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The Official Blog of The Reluctant Blogger

Welcome to the official website of both author Ryan Rapier, and his debut novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, a story about family, faith, relationships…and other things that can lead to therapy.

Author Carol Lynn Pearson calls THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, “A delightful gift from a skilled writer and insightful observer of life in Mormondom. THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER invites us to the high and holy calling of laughing at ourselves and loving ourselves pretty much at the same time. Highly Recommended!

Eric Samuelsen, playwrite and former president of the Association of Mormon Letters, exclaims, “Man, I liked this book. [It’s] Warm and human and real. I read it in one afternoon. I just couldn’t put it down.”

Get a copy today wherever LDS books are available or by clicking on the links to internet retailers located on the right hand side of this blog.

WARNING: While this blog is the official blog of author, Ryan Rapier, the postings located below do not necessarily focus entirely on his book nor on writing in general. Topics below can range from politics to sports to family life minutiae to…whatever random subject might be on the author’s mind. If you are looking for helpful hints on writing, reviews of other author’s works or anything else in between, there is a large potential for disappointment.

I Think I’m Having A Red Stroke

Today might be described as a bloglet post.

I don’t intend for it to be very long, but my gripe will require a little more space than a typical Facebook post would allow for. With that said, here we go:

Is there a bigger ego out there than Garth Brooks? I realize the irony of this question in light of the recent Presidential election. But seriously, if you boil it down, I think ego-wise Mr. Trump and Mr. Brooks are fairly competitive. The major difference would be…at least Donald Trump acknowledges his ego. Mr. Brooks would rather try to hide his in this treacly sweet faux-humility that makes me want to vomit.

So where is this coming from you might ask? Well, it’s Christmas time again AND it has been a few years so it must be time for another box set of Garth Brooks music. You know the ones I’m talking about. The collections that contain multiple disks, can only be purchased at one store, contain hits from days gone by as well as other music he’s already released before, sprinkled with the occasional new song you can’t get anywhere else, and all slickly packaged with Mr. Brooks on the front in some newly designed pose that always manages to require him to not smile and look like he’s constipated.

Don’t get me wrong. Back in the day I was a huge Garth Brooks fan. To this day I can still rattle off a number of songs that I truly enjoy: Wolves, In Lonesome Dove, What She’s Doing Now, The River, American Honky Tonk Bar Association, etc., etc., etc. The dude can sing. I am not debating that in the least.

But seriously, is there an artist alive and still producing music today who has bilked, swindled and taken advantage of their fan base more than Garth Brooks?

He won’t release his music on iTunes because he claims he feels so strongly about the importance of the album experience versus individual songs taken out of context. Hmmm…well that’s handy. I mean, heaven forbid you allow people to purchase just the two songs that will be available only on Target’s Ultimate Collection this year because they won’t be able to enjoy them in the context of their album. Except…THERE IS NO ALBUM THEY BELONG ON!!! They are two songs thrown into this collection just so Target can force you to purchase it from them, right now, if you want to have them. So, if you do the math, instead of allowing his fans to download those two songs for $1.29 each, he is going to force everyone to pay $15 each so that they can own these two priceless tunes…along with 77 other songs they don’t necessarily want, or that they already own. Now there’s a guy who loves his fan base, let me tell you.

And furthermore, if “the album experience” is so sacrosanct, how come Mr. Brooks released a different boxed set (he has released five, along with four compilation albums since the mid ’90s) called The Limited Series back in 1998 which basically was just a box set of each of his previously released albums with a single new song wedged onto to each disc for a total of six new songs not available for purchase any other way?

I personally bought my last Garth Brooks album back in college. It was called In Pieces. I still think it’s his strongest stand alone album bar none. Unfortunately, I lost it many years ago, long before I owned an iPod. Every once in a while, I’ll hear one of his tunes on the radio and think, “Man, I would love to download some of those old Garth Brooks songs.” Except, I can’t. And I absolutely refuse to pay upwards of fifty bucks just so I can get five or six songs that I’ll probably remember with fondness for about two weeks and then delete them from my iPod because I’m on to something new.

So here’s to you, Mr. Garth Brooks. While others are actively claiming that they hope the other ego maniac fails, I’m gonna forego that and instead make my declaration that I hope you fail. I hope your new album fails and I hope your new boxed set fails. You have more money than God (To be clear, I personally don’t believe God has a need for money so this statement is obviously for shock value and sarcastic imagery only) so it’s not like you’ll be hurting. And the sooner you go away, the sooner I don’t have to see fifteen hundred Facebook posts of you crying about your Mom on Good Morning America. That raw emotion shtick of yours stopped working for me decades ago.

Instead, if I want a good stroll down memory lane with a classic country tune, I’ll go with The Man. Because every single one of George Strait’s classic hits is available on iTunes…and there’s not a big ol’ box with his gastrically backed-up mug on it anywhere in sight.

Disclaimer: To those who might be offended by my aggressive language, I apologize for the ferocity of this post. But to be honest, my animosity towards Mr. Brooks on this subject has been building for decades. Nevertheless, if I have truly caused offense with my tone, I apologize.

Thank God I’m A Country Boy

On election night earlier this month, a lot of people were shocked and stunned at the outcome playing out before their eyes. And as a very outspoken critic of Mr. Trump, no one could have been more surprised than I. However, I was deeply saddened to see the way certain individual’s frustrations began to manifest themselves. For instance, I was most disappointed to read about a tweet from former Saturday Night Live cast member, Taran Killam, which read:

“Rural = So Stupid”

Of course, as is the way of our world today, (unless of course you actually ARE Mr. Trump) Mr. Killam recognized that some damage control was in order and tried to non-apologize his way out of the mess he’d created. That didn’t work either and the next morning he offered an actual apology that allowed the vast majority of Americans who had never heard of Mr. Killam before to quickly forget him and move on.

But his statement is one that has been echoed repeatedly in the days since. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t stated with quite so heavy a hand, but it’s there. It’s there in every argument against the electoral college. It’s there in every reference to the uneducated whites who voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump. In the minds of many who live in our largest cities, the rural white American voter is stupid and therefore untrustworthy of having the vote.

Well, as a white American who lives in rural Arizona, I take exception to this way of thinking. Because first, as has been pointed out many times, we live in a representative republic, not a democracy, and therefore the electoral college makes perfect sense. And second, there is much about who I am that I owe to being raised in rural America. Things I like. Things I hold dear. And so, in honor of Thanksgiving this week, I am going to share a list of things I am thankful for that I owe to my rural upbringing and my current rural existence.

I am thankful I know how to work – My grandfather was a rancher and my father was a copper miner and a mechanic before his retirement. By the time I was 12 years old, my summer vacations consisted of getting up early and working eight hours a day on the four acres my father owned, at the rental properties my parents purchased for the express purpose of having something for their sons to work on, or on the farm surrounding our property that was owned for a short time by my mother’s father. When I turned 16, I went to work for a local farmer chopping the weeds out of his cotton fields from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. everyday, only to come home and then get to work on the chores my father had for me. At 14, my brother started running his own Sno-Cone business on the small main street of the town where we lived. That may not sound too bad except that he was required to get himself to and from work on his bike, sometimes carrying jugs of flavored syrup on the handlebars. By the way, we lived seven miles from town. I don’t share this to impress anyone, because the truth is, most kids who grew up where I did in the 1980s had similar experiences. It was called life. But oh, how thankful I am for those experiences. Today, I know the value of work. I know how to accomplish things. And I owe that to my parents and the opportunities afforded me by living in a rural area.

I am thankful for the power of community – While attending Arizona State University and for several years after, my wife and I lived in the east valley of the Phoenix Metropolitan area. I enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed the varied entertainment, culinary and cultural opportunities available to us. I enjoyed some very close relationships with good neighbors. But at the end of the day, I never experienced anything living in the city like I did this past Labor Day. On that magical Monday morning, over 50 individuals gathered to help an older couple in need of a new roof. No one was paid, no reward was offered and no press coverage was provided. I recognize what happened was partly due to the religious culture of which I’m a part, but during my time in the city, I never saw anything like this. It felt like a barn raising from days gone by. And I felt privileged to have been a part of it and more importantly, to have my son be a part of it. I know this is a generalized statement that could easily be argued, but I believe people care about their neighbors more in rural communities. Not just the neighbors next door, but ALL of their neighbors in town. Yes, that sometimes means that people are way too involved in each other’s business and yes, reputations are hard to change when everyone remembers what you were like as a teenager. But the support and love that manifests itself on a regular basis in the small town where I live is something you can’t understand until you’ve been a part of it.

I am thankful for religion – According to Gallup, rural America is simply more religious than urban America. By a significant amount. Reasons for this definitely include the lack of other cultural focal points for communities to rally around, thus making “the church” more influential. But whatever the reasons, I don’t care. I am aware of the failings of organized Christianity in America today. I know that religious dogma changes more slowly and allows for ideas that have lost their validity to hold on longer than they should. But here is what I also know. The positives religion provides to children, specifically my children, is immeasurable. I attended a meeting several weeks ago with my wife and my daughter that was specifically for girls aged 12-18 and their parents. The messages weren’t focused on women being subservient to men, or that girls should forego their dreams in order to take their rightful place in the home. Maybe those ideas are still being preached somewhere, but they weren’t being preached there. Instead, we were taught the importance of doing Simple Acts Of Kindness everyday. Now think about that for a minute. What if every teenager in America was having that kind of idea reinforced constantly, not just by their parents, but by a variety of adults who serve as role models. Wouldn’t our country be a better place? I suppose some might argue that such a notion is debatable. I, however, humbly but fervently disagree.

I am thankful for country – Regardless of how bad I might feel my life is at any given moment, I must recognize one thing; I am an American in 2016. The reality of that statement means that I am truly one of the 1%. If you take every human being that has lived since the dawn of time, I have it better than >99% of them ever had it or currently have it. I know that might not necessarily be true for every person living in America today, but it is for a vast majority. Unfortunately, in our zeal as a nation to address the inadequacies of our communities and culture, we sometimes forget how good America truly is. Patriotism on college campuses is often ridiculed. City celebrations, other than firework displays that are beautiful but don’t mention anything of our nation’s heritage, are almost forgotten…except in rural America. Here, we gather to remember just how blessed we are to live under a document like the constitution. Yes, some might take that constitution talk to extremes, but because of the constitution, they have the right. Now don’t get me wrong. I know full well that our nation’s history is pockmarked with a glaring number of slights, grievances and downright atrocities towards minorities and women. But so is every institution, culture, religion and society. That doesn’t mean we have to overlook all of the good. And in rural America, we are much less inclined to do so.

I am grateful for manners – This is something that probably doesn’t have so much to do with today’s rural America as it does with my own personal upbringing, but it happened in rural Arizona, so I’m gonna include it. My parents taught me to be politically active. They taught me to get involved and be a problem solver, not a complainer. They also taught me to respect everyone regardless of our differences and that there is a time and a place for disagreement and a time and a place to let disagreements lay dormant. This past weekend, our new vice-president attended a production of the new critically acclaimed Broadway musical, Hamilton. Following the performance, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon took it upon himself to address the vice-president directly and state that he, and many on the stage with him, were part of the community who now feared that the new administration would not protect and uphold their inalienable rights. Mr. Dixon’s statement on its own was not inflammatory. It was a reasoned statement. However, it was horribly mistimed and incredibly ill-mannered. Mr. Dixon’s statement would have been perfectly appropriate if tweeted, Facebooked, recorded as a public service announcement and played on national television or radio. It even would have been appropriate had Mr. Dixon made this statement from the stage at any other performance other than the one in which Mr. Pence attended. I mean, imagine if Mr. Obama had attended a performance at the Grand Ol’ Opry and been subjected to a statement from an artist stating that he or she was part of the community that lives in fear of losing their guns or religious freedoms. There would have been supreme outrage from all across the left leaning spectrum of political thought. Including, in part, from the very people who felt it appropriate to boo Mr. Pence this past weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that Mr. Trump has brought much of this on himself and his administration. During the campaign, he was the epitome of bad manners. But another thing I learned at an early age that I am grateful for is that two wrongs don’t make a right. Now is the time when we need to start listening to each other instead of further degrading the rules of acceptable dialogue. Many on the left want to dismiss rural white America as being racist, misogynist, stupid…the list goes on and on. But they’re missing something. They are missing what rural white America was trying to say.

Now to be fair, not every liberal is missing it. Jon Stewart articulated it very well when he addressed hypocrisy on the left in a recent interview. Paraphrasing, he said that a majority of rural white Americans don’t fear Mexicans or Muslims. What they fear is the insane increases to their health insurance premiums, especially under Obamacare. And that’s true. But it is only one truth. The real issue here is that a lot of people voted for Donald Trump. And the reasons for doing so are as plentiful as the number of individuals who cast their ballot for him.

So, yeah, if you want to get right down to it, white rural Americans had a message for Washington. For each individual person, it wasn’t necessarily the same exact message as the person standing next to them, but at the end of the day, they could all be boiled down to a similar theme.

Don’t forget me. I matter.

It’s the same message every person tried to send on election day. So my suggestion would be; let’s not dismiss and ridicule those who voted differently than we did. Let’s stop calling names and degrading our opponents. And that goes for the winning side as well as the losing side. We should be better than that. Let’s start listening to each other. If enough Americans voted for Trump to elect him president, there must be a reason, and it likely isn’t because they are stupid. If that were the case then you would have to argue that many of those individuals were just as stupid when they voted for Mr. Obama four and eight years ago.

And that last bit of opinion on my part comes from one last thing I am thankful for when it comes to my upbringing in a rural town in Southern Arizona. Good ol’ fashioned logical thinking, otherwise known as common sense. May we take this Thanksgiving weekend and apply some in our own lives and then allow it to permeate our relationships with everyone else we come in contact with. And as a final prayer: please, God, let it happen especially on Facebook.

The Legend of Stars Hollow

Well, if you got the reference in the title then you are probably well aware of what today is. If you didn’t get the reference, then one; you are not a true Gilmore Girls fan, and two; you probably didn’t know nor possibly care that the long awaited reunion…season?…mini-series?…whatever, of Gilmore Girls is now available on Netflix today. It’s a big deal. And if you don’t understand why, then you should make yourself sit down, get a big ol’ bowl of popcorn and start watching this show from episode one, season one, so that you can get to know the fabulous folks from Stars Hollow.

Now I know what you’re thinking. This writer’s a guy, right? Yes, I’m a guy. And probably like most other guys who have watched this show, I was drug into the experience somewhat grudgingly. But boy, was I surprised how much I enjoyed it and how much of a fan I would become. So thanks, Amy Rapier. I only hope you enjoyed keeping up your end of our bargain by watching Lost as much as I enjoyed keeping up mine.

Anyway, in honor of the four new episodes now available for streaming (which I have not yet seen) I wanted to provide my Top 5 List of Best Things About Gilmore Girls and my Top 5 List of Worst Things About Gilmore Girls. And since it is amazing how much the two lists intersect, I will present them simultaneously starting with number 5 from each list and proceeding upwards in the same manner. So, without further ado…

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #5: The Eccentric Secondary Characters

mrs-kim

Whether it was the insanely devout Korean Christian, Mrs. Kim, who ran an antique store and was mother to Rory’s best friend, Lane; or the control freak Mayor, Taylor Doose, Stars Hollow had simply the best rogue’s gallery of kooky, off-the-wall townspeople that made this show special. And while I loved Sally Struthers channeling her former television mother, Edith Bunker, and I adored the nymphomaniac dance instructor, Miss Patty, I have to admit that my favorite side story involved the town troubadour who felt threatened when a second troubadour showed up and tried to claim his territory. The fact that this issue had to be resolved at a town meeting is quintessential Stars Hollow and a big reason why I loved this show. In fact, I can only think of one misfire during the show’s entire run and it was…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #5: Kirk

kirk

Maybe I’m alone on this, but I DESPISE Kirk. And the longer the show went and the more they tried to create storylines for him, the more I hated him. I never found him funny in the way I did Taylor, or Michelle, or…anyone else on the show. He was basically Mater in Cars 2. Way too much and excessively unfunny.

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #4: Luke and Lorelai

luke-and-lorelai

The WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY device has been used in hundreds of shows to a varying degree of success. But when a show gets it right, they can drag it out for several seasons without having the audience either lose interest altogether or show up on the studio lot with pitchforks and torches. Gilmore Girls got it right…for the most part. Let’s just say they got the Luke and Lorelai part right, but in the process they did get one thing incredibly wrong…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #4: The Emasculation of Max Medina

max

If you are going to have a show centered on the WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY device, you can’t have one of the foils be as likable, if not more likable, than the dude he’s supposed to be foiling. Max Medina was absolutely one of the best guys. And in a lot of ways probably would have been better for Lorelai than Luke. I watched this show for the first time like three years ago and I’m STILL mad about what they did to Max. The show’s creators figured it out after Max when it came to any other romantic interest for Lorelai, but still…what you did to Max was NOT COOL!!!

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #3: The Villain

paris

Seriously, how many villains have there been over the history of television who have been as effective as Paris Geller at making you utterly hate them while also eliciting true pity? Liza Weil played her perfectly, but the character was written about as well as any villain I can remember save…ben-linus

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #3: The Fate of Lane Kim

lane

Lane deserved Dave! And no one deserves Zack! Saying anything further on this matter will only serve to infuriate me to the point of madness.

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #2: Friday Night Dinners

friday-night-dinner

The great thing about Gilmore Girls was that it was not just a show about one central theme. You had the Luke and Lorelai thing, you had the fish out of water thing with Rory at her new school, but the best was the often hilarious/often heartbreaking dramedy of an estranged family coming back together after years of separation. And the show’s construct of having a majority of that relationship rebuilding play out during a required weekly dinner was brilliant. And without fail, the best lines of the show always came over appetizers as mother, daughter and granddaughter put on an amazingly truthful display of what is meant by the generational divide. In truth, if I had any issue with this family it would be…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #2: Christopher

christopher

Okay, I’m not a great judge of looks when it comes to men, but I guess I can see the physical allure of Christopher…I guess. But seriously. This guy is such a weenie. How on earth are we supposed to believe that this is the guy Lorelai seriously has trouble moving past. There is almost nothing redeeming about him. And if there is, it is totally wiped out due to the role he played in the whole ending the engagement to Max fiasco. Boo, Christopher!!! You don’t deserve Stars Hollow and frankly, even your motorcycle is wimpy. Please don’t darken our door again.

Best Thing About Gilmore Girls #1: The Writing

gilmore-girls

I can think of only one other show that had dialogue as effective as Gilmore Girls, and Frasier won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series five times. The genius way in which the Palladinos (the wife and husband duo who created and oversaw the show for six seasons) intermixed pop-culture references, coffee addiction diatribes, sheer goofiness and soul-melting emotion into each rapid-fire interaction between characters was incredible. I didn’t always enjoy the twists and turns the show took, but I always enjoyed the poetic journey along the way. That is up until…

Worst Thing About Gilmore Girls #1: Season 7

season-7

Due to a bizarre contract dispute between the network and show creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband, something or other Palladino, the Palladinos were unceremoniously removed from their own show for the last season.

And BOY was it noticeable!

The new writers tried to recreate the rapid-fire dialogue and quirkiness that defined the show, but they failed miserably. It was so bad, that I will admit I never finished watching the last season. Nor do I care to. I read on-line how it ends, and that’s good enough for me. Watching the episodes of season 7 that I did was akin to watching a beloved pet be euthanized right before my eyes…or watching Indiana Jones 4. Basically to me, one and the same!

Which brings me to my final thoughts on this blessed day. The new four episode…whatever, that became available on Netflix today is once again in the hands of Amy Sherman-Palladino. Which is great, because she had always stated that she knew exactly how her show was supposed to end. Unfortunately, for many years it appeared we the audience would never get to see that ending. Now, based on some interviews I’ve read, those fears can be laid to rest. The show will end the way it should have and we can all pretend that season 7 was a bad dream. Now if we could just do the same with Kirk.

Anyway, fans of Gilmore Girls rejoice. Your prodigal show has come home. Very few fan bases get this opportunity, so get your blankets, get your odd mixture of Chinese food and bizarre pizza and settle in this weekend for what promises to be one of the best binge watching sessions of your adult life.

If you aren’t a fan? Well, all I can say is suck it up and watch the show from the beginning. It’s worth it. I mean, if nothing else, you’ll be lucky enough to have one of television’s best theme songs ever stuck in your head for weeks. And for that you can thank me later.

I Prefer My Crow Sauteed

As a teenager growing up in Duncan, Arizona, I hated the Thatcher Eagles. I hated the town they came from, I hated the school they went to, and I hated the condescending way they would roll into our house, beat the living crap out of us at almost every sport and then walk out with an attitude akin to legionnaires of the Roman empire who had just pillaged and burned a peasant village. It was tough to take.

Then, when I moved on to college, I discovered that those people from Thatcher weren’t so bad. But still, that simmering resentment lingered. It lingered so much that when the Duncan/Thatcher football game came around, I let myself get deluded into thinking Duncan had a chance to win. I took it even further and made a bet with one of my new Thatcher friends that whichever of our teams lost, the supporter of that team would have to get up in front of the entire Eastern Arizona College choir and sing the opposing school’s fight song as a solo.

Well…Duncan lost 42-0 and the game was called about three minutes into the third quarter.

I can still remember vividly that feeling of standing up in front of about 120 people and singing that song as about 25 Thatcher alumni stood and clapped along. IT SUCKED! Yes, I deserved what I got and yes, it was all done in fun, but it still sucked. Admitting you’re wrong sucks.

Nevertheless, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong and if you want to be a person of character, you have to sometimes take your medicine. So…

I was wrong.

In fact, I wasn’t just wrong, I was really, really, really wrong. And you know what? Saying that is not cathartic. Nope, it stings just as much if not more than having to endure that song some 25 years ago.

Now for those who are expecting me to launch into a diatribe trying to justify my views and about how this is the worst thing ever…it ain’t gonna happen. Dude won! No way around it. Dude won and both parties had better figure out a way to listen to that segment of society who is feeling left behind who elected him. Both parties also better figure out that the era of putting up the tried and true names is over, at least for the time being. No more Bushes, no more Clintons.

And with regard to Mr. Trump, I’m willing to give him a chance. When he spoke last night, I will admit that his speech was what I had been waiting to hear from a candidate for over a year. ANY candidate! Infrastructure? I’ll take it. I don’t know why we had to wait until election night to mention it. But I’ll take it.

However, I would hope that those who are celebrating a win today will think back to how they felt four years ago. There are people seriously hurting this morning. There are people seriously afraid. And anyone who has the nerve to say things like, “Well screw them, they should just leave if they don’t like it.” should be ashamed of themselves. Spiking the football in the face of those who disagree with you should be beneath us. Again, I have to give it up to Mr. Trump for not doing that. He had every right to hold up the copy of the New Yorker magazine labeling him a Loser on the cover and have his Harry Truman moment. He could have declared war on Hillary Clinton, but didn’t. He could have declared war on Paul Ryan and every other Republican that opposed him, but didn’t. His speech was classy. No qualifiers, it was just classy. I hope his presidency mirrors that speech.

Speaking of Mrs. Clinton, can we please just let her go. Demanding investigations and jail time and all that other stuff will just waste time and tax payer money. I mean, c’mon, is there really a worse punishment you could inflict on the woman than the defeat she suffered at the hands of Mr. Trump last night? She’s suddenly and completely irrelevant. Let’s leave her that way and not make her a martyr.

Next, can we take at least one moment to mourn what we lost to make Mr. Trump’s victory possible? The GOP no longer has the moral high ground from which to run. Maybe they never did, but now we can’t even pretend anymore. We basically told all of our kids that the anti-bullying messages we’ve been preaching to them are bogus. Whether we like it or not, we’ve sent very mixed messages at best to our wives, sisters and daughters. We have some very serious outreach to our Muslim brothers and sisters to do. And in my opinion, worst of all, we have to come to grips with the fact that one party was willing to overlook the direct and illegal interfering of an outside nation into our political process. Russia hacked one campaign’s private e-mails and then crucified a candidate with them. And the other side wallowed in it while blatantly ignoring the illegality and horrific precedent it set. I believe it was Juan Williams on Fox News last night that asked a really good question. What if it is the Chinese doing it to a Republican in four years? We’ve basically just said it’s okay. We’re all good with that. If that doesn’t frighten everyone, or at least cause them a moment of sober reflection, then maybe I’ve misunderstood what this country was supposed to be about all along.

To my Democrat friends, I would ask that you give Mr. Trump a chance on those things that might actually help fix the country. You have no reason to. Republicans didn’t do it for your guy. But at some point, one group has to be the bigger man, so to speak. Obamacare premiums are going to triple at the beginning of the year. Infrastructure is a MAJOR problem in this country that is only getting worse by the minute. We have multiple problems that need immediate attention and mafia-style turf wars will solve none of them. I know it isn’t fair to ask, but let’s see what we can get done, can we? Fight what you can’t accept, but come to the table on those areas where you can.

And finally to wrap up, let me reiterate. I have spent an entire year proving I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. I was wrong. I am leaving up each and every post I’ve ever written about Donald Trump as a testament to my ineptitude and naivety. I want to feel elated today. I don’t. But then I knew going into last night that I wouldn’t regardless of the outcome. I feel like religious ideals and common decency have been told they have no place in politics and so I feel like an outcast. I don’t feel like I’m represented. I’ve never felt this way before and so I don’t know how to wrap my head around that.

So I’ll leave it at this. Congratulations to those who are celebrating today. My condolences to those who are not. For the first time ever last night, I got down on my knees and prayed for President Trump. Not America, President Trump. I thought I could see on his face last night that the reality of the moment was hitting him and he was truly feeling the burden. I hope he is up to the task of accomplishing exactly what he said in his speech last night. And I hope he forgets completely about most of what he’d been saying before that.

Some Equal Credit Where Credit Is Due

(Disclaimer: The following post contains trace elements of sarcasm. For those who are concerned about my level of seriousness, this entire article was written with a smile on my face.)

Oh My Lanta!!!

We’re six days from Election Day and Nate Silver is now saying that Trump has a pathway to victory. It’s not an easy path and it is still in the unlikely zone, but it’s a path where one didn’t appear to exist before.

And so now we have to prepare for at least the possibility of a Trump presidency.

So, let’s take a moment and think that through. Over the last few months many on the left have stood by and watched the ugly back and forth on the right about moral conscience vs. the cost of losing. Accusations have been hurled back and forth about who would “own” a Hillary Clinton Presidency if Republicans refused to back Trump on moral grounds. Those discussions have happened here on this blog. And all the while, all over the media, Democrats have sat back and smiled at the inevitability of their candidate getting into office; while occasionally chiming in self-righteously about the moral pitfalls of voting Trump while never once acknowledging any of their own candidate’s character issues. In fact, they could often be found defending their candidate as a fine upstanding woman who has been maliciously maligned and castigated over the years by a…for lack of a better encompassing term, Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

Then a few weeks ago from stage right entered Julian Assange and his treasure trove of hacked and stolen e-mails. (Leaked words that were never meant for a wide audience, like comments about the 47% let’s say, aren’t so palatable now, are they?)

Now, before we go any further, let me acknowledge yet another disgusting turn in this campaign. The fact that the right is celebrating and dancing in the streets because a foreign entity hacked into an American citizen’s e-mail account and then broadcast those personal e-mails to the world is just another example of how far we have depart from any standards of civility and decency this election cycle. Marco Rubio is right in calling this out because today it’s a Democrat. Tomorrow it could easily be a Republican. And either way, it IS illegal. Just as illegal as anything Mrs. Clinton might have done with her private e-mail server.

Having said that, anyone on the left who is still reading this might want to stop because that is the last defense of anything leftward leaning you’re going to get. You see, for months I have been castigating an electorate on the right that I believe wasted the perfect opportunity. Hillary Clinton is the most beatable Democratic candidate we’ve ever seen and yet I believed, and publicly stated many times, that the only person who could lose to her was Donald Trump. It is still likely that he will. But regardless, she is doing or has done everything in her power to make a liar out of me and others who have claimed that Donald Trump is unelectable.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to aim a little of my moral high ground finger pointing at Democrats.

If Donald Trump gets elected, it is totally on you.

Yeah, Republicans may have nominated him, but you’ve proven in the past that regardless of who Republicans nominate you can beat them with a smooth talking candidate, a willing media (thanks for all your help in the second debate of 2012, Candy Crowley), and a get out the vote machine that is truly impressive. Many on my side of the aisle have suggested it might be TOO impressive, but I won’t go there. With a half-decent candidate, you enter a presidential election with a sizable advantage. In fact, I will point out again that Republicans have only won the popular vote for president ONCE since 1992.

If that weren’t enough, you have a sitting president with approval ratings that are as high as Ronald Reagan’s were when he left office. Those who think he’s the devil probably won’t understand how that’s possible, but it’s true. He’s sitting on 54% or higher. Mr. Obama has turned his legacy around, and in doing so, provided a sweet setup for whomever would be following him on the Democratic ticket.

And what did you do with all political capital? You nominated Selina Meyer.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I understand there were many of you, like those of us on the right, who didn’t want to give your nomination to such a lousy candidate. Heck, you tried eight years ago to let the Democratic machine know that Hillary was not someone you were comfortable with. But alas, this time around, your party machinery guaranteed there would be no charismatic savior named Obama to save you. Instead your only option was a caricature of the Walter Matthau character in Grumpy Old Men. And even he got further than should have been humanly possibly. Especially when you consider that the Hillary campaign was cheating the whole time. I mean, if we’ve been able to discover through a few e-mails that Donna Brazile was feeding the Hillary Campaign debate questions in advance, imagine what we don’t know. Sounds like Republicans shouldn’t be the only ones screaming for their establishment to be blown up.

Nevertheless, over and over again I have heard those who defend Hillary Clinton describe her as a strong, confident woman. That may be. But you have lots of those in Democratic party. I detest her politics, but Elizabeth Warren is the first one who comes to mind. And to my knowledge, not one of those other women are nearly as cavalier as Mrs. Clinton when it comes to disregarding the law.

Seriously, c’mon. If you plan on running for president, you have to be either be supremely stupid or hold the rest of the American population in such disdain to believe that using your own personal e-mail server for e-mails that contained classified information isn’t a bad idea. It’s not rocket science OR brain surgery. And when it was just Republicans making a big deal about those e-mails, yeah, it might have been easy to sluff off. Oh, but then the Wikileaks e-mails came out showing that her own staff was horrified at what she was doing. Acknowledging, as I believe they did, that “HC” has issues with that kind of stuff. What kind of stuff? DOING WHAT THE LAW REQUIRES HER TO DO!!!

And so what does all this boil down to? Simply this; you knew who she was from her time as First Lady. There is no mystery nor has there ever been when it comes to the Clintons. And yet you nominated her anyway. Now, because she is exactly what we all knew her to be, she is opening the door for the most detestable major party presidential candidate in our history to win.

May God Help Us All!

So next week if the final verdict rendered is that The Donald gets to take up residence in the White House, I’m gonna blame you Democrats. I mean, yes, I’ll silently rejoice for the Supreme Court implications, but on the flip side I’ll be sorrowing greatly on just about every other policy he’s advocated. You know to which policies I’m referring…the ones that will ruin us for decades.

And it will all be your fault.

Well, not just yours. It’ll be yours and the batcrap crazy 35% of the Republican party who think Mexicans are the new Jews and that comments on your genitalia are perfectly acceptable on a national debate stage who started this mess. Which is actually kind of funny if you think about it. You’ll be grouped with the very people you detest more than any other on earth. Ironic, isn’t it? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to the bathroom because just thinking about all of this has made me nauseous.

Gettysburg

I am a liar. There’s no getting around it, I am a bald-faced liar. And this post is going to prove I’m a liar. Having said that, even though I’m going to go through with this post, I do want to apologize. I don’t particularly want to be a liar and so I ask for forgiveness for my lying. Now, based on recent national events, I believe a majority of people who read this will forgive me. Because really, don’t we all have skeletons in our closet? Aren’t we all guilty of imperfections? And hey, I did say I was sorry, so…that should cover me, right?

You see, in my last post, I promised that I was done commenting on this election. At the time, I meant it. Nevertheless, sometimes things happen that can change a person’s intentions. In this case, I was tagged in a Facebook post and asked my opinions on Mr. Trump’s recent Contract with the American Voter (which can be read here for those who are unaware of what I’m speaking about) that he unveiled in Gettysburg, PA. When I was tagged in that post, I must admit that I was completely unaware of the contract as I have been doing my best to stay away from election coverage. Anyway, I read it and realized that my thoughts could not be succinctly placed into a couple of sentences and that maybe a Facebook post might not be the best forum to share those thoughts. So, I thought to myself, “Hey, you’ve got a blog. Might as well use it, right?” And so I shall. Therefore this post comes with a warning. Election commentary ahead. If you wish to avoid it, stop now. I completely understand. This post is mainly for one individual anyway. On the other hand, if you are one who can’t look away from bad car wrecks and also can’t stop following this election despite your best efforts, Read On!

First and foremost, from a strictly strategic point of view, I think this contract is an incredibly good idea. I would even venture to say that this is the type of thing many Republicans have been waiting for from their candidate for months. In my opinion, the only criticism I have of the tactic is that it is being released woefully late. Nevertheless, it does give us an opportunity to discuss the policies at play with Mr. Trump as opposed to the man. And for me, that is a welcome discussion. So, if I may, I will begin at the beginning and hit each point, addressing them strictly from a view of how I feel about the policy, not the man behind the policy. And then I will sum up my thoughts on both at the end. With that said, Let’s Begin:

Part 1. Clean Up Corruption and Special Interest

  1. Constitutional Amendment to Impose Term Limits – I know going back to 1994 and the original Contract With America, that this is a favorite issue of conservatives. In 1994 I agreed with it. However, I have come to believe that term limits have an inherent flaw. They limit the freedom of the people. If the majority of the people believe their representative is doing a good job, they shouldn’t be forced to get rid of that representative. It is a limit to the people’s freedom of speech. Now I know the argument; an incumbent has built in advantages that are hard to overcome. True! So what? If you want another person’s job, wait until they retire or prove you’d be better at it than they are. Don’t force America to throw out good representation with the bad. Because if you think a corrupt political machine is dependent solely on long time incumbents, you are sadly mistaken.
  2. Hiring Freeze On All Federal Employees to Lessen Federal Work Force by Attrition – Admittedly, I’m pretty ambivalent on this one. I understand the concept and I am for shrinking the size of government. However, in my own experience of putting this action into practice, it rarely works the way it is supposed to. The people you would like to see go don’t go and the people who actually get stuff done end up overloaded and burnt out.
  3. No new Federal Regulation Without Two Regulations Being Removed – Again, in theory this sounds good and I am for the lessening of federal regulation, especially when it comes to job growth at a small business level. However, once again I have to point to the law of unintended consequences when laws are passed that are this broad and non-specific. Not every regulation is bad and there are plenty of people who would be happy to take advantage of situations where good regulation is removed without much scrutiny as part of a package deal.
  4. 5. 6. Lobbying – I am not crazy about the five year ban on lobbying for any White House or Congressional Official becoming a lobbyist. For example, if someone is truly passionate about stopping abortion in America and then either gets defeated or chooses to leave public office but then wants to work as a lobbyist for the Pro-Life movement, I think that is perfectly reasonable. However, with regard to the lifetime bans on lobbying for foreign interests and foreign interests raising money for American elections, I am on board with that. But if we do this, we need to be ready to stop meddling in other countries even if we see a national interest. Fair is fair.

Part 2. Protect American Workers

  1. 2. Renegotiate or Withdraw From NAFTA and Withdraw From Trans-Pacific Partnership – Here is where we finally reach the point where the man and the ideology are shown to be two distinct things. Free trade is a conservative bedrock. Not only that, these alliances are crucial to our way of life. Should Trump follow through on these promises, our everyday trips to Walmart would become excruciatingly painful on our pocketbooks. Mr. Trump would likely preside over inflation similar to that of Jimmy Carter and would likely suffer the same fate. It is astounding to me that anyone who understands basic economics would get behind Mr. Trump on these trade issues. I won’t go into this any further, but for anyone wanting a more in-depth explanation on the problems with renegotiating NAFTA, please look here.

3. Label China a Currency Manipulator – China IS a currency manipulator. However, for one country to label a major trading partner as such, said country better walk into that gunfight with a sizable advantage or else have Denzel Washington and six of his friends handy. It would be a correct call, but at the same time it is another cavalier approach to the economy that could seriously hurt the day to day life of average Americans. Proceed with Caution.

4. Identify All Foreign Trading Abuses That Unfairly Impact The American Worker and Use Every Tool To End Those Abuses Immediately – Great rhetoric! However, completely unrealistic. Unless Americans are ready to give up minimum wages, employer provided health care insurance, 40 hour work weeks, Social Security, Medicare, and every other benefit afforded the American worker, they probably shouldn’t venture down this road. Unless our work force is willing to live like third world workers, this is a no win battle for us.

5. 6. 7. Lift Restrictions On America’s Energy Reserves, Allow Vital Energy Infrastructure Projects and Use Climate Change Money Sent To The UN For US Water and Environmental Infrastructure Improvements – Sign Me Up!

Part 3. Restore Security and Constitutional Rule of Law

  1. Cancel All of President Obama’s Unconstitutional Executive Orders – Rhetoric!!! Donald Trump is not the Supreme Court and therefore not qualified to determine what is or what is not constitutional.
  2. Replace Justice Scalia With a Conservative Justice – Sounds Good!
  3. Cancel All Funding To Sanctuary Cities – Uhhh…could be some constitutional issues here.
  4. Remove Two Million Criminal Illegal Immigrants and Cancel All Visas To Countries Who Won’t Take Them Back – Blanket cancelling of visas is a sticky venture, but nonetheless, I think the basic idea here isn’t bad. If an immigrant here illegally commits a violent crime, they should be removed. Period. However, in this contract he uses a number that is very flawed and therefore creates a mirage that depicts a problem which is much smaller than he describes it. Just use real numbers and ditch the fear quotient and I can get behind this.
  5. Suspend Immigration From Terror Prone Regions That Can’t Adequately Vet And All Vetting Will Be Considered Extreme Vetting – A blanket proposal like this, especially in the face of all the images of refugees fleeing for their lives, is wrong. I can’t support it from a religious point of view and I especially can’t support this from a human point of view. This is atrocious and again plays to the fear rather than the goodness of the American people. It also creates an environment that is more conducive to radicalization of refugees against the US.

Part 4. First Hundred Days

  1. Tax Cuts – As with any proposition to majorly restructure the tax code, there are pros and there are cons. I do think lower corporate tax rates would spur economic growth. I like a proposal I heard from someone who suggested the lower corporate tax rates but with the caveat that corporations be required to provide health benefits to all employees. Possibly a great idea. Although it does sound a little Obamacare-esque.
  2. End The Offshoring Act – You start talking tariffs of any kind and you start talking higher prices for American consumers. Full stop!
  3. American Energy and Infrastructure Act – Absolutely love this idea! I wish he had made this the bedrock of his campaign instead of The Wall.
  4. School Choice and Education Opportunity – Again, love this idea and wish he had made his campaign more about this than The Wall.
  5. Repeal and Replace Obamacare – I love Health Savings Accounts! However, for low income folks, they are not a good solution as they are currently structured. You would likely need Obamacare like assistance for the poor. I like the idea of increasing competition in the health insurance arena, but I get leery of shortening any safety testing when it comes to drugs. Too many side-effects. Finally, I am disappointed that tort-reform is not part of his approach to healthcare. Without tort reform, I don’t believe we will ever see insurance costs come down.
  6. Child-care and Elderly-care – I actually really like this idea. Really Really like this idea!
  7. End Illegal Immigration Act (The Wall) – I actually really hate this idea. Really Really hate this idea! Anyone who believes we should get serious about addressing deficit spending should also hate this idea. And saying that Mexico will eventually pay for it without any evidence to support that idea is…Yeah
  8. Restoring Community Safety Act – This sounds too much like creating a police state. The problem with police states is that they are fine as long as you are not on the wrong side of them. Militarizing our police and giving even more latitude to federal law enforcement just makes me a little queasy.
  9. Restoring National Security Act – Love the VA stuff! Long overdue. Again, we either want deficit spending reduction or we want massive military spending increases. Can’t have both. I also am very leery of the idea that we only let certain people immigrate in. It might sound innocent, but that language has the potential to quickly turn ugly.
  10. Clean Up The Corruption In Washington Act – This is great stump speech material without having any substance.

So there you have it. Again, I think this is a very good move strategically. Except that it raises the one question I have had about this campaign from the very beginning.

Why Now?!?

Why are we only seeing this with two weeks left in the election? Why would a candidate who is so concerned about the media being unfair to everything he says wait until after the debates (his only real opportunities to make these arguments directly to the American people at large) to issue this contract? Why, when the strategy of getting something like this out early and then staying relentlessly on point has been so clearly demonstrated in 1994 and 2000, would you not release this sooner? It’s mystifying.

Unless, as I have long feared, this campaign was never about the voter’s definition of winning to begin with.

Just prior to the third debate, reporters asked Mr. Trump’s campaign chief, Stephen Bannon, about the possibility of Trump starting his own news network should he not win the election. Mr. Bannon’s response? “Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur.” When pressed further, he responded again, “Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur.” He quickly clarified that they still believed they could win, but his initial response was telling.

And it makes me go back and evaluate Mr. Trump’s campaign from a new point of view. All along it has done a very good job of playing to the 30-40% of the Republican party that has made up Mr. Trump’s base all the while consistently making moves that alienate everyone beyond that base. It has basically thumbed its nose at Republicans who are queasy with his approach, in essence saying, “Screw you, get on board or get run down.” And outreach to moderate, or minority voters? None.

Furthermore, each time he has done something that resonates with voters beyond his base, he has quickly followed it up with a 3 a.m. tweet or something else that just as quickly alienates. No better example can be found than in the third debate when he performed admirably and then at the threshold, makes the statement that he won’t commit to upholding the election results. Now I know all the arguments in his defense. But this was not an off the cuff decision. His running mate had been asked about it the day before and stated without hesitation that the campaign would accept the results. His daughter had been asked about it earlier that day with the same answer. He knew the question was coming and he knew what the media would do if he failed to provide the stock answer. He did it anyway.

And the result?

His base is more behind him than ever and he continues to slide in the polls.

Donald Trump prides himself on being a winner. He also has a well documented past of doing what is best for Donald Trump regardless of the effects on business partners, his customers or the public at large. He is not a stupid man. He has had to know all along that his antics are not those of a candidate that will ultimately win an election. Which makes me ask: In this situation, how does Donald Trump define winning? I believe there is a strong possibility that winning to him was positioning himself for his own conservative television news network all along. A place where you have no responsibility and can be as big of a personality as you want. I further believe you can look across the conservative media landscape and pick out those who were probably hand-picked to join him. Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter. They have been all Trump all the time from day one.

So while I applaud this Gettysburg move by the Trump campaign, to me it looks like another calculated effort to show his base how serious he is, but timing it in such a way that it will have minimal impact on the rest the electorate at large.

And the worst part if I’m right? Winning in this case for Donald Trump will guarantee a continued string of losses for Republican presidential candidates for years to come. Which means the Republican party will get out of Trump just as much as those signed up for a degree from Trump University.

Math And Other Things Just As Meaningless

Folks, it’s time to relax . With that in mind, I would like to get some things off my chest that have been bugging me for a while. But please, in this charged atmosphere we live in, I hope everyone would take what I say below with a grain of salt. It’s time to laugh. Even if that means at ourselves on occasion.

  • I’ve done the math on this several times and I keep coming up with the same solution. If two people walk into a polling place and one votes for Hillary Clinton while the other votes for Donald Trump, the outcome is a tie at 1-1. If both individuals vote for Hillary Clinton, Hillary wins 2-0. If one votes for Hillary Clinton and the other chooses to be sanctimonious, judgmental, unforgiving, short-sided and hypocritical and votes for neither one, the outcome is Hillary 1-0. Still a win but with 50% less of a margin. Which by my calculations means that if I am that person who voted for neither one, I am in actuality not giving my full vote to Hillary Clinton, but only half. So may I ask that in the future, for those who would use the argument that a vote for anyone other than Trump is a vote for Hillary, can we please get it numerically correct and call it what it actually is. A vote for anyone other than Trump is a Half-Vote for Hillary Clinton. Unless of course someone actually DOES vote for Hillary Clinton, in which case that would be…A Vote For Hillary Clinton is a Vote For Hillary Clinton. Admittedly, neither of these two slogans roll off the tongue as easily as the original. But it is important to be numerically correct in our assertions or else some might get the idea we’ve been educated by the Common Core.
  • A memo: To the advertising department over at GMC Trucks: Please stop abusing your Medical Marijuana cards. May I share with you a quote from one of your recent commercials: “A well put together man is said to be sharp. At GMC we get why people would appreciate that kind of precision. After all, precision is the kind of sharp that slices through a crowd. This is the precision of professional grade.” (And GMC’s logo appears on the screen during that last sentence.) My reaction when I saw this ad for the first time was…”WHAT?!?” Since then, I have had many, many, oh my goodness far too many opportunities to see this ad again because I enjoy watching sports. And upon my last viewing this past weekend, my reaction was…”WHAT?!?” The nonsensical stretches this ad makes are mind blowing. You might as well have said, “A free roaming feral horse is called a wild mustang. At GMC, we can appreciate why people would enjoy wild parties. After all, wild parties with Colt 44 have the kind of energy that gets the cops called. Colt 44 parties are the stuff of professional grade.” I mean seriously, I’m not entirely sure, but I think my ad makes as much sense as yours. So please, get a new ad consultant. Or call your buddies over at Chevrolet who have been nailing how to make a truck commercial for years. Ask if you can borrow one of them for an afternoon. Anything!!! Just do whatever it takes to keep this absurdity from showing up every five seconds during my binge watching of college football.
  • arpaio-picThe above photo was taken on the highway in the town where I live, Thatcher, Arizona. As proof, I would submit that the building in the background can be verified as the Thatcher Junior High School. Now, to the person who placed the sign that can be seen in the lower right of this picture, I would like to make a few observations. 1) Thatcher, Arizona is in Graham county. 2) The sheriff of Graham County is P.J. Allred. 3) Joe Arpaio is the sheriff for Maricopa county. 4) Maricopa county is approximately 150 miles from Thatcher. Let’s take a moment and let those different statements sink in…………………..Okay. So, by taking into account these multiple observations, I fear that I am left with only the following conclusion: Unless there are new findings that suggest the best time to affect voters with campaign signs is when they are miles from home on an open highway and therefore unprepared to resist the subtle manipulations of a striking visual that applies specifically to them and no one else for miles around, this may be near the top of the list of most ineffective sign placements in campaign history.
  • About a month ago, I had the chance to travel to Chicago. I have been there before and I have to say, it’s a pretty cool city. Anyway, one thing about the folks in Chicago is that they love their Cubs. Not just casually love their Cubs, these folks live and die by every pitch. Which is why it’s so sad that a guy like me, a true bandwagon baseball fan who doesn’t really care all that much about the game, has had the ability in my lifetime to root for and see my local team win a World Series. Because if I had grown up and lived in Chicago my entire life, not only would I have not had that opportunity, but neither would my father nor his father have had that opportunity. It has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. Well last night, they got through their first round of the playoffs and are one step closer to finally breaking that curse. And for the first time in years, it looks like they might have the team to do it. So let me ask, in this year when our presidential election has got so many people feeling depressed about our country’s future, wouldn’t it be great if the Cubs won? I mean, yes, it would have been even better had they won last year, thereby making the Back to the Future trilogy prophetic, but if they pull it off this year, wouldn’t that make whatever presidential outcome we have just a little more manageable. I think so. So GO CUBBIES!!! No pressure, but just know that your nation’s ability to heal is totally dependent on you.

Finally, I have to admit something that is difficult. To all of my friends who are choosing to support Donald Trump and have a difficult time understanding those of us who don’t, I have to say; I Get It! I get your frustration.

One of the most common complaints I have heard from those voting for Trump is that no one is talking about the negatives of Hillary. My answer to that has consistently been, “I don’t need to talk about Hillary because we all already know what Hillary is.” Well…I stand here, or rather sit here, humbled and corrected.

I’ve stated before that I have not watched the debates and I have no intention of watching the debates. But unbeknownst to me, my 14-year-old son has decided he is ready to be politically aware and on Sunday night, took the family iPad and pulled up the most recent debate for himself. And he watched the entire thing.

When I found him, I was stunned. But after that wore off, I asked him what he thought and I heard a lot of my most recent words being repeated back to me. Trump is rude, Trump is obnoxious, he doesn’t appear presidential. So I asked about Hillary. And I was taken aback by his answer. He said that she appeared so much more professional. He said that she wanted to talk about what she would do for the American people as president and all he wanted to do was interrupt her. Bottom line, he was much more impressed with Hillary than Donald. And I am quite positive that my unintended influence played at least a partial role.

The problem was, I had context he didn’t have. I was there during her trashing of Bill’s female accusers, he wasn’t. I was there when she made her famous “Right Wing Conspiracy” comment on the Today Show, he wasn’t. I was paying attention four years ago when four Americans died in Benghazi on her watch and she refused to authorize anyone to go to their aid, he wasn’t. I understand the ramifications of including classified information in your personal e-mails, he doesn’t. I understand the ugly implications of favors being granted to people who donate to the Clinton Foundation, he doesn’t. (Although, in fairness, it appears The Donald is equally guilty in this regard.) Bottom line, I know what baggage she would bring to the White House. He Doesn’t!

So I sat down next to him on the bed and we had a discussion about how the campaign process works. I explained how any political figure who is considered to be ahead during a campaign has the luxury of “being above the fray” and that if Hillary were losing, she would be the one interrupting and being rude. I then asked him, “So if you could vote, would you vote for her?” He replied, “I don’t know. Maybe.” And I thought, “My goodness, I have not done my due diligence.”

But then the next night, I had a long talk with my father who is avidly voting for Trump and I realized something else. Even if I did explain all the issues I had with Hillary, would it necessarily translate the same for my son? I don’t know. My father, in his wise way, recognized that my life experiences are not his. And therefore, even though we have access to the same information and that we have the same beliefs and ideals, we can still arrive at different conclusions.

Don’t get me wrong. I think if I explained well enough, I could get a 14-year-old who trusts me to be just as anti-Hillary as I am. But he won’t always be 14. And it will be interesting to see where he winds up politically, as it will all my children.

Nevertheless, back to my original point. To all of my friends and family who are Trump supporters or who plan on voting for Trump because they believe it is the right thing to do, I get you. I really do. After talking to my father, I am more convinced than ever that we are really after similar things. We just happen to have backgrounds and histories that have led us to different beliefs in how to get there. And what’s really ironic is that at the end of the day, I believe most Democrats and others who support Hillary want those same things. Safety, Opportunity, Happiness, and a Country They Can Be Proud Of. Call me naive, but I think that’s all any of us want.

I’m not going to be commenting on this election again. I have wasted thousands upon thousands of words on it and that’s more than enough. You know my views, and regardless of where you stand, I probably know yours. So how about we just root for the Cubs and then go into the voting booths across this nation and act according to our conscience. After that, I’m looking forward to the three month break before this entire process starts again 🙂

Good luck, America. Or better yet, God Bless America. We could certainly use it.

The Conspiracy Theory To End All Conspiracy Theories

Typically, I am not a proponent nor believer in conspiracy theories. I really do believe most people and situations are what they appear to be. I know Hollywood would have us believe otherwise, but I think at the end of the day, most people don’t have the energy nor desire to deceive on such a grand scale. I mean, even the examples people trot out to prove the rule just make me roll my eyes a bit.

Watergate? I think this basically amounted to a political version of some kids toilet papering a house, getting caught and then scrambling like crazy to avoid getting into trouble…right up to the point that they all got in a lot of trouble.

Iran/Contra? I believe you had some people who were legitimately trying to get some hostages freed. End of story. They went about it the wrong way, but at the end of the day, if it was your family member, wouldn’t you want the government to do just about anything to free them?

The entire Bill Clinton Presidency? Horny guy and his wife who are neither moral nor ethical. But that’s it. There is no grand scheme to rule the world and its entire monetary supply. There is no goon squad that goes around killing everyone who gets on the Clintons’ bad side. They, just like thousands of people in Washington and in every state and every community in this country, like power. They just also happen to really like living in the White House.

I know some would say I’m naive. Maybe so. But constantly looking for the bogeyman wears me out.

Nevertheless, I now have one that has totally sucked me in. And it’s not just any conspiracy theory. This one is the BIG one, because it goes all the way to the top. The White House? Phhh, please! I’m talking THE top. As in, God!

Okay, calm down and let me explain.

Throughout this campaign, there has been a large contingent of Republicans (of which I am one) who have stated their displeasure with Donald Trump. We don’t like him. We don’t want him. And we won’t support him.

On the other hand, there is one issue that gets brought up by those who are either: a) strong supporters of Mr. Trump or b) those who cannot stomach the thought of a second President Clinton to such a degree that they have decided to back the GOP nominee regardless; that causes all of us to pause. And that issue? The Supreme Court.

I’ll admit it. There have been moments when I have seriously considered changing course and doing the unthinkable simply based on who will nominate Justice Scalia’s replacement. And it was in one of those moments that I got to thinking. And that thinking took me down some interesting paths. So for those of you who are not LDS or Mormon, hang with me. There may be some phrases or ideas that you don’t recognize, but I believe you’ll get the general idea.

This land we live in is considered the promised land. In Mormon culture we believe this continent to be reserved by God for those with whom he wishes to share it. And when things aren’t going as they should, we believe that He has on occasion stepped in and nudged things back in the direction they should go.

It doesn’t always work this way. Due to His policy of free will, when an entire population loses their way, He allows them to destroy each other and then He moves on to the next group who will hopefully do better. These beliefs stem from the history provided in the Book of Mormon. However, if you are not of the LDS faith, you can catch the same train of thought around 1776. Christians of all denominations came to this country with the belief they were led here by God. I think most Christians look at the Revolutionary War and see evidence of God’s hand. I mean a ragtag group of colonists defeating the greatest army on earth? The odds are worse than if Eastern Arizona College took their football team to Tuscaloosa and played the Crimson Tide. (For non-football fans, those are…those are not good odds.)

From there, we as a nation formed the idea of Manifest Destiny which stated that it was God’s will that we were here, therefore it must also be his will that we keep going west until we reach another ocean and keep everything we find in between for ourselves.

But along the way, we kept getting a few things wrong. For one, our ancestors realized the economic benefits of growing cotton and tobacco. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of a workforce to actually harvest the crop at a level that would be truly enriching. So as a nation, we decided it would be a good idea to purchase people who had been forcibly taken from their home continent and then keep them as property. I don’t think God approved. Thus He inspired some to begin speaking out against this practice up to the point that things reached a head and…we compromised for thirty years.

You see, things between the north and the south were so bad in 1830 that the nation stood on the brink of war. However, the two sides managed to keep that war at bay for thirty years. Why is that important? Because during those three decades, the north’s industrial capacities increased to such a level that they were ready to win a war should one break out. Had the war started in 1830, the south would have had the decided advantage.

Did God play a role in that? Well, I suppose that is for every man to decide for himself, but I personally struggle to see it any other way.

Come forward a hundred years and we as a people still hadn’t figured out the equality for all men and women thing very well. Supreme Courts from the past had ruled that the races could be kept separate, as long as everything was equitable. One of the key problems with this was that nobody felt it necessary to police the equitable part.

But thanks to the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court who were liberal minded for their time, things began to change in the 1950s and 60s. Despite the overwhelming objections of conservative minded (white) Christians, the court in 1954, led by Justice Earl Warren, handed down the decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. This decision stated that the doctrine of “separate but equal” had no place in public education. In 1956, they affirmed a lower court ruling that the segregation of Montgomery, Alabama’s bus system was illegal. In 1968, the court ruled that racial discrimination by providers of public housing as well as private housing was illegal. And the rulings just kept coming from there.

Now the interesting thing is that hundreds of thousands of people had to be drug, kicking and screaming, into compliance with these rulings. Many of them were good solid Christian conservatives who saw their long held beliefs, and in fact their very way of life being torn down right in front of them. And although we as a people are all critical of those beliefs today, it is still important to understand how difficult it must have been for them. Important so that we might better understand ourselves.

Regardless, if one is so inclined to look for the Hand of God in all things, one in retrospect would have to acknowledge the role God played in putting those men on the benches of the Supreme Court. From today’s perspective, it’s an easy conclusion to draw. I suspect unless you were one of those disadvantaged, praying daily for a better life for your children, it might not have been so easy then.

So let’s come forward to today and let’s get into the conspiracy theory I spoke of at the beginning. By all the rules of politics, Barack Obama should have been a one-term president. The economy was incredibly weak at the end of his first term, he had recently suffered a shattering loss on the world stage (Benghazi) and his signature issue of Obamacare was still two years away from seeing any of the benefits while many of its detriments were in full force. For those who don’t recognize it, this is the same recipe that doomed Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

But he won. And those in the political class have spent four years dissecting why. Was it the 47% comment? Was it Romney’s inability to connect with Evangelicals. Was is the Republicans lack of outreach to the Hispanic voters? The list goes on and on. And I’m quite sure every entry on that list played a role.

Yet there is one thing that occurred that doesn’ t get mentioned much anymore because there is no way to explain it nor calculate its effect. Hurricane Sandy.

Most political junkies agree, in the days leading up to this natural weather event, Mitt Romney was on fire. The polls were trending in his direction, the enthusiasm for his campaign was electric and all signs pointed to good things on election night. And then Sandy hit. And for three days, Romney (in what I believe is one of the classiest moves by a politician who understands how valuable those three days would be) chose to step back and not campaign. Meanwhile, President Obama was on every American’s television set arriving in New Jersey, hugging Governor Christie and in every way looking presidential. It was his right to do so. He was the president. But for his campaign, it was a…for lack of a better term, a Godsend. He hadn’t had the opportunity to appear presidential for months. But he got it then. And everybody paying attention tends to agree, Hurricane Sandy sucked all of the wind right out of Mitt Romney’s sails.

Again, how much did this actually impact the final results? No one knows. But here’s what I do know. In the middle of what was shaping up to be one of the closest elections in history, we had a LITERAL Act of God that by all conventional wisdom helped President Obama and hurt Mitt Romney.

Now, four years later, here’s where we’re at. Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative standard bearer on the Supreme Court, has passed away. Unexpectedly I might add. If a liberal judge is confirmed to take his place, it will affect the balance of power on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Meanwhile, Democrats have nominated one of the most unpopular candidates for president ever in our lifetime. Her negatives are unbelievably high. Republicans could have nominated just about anyone and they would have likely had a cake walk defeating her.

Instead, they nominated Donald J. Trump.

To be fair, he could win. It is possible. But I believe all the signs point to an outcome where he will not. The rise of Trump is inexplicable. It has defied all the rules in the game of politics we have ever played by up to this point in our history. So if he loses, what does that mean?

And here’s where my conspiracy theory comes to its full fruition. What if God is trying to pack a liberal Supreme Court?

Okay, okay. Everybody stop yelling. Just hear me out.

You see, as I have stated before, I believe Mitt Romney to be one of the finest men who could have ever served as president. Those who know him best only echo these thoughts. But there is no doubt what kind of justices he would have appointed. They would have been in the mold of Justice Scalia. Donald Trump has come out and told us who he would nominate and they are, I believe, even more conservative than Justice Scalia.

So what if there’s something about our nation, that in God’s eyes, needs to change. And what if it’s something that we the believers aren’t getting? Couldn’t the logical conclusion be made that in His infinite wisdom, God could once again step in and provide a way for His will to be done?

Now I know the immediate clamor from the religious crowd on the right is that liberal justices will do more than has already been done to tear down religious freedoms. Possibly. But ultimately, who’s really in charge here? And why does it seem that at every opportunity where He could step in and make a difference, the outcome seems to illogically go the other way?

So here’s my suggestion. If I’m wrong and Mr. Trump wins, disregard everything I’ve just written and then feel free to ridicule me mercilessly. On the other hand, if Mrs. Clinton wins, maybe all of us who hold strong religious and conservative convictions should take a moment and reflect on our religious and our political beliefs and see if we can find a place where maybe they don’t exactly line up. See if there’s an area where the new liberal majority on the Supreme Court might lean that sounds closer to the teachings of Christ than do our closely held temporal “truths”. Do I have any ideas what those differences might be? No. I’m not going to even begin to suggest that I know the mind of God. I just wonder if I ought not ask for His opinion a little more fervently.

But here’s one definite conclusion I’ve come to. I know in my heart that God wouldn’t expect me to vote for Korihor in order to save Zarahemla. (For my non Mormon friends, insert Judas Iscariot and Jerusalem.) Something is at play here and maybe, just maybe, it’s incumbent upon each of us to look deep into our hearts and find out what it is.

Or maybe this is just a crack pot conspiracy theory. In fact, the more I think about it, that’s more than likely what it is. I mean, this is almost as unbelievable as thinking that Hillary Clinton’s sole plan once she gets into office is to mobilize the military and come confiscate every living American’s guns.

I mean, that’s crazy right?

The Defiant One

bushobamaYou know why I like this photo? Because when I think of America, when I really try to put a visual image to my thoughts on America, this is what I see. It encapsulates so much.

To the public at large, you have two people with nothing in common. They disagree on everything. They are polar opposites who are the ultimate embodiment of the great impasse at which our country finds itself.

And yet…there’s that picture.

So what could it possibly mean. Well, to me it means that out of the 300+ million Americans, maybe 50 REALLY know George W. Bush. And the same is true of Michelle Obama. So for the vast majority of us, we don’t know if they in actuality have anything in common or not. Maybe they share a love of classical jazz music. Or maybe they both harbor a secret desire to paint like the masters of old. Heck, maybe they had a secret family date to watch the Chicago Bears play the Dallas Cowboys this last weekend complete with Romo and Cutler jerseys and an edible stadium vegetable platter. I mean really, who knows what shared interests these two unique individuals have outside of their political beliefs-beliefs I believe make up such a small part of who we as human beings actually are, or at least they should?

However, there is at least one thing we do know. We know they both possess a shared experience of understanding what it’s like to have every single word, expression and gesture seized upon by a soulless media who know nothing about the true measure of their heart and having those words, expressions and gestures parsed and analyzed into their worst possible outcomes. That alone would provide enough of a common ground to engender feelings of mutual admiration and respect even if those feelings don’t necessarily rise to the level of actual friendship.

And that is why I love this picture. Because I believe it represents who we really are as Americans so much better than…well, you know.

So, switching gears (I apologize up front, I’m gonna be a little all over the board today) I didn’t watch the debate last night. And the reason? I just don’t care. I cared much more about spending time with my family and then obsessing about my fantasy football team that ALMOST pulled out a win last night than I did about whatever zinger landed in a pointless barrage of meaningless words. But something I did watch this weekend helped me put in perspective my strong feelings about this election. And it’s probably going to seem like it is coming out of left field.

I watched several segments on Sports Center dedicated to Jose Fernandez, the Florida Marlins ace pitcher who lost his life at the tragic age of 24 over the weekend. One of those segments was an interview with Pedro Gomez, an ESPN baseball analyst who is Cuban American. When asked what Fernandez’s passing means to the Cuban community (Fernandez was Cuban as well) Gomez talked about how much that one man had meant to an entire community. He said, “When he (Fernandez) succeeded, it felt as if we were all succeeding just a little bit as well.”

It was a sentiment I could totally relate to and helped clarify for me what is so devastating about this election. I have touched on this before on this blog, but for me, the 2012 presidential election was very personal. One of our own, a Mormon, had garnered the Republican nomination. And as the weeks drew close for the general election, he was leading in the polls. After a 150 year history that had included persecution, slander, jokes and slights of varying levels, it was suddenly very possible that we as a culture were about to validated.

And then he lost.

It was crushing. I knew losing was possible, but this wasn’t like 2008 when everyone knew going into election night what the outcome was going to be. This was supposed to be anyone’s election. A race so close it might be Bush v. Gore all over again. Fox News had told us the enthusiasm at campaign events for Mr. Romney was so much higher when compared to those of President Obama’s. On that first Tuesday in November, I really thought he was going to win.

But in the end it wasn’t that close. It was closer than 2008, but with the popular vote coming in at 50% to 48% it still wasn’t that close.

Then in the coming days it started to trickle out that while the percentages of those Republicans who had voted was in line with previous elections, the raw numbers showed that upwards of 4 to 6 million Republican voters who had voted for Mr. Bush in 2004 had decided to sit out 2012. Mr. Romney had actually won the Independent vote, but had bled Republican voters. What stung even worse was that the data suggested a large percentage of those Republicans were Evangelical Christians from swing states.

To me, that news felt like a kick in the gut. I knew in my heart that Mitt Romney was a good man. Perfect? No. But definitely a good man. Despite the media’s best effort to paint him as a monster for those in the lower and middle classes, the best they could do to smear him was a couple of context quotes about the 47% and that he liked to fire people. There were no major character flaws. There were no skeletons. There just seemed to be one major flaw that was significant for that voting block. He was a Mormon.

Even now, I know my reaction was irrational. But it was still my reaction none the less. I harbored frustrated feelings of anger against Evangelical Christians, who despite their massive opposition to President Obama, couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Mormon. It’s fine that we Mormons were supposed to get in line and support one of theirs in the form of GW (who I do respect and admire as a person and would vote for again in a heartbeat) but expect the same in return? Oh Hades No!!!

So let’s shoot forward to the 2016 GOP primary contest and who is one of the groups propelling Donald Trump to victory? Evangelical Christians.

Now in the logical part of my brain I know that there are many Evangelicals, a majority in fact, who are not Trump supporters, who are as disgusted by the man as I am, but yet I can’t help it. I feel betrayed. Despite having a complete lack of empirical data to prove it, I know in my heart that there are a good number of Evangelical Trump supporters who expect every Republican to get in line behind their guy, but who hedged in 2012. They want me to do what they were unwilling to do in 2012. And frankly, it makes me mad.

And so I’ve needed to repent.

Thus, I have returned to my rationale and asked myself if my inability to vote for Trump is based entirely in this faulty thinking. Part of it definitely was, but the truth is, whatever part that anger may have played, it doesn’t register any longer. It may have helped put me in this state of thought, but the reality is, once I felt betrayed, I started examining a lot of things more closely and my sense of betrayal only grew.

Everything about this process from the media to the political party system is designed to separate us. The entire system NEEDS us mad. Anger brings eyeballs to televisions and ears to radios. Anger gets voters out on a rainy or snowy day. For an elite few, anger equals dollars and when dollars becomes what matters most, people become desperate to keep those dollars rolling in.

Finally, I feel betrayed by those who would expect me to lower my standards to the level of Donald Trump. I don’t care about all the reasons Mrs. Clinton must be stopped. I don’t care about all the things people hope and believe Mr. Trump will do without any empirical evidence to suggest that he actually will. I don’t care about any of it.

And why don’t I care? In part because of the message conveyed in the picture at the top of this post. That picture is anti-anger and it is anti-fear.

So of course, there are already those who are suggesting the photo isn’t what it appears to be. That if you watch the video of the same event, the hug is very quick and the look on Michelle Obama’s face can possibly be construed as a grimace instead of a smile. That everything about that picture is false.

But I choose to believe differently. Maybe I’m naive, but what I see is a woman who was never required to embrace the man in front of her, but did it anyway. Because we as human beings can be better than our politics. And that’s just it. I know in my heart we can do better than our two choices for president. Much better! And to my way of thinking, we won’t get a candidate worthy of our support if we give in now and compromise our principles. In my mind, that would be the ultimate betrayal. So I’ll wait. And when a presidential candidate comes along that inspires and lifts instead of playing to lowest common denominator of fear, I’ll return to the top of the ballot and exercise my constitutional right to vote. Until then, I’ll keep believing in my fellow man and exercise my constitutional right not to.

Maybe I Was Wrong

Let me say up front that it is never my intent to offend anyone…with the exception of Donald Trump. Would that I could offend Donald Trump. But beyond him, I share my thoughts and observations because I like to think. And if through my thinking I can help someone else think, then that thought makes me happy as well. I hold no illusion that I am smarter or more “right” than anyone else. I’m just me, sharing things from a viewpoint that is my own. Having said that, I hope that what I write today doesn’t offend anyone. My life experience is my own and it is difficult to try and make observations about others whose life I have never lived. But this past week has been eye-opening to me and I feel compelled to share. If I say something that is out of line, I hope someone will point it out to me. Because as I said, I know I am not perfect.

I am not a fan of the recent trend occurring in sports of kneeling for the national anthem. I think  the ideas behind it are flawed on many levels. But the truth is, I’m not black. And maybe that’s where I miss the point.

You see, when it was Kaepernick only, it was easy to dismiss as a stunt by a quarterback who is losing relevance. But when defensive star Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos joined him, and was willing to lose two endorsement deals because of it, suddenly I felt I needed to consider this a little more carefully. I still don’t like the mode of protest, but maybe I should get past that and listen to the message.

In the midst of this introspection, I traveled to Chicago for a business convention. You know, the Chicago we all like to reference when it comes to gun violence and everything else bad about race issues and politics. And what I saw, truly saw, for the first time was more than startling. It was unsettling.

Around 85 to 90% of the people attending my conference for professionals in healthcare marketing were white. Conversely, well over 90% of those serving us food, parking our cars, handling our luggage, or checking us out at the local pharmacy around the corner were all black. Easily, another five to six percent of those individuals doing what would be considered menial tasks for the benefit of the hotel guests were minorities of a different persuasion.

I’ve been to Chicago before, and I’m fairly certain it was the same then as well. But I didn’t notice it then. And if I did, it certainly didn’t affect me very much. However, when I started thinking back on other places I have visited, I realized the same dynamic was on display in Atlanta and New Orleans. Change the percentages of blacks and Hispanics and then you could throw in Las Vegas and Los Angeles as well, but let’s focus on Chicago for the time being.

Recently, someone I respect a great deal made a comment that I think has relevance here. In relation to what I will now refer to as the Kaepernick protests, she said that there is no longer systemic oppression of the black community in this country. But as I looked around in Chicago, her words seemed to be contradicted at every turn. Almost.

While my conference was overwhelmingly white, the numbers started to change when I walked the streets of downtown Chicago. The number of professional black men and women was significantly higher. I wouldn’t say more than 25%, but definitely higher than in the lobbies and conference rooms of my hotel. Which led me to this epiphany.

I can agree with her statement to a degree, but with an asterisk. It is true, black Americans are now more free than ever to pursue all the advantages white Americans are. But systemic oppression? Oh it exists. It’s just taken a new form. I believe systemic oppression has shifted from existing along racial lines to one that now more solidly exists along socioeconomic lines. Which, by the way, would affect a vastly higher percentage of Black Americans than White.

Disagree? Okay. But may I offer some examples.

I graduated from Arizona State University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree. I spent a total of seven semesters at ASU and spent an approximate total of $7,400 on tuition. Today, if my daughter were to go to ASU, that $7,400 would not cover more than one semester of tuition. In 2008, when gas prices more than doubled to a rate of $4.00 a gallon and more, we saw prices for virtually everything increase exponentially to cover those transportation costs. Yet, as gas prices have come back down to roughly $2.00 a gallon in the last couple of years, have prices of goods and services returned to their previous levels? Not hardly. In fact, we see the annual cost of living continue to rise year after year while wages remain stagnant.

So now, let’s put that into perspective with regard to my observations above. My father worked his entire adult life as a copper miner for the Phelps Dodge Corporation. He did so because he knew he needed to provide for his family, not out of any love for the mining industry. Yet, throughout my youth, I remember my dad pushing both my brother and me to get good grades. Not just good grades, but the best grades we were capable of. We were expected to get straight A’s. And I still remember his reasoning. We needed those grades to go to college because he was not going to stand by and watch us end up working for the mine in the capacity he had. In other words, he saw the value of an education. He understood what long-term benefits existed for those who invested in themselves and in a college degree.

But what if he hadn’t.

What if my parents had come from a long line of manual laborers who didn’t believe in the value of college? What if I had been pressured to go to work immediately after High School graduation because money in the hand now was worth more than some imaginary fortune that could be made after wasting several years at rich man’s institution that had little to offer but debt? Wouldn’t my life be different today?

And therein lies our societal problem. I believe a large portion of the Black community doesn’t believe in the American dream. And based on the history of Black people in America, why should they? If you are White, please don’t answer that question as a White person. Try and put yourself in the shoes of a Black American. Imagine generations of your family being forcefully cast to the winds under the legal institution of slavery. Imagine living in a country whose founding document includes the statement that all men are created equal, but you are considered only 3/5 of a human being. Then imagine even more generations living through the horrors of segregation. Being told that Blacks and Whites should be Separate but Equal, but watching as Whites reserve all the equality for themselves. Think of all that and then answer the question. Less than 50 years removed from such atrocities, why should they?

My whole life, I’ve heard that one of the biggest problems facing the Black community is their laziness. Sometimes it has been stated directly and other times it has been implied, but that has consistently been an underlying theme. But what I saw in Chicago didn’t line up with that at all. All of these individuals serving a class of people who seemed to take almost no notice of them were working harder than I and most everybody I know do on a daily basis. So I was left with no other alternative than, maybe the issue isn’t laziness. Maybe it’s hopelessness. Hopelessness based in a belief that life can’t improve. Hopelessness bred out of group think that says there is no escape. Hopelessness rooted in a history that gives them no reason to expect more. And worst of all, no parental figure present to tell them otherwise.

Here’s the thing about hopelessness. It means there’s no hope. And when there’s no hope, why care anymore? People without hope act differently, think differently and most importantly, REact differently. And that disconnect between those who see the world from a perspective of hope and those that don’t can ultimately lead to vastly different views on why there is blood in the streets.

So what do we do to fix this problem? What on earth can we do to overcome this massive problem that is multiple centuries in the making? Well…I don’t know. I mean I, like everyone else, have suggestions, but I don’t know if they’ll work. What would I know?

Nevertheless, I’m not going to let something as ridiculous as no first hand knowledge or experience keep me from voicing just one idea. Not a full solution, just one idea that I believe would be a huge start. And that idea starts and ends with education.

First of all, we need to find a way to lower the costs associated with college. I know I’m beginning to sound like Bernie Sanders, but wait. I don’t think college should be free. It would truly have no value then. We just need to find a way to once again make it possible to “work your way” through college. You know, that crazy idea where someone gets a job that can support them AND provide just enough to pay tuition each semester. Some loans might be necessary, but not so many that it buries a person.

Secondly, we need to give education value in the minds of those who don’t see any. And I’m not just referring to Black Americans. I’m referring to Black, White, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, and everyone else. We need to help those who don’t see college as a viable option for what it is…a viable option. Now, this doesn’t happen at high school graduation. It happens from the first day of Kindergarten. We need a massive restructuring of our education system. In states like Arizona we need to provide enough money to the system so that we can pay our teachers a respectable, no…competitive wage. Not competitive with other teachers, but competitive with the workforce in general. We need to then consolidate school districts tie administrative salaries to teacher salaries. A Superintendent’s income does not exceed a certain percentage of a teacher’s so that more money is available for classrooms and talented teachers are not incentivized to leave the classroom. In unionized states, we need to keep salaries high, but get rid of tenure. Finally, we need to give control of the classroom back to the teachers. Yes, there are always bad examples, but at the end of the day, teachers need to be able to instill discipline in their classrooms without fear of reprisal. I would also advocate for school uniforms in every public school, but that’s a different discussion.

Finally, there has to be some effort made to fix the familial structure in poverty stricken neighborhoods. This entails so much that I cannot even begin to cover it all, but in short, we need to be sending in armies of properly funded social workers instead of armies of cops. We need to open up federal dollars to religious charities that are willing to go and work with families in the inner cities…and in economically depressed rural communities as well. Again, there is so much more to this, but I will leave it at that.

In short, we need to be providing hope. That’s the only thing that is going to save people, lift people, drive people. People need to believe they can do better. They may choose not to, but they need to know they can. They need to know for themselves that Black Lives Matter. Their Black life matters. And so does that life on the reservation, and the one in the barrio and the one in that crumbling trailer park outside of Small Town, U.S.A.

So those are the thoughts that stuck with me throughout my entire three days in Chicago. We as a nation can do better. We need to do better. It’s a conversation we should be having at the highest levels. Unfortunately, we won’t. We won’t hear word one about any of this at next week’s presidential debate or in any debate for that matter. Because issues like this don’t break easily along party lines. We need ideas from both sides and it needs to be apolitical. Which is exactly the problem; nothing is apolitical anymore. And as a nation, we’ve reduced ourselves to nominating the two worst people ever to run for president. It’s depressing.

And it also makes you want to do something crazy. Anything that might turn the tide against this insanity that never seems to end. Even something as nuts as refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

I hate that he does it. I cringe at the idea of citizens not respecting the one country that allows us to even have these types of conversations. That has given so much to so many. But then…had he not knelt, would I have even noticed what has repeatedly been right in front of my face? That realization was the most unsettling development of all.