PERFECT LOVE …

We were exposed two weeks ago.

Several people at the airport, where my wife works, have tested positive for Covid 19. We went into immediate lock down, after learning that she was in contact with one of them, only going out for essentials and staying a safe distance away from people when we’re out. We wipe everything down with alcohol and Clorox wipes, pretty much all the time. We wash our hands after doing…well…pretty much anything.

This morning, my wife woke up with extreme nausea. She has been in bed all day.

My daughter has a genetic disorder that puts her at extreme risk for this virus, as she has an uncommonly high pain tolerance and she cannot express how she feels until she has severe symptoms. My mother-in-law is 84 and lives in an apartment above our garage. She, too, is compromised.

I’ve had constant, recurring respiratory issues for the last 17 years. We are at risk over here. But we are not wallowing in fear. We are at peace. Why? I think it has something to do with love.

My wife and I flew to China to adopt our daughter right in the middle of SARS.

We were told no less than 4 times, by the CDC and the WHO, not to travel to Asia. But that’s where our daughter was and that’s where we went. Twenty-nine other families, on our plane alone, disobeyed CDC protocols and got on that plane. In fact, hundreds of families kept getting on planes and bringing home babies…from Asia…during SARS.

My wife and I have talked about it at length, and we are convinced that if 2003 were 2020, NOBODY would’ve ever gotten on a plane to China, to get a baby. Not because we were scared of getting SARS (which I was) but because we would be shamed by the world for putting everyone else at risk, by selfishly going over to get a baby during one of the deadliest outbreaks of any virus in history (which it was).

The public pressure would’ve been unbearable. And all of us who decided to ignore the danger would be held up as selfish imbeciles, who are ignoring science and “experts” just to have a cute little baby in their house.

If you don’t believe that is true, you’re not paying attention.

But we went. And we got the babies. And we all came home. And guess what? It didn’t all work out fine. The baby adopted out directly before ours was given to us, ended up having Leukemia. She passed away some years ago. She was beautiful and special and our hearts are still broken by her loss. Our baby ended up having Angelman Syndrome, one of the world’s rarest genetic disorders.

None of us brought back SARS…we don’t think. We actually don’t know. Nobody was ever tested. Who knows what we brought back?

The point is, the journey was nothing like we thought it would be, for any of us. Nobody – not even experts – could predict what was going to happen or what DID happen. Wonderful things followed those adoptions…and horrible things.

The bible says, “perfect love casts out all fear.”

I usually leave the scripture quoting to my father, the Reverend. I’m an opinion writer, not a minister. But some bible verses have stayed with me all my life. That one, in particular, has always made me think and ponder. How can fear be gone? There’s simply too much out there to fear.

But maybe that’s because I had never experienced perfect love, yet.

We are all reeling from this new thing we’re all experiencing. And it can create fear. And we are finding our own ways of dealing with it. My go-to has been humor and creativity. Maybe that’s what I cling to. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe not.

Some are lashing out at what’s around them and taking this opportunity to praise other governments while trashing our own.

If you are seething at our President or our congress or your Governor or your Mayor for not doing what you would do or speaking about it the way you would, then when all the smoke clears, I expect to see you on a ballot, somewhere. Lead us. I’m not kidding. If you have answers, it’s time to contribute to something more that a Facebook fight.

One of the way love casts out fear is through truth. Apparently, it sets you free. Now, truth and facts aren’t always the same thing. The facts can show that I put my dog down, when he was 14. Yes, I had him killed. But the truth was that he was in severe pain and couldn’t walk or go to the bathroom anymore.

And that’s how love gets complicated. But it’s also when I learned something about it casting out fear. We all knew it had been a great life. We all knew there was nothing left to be done. And we ultimately accepted the truth. And that left us without fear.

We are all dealing with this. We’re all doing the best we can, politicians and regular folks alike. It is being handled in the best way we know how to handle something we’ve never handled before.

Some of us are going to be mildly uncomfortable. Some of us are going to get really sick. Some of us are going to die. Those are the facts. The fact is that this is changing us, in real time.

But the truth can ultimately be that we opted for love over fear; that we were honest with each other and direct with each other and still decided to maintain our dignity and empathy and humanity. I believe that’s what I’m seeing out there.

Yes, stay inside. Don’t put people at risk. If you have to go out, make it quick and streamline. Don’t touch anything you don’t have to. Do all the things that make sense. But also don’t drown in fear.

I posted some suicide rates today and a lot of people didn’t understand the point. There wasn’t really a point other than this: there are problems all around us. There is death all around us. There is desperation all around us. And now we’ve added some new mysterious and terrifying thing into the mix.

But we don’t know the ultimate outcome of all this. We don’t have to accept it as a horror show, without redemption. We can decide to let love into the mix.

And in a weird way, it kinda gets rid of the fear.

     

R    

TOO MANY PEOPLE …

Right up there with, “long-story-short” (which is usually followed by the longest story you’ve ever heard) and “I’ll have your check ready as soon as I get back from vacation,” one of my least favorite phrases in the English language is, “the world is over-populated.”

I’ve always been fascinated and bothered by that phrase.

We listen to it and just let it roll off, as if it’s just another dark platitude. But if you examine what that phrase actually suggests, it is nothing short of sinister. Hear me out …

The very thought that there are too many of something – anything – suggests that some of it must go, and that it doesn’t really matter which of it goes. Just something must go.

Extrapolate that out to shirts. If you say, “there are too many shirts in this closet,” you will start getting rid of shirts. But you will only get rid of the ones you like the least. The ones you like the most will obviously stay. So, there’s a pecking order; a highearchy of shirts (if you will) in your closet. And that T-shirt from 1997, that no longer makes your arms look good or makes you belly look tight, is heading off to the great unknown. Because there were just too many in there. Had to cull.

Now extrapolate that out to living things. Too many plants. Too many chickens. Too many puppies. Too many cats. We cull them by favorites as well. Each one of those things, that is about to be gotten rid of, is fighting for its place at the table, whether it knows it or not. And we’ll get rid of the ugly puppies before we get rid of the cute ones. We’ll definitely get rid of the mean ones.

But we will make determinations on which puppies or cats or chickens or plants get to stay, and which ones have to go, based on something. Because, you know…we have too many of them.

Now, extrapolate that out in humans. And once you make that logical leap, you are faced with absolute horror.

Once you just say, “there are too many of us here,” then you have to take the next logical step. And that step is making a determination of who stays and who goes. And that’s the moment you discover you’re actually a Nazi.

You see, the Nazis went all the way to the logical conclusion of that ultimate question: who should stay and who should go? Hence, “The final solution.” They minced no words. They didn’t equivocate. They didn’t flinch. They simply asserted that some people should be on earth and some shouldn’t. They decided which ones should not be. And they carried out the “culling” as systematically as we get rid of old T-shirts. And it was grotesque on a scale unmatched in human history.

But it started with a simple question; an innocent question…should we all be here?

As we race into our homes and stock up on basic needs, to weather this current virus, I’m watching humanity run the gamut of emotions and actions. But one thing stands out above all: we instinctively try to save ourselves and our loved ones. We instinctively try to save others. Something deep inside us knows we are all valuable.

We know people are going to die during this. And yes, we accept certain realities and certain risks when it comes to life. No, I don’t believe those who are comparing death rates of other illnesses and activities (such as driving cars, etc) to this virus, are cold-hearted Nazis just willing to let people die. I don’t believe they’re willing to sacrifice life for money or the economy or whatever.

The truth is, we know there is death involved, here. And we’re all trying to process it in our own way. And we do have to weigh the future and fabric of our very society against the risk of death. We do this all the time, in almost everything we attempt. We weigh the decision of getting on that plane and flying to our family’s house for Christmas against the very real possibility that the plane might crash. We weigh kissing that date goodnight against the possibility that she has Mono and just doesn’t know it yet.

We weigh risks and benefits all the time. That is not the same thing as determining that a large percentage of people need to go away.

The truth about whether or not there are too many of us on the planet bubbles up in our collective psyche when we are faced with a global crisis such as this. And our first human reaction, that comes from deep in our core, is that nobody is here by accident. We know that everyone is someone’s mother or daughter or father or son. And we know that it all matters – that everyone matters. And when one of them dies, someone, somewhere grieves.

There is a certain beauty in how humans react to life-threatening crises. Our inner beliefs pour out of us incautiously. And in many ways, our the best in us comes out. And we realize that we’re all something sacred; something divine, in a way. And where it’s ways to dismiss a person’s value when they’re safe and sound, it’s much harder to do so when they are in imminent danger.

We don’t just let them die without a fight. We don’t just allow the “herd” to be thinned. We don’t even let nature take its course and kill off who it wants to kill off. We say we believe in natural selection – survival of the fittest – but we do not practice that theory in any way, shape or form. We fight for the weakest. And I find that telling.

When I was a kid, our family dog had a littler of puppies. There were 9 of them, but she set one aside to die – the runt. 10-year-old me wouldn’t accept it. I kept laying the pup next to her so it could nurse, but she kept throwing it off to the side, in favor of the 8 healthy ones.

I couldn’t watch the puppy die. So I got a baby bottle and filled it with milk and tried to nurse the pup myself. But it was so weak and near death it wouldn’t nurse. As it was fighting for air and fading away, I tried blowing in its snout to et it to breathe. Through my tears, I tried pressing on its small sternum with a finger, to get its heart to start beating again. But it was no use. The pup died in my hand after a day of drastic measures.

My dog never grieved that puppy. She tended to the ones left alive. But that day taught me the difference between animal instinct and human instinct.

And so, whenever I hear someone say, “the world is overpopulated,” I bristle.

Because that means they’ve decided some puppies need to be placed to the side.

But we’re seeing, through this crisis, that nobody really believes that. Not when it counts.       

R

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THE DAY OF …

www.patreon.com/posts/35035723

So, on my Patreon site I’ve been sharing a day-to-day account of what was happening 17 years ago this week, leading up to the release of my CD, American Dreams.

Most of you know me as a blogger and social commentator. But all of that started as a result of some epic twists and turns in my music career.

Tonight, on Facebook Live, I’ll be playing the entire American Dreams record – for the first time since its release on March 18th, 2003.

If you find this blog helpful in any way and you would like to learn more about my “other” jobs, consider becoming a Patreon subscriber.

If every one of my blog followers became Patreon subscribers, at just the $3 a month tier, I could take care of my family solely on that, without the 6 or 7 other things I do to keep the ship afloat.

I’m not a fan of asking anyone for money, but I have a feeling those of us who “create content” are going to be leaning harder into our online profiles now more than ever.

So, if you like what you get from this blog, once a week, maybe you’ll like it even more once a day.

The link to today’s blog is above.

The $3 tier gets you the daily blog and all the behind the scenes stuff.

The $5 tier gets you access to the 5 books I’ve written.

The $10 tier gets you access to everything I put out: music, books, blogs, everything.

If you’re on Facebook, stop by and say hi tonight. It’ll be good to see you whether you become a subscriber or not.

Thank you all!

R

THE ROCK STAR AND THE ZONE …

Thursday night I will be performing my entire American Dreams record on Facebook live, 17 years (to the day) after its release, in 2003. The last time I performed the entire record was that night at the listening party.

For those of you who have read my book, Angels & Idols, you will be familiar with this. For those who haven’t, this might be a facet of my career you have no idea about. But trust me, that record (and that week) is why I’m here right now, talking to you.

The week that record came out, a deadly virus was circulating through China and the CDC warned my wife and I not to fly there (we were scheduled to go on the 21st). So, a lot of what’s happening now is eerily similar to the conditions in the world, that week.

So, I thought I would post a blog every day sharing different perspectives on what that week was like, leading up to the listening party.

Maybe it will help a little, to take your mind off today and remember that sometimes things work out in the most wonderful of ways …

Official Post from Regie Hamm: So, this week I’m going to be performing the entire American Dreams record on Facebook live, exactly 17 years after the original listening/release party. The recent events in our world have me reeling back to those days. THIS time 17 years ago, SARS was in full swing i…

THE ENEMY WITHIN …

I really hate being right all the time. Imagine how annoying it is for my wife.

I wrote, a couple of weeks ago, that once the first patient with Coronavirus died in the U.S, the marches and protests would start. Well, they have started – not out in public, with signs and slogans, but online and in the media.

The blame has begun.

The government didn’t provide enough virus tests, quickly enough (I actually agree with that). They didn’t restrict travel quickly enough. They haven’t given us enough information, quickly enough. The president called it all a hoax (which he actually didn’t do, if you understand the context of his statement. But he DID use the word hoax in a sentence and that’s probably not a good idea when talking about illness, publicly  – oh, and you’re the president).

Then some are freaked out by the president wearing a MAGA hat to one of the press conferences (which I saw but thought nothing of. He was clearly dressed casual and probably didn’t have the extra hour needed to get his hair in that iconic state of being. I’ve been there. That’s when it’s hat time. And I’m sure he only has MAGA hats in his closet. As a fellow dude, that was my thought, anyway).

The point is, we get to question our government and criticize it when we feel it isn’t serving US as well as we would like. This is a fundamentally great thing. It’s a fundamentally essential thing. And this nuanced little turn, where the state answers to the people – NOT the other way around – is going to ultimately save lives and keep people safer in the long run.

The most interesting thing about the varied responses to the Coronavirus panic (and it is a panic) is how people have directed their anger. We find it easy and satisfying to direct our anger toward the President of the United States. Fair enough. If you run for that office, you get the arrows that come with it. But almost no one wants to direct their anger toward the actual culprit – The leaders and system of Communist China who didn’t (or couldn’t) address this quickly enough to stem it from becoming what it has become.

Let me be as crystal clear as a human being can be: there is nothing about the Chinese people or the Asian race at fault, here. My statement is NOT about the people or their culture or their race or their value as humans. But a SYSTEM that doesn’t allow for criticism of its leadership and doesn’t force any feet to any fire, BY the people, is a great place for a crisis to bloom.

Viruses are not racists. They don’t check the physical features of someone or what country they reside in, before entering. They’re just looking for healthy hosts. Kind of the way we think of planets. Could we live there? That’s all a virus asks.

And this virus is finding hosts all over the world. And people are freaking out to discover that they are prime real estate. And they want their governments to do something about. And every government on planet earth is working on it in some form or fashion. Yes, even Donald Trump and his administration is working on it.

As of this writing, the United States has fewer cases and fewer deaths than most of the other infected industrialized countries. Of course that could change in a few weeks. But here’s a fact that cannot be overlooked or washed over: the top down, command-and-control, state-runs-everything system in China basically failed the entire world. Obviously NOT because they are Chinese (I’m actually pissed off that I have to keep qualifying this. But trust me…I DO. Oh yes – I do – and it still won’t matter. I’ll still be called a racist). Their system failure should be the biggest takeaway from this current crisis.

But the takeaways have been numerous. Here are four others that have stood out to me:

I’ve sort of always known this first one, but I’ve learned it all over again …

1. All the happy talk about compassion and inclusion goes out the window when someone thinks their life is in danger.

I mean, we here at The View love you, but get the hell out of our studio until this thing is over and we can all go back to talking in terms of “theory” again. Yes, we here at Good Morning America believe in all of you. You’re wonderful people. Now, DO. NOT. TOUCH. US. Buh, bye. We here at the NCAA and NBA love all the fans and couldn’t do it without them, and we’ll wave at them through the TV screens. Don’t come here.

People love to pronounce themselves as righteous saviors until they’re facing danger. Then they (most of the time) do what survival dictates. Jesus doesn’t. That’s why I still love and follow him. But I digress …

It’s almost as if all those people who raised their hands and said, “Hey, should we maybe vet people who come into this country? Should we maybe have a border and not just allow entire caravans of people we don’t know anything about, to walk across willy nilly?” don’t look as xenophobic and racist as they once did. It’s almost as if they were just thinking about what could happen in a situation EXACTLY like this one. Who knows …

As far as this second one goes, I’m not an “anti-vaxxer” (per se – although I have nagging questions) but this new virus has shown us all that …

2. No matter what you get inoculated for, there’s always the thing you don’t see coming lurking in the distance…and it’s usually the thing you have to worry about the most.

Viruses mutate and weaken. That flu bug that killed all those people during WWI is still around, apparently. But it’s not what it used to be. It’s the new virus we can’t seem to stay ahead of – not last year’s.

And that means that we have to, at some point, embrace the uncertainty of it all and realize that we cannot protect ourselves from everything, no matter how hard we try. We should try. But we ultimately won’t. And that’s okay. It has to be okay or we will go insane…which is kinda what we’re doing now. Anyway …

This next one is one of the most impotent ones …

3. Our very way of life is more nuanced and delicate than we think.

This is why large, sweeping statements for “change” aren’t as easy to do as they are to say. And sometimes, maybe they shouldn’t even be tried.

It just rolls off the tongue to say, “Let’s get off all fossil fuels.” You could even make up a rhymy little chant to it: “No. More. Fossil. Fuels – Go. Back. To. Plows. And. Mules!” (what can I say – I love to rhyme things).

It’s easy to talk about how we should all “reduce” our consumption or travel, or how we should limit this or cut back on that. Well, we are watching what happens when we do just that, in real time.

And what happens? In just a matter of weeks, markets crash, businesses go under, wages dip, layoffs happen, concerts vanish, sporting events wane. And what happens when all of that happens? Dreams die. The human spirit contracts and doesn’t move forward. People start reacting out of fear instead of love.

Eliminating something or changing something or restricting something in theory is very different from actually doing it in reality. Once we all run out of toilet paper, we will be begging those diesel powered, environment killing, trucks to deliver it to us once again. And we will cheer their arrival. Then we will go back to talking about how we need to get rid of them to protect the planet. It’s kinda what we do.

Finally, this is the last and biggest takeaway that continues to baffle me the most …      

4. We continue to hear what we want to hear and spin it the way we need to spin it to fit into our own belief system, EVEN in a global crisis.

This makes me realize that we are probably not actually even wired for unity.

Two people can (and will) listen to the EXACT same press conference and get two completely different things out of it. And the strange but logical conclusion of this is how we project it all back on social media.

All of the little sub texts are in full force: if you declare that this is all panic mongering, you are clearly a supporter of the president and an enemy of the media. If you implore us all to take this seriously and stop posting snarky comments about something so dire, you are clearly in the MAGA resistance and on the side of “science.” And the sides and teams are all so obvious, that it has stopped even being entertaining.

The push-and-pull of the panicked versus the cavalier isn’t really serving any of us very well and it’s just adding to the chaos.

The bottom line is this: unseen forces are unseen until they are seen. I was never sure what George W. Bush could’ve actually done to stop 9/11. No one ever saw it coming. Not like that. I’m not sure what Barack Obama could’ve done to stop Ebola. Presidents aren’t on-the-ground health officials. And they don’t always get information until it’s too late.

I don’t really know what more Donald Trump could in this current situation. I do believe the test kits should’ve come online sooner. And I definitely plan to find out why the FDA took so long to make that happen. That’s one of the civic recourses we are allowed to access, here in a free society. And it’s a good thing.

In the meantime, we can vote people in or out, depending on which 70-plus-year-old man we think will best handle the next crisis like this. Not there’s anything wrong with 70-plus-year-old men. Those are just all the choices we have left at the moment.

One day, the Covid 19 virus will be in the history books. What will the chapters include? Who knows. I am certain we will see deaths we didn’t want to see. That’s horrible. We will get answers to questions we didn’t even know we had. That’s probably good. And some of us will get fevers and coughs and probably recover just fine.

The chapter we’re writing now, is the one where humans get rattled and afraid and freak out and cling to their deeply held belief systems tighter than Tom Hanks held onto Wilson, in Castaway.

And speaking of Tom, may he get well soon. May we all get well soon.   

R

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BIRTH OF A VIRUS …

As I watched my neighbor put her dog’s poop in a single-use plastic baggy, I thought about split pants in China.

When my wife and I got off the plane, 18 years ago, to adopt our first daughter, we were taken aback by the split pants. Split pants are (or at least were, back then) pants the children wear that are open in the crotch area. That allows them to urinate or defecate unobstructed, onto the street or wherever they may be. The theory is that eventually they will learn to “aim it at the toilet” or something to that effect.

Either way, I distinctly remember my brand new Nike slip-ons (probably made not far from where I was standing) sloshing into a mix of urine and who knows what else, and continuing to do so for the next three weeks.

As I started feeling the cough coming on, I remember one of the women in our group saying, at one of the airports (as she too, stepped into urine) “The people in this country probably have built up antibodies inside them our bodies have never even thought about.”

I replayed that line in my head for the next three weeks, as I descended into night sweats, fevers and a cough like I’ve never experienced.

Over the next several days and weeks, we would experience the amazing culture of China, in several different cities. But some things stood out to this germophobic American. I watched a man hock up something from his chest and spit it on the floor, right next to us, in a restaurant. No oysters for me, thanks. I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.

We visited a Hutong (inner city – where the locals live) and saw raw chickens, skinned and bleeding, just laying on the floor, waiting to be thrown on a restaurant grill…for public consumption. No FDA or USDA or food inspectors or “codes” to comply with, here. But why? This is the last purely communist country on earth. You’d think there would be red tape everywhere. What was happening here?

Then, my wife and I had to rush our newly adopted, 8-month-old daughter to the public hospital…and suddenly it all started making sense.

As we stepped in more urine, took our number from the print-out machine, walked past the line of children whining and crying from the scalp IVs in their heads, then rushed to clean up blood and mucus (left by the last patient) on the plastic table they were now laying our baby on, then waited on the ONE overworked doctor (attending to no less than three hundred people) try to round up a basic anti-biotic to administer to my daughter (right there on site – no refills) it dawned on me what I was seeing and what I had been seeing this whole time. I wasn’t watching a “backward” culture or a third-world society. These people weren’t genetically inferior to first-worlders. They weren’t “less-evolved” than I was.

I was witnessing the kind of maximum, almost brutal efficiency a society must develop when the state is the master and the individual is merely a subject. Why would a Communist country not have an effective FDA? Because who are you going to complain to if you get tainted food? The government? They don’t answer to you. The press? They are owned by the government. And again, they don’t answer to you.

So what if you don’t like the conditions in the hospital? Where else are you going to go? This hospital is the last (and only) stop. You can’t opt for another place and then just pay out of your own pocket. The government has capped financial upward mobility. There is now “income equality.” And that means nobody has the means to buy their way into a different (or better) situation. And even if you could, one doesn’t exist. The state provides it all. You’re stuck.

In every one of those places I described (especially the hospital) there were uniformed guards posted everywhere. The government was literally on every corner. And yet it didn’t feel like help. It felt like surveliance.

“Yes, communism is bad, Regie. We get it,” I hear you saying, through your screen. But it is much deeper than surface ideology for me, personally. As our group was sloshing through the stuff on our shoes, we all speculated as to what new viruses we might be bringing back to the States with us. Well, even during SARS, none of us brought any viruses back. But my family did bring back one of the rarest genetic disorders on planet earth. My daughter was carrying, in her beautiful little self, a messed up sequence of genetic code. She was missing a piece of her 15th maternal chromosome. It brought with it dozens of different symptoms, one of which was seizures.

A month after getting her home, she went into a ten-minute seizure that could only be described as terrifying. And as the doctors and nurses ripped her from my my screaming wife’s arms and dragged us into the waiting room, I was incredibly thankful to be at one of the best children’s hospitals in the world. This hospital was clean and sanitary, with highly trained people everywhere. There were comfortable chairs and private rooms. There was any and every medicine we needed, readily available. And as horrible as that day was, and as expensive as it was (that day basically contributed to bankrupting us. Fortunately, I live in a place where I was able to earn all that money back and more), we were incredibly grateful we were in the United States and people were getting paid large sums of money to tend to our precious little soul. And she survived.

What we know, without a doubt, is that she would not have survived had she not gotten out of China; out of that system.

China is back in the news with yet another deadly virus we are all wringing (and washing) our hands over. And I’m certain we’re more freaked out about it in the United States than they are in the epicenter of it. Trust me on this one. I’ve lived it.

If ONE American were to die of this virus, the marches will begin and the public outcry will be never-ending. Why? Because we are oriented to the individual, in this country. We believe – whether we practice it in our politics or want to admit it to ourselves – that one person makes a difference. And our government answers to us. We don’t answer to them.

As this virus is doing whatever it’s doing, we are also having a heated debate over our own politics as a nation. We are literally discussing the merits of “democratic socialism” in the context of a Presidential election, in the United States, in 2020. I don’t think this is an accident.

I’m watching people (even good friends) on the left, basically throw their backs out, trying to contort and explain away why “some’ socialism is a good thing and how public services are all really “socialist” constructs anyway and how it really isn’t as bad as all that and how ‘this isn’t Communism – relax” and basically try to shoe-horn themselves into possibly having to take a deep breath and vote for a guy who sees the bright side of Fidel Castro but at least is not Donald Trump.

And he has ignited the debate over “single payer” healthcare. And that notion always seems to be reasonable on the surface. Why not just streamline the whole thing? Why not get the bloated insurance companies out of it? Why not eliminate the greed and corporate bureaucracy from our health?

That all sounds very reasonable.

But here’s the thing …

Single payer also means single buyer. That means the dynamics of the market get eliminated. One of the natural checks-and-balances of finding a hot-shot surgeon willing to do the risky procedure or even just seek a second opinion, get chopped away little by little. Because now we’re answering to the government. It isn’t answering to us. After all, where are we gonna go? They’ve got us. And our cancer treatment or skin graft surgery or kidney stone blast is up to their red tape. Sure, we can get in the door for free. But we might die in there, waiting on someone with no incentive and who faces no recourse, to change our plasma bag.

I am not a registered Democrat or Republican. But if you don’t like the state of healthcare in this country, just remember that not ONE Republican has their fingerprints on it. NOT. ONE. Your current state of healthcare was voted on unanimously and signed into law by DEMOCRATS only.

And now, ten years later, we seem to need to fix it all over again. Why?

I personally believe it’s because we’re moving in the wrong direction when it comes to healthcare. We keep moving away from the free market toward a more controlled government system. Why not allow insurance companies to sell their products across state lines? Why not offer them tax incentives to keep high risk patients (like my daughter) on their actuaries? Why not put them in positions that force them to compete harder for the public dollar and become more competitive? In other words, why not make them more accountable to US?

Why not offer dollar-for-dollar tax incentives to individuals who pay for their own care out of pocket? Why not offer incentives to doctors who do pro-bono work?

If those ideas sound like decent ones to you, you may find it surprising that all of them are in a bill proposed by Marsha Blackburn (my long-time representative, now my senator) back in 2009. It’s 27 pages long and it would only take two weeks to implement. It never made it to the floor of the House for a vote.

What if there are answers in the free market?
There are companies like Weltrio, in Oregon, that provide comprehensive healthcare concierge services to corporations who provide insurance, and they lower costs by as much as 68%.
It seems like these ideas are right there for the trying.

The thing about free-market solutions when it comes to healthcare, is that if they don’t work, you can always trash them and go to a public option. But once you nationalize healthcare, there is no going back. And that terrifies me. I’ve seen the natural conclusion of what happens when only one buyer is purchasing gauze and morphine; when one source pays the doctors and nurses.

And I suppose my answer to all of it is: what have we got to lose by trying the easy thing first? What if the evil Capitalists are right and it kinda works?

Vladamir Lenin said, “Give me your four-year-olds and in a generation I will build a socialist state.”

He also said, “The goal of socialism is communism.”

Then, he said, “medicine is the keystone of the arch of socialism.”

We’re finding out – IN America – just how right he was about all of it. And some of us aren’t thinking twice about it.

When Ronald Reagan said, “One of the traditional ways of imposing statism or socialism has been through medicine,” many scoffed at him and joked about how stupid he was or (worse) how he just wanted the rich to have healthcare and didn’t care about everyone else.

But the truth is we all want the same things. We want our children to have access to affordable and GREAT healthcare (that last part if the key). We just have different ideas on how to get there.

As for me, I’ve seen what happens when the choices are taken away. And what happens ends up being a place where new viruses can spread too easily, to too many people, and aren’t contained quickly enough.

And that ultimately affects us all.   

   

R

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UGLY LOVE …

“For better or worse.”

That’s the one that gets you. It’s enough of a catch-all to keep people guessing, even when they find out they’ve married a thief or a (God forbid) a lawyer.

But the others are pretty darn steep, too: “in sickness or in health” (that one will break your heart) or (the worst) “for richer or poorer” (half of that one is fun – the other half….not so much). Then there’s the kicker: “Till DEATH do us part.” Good lord. That’s basically getting chained together until one of you drops dead…LITERALLY.

I don’t know who came up with the wedding vows, but they left very little wiggle room in them for people to breathe. You literally have no outs. There are no, “if you turn out to be a person who posts on Facebook in all caps, we get a two-week break to date other people,” or “If you get drunk at the party and start conga line, I am not legally bound to live with you anymore,” clauses.

Nope. It all falls under “for better or worse.” What no one ever tells you is that there is almost always more “worse” than “better.” Why? Because you are marrying a human being. And ALL human beings are in some sort of process. If you only see that human being from a distance, you might think they’ve conquered many things or have it all together or are exactly what you’ve been looking for. But living with someone day-in and day-out shows you who they really are. And over time, you’re going to see things you didn’t want to see. And guess what? So are they.

I’m intrigued by the current notion of love and coupling. Everyone’s looking for a “soul mate.” I don’t even really know what that is. I’d say most people don’t know what that is. Not really. Everyone has an idea of what they think it is, but nobody really knows.

“Love” as we currently understand it, seems like a relatively new concept. If you read the Old Testament (mainly Genesis) nobody was finding their soul mate or “dating” or in any real courtship, they were basically just hooking up and pounding out babies. Sometimes I read Genesis and wonder when sex even became something people enjoyed. It all feels very functionary and utilitarian. And we don’t see people start “falling in love” until maybe the book of Ruth or something. And it feels like love as we now view it, has actually evolved over the years.

Definitely, when society was male-centric and male-dominated, marriage was a much different arrangement than it is now. Dudes (who could afford it) had wives all over the place. It appears that you could be a player as long as you ponied up and took responsibility for whatever offspring you produced with the new sister wife. But the whole idea of one man and one woman didn’t seem to be a thing until the new Testament.

I’ll just leave it there. My wife hates it when I start talking about this stuff …

The ever-maddening dance between men and women has been going on for thousands of years. Essentially, we’re all fighting our own internal instincts; men are designed to spread their seed all over the place. That’s to ensure survival of the species. It’s hard-wired into every boy you’ve ever met. It’s not an “evil” urge or a “sinful nature.” It’s just biology and thankfully so. It’s why everyone reading this is even here: dad was a cad at one point.

Conversely, women are all protecting ONE egg at a time. So, their internal imperative is 180 degrees different than their male counterparts. They are looking for “Mr. Right” to fertilize that egg. And they aren’t interested in just allowing any old bro to take a shot at it. This is why rich, powerful men, rock stars and overpaid athletes seem to always have any woman they want. Because they are the best candidates for mama’s little egg.

In the big middle of this socio economic, biological maze, we try to find something as elusive as “love.” And we write songs about it and tell stories about it and make movies about it and we actually base our very lives on it.

Every Valentine’s Day we celebrate the ideal of that elusive thing we all seem to be searching for. We want the butterflies and the “spark.” We want our hearts to skip a beat when that person walks into the room. We somehow think they will always look as beautiful and young as they did on our first date, when we couldn’t take our eyes off them. We never see down the road, to 30 pounds heavier and hair loss. We never realize that the “beauty mark” will one day have a hair growing out of it.     

But love – real love – isn’t this pretty thing we all want it to be.

Real love is ugly and gritty and rough. Real love holds her hair when she’s throwing up, or it washes his sweaty sheets while he’s trying to kick the flu. Real love gets told horrible things in the heat of a fight, but decides to get up the next day and try again. Real love watches him lose over and over again, but keeps cheering him on…knowing it probably won’t really help.

Real love notices his love handles…but doesn’t notice at all. Real love watches her closet morph from stilettos and pumps into orthopedics and still wants to take her out on the town.

Real love goes blind over time. Because if it kept seeing everything perfectly, it wouldn’t hang around.

Toward the end of her life, my grandmother would occasionally blurt out things about my deceased grandfather that I simply didn’t want to hear. This man was a saint in our family. He was the best man I ever knew. He was the kind of grandfather they write country songs about. But I wasn’t married to him. She was. And as she got closer to the end of her life, she would, from time-to-time, forget to keep his perfect legacy alive for all the kids and grandkids, and tell some story that put in him in a not-so-favorable light.

And in those moments I would always remember that for me, these people were my foundation and my bedrock. But they didn’t start out that way. They started out as two young, wild-eyed kids thinking (like all young lovers) that they could beat the odds; that they were the exception; that they had found the real thing. But 52 years has its own say in the matter. And the last thing they were doing, when my grandfather suddenly died of an aneurism, was fighting over the plumbing in the kitchen.

That’s what real love looks like.

This Valentine’s Day, send the flowers and eat the candy and write the cards. But know that that little fat angel who shoots us with arrows, isn’t doing us any favors. He’s plunging us into an ocean we can’t swim. He’s sending us on a long journey toward heartbreak. He’s sending us to better …but then to worse. There’s no good ending to a love story. Eventually somebody leaves or somebody dies.

And the only way to truly appreciate real love is to embrace the imperfection of it.

And when you finally see the ugly part of love, and you can run toward it with the same passion you ran toward the pretty part, that’s when you finally discover how beautiful it actually is.   

  

R

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THE INFIDEL …

“I hope he fails.”

That’s one of the most incendiary quotes ever uttered by Rush Limbaugh. It’s also quite possibly one of the most misunderstood.

When I first head it, I (like many people, I’m sure) sort of winced. After all, he was talking about our newly elected president, Barack Obama. And everyone was sure this new presidency (and this new face, with the different skin tone) was going to bring with it a fresh wind of hope and change and all of that good stuff we couldn’t quite put our finger on.

Why on earth would someone root for the failure of this man?

So, unlike so many people in the media, I listened to Rush explain himself, on his show, in his own words. And his explanation made sense to me. And as a Libertarian, I agreed with him. I, too, hoped more collectivism and central planning didn’t happen. And THAT was what Barack Obama was promising. And he delivered as much of it as the electorate would allow.

Now, years later, after losing my health insurance and my doctor, after my taxes going up, after having to go into in-depth explanation after in-depth explanation about the difference between disagreeing with someone on policy and disliking their skin color, and after watching the wrecking ball of Donald Trump be chosen by the American electorate to roll back so much of what President Obama put in place, I, too, wish he had failed.

That doesn’t mean I wished him harm or ill-will. I didn’t wish for him to fail as a human. I didn’t wish for his health to fail. I simply wish he hadn’t been as successful at his attempt to fundamentally change (his words) so many things that didn’t need to be fundamentally changed. It had nothing to do with the man or his race or his family or his “agency” as a human being.

And that’s what Rush meant.

But it was taken out of context so many times it started to get laughable.

I could understand not getting it at first. It was a jarring comment. But if anyone had simply taken the time to put it into context, it wasn’t all that controversial. Maybe one could disagree on the substance; maybe you WISH for more government and more central control. That’s a legitimate disagreement. But people attributed this quote to someone with a racist heart.

And that is a huge misunderstanding.

I started listening to Rush in the early 90’s, right when he burst onto the national stage.

Up until then, my politics had been informed by having been a child in the south and watching southern Democrats practice systematic racism. Members of my family had been involved in the civil rights movement. My father pastored a black church. The Republican party was the only party that would register blacks to vote in some places in the south. It’s why Martin Luther King Jr was a registered Republican. And it’s one of the reasons many of us broke with generations of tradition and became Republicans.

But then, Jimmy Carter came along and we all felt that his goodness as a man would finally end the scourge of what we had witnessed Democrats standing for, for so many years. And make no mistake – Jimmy Carter is a good man. But as his presidency unfolded, we realized his policies simply didn’t work. It was no more complicated than that.

By Reagan’s second term, we all knew, without having to be political experts, that something was working. And it kept working.

Still, the country as a whole, was not in constant “political thinker” mode as it is now. Only the most boring among us lived in, and relished the weeds of, foreign policy and tax codes; public and private sector debates.

While on tour, in my early 20’s, I turned on a hotel room TV and William F. Buckley was on, explaining human cause and effect and how it related to carrot-and-stick politics. I was transfixed for the next two hours and felt everything he said resonate with me to my core, as a young songwriter and student of the human condition. And I suppose that set me on the course of being a Libertarian.

Then Rush Limbaugh came along and was able to distill all of that high-brow philosophy into easily digestible bites. But he also brought with him a bluster and tone that was off-putting to so many. I remember my wife and I listening to him in the car, once. As she turned him off, her exact words were, “I actually agree with everything he just said. I just can’t stand to hear him say it.”

I would imagine that was the case for many.

I’ve listened to Rush for decades. I haven’t always agreed with his points of view and I haven’t always agreed with his methods of communicating them. But I have never found him to be a racist or a sexist or a homophobe or any of the things ascribed to him by the media. I can assure you I wouldn’t be able to tolerate racism for any length of time.

But sometimes what we think is racism, is actually not. And sometimes what we think is “inclusion” is actually not. And if you don’t examine the subtleties, you will fall for the big lies.

So many quotes ascribed to Rush Limbaugh are things he never said. It is well-documented (and actually a running joke on his show) that many, many horrible Rush Limbaugh quotes have been simply made up out of thin air. As a blogger and occasional public person, I can tell you this happens more than you might believe.

Even in my small universe, I’ve been assigned belief systems or points of view that weren’t mine at all. Sometimes my quotes have been confused with some crazy comment on one of my social media comments threads. And sometimes people just make it up. You can imagine how this issue might be a nightmare for someone who talks three hours a day, five days a week.   

In the early 90’s Rush stopped doing taped interviews because he realized that they could be edited in ways that made him look horrible. So, his standing order was that he would only do live, un-edited interviews. As you can imagine, that cleared the field pretty quickly. But it also relegated the explanations of whatever comments were being taken out of context, solely to his talk-radio world. And unless you are an avid listener, it’s easy to just resign Rush Limbaugh to white, imperialism, racist, misogyny. Because you’re not putting any of his statements in context.

As I’ve said, I don’t always agree with Rush. I’m not an apologist for anyone. I don’t own everything someone who interests me might say or what they might do. But over the years, I have heard Rush articulate the heart of what I believe to be true; that when the human spirit is unleashed, there is nothing it cannot achieve; that when people are free, they are more likely to conquer the problems that face humanity; that the government isn’t an evil entity, per se, but that it’s also not a noble entity either just by virtue of being government, and that the reason the United States is a unique idea in the history of the planet, is that it embraces those notions and actually protects them in founding documents.

The entirety of “conservatism” (or as I prefer to call it, Libertarianism) is rooted in those beliefs.

I’m for letting people run free, not forcing them to languish in red tape. I’m for people chasing and catching their dreams, not having their dreams shaped and tempered by some “for-your-own-good” public policy, made by someone who’s dream is to restrain rather than unleash. I’m for the human being. I believe in the divine spark. The human is sacred in some way. And the human story is an incredible art piece that can be woven and wound into something better than it has been.

This is the sentiment I have always believed Rush Limbaugh believes and articulates. At least that’s how I have heard him.

Around the ’08 election, he and I (for the briefest of moments) shared an agent…sort of. She shared my song “Infidels” with him and not only did he get it (a lot of people didn’t) he apparently loved it. Through this agent, he asked me to insert all the names of the (then) political players on the scene. He didn’t want me to choose a side or make a political statement. He didn’t even ask about my politics. He just said he loved the idea of setting all of the craziness to music. His only stipulation was that I try to use some of the funny “nicknames” he’d coined (“Sheets Bird,” “Breck girl Edwards,” etc) and that I include HIM as an Infidel at the end, the way I had included myself in the original.

I thought about it and mulled it over. You can certainly get cancelled as an artist by making any sort of political stand that isn’t the obligatory “Democrat talking points” stand. But that’s boring and about as brave as saying you love Tom Brady in Boston, or playing Sweet Home Alabama in Montgomery. So, I decided to take chance and at least write the parody.

As it turns out, Rush didn’t use it on his show. Politics moves at the speed of light and by the time I got it written and re-recorded and re-mixed, some of the political players I wrote about were actually gone from the scene. And then the agent wasn’t in the picture. And then we all forgot about it and moved on.

But I can say that my one personal experience with Rush was that he never asked me to compromise in any way as an artist. He didn’t tell me what to believe or how to articulate what I believed. He didn’t demand that I come to anything from any sort of point of view. That’s more than I can say for some of the music companies I’ve worked with.

Here’s the lyric I wrote for him. Sadly, I cannot find the actual recording. But these were the people in the news, in 2008. And this little tongue-in-cheek musical comment on the fundamental difference in a pluralistic, open and free society, and one ruled with an iron fist, by religious dogma, was almost a Rush Limbaugh parody.

These days, just saying you listened to Rush Limbaugh and that you agreed with him on some things, will get you ostracized. Even as I write this, I’m imagining the online beating I’m about to take from some parts of the cyber world. Some of it will even come from people I consider to be friends. But one thing I’ve learned from Rush is that fear is a thief. It robs you of yourself and it forces you into places you might think are safe, but actually diminish you as a human being.

So, I’m posting this. That’s what we Infidels do. And, like Rush Limbaugh, that’s exactly what I am.

The ones who get it, get it. The ones who don’t…well…they never will.      

R

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INFIDELS

Barack Obama, Michael Moore

Albert Sharpton, Albert Gore

all the hippies in the peace corps …

Infidels

Hillary Clinton, John McCain

Breck girl Edwards and his perfect mane

George Sorros, the gravy train …

Infidels

1st cho

You know we’re living in the wild, wild west

we’re only doing what we do the best

put your religion to the acid test

move over here

and try to make it work without machine guns …

Charley Rangle, Charley Sheen

Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean

Ralph Nader and the Green Machine …

Infidels

Mitt Romney, Barney Frank

Jane Fonda in a commie tank

all the Jews on the west Bank …

Infidels

2nd cho

you know we like to let the women vote

we think they’re smarter than the average goat

I guess that’s why you want to cut our throat

and blow yourself up (just remember now)

a virgin’s just a virgin for the first time

Giuliani, Tom Delay

all the guards at club Gitmo Bay

black or white – straight or gay – still …

Infidels

bridge

Nancy  Polosi, even Rosie

sheets Bird and Richard Durbin

John Glenn, Sean Penn

even if he wore a turban

that little crazy guy Dennis Kucinich

who looks like Popeye without the spinach

the lefties, the righties and everybody else in between – know what I mean?

3rd cho

some people think we like to play too rough

stick out our chest and talk too tough

but we’ll surrender if you whine enough

and protest ourselves

put the blame on us we seem to like it

Fred Thomson, Ron Paul

the gutsy Gipper at the Berlin Wall

George W and Rush Limbaugh …

Infidels

every movie star you ever saw …

Infidels

you and me – one and all …

Infidels

   

NOT TODAY …

My daughter graduates from high school in May.

But on her second day as a Hamm, I was fairly convinced we would never get out of China together.

I called the the American embassy, the CDC as well at the World Health Organization, every time I was scheduled to board a plane, to ask if it was safe for me to travel. And every time, every person I spoke to told me to not get on a plane under any circumstances. And every time, I would hang up the phone…then get on a plane.

This was 2003, and the virus SARS was running rampant throughout China. By my fourth day in China, I had all the symptoms. Then, on day seven, they handed my wife and me a baby with a high fever, extreme lethargy and vaccination marks all over her feet and arms. The whole situation ran the gambit from confusing to terrifying.

One of the translators assigned to our adoption group pulled me aside the day we got our kids. He said that if I ended up in a Chinese hospital with that horrible cough I had, they would quarantine me with the people who had SARS. So, even if I didn’t have it now, I would almost certainly contract it in the hospital. So, stay away from hospitals at all costs, he admonished.

“Ok…just stay away from the hospitals,” I kept thinking to myself.

At 6 o’clock the next morning, my wife burst into the room, holding our new baby. She’d just been to the hotel doctor and had clear instructions.

“Dude – we have to go to the hospital…right now!” she exclaimed.

And without thinking, I jumped up to get dressed…and went directly to the place they told me I shouldn’t go.

The hospital was mostly an open-air structure with a urine trough running through the middle of it. The sheer numbers of people waiting to see a doctor were hard to fathom. It was all very utilitarian and bare bones. Nothing was plush or comfortable. Concrete was used wherever possible and the cleanliness was based on whenever a state worker got around to it. As we lay my daughter down on the mat, in front of the bank teller looking window, my wife reached inside her bag, grabbed some handi-wipes and feverishly cleaned off the bloody gauze and human fluids before my baby’s head actually touched them. After several masked nurses poked and prodded and yelled things back to the doctor on call, a scalp IV was called for.

The first time they inserted it, my daughter’s head began to swell and they had to stop the procedure and start again. They had obviously not put the needle in the right place and it was simply filling her head with fluids. Finally, through all of her screaming and writhing and us holding her down, while dozens of intrigued Chinese people (who had probably never seen Americans before) pushed in around us to get a closer look at this anomaly, they finally got the needle in the correct place in her head. Just at that moment, the now infamous (for those who have read my book, Angels and Idols) peasant woman raced up to me, to give me her son to take back to America and raise as my own. That’s when I went into an uncontrollable coughing fit. And that’s when the guards came for me…I thought.

As it turned out, they were coming to drag the woman away and to keep her from engaging anymore with these Americans adopting this little girl.

But for a brief moment there, I was certain I was about to be taken to a room, where I would encounter the virus that would probably end my life in China.

After a couple of hours, we were finally back at the hotel and our baby was sleeping. But her fever spiked again early the next morning and we couldn’t bring it down. We were directed to take her BACK to that hospital and do it all over again.

That night my wife went down to get everybody dinner while me and little one rested in the room. We were both weak and each fighting some unknown illness. I was sitting up in bed, staring at this sublime creature sleep. She was painfully gorgeous and just as painfully damaged in some way. We wouldn’t know exactly how damaged for years to come. But she was ours and we were in love. And there was no way in hell we were leaving that place without her.

I stared at her through her crib bars. I watched her breathe in and out. I put my finger through the bars and placed it on her hand. She wrapped her tiny fingers around mine in her sleep and she never let go.

I started to cry and realized that after all my years of traveling; after all my restless wandering, I was finally home…in a place ten thousand miles away from where I actually resided.

And in that moment it was all okay. I could die in China. And I finally understood the words to the song It Is Well With My Soul.

As the days and weeks unfolded, my caught got better. And my daughter got a little stronger and we didn’t have to go to anymore hospitals. I didn’t have SARS and I didn’t get it. Neither did my wife. Neither did my daughter.

We got back to the states and were under house quarantine for ten days before we were technically supposed to go out into the world and interact with people. But let’s be honest…we didn’t stay in our house for ten days.

Soon, SARS was out of the news and everybody was on to the next thing that was going to be the end of the world. Now, most people can’t even remember SARS.

This week, we have the Coronavirus. It’s a new and exciting virus coming out of Asia, that is spreading fear and trepidation throughout the population. If it’s anything like what we learned about SARS, it has probably been around longer than the Chinese government is letting on. And they’re probably WAY more worried about it over here in the States than they are in China. Losing 150 people in China isn’t even a blip on their radar. In a country of over 2 billion people, something would have to wipe out millions and millions of them before they saw it as a real threat to the “population.”

But when something like this virus threatens the western world, we take notice and sometimes we even panic. These are the things Hollywood movies are based on and we start getting uncomfortable when someone coughs or sneezes next to us in a theater or on a plane.

Well, it has been my experience (literally) that sometimes things might not be as bad as we think. What if everything is going to be okay? What if we survive? What if, instead of the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario actually happens? What if this isn’t the end at all, but simply a detour on the road to something more beautiful?

The truth is we are all going to die. It doesn’t end well for anyone. But if you’re alive today, you still have a chance at something. You still have hope. You still have room to run.

I could be wrong and the Coronavirus might be the thing that gets most of us. It could end up being an epidemic of biblical proportions, that wipes out a large percentage of the population. But if you start from the place of knowing that even if you die, it is well, then it can’t hurt your soul…only your body. If you can get to that point of love, knowing you are at peace with God and man, you can shake off the terror around you.

We are all going to die. But are we all going to live? That’s up to each individual.

As for me and my daughter? SARS didn’t kill us. Neither did Angelman Syndrome.

And I’m planning on her holding my hand again…at her high school graduation, in May.     

R

When I got back in my studio, after the harrowing events of China, I wrote the song Not Today, loosely based on what we had experienced and from the perspective of knowing everything is going to end…just not today. To hear the song (and maybe even become a Patreon member) click the link:

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