FEAR ITSELF …

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

This is the question we are continually asking ourselves, millions of times a day, in all of life’s endeavors. 

The human struggle itself is a series of cost/benefit analyses. Can this hurt me? Will it kill me? Will it hurt my family? What’s the possible damage? 

From getting in a car, to deciding what to eat for dinner; from choosing a mate, to choosing a place to live, we are always weighing the consequences of every decision we make. 

In the balance of those scales is actual life and death. 

And so we put safety measures in place for humanity, to make some decisions easier than others. We put warning labels on toxic products, to ensure that people won’t ingest them. 

We build seat belts into cars and airplanes. We put up gates and fences and build our homes as sturdy as possible. We wear helmets when we ride bicycles and skateboards. 

We go see doctors and get tests run. We go on diets and go to the gym, in hopes of squeezing out as many extra moments of life as possible. 

But why? 

Are we simply reacting to some ancient, primal directive to survive? Is it that simple? Or do we have, hard-wired into all of us, some sense that life is important? And maybe that buried knowledge only flashes above the surface when we’re in eminent danger? 

Or maybe it’s a combination of both. Either way, all living things are oriented toward not dying. 

If you’ve ever tried to swat a fly, you know they aren’t going down without a fight. They have the same instinct we have. Survive. 

But here’s the thing …

Even though the fly has an instinct toward survival, it doesn’t let the fear of your fly swatter keep it from being a fly. 

It does what it does. Because if the fly stops doing what it does, it will actually die from not being a fly. Its inner cost/benefit analysis tells it that stopping being a fly is worse than braving the fly swatter. 

As I sit in quarantine yet again, because someone in my family has supposedly been “exposed to Covid,” I think about the flies. I’ve had Covid, as has my daughter. My wife and son, however, have been as exposed to it as humans can get, and have yet to test positive or show a single symptom. 

A friend of mine is on his second round of having it. That’s the first time I’ve heard of that happening. He says the second round is tougher than the first. 

Weaving its way through all of the stories and anecdotes and questions and mandates and anger over masks or no masks; the CDC recommendations and the arguments over vaccine passports and social distancing and Covid this and variant that, is the prevailing pulse of fear.  

As humans, we’ve stopped doing what we do out of fear. Basically, we’ve stopped being flies for fear of the swatter. 

Fear is healthy. It keeps us out of dangerous situations. It keeps us alive…until it doesn’t. 

Another friend of mine recently told me about his uncle who had been gripped by the fear of Covid, so he literally didn’t leave his house for a year, until the vaccine was ready. 

He was one of the first in line to get it. Less than 24-hours after receiving the vaccine, he fell dead with a heart attack. 

So, while he was keeping himself safe as a human, he wasn’t being a human. He lost a year of his life…trying not to die. 

If there has been a winner in the Covid era, it has been fear. Fear has kept us at each other’s throats. Fear has kept us home. It has kept us apart. It has driven us to do illogical things. 

But of all the things fear has done to us, the most sinister thing it has done has been to cause us to stop being the best versions of what humans can actually be. 

There are some medications out there that seem to work in fighting this thing. But some medical professionals refused to try them. Why? Out of political fear.   

And when all of this is said and done, who knows how many lives may have been saved by treatments in the arsenal – treatments actually banned by certain powers that be, in certain places – that may have possibly worked for certain patients? 

We’re afraid to go anywhere without a mask. Why? Is there any real evidence that they’re keeping the virus from spreading? None. But we wear them. Because we’re afraid. Mainly we’re afraid of what will happen to us if we don’t. We will be shamed and possibly even physically harmed (I’ve seen some videos) by people who are…wait for it…afraid. 

We’re afraid talk or disagree or challenge or reframe. And we’re really afraid of being wrong. 

This isn’t what we do as humans. At our best, we walk boldly into problems and work them from every angle. At our worst, we cower and avoid and disengage and comply. 

Eventually, as a human, you have to work through your own death. You have to answer that first question of “what’s the worst that can happen,” with…die. 

Once you come to terms with death, life is sweeter, more precious and easier to live. Once you settle your own fear of dying, you can finally stop shuttering over every possible outcome. 

Because, yes – all roads lead to death. ALL of them. So now, live. 

When I was driving to the ER on Christmas night, unable to breathe, I kept repeating the words “I will fear no evil,” over and over in my head. 

I thought my daughter might be dead. I thought my own life was about to end. And suddenly those words made more sense to me than they ever had. I. Will. Fear. No. Evil. 

Only when you know who truly holds life, can you be at peace with death. Knowing that you did everything you possibly could to say what you came here to say and do what you came here to do, takes death’s power away. 

And that takes away the fear. 

Danger is everywhere but we cannot let that stop us from being us. 

There are more swatters out there than you could ever imagine.

But it’s time we start being flies again.     

R  

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THE TROUBLE WITH EASTER …

It’s easy to believe in Christmas. 

Even if you’re an atheist, and opposed to all things religious or spiritual or “faith-friendly,” you can still get behind the idea of a baby being born. New beginnings. Redemption. A star. Shepherds. Peace on Earth. Good will toward men. Stuff like that. 

Christmas doesn’t ask all that much of us. We know Jesus was a historical figure. So we know he had to be born somewhere, sometime. The “virgin birth” thing can be sidestepped and danced around and avoided at office holiday parties. 

We’ve still got Santa and angels and Grinches and reindeer and presents and trees and songs and lights and all the other touchtones we can agree upon. It’s easy to blend into the crowd on Christmas. 

It’s the warm, fuzzy part of the Jesus story. 

Then…there’s the crucifixion. 

It’s a lot darker than the baby in the manger, but it’s another historical thing easy to believe. We know the Romans did crucifixions. We have the evidence. So it’s not a stretch to believe that a 33-year-old radical dissident might get put to death that way. 

It makes perfect sense. 

And so we can bookend the story of Jesus with a humble birth and a dramatic death. It makes for an epic tale. One worth sharing through the centuries. 

And that story requires nothing of intellectuals. It requires little, to no faith whatsoever, to believe Jesus Christ was born in a cave, and died on a cross, somewhere in the Middle East, two thousand and some odd years ago. 

But then comes a twist …Easter. 

The celebration of Easter is where the faith comes in. And it really wrecks any attempt at just putting Jesus in the category of “good man” with “good ideas” or “visionary” or something like that. 

The celebration of Easter is the celebration of something supernatural. It’s the celebration and acknowledgement of someone who was more than a mere mortal, coming back from the dead. 

Believing that sparks a different conversation.  

The celebration of Easter forces you to grapple with all of it; all the mythology and scripture and prophecy and all the meaning behind it. Easter doesn’t allow you to stand on the sidelines. It makes you stand up and be counted. 

If you put on that new suit or dress or hat and go to that church building in celebration, you are admitting that you buy in to the story. And it’s a big buy-in. 

Because once you say to the world, “yes, I believe that dude rose from the dead and never died again,” you are now admitting that you are willing to disregard all the laws of physics and biology and science, to accept a fact you cannot prove. 

That’s a huge thing to say to the world. 

And it means you are open to the idea of mystery and wonder and unanswerable questions. It means you are a candidate for believing – really believing – in something beyond yourself. It means the smartest minds and most plausible theories in all the world do not deter you from placing your trust in something completely and totally implausible

Easter is the only holiday that requires, in its very DNA, actual faith.

And that faith makes you bound to the story of a madman, from another time, who didn’t just declare himself as someone to be listened to. He didn’t just preach to people and tell them to do good things. He didn’t just do tricks and makeup great, quotable memes. 

This guy said to the world that he was the very son of God; that HE was the way and the truth and the life. He placed a marker that said you could not even get to God any other way but through him.  

Celebrating Easter means believing in all of that. 

And if you believe all of that, then the rest of Jesus’ call will weigh heavy on your heart all of the time. 

For this reason, Easter should be our least favorite holiday. Because we can’t just celebrate it mindlessly, without thinking about what it actually means. it should be celebrated cautiously and with some trepidation.

It should be celebrated with the knowledge that those of us doing the celebrating are thumbing our noses at conventional wisdom. We are turning our backs on evidence and proof and casting our lots with insanity and the highly unlikely. 

But if that insanity is true, then it is world changing and life changing and it makes sense of all the madness on this planet. If the unlikely just so happens to be fact, then we are spiritually reconciled creatures with hope. If the conventional wisdom happens to be wrong this time, then we have found – and can continue to find – a state of absolute and untarnished grace. 

That is worth the faith. 

For those still undecided, who cannot bring themselves to believe in such nonsense, I say I totally understand and still wish you a peaceful weekend of rest.  

But for those of us lunatic believers, I wish us all a happy, yet completely unsettling, Easter. 

May we find our faith all over again. 

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OWNERSHIP BY ASSOCIATION …

Gasoline, in my town, is now $3.00 a gallon (well, actually, $2.99 point 9 – I guess they can’t bring themselves to actually use the 3). 

I go back and forth on how much I should blame Joe Biden voters for the extra $15 bucks a tank I have to spend on a fill-up. It’s not like he sprung some weird policy on us that he didn’t talk about during the campaign. 

We all knew this was coming. At least those of us who are paying attention to such things, knew. Look, a few bucks extra at the pump is not the end of the world. Nobody’s saying it is. But do the Biden voters owe me some money?

How much do you blame a voter for the consequences of their vote?

When a bunch of half-cocked zealots stormed the Capitol building, on January 6th, I was actually personally attacked and personally blamed for the action, by some people on social media. Why? Because I had written about agreeing with several of Donald Trump’s policies and calling his comparisons to Hitler, nonsensical. 

I still stand by both things. 

If Trump was actually like Hitler, the Capitol wouldn’t have been stormed by the lunatic fringe. It would’ve been systematically taken over by a private, armed force not connected with the United States military. And the number of people killed would’ve been as many as it took to achieve the goal. 

But I digress …  

The point is, I want no part of whatever that was on January 6th. Period. I don’t know anybody else who does (or did) either. 

But I can still believe the election was funky (and I still do). I can still favor oil pipelines over tankers. I can still believe in lower taxes and incentivizing the making of products in the U.S.A. I can still believe Communism is bad. I can still believe China shouldn’t be allowed to manipulate their currency. I can still believe the Middle East peace deal was a pretty good idea. I can still believe the ACA should be overturned and re-tooled.  

I can believe all those things without owning the Trump tweets or the January 6th attack. Can’t I? Or am I on the hook for all of it, if I’m good with some of it? “In for a penny, in for a pound,” as they used to say. 

Is that true of politics? What about race?  

Now, in the third month of the new year, we have had two mass shootings in this country. One in Atlanta and one in Colorado. 

Every time I see some alert on the news, with the heading, “Mass shooter …” my stomach tightens up. I’ll bet yours does too. 

And as much as I wish my first thought was for the victims and their families, my involuntary, knee-jerk, inner-voice reaction is always the same: “I hope it’s not a conservative white guy.” 

Why do I wish that? Because if (and when) it is, we always have to have “a national conversation” for the next several months, on “race in America.” And all of us, who have nothing whatsoever to do with whoever that insane man was, get to be told all over again about our inherent, personal racism and our country’s national racism and all the racism everywhere that will only end once we have another national conversation on race and all the racism…like the last one…and the one before that. 

Meanwhile, the actual act that occurred may have nothing whatsoever to do with race or racism. It might. Don’t get me wrong. It definitely happens. But it might not. 

Either way, those of us who just want to live in peace with all races, keep our heads down, raise our kids and die old, don’t want anybody to be killed in a mass shooting…by anyone, with any kind of a gun. But for those of us with white skin, we always – and I mean ALWAYS – know when the shooter is not white. If there is any sort of “secret handshake” among white people or “coded language,” it is this …

We always know a shooter is NOT white when the news doesn’t immediately announce his race. 

This has become an eye-rolling cliche among white people and, so far, the only thing I have found that we all seem to agree on. 

Meanwhile, if (and when) a shooter is of some other race or national origin, we have to have the “protect against backlash” national conversation. Because, again…white people bad. Always bad. 

And don’t get me wrong. I got a lot of problems with a lot of white people. And they don’t get a pass from me if they are racists or murderers or rapists or anything of the sort. They barely get a pass if they clap on 1 and 3. 

But we all sometimes wonder, no matter what color our skin is, how much we have to own of the others of us with the same skin. That gets deeper than just voting. That gets into our culture and our actual personal interactions. 

And I would wager that every other race and religion and national origin other than mine, has some form of this same reaction, when they see someone who looks like them doing something horrible, that doesn’t represent them in any way.  

In the press conference, given by Atlanta’s Police Chief, following the shooting there, the motive of the shooter was said to be something to do with sex addiction. Who knows if that’s actually true. But this is what the shooter said. 

But that motive was soon turned to White-on-Asian crime, that then triggered the obligatory “national conversation” we always dread. And I, the father of an Asian daughter, was asked to sit and examine my motives yet again, with my eyes rolling so far back in my head I could actually see my brain rolling its eyes back in its head.  

Then, a Muslim man did a mass shooting in Colorado. And I’m still not sure where we are on that national conversation yet. But I’ll guarantee you there are some Muslim Americans right now, wishing that shooter had been a Russian or from India or anything other than the stereotype they are undoubtedly so tired of seeing. 

Because they probably feel like they are forced to own these things too. 

The only cure for all of these vicious cycles is one thing: individualism. 

Once you decide to see every single person on Earth as an individual, and not the group they may or may not be a part of, you get set free. You can be black and have a white friend, and know they are not out to hurt you. Or you can be white, and have a black friend, and know that they wish you well. And you can see images on TV of whites clashing with blacks and know that that is aboutthose fools on TV and it doesn’t represent your personal friendships.

If we start having to own everything in our history or every vote we’ve ever cast, we will be crushed beneath the weight of it.

I promise you my ancestors did some horrible things. Yours did too. I promise you there is somebody out there who looks like you or me, who is certifiably insane and means to do a lot of harm to the world. 

I promise you, you’re going to vote for someone who is going to take your breath away in stunned horror with their inexplicable actions. Then we all have to decide how much mercy we have inside us. 

My favorite quote regarding binding up those kinds of wounds, is from Abe Lincoln’s second inaugural address, after the Civil War. Instead of forcing the Confederacy to own it and take more of a beating than they already had, he simply said, “with malice toward none and charity for all …” 

That’s downright spiritual. 

And I’m personally going to think about that the next time someone loses their minds and decides to shoot up something, for whatever reason, and the news tries to tell me who to blame and what conversation must be had. 

While I’m at it, I’ll try to think about it the next time I’m buying overpriced gasoline.          

R

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A YEAR AFTER LOCKDOWN …

It was a year ago, this week, when my casual trip to the grocery store made me wonder what the hell was going on. 

Toilet paper was on the list my wife handed me before leaving. 

She had (and always has) very specific instructions on the toilet paper purchase. There are certain brands we use. There are certain brands we never use. There are often coupons or “deals” I’m supposed to be on the lookout for. And then there’s some weird form of math that must be done: in this pack, one roll = three rolls, or in this pack, two rolls = 48 rolls…or some kind of equation I can never seem to understand. 

But as I stepped into the toilet paper aisle to commence the hunt, I was stunned to see that all the shelves were empty. That was weird. 

Oh well, I took it off the list. We’d pick it up another time. Less toilet paper math for me. 

I turned my focus to picking up the food items on the list. But at every stop, the store was out of what I was sent to get. What?

Finally, I think I did eventually get home with some potatoes and lettuce and something else I can’t remember. But what was happening in that grocery store was a clear panic. 

Back home in the kitchen, unloading the sparse haul and trying to explain all of this to my wife, I casually checked Facebook and saw that my brother, who was over the live events and convention department of the Nashville City Center (the largest convention spot in Nashville) posted that he and everyone under him, had just been laid off due to the fact that every live event scheduled for that year had been cancelled. EVERY. ONE. OF. THEM.

Then, later in the day, my April and May dates got cancelled. Then, later that week, the rest of my year got cancelled. 

The week after that, my wife was exposed to someone at her work who had tested positive for the new Covid virus, and we were locked in our house for fourteen days. 

At first, we decided to just roll with it. Maybe this would be a great time to catch up on all those TV shows we wanted to watch. Ozark had just dropped. This would work out perfectly. 

But that only lasted for about a week and left us craving a bigger high. So we found ourselves mainlining Tiger King without even blinking. It’s true what they say, kids. It only leaves you wanting more. 

And suddenly, while we were all on Facebook, discussing that bitch Carol Baskin, live studio audiences on daytime and night time TV shows stopped being a thing. And we got to see every late-night talk show host’s den, bad hair and unpainted face. 

Not long after that, my son’s seventh grade year was basically scrapped and my daughter’s high school graduation was postponed. 

By the time my wife and I checked our bank balance and found that the government had just put $1200 in there (how did they know where to find us or our bank account?) we knew were living in some weird new world.

In the months that would follow, we would learn things about ourselves, our country and humanity in general, that maybe we didn’t want to know. And what started as a stern rebuke by those who fancied themselves the arbiters of truth and science, to “flatten the curve for God’s sake!” (I added the “for God’s sake,” because it was certainly implied by all of my smarter-than-everyone-in-the-room friends), became a strange, year-long minefield of hyper-politicized science, strained race relations, plausible conspiracy theories, governmental overreaches, oddly imbalanced mandates, culminating in a straight-up weird election, followed by an actual attack on the United States Capitol building. 

Did the curve ever get flattened? I forget.       

Some friends of mine got the virus early on, in South Korea. According to my friend, she and her husband were in the hospital (back in Texas), on death’s door, on a Wednesday. They were started on Hydroxychloraquine, zinc and a Z-pack on Thursday, and walked out of the hospital feeling great on Friday. 

But when the President mentioned something about that particular cocktail showing promise, suddenly HQC, a medicine nobody had anything to say about for 50 years, became some weird pawn in a political chess match and some places around the country weren’t even allowed to fill a prescription for it. 

Why? Can’t doctors prescribe whatever they see fit to prescribe? 

Then a report was released stating that this drug was harmful and dangerous to the general population. THEN we found out that that report was falsified and fake. 

Dear lord! What kind of world was I living in when medicine  – actual MEDICINE – was being withheld and/or having propaganda written about it? Who in God’s name cared if a medicine worked? Wouldn’t that have been a good thing? 

This was officially weirder than the toilet paper day. 

Then came the guy we all watched on TV, to tell us what to do and what not to do, who had just told us not to wear masks – they were not going to help us in any way – do a one-eighty and tell us to absolutely wear masks everywhere we went. 

Then George Floyd was killed. 

And while we ALL – literally EVERY PERSON IN AMERICA – stood in solidarity behind the fact that we agreed his death was unjust, we watched riot after riot after riot happen, in protest of the fact that apparently nobody heard about everybody agreeing on the fact that his death was unjust. 

Then, the same mayors and governors who were locking us down and putting us out of business and telling us not to gather with more than ten people, invited tens of thousands of us to these riots…you know…as long as everybody wore a mask. 

Tiger King was getting dangerously close to dropping out of the top five weirdest things of 2020.

Then our family members and friends started getting sick. Some of them died. But most of them didn’t. And some people simply got the sniffles for a couple of days, while others’ lungs turned to concrete. 

Suddenly, we know we couldn’t trust the information anymore. Because it was either incomplete or it was being politicized. And that created its own new brand of terror. 

Were the death numbers correct? Were the testing numbers correct? Were there false positives? Were there false negatives? Which test was accurate and which test was unreliable? And why was that Youtube video, by those doctors, being removed from the internet?

Was it because they were wrong? Or was it because they were right? 

Ozark was starting to look less and less like fiction. 

We had to socially distance…unless we were attending a Trump rally or a protest. We couldn’t gather to worship…unless we did it in a Wal Mart or a liquor store.  

Governors started winning Emmy awards for holding daily press conferences. Then the president got the virus. Then he got better. 

Then, we held the weirdest election in our lifetimes. 

Then, we got banned from Facebook and Twitter for saying we had just held the weirdest election in our lifetimes. 

Then we weren’t allowed to question anything. 

Questioning literally EVERYTHING is supposed to come complete with every Social Security card issued. Being allowed to say, “man, that election sure seemed funky to me” is supposed to be the birthright of all Americans. 

But not anymore. Not since the toilet paper ran out.

Then, a bunch of people actually believed they were going to overturn said funky election by storming into the Capitol building and doing…I actually have no idea what…to the people inside. 

And that seemed to seal the door to the next room and set the tone for the new weirdness. Next stop – razor wire around the White House.  

I got Covid a week before Christmas. 

My doctor refused (very sternly) to prescribe me ANY medication. Not even a cough syrup. Finally, into day 5 of fever delirium, I contacted a doctor with a different political viewpoint and got some meds. Meds that may have actually saved my life. 

And I came out of that experience angry and confused. Angry that I not only had to navigate a virus nobody seemed to have all the information on, but also navigate every person’s damn personal political belief, in every circumstance I was placed in, to simply survive in this world. And confused by what world I was now going to have to teach my daughter and son to operate in (I started to use the phrase “thrive in” but I’m not even sure they are allowed that kind of privilege anymore).  

So, here we all are. A year after the run on the toilet paper. 

A half million Americans are allegedly dead from this virus. I say “allegedly” only because all of the numbers are still kind of being sorted out. 

The Virus originated in China, and even now that it is pretty well agreed upon (in much of the scientific community) that the thing didn’t come from a wet market after all, but probably leaked from the Wuhan lab, China’s General Secretary STILL hasn’t done a single press conference. NOT. ONE. 

The Emmy winner turned out to be a liar and responsible for a lot of death. But so were a lot of other governors who seemed to not pay as much attention to the elderly among us.    

We’re still not sure if we should’ve been wearing a mask or wearing two. 

The government just put more money in my account. I have no idea what that means at tax time. Did I earn that income? Was it a gift? I’m sure some masked tax preparer will tell me at the appropriate time. 

My brother went on to a different job. I learned how to do Zoom calls and perform pretty much exclusively in front of a phone. 

I can’t get like 6 Doctor Seuss books, now, because apparently they were pretty inappropriate. But at least I can still listen to songs about Cardi B’s vagina. 

Anyway …

A new season of Ozark is coming out soon. Instead of being excited, I’m almost nervous. The last time that thing dropped, a lot of weirdness followed it. 

I wish I could say the future is bright and things are going to be great. But we all know a little too much about each other, now. We all know a little too much about what people will do to prove themselves right or to prove their enemies wrong. We know a little too much about the lengths to which people will go, to re-set the way things get done. 

And honestly, I don’t seem to know my country anymore. Maybe I never did. Thats the saddest revelation of all, over this past year.  

At least now, we always keep extra toilet paper in the storage closet. 

I guess that’s something.                    

R    

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GOVERNMENT CHEESE …

My very liberal friend told me the story, expecting a different response from me. 

The story in question was about some men, during the 1930s, who had gone from bread lines to working for the government. After getting these cushy government jobs, they were amazed at the availability and choices of foods they had access to for lunch. They were dazzled by the warm, government offices and comfortable amenities.

For some of these men, it was the first time in their lives they had used (or even seen) indoor plumbing. 

It was as if they had gone from a waste land to the promised land. And my friend’s point of view was to marvel at how government could save people in dire circumstances.

And yet, I kept getting more and more agitated by the story. I had the exact opposite reaction to it that my friend had. 

Why?

Because my point of view was this: why did the government have all of those things during The Great Depression, while the average, private citizen did not?  

My friend had to admit they had never thought of it that way before.

Nobody in the Federal Government starved to death during the Great Depression. Always remember that.  

There is definitely a need for government. Society has to have a core mechanism that enforces contracts and the law, protects the citizenry, coordinates traffic, provides a common defense, executes the will of the people, etc. 

And our particular form of government, here in the good ol’ U.S. of A, is maybe the best form ever devised by mankind. 

But as people got unshackled from tyranny and despotism, they started running into problems free people run into; land disputes and arguments over this right or that right, and all manner of questions without easy answers. 

And where did they go to get these matters resolved? The government. 

So we, through the years, have decided that the government is our go-to for every problem we have in life. The United States government of today is what the Roman Catholic Church was in Europe, in the 15th century. The final say. 

But as any mechanism gets more power and grows, it must be fueled somehow. I’ve said many times, whatever beast you create must be fed.

The difference in the government and all other beasts, is that the government can feed at will…without your permission. 

AT&T might be a corrupt, over bloated, corporate entity. But they can’t reach into my bank account and just take what they want, whenever they want. Comcast or Disney may overcharge me for services or gouge me at the concession stand, but they can’t put me in jail for not paying their prices.

The thing that made that story of the Depression so insidious is that all of the things the government had, that those men were in awe of, were purchased by money taken by force.

I always found it ironic that Al Capone was sent to prison for tax evasion. That means he didn’t pay the right amount of money to the right entity. That’s funny because that’s exactly what he did in his crime organization. 

If you don’t pay, we ruin your life. Those words could just as easily have been spoken by an I.R.S agent as Al Capone himself. 

Now, in the post Covid world, we are becoming more and more dependent on the government for basic hierachy of needs stuff. 

So many of us are waiting like little birds for the next infusion of $1400 or $1600 or whatever it’s going to be. In the meantime, the government has been shutting us down right and left and mandating this and banning that and essentially treating us like subjects rather than free, autonomous citizens. 

And as this has continued through the Pandemic, we have grown more and more dependent on what we perceive to be the source of stability and safety. My question about now is the same one I have about those days during the depression: why is the government okay while everyone else is not?

Why do they have the checks to hand out in the first place? Because they took it from us first. 

At some point we are going to have to change our mindset about who works for whom. Who’s the actual boss and who’s the actual employee? 

I don’t refer to elected officials as “our leaders.” I refer to them as public servants. That’s what they are supposed to be. 

When I see people being humble and demure, testifying before Congress, I sometimes get offended by that. You don’t have to be unnecessarily respectful of those people on those committees. Those people work for YOU. It’s not the other way around. 

Instead of $1400 from the government, I’d rather work again. I don’t want a stimulus check or a relief package. I want opportunity and open range. 

I think that’s what most people, in their heart of hearts, really want. And yet most of us will have to take the money. Most of us could use it.

But our government should never put us in another position again, where they are the sole source of our rescue. Can they be a help? Sure. But when  something is your sole source of anything, it gets unchecked power over you. And you start making deals you never thought you’d make.

Covid has been tough on so many millions of Americans. But it hasn’t seemed to have been tough on the Government. They seem to still have everything they need and, in fact, that seem to be faring better than ever. 

Is it because they are made of some super human flesh? Nope. Is it because they are better at what they do than everybody else? I almost got that out without laughing. 

It’s because they hold the power to give life or to take it. And if you defy them, you are labeled a “dissident.” They alone control the science. They alone control the flow of money. They alone control the mandates and mercies. 

That’s a pretty damn good job to have…if you can get it. 

For the rest of us, there are I.R.S deadlines and compliance regulations. And maybe, if we’re lucky, some extra cash in our bank accounts after we’ve pretty much lost everything. 

You can’t beat that government cheese.   

R   

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THE THINKS THAT WE THOUGHT …

In honor of society’s most recent “cancelee” (Doctor Seuss), on his birthday, I thought I’d jot down some thoughts in rhyme …

It started well-meaning; pure-hearted enough

just to clean up the flagrant, mean-spirited stuff 

All the frowns and turned noses, every soul-crushing word 

In the sees that we saw and the hears that we heard

We wanted inclusion, in this great game of life

every daughter and son – every husband and wife

No one should be banished, alone or left out

that is certainly not what this game is about

We should all have the rights to jump ropes and fly kites

and we all should be safe in the days and the nights

And no one would argue those points to the herd

in the sees that we saw or the hears that we heard 

So our actions were judged and pure justice was sought 

the only thing left was the thinks that we thought 

But then there were hisbands and hersbands onesbands 

themsbands and thosebands and somesbands and nonesbands 

And we didn’t know how to just talk to the new

so we banned everything that might make them feel blue

We tied up with law all the teaches we taught  

and monitored all of the thinks that we thought

But then there were colors and sizes and shapes

of those who ate pheasants and those who ate grapes

And short ones and tall ones and big ones and small ones

And those without shoes and those without clues 

And some who might win and some who might lose

We could never allow such a thing on the news 

So Facepalm and Twunder all fearfully fought

to keep tabs on the dangerous thinks that we thought 

We shut out the guilty who fell out of line

Didn’t give them a chance to appeal or opine 

If gruff or unfit

they were done – that was it!

We could not afford to have people among us 

who grew their own thinkers and spread like a fungus

The bold and the different couldn’t be sold or bought

so we set out to change all the thinks that we thought

We burned all the books and replaced all the meanings

and raised up our eyebrows at wrong-sided leanings

There was but one way to smile and to sway

and if you didn’t do it, well then you couldn’t stay

You had to be sent to the nowhere of none

cause you can’t act too twosey when protecting just one 

No triggers, no trolls, no truth-seeking souls

were allowed to be hurled into this new world

Because talking might end in a foe or a friend

and realness just hurts when you’re playing pretend

So we stood straight and acted just as we aught

so we wouldn’t be hurt for the thinks that we thought

But one day, while keeping our battered heads down,

one of us looked up…and then looked around

And saw the new world in a desolate state

with nobody left to control or berate

All the ideas had gone silent and cold

no one was boisterous and no one was bold

Compliant and small, we did what we were told

And we didn’t laugh laughs and we didn’t tell tells 

we didn’t cry cries and we didn’t yell yells

We were too scared to run and too scared to walk

too scared to sing and too scared to talk

And the thing that we’d simply set out to just fix

had turned back into hatred and banning and bricks

In trying to lift and inspire and include,

we’d become just as rigid and grown just as rude

as we were at the start – with our first change of heart

We’d just found different targets…with the same attitude 

And we longed for the time when we could just be

and have conversations for real and for free

Without the strict boundaries and all the insistence 

and no threats of losing our very existence 

So we grieved all the things we had looted and lost

and hung our heads low at all it had cost

And we wished that our world had never been caught 

trying to end all the thinks that we thought … 

R

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SIMON SAYS …

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In this past week, a lot of news was shotgunned to the American public. Almost too much to take in and process.

We learned that the Potato Head franchise will now have a trans gender option. Personally, I always thought you could make them that way, anyway. Maybe that’s just me. 

The Muppets got official “some unacceptable content” disclaimers put on them. You know…because, the Muppets. 

We also had congressional hearings, discussing the pros and cons of child genital mutilation as well as a sexual harassment suit against the governor of New York. 

Hasn’t everyone gotten the memo that #meetoo is soooo 2018 yet? 

Meanwhile, gas prices went up again, the stock market dropped five hundred points and we bombed Syria. All in all, quite an interesting time to be an American. Hey, as long as you wear your mask …

But one thing, from the week that was, piqued my interest. 

We saw leaked memos, from the Coca Cola corporation, regarding the re-education of people regarding race. The subject in question was actually entitled: Be less white

In my day, that would’ve been an SNL sketch featuring Eddie Murphy. But apparently, this was no joke. So, I took a peek.   

When I read the criteria for “being less white,” I had a surprising response. I actually agreed with a lot of it.

The ten things to do, to “be less white,” might be straight from your mother or father’s mouth regarding your approach to life. I have probably said everyone of these things to my son, at some point. 

They are as follows …

1. Be less oppressive – That’s not a bad idea for anybody. I don’t know who is still out there actively oppressing people, but whoever you are, you should do less of it. Personally, I would advise to stop doing it altogether. But the author of this curriculum just says to do less of it. Apparently, some oppression is ok. Just do less.  

2. Be less arrogant  – Good advice for all of us. Arrogance isn’t a healthy quality. I know this because of how humble I am. My humility is the thing I’m the most proud of. We should all strive to be as humble as me and get rid of the arrogance.  

3. Be less certain – I’m not sure how this helps anything in life or helps any person of color, and I also don’t know what it is we should be less certain OF (seems like an editorial oversight), but, sure…leaving room for the possibility of being off-base on something is probably what is meant. And it’s probably not bad advice in general. I mean, I think it’s good advice. But I’m not totally sure. 

4. Be less defensive – say this to your spouse and see how it works out. Still…something positive to strive for.

5. Be less ignorant – see above regarding the spouse. In fact, say them both in succession tonight at dinner, and check back after the weekend. 

You’re welcome. 

6. Be more humble – Yes. This is a spiritual journey we should all definitely take. Humility is something our entire culture could use a little more of. As I said before, I take great pride in my humility.  

7. Listen – never, EVER bad advice. If your spouse would just listen, you wouldn’t have to tell them to be less defensive and ignorant. 

8. Believe – this is a bit open-ended. But belief is a wonderful thing and can drive your life forward into miracles. In this case, I’m assuming she means believe your friends of color when they tell you something about their experience. We should all do that. 

Aside from that, belief in general isn’t a bad thing…unless you are believing something not sanctioned by the state or the social media overlords. Then, apparently, belief is dangerous. So, believe…just believe the right things. Got it?

Anyway …

9. Break with apathy – it is definitely good to stand up for something…as long as it is sanctioned by the state and/or social media overlords.

10. Break with white solidarity – at first glance, I absolutely, whole-heartily and categorically agree with this sentiment. Solidarity with a race – just because of race – is racism in it’s purest form. 

However, as a nearly lifelong white man, I’m not really sure how to put this into actual practice, as I haven’t been to any of the monthly white solidarity meetings in decades. 

But I think I took the first step, in the 90’s, by categorically renouncing (see #10) Garth Brooks and boldly proclaiming (see #9) his mediocrity as an artist. 

Although, I’m not one hundred percent certain about my stance (see #3), and I’m definitely willing to listen (see #7) to the opposing view. And who knows? I might believe them (see #8). God knows, I have a long way to go as an artist, myself (see #6 and #2), and I seek more knowledge on the subject (see #5). 

For those who are fans, I can see their point (see #4). And I would never want them to feel like they couldn’t enjoy his music openly and without fear (see #1). 

See? All great pieces of advice. And not all that difficult to put into practice. 

Now, obviously, the above is an absurd take on those 10 edicts. In all seriousness, I do agree with much of it (the parts that are easier to define). I have seen white people fumble and stumble around conversations with black people for years, trying to find some weird way of shoe-horning that one story that proves their lack of racism, into a conversation, while simultaneously finding creative ways of discounting racism outright. 

It’s dismissive and often embarrassing to watch. And so, I get where this curriculum is coming from. We can all do better. And we should. To me, the listening part is the key. And you can apply that to any interaction with any person of any race or any gender.  

Although, the irony in all of this surely can’t be lost on Robin DiAngelo (the author of the book and the one telling everyone to be less white), as she glares accusingly over her glasses at all of us. Can it?  

The irony is that there is literally nothing whiter than a white person calling everyone into a board room, to tell them how to act…then seeking payment for it. 

But the real trouble with all this advice, when directed at a certain race of people, is that it assumes an awful lot about a lot of individuals. And that automatically makes people recoil into a stance of ALL TEN of those things you’re asking them not to do. 

It simply defies human nature to ask someone not to defend themselves when being called something as horrific as a racist. Especially if you’re calling them that without knowing anything about them – just assuming something based on their skin. 

That is the textbook definition of a word I learned in school, while studying the life of George Washington Carver. The word is called “prejudiced,” and it stems from the term “to pre judge.” We used to have a widely held belief that prejudging something was a bad thing to do. Not so much anymore. 

There’s an awful lot of certainty out there, right now, about people we’ve never met. And that leads to ignorance, disbelief, arrogance, solidarity, apathy, and ultimately, oppression. 

The vicious cycle continues, because we are in this weird game of Simon Says, were we are being placed in a constant state of reaction. There’s no time to reflect and think through and discuss. There’s no room for nuance or subtlety or context. 

And while we’re trying to even out the playing field, we find ourselves just ripping up more and more sod and more and more dirt, until pretty soon all we have is a mangled up field, where no playing actually gets done. 

Simon Says is a game where you must listen intently and watch closely. And if you lose focus for one second, you lose the game. 

In this current game we’re in, all our reactions must be correct and perfectly in line with what the people barking out the edicts say they must be. Simply not accepting the premise doesn’t seem to be an option anymore. 

Well, when I was a kid, I found out the best place to be during an intense game of Simon Says: losing and being free from the orders. 

Once you don’t answer to Simon anymore, you can move your arms however you want, whenever you want. 

After this week, I think we’re all a little tired of Simon Says.        

R  

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THE INFIDEL …

I posted this right after Rush announced that he had cancer. I felt it was worth posting agin today. RIP

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“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 person. 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, 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 part 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 hanging out in 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. His producer (a black man) actually put out an actual cash reward for proof of some of these quotes. To my knowledge, no one has ever been able to take him up on his offer. 

As a blogger and occasional public person, I can tell you this happens more than you might want to 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 out of whole cloth. 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 didn’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. I love Louie C.K as a comedian too. That doesn’t mean I own his actions as a person. 

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 the final Infidel at the end…replacing 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. It’s brutal out there. 

But that’s boring and about as brave as saying you love Tom Brady in Boston (now, Tampa), or playing Sweet Home Alabama in Montgomery. So, I decided to take chance and at least write the parody. 

As it turns out, Rush loved it, but didn’t use it on his show. Politics moves at the speed of light and by the time I got it written, 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 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

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

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MY ANGEL, MY TEACHER …

Today is Angelman Syndrome awareness day ..

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I’m not as angry as I used to be. 

I listen more. I have empathy where I used to have contempt. It’s a lot easier for me to imagine myself in someone else’s shoes. Almost too easy. I want good things for people I don’t always like. I’m patient. I need less. I’m more thankful for every small kindness shown to me. 

And music …sweet, mysterious music …means more to me than it ever has. 

I’m tired all the time. My body is a wreck from years of interrupted sleep, causing schizophrenic cortisol levels. I can’t verbally formulate sentences as fluidly as I once could. Prolonged periods of extreme stress do weird things to a person’s brain. I make a living with my brain. And some of it has been sacrificed and compromised. 

I can’t remember the last time I bought new clothes…or cared. My hair must stay utilitarian and easily managed. I don’t know what it looks like most of the time…or care. My work schedule is sporadic at best and most of the time an afterthought. I am a slave to a maddeningly regimented schedule. And if I miss one beat of it, someone could get injured, or even die.

All of the above can be said of and about my wife, and probably more. We share all of it.  

All of these things we share are the result of something called Angelman Syndrome, a disorder that afflicts my 18-year-old daughter. 

Angelman Syndrome is a deletion or mutation of the 15th maternal chromosome. It was named after British doctor Harry Angelman, who was the first physician to catalog symptoms and treat people with this disorder. 

The “disorder” means that my daughter cannot speak. She cannot use sign language. 

She cannot bathe herself or feed herself or brush her own teeth. She cannot put on clothes or take them off without assistance. 

She cannot use the bathroom without assistance. And it sometimes takes up to 20 or 30 minutes for her to do it, because there’s a protein missing from her brain that makes her body forget how to perform basic, primal functions.

This missing protein, or out-of-balance protein (or however you want to characterize it), also causes sporadic movements and actions that may or may not be in her control. So while you’re washing her hair she may try to slap at you or grab you by the hair. 

She may try to go grab a picture off the wall while you’re trying to get her dressed. She is completely unpredictable in movement and function and could damage herself or an object, or you, at pretty much any time.  

Imagine, if you will, a fully grown person who can walk and grab and destroy, but who still acts much like a newborn. That is close to the actual physical functionality of what my daughter deals with every day of her life. 

I don’t write about my daughter as much as I used to because she’s a young woman now and I want to respect her privacy. She faces incredible challenges every day. And as I watch her struggle to perform basic tasks like holding a fork or trying to brush her own hair (which she cannot do, but she tries to anyway), I realize that it’s not my place to discuss her private struggles just for the sake of “awareness.”

But on days like today – Angelman syndrome awareness day – I make the rare exception. Because someone out there might need to hear it.

We didn’t get our diagnosis for 5 years. Her lack of motor skills and inability to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time (when she was little) was attributed to everything from Cerebral Palsy to Autism to simply “being slow.”

Three genetics tests later we finally got her properly diagnosed. I wish I could’ve read a blog like this when she was 2.

Anyway …

The prevailing wisdom is that she knows she is like she is. And that breaks my heart…every. single. day. 

This morning, at 6 am, she was frustrated with what I had on TV. She used every sign she knows (which are only a couple) to tell me what she wanted to watch, but I couldn’t get it. And it brought tears to her eyes. 

My JOB is to “communicate” and yet I can’t talk to my own daughter about something as simple as the TV channel. This happens a dozen times a day, in almost every facet of life. 

Last year, my wife and I were supposed to go to court to get legal guardianship of her again, when she turned 18. Covid kind of messed the scheduling up. But soon, we will begin the process of setting up a life plan for someone who requires assistance in everything from getting out of bed in the morning to going to bed at night.   

Between those two actions she will require someone to be watching her every waking moment, so that she doesn’t play with knives or touch hot stoves or rip up mail or smash a TV screen with a blunt object or a hundred other things that could injure her or someone else. 

As an FYI – she has actually done all the of the things listed above.    

Friends and colleagues don’t always understand why I’m not more available to them; why I can’t just jump in the car and go meet for a beer without it being scheduled days – sometimes even weeks – in advance. And then when we are having a beer, they continually ask me “how I do it” or say things like “I could never handle what you handle.” 

I get very uncomfortable in those conversations. And I don’t like having them. I’m not a hero. I’m not a super dad. I’m a man trying to raise a daughter. Nothing more. My wife and I are trying raise her with dignity and honesty as best we can. 

But while we’re trying to teach her how to choose between two colors…she’s actually teaching us more than we could’ve ever imagined.

She’s teaching us that lots and LOTS of things don’t actually matter. She’s teaching us that an honest smile means more than a fake Saturday night. And that if you’re going to love, love all the way. Anything short of that is not love at all. It’s something…but it isn’t love. 

She’s teaching us that life is too short and sweet to get angry at political Facebook memes and linger in arguments. 

My daughter wants everyone to meet and hug. She wants everyone to speak politely. And if a conversation gets heated around her, she will cry. 

She smiles at everyone…the less attractive the better. She is prone to positivity and wants to laugh more than she wants to cry. She’s content with enough. She’s grateful for anything you give her and excited about it. She doesn’t have the luxury of a refined political point of view. And honestly, I think that’s a blessing for her. 

If you play some cool tunes and dance with her, she will find something about you to like. 

She can settle a person down, who might be having a difficult time, by a simple touch. And they used to sit the troubled kids next to her in class, when she was in grade school.

One of those kids still says, to this day, that she changed his life. I know how he feels. 

We could all take lessons from her. I do. Every day. She is quite simply the best person I know. 

Those afflicted with this disorder are often referred to as “Angels,” (obviously because of the name “Angelman syndrome), but also because despite the round-the-clock caregiving they require, they bring something angelic into the world. At least mine has. 

Angelman Syndrome is a horrible thing in and of itself. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And the fact that my precious innocent girl has to live with it makes me keep my fists up to the world. And I will fight for her until my death…literally. 

And then I can only hope and pray that someone will step in and take my place. 

Maybe there will be a cure someday for her condition. They say it’s theoretically possible. And I would love nothing more than to have a conversation with her before I die. I’m sure the first words out of her mouth will be, “Dad, if people only knew how much you cuss around me in private, they’d be appalled.” 

All I know is while we in the Angelman community are fighting to make our children whole, they might just be making us whole in the process. At least that’s the case at my house. 

And in my life I can honestly say that I learned more from a “damaged” Chinese orphan than I leaned from everyone else I knew, in my 35 years of life before her. 

People are always looking for angels. Well, I live with one. So if there’s a heaven, I’ll know exactly what to look for when I get there.  

R

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BUILDING A LEGEND …

It’s one of the saddest scenes in any movie you will ever watch. 

The poor guy sat at John Lennon’s gate for days, waiting to just get a glimpse of the rock star. But imagine (yes, I used that word) his surprise when John himself came to the gate to actually chat. 

I’m referring to the documentary about John Lennon called “Imagine,” and the scene in question is a text book example of deconstructing an icon.

John first freaks the guy out by actually standing there, in the flesh, in front of him. Then, he very methodically asks the star-struck fan what he wants from him. The guy really doesn’t know. He just wants to be close to John. But there John is…just being a dude. 

Then, the misguided soul launches into questions about famous Beatles songs and their secret meanings. John destroys theory after theory about what this song or that song really means. And as the poet from Liverpool shatters this man’s house of cards, one logical explanation after another, we can see the foundations of this guy’s very existence start to crumble right before our eyes. 

He had turned John Lennon into something more than just a man with a guitar. He had assigned God-like status to a guy who was at the right place, at the right time, with the right set of skills and gifts, for just the right moment in history.

The defeated fan finally leaves the gate. But you can tell he’s going to have to re-arrange his entire life, after learning that John Lennon was a human being and not something else. 

You become famous when people recognize you. You become a legend when people recognize themselves in you.

When people begin to project their own hopes, dreams, struggles, faults, failures, and ultimate triumphs, onto your story, you begin to achieve immortal status. 

It takes two things to become immortal: mystery and tragedy.

Lingering mysteries in any noteworthy life, will always keep interest in that story alive. Just as John Lennon’s enigmatic, mysterious lyrics kept that young, troubled man constantly trying to get to the bottom of the true story, any unsolved mystery, about any person in the public eye, will keep that story alive and growing forever.

Tragic endings (or turns of events) also solidify legend status.

If William Wallace had lived a peaceful, successful life, in the Scottish country side, and had grown old with his wife until he died at 97 of natural causes, on a soft bed, surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, with his last words being “I love you all,” Braveheart would’ve been the worst damn movie ever made.

Literally nobody can relate to a life that charmed and full of lucky breaks. We can’t resonate with that. So he might’ve died famous for something other than blood and battle. But his story wouldn’t have echoed through history, onto a screen.

We all see ourselves in that moment when he’s betrayed by his own people on the battlefield. In some way, we’ve all been there. We’ve all put our entire selves into a project or a relationship or a business or a battle of some kind, only to be left holding the bag by people we trusted with our very lives.

As he’s being brutalized and tortured to death (even though he’s in the right), we all secretly resonate with that feeling. We’ve all been misunderstood or taken out of context and then raked over the coals for it, even though we knew we were right and they were wrong.

This is how legends are made. 

In Tennessee, we have a legend named Davy Crockett. Davy probably didn’t do half the things he’s credited with doing – I can’t imagine actually killing a bear when you’re only 3 – but what makes Davy such a legend is the mystery of what may or may not have happened in his storied life. And what sealed his legendary status was dying at the Alamo.

The story (literally chiseled in stone at the Alamo) says that his last words were “Let’s fight em in the open, boys. I hate being hemmed up.” As a fellow Tennesseean, I highly doubt those were his actual last words.

My favorite line in any movie ever made, is in the John Lee Hancock film, The Alamo. I was on a TV show with John, once, and talked to him about this line backstage. I thanked him on behalf of all Tennesseans, for writing what the truth probably sounded more like.

The line happens when they’ve got Davy down on his knees and are about to kill him. He looks up at Santa Anna, smiles, and says, “I need to warn you. I’m a screamer.”

That’s how a Tennesseean would probably really go out. With a joke that essentially says, “f**k you.”

But we, here in the volunteer state, prefer to see our own heroism and badassness in Davy’s official last words – let’s fight em in the open.

The mystery of it will never be solved. The tragedy of it means it might’ve all happened just the way they say it did.

As we sit pondering such things, Donald Trump is becoming a folk hero, right before our very eyes. Because the powers aligned against him are basically doing everything you need to do to turn someone from famous into legend.

First, they have created a lingering mystery with the voting situation.

If someone wanted to diffuse the ongoing belief that somehow the 2020 election was stolen or, at the very least, sketchy, then some court somewhere should allow all the evidence to be presented. The quickest way to prove a conspiracy theory wrong is to…well…prove it wrong.

Metaphorically, stand there at that front gate and actually go through song after song. Show the stop-the-steal crowd what actually happened. Get into the details. Drag it all out and discredit it, line by line.

The problem is every time and everywhere there have been these types of hearings, attempting to do this very thing, too many questions have still remained. That just stokes the fire of the mystery.

No court has allowed any of this in their courtroom. But the dismissals have only been based on technicalities like standing and procedure. Not actual evidence.

Let’s find a place to have an actual trial, where everybody is actually under oath and documents are actually seen and all the questions are answered.

Until that happens, the legend of Donald Trump will grow. Because there’s a nagging mystery attached.

The tragedy piece is being handed to him (and his followers) by none other than the United States Congress.

Impeaching a president twice in one term has never happened before in American history. This impeachment is going to end the way the last one did – in a vote that does nothing. But the optics are that the man was continually brutalized by the people he kept beating politically.

If this were a movie (and one day it will be) Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t be the hero of it. She would be the bad guy. I’m not making a value judgment on whether that is actually true or not. I’m just giving you the perspective of someone who writes stories.

She’s setting herself up as the classic villain, by trying to impeach a person after they have left office. That’s what we call “punitive” and it’s a tell tale in any good hero story; they get kicked when they’re down.

The one doing the kicking is never the lead character.

Obviously, Congress is doing this impeachment to ensure that Donald Trump never gets to run for president again. That’s the actual endgame.

But in their efforts, they might be insuring the very thing they are trying to stop. Because they’re turning this guy from Queens, who might simply be dismissed and ushered off the stage if he weren’t given so much fuel, a status that is hard to overcome. They’re turning him into a martyr; a hero; a legend.

And they’re making that legend grow in the eyes of his supporters.

I would humbly offer a word of caution to those who cannot control their rage toward Trump, and who are acting on it with total abandon. Maybe take a page from John Lennon and deconstruct rather than adding layers.

It may not end the way you want it to. 

Running against an icon is difficult enough. Wait till you have to run against a messiah. 

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