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  • Lunch with a Leader: Leon Mosley

    • Posted on Sep 27, 2016
    This appeared in the Waterloo Courier on Thursday, Sept. 22.  Leon was a great interviewee, and a great man--and a bit scary because he's so honest.  

    Cross Crocodile Dundee, Dirty Harry, Charles Bronson, and you have Leon Mosley.   A vigilante.  

    Yet he’s still a family man, a church-going God-fearing community activist, and an all-around concerned citizen who served on the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors for 16 years.  A Republican, no less.  

    He also served on a variety of volunteer boards all over the country, and was a leading advocate for closing down Waterloo crack houses that were destroying whole neighborhoods.  Call him a responsible vigilante.  

    “I’d go to those houses with my big RCA video camera and get evidence video for the police.  I was gathering documentary reports to help them make arrests.”  

    He became a consultant for several Iowa cities, and well known for his effective drug-fighting activism.  He never took the law into his own hands, never became a one-man army. 
    But don’t threaten him.  “Messing with me is like tickling a bobcat.”  He towered over me, and at 70, looks like he could take down most anyone.  When he gets mad, watch out.   

    “If you see Leon in a fight with a bear, go help the bear”—has been a joke that  tells with delight.   

    “I have a terrible temper,” he told me over lunch. “I get so mad at these bad kids that I have to watch myself.”  He’s been threatened, shot at, and insulted as an “oreo” and “Uncle Tom” because he works well with both whites and Blacks.  
    Afraid?  “Never,” he said.  “I know when I’m right, and I do it.  

    When you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.  You just keep telling the truth.”   

     He certainly has the respect and friendship of both Waterloo Police Chief Trelka
    and Mayor Hart.  “I love both these guys—and want them to succeed.”  His main weapon has been his phone number.  He openly gives it to everyone, and says if they’re afraid to call the police to report lawbreakers, call him—and he’ll report them.  

    That takes plain guts, and the police consider him a valuable crime-fighting partner.   

     Our lunch happened during the Trelka controversy, and I went to Mayor Hart’s news conference that same afternoon, as did Mosely.   It was clear to Mosely that community support (including his own) had affected the Mayor, and Mosely was pleased. 

     “He did the right thing, which only makes sense.  Problems of respect for the police started long before Trelka took over, and Trelka’s been doing his best to fix it.”  

    For Mosley, community crime problems begin at home.  Too many parents have given up raising their children, and that infuriates him.  “Kids are raising each other on the streets.  No parents or teachers they respect.  They end up in jail or prison.” 

    Just the week before, he visited the Cattle Congress, and a group of junior high schoolers—mostly girls, were at the grounds violently fighting among themselves. 

    The next night, they shut down the entire Cattle Congress grounds due to kids fighting among themselves, menacing visitors. “They’re not really gangs—just young teen girls—all Black—fighting each other,” Mosely observed.  

     “The police were there in two minutes, breaking them up, but I don’t think they did much.  Probably should have arrested them.”   

    To Mosley, these kids needed a “good whoopin’” meaning just what he got as a kid when he made trouble. “My father whacked me good with a paddle, and I knew I deserved it.  That’s how I learned respect.” 

    “When they made corporal punishment illegal, that’s when problems started,” he insists, “But I know we can’t do that now. We have to find other solutions.” 

    Unfortunately, those solutions elude him.  “I really don’t know how to make families more responsible. I can only report what I see and try to help.”  

    I asked what keeps him going, given all the threats and criticism.  

    “I learned a motto from my father,” he said.  “If you don’t know what’s worth dying for, you haven’t lived.”   Making the community “safe for the good kids” is worth dying for, he says, and he means it. 

    “Really, it’s the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of our kids are fine, but we spend all our time dealing with problem kids.” 

    So what would cause real change. “I thought when kids get killed
    on the street by other kids we’d wake up.  That happened, but still nothing changed.”  

    He’s sure that two hundred young witnesses watched a murder on Airline Highway and not one came forward.  “We have to change that, and I’m doing what I can.” 

    If more responsible citizens would routinely report crime and criminal activities, everything would in fact change for the better.   

    Leon Mosley has shown the way.  



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    • Personalities
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
  • What Really Matters?

    • Posted on Jun 21, 2015
    This morning's (Sunday 6-21) Courier column--about what really matters.   Not 
    an easy subject, given the shock we've suffered this week--and I'm in Charleston (my second home city) right now, struggling with the unvarnished reality of race hatred that led to the cold-blooded murders of nine Charlestonians in their church.    

    Still, the idea that there's a larger reality that really matters is what's helping people get through that hatred and move toward healing.   

    Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, wrote Gershwin.  It’s true, at least 
    when summer vacations roll around and beaches and mountains loom.   
    Time for a change of scene, for easy relaxing and pondering.  

     Ponder what, you ask?   

    What really matters, that’s what.  It’s the best all-around question to ponder during those days without deadlines and pressures. 

     Everyone will answer it differently.  

     Winning matters hugely for some, meaning being first and best at everything.  The competitors, we might call them.  

     Others spend serious time finding and nurturing a soul-mate, a love of their life, and that’s what matters most to them.  They’re romantics, bless their moonstricken hearts.   

     Fame, for others, so that everyone notices them, seeks them out, makes them the center of attention.   “Look at me!” their lives seem to say, and cameras beckon to them like moths to flame.  They’re narcissists, and they’re everywhere these days. 

     Wealth, for still others, so that they never have to deny themselves a new Luxemobile, a granite-countered house, a fast boat, a perfect vacation.  They’re high-enders who seek big bucks.  

     For still others, friendships, near and far, supportive and intimate. They spend hours cultivating friendships, lunching, writing, catching up on social media.

     They delight in lending a hand or shoulder to those they’ve gotten to know, love to be
    counted upon for favors, and seek to maintain old friendships.  They’re our friends, and thank heavens for them. 

     We all belong to some of these groups, and derive satisfaction from the undeniable benefits that each provides. 

     So, is that all?  Once you’re winning, famous, rich, soul-mated, and surrounded by friends, have you found everything that matters?  Does your happiness at that point know no bounds? 

     Alas, no. We all know such seemingly fulfilled people who still rely on therapists and happy pills to calm their frayed nerves.  They’re still seeking something that really matters.   

     And what might that be?    

     Dylan’s 1979 song “You gotta Serve Somebody” points toward it:  
    "You may be an ambassador to England or France
    You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
    You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
    You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
    But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You're gonna have to serve somebody,
    It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you're gonna have to serve somebody."

     As Trish, the character who tries to commit suicide in that great film “Educating Rita” laments, “I’m not enough.”   

     If you live for furthering yourself and meeting your needs only, you’re headed for disappointment and suffering.   Truth be told, none of us are the complete center of anything.  Our egos don’t really matter. 

     Realizing this amounts to growing up, and the sooner the better.  

     This is not easy, especially with our little digital screens tempting us to believe that we are the center of everything. 

     Granted, a strong, confident self does help you succeed. But that’s not what really matters.   

     Religious folks get at what really matters through worship, faith in some supernatural power, and prayer.  

     Non-religious folks do it through wonder, curiosity, contemplation, and seeking enlightenment through in-depth awareness.  

     I’m among the non-religious, and have found what really matters is a spiritual path that’s stimulating, endlessly challenging, and ultimately satisfying. 

     If you like pondering what really matters this summer, and you’re leaning toward the non-religious, let me suggest two books I’ve found helpful:  Tara Brach’s 2005 “Radical Acceptance” and her more recent “True Refuge.”  She’s a clinical psychologist and an American Buddhist teacher who has been pondering what matters for 35 years.   

     If you’re curious and open to new approaches, these books make perfect summer reading. 

     I can’t imagine a summer without spending daily time seeking and pondering.  
    That’s what really matters. 

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    • Religiosity
    • Conservatives/Liberals
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