OBEYING THE THREE OFFICIAL LETTERS …

Every time I look into my daughter’s eyes I’m thankful I disobeyed the CDC and the WHO. 

17 years ago, both organizations gave my wife and I clear and concise instructions that under no circumstances were we to board a plane to China. Literally the next day, we disobeyed them both, for what would be only the first of three times. 

We stayed in contact with both organizations for the first half of our dramatic journey to China to adopt our first child. The SARS epidemic was running rampant through the places we were going to be. 

By the time we were into our third day there, I had all the symptoms of the deadly virus. 

My cough was terrible and completely unstoppable. And one of the translators pulled me aside and told me that whatever I did, I should not – under any circumstances – go to a hospital. Because if I showed up at a hospital with my symptoms, they would quarantine me with SARS patients. And if I didn’t already have the virus, I would certainly get it in quarantine.

I assured him I would not – under any circumstances – go to a hospital. Then, the very next day, my wife and I had to take our daughter to a…you guessed it…hospital. 

As I tried to hide my nagging cough, conceal my clammy hands and smile through my sweaty brow, a Chinese lady tried to give me her son to take back to America. And as she was spraying saliva in my face and while my wife was cleaning bloody gauze off the pad they were about to lay our daughter on, the police came rushing toward us. 

I was certain I was about to be forced into quarantine.

As it turns out, they were coming to drag the woman (and the 3-year-old boy she was trying to give me) away. 

It was a pretty harrowing three hours until we were able to go back to the hotel, thinking it was all over. But we had to do it all over again the very next day. 

At least on that day, nobody tried to give me their child. 

After that, we stopped calling the CDC and WHO. None of it made any sense anymore. 

What we came to was this: life is more complicated than what any organization can predict. 

They were worried about us getting SARS. But SARS turned out to not be as big a problem for my daughter as her missing chromosome. THAT was the life-long burden she has had to carry. And it has affected every tiny inch of our lives from that day to this. 

Nobody at the CDC warned us about that. The WHO would’ve had no knowledge of my daughter’s condition, and certainly no way to speak to it. 

These are just organizations full of imperfect humans, calculating things they only have pieces of knowledge about at any given time, trying to come up with rough guidelines based on all of that. 

They’re not coming down from a mountain with tablets of stone, telling us exactly what is going to happen in our lives if we do this or that or don’t do this or that. 

Right now, several entire industries have gone under because we’re all trying to not spread a virus. First, they said shelter at home and don’t – under any circumstances – wear masks. They they said don’t – under any circumstances – go anywhere without a mask. 

Now, the WHO is saying maybe we should’ve never locked down in the first place. And the CDC is saying that 85% of the people who have gotten Covid were regular mask wearers, showing that it may not be as effective as once thought. 

Somehow, fear gripped us and we were willing to do whatever we were told to alleviate it. But those things have now become little religious rituals that may or may not have one thing to do with how public health as a whole is faring. 

Yes, people have died. Yes, many of our friends have gotten really, really sick. But while we’ve been watching and waiting for that magic bullet we just know has our name on it, explosions have been going off around us. 

People are dying from heart attacks and strokes and Cancer and suicides and everything imaginable, because they’re not getting the checkup they should’ve gotten or getting the test that should’ve been run. 

We’re actually starting to lose our minds and agree to things that we’re going to look back on later and wonder how and why we ever agreed to it. The Governor of California literally issued a decree reminding people to only pull their mask down in a restaurant when taking a bite of food. 

Really? Is that where we are? Is that stopping the virus? Is wearing a mask while you chew, a life or death decision? 

We’re allowing sporting events to happen – but only half-full stadiums and arenas. Are your eyes rolling back as far in your head as mine are right now?

And when I saw someone in our special needs community post that their child was denied access to E.R treatment for seizures, because the child couldn’t comprehend the concept of keeping a mask on, and the E.R was going to refuse treatment until they could keep the mask on, I knew we’d gone around some bizarre corner.

I talked to a doctor friend last week, who has treated dozens of Covid patients. And he was truly dumbfounded by the panic. “It’s just not a death sentence,” he said. “In fact, all the people I’ve treated have recovered fairly quickly.” 

Yes, people die from it (or WITH it – which is the BIG distinction). And that 200 thousand number seems really big. But 60 to 70 thousand people a year die from the regular Flu. I wonder if we’re going to start tracking that the same way we’ve been tracking this. 

I also wonder if we’re going to start using all of it as a virtue signal, like we’ve been using this. 

If you wear a mask, you care about other people. If you don’t wear a mask you’re at best, a jerk; at worst, a murderer, etc, etc. 

Masks don’t prevent viruses from mutating, which is what has to happen for them to be ineffective against future hosts. We don’t just stop them. It doesn’t really work that way. 

These masks we’re wearing are just more things that are going to end up in a landfill or around a sea turtle’s neck, somewhere in the ocean. It’s time to stop pretending we’re saving lives by butting that bandana over our mouth at the bank.

All we’re really doing is maybe – maybe stopping the largest droplets of human fluid from jumping to the next person. We might not even be doing that, depending on whether or not the fabric is already wet.  

The bottom line is this: it’s time to open the world up and let people breathe again. Let people play and dance and sing again. 

Are a lot of people going to get sick? Probably. Are some people going to die? That’s a mathematical certainty. 

People were (and are) going to get sick anyway. People were (and are) going to die anyway. Even if it’s not Covid 19, it was (and is) going to be something. 

This is the very nature of life itself. You can’t stop living just because you know there’s an end to it in sight. There was always an end to it in sight. We just allowed this particular potential end to swallow us whole and control everything about our society. 

But once we take off the masks and breathe in the fresh air and get back with our friends and families, and more of us get the virus and kick it, we’re going to find out that maybe a lot of the things we did to try and prevent that very natural turn of events, was nonsense. 

And we will realize that really official sounding organizations with three letters in their name are doing the best they can with the info they have. But you can’t base your life on every word that comes out of their mouth, or you might end up too scared to actually have a life.

I think that very thing…every time I look at my daughter.       

R

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VOTING FOR THE MAN …

We were southern Democrats.

My grandparents firmly believed that Roosevelt had not just saved the country but saved the world.

And this was the blue collar, hands-in-the-dirt south, after all. We didn’t have anything to do with those blue-blood, richy rich Republicans.

But then the 60s happened and things got complicated.

Because even though we were southern Democrats, we were also a family of ministers in a church organization that promoted the unity of all people; all races.

Our Senator from Tennessee, Albert Gore senior (yes – Al Gore’s dad) voted against the 1964 civil rights act.

In many places in the south, Republicans were the only party that would actually register blacks to vote. This is why Martin Luther King was a registered Republican.

My father pastored a black church and was involved in local civil rights issues.

So when the Bull Conors and George Wallaces of the world showed up with fire hoses and dogs or standing in front of schools to keep black children from walking in, he couldn’t have any part of them.

But then, Nixon showed up with the “southern strategy” and confused things even more.

Many people (especially in the south) were seeking the man (or woman) who could part the clouds and bring clarity to the whole political landscape; an antidote for Vietnam and Watergate and race riots and all the turmoil America seemed to constantly be in.

We had moved to Georgia, by 1972, and my father helped organize an event where our church relayed a bible across the state; one person running it 2 miles, then handing it to someone who would run it 4 miles, handing it to someone who would run it a mile, and so on and so on. Enough people signed up so that the Bible never stopped and never touched the ground until it reached Atlanta.

Once it got to the capital steps, they would present it to (then) governor, Jimmy Carter.

All the news organizations covered this event and by the time we got to Atlanta, we were hundreds strong.

I was 6-years-old, sitting on the capital steps, when I felt a hand tossle my hair. I looked up into the kind eyes of a man who said, in a comforting southern drawl, “hello, young man.”

Then, he continued down the stairs, to the throng of Jesus worshipers and news cameras, and officially received the Bible from my father, that had just been run from Macon to Atlanta.

My father presented Governor Carter the Bible and he accepted it graciously.

When Carter ran for president, 2 years later, we believed we finally had our “good man.”

He wasn’t a racist. We knew he was moral. He prayed on his knees. The person we’d been looking for to bring clarity and virtue, had finally shown up.

Life was about to be better in America.

My father stayed in touch with Carter’s chief of staff, Jodi Powell. And my family was given a private tour of the White House in 1978, and were allowed to actually look into the Oval Office (not every tour gets to do this).

We saw that bible on the president’s desk. And it reassured us.

Powell told us the president read from it everyday.

So why was the economy so bad?

Why was our foreign policy so feckless?

Why were interest rates and inflation at all-time highs?

Why had they invented a word called “stagflation?”

Why did we have hostages being held in foreign countries for months and months on end?

Finally, when my father sat in a gas line for 4 hours just to get 10 gallons of gas, he said to himself, “I love president Carter…but this ain’t working.”

The rest of the country woke up to the same conclusion and the Reagan revolution was born.

There never was, and never will be, a better human being in the White House than Jimmy Carter.

But when I see him building Habitat for Humanity houses, I kinda smile at the irony.

Because during his administration, builders cut all kinds of corners, from copper wire to plumbing, to floor joists and insulation. Materials were just too expensive and interest rates were just too high.

The housing and building markets were simply haywire.

In some places they still call them “Carter houses” and they all usually have to be re-wired or re-plumed.

Was all of this because Jimmy Carter was a bad man? Absolutely not. He just set too many rules in opposition.

And big policies have consequences in small things…like using aluminum wire instead of copper.

I think it’s debatable whether or not Joe Biden is a more moral person than Donald Trump.

Trump joked about grabbing women by the…well…you know. But Joe Biden apparently actually did it. At least that’s what Kamala Harris said she believed.

Trump got impeached for allegedly withholding foreign aid till an investigation was initiated in the Ukraine. But Joe Biden is actually on video, openly bragging about doing that very thing.

Donald Trump is accused of being a racist. But Joe Biden eulogized an actual KKK Grand Wizard, at his funeral.

We all believe what we need to believe to make our decisions work, I guess.

Whatever …

Let’s just concede that Biden is the better man; the better person.

Here’s what will happen the day after he – the better person – is elected president: all financial markets will immediately contract.

Why? Because he has already announced that he’s going to repeal the Trump tax cuts on corporations.

So, even before he does anything, a marker has been placed that forces business to re-evaluate expansion and hiring.

Is it because the businesses are evil. No, it’s because they’re made up of humans. And humans are mammals. And mammals are hard-wired for survival.

It’s not even political – it’s anthropological.

A pride of lions can’t just show up in a herd of wildebeests and then demand that the wildebeests be “patriotic” and not run to survive.

Life doesn’t work that way.

And because business is bracing for financial impact, little decisions, all over America, will start getting made – like the mom-and-pop pizza joint in the neighborhood, will decide that instead of hiring 3 new employees (like they had originally planned) they’re actually going to scale down until they know exactly what the economic fallout is going to be from whatever tax hikes they’re about to get.

That’s 3 jobs that just never materialize.

Any business close to that 50-person number, that triggers them having to provide health insurance to their entire staff (as per the Affordable Care Act) will probably decide to keep the staff between 40-47.

There are just too many enormous financial implications in expanding.

Little decisions like this will get made all over the nation. And it will look like a recession.

And because November is in the middle of the 4th quarter, it will appear that the economy is faltering as Trump leaves office.

The narrative will emerge: “See? It was all smoke and mirrors. His economy wasn’t as good as he said. Those 4th quarter numbers were horrible.”

This always happens when Democrats get elected. Markets contract because they know what’s coming. And the incoming president then gets to spend the next 4 years talking about how bad it was when he got there and how we’re just going to have to keep regulating and taxing to fix it.

In other words, we’re going to have to keep building fences to keep the wildebeests from running.

It happens in reverse as well. When a Republican gets elected, the outgoing Democrat gets the benefit of a surging 4th quarter and then can say, “see – my plan was just starting to work there toward the end. The numbers were rising like a rocket!”

Yeah – that’s because businesses knew help was on the way. And they started acting accordingly.

None of these responses and market contractions or expansions ever has anything to do with how nice of a guy is setting policy.

None of it ever has anything to do with racism or sexism.

But it has a direct effect on minority and female employment.

None of it ever has anything to do with debates or decorum.

But it has a direct effect on housing prices and the cost of gasoline.

And if you never get beyond the personality part of voting, to the understanding of policy, you’ll find yourself at the end of another 4 years of barely touching 2% GDP, wondering why your company can’t give you a raise, and continually blaming some nameless, faceless phantom rich person somewhere, for your not having what you want in life.

And once again you’ll be an “undecided” voter because you “vote for the person” …not the party.

Do we want moral people in positions of power? If we can get them, yes.

But moral men can make really bad decisions for all the right reasons. And immoral men can make good decisions for all the wrong reasons.

Take it from the grandchild of a southern Democrat, who’s family campaigned for the most moral man in American political history…

Morality can guide your life. But policy will determine the quality of it.

R

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RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL…

Gregorian chants are beautiful but kinda eerie.

We listen to them today with quiet reverence. And we have an appreciation for their simplicity and sacred tone. But the reason they sound like they do is based on one reason and one reason only – harmony was against the law when they were written.

Pope Gregory deemed it evil and the devil’s sound, or something like that. So, Gregorian chants have no harmony. They are just a bunch of dudes (God forbid a woman be a part of the choir) singing the same notes in unison.

The harmony we sing in church these days, would get a good many of us burned at the stake…fourteen hundred years ago.

To this day, the symbol for the tri-tone (a set of notes too inside-music-geek-world to go into) is a Satanic symbol. That set of notes was deemed (by the church) the most evil set of notes in the world. And anyone using those notes was an instrument of darkness.

The Christian band I was in, in the late 80’s, used to try to put tri-tones in songs, as a joke. Only real music (or history) buffs would understand or get it.

But it was a tip-of-the-hat to the fact that throughout history, the faithful among us have repressed creative exploration. Those barriers were there for a reason, you see. And woe to anyone who ventured beyond the safe and well-trod paths.

You can substitute harmony in the five hundreds, for drums in the 1950s or distorted guitars in the 1970s, or rap in the 1980s, or whatever it might be today.

But someone in a church somewhere, right this very minute, is frowning on some kind of art being created, and calling it “dangerous.”

And if you’ve ever spent any time in the world of “faith-based” art of any kind, this is a conversation you have almost daily; can traditional faith be maintained while the boundaries of art are being pushed?

The short and hard-to-swallow answer is simply…no.

There was a song out years ago, called Why Does The Devil Have All the Good Music? It’s a question we’re still trying to answer.

But the answer literally NOBODY wants to face is this: Because music is the devil’s domain.

Now, before you choke on your non-alcoholic beer and dramatically unfriend me, hear me out …

Lucifer literally breathed music, according to the bible. That was actually his thing. God (at least the God in the old testament) was not the purveyor of the arts. He was more about bloodlines and conquests and wiping out Amalekites and such. And he was downright rulesy.

Don’t do this. Do that. Wear this. Don’t eat that. Stay out of this place. Remain here. Don’t ask any questions.

Lucifer was the one helping everybody learn stuff. He was the one who said, “So, what exactly would happen to you again, if you ate that thing? And how will you ever know anything if you don’t eat it or try something new?”

He opened everybody’s eyes and got the blind followers out of the Matrix.

See, a lot of people who follow Satan aren’t doing so out of a desire to be dark or evil. Actual Satanism, (that is often talked about in Hollywood or the arts in general) isn’t about black clothes and dead chickens in the middle of a hexagram. That’s all Halloween nonsense and fodder for scary movies.

Real-world Satanism is based on the idea that the Bible has the two primary characters inverted; that God is actually the angry, homicidal control freak and Satan is actually the bringer of light – music, art, dance, literature, story, design.

And to be honest, they kinda make a good case …

The “God” side of things has historically squelched the innovators and crushed the envelope pushers. Pushing past the barriers is essentially a “Satanic” act – harkening back to the original sin; taking a bite of something forbidden.

And so, to be a great artist means flirting with the dark side.

No ground-breaking artist you’ve ever heard of, from any era, in any genre or medium, hasn’t played footsy with the deepest, darkest side of everything.

Even the ones who have made “sacred music.”

How many times have we seen an artist that brings so much light into the world, die of an overdose or be a slave to addiction?

How many of them have we seen in completely dysfunctional relationships? How many of them have brought us joy while bringing their friends and family nothing but abject suffering?

This is the constant war with “the dark side” all artists are engaged in. And unless you’re willing to go into the uncharted places, you will probably never be a truly great artist.

Somehow, the dark side is where illumination is found.

So, how do we reconcile all of this with God? Is God part of art at all? Or is he the enemy of it?

Here’s the answer: Jesus.

See, Jesus is that one fly in the ointment of all these arguments. He conquered the darkness. He went into it and came out unscathed. And he reconciles all of it.

He says, “Hey Pope Gregory, let them sing harmony. Harmony is beautiful. And it doesn’t destroy a thing. In fact, it’ll make those songs better. And don’t worry about the devil. I’ve handled him already.”

He loves Elvis and Chuck Berry and Amy Winehouse and Lady GaGa and Beethoven and Kanye West and Prince.

I think he probably smiled along with Eddie Van Halen, even when he was “Running With The Devil.” Because Jesus had actually DONE that…and had run faster.

At least that’s how I believe it.

People often ask me why I’m such a Johnny Cash fan. I personally believe Johnny found the key to all of this. I think he cracked the code of faith and art; Satanic exploration VS the stoic, artless God. And he realized it was all about Jesus reconciling it.

Maybe God doesn’t like Rock and Roll. But his son is more hip.

Johnny’s last hit song was written by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and produced by Rick Rubin (who produced Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys).

It wasn’t a worship song. It wasn’t for “the church.” It wasn’t uplifting or anything you could raise your hand to heaven and sway from side to side over. It was a gut-level honest piece called “Hurt” about just trying to feel something.

It was devastatingly human and completely honest.

And yet, I’m firmly convinced Johnny is in the realm of heaven, now. See, he found the lock and key. And so he could walk into the darkness unscathed, and bring the beauty out with him.

That’s what Jesus does.

Could Eddie Van Halen had done what he did inside the confines of the Church? Could he have moved music forward the way he did, bound by chains of tradition and reverence?

Absolutely not. Because true art demands absolute honesty. And the church often asks us to hide honesty.

You gotta be real if you’re going to break through any kind of artistic wall.

Eddie Van Halen literally had to run with the devil to get where he was going.

The good news is running with the devil doesn’t take you anywhere Jesus hasn’t already been.

We can sing Closer My God to Thee during the church service. But Jesus also sees us at the club, when nobody else is around, grinding to WAP.

And it doesn’t shock him or stop him from loving us.

If you think God – the real God – only sees you in the sacred setting and not in the club, then you’re kinda on the Pope Gregory tip. And that’s just not where it’s at.

Here’s where it’s at …

When Eddie was breathing his last breath, I want to believe Jesus was there with him, smiling, ready to take him home – if that’s where Eddie wanted to go.

See, all it takes is faith and a willing heart. And if Eddie had those things (and I hope and pray he did) all his other running didn’t matter.

And when he crossed over, I can imagine Jesus saying to him, “Man, Gregorian chants are nice. But, bro…Eruption was sick!”

R

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BIG ENOUGH LOVE …

It’s one of the ways I kinda won life’s lottery – being raised by a father with a superior mind and a kind heart. 

That’s a great combination, but it’s also very rare. 

When and if my dad ever leaves the planet, for whatever reason, the thing I’ll miss the most is our driving conversations. We’ve driven all over the United States together and had great conversations along the way. 

We talked through the night, looking for an open gas station in the New Mexico desert, once. We barely made it before running out of gas. 

We had a great conversation about the nature of flight, in upstate New York. And we had a very interesting conversation about sexual deviancy in the first century, while hauling some carpet to a landfill in Nashville. 

My father (a PhD in counseling) has a way of framing things so that the complicated becomes simple. And no topic is off limits. That makes for fascinating fare, when you’re two hours into Kansas, with six to go. 

One of the conversations with my dad, I’ll always remember, was one we had about the nature of love and forgiveness, and how it all related to heaven and hell. 

Was hell even real? Or was it something we (humans) sort of created to give us a justice we need to reconcile unanswerable questions? 

Here’s the thing about good conversations: you have to be able to hold two opposing thoughts in your head at the same time. 

That means you can believe the bible (or whatever you believe) with all your heart…while questioning it with all your mind. 

In those conversation, you get to ask anything you’ve ever wanted to ask. And so we did. 

I have a problem with how Joseph Mengele died. 

Joseph Mengele was the Nazi doctor who performed and cataloged some of the worst experiments on Jewish children, in the history of the human race. 

Because the Nazis didn’t consider the Jews to be fully human, Mengele used that as a pretext to treat these children as lab rats. He would cut off their limbs without anesthesia, just to catalog what a reaction to that would be. 

He would gauge out a little girl’s eyes and force her sibling to watch, to catalog how that scenario might play out.

I can’t go into anymore of it without tearing up. It’s simply monstrous and horrific. This was all sanctioned, of course, by Hitler himself.  

As an aside, this is why you have to be careful comparing people to Hitler unless you really know what that means. 

Anyway …

As far as we know, Mengele escaped to Brazil, after the war and never faced trial for his ghastly crimes. And although we don’t know exactly how he died, it is believed he died on a beach, sunning himself. 

I need there to be a hell for him. I can’t accept the idea of his death being peaceful, listening to the ocean breeze, after he had tortured and disfigured children. I don’t have enough love in my heart to extend to that. 

I asked my father about that. Could God love those men? Could God forgive Mengele or Hitler? Was God’s love that big?

And I’ll never forget the peaceful look that came over dad’s face. He kinda stared into the distance and said something that seared into my brain.

“Well son, if it’s not big enough for Hitler…then it’s not big enough …”

My eyes welled with tears. They are welling with tears now. Because I know that if it’s truly big enough, then it’s big enough for me. 

And I hear Jesus saying all over again, while being ripped apart and cut and nailed and stabbed by people who were laughing at him and spitting on him, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

That is the nature of love. 

Loving who you can’t stand the sight of, is actually love. Loving puppies and grandma is easy. Loving “your tribe” is easy. Loving the unlovable is why I still care anything about “faith” and Jesus.  

Because what he did runs counter to human nature. And that has to mean something transformative.

We’ve been lectured to about civility – on a constant loop – for a few years, now. Our President is combative and rude. He says really mean things to people. And he never apologizes for any of it. 

And now he and his wife both have a virus that could threaten their lives. 

Many of the preachers of this elusive civility have taken to social media to celebrate this, calling it “Karma” and, in some cases, even hoping he dies from it.

I’m going to simply remember my father’s words and insert the name of the president and his wife and his supporters and his opponent and his opponent’s supporters and anyone who’s laughing at his illness or even anyone who wishes him dead …

“If God’s love isn’t big enough for them, then it’s not big enough …”

That makes it big enough for all of us. 

I wish the President and his wife well. And I wish you well, even if you wish him (or me) dead. 

R   

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TAXING DEBATE …

As we all bit our nails and white-knuckled our whiskey and fought back the dread and anxiety and listened to two baby boomers act like baby boomers, I heard one passing line that was all I needed to hear. 

Joe Biden said he would repeal the Trump tax cuts. 

I posted that the deal was sealed for me, in that case, as I am a two or three issue voter…taxes being one of the biggest. 

One of my well meaning progressive friends (of whom I have many – I’m in the music business) commented that she was more interested in people than money – basically insinuating that I was more interested in money than people. 

That’s a pretty common belief and theme among the well meaning. 

That comment thread turned into one of those threads that gets ugly and mean. And so I took down the post. 

But let’s address this once and for all …

Taxes are necessary for a government to function. The way it should work is, the government should put a budget together of what it needs to survive. And then it should ask the people how they would like to pay for those things. Then the people can decide how they want to pony up those funds. And the government shouldn’t take in more or less than that number. 

A pragmatic tax code, that covers the bases and keeps the trains running on time, is what is needed. Nothing more.

But we’ve oriented ourselves in this country to somehow equate taxes with humanity; that if we pay little in taxes we are bad people but if we pay a lot in taxes we are doing our part for the collective. 

Bullshit. 

The only way you can come to that conclusion is if you believe the government is the main arbiter of the quality of people’s lives – that somehow, if ALL the money gets filtered through the central bureaucracy of Washington D.C, everyone will be happier and healthier, with everything they need and want. 

But it doesn’t work that way.

Taxes are the main roadblock every endeavor has to factor in FIRST, before a dream gets chased or a restaurant gets built or a service gets invented. There’s a big bully standing in front of every visionary, every creative mind, every genius, with it’s hand out. 

And as long as the number that bully asks for is reasonable, the cost/benefit analysis makes sense. You get roads and bridges. You get military protection, law enforcement and first response. Maybe you get good schools for your kids. 

But if that number becomes unmanageable, dreams start to die. Ideas don’t get off the ground. Wealth doesn’t get created. And that means jobs don’t get created. 

For self-employed people (like myself) taxes can literally break your year. They can send you into bankruptcy. They can devastate your family. And the more complicated the tax code, the tougher it is. 

I am personally still dealing with taxes from years ago. 

I made a lot of money in the 90s, so I paid enormous sums in taxes. Sums that would be embarrassing to quote. But I can tell you what I might’ve done if I’d had some of that money back. 

I might’ve been able to invest more for my future or help more family members in need or give to more charities. Or even if I just blew it all on bubble gum, I’d still be plowing money into the private sector economy; keeping the bubble gum jobs secure and adding to their bottom line. 

As it turns out, I basically paid for a guy to get blow jobs in the White House, then listen to his wife blame ME for it, all the while telling me I wasn’t paying enough.  

In 2004, on April 14th, my tax preparer (who I hadn’t been able to find for over a month), showed up at my front door with all my tax paper work and dropped it at my feet. Then she said, through tears, “I’m having a nervous breakdown and I can’t do this anymore.” Then she just turned around and ran to her car. 

I haven’t seen her since. 

But that sent me on a tax odyssey of re-filing past years and discovering fraud (she was apparently committing) and paying penalties for what we thought was fraud. Then, finding out it wasn’t actually fraud and re-filing again and on and on, to the point of having to take out a second mortgage on my house to cover tax debts I may or may not actually have. 

Things like this affect your life and your family. They reverse your ability to operate. They create a kind of stress that is hard to describe. 

All the while my family was dealing with this tax spaghetti, my career was crumbling and our income was up and down and we were applying for SSI assistance for my daughter with special needs. None was ever approved on the grounds that I appeared to make too much money. 

I looked at the lady in charge and asked, “So, you’re saying I can pay for these services but I can’t access them?” 

She looked back with a chilly stare and replied, “Yes.”

To this very moment in my adult life, I’ve never received a dime in government assistance of any kind. But I sure have paid for a ton of it. 

Guess what? This directly affected a child with a disability. It affected a family in free fall. It affected all the people in my business who counted on me to be at the top of my game. 

And the unwieldy government that was causing all of this had no human warmth or mercy or grace or any mechanism that could understand my plight and help. Because governments don’t do that. 

It was all stone buildings and disaffected employees, checking their watches for the next cigarette break. 

The truth about taxes is everyone tries to avoid them. And it’s not even a secret. And yet people still keep voting for people who want to raise them. It makes absolutely no sense to me. 

Cardi B goes on a social media rant about how much she’s having to pay in taxes and then turns around and endorses the guy trying to extract more from her. WAP must stand for Warped Ass Perception. 

In the late 90’s, just before the 2000 election, all my uber intelligent, college educated, hip progressive songwriter friends who owned publishing catalogs, rooted for Al Gore to win, but then waited to see if Bush won, before they sold their catalogs. 

See, Bush had promised to drop the capital gains rate from 40% to 15%. That meant that if they sold their catalog for a hundred thousand dollars, they would take home $85K instead of $60K. 

NOT ONE of them opted to sell early and pay the higher rate. Why? Because they had plans with that money. They had college tuition and home renovations and retirement strategies to think about. 

But they would never own up to it at cocktail parties. 

As it turns out, Bush did change the tax codes and my son’s adoption was helped by those changes, in the form of an adoption tax credit. This is the sinew of love. It’s not about greed or keeping more while others have less. This is the very stuff of life at stake…in tax codes.  

The man who yelled and screamed and interrupted and pretty much lost the debate Monday night, continually has to justify all this, because he has been successful in this country. 

Tax raisers always say they just want to see people succeed. But God help you if you actually do. 

And when he was asked why he only paid $750 a year for the past three years, instead of just saying that he hasn’t had an income in the last 3 years, because he has donated the $1.6 million dollars he’s earned back to the government, and that $750 actually seems like a high number for someone without an income, he veered into a litany of the millions he has paid through the years. 

Because even the champion of lower taxes can feel an indictment from this country, that if you haven’t paid what they think you should’ve paid, all the jobs you’ve created and all the contributions you’ve made and all the real estate you’ve developed, creating even more jobs, doesn’t count. 

People want you to bleed a little. Because they only see the limos and fame and fancy suits. They don’t see the huge risks and gut-wrenching stress and the constant precipice you’re standing on that could make you lose it all at any moment. 

They simply see taxes as some sort of virtue marker on your character – even if you’ve helped more people, through the private sector, than you ever would’ve by dumping that money into those cold buildings full of bureaucratic red tape. 

Taxes affect people. Wanting them to be reasonable isn’t selfish. It’s actually offensive to suggest that.

Do we want safety-net government programs that help people in need? Of course. And, believe it or not, lower taxes help fund those. All the numbers show that when the government lowers taxes, the revenues actually go up. Because expanding economies create more tax payers.   

Wanting taxes to be low is a humanitarian desire. A vote for lower taxes is a vote for businesses expanding and hiring people who need jobs. It’s a vote for dreams that don’t have to be dashed because of the tax bill. It’s a vote for families being allowed to make decisions with more of what they earn.  

Low taxes is a vote for freedom and compassion and humanity in every sense of the word. 

And I’m pretty damn tired of having to justify it.  

R

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THE REVOLUTION YOU MIGHT BE MISSING …

The word “Libertarian” gets thrown around a lot, these days. 

All the cool kids in Hollywood (and online), who don’t want to appear to be a Democrat stooge or a Republican stiff, say they’re a “Libertarian.” 

Then, they support Bernie Sanders. Yeah, no. You’re confusing the word “Libertarian” with “Socialist.” But I digress …

I really AM a Libertarian. I’ve been one since the early 90’s. Yes, I know who Harry Browne is (if you don’t know who Harry Browne is chances are you’re not a Libertarian). But I was smart enough to never vote for him (or Gary Anderson). I’m a Libertarian, not a fool. 

Libertarianism is kinda fiscally Republican and sorta socially Democrat (give or take), for those confused about it. 

I never thought in my lifetime I would ever actually see any Libertarianism actually put into practice. But I’m seeing it now. 

Since Donald Trump has been President, he has done more than a few things that are totally out of the Libertarian playbook. 

The big thing he did was lower the corporate tax rate by 14%. Nobody has had the guts to do that because they couldn’t handle the political fallout of being seen as “on the side of the greedy corporations.” 

But anyone in business knows that the corporate rate was the magic bullet for economic expansion. If you don’t understand how shaving 14 points off the vig can help you expand your business, you’ve never had a guitar in hock or a high interest credit card. 

As a result of that move, we were (prior to Covid) in an economic recovery the likes of which the country had literally never seen. 

The other Libertarian move Mr. Trump made was moving the American Embassy in Israel, to Jerusalem.

It basically said to the world, “We believe Israel is who they say they are, and there is no daylight between us and them.” 

At that point, all negotiations in that region took on a new meaning. All the players had to re-focus. And that was a “war stopper.” Libertarians love war stoppers. 

Also, dropping that MOAB bomb while having dinner with the Chinese leader, was sheer brilliance from a strategy standpoint. 

With one bomb, 36 ISIS leaders were killed and the foundations of the fundamentalist’s plans to continue the Caliphate were shaken (literally). It also sent a message to the entire world: “I’ll take you out while eating chocolate cake, and laugh while you’re being incinerated.”

That’s as hardcore as it gets. But it certainly does make someone think twice before ramping up hostilities. And, incidentally, I haven’t seen a beheading video in over 4 years. War stopper.   

On a personal note, the President signing the Music Modernization Act has been a long time coming for those of us in the music business. In that stroke of the pen, he literally signed our lifeline legislation. And yet most musicians I know hate the guy and are actively campaigning against him.  

The Right to Try act he signed, is also something Libertarians (as well as my family, personally) believe in and have a stake in. 

If you are dealing with a rare disorder or a life-threatening illness, this is game-changing. Being allowed to try any drug that might help you – whether it’s FDA approved or not – can be a Godsend for someone at the end of their rope.

The people in the world of rare diseases have been fighting for this for decades. And now we have it. 

The work he’s doing to lower prescription drug prices is also monumental. Every president, over the last 20 years, has said they were going to tackle this issue. Maybe it took someone who understands markets and market pressure to truly do it.  

The other thing Trump has done, that has been a burr in my saddle for years, is signing prison reform. He actually listened to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, when they brought this issue to his attention. And he acted.  

If you are concerned with the state of Black incarceration in this country, you have to be in favor of this. And yet almost no one is talking about it. If you actually believe Black lives really do matter, this is a giant step in the right direction. 

But it feels better to march against something than to acknowledge progress. 

Finally, this most recent Middle East peace deal revealed the thing Trump has such a knack for: seeing deals in a different way

Making a deal with everybody in the region EXCEPT the countries who always seem to be the most difficult to navigate, creates an alliance that squeezes places like Palestine and Iran into a posture of defense or compliance.

So now, instead of Israel being surrounded by people who want them dead, the hard-to-navigate-hot-spots are surrounded by allies who have an agreement and a financial stake in keeping that alliance strong. It’s brilliant triangulation. And again, it’s a war stopper for the U.S.

If standard politicians are the Yellow Pages, Donald Trump is the iPhone. And I guess if you believe in the sacredness of the Yellow Pages, the iPhone will be seen as evil. And if you ARE the Yellow Pages, well, you’re fighting for your own existence.

But if any other President had done all of this, we would be petitioning to have his (or her) likeness chiseled onto Mount Rushmore. If that person had a D next to their name, it wouldn’t even be a question. 

In normal times, peace and prosperity would be enough to keep everyone happy. But not this time. Why?

Because the man himself gets in the way. Donald Trump – the man – has proven that a lot of Americans truly do favor style over substance; that a mean tweet has more importance in their daily lives than having a job with rising wages.

Make no mistake. Donald Trump has stirred the pot like no one we’ve ever seen. He drives people nuts. But from a policy standpoint, he has done pretty much what I would’ve done as a Libertarian, for the past four years (minus the blunt speeches and tweets – also ending the war on drugs and completely decoupling health care from the government. But, hey, a step at a time).

It hasn’t been classic Republican or a classic Democrat.

It has been pretty much Libertarian.

Because so many get driven to near insanity by Trump, we may, indeed, put the doddering old man and the ambitious sellout (I’m not being hyperbolic. That’s what they both are), two people who represent more “quo” than the “status” has ever seen, back in office in November, just to calm the country down and get back to normal. 

But what is normal, now?

It’s hard to see through all the Covid mess and get a clear picture of who and what we were and what we do now. And the President is obviously in the crosshairs of blame for a lot of the mess.

But another thing Donald Trump, the man, has done has been to expose how people actually react when they get angry. Never in my life have I heard more people literally seething in hatred and disgust, calling for everyone else to show love. 

It’s like that episode of The Twilight Zone, where when the guy plays certain music, the people at his party can’t help themselves and start telling their real feelings about each other, no matter how harmful. 

Trump plays those songs on a daily basis. And true colors have come out. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than in the press. So much so, that I’m not sure what “news” to believe anymore. 

I just have this hunch that if Hillary Clinton had become president, Covid 19 might have never even been a lead story, even with the same number of cases and deaths. 

I could see it being labeled a “weird flu,” that was just something right wing conspiracy nuts talked about online – discredited completely by the “medical community.” 

I can imagine us having to bootleg videos of doctors telling us the real truth, because the videos would be constantly taken down by YouTube and Facebook, citing “community standards” violations. 

It’s just a hunch. But you can probably imagine it too.   

Yes, Donald Trump has exposed the worst in so many. The knives are out. And if you’re caught up in the surface stuff, you’re not going to recognize what has actually been happening on a policy level. 

But if you’ve ever put an “End This War” bumper sticker on your Prius or carried a “Take On Big Pharma Now!” protest sign or complained about the jobless rate in minority communities or the incarceration rate among Black men, or cried about your mom having to go to India or Mexico for experimental drugs or surgeries when she had a rare form of cancer, or wrung your hands over the possibility of sending your son or daughter off to a war zone to die over something complicated, then you’ve just watched it all get fixed…or at least addressed.

You just don’t know it because you’re too busy watching America burn to the ground on TV, every night. 

But one day, after all this smoke clears and we see the actual chess moves and governance for what it was, and we’re done kneeling and marching and chanting and rioting and “long, political rant” posting, and all the Trump rallies have ended and all the MAGA hats have been taken to Goodwill, and we’ve thrown all the masks away, we’re going find out that the Trump Revolution was essentially a Libertarian Revolution. And that a whole lot of it actually worked.

And one day maybe someone who can sell it with a silver tongue, while keeping the American people from losing their damn minds, might just emerge and use it as a blueprint for how to make the country more prosperous, more free and less trigger happy.

That’s all Libertarians want. 

That’s all Americans want. At least that’s what they said they wanted. 

But it’s now clear that a lot of Americans aren’t satisfied to just have problems solved. The right person has to solve them. 

And we’d prefer it be a sweetheart with a better hair style.

R  

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LONG ARM OF THE LAW …

It could be because I had a fancy tutor in second grade, and only had to attend three weeks of the third grade. 

Or it might be that I just liked that “I’m just a bill” song from Schoolhouse Rock, and knew all the words. 

Either way, even at age eight, I knew that in America, the Burgermeister Meisterburger would never have been able to just unilaterally make toys illegal. And I was always pulling for a true revolution in Somber Town, that would allow the people to vote and take control of their own destiny and toy distribution.  

I guess Santa kinda did that for them. Still, I believed a representative Republic would’ve been in their best interest. I still believe it, now.

I live in Nashville, and our Mayor is in a tub of hot water right now for ordering lock downs of certain areas of town, even though it appears (through some leaked emails) that he knew there wasn’t a real need to do it.

It’s all being disputed and getting political, and all the words are being parsed and the phrase “taken out of context” is getting thrown around a lot. 

But none of the minutiae matters. 

Here’s what matters: he put people out of work and out of business by ordering a city wide decree. 

The “secret” stuff isn’t even at issue (to me, anyway). The very public stuff is. 

See, he issued a public order than no more than ten people could gather at a time. Then, literally 3 days later, he issued a public (like, written out on City Government letter head and signed by him) invitation (well, actually an “encouragement”) for everyone in the city to come out and march in support of George Floyd. 

Then, once the marches (with thousands of people) ended and the vandalism and window-breaking was all done, he ordered bars and restaurants closed again. 

Then, he ordered a city-wide mask mandate. He really likes to order. 

If you go downtown Nashville, you will see signs in certain places that say, “wearing a mask is city law.” 

Actually, no it isn’t. It’s just something the Mayor and city council has asked (or told) everyone to do. 

But guess what? You actually don’t have to obey what an elected official tells you to do. That’s not illegal. 

If every restaurant and bar in the city wanted to open back up at full capacity – right now – they could legally do it. And everyone inside could go mask less if they wanted to. And if the Mayor sent the cops there to shut it down, there wouldn’t be any laws broken to charge them with. 

Because the MAYOR DOESN’T MAKE THE LAWS. 

See, we’re all doing all of this as a courtesy toward each other, or because a private business is asking us to do something inside their establishment. Not because there are any laws on the books governing it. 

And if you did get taken to jail for…you know…not staying closed when the Mayor told you to, then the courts would listen to your case, and apply whatever existing law there is to the issue. 

And “The Mayor told us to” is not a law. 

The court wouldn’t make up laws on the spot either, just to get a desired outcome (at least they shouldn’t). 

But a lot of people still look at things like a Mayor or a court as places where laws are made. They are not. Those are places where laws are carried out. 

WE make laws

Right now, a storm is brewing over the replacing of a SCOTUS justice. And it’s going to get ugly either way it shakes out. The reason it’s going to get so ugly is because changing the philosophical makeup of the Supreme Court brings with it the possibility of overturning one ruling: Roe Vs. Wade. 

And in that one ruling lies the fate of legalized abortion. Or so we think …

But I’ll bet you don’t know something – even if they overturn Roe Vs. Wade, that actually doesn’t mean abortion is illegal. 

There are NO Federal laws regarding abortion in the United States. Not one. 

There are a bunch of state laws and a Supreme Court ruling that establishes a legal precedent for anyone challenging the legality of abortion in court. That’s it. But it’s only a marker for the public. The ruling lets all the other courts know how it would rule in case any of those challenges got to it. It’s a legal backstop. Nothing more. 

But Roe Vs. Wade doesn’t make abortion legal or illegal any more than the Emancipation Proclamation made any slave free. It made no slaves free. It was just a statement to the world – “this is how we are going to move forward. This is the intent of the leadership.” 

But the Emancipation Proclamation carried no legal weight and freed no slave anywhere.  

The 13th Amendment ended slavery. It was ratified by two thirds of the states, essentially chiseling it in stone. The United States of America doesn’t do slavery anymore. Period. And no Burgermeister Meisterburger can change that. 

If I were president, I would hold a public referendum on abortion and force people to vote on it once and for all. The big elephant in the room with the makeup of the Supreme Court just raises the stakes every 4 years. Right now, they’re as high as they’ve ever been.   

For the record, I abhor abortion but I don’t want to see it criminalized. My 18-year-old daughter expresses (because of her genetic condition) like a 2-year-old. If she were to get raped and pregnant, carrying to term would kill her. I prefer options, even if they’re ghastly to think about. 

And I’ve always said, if you don’t have adopted children in your home – children who were actually in danger of being aborted – you don’t get to lecture me about the sanctity of life. Some of us are putting our money where our mouth is. Some of us are just talking big talk and crying big tears over babies we don’t really want to care for, we just want to be born…theoretically.  

Regardless of all that, abortion is neither legal or illegal. It is simply governed by a court decision we’ve all just kind of accepted as the way it is. 

Robert Bork always made the most sense to me on this. He basically said, if the country wants legal abortion it can make that happen next week, by actually petitioning its representatives and having them vote on a bill that legalizes it. Then, if the president signs it, it’ll be black letter law.

But asking 9 people to decide when life begins, so the country doesn’t have to bear the responsibility of it, is bad precedent. 

I agree. 

If we’re nervous every 4 years, because we think abortion is about to be made illegal or stay legal, we aren’t doing this the right way. One seat on the Supreme Court should never determine our nation’s laws. 

The court is simply there to interpret and rule on the laws we the people put in place. 

A lot of judges would do well to remember who the bosses actually are. 

A lot of Mayors would too. 

The Burgermeister Meisterburger found out the hard way.      

R

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SLEEP WOKE …

Breakfast always makes me remember cartoons. 

I’m from the first generation to watch cartoons in the morning, while having breakfast. 

This morning I was remembering Hong Kong Phooey – the cartoon that basically used Asian culture as a prop for a dog (who sort of spoke “jive”) to haphazardly solve crimes, while doing Karate…or something like that. 

It was trading on the Kung Fu and “Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting” craze of the mid-1970s. And get it? Hong Kong Phooey? It’s a play on words. See what they did there? 

We just laughed and laughed. We didn’t know any Chinese or Japanese or Korean people, anyway. And the only one we ever saw on TV was Hop Sing, the cook, on Bonanza. 

Hop Sing (probably should be Hop Xin)…the cook. Nah…nothing wrong with that. And I’m sure whenever he entered the frame, the director sent a note to the scoring composer to maybe throw in a little “Oriental” sound…you know…cause the Chinese guy was there. Get it?

But I didn’t love Hong Kong Phooey as much as I loved Fat Albert. Yes…FatAlbert. See, they called him that because he was overweight. So, they put the word “fat” in his name. You know, so we didn’t forget he was overweight while he was teaching us lessons in tolerance.

Hey, at least he wasn’t being voiced by a serial rapist. But I digress … 

Usually, during Fat Albert or Hong Kong Phooey, there would be a commercial for the United Negro College Fund. Negro. On national TV. With an actual black person in the commercial, portraying said “NEGRO.” 

I wasn’t exactly sure what the United Negro College Fund did, but I thought it might have something to do with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of COLORED People). 

Well, now that I think about it, maybe those commercials were actually shown at night, during prime time. I’m certain I would see them during my favorite show, Sanford and Son. 

Sanford once said, in one of the funniest episodes ever, that there were enough black people in the courtroom he was in, to shoot a Tarzan movie. Well, he didn’t actually call them “black people.” His exact phrase was (and I quote – and you can find the clip on Youtube), “there’s enough niggers in this room to shoot a Tarzan movie.”

He said that on national, prime time TV. Air time paid for by sponsors. NOT cable. Consumed by middle America. 

We just laughed and laughed. That Fred Sanford was crazy. 

Anyway …

Later, as a teenager, I used to ride around with a friend in their MG Midget (yes, it was called a MIDGET…named that…by the company that made it) and listen to Dire Straights sing, ON. THE. RADIO. “that little faggot got his own jet airplane. That little faggot is a millionaire …”

Then, if somebody cut us off in traffic, we would just call them retards while continuing to drive…the MIDGET. 

It’s important to note something here: at no time, during any of this, did I ever hate Asian people or Black people or little people or gay people or people with special needs. 

And when Eddie Murphy sang about white people walking with their buttocks extremely tight, I sang right along with him and laughed and laughed. I knew Eddie wasn’t talking about me. Or maybe he was. But it didn’t matter. It was funny. 

Everything I just described above is completely unacceptable in today’s culture. All of it. 

If you came into a pitch meeting with the title “Hong Kong Phooey” you would raise more eyebrows than a Botox convention. 

How about sitting in a board room and deciding to call a small car a Midget? I wonder how far past the focus groups that would get, these days. 

I was walking through a mall, prior to the Covid shutdown, and heard that Dire Straights song wafting through the canned music zones. I stopped and listened for the line and sure enough, they had edited out “faggot.” It’s just “that little ______ got his own jet airplane, that little _____ is a millionaire,” now. 

Still, I’m fairly certain Mark Knoffler never hated Gay people or wished them any harm. He was just telling a story in the voice of a type of character. 

That’s a nuance that seems to be lost on all of us these days because we’re drowning in the world of “micro-aggressions.”

See, I never worried about Eddie Murphy’s comic micro-aggression toward my race, because I had experienced actual aggression. I had actually been beaten up simply for being white…many times. So, I could differentiate between comedy and violence. 

There are 20-somethings out there, yelling and screaming over cultural appropriation, who’ve never had the shit kicked out of them simply because they had a certain skin tone. Well, guess what? I have. And it leaves more of a mark than hearing Dave Chappelle do his “white guy” voice. 

And because we don’t know the difference anymore, between actual violence and psychological triggering, we’re starting to see violence used as a means to end the triggering. And quite frankly, that’s as backward as backward gets.  

Look, we should not call cars (or really, anything) Midgets. 

We should not use the word “retard”…EVER.  

As songwriters, if we can avoid using the term “faggot,” we definitely, probably should. 

And although we’ve been around the horn on terminology over the last few decades, calling black people simply “black” is probably best (although, I’m pulling for the day when we can just call ourselves “people” and not have to qualify it with a skin color). 

And the cartoons Hong Kong Phooey and Fat Albert are probably best left in the 1970s…along with Hop Sing. 

But the good news is we’re trying to do better. I like to think we are. In the meantime, I refuse to equate being inappropriate with being evil. 

Several years ago, an old man saw my daughter running through a mall and I overheard him say to his wife, “she looks like she might be kindly affected.” 

Yeah, none of that is acceptable terminology. But before he said that, he also said, “bless her little heart.” 

I know enough about Southern culture to know, that man was being as empathetic as he could be toward her. None of what he was saying was coming from a place of hatred or malice. 

I could’ve dressed him down and taught him a lesson. Or I could do what I did: accept where he was, knowing how it was meant. 

Constantly parsing terminology, pronouns and language has taken our culture from innocently ignorant to insufferably self-righteous. And to be honest, the first one is more endearing. 

The second one is filled with iPhone carrying, Amazon ordering, instant-gratification-receiving know-it-alls, constantly running to the hall monitor to tell on you for something you don’t even know you did, and assigning a motivation to you, you didn’t know you had.   

The Southern Baptist Convention is examining the “Southern” to see if it needs to be removed, in order to not offend people who hear the word “Southern” and then get triggered by thoughts of racism and slavery. M-kay. Apparently, they’ve been sent to the hall monitor’s office. 

And maybe they should do this. I don’t know. 

Or maybe they could do real outreach to the communities they’re trying not to offend. Maybe they could talk more to people, rather than assume something about them. Heck, maybe they could be so involved in the people’s lives they are desperately trying to virtue signal to, that the term “Southern” Baptist would become known as a positive…not a negative.

Maybe the name isn’t as important as what they actually do.  

Hey that’s just me. But what do I know? 

I’m just an old white guy who used to laugh at Hong Kong Phooey.  

R   

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NEWTON’S THIRD LAW …

“For every action there is and equal and opposite reaction …”

That is Newton’s third law of physics. And it is irrefutable.

My brother started using the question, “what’s Newton’s third law?” with his son, when he would act up as a child. Eventually, the boy learned that meant whatever he was about to do would bring with it a consequence.

I adopted the phrase in the raising of my own son. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him dart his eyes around and reconsider his actions, faced with the truth that there would be an equal and opposite REaction.

We live in a world that doesn’t seem to understand this law of physics anymore. People fire away (figuratively AND literally) without thinking about what might be coming back.

But here’s the thing …

Eventually, in your career or your marriage or your relationship with your friends or children or parents; in the way you approach your health and business, and in the way you approach your politics and faith, you have to come to terms with the fact that all life does two things: it fights for survival and it defends itself.

I’m always amazed at people who think building a bureaucracy can be a temporary thing. Bureaucracies are made up of people and people fight for survival. So, the minute you try to dismantle it, you will get a fight. Is it because those people are evil or on the wrong side of something? No. It’s because the people who make up that bureaucracy have families and homes and bills to pay. And you’re about to take all that away from them.

That’s why there is a political theory that you should think long and hard before you ever create one in the first place. Whatever beast you build must be fed.

Fighting for one’s survival is just a reaction. Nothing more.

In every aspect of life, this is true. If you decide to come at your spouse in anger and attack them, no matter how righteous your cause might be, you had better factor in Newton’s third law. They have free will and will react in a way that protects them.

If you decide to constantly approach your child with violent threats and complete dismissal of their voice, they will react accordingly. On the other hand, if you decide to never discipline them for anything, there will be an equal and opposite reaction to that as well.   

As our American cities burn and more people get shot and killed, Newton’s third law is continually being seen and proven on the nightly news.

If you decide to escalate a situation, it will, indeed, escalate. And you lose more and more control over how the whole thing ends. Because, as I’ve also told my son regarding fighting, “always remember that the other guy gets a say in the matter as well.”

In 1860, a rebellion broke out in the southern part of the American experiment. A lot of people thought it would be over in a weekend. Men beat their chests and howled at the moon and cocked their muskets and planned their attacks.

But guess what? The other guys had a say in the matter too. And 600 thousand dead soldiers later, it finally ended.

I want to hear a public conversation take place with police departments and minority communities in this country. I’d love to see the whole thing televised and/or posted on social media. And not just one side, but all sides talking and trying to get to the bottom of whatever this cancer is that’s eating us from the inside.

Is it pure, abject racism? Is it a series of misunderstandings? Is it cultural differences? Is it a tone deaf majority? Is it a minority whipped into constant state of fear? Is it all of the above? Or is it something else we’re not seeing?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that if you decide the answer for you is to continually riot for days and weeks on end and burn down private buildings and put people in a state where they feel that they are threatened, there will be an equal and opposite reaction to that. And if you’re prepared for that, fair enough.

But in that state of being, innocent people are going to get hurt and even killed in the fog of it all. No society can sustain that much chaos for that long without the reactions kicking in.

If a war is what you’re after or a revolution or something along those lines, again…fair enough. Just always remember Newton’s third law – you will get back equally what you put out. And you had better understand that the people you are coming after will defend and protect themselves.

If you take a gun to a protest to “help” you’d better be prepared for what might follow. And if you attack someone with a gun, don’t be surprised if you get shot.

If you’re a cop and you decide to shoot, remember that the world is now watching you and your action might set off reactions across the globe that no one can control. Conversely, if you’re being told by a cop (holding a 357 Magnum) to stop doing something, and you keep doing it, that thing can go off.

We don’t play with rattlesnakes because really deep down, on some primal level, we know that Newton was right. And if we try to touch that rattlesnake, he doesn’t know we’re playing. He’s just going to react with instinct. And that instinct is going to end in a bite that will probably kill us.

If I were in charge of anything, I’d call for a national tutorial between police departments and citizens on how we should ALL respond in any given situation. And I’d base it all on Newton’s third law.

Maybe, if I were a counselor, I’d counsel people in that regard as well. If you scream, don’t expect tenderness. If you demean, don’t expect praise. If you curse, don’t expect blessing.

We are all reacting to something. But we are also simultaneously acting.

And what we get back can often be traced directly to what we put in.

If we had a little more education on Newtonian physics, maybe we’d stop playing with so many rattlesnakes …

R

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REPRESENT …

I have never rooted for the slow, Russian guy just because he was white. Not once.

Whenever I watch the Olympics, I root for whoever is wearing the red, white and blue. And I don’t care if they are male or female or white or black or of Asian, Latino, Indian or…well…Russian descent.

If they represent my country, they have my support.

I don’t root for white guys on basketball courts, or white guys on football fields. I don’t ever think to myself, “that guy looks like me – so I’m going to cheer for him.”

Why? Because I, as a white male, have a certain kind of freedom very few other people groups have.

Let me explain …

My wife is Mexican. She could say she’s a proud, Latin woman (which she would never do, because she doesn’t think like that) and that would be perfectly acceptable. If I were to say, however, that I was a proud, white man (which I would never do, because I don’t think like that), that phrase would be seen as some sort of hate crime.

And I’m pretty sure I’d be on a watch list.

White men are told, pretty much from birth, that showing any inkling of “racial pride” makes you Nazi material and gets a KKK card automatically sent to you in the mail. And showing any inkling of “male pride” makes you a misogynist.

And actually, all of that might be true. I have no idea. I have no pride in either thing, as I have no control over either thing.

And here’s a little secret – most other white guys don’t either.

See, the other piece of it is that we’ve been the majority long enough to understand that just because people look like us, doesn’t mean they have our best interests in mind. They can be evil or screwed up or out to get us or just downright stupid.

The gift of seeing people who look like you everywhere is knowing how few of them actually give a crap about you. I never walk into a room full of white guys and think, “cool, these are my people.”

I usually think, “Oh Great. I’ve got to figure out how to talk to these morons till my wife gets back from the bathroom. And I’m pretty sure Chad, over there, is about to start talking to me about Cross Fit. I can feel it.”

For the most part (with the obvious exception of some weird Free Mason-type clubs, or stupid KKK-type groups), we don’t have a secret handshake, or coded language. We don’t automatically like each other, and we’re not proud of our skin.

And honestly, until you get to that point, you’re not really free. Not really.   

As of this writing, Kamala Harris is the pick for Vice Presidential candidate on the Democrat ticket. Good for her.

Given what she has overlooked to accept this nomination (a pretty serious charge of racism – BY HER – toward her running mate, and a still-not-settled issue of sexual assault charged against her running mate, that she herself said she believed) it’s clear this is something she really wants. And I, for one, am always happy to see people making their dreams come true.

But the way America couches these things is divisive to say the least.

We now live in a world where the only way people can feel represented is to see their particular shade and stripe mirrored back to them. And, on some level, I get it. If you’re a black girl who has never seen a black Disney Princess, you can feel excluded from culture. And I’m all for people feeling included in culture.

But it gets complicated …

I have a friend who is a world-class recording engineer. He has worked with the likes of Paul McCartney and U2. Recently, he applied for a professorship, to teach engineering, at one of local colleges here in Nashville.

If you want to learn the art of engineering, there may only be ten or twelve people on earth who know as much about it as he does. In a sane world, that college would be falling all over itself to get him in their teaching program.

But he has a few strikes against him: he’s white, he’s male and he’s over 50.

This isn’t speculation or sour grapes by some spoiled, privileged white man.

This was actually told to him by the administration: we are ONLY hiring a black woman to teach the course.

That’s wonderful…if she exists.

Recording engineering isn’t a field that attracts a lot of black women…or really any kind of women. Although I have worked with a few female engineers (and they were awesome) I have never even seen a black woman behind a console, and I’ve been making records for over 40 years.

My friend speculates that there are probably less than a hundred black women engineers in all the world and the position at the college is still not filled.

Can a black woman do it? Of course. Would I trust my project to a black woman? Of course. Should black women get into the field of recording engineering? Only if they want to. And most don’t. And that leads us back to these “historic” moments …

When you ask why Kamala Harris is a “historic” candidate, the answer is simply about skin tone and plumbing.

And as a nation that was raised to heed the words of MLK as if they were scripture; “content of character over color of skin,” that “historic” milestone only matters for ONE day. Then we can say we did it…whatever “it” is, and she has to go do the job.

And on the job is where history actually makes its decisions.

Kamala Harris might be totally qualified to be the Vice President. She might have been the pick anyway, without her race and gender having anything to do with it. But we’ll never know.

What we do know is Joe Biden told the world he was only going to pick a woman of color as a running mate. And that kind of casts a weird shadow over the whole thing.

George W. Bush (Republican) was the first president to appoint a black Secretary of State (Colin Powell), then later, the first black FEMALE Secretary of State (Condoleezza Rice).

In fact, during the Bush presidency, the United States never had a white person representing its global interests. Not. One. Day.

But I don’t remember anyone caring about that. I just remember paying attention when they were on the news.

When Tony Dungy was asked what it was like to be the first black head coach in the NFL to win a Super Bowl, he said it would feel a lot better when that wasn’t news anymore.

I couldn’t agree more.

When you find out the person in office, who looks like you, is human too and is just as capable of letting you down as the obligatory white guy, it will be an awakening; an awakening to ideas over skin and gender; an awakening to the concepts being shared over what the mouth sharing them looks like.   

And when you get there…you are closer to being truly free.            

R

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