THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …

I don’t post a lot of my songs here.

I try to reserve this site for blogs and commentary and I don’t like to cross the words. But I’ve been promoting my Patreon site (shamelessly) and I thought I would offer a taste of what I’m doing over there.

I do a daily blog there. I also post personal, inside stuff, no one else in the world gets to see. It’s a bit a “comfort zone” buster for me, because I’m sharing things I wouldn’t normally share. THIS is a prime example:

I finished this song last night. On the site, I go into detail as to how the song came about and why it was written. Hope you enjoy.

If you don’t …let’s just forget this ever happened …

THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS

I SHOULD BE MAKING YOUR HEART SKIP A BEAT

EVERY TIME YOU BREATHE MY NAME

I SHOULD BE MAKING YOU MELT FROM THE HEAT

OF A BURNING LOVER’S FLAME

I SHOULD MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE ALL NIGHT

THEN LOVE ME TENDERLY …

CHO

BUT I’M SHOOTING OUT THE TV SCREENS AT 3 IN THE MORNING

I’M POPPING PILLS AND BUYING CADILLACS WITHOUT A WARNING

I’M KISSING STRANGERS ON THE LIPS

I’VE GOT THE DEVIL IN MY HIPS

I’M THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …FOR YOU

I SHOULD BE FLASHING YOU A MILLION DOLLAR SMILE

AND SHAKING UP YOUR SOUL

I SHOULD BE MOVING YOU WITH PASSION AND WITH STYLE

AND MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE ROCK AND ROLL

BABY I SHOULD BE A KING FOR YOU

WHO CAN MAKE YOU STILL BELIEVE …

CHO

BUT I’M DOING FAKE KARATE

AND KICKING YES-MAN ASSES

AND HIDING MY EMOTIONS BACK BEHIND THESE DARK SUNGLASSES

I’VE GOT THE COLONEL ON MY BACK

I’M JUST A WALKING HEART ATTACK

I’M THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …FOR YOU

IT’S ALWAYS THE QUEEN WHO WAITS

BEHIND THOSE PRETTY IRON GATES

THE ONLY ONE WHO’S LONESOME EVERY NIGHT …

CHO

CAUSE I’M GROWING OUT MY SIDEBURNS TO HIDE MY DOUBLE CHIN

AND I’M PISSED OFF AT THE BEATLES AND I TALK TO MY DEAD TWIN

YOU’RE JUST A PRISONER WHILE I PLAY

AND I WON’T LET YOU WALK AWAY

I’M THE WRONG KIND OF ELVIS …FOR YOU

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THE REPEAT BUTTON …

THE REPEAT BUTTON …

I thought once we learned it, we knew it.

At least that’s how I understood education in school. Once we learned 2+2 = 4 we didn’t need a refresher course on it. I thought Science and Math and English and Civics were all in the same category of settled truths. And that once we knew it, we knew it.

As it turns out, we have to keep learning things over and over again. And we have to keep hearing them over and over again. And we have to keep experiencing them over and over again. And sometimes we still don’t completely have it …even when we’re old and full of (supposed) knowledge.

I left high school (not college, mind you, HIGH SCHOOL) understanding what the Supreme Court of the United States was supposed to do and what it was NOT supposed to do. I thought everyone knew what it did and did NOT do. And yet, as I age, I realize that most people don’t know a lot of what I left high school assuming everyone knew.

As we stand on the precipice of Donald Trump appointing a yet another new Supreme Court justice, I’m watching people wring their hands and clutch their pearls and writhe in fear and trepidation about what a new justice might mean. And honestly, it doesn’t ring true to me, given what the court is supposed to do …and NOT do.

First of all, let’s define our terms: the Supreme Court does not MAKE laws. Surely, we all understand that. Right? The justices make constitutional judgements on the definitions and applications of laws. But they don’t MAKE laws.

Here’s where it has gotten tricky …they DO establish legal precedent. That means if an action is challenged in a court, there will be a legal precedent from the highest court in the land, upholding a certain decision, and basically backstopping any decision otherwise. However, there is a legal authority higher than the Supreme Court …it’s the constitution. So, if the people decide to add a constitutional amendment that supersedes a previous amendment, the court rulings (using that amendment) will be rendered null and void.

In other words, there were probably dozens of legal cases pre-13th amendment, where one slave-owner had a beef with a different slave-owner about poaching his slaves and what were the legal ramifications of stealing slaves and what laws on the books had precedent over such matters? Well, after the passing and signing of the 13th amendment, none of those cases mattered anymore because slavery ITSELF was illegal. And the PEOPLE decided that …not a court. So, while the court could rule on something related to slavery (see Dred Scott), the court didn’t decide that slaves were free. It took the entire country to do that.

I love our form of government. It’s wonderfully genius in its checks and balances. And if applied correctly, it evenly distributes power in a way that guarantees balance. Now, obviously, it’s not always applied correctly. Plus, it is run by human beings. So there are two strikes against it right there. But the goal of our form of government is to provide equal justice and standing among every individual citizen of the United States. We sometimes forget that that isn’t the goal of much of the rest of the world.

I was recently in a conversation with a young film maker who has been documenting a politician from a third world country. Her big takeaway, so far, is just how insidious and evil communism is and how much life it ends senselessly, in its devouring of power and liberty. And it makes you realize that this elusive “idea” we constantly talk about as America, is a real thing. It’s a real GOOD thing. And it makes you realize how hard we must continually fight to maintain it.

For people on the left, they feel that abortion is one of those inalienable rights that was never really spelled out in the Declaration or the Constitution, but is inherent to keeping women basically, personally free. And so, if they see a Supreme Court nominee who might not be a huge fan of Roe V Wade, they feel like the country, and freedom itself, is moving backwards.

But for some of us, that very notion in and of itself, maybe the problem. The fact that we’ve never truly had a national conversation about abortion, but rather, one side won ONE court case, is the nagging problem. And that case was essentially decided by 5 people. The fact that five (5) people made a decision and handed down a decree to three hundred million people, runs almost counter to what this country was founded on.

The fact is, we don’t have any national abortion laws. We have a lot of state laws, but there is no overarching national law governing the act of abortion. What we have is a Supreme Court ruling. And we’ve used that legal precedent as makeshift law. We’ve done the same thing with several other rulings through the years. And when people talk about “activist” judges, they are referring to judges who overstep their boundaries as judge and decide to set precedent in lieu of non-existing law …essentially creating law from the bench.

Let’s calm the air a bit and understand that even if ALL nine judges on the Supreme Court disagree with Roe V Wade, they can’t just decide to overturn it by themselves. A case would have to be brought forward that relates to it. And even if that happened and it did get overturned, it wouldn’t necessarily make abortion illegal. Because, as I said, there are no national abortion laws on the books. There is certainly nothing specific about it in the Constitution (although people cite the fourth amendment and privacy).

But if your life is completely tied to government and what it does, you will constantly be biting your nails over a Supreme Court nominee. I suppose I understand that. The profession I have been in for the last 28 years, has always been completely tied to the government and its actions. And let me say, I’ve hated every single piece of that. It has caused me (and my family) pain and suffering in ways you cannot understand unless you’re directly dealing with it.

Because of this, I always wonder why people want more government in their lives. I wonder why they want to be at the mercy of courts and justice nominees and elections and decisions by elected officials. Because hanging by the thread of a court case is a dicey proposition. If the freed slaves had been constantly worrying about presidential elections and court appointments, to know if they were going to be slaves next year, that wouldn’t have been justice. And it wouldn’t have been American.

That’s why it is so important for citizens to be informed and involved. And it’s important for them to understand what all the branches of the government do. That’s why we teach that stuff in high school and that’s why it’s important to learn it.

The problem is, we seem to have to keep learning it over and over again.

R

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THE BREAK-UP LETTER …

It’s not the amber waves of grain or purple mountains’ majesty.

It’s certainly not the rocket’s red glare or bombs bursting in …well …you know. It’s not even the free market or diversity or apple pie or fireworks or the Grand Canyon or the heartland or even the military (as much as I love them). And I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that it isn’t even the beloved and genius Constitution.

No, the one thing that is the foundational tone-setter for what would become The United States of America (at least, in my opinion) is the Declaration of Independence.

Before anybody won a battle; before anybody ran for president; before anybody pledged allegiance (or took a knee), somebody decided to write something down that had never been written down. It was something you dare not utter and was only spoken of in hushed tones, under baited breath. It was an idea that had been formulating for centuries and was waiting on JUST the right moment to present itself.

It had cousins and predecessors. But it hadn’t found the precise historical context in which to be born. The Greeks and Romans had theorized about it. Barbarian warriors had fought for something they thought of as close to it. The Ottomans and Africans and Indians and Asians had all formulated classes and castes and tribes that provided some semblance of it, for some people, in some places on the globe. But no one had established a base-line for human rights; a written, governing principle to which future generations could aspire.

The Declaration of Independence was quite possibly the biggest gamble in the history of the world, up to that point. The story of the American Revolution is often portrayed as David and Goliath struggle between a rag-tag band of marauding rebels pitted against red coated soldiers who were too well-trained in “proper battle” for their own good. And part of that is certainly true. But the American colonials didn’t just rise up and throw tea into a harbor and bitch about taxes and prance about in powder wigs, dancing to harpsichord music. Issuing a secession letter to the King of the world – basically breaking up with the most powerful nation on earth – was nothing short of insanity.

Doing something like was considered sedition. But the Declaration made it a righteous battle. Those words were a line of demarcation. They set down a marker, stating, “if we win this …nothing after it will ever be the same. This is the line in the sand between Monarchy and birthright …and self-determination; between what someone else decides for the most average human …and what that human decides for himself; between being loyal to a crown and a ruling class …and being loyal to one’s own convictions.”

No one had ever guaranteed the right to literally “pursue happiness” in writing before. No one had dared declare that all men were created equal. And no one had ever ventured to stand up and tell their rulers, “no thanks …we’ll govern ourselves. It’s been fun.”

The Declaration of Independence separates the American experiment from all other forms of freedom fighting. It told the greatest Empire in history, exactly what it wanted. It gave its composer and co-conspirators no way out but victory. And it sent a signal to the world; if you want something, put it in writing …and sign it in blood.

The Declaration teaches us, if you’re not willing to document and declare your intentions, whatever freedom you gain will be cheap.

Obviously, the Declaration was incomplete on the day of its signing. It would be decades before slaves were free and women voted. But that document was the largest step in the direction of personal liberty, the world had ever seen to that point. And if the Revolution had not been won, who knows how long it would’ve taken for its principles to be re-discovered and re-written …and re-lived?

In the course of human events, the Declaration of Independence is a miracle. And its legacy grows stronger and stronger with each new person who shows up under their inalienable right to live. The children of the Declaration still fight over rights and freedoms, over two-hundred and forty-some-odd years later. That spark, of declaring to the world what you will and won’t do, is a raging fire that will most likely never extinguish.

With all the problems we have in our country, I like to remember, on July 4th, why all this craziness started in the first place. It was an idea. And it was a damn good one. Somebody took the time to write it down …and make copies. And it caught on.

The tiny penmanship and eighteenth century language are weird for us to relate to, today. July 4th is a day off and a good time behind the grill or on the water.

But I personally like to take a few minutes of the day and imagine a sweaty, thirty-five-year-old rebel, sending a “come-to-Jesus” note to the most powerful man on earth. I like to imagine a smirk and a sip of wine when he was proofing it. I like to image fifty-six dudes signing it and someone looking at the guy next to him and saying, “that’s it …send it.” I like to imagine the adrenaline that must’ve raced through their bodies as they watched it being couriered away …sealing their collective fates forever. I like to imagine what they thought they were starting …or ending.

And when I do that, I don’t hate my fellow Americans so much with whom I disagree. We’re all just rowdy children of that insane break-up letter. And we won’t be told what to do.

And as we watch the fireworks and eat the hot dogs, I like to remember that we all carry a copy of that parchment in our pockets …whether we know it or not.

R

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Daily Blog …

For those of you who follow this weekly blog, I wanted to update you on my Patreon site. Patreon is my paid subscription site, where I post daily blogs and updates. I share private thoughts and go a little deeper into what I’m thinking and how I arrive at the final idea and piece that goes live every Wednesday

Patreon members hear songs I’ve written and get glimpses into my new books or films in progress. My newest novel, 8 Rules, is posted there now, as well as a couple of excerpts from the screenplay version of Angels and Idols.

I don’t advertise on this blog site, so the Patreon page is how I offset the costs of focussing on this work. I really appreciate everyone’s support and willingness to join up and be a part of the journey with me. It has been completely humbling.

If you’re interested in joining, you can go here:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

The minimum monthly fee is $1.00. But feel free to follow your heart in that regard.

Thank you again for reading and listening. I never take your time lightly and I promise to NEVER waste it.

Ok, friends …that’s enough commerce for the day. I’ll either see you Wednesday …or I’ll see you EVERYDAY on Patreon!

 

R

UNSAID …

All marriage counselors tell you to never cross that line.

Every married couple knows where that line is. It’s the point of no return …the thing you cannot UN-say. Once you have shared enough of your soul with another person, they know where your weak spots and painful places are. And as married people, we have a sacred duty to each other, to never go near those places.

If you know your spouse has a horrible body image and has battled that her entire life, you NEVER say anything about her weight …even if she’s struggling with it. In fact, ESPECIALLY when she’s struggling with it. If that is her issue, your saying, “you know, it wouldn’t hurt you to lose a few pounds,” is shattering trust you might not ever get back. They are only words and there are only a few of them. But they represent something deep and meaningful to her. They represent all of the people in her life who made fun of her in middle school. They represent the insecurity of being loved conditionally. They represent that mountain she has to climb Every. Single. Day. They represent YOUR attitude toward what is important to YOU …about HER.

Now, for the rest of your relationship, even if you say, “you know I was only kidding,” or “I was just young and stupid. What did I know?” it won’t matter. She knows something about you now, she can’t un-know. She knows something about your character and how you view women, that she can’t put out of her mind. And you can’t blame her for thinking of you a certain way …forever. Because no matter how much you change (or try to), that little reminder will always be back there: “He values looks over soul” or “If I don’t look as good as the younger girls, he’s going to leave me for one of them.”

Those precocious few words have shaken your relationship to its core.

This works in reverse for men, as well. If you ever laugh at a man’s dream or tell him, “whatever” at JUST the wrong time, he will never be able to un-hear that. He’ll always know you don’t really believe in him or his ideas …not really. And no matter how much you try to make up for it, for the rest of your life, he’ll always have that little seed of doubt, “I wonder if she’s just saying this to make me feel better?”

And let’s not even TALK about what happens to a man’s confidence, if you ever say something like “size DOES matter” or something like that …not that I would know …anyway …I digress. Let’s talk about something else!

 

This concept is true of all relationships. The fact is, humans are messy. And if enough painful truths get spoken, sometimes the truths just pile up too high to look past.

We have this dynamic playing out in our nation as a whole, right now …

The United States is an experiment in tolerance and the acceptance of others. But since its founding, we have pushed the absolute limits of this notion. At one point in our history, the truths stacked up so high we slaughtered ourselves to the tune of over 600-thousand soldiers. And even now, over 150 years later, those scars haven’t completely healed …

When a black person sees a confederate flag on display, they don’t have the same “heritage-not-hate” affinity for it someone else might have. They don’t just see pride in birthplace or respect for the fallen. They hear words that cannot be unsaid. They hear, “We may have lost. We may have even been wrong about some things. But we will never stop believing you are inferior.” And no matter how hard you try to explain otherwise to your African-American friends …they won’t accept it fully. They can’t. The scars run too deep. And they now know something about you they cannot un-know. And that keeps mistrust and skepticism alive.

Conversely, when you take a knee at a football game, you have said to the American people, “I couldn’t care less about this flag or this country. You’re all a bunch of racists. I just want to take as much money from this game and these stupid fans as I can.” You can throw your back out, making excuses for what “taking a knee” really means and you can dress it up in “reverence” or even just cling to the first amendment. But you’ve said something that cannot be unsaid. People now know how you really feel about them and the country. And THAT is why they’re not watching your sport anymore. The “new rules” imposed by the NFL won’t really matter. You’ve said it. You’ve done it. They heard it and saw it. And they can’t un-hear or un-see it.

Roseanne Barr is on a crying and apologizing tour for what she tweeted. And she wants us to forgive her. And we probably will. But the problem is, we all know what was (and is) in her heart. Of course she’s sorry. She’s lost everything. Anyone would be sorry. But she wrote something we cannot un-read. Peter Fonda did the same thing. No matter how much he apologizes, it simply doesn’t matter. We now know that somewhere deep in his heart, he has a place where child rape is acceptable …as long as it punishes the right person. And he can’t un-say it …and we can’t un-know it.

All across the political spectrum we are saying and hearing things we cannot un-say or un-see. Even our own president tweets and says things he cannot take back …all the time. And that seems to give everyone permission to up the ante.

I have re-thought friendships and working relationships, based on some things I’ve read and heard, that I cannot un-read or un-hear. I’ll bet you have too. How many times have you seen a post and said to yourself, “Oh my LORD! She (or he) actually THINKS that?” How many times have people said that about you?

I don’t know if our country is headed for another Civil War, but we ARE saying and doing things we cannot take back. I heard that some people were apparently “going low,” so some other people said they were going to respond by “going high.” But no one is going high. Literally ZERO people are going high. And because of it, we are re-defining our national relationship with one another. I know I’ll never listen to Kathy Griffin’s comedy the same way, if at all. I’ll never watch another Robert DeNiro movie with the same suspension of disbelief. If I ever meet Roseanne, I’ll be nice and offer her every kindness I would offer anyone else …but I’ll know something about her I cannot un-know. And it will bother me.

On the bright side, I now know something about Chris Pratt I’m glad I can’t un-know. Even if he goes off the deep-end and starts snorting coke off of super models’ belly buttons, after watching his acceptance speech (at that award show I cannot remember the name of), we all know his capability for refracting light and love. It’s in there and we know it is. And that’s the part we should probably focus on …the GOOD things we can’t un-know about each other.

I hope for this. I hope we can hear more blessings we cannot un-hear or see more heroic actions we cannot un-see or learn more good things about people that we cannot forget. Because the truths stack up. And some truths I just don’t want to know. Some truths I can’t know without adjusting accordingly. That’s why sometimes, not knowing might be better. Because once you know …you know forever.

R

THE BABIES, THE BELIEVERS, AND THE BIRD FLU …

Oprah told us it was the most important story on the planet.

I distinctly remember that phrase because I thought to myself, “Wow! That’s a big statement. She’ll probably do a whole month of shows on this.” Nope. That was the only show on it. One of the shows that followed it was the interview with Tom Cruise where he jumped up on the couch, and professed his love for some woman …I can’t remember her name. No follow-up show was ever done …on the most important story on the planet.

My point? The Bird Flu story was, indeed, NOT the most important story on the planet. In fact, nobody even remembers it, now. But we got awfully emotional over it for a while. We hugged our kids tighter and worried for our collective futures. After all …the Bush administration wasn’t doing ANYTHING to stop the Bird Flu. And that was borderline criminally negligent, given the circumstances.

The outrage over the Bird Flu was a classic case of drumming up something over which people could get angry and mobilized. Nothing more. The truth is none of us really knew anything about the Bird Flu. OPRAH didn’t know anything about the Bird Flu. The Bird Flu wasn’t any more of a threat than any other flu. But it pitted the sides against each other perfectly …for a few minutes. And sometimes, a few minutes is all you need.

Right now, the current outrage is the children being ripped out of their parents’ arms, on the southern border. My God! I am heartbroken! Okay, maybe not dramatically heartbroken …But I’m interested …let’s put it that way. How can I be so cruel and unfeeling? Because truthfully, I don’t really know what’s going on down there. And truthfully …neither do you.

I’m not as interested in the laws or the Trump policy or, believe it or not, what’s actually happening on the southern border, as I am in the responses to it. As I understand this situation, illegal alien parents, and their innocent children, are being processed separately, when they attempt to come into the country without documentation or a Visa or a passport or a work permit. Is the United States handling this the best way it could be handling it? I have no idea. Maybe not. Or maybe it’s doing an incredible job, given the circumstances. I honestly don’t know. And again …neither do you.

But the hand wringing and cyber tears and cries from the souls of those who just know “this is not US!” is what I’m focussed on. See, if Americans were really incensed about children being torn away from their parents, they would be out in force at every custody hearing, in every courthouse in America. Children are systematically ripped away from dads in this country every second, of every minute of every hour of every day. We’re pretty okay with babies crying for daddy and being taken away from him. Hey, just because he’s out of work or an alcoholic or he cheated on mom or he occasionally loses his temper and hits mom …should those things make a difference? I mean we’re talking about taking kids away from a parent. Right?

What about when mom is on crack and a baby is taken away from her and put into the system? Shouldn’t we get nauseous over that? Okay …maybe that’s a bad example. How bout this? How about when a girl gives a baby up for adoption in …oh …I dunno …Florida, let’s say. In Florida, a birth mother has thirty days to change her mind about giving up her child. So, are there cameras there on day 28, when a baby is ripped from its adoptive mother’s arms and given back to birth mom, who now thinks she can kick heroin once and for all? Do these people nearly faint with indignation then?

The United States government takes children away from parents EVERY. SINGLE. DAY, for any number of reasons and any number of existing laws. Right now, one of those reasons happens to be trying to enter the country illegally. Would I do it that way? I don’t know. I’m not privy to all the facts. Maybe I would or maybe I wouldn’t. Again, that’s not really the point.

What I DO know is my fingerprints and personality profile are on file at the FBI. If I screw up a little too badly, the United States can walk into my house and remove my adopted children without so much as a “nice kitchen.” They told us as much back when we were being processed. I would only hope all the protesters would come to my defense and help me get my kids back. But if Trump was doing something else someone decided to hate, I doubt they would bother.

The problem with a situation like this is that it’s a flashpoint for everyone’s political ire. And that makes it all worse.

And it doesn’t help when our stupid attorney General (who should be fired for a myriad of reasons, by the way) starts quoting scripture in defense of the most damning photo campaign since Abu Ghraib. Stop using Jesus for either side of this. Jesus didn’t work for the government and he didn’t have to deal with eighty thousand illegal border crossings.

This is a processing issue. Period. It’s not a referendum on anyone’s faith or lack thereof. If I hear one more person tell me how a “real Christian” should feel or think about this, I’m going to surf internet porn and drink whiskey and play my rock and roll records backwards until the evil spirits overtake me. I don’t care about how you think I should feel. I don’t care what you think Jesus would do. I don’t care how horrible you think Donald Trump is. The bottom line is YOU don’t really care about families getting torn apart anymore than Republicans care about terminally ill people being forced off of life support. You just need to feel like you’re on the side of the angels. You just need to feel like you’re outraged by the right thing.

If you are seriously crying and having a hard time eating, go to the border and offer to take in a child. Sponsor a family to come here legally. Lobby for laws in your state that shrink grace periods for birth mothers. That’s what I do. See, I actually know kids who were ripped out of homes. I know adoptive parents who’s babies were born and then the birth mothers skipped town the day after they held their children for the first time. Those aren’t just pictures to me. I know what it means. The difference is, those children on the border will most likely be reunited with their parents once the processing is over. It’s temporary. The stories I’m talking about are permanent. And no protestors marched for those families. because they weren’t a cause de jour, and they weren’t simple scenarios to direct outrage toward. They were complicated matters, just like I’m sure a lot of these cases on the border are.

If children remaining with families is your real passion, get involved right in your city …right now. Otherwise, this is just another reason for you to either defend Trump or hate Trump and these kids are nothing more than your own personal soap box to stand on. And next week, they will be discarded, because there will be a different outrage. And we will have all moved on.

And all of this urgency will vanish into the same place every other news story vanishes into …the hole where the Bird Flu lives.

R

 

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WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES …

“That should’ve been me walking down that aisle,” is a phrase I have a hunch is sometimes thought, when women are watching other women get married.

How many detoured dreams “should’ve” happened? How many perfectly constructed moments are wrecked by the “wrong person?”

I’ve had those thoughts about things in my own life. “If only” and “I should’ve” and “if I could do that again” are phrases I have uttered on more than a few occasions. And it’s difficult to reconcile what “should’ve been” with what actually is. One of the hardest things to do in life, is to grit your teeth and say, “this is the way it is supposed to be.”

Americans are oriented toward changing their station and righting wrongs and not accepting the status quo. I’m right there with ya, brothers and sisters. And yet, sometimes, the story being told is bigger and more complex than we can imagine. Sometimes it really isn’t about us. Sometimes, there are forces at work that are deeper and wider than we can see. In the midst of tragedies, this is the hardest of all times to get a thirty-thousand-foot view and see the ultimate good that might be coming of it. We don’t like pain and we avoid it. But sometimes pain is the corridor we must go through to meet our true destiny. And many times, we can’t take the people with us we thought would be there at the end.

And when it’s all said and done, the finished novel often reads nothing like you thought it would. The character have changed and the wrong circumstances happened to the wrong people. It just wasn’t written the way you wrote it in your head.

The healthy person accepts it, adjusts to it, learns from it and builds on the lessons learned. The unhealthy person keeps trying to re-write it over and over and over again, and make the outcome turn out the way they KNOW it should’ve turned out.

We’re watching this play out in politics, right before our very eyes. Donald Trump was not supposed to ever become president …and yet he did. He wasn’t supposed to survive his first year in office …and yet he did. He was supposed to start WWIII …and yet he hasn’t.

Of course we are all watching, with great interest, what is happening on the Korean Peninsula. It is truly unprecedented. I don’t like a ruthless dictator’s flag waving next to my beloved banner of freedom. I can’t stand the idea of an American president glad-handing a man with gallons of blood on his. But I’m watching and I’m listening and I’m reading. I did all those things with the last president …and the one before him …and the one before him …and the one before him. I trust that either the fate of this nation is in the hands it’s supposed to be in …or it was doomed from the start, anyway. We’re either a special moment in history …or we’re just another empire, destined to crumble and fall. So I watch.

But some people cannot move into this place. Some of my own friends are still clinging to the idea that Robert Mueller is going to show up at the White House with arresting officers and carry Mr Trump away in handcuffs. I’m not making any of that up. I have literally read these very words. And it reminds me of that guy in the song What A Fool Believes. He conjured up a relationship that never was a relationship. He was there, sure. She was there, sure. But her smiles at him didn’t mean what he thought they meant. When she touched him on the arm, that one time, it wasn’t flirting …she was just trying to move him out of her way.

And so it is with those who still cannot and will not accept the election of Donald Trump. It isn’t that they just disagree with him …which is fine and necessary for a robust republic. They literally believe he will be removed from office forcibly, and somehow the person who was “supposed” to be president will finally be sworn in, in his place. And I just want to put my arm around them and have a real talk. None of that is going to happen. It isn’t what you wanted it to be. And it isn’t going to be what you want it to be. It is what it is. And if you can settle a bit, you might notice that a lot of it is actually okay.

Bill Maher rooting for a bad economy to emerge, overlooks the most important thing of all …it would have to overtake a good one. And isn’t THAT the goal? A good economy? While Robert DeNiro was embarrassing himself and unravelling part of his “national treasure” status on national television, the object of his ire was making world history and maybe …MAYBE …saving western civilization in the process. I wouldn’t have written him into that role. But there he is. And it’s not what I imagined.

I don’t know how the Trump presidency will ultimately play out. I have often said, I’m agnostic when it comes to Trump. I may be the only one in America who can say that. But I do know that it is very hard to unseat a sitting president. People think Nixon was forced out of office because of impeachment. The truth is he was never impeached and he resigned voluntarily. He might’ve been able to fight it out till the end of his term …who knows. The point is, I’m living in 2018 …not 2016. The wedding is over and the two people who showed up at the alter got married …not the one sitting in the pews, who SHOULD’VE been up there.

If you constantly live in a world of your own making, refusing to accept the situation as it is, you will go insane. Does that mean you stop voting and stop speaking out? No. Does it mean you accept things you consider to be wrong? Of course not.

But sometimes, the way we thought it was supposed to turn out, isn’t what was supposed to happen at all. Sometimes, we’re wrong about it. Maybe Trump was the one guy who could talk Kim Jong Un off the ledge. Maybe a brash, foul-mouthed real estate developer from Queens was just the thing we needed for a certain time.

As someone who’s been wrong about how things should’ve played out, on several occasions …I’m willing to accept what is and watch what happens.

R

ABOVE REPROACH …

I promise you I will never stare at your breasts.

In fact, I don’t call them anything other than the scientific term (breasts), anymore. And I definitely won’t look at them. When women wear provocative and revealing clothing, I laugh and enjoy the game all the more. NO. I refuse to look at you. You can’t break me. It is an impossibility.

Why?

Well, for one, I’m a married man. Two: I’m at an age when it’s kinda creepy for me to be eyeing women in public. But three: I’m so paranoid about making a woman feel uncomfortable, that I refuse to acknowledge anything about her from the neck down. I will not be that guy. Men have gotten themselves in enough trouble as it is. If a woman and I are ever in a courtroom over harassment, it’s going to be about HER harassing ME.

For those of you cheering me on right now and saying “amen” and all of that, relax. This isn’t even really about my relationship with God or my wife or my “walk with Christ” or any of that stuff people like to say to make themselves look really holy and cool. In my case, it’s about none of that. I’m as much of a red-blooded man as the next red-blooded man.

See, I’m a social commentator. I’m a writer. I’m a student of the human condition. And I’m a champion of individuality and equal treatment for everyone. I also happen to be a conservative Libertarian. And if you are someone who sides with conservatives, you have zero room for error. ZERO. Anyone who calls themselves a conservative should know this and act accordingly. So, I don’t look at breasts. It’s one of the hazards of having certain political beliefs.

When Martin Luther King Jr was leading the civil rights movement, he would often tell his followers that they had to be better, kinder, less aggressive, more knowledgeable, better read, better spoken and even better dressed than their oppressors. And then, they simply had to show up and allow the cameras to show the world who was doing what to whom and who the better people were. The pictures of people in the way of the dogs and hoses, not returning evil with evil, was one of the most effective strategies in American history.

I am often asked how to win an argument. Well, first, don’t get in one. But the best way to win an argument is simply this: Be right. Be kind. Be quiet.

If you’re right, that includes not trafficking in hatred. Eventually, the other side will show their bias, and many times their own hatred and prejudice. Once that happens, no one has to ask who won the argument.

I always call on my fellow conservatives to be better and hold the high ground. Obviously, this rule has been thrown to the wolves with our current president. He likes the fight and he’s not afraid of the bottom land. That’s fine. He can do as he pleases. But I do wish conservatives would remember that when you’re trying to convince someone of color that you actually don’t hate them, they sometimes have a hard time reconciling that with things they hear or read. And all it takes is one out-of-context comment or one truly asinine statement to allow the powers on the other side to use it as verbal ammunition for years and years to come.

One of those statements in question is the latest tweet by Rosanne. I was never a huge Rossane fan to begin with. I didn’t watch her show when it was on the first time. But this time around, my daughter laughed at it and so we found ourselves viewing it on Wednesday nights. And to my surprise, I kinda liked it. I thought they were dealing with the struggles of the modern American middle class very unflinchingly. But it also made me laugh from time to time. Overall, I thought the show could’ve been good for the country.

But with one (probably drunken) tweet, all of its potential was swept away. Because Rosanne obviously allowed something sinister inside her to bubble up. And it has reinforced what every person of color thinks white people (of a certain ilk) has always thought about them. It takes the conversation of race 50 years backwards. So, instead of talking about policies and ideas and common goals, we’re back to talking about racism 101 again. And for me, it’s maddening.

Metaphorically, Rosanne stared at somebody’s breasts …in front of everyone …at church …for a long time …then grinned …then tried to touch them. It was stupid, unnecessary and it casts a shadow on those of us who just believe in low taxes and the fact that government might not be the best way to solve everyone’s problems. No, we can’t just believe that. Because of how politically charged the world is and because Rosanne publicly spoke out in favor of the president, we have to start defending our racial inclusion quotient all over again.

A lot of people are defending Rosanne and bringing up instances of hypocrisy from other TV personalities. That’s kind of like saying, “you looked at a woman’s breasts too!” Stop it.

The truth is if you are for smaller government, lower taxes, lower regulation, etc, etc, you should know that you have a target on your back …all the time. If you don’t know that, learn it. And if you ever want to be effective in the public arena of ideas, you will never get out of the starting gate if there is real evidence that you are a racist, sexist, homophobe, mysoginist, etc. Because that is already assumed, anyway. You’re already behind the 8-ball. So your behavior has to be so far above those things that your opposition will literally have to make themselves look completely deranged to make that case.

My personal code is that I don’t need or want the distraction of having to defend my love for all people. I want you to know that I start with the acceptance of you and your worth as a human being. Then, we can get to the disagreement without you thinking I just don’t like you because of something as silly as skin or plumbing or who you love or whatever.

And if we’re disagreeing, and you’re a woman …I will not look at your breasts. Ever.

R

EVERYBODY’S FAMOUS …

“I was born to do this,” is the most familiar phrase uttered.

If you spend any amount of time watching The Voice or American Idol, that’s the phrase you’ll hear over and over again. Coming in a close second is, “this could change my life.” Given these two phrases in such close proximity, we apparently live in a culture where nobody is born anywhere near what they were actually born to do. Fascinating.

Chasing dreams is a great thing. Everybody should spend some time in their lives doing just that. But sheer math dictates that everyone wasn’t born to be on stage and perform. We need a lot more people in the audience for the whole thing to work properly. Our current culture, however, tells everyone, everywhere that they are born to shine and succeed and stand out and be fierce and break ground and be heard. Nobody ever seems to be born to work in silence or anonymity. Those are the conditions from which we are to rise. That’s the life to get out of. Those are the bonds you have to break to get to the spectacular life you were intended to live.

In short, we’ve raised an entire generation of people who think they are supposed to be famous. But being famous isn’t what people think it is. And the desire for fame, without the desire to actually accomplish something, is rotting our cultural motivation.

The truth is there is a lot of really good talent out there in the world. My wife watches those vocal performance shows and it’s the reason I wrote a song for American Idol a decade ago (she asked me to do it). But in the sea of fully realized talent, there is precious little that is truly “special.” And what is special? Special is the thing you don’t see coming. It’s the thing that makes you stop and think …then, re-think. Special doesn’t necessarily make you say “WOW!” Special makes you say “oh …that’s what I’ve been missing.”

Was Tom Petty a good enough vocalist to win American Idol? Not even close. He would’ve never gotten a golden ticket to Hollywood. But I’d rather hear him sing Free Falling than the best vocal technician in the world. Tom Petty was born to do that. And he didn’t need a contest to tell him he was. He proved what he was born to do (and be) year after year, song after song, club after club, hook after hook, stage after stage. And what made him worth listening to is that he would’ve never allowed a TV show to tell him if he was good enough or not.

Being born to do something means having a love/hate (or, dare I say, real) relationship with it. It means having an intimate understanding of its dark side. And even after you know about the dark side …you saddle up and do it again. Because that’s what you do …for better or worse.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately. There’s one about Jerry Seinfeld that was shot in the early 2000s, right after his sit com went off the air. It follows him on his quest for new material and a return to standup comedy. We watch the iconic funny man forget his place in the new set and fumble punch lines and try wording the same joke several different ways. We also follow a young Orny Adams in his quest to become famous; to essentially replace Seinfeld in the rarified air of superstardom. While Seinfeld works methodically and meticulously in dingy club after club, Orny is glad-handing managers who can help him go places. He’s working on his “Letterman set” and climbing the ladder as hard and fast as he can.

Ultimately, Seinfeld polishes a solid hour and half into comic gold, while young Adams – clearly driven, clearly talented, clearly a workaholic – crashes and burns. The reason for the two disparate endings: Adams was trying to be famous …Seinfeld was trying to be funny. And THAT’S how you know if you were truly born to do or be something. You just be it. It’s just you. You cannot fake it.

I think a lot of us might actually be incredible salespeople, real estate agents, therapists, counselors, teachers, builders, managers, waiters, event planners, journalists or florists …trapped in the bodies of people trying to be famous for something else. But when you are truly born to do something, it will resonate with you and everyone around you. You won’t need validation. You will feel a vibration of truth in it you can’t simply get on a stage, drinking in applause. You feel it in a deeper place, somewhere beyond the noise of the moment. You’re not nervous anymore, because you know you’re in the right place. And when you’re in the right place …you can do no wrong.

We’re not all supposed to be famous. What if you become famous but you were supposed to change the world with a new teaching curriculum? What if while you were chasing a dream, you missed opening that day program for people with special needs (that was your secret desire) and all the people who were going to be changed by it forever …never were? What if while you were practicing for your American Idol audition you forgot to run for city council and fundamentally transform your home town? I wonder.

As a postscript, I watched an Orny Adams special a few weeks ago. He’s older and heavier and his hair isn’t as cool as it was 15 years ago (I feel him on all counts). He missed his “young-hot-comedian-with-his-own-show” shot. But in this special, he was more hilarious than he was as a youngster. And his act was as natural as breathing. Clearly, he dropped the facade and the pretense and took his life-beating like a man.

Only THEN …was he finally ready. And only by failing spectacularly …then turing it into something funny …did he prove what he was actually born to do.

 

R

HOAXES AND SPARTACUS …

Listening to Adam Schiff was actually a bit chilling.

I interviewed congressman Schiff this past summer, along with my Ghost Town Troubadour buds. We found him to be engaging and candid and an all-around nice guy. I probably don’t agree with him on everything (or maybe anything) but we did agree on some basic intellectual property rights issues. And we all shared a love for the American idea and American ideals.

And so it has been hard to watch him wade into the fray of all this Russian collusion/FISA warrant memo/congressional intelligence back and forth. Mainly because I can see the man I saw as calm, collected and rational donning his political-team-sport uniform and jumping into the game. And in the heated political back-and-forth of “oh yeah …well look at what YOU did,” Mr Schiff got punked.

If you haven’t heard the recording of the two Russian comedians who gained audience with Mr Schiff and then fed him a morning zoo routine about possessing nude pictures of President Trump and Vladimir Putin’s God daughter, well …let’s just say they got him pretty good. Part of me thought it was funny. The other part didn’t like this happening to a US representative.

He asserts that he knew it was a joke the whole time. And as someone who genuinely liked Mr Schiff in the short time I was around him, I hope that’s true. He seemed like a guy who would get the joke. But these days it’s getting harder and harder to tell where the lines of satire and real life intersect. So, I have a strong suspicion he thought, even for the briefest of moments, the phone call was real. It sure sounded like he thought that. And I would venture to say that some of that was based in a desire to believe what he was hearing. In some ways, we are all victims of that at one point or another.

It made me think back to the great American Idol songwriting contest conspiracy, of which I was a part a decade ago. I read things online about myself that I never knew. I learned information about my career and connections that was made up out of whole cloth, but based on half truths and almost truths. And I learned, through that experience, that we can see whatever we want to see or need to see, if we’re willing to spend enough time remaking it in the image we need it to be.

I was probably the victim of a Face Book hoax just today. When you see trusted friends, who are full grown, intelligent adults, doing something, you assume it’s true. The messengers matter. And the world we’re all living in is so brand new to all of us that you just never know when something is real or not.

All the “smart people” always go to Snopes to get to the truth. But I’ve always wondered why we all trust Snopes in the first place? If I wanted to manipulate information I would posture myself as the most solid source for objectivity on planet earth. We all know how that worked out with Wikipedia. Or do we?

In some ways, we’re all playing a big game of telephone. And I personally believe the grand joke on humanity is our inability to communicate truth and fact to each other. Or maybe it’s our inability to receive it.

Just as all this was happening, I was reading a rant asking how so many people on earth could put their faith in two-thousand-year-old documents that were written during some of the most violent times in history. Even as a believer, I occasionally ask those same questions. The process in which we’ve received and refined and translated and curated and proliferated the Bible has been long and winding to say the least. And no matter how much “evidence” you claim to have, eventually it all comes down to faith. There’s simply no way around it.

I’m fascinated with ancient Rome. And lately I’ve been particularly fascinated with the servile wars. These were uprisings among the Roman slaves. If I had been a Roman slave, I would’ve probably joined them. Or maybe not. Obviously, the most famous name among those uprisings is that of the Gladiator-turned-rebel-king, Spartacus. He freed people from bondage and led them on a blood-soaked rampage throughout Italy. He bled for his people, spoke of justice and freedom and ended up being crucified because of it. Sound like anyone you know?

Seventy years later another young man did the same thing. Only he didn’t bring the sword, he brought ideas and hope and something pretty revolutionary …love. While Spartacus brought the hope of vengeance to the downtrodden, Jesus brought the hope of redemption to everyone …even those in power. Spartacus came to free the slave. Jesus came to free the slave master. Spartacus came to even the score. Jesus came to end the score keeping.

In the world of Spartacus, all Romans were worth killing. In Jesus’ world all humanity was worth saving. Spartacus died for his followers. Jesus died for his murderers. It is a story like no other. And it transcends translation.

I’ve often said the main (and maybe only) reason I still follow Jesus is because of love. Love makes the chaos make sense. It helps me find equilibrium in an unbalanced world. It welcomes all …especially the unwelcome. And as one who feels unwelcome a lot, that resonates with me. That cuts through the years and misinterpretations and misrepresentations and false witnesses and yes …even the fake memes on Face Book.

When it comes to matters of faith, the facts and figures and details will be argued about until the end of time. As I get older I am more fascinated yet less moved by them. I’m more interested in spirit they convey.

My son asked me what God was when he was small. I told him that the bible said God is a spirit. It also said that God is love. So whenever you are around the spirit of love, you’re close to God. He seemed to understand that. I do too.

The face book hoax I fell for asked me to have my friends comment so I wouldn’t lose touch with them. As it turns out, that was unnecessary. But I sure did like hearing from them. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe that makes the hoax a good one.

Maybe we don’t know all the details of Jesus. And maybe we don’t need to know.

Maybe the love part is makes the whole story worth while.

 

R