mourn the losses that coming generation will experience; that is the reason to blog and to keep beating the drum, not matter what. As I often do, I dwell on the sadness of what is lost by quoting a poem that puts the experience into perspective. It’s the poem “Maud Muller” by John Greenleaf Whittier. The quote is as follows:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”


Protect.org needs your help to stop child abuse!

Here’s the latest news roundup from PROTECT.

Victories in Wisconsin and Maryland!

If you follow us on social media, you might have heard already about our two most recent victories for children.

In Wisconsin, our Alicia’s Law bill dedicates new state funding for the law enforcement units that fight child sexual exploitation. It also established a limited “administrative subpoena,” which streamlines the process when police ask Internet service providers to tell them who owns an account seen trafficking in child rape imagery. Every minute matters when children are being hurt.

Both provisions drew powerful opposition behind the scenes, forcing PROTECT to go into the studio to cut a hard-hitting radio ad. We just shouldn’t have to fight this hard to protect children.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signs Alicia’s Law.

In the end our opponents stepped aside and allowed a vote. This victory will result in more agents tracking predators, more arrests, and more children rescued. Special thanks to Attorney General Brad Schimel, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, and Senator Van Wanggaard.

In Maryland, PROTECT also won a major victory, securing $2 million in new annual funding for the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. We couldn’t have done it without our champion sponsors, Del. Brooke Lierman and Sen. Susan Lee.

Next Up, South Carolina …

PROTECT is now working at the State House in South Carolina to pass Alicia’s Law there. Our bill to step up funding for child rescue recently passed the House, but it has stalled in the Senate. We’ll have updates soon.
Remember, all the well-intended laws and compassionate words won’t save children if there is no one there to investigate these crimes and make an arrest. PROTECT is the only organization out there fighting for these child rescue resources.

Here Comes the 100th HERO

Recently, we were proud to see our fifth class of the H.E.R.O. Child-Rescue Corps graduate training and head into the field. Many family members joined the class for a swearing-in ceremony at ICE headquarters in Washington (see photo).

Our sixth class of HEROs has been selected, and it reports for training in August. This summer will see the 100th HERO enter the ranks of the HERO Corps!

If you have not taken a few minutes to watch CNN’s 4-part series on PROTECT and the HERO Corps, we’ve got it up on our website, at www.protect.org/now. Please share these short and powerful videos to help us spread the word.

Building a HERO Together — Challenge Extended!

We’re still trying to reach our goal in the Weiss HERO Challenge. If 100 supporters pitch in $50 or more, the Weiss family has pledged to donate up to $30,000 in matching funds for our 100th HERO. We’re not there yet, and we really don’t want to lose this chance, so the deadline has been extended until tomorrow, May 9. You can donate right here.

Thanks, as always, for your support,

J. Christian


National Association to Protect Children | protect.org
P.O. Box 2187, Knoxville, TN 37901 | (865) 525-0901


An open letter to Kayleigh McEnany. Re: Trump

Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon


This blog will, of course, sound like partisan bellyaching. That is all we can see these days. But there are some underlying realities that transcend political realities. Ignoring these moral values is done at great risk to our nation and our sanity, not to mention the risk to future generations.

Politics has become its own rationale, something that has been driven home time and time again. We all have come to accept some slippage in our moral compass to make our system work. But the advent of Donald Trump as a candidate has changed the game for the worse. By way of explanation, I will point out that what necessitated this blog was one in a long line of CNN recaps featuring Kayleigh McEnany as a Trump surrogate. This particular evening the talking heads got into the inevitable Trump fall from grace on the moral front. Ms. McEnany took issue with the way “the media played up Trump’s bad behavior”; implying that the perception that his behavior as disgusting is an invention of the fourth estate.

With no shame, I will invoke the gold standard to validate my opinions: Would we tolerate our children acting the way that Trump, a 69 year old man, feels it is appropriate to act? It’s important to specify why we spend so much time on evaluating our children’s behavior; it’s based on what we fear they will become. Becoming an ugly human being stunts a child’s ability to form decent relationships and  makes them into someone to avoid. More to the point, we hope that our children will bring our values into the the next generation so we don’t have to consider a morally bankrupt future for our nation. It’s been easy to ignore this possibility in the face of political pragmatism.

I take issue with Ms. McEnany’s attack on the media. Trump’s behavior is legendary and certainly on the outer edge of the spectrum. Regardless of whether Mitch McConnel is a lousy republican and Hillary is seen as dishonest, having a president that might piss off foreign foreign dignitaries, alienate us from our aliies, teach our children that thoughless aggression is useful and resides on the moral high ground or ignore the constitution is not something that isn’t equally dangerous, perhaps more. Again, imagine the horror you would experience if your children went to school and acted like Donald Trump, something that his parents obviously had to experience, necessitating his entry into Military academy.  There are repeated allegations of violence with his first wife and some clear business improprieties that Trump doesn’t even bother to deny. By themselves, those two issues imply that Trump is less likely to deliver on his promises than most people would like to admit. In fact, considering his lack of morals and his privileged status, I’d say that he has almost NO motivation to deliver on anything. Why would he bother?

Donald Trump, in my opinion, has issues that are serious; if he was in any other position than industrial celebrity people would questions his fitness for any position of responsibility. His childhood is full of nastiness and discipline problems and it seems he’s learned very little since then. Many will attribute this to “New York Values” which I have reason to object to. I grew up with values I consider positive and I grew up perhaps seven miles from where Donald Trump did. His values may have spring-boarded from things he learned from his parents but it’s clear that he has developed his own set of what I would like to call anti-values that aren’t based on thoughtful consideration or any respectable standard we’d use to evaluate our children’s behavior.

This has been deemed ignorable by many for some questionable reasons. I am not a Republican but I can easily understand the frustration with Washington; the two party system, both sides, has been a dismal failure for years. And it is certainly true that Trump has tapped a valid vein of frustration in the GOP; if that wasn’t true he wouldn’t have been so successful in the primaries and caucuses. And my experience with partisan politics makes me understand the need to block Hillary from becoming president from a GOP point of view (though I don’t support this assertion).

And that leaves us with the big question: is it okay to ignore important standards for political fitness for the sake of winning an election. It is clear that Donald Trump’s connection with the constitution is disturbingly tenuous. Ignoring this for the sake of getting elected is like saying that it is no longer important that we be Americans, something that has taken on unfortunate currency lately. In my opinion, it is not acceptable under any circumstances. We pass on the constitution at our own peril. And, if I have to explain that you, you need to go back to school and read foreign history.

What surprises me about Kayleigh McEnany is that, until recently, she has been the most honest and civilized of Trump’s surrogates. She has openly criticized some of his worse behavior and admitted that his choices have not always been correct. In the end, I fear that the pressure of ambition and expectations eventually wears downs one’s wisdom and, more important, judgement. While I can see that the possible failure of the work you’ve been doing for a year would be devastating, you can’t just throw up your hands and say that things that are important are not important, especially when the lives of millions of people are affected.

I suppose that getting Kayleigh McEnany to consider this would be much like getting Donald Trump to consider morality and constitutional law, something that is unlikely. But that just suggests to me that both these people are beyond the realm of self-reflection and thoughtful consideration. These are not the type of people I want babysitting my grandchildren and I don’t want them running my country.



Review of “The Olympus Project” by Ted Taylor


This book is unique; I have never read another like it. I will have to begin by saying that the book is entertaining, full of action and intriguing, so it passes the “good read” test that guides readers throughout the world. The reason that it is unique is that it combines several elements that normally don’t belong together in the standard book universe.

Taylor begins the book with the disturbing portrayal of a man on the edge of death. The expectation is that that the entire book will be filled with the cliff-hanger violence. The book surprises immediately in a rapid shift into a James Bond style upper crust avenger premise, complete with a secret society that functions under the radar. While it would be logical to think that this is where the plot would rest, we are surprised again; our protagonist, Colin Bailey, does not pit himself against an over the top mega villains who could never exist. Colin Baily is a an avenger in the true sense, part of a secret organization whose business is avenging and ridding the world of pure, real evil in the U.K.

Colin and his compatriots are trained researchers, interrogation experts, hackers, analysts and, as Colin is himself, assassins. The end game for the Olympus project, as the society is called, is the destruction of the highest level abuse and senseless violence. It seems to be more than a coincidence that the majority of Colin’s “direct action” assignments involve the dispatch of irredeemable sexual predators.

This book is the first in a series. I look forward to the next three (and one more is being written as this review is published) mostly because I know that, in addition to being a “good read”, there will a message and substance to the sequels. I will guess that the latter is something that must have occurred the Mr. Taylor when he wrote “The Olympus Project”.

For those of you who want a good read but also a bit more in your precious reading time, “The Olympus Project” is a major find.



Review of “Old Habits” By Elizabeth Horton Newton.

Twisted Tales 15LitLiesEpicYarnsFINALNeil Newton: Blogger and author of the novel “The Railroad” on Amazon.com

This story is part of an international collection of short stories with the appropriate title “Twisted Tails”. I approached this story with some apprehension, not being a fan of horror. I was pleasantly surprised. One of the very strong aspects of the story that makes it hang together as a true short story, rather than the common splatter fare featuring serial killers, is the portrayal of the main character, Gaunt Thibedeaux, as a highly developed human being. Adding to this is another dimension that makes the character authentic: a small, timeless, sleepy town, full of good American values that is the backdrop for Gaunt’s less than American activities.
Gaunt begins life in less than ideal circumstances. Mother is a lonely alcoholic who spreads the bounty of her misery as much as possible. Gaunt, like many children, is a bed wetter. Mother does her best to make Gaunt feel responsible for his problem, calling his a “pissy baby” and throwing his urine soaked sheets in his face. In the afternoon, Gaunt is met by the sight of his superman sheets hanging conspicuously from the clothesline on the front lawn.
The day that Gaunt’s mother is found dead on the kitchen floor, his life improves as he’s sent to live with his relatives. Despite the reprieve from his awful circumstances, Gaunt retains some of the values he inherited from his mother. It is not long before those values manifest themselves as conspicuously as his superman sheets on his mother’s front lawn.
What Gaunt takes from his mother is an intolerance for weakness. It works its way into his psyche until he no longer knows why it’s there. We first see the consequences of his mother’s upbringing when he encounters a girl at school who is consistently and cruelly bullied. One hot, sunny day, Gaunt spies the girls as she goes by, being hounded by bullies. As she runs away, hiding beneath a river bridge, Gaunt follows. When he catches up with her he is uncommonly curious as to why she allowed the bullies to abuse her.
He asks her once. And by the second time he asks her he smashes a bottle of soda against the side of her head.
It will not surprise anyone that Gaunt continues his important Darwinian task of weeding out the weak. That is the nature of a serial killer. Another unique element of this story and one that makes him fascinating is that the story follows him throughout his life, making him more than a one dimensional character as many serial killers are. While disturbing and macabre, Gaunt Thibedeaux is, while not a sympathetic character, one whose fate becomes important to us, beyond the initial base thrill of his awful acts.
This is an excellently written story, underpinned by an epic small town ghost story feeling; you can easily see future inhabitants of his small town telling the story of Gaunt Thibedeaux around the fire, long after his death.
I will point out, for the sake of transparency, that the author of this story is my wife. I have always been a fan of her writing, since I met her. I recommend this story and all her writing to readers who want to read quality fiction. (That just bought me at least several days of peace .)


The Taint: a child’s experience with Racism

Neil Newton: Blogger and author of the novel “The Railroad” on Amazon.com

Since I was a kid, talking about race relations has been an uncomfortable thing. I don’t claim to be an expert or an advocate for any political cause. But I did live at a pivotal time in a pivotal place. I think I have a story to tell that describes a sad transformation and a unique chapter in our history.

I grew up in New York City but probably not the New York City most of you would think of. Out on the northeastern edge of the city in Queens there is a small “town” called Bayside. It has been mentioned in perhaps three movies, the most recent being “The Wolf of Wall Street”.


Bayside was once a village on Long Island. Confused? What does Long Island have to do with New York City? For those not familiar with the city, two of its boroughs, Queens and Brooklyn, are actually on Long Island, right across from Manhattan. Before New York City spread its arms out to the east and north, Brooklyn and Queens were simply parts of Long Island. Bayside is no more than seven miles from the Eastern border of the city. Beyond the border is Long Island proper or “The Island” as New Yorkers call it.

Around the time of the march from Selma I was sitting in school in the second grade. In Bayside most of the children were white. But, perhaps not so oddly, there were one or two black children. What is surprising is that there was no conflict between the white and black children. I remember a classmate whose name was Carlos. Sometime during that year Carlos decided that he wanted to be called “Charles”. I remember each of us went up to him and asked him why; we were genuinely curious. He stayed calm and composed, telling all of us that that was what he wanted to be called. No one felt anything more than curiosity; he was just another kid in the class.


Move forward eight years. My mother, an English and drama teacher, was famous In her school for putting on amazing shows, much better than average for the New York City High School system. That year the play was “Brigadoon”. Up on stage a beautiful young woman acted the lead. She had a beautiful voice and was an excellent actress. All in all it seemed like a triumph for both the young woman and my mother.

At intermission, out in the lobby, I watched as the young woman cried, leaning on someone’s shoulder for comfort. I stared at her and wondered what could be bothering someone who obviously had so much going for her. I finally asked my father. He got an odd look on his face.

“There’s something in this country called ‘Taint’,” he told me. “If someone is a little black then they are all black.”

“She doesn’t look black,” I told him.

“I know. But someone knows that either her mother or father is black and is giving her hard time about it.”

I looked at the girl and was completely mystified. I hadn’t learned yet what it all meant  but I would.


Move forward again. A few years later found me in seventh grade. I became friendly with a black female student who happened to sit next to me. We used to laugh at our math teacher. It got so bad that eventually we found that we couldn’t stop laughing and the teacher would yell at us. We’d sit there trying to not to laugh, hoping the teacher would miss it if we started again. The girl, Davita, would have tears rolling down her face. Not an easy thing to hide.

Move forward a few months. Davita comes into class crying. After a few minutes where she spoke quietly to the teacher, we were given the news. Davita was friends with a white female student, someone I was also friends with. It seemed that, over the last few weeks, both girls had been taking heat from both groups of white girls and black girls. Prejudice had spread to everyone. By that point I was older and knew what was happening in New York and probably all over the country. But I didn’t expect it in Junior High School.

Ninth grade` A white girl I had gone to elementary school with heard another friend of ours, a black student, speaking to a friend. We had all been friends when we were little, back at the beginning of this story. With no reason, she told our friend to “go back to Africa”.

I stared at her, wondering where that horror came from. She looked back at me and then turned away. I had the odd feeling that she didn’t even know why she had said what she did.


I am not a crusader. Like most people I have my share of prejudice that I try to squash. I’m in the embarrassing position of quoting “The sound of Music”, a movie I hate with a passion. In the movie is a song called “You’ve Got to be Taught”. It describes how hate is beaten into our heads as children. It is a nauseating song in the context of the movie. But I can’t ignore the prophetic nature of the lyrics; how many people have watched as their relationships crumbled because of conditioning from their parents and their parent’s friends.

The fact is that, as a small child I briefly lived in a world where no one carried the burden of having to hate other people and go out of their way to unnecessarily express that hate. And in a period of ten years it all went to hell. I’m not sure who to blame for this. I guess we all have a hand in it. How sad.