MISGIVINGS…

This post has already been “reported” for false information. So let me offer some disclaimers before you read it:

1. I am not in any way claiming or suggesting that vaccines cause Autism. I don’t know what causes Autism. Neither does the medical community. I am only suggesting that those who have experienced reactions to vaccines and/or live with children who have had the same, may have valid arguments or concerns when it comes to vaccinating themselves or their children. 

2. I am not discouraging anyone from taking a Covid vaccine. My wife and Mother-in-Law have both taken the vaccine and are very happy with their decision. I may take it as well. The below are just the thoughts and feelings I am weighing as I come to that decision. 

3. I in NO WAY discount the amazing work so many health care professionals do. Those who work in that field are among some of the best and brightest. And they have acted heroically throughout this pandemic. A few of them even saved my life. This is simply an acknowledgement that we’re all human and prone to getting it wrong occasionally. And that we’re all trying to get through this the best we can with the information we have…or don’t have. 

Having said all that, read at your own risk …  

Vaccines wrecked my life.

Well, not so much the vaccines themselves. But the discussion of them…and maybe the vaccines themselves. Who knows. 

When my wife and I brought our daughter home from China, we took her to the doctor for a full checkup. She had weird behaviors, wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t holding her head up, etc. 

A good ol’ dose of western medicine was in order. 

The doctor assured us everything was fine and we just needed to let her cry it out at night, when she wasn’t sleeping. Eventually it would all work itself out. Now, let’s get her fully vaccinated. 

My wife and I looked at each other knowingly. First, we kinda knew everything wasn’t really going to be alright. He wasn’t listening. Or we were just so sleep deprived we weren’t making any sense. 

But second, my daughter had already been fully vaccinated in China. We had the records and she still had the needle marks in her feet to prove it. 

I spoke up, “Um, doc, she had all her shots in China.”

“Yeah, but they get all the knock-offs and irregular stuff we reject, here. It’s best to just do it all again,” he said, while quickly preparing the 43 vaccinations (yes – I said 43) to give her in two separate shots. 

So, I gulped and said, “Actually, we’re going to wait on the full panel for a bit. We’d like to see her get more acclimated to her life and more in the groove before we do this. She’s only 9 months old. We have time …”

Before I could say anything else, he dropped his head and said, “Ok, I see what’s going on here. You guys are THOSE people. You’ve spent too much time on the internet and too much time listening to junk science. You either get this kid jabbed today – RIGHT NOW – or I am not your doctor anymore. I’ve had about enough of this nonsense walking into my practice …”

Before he could go any further, we had her dressed and out the door. “Okay, we’re not your patients, then,” we said, as we bolted toward the front desk to pay up and leave. 

He then wrote something (we still – 19 years later – have no idea what) on her chart that got her kicked off our insurance plan. That ONE move wrecked our financial lives for the next ten years and drove us into bankruptcy. 

Why?

Because my daughter started having to go to the ER in the back of an ambulance three times a week, with 7 and 8-minute seizures. She started having to see specialists and therapists and “experts” who couldn’t seem to figure out her particular set of problems. 

Finally, after 5 years of sleep deprivation and specialist after specialist and learning the inside of Vanderbilt like the back of my hand, and losing all my money and losing my career and losing my mind, we found out that she is missing a piece of her 15th maternal chromosome. 

We found that out by a friend pointing out things he’d seen in another child like mine. Then we got information on…YES…the internet. Then, we confirmed our suspicions with a genetics test. And it came back positive. She is missing the piece of the chromosome. 

That’s actual science. 

So, just to recap: she wasn’t EVER going to simply “cry it out” at night. Ever. She wasn’t dealing with regular baby stuff. We weren’t just sleep deprived. Something was actually, scientifically wrong with her. 

That doctor, not having all the actual information, was about to fully re-vaccinate a 9-month-old with a genetic disorder, WHO. HAD. JUST. BEEN. FULLY VACCINATED. Who later was shown to have adverse reactions to vaccinations. When she got the MMR (at 6), she reacted for a solid month so violently we have never gotten the booster. 

In other words, WE weren’t the science problem in that doctor’s office. The doctor was. 

Along the way to finally having someone – NOT A DOCTOR – finally see something nobody else was able to see, she was misdiagnosed a half dozen times. And every time she was misdiagnosed, she was mis-medicated. 

So, pardon me if I question those in the medical profession from time to time. I have lived – actually lived – the nightmare of their mistakes. So has my family. 

I believe most doctors are good people who genuinely want to help. I listen to them. I take what they have to say seriously. Then I weight it against other information and other opinions.

At the moment, there’s a full court press to get every person on Earth vaccinated against Covid 19. And I understand it. We all want to get back to normal…whatever that is. 

But those who haven’t yet gotten the vaccine might not be the ignorant, rube, Trump worshiping idiot you think they are. 

In my own case, I’ve actually had the virus. My daughter has actually hadthe virus. There were early reports that people with natural immunity only had it for a few months. Now, we’re learning that natural immunity probably lasts a lifetime. Maybe not. We’re not really sure yet. 

Why? Because we’re still learning. And that is the issue. 

Other than Kamala Harris, who said she would not receive the vaccine if Trump pushed it, nobody really cares who was responsible for getting it created. Not really. Not when it comes down to it. 

What people care about is not putting something INSIDE their bodies that has only been in trials for 8 months. That’s not denying science. That’s simply being cautious. 

I’m really sick and tired of medical and science people calling a natural, human instinct “anti science.” On one hand they will go on and on about how humans have done this certain behavior for millions of years; activating the fight or flight response because our caveman ancestors were being chased by saber tooth tigers, etc, etc, but then refuse to understand the same mechanisms at work right in front of them. 

My family is not a family of anti-vaxers. We’re not people who refuse to go to the doctor and just pray our illnesses away. 

No, we read and research and listen and think and weigh and then do more of it. We have to. 

And if you’re not at least a little skeptical about the sheer number of vaccines given to children, you’re not thinking about it. Is there a reason Autism rates are lower in Colorado and Mississippi – the two states where the MMR vaccine isn’t mandatory until age 5? I have no idea. It might be a total coincidence. 

But isn’t it worth discussing?

How many vaccines are safe in one shot? 20? 30? 70? A thousand? A hundred? 

Nobody seems to be able to give me that number. And they never have. As a society, we’ve settled on 43. Okay. Why? Do we know that number is safe?

Why did the medical community deny Thymerosol was a contributing factor in Autism – but then remove it from vaccines? Was it just the PR aspect? I really don’t know. I don’t even claim to know. 

All I claim to know is this: there are two doctors at Princeton University who didn’t believe anyone in the Asian race could even be stricken with Angelman Synrome (my daughter’s condition). Doctors. At Princeton. 

Then there’s me – a guy who didn’t graduate from college – who knows they can because I. LIVE. WITH. ONE. 

The point is simply this: we all know medicine can be inexact. We’ve all experienced it somewhere along the way. The number one killer in America, every year, is doctor error. 

And with this virus, the facts seem to keep changing. Of course they are. We haven’t seen this before. 

But you can’t brow beat people into doing what you want them to do. You have to lead them. And it helps if you do it without rolling your eyes. 

I had a bad bout of the virus. I thought I was going to die a time or two. And I never thought it was a hoax. I never laughed it off as nothing to be concerned about. Neither did Donald Trump, by the way. What he said was a “hoax” was the press reporting that he wasn’t taking it seriously. I know this because I listened to EVERY press conference he held on the virus from January 2020, until they stopped doing them. EVERY. ONE. 

CNN can’t say that. 

I wore the mask. I stayed home as much as I could. I washed my hands till they were raw. And I got the virus anyway. Because that’s how viruses work. They spread. They mutate. Then they spread again. That’s exactly what is happening right now. 

Will I get the vaccine? I’m still weighing it out and thinking about it. 

But I’ll guarantee you this: you belittling my decision-making process one way or another, isn’t going to cause me to do what you want me to do. 

I’ve already been through too much regarding health and science and the human genome to take vaccination advice from an angry Facebooker who thinks they know everything there is to know about science because they watch documentaries on Curiosity Stream. 

We don’t know everything. 

Sometimes the baby doesn’t need to cry it out. Sometimes it actually IS good to wait before you vaccinate. Sometimes, maybe it’s not a bad thing to give people the benefit of the doubt regarding their own health choices. 

And then, if they want to take the shot, they will. And if they don’t want to, they won’t. And they will have to live (or die) with the consequences of whatever they decide to do. 

Just don’t assume people are stupid and uniformed simply because they have questions.

It has been my experience that doctors who do that are often the ones who end up being wrong…and maybe about to ruin your life.  

      

R  

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90 MILES AWAY…

So far, I have refused to get one of those ancestry tests or 23 and me (or whatever it’s called) results. 

In fact, one of my least favorite TV commercials of the last decade, is that stupid thing where the man or woman lived their entire life thinking they were Polish or Italian or whatever, but then learned that they were actually from some other part of the globe. So, naturally, they shed all the accouterments of what they thought they were, and put on the liederhosen or African head dress or whatever other utterly embarrassingly stereotype they could find to don, from the new place they are now supposed to be from. 

Total and complete nonsense. 

Guess what? I can tell you where we’re all from. Probably Africa. Then some of us started walking to other places. And the conditions and climates of those places, combined with the DNA pool being generated in those communities, made us look certain ways and grow to certain sizes. 

That’s pretty much it.

Then, the way we learned to survive and thrive in those different climates and terrains kinda informed how we organized ourselves and governed ourselves. Then the things we started believing in created societal pecking orders and became something called culture. 

Most of what we think of as “race” is actually “culture.” 

As the husband and father of people of different races, I can tell you that DNA and skin color doesn’t mean much – maybe even nothing – when it comes to culture. 

I’ve honestly lost count of the times someone from Asia has tried to “connect” with my daughter, based on their mutual Asianness. She usually just stares blankly at them, as if to say, “I literally have no idea what you’re trying to do right now. I’m from Brentwood.”

As an adoptive father, I remain sensitive to my daughter’s culture of origin. And my Mexican wife and I have tried to honor it when and where we can. But the truth is, she doesn’t really care all that much. Some adopted kids do. And that’s their own journey. God bless them. Our journey got way beyond cultural and racial things and into actual DNA, pretty quickly, with my daughter’s Angelman Syndrome diagnosis. 

That’s a real DNA issue. Not some skin-based, surface thing being used for political purposes. 

But if you’re still conflating skin color, race and culture with political systems, you’re still pretty much an old school racist. You probably just don’t know it or want to admit it. 

In other words, if you believe this or that part of the world acts a certain way because of the particular shade of their meat covering, then you’re still focussing on the meat covering and not the idea part of the equation.

One of the reasons I am a staunch American, is that I believe in the idea of America. It has nothing to do with amber waves of grain or sea to shining sea or anything like that. The idea of the American system transcends race and culture and is a true revolution for all humans…if they want it to be.

When I see those people in Hong Kong waving American flags in protest of oppression, I see them as fellow Americans. Even though they’re not American citizens nor are they anywhere close to America in proximity. 

But they embrace the idea. And the idea is what it’s all about. 

Lately we’ve been seeing protests in Cuba. Cuba is one of those perfect petrie dishes of experimentation. If you want to see what communism will turn into and ultimately look like, Cuba will tell you. And trust me, you don’t want it.

The first thing that has to happen for it to come into power is a real iron fist revolution, where justice under law isn’t really a thing. Raw power is. 

“A revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the The Wall!” 

That’s a direct quote from Che Guavera, one of the architects of the Cuban revolution. And “the wall” he’s referring to is the firing squad wall. 

Those Cubans, marching in the streets to end this nightmare they’ve been living under for the past 60 years, are Americans. Because they embrace the idea of individual freedom.

These days, a lot of people born into the freest society ever created by any group of people anywhere, seem to be courting the notion of socialism and communism. Somehow, this system will produce more equality and equity for people of all races and genders and whatever.

And they’re right. It will. It will create more equally distributed misery all around.

The iron of race and gender and trans and blah and blah and other and other and whatever, is being used as a pry bar to rip open systems and infiltrate young minds. And new spins are put on on arguments, making the young think it’s somehow a new kind of revolution. But it’s not. And it’s based in the same, tired motivations: get even with some group. Seize the power from them. Put the structure back together in a way that benefits only the few with the guns.

People romanticize the Cuban revolution and make all sorts of apologies for it. Even Che’s Wikipedia page made me chuckle with the wording that he instituted a “literacy program.” LOL (yes, I laughed out loud)

What they mean is he took over the education system…by force.

I suppose by that logic, Hitler was a population control advocate. 

Speaking of Hitler, we tend to see him as the evil white guy, pushing evil white guy things. But take the “white” part out, and you still have pure evil. And pure evil can take on any skin color and spring from any culture. 

Focussing on the skin color of the evil just means you haven’t yet shaken off racism as a concept in your life. 

For those of us who couldn’t care less about our ancestors, but who are only concerned with ideas, those Cubans in the streets are our bothers and sisters in thought. Those Hong Kong freedom marchers are simpatico with us. And, yes, all Americans who still get what the country is supposed to be about, are too. 

The things happening inside a brain are far more important than what’s happening on a piece of earth or on the surface of someone’s skin. 

The United States is only 90 miles from Cuba. 

Or is it?   

  

  

R

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ROSEBUD…

Misconceptions. 

We live under so many of them. 

One of my all time favorite misconceptions is that the Constitution says there must be a “separation of Church and State.” The Constitution actually says no such thing.

It simply prohibits the government from making any laws prohibiting the free expression of religion. 

The term “separation of Church and State” is from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a minister, regarding how the new government would andshould operate. 

But we have turned that phrase – the separation of Church and State – into some cultural axiom we base our entire belief systems on. 

Another one of those is the phrase, “you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” Nobody actually ever said that. 

It comes from a 1919 Supreme Court case (Schenck v. United States – the ruling was overturned in 1969.) where Justice Oliver Wendell Homes Jr. wrote in his opinion, that “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic” is not protected speech.  

But you can absolutely yell fire in a crowded theater. In fact, you’d better yell it…if you know (or even just believe) the theater is on fire. 

You can’t just cause a panic for your own purposes. That is speech that isn’t protected. But it gets complicated. 

Because, here’s what you also can’t do: you can’t prohibit people from yelling fire in a crowded theater, if they believe the theater to be on fire. That would actually veer into attempted murder. 

We have taken this one phrase and twisted, turned it and tortured it, to justify banning speech we find repulsive, uninformed or (best of all) dangerous. 

Once you can label it “dangerous,” you can call open season on whatever speech you want to see go away. 

But one man’s cigar in the theater, is another man’s fire. And so it’s hard to differentiate what is “dangerous” and what is not. 

This debate rages on in our culture at the moment. And we’ve turned it into a life-or-death proposition. False (or correct) information about masks or vaccines or CDC guidelines or whatever, becomes everybody’s personal soap box. 

And this is how corporate media and big tech step in to benevolently decide who can say what. Thank God for them. We, the stupid and ignorant unwashed masses, would be lost without their clear and sober guidance. 

If you can’t feel me rolling my eyes, stop reading here and look up “sarcasm.” 

They’ve decided to “fact check” you and keep an eye on you and make sure you’re not sharing “extremist” material. I mean, you know, it’s for the good of everybody. 

We can’t have a bunch of misinformation our there, clouding people’s opinions. It’s in the public interest. Isn’t it? 

We can’t have a bunch of people shouting fire in a crowded theater. That would be unconstitutional. You know, like not separating Church and State. But I digress …

Wanting to control the news and the information is nothing new. Control freaks and those afraid of true liberty have been doing it for centuries. It’s just that now, they all look hip and young and have positioned themselves as the smartest people in the room. 

But they’re no different than William Randolph Hearst, who tried to control the news and the opinions of his readers, a hundred years ago. Hearst, at one point, oversaw over 30 newspapers and had a direct hand in the editorial positions of all of them. 

At one point, he was so powerful, he even bragged about starting wars. 

Nobody in today’s culture would support ONE person having that much control of information. It’s a cliche and a joke from another time. In fact, Hearst was the inspiration for the main character (Charles Foster Kane) in the film Citizen Kane, widely regarded as the most important American film ever made. 

But don’t we have little “Kanes” running the news, now? Aren’t the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai, just new versions of the stereotypical old, white guy, chomping his cigar and barking out orders to his butler? 

This week Donald Trump led a class action suit against these companies for their absolute censorship of his voice. And there is no way else to slice it. He was arbitrarily censored in a publishing maneuver by entities claiming to be platforms. 

Some of these platforms have allowed murders to be seen on their platform. Some have allowed beheadings to be seen. I personally witnessed three people torture a person with special needs on one of these platforms. I didn’t blame the platform or hold them responsible, by the way. 

Who knows what will come of this law suit. But this is a conversation we must continue to have. And it might be time for these companies to decide who and what they are, once and for all. Or it might be time to break them up. 

I never have an issue with anyone or anything who tells me straight up where they stand. It’s why I have much more respect for Fox News than CNN. One is telling me who they are. They other is trying to convince me they are one thing…while being something else. 

And I will never fault someone for yelling fire in a crowded movie theater, if they ended up saving me from dying in a fire. But I will also not fault them if theythought they were saving me. 

And if they just did it to pull a prank, then shame on them and we’ll probably miss the movie or have to restart it. That’ll be inconvenient. 

But if the theater is continually forcibly stopping every voice form yelling fire, but not taking care of fire codes and burns to the ground. Then we have a worse situation. 

Be careful what information you restrict from the public. 

Because there just might be a fire.    

           

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BEHIND THE CURTAIN…

It’s been almost 7 months. 

And I haven’t posted anything about the current president. I just don’t feel like it. It’s boring. Has he said things that would make a great meme? Sure. Has he appeared to be unstable and in mental decline? Of course. Did he insult military troops from the podium? Unfortunately, yes. And THAT usually gets my blood boiling, no matter who does it. The troops are sacred ground for me. 

But this time I just shook my head and let it go. Who cares. 

I haven’t watched the news  – NOT. ONE. SINGLE. BROADCAST – in all of 2021. I don’t need to, anymore. I get it. We all get it. 

See, I know what the news has to say. I know where they’re coming from. They showed their hand. They proved that they’re not really all that interested (or maybe even the least bit interested) in breaking a story. If they were, the name Hunter Biden would be leading every story, every night. 

Because, I’m not trying to do your job for you, “journalists,” but the laptop of Hunter Biden, (if it’s really his laptop) – the best response he can seem to muster when asked about it, is “we’ll see” – is the biggest story of the decade if anyone cares to look. 

Why? Because, (again, if it’s really his – and we’re pretty sure it is) it details the way a career in American politics can be leveraged for money. And it implicates a sitting United States President in corruption and influence peddling. 

There was a time when Mike Wallace would’ve been all over something like that on 60 Minutes. That’s the kind of stuff they write movies about (if the corrupt guy is a Republican, of course). But I digress …

But we’ve all stopped believing 60 Minutes. At least I have. I don’t believe any of them, anymore. So I just don’t watch any of it. 

People accused me of being a Trump supporter. I lost “friends” over it. Actually, they weren’t real friends. I know that now. I’ve been called racist and sexist and apologist and ignorant and naive and everything you can imagine. One person even said I was the most dangerous voice in America and I needed to be silenced. 

Whatever, bro. I’m just a blogger. Settle down. Sheesh. 

My transgression was not supporting Trump. I never endorsed him (or ANYONE) for president. I don’t do that. I never came to his defense when he tweeted something stupid. To my knowledge, I’m the only blogger who wrote, NOT ONCE – BUT TWICE, that I personally believe the man possibly suffers from being on the Autism spectrum in some way. 

The Aspergers folks loved that. Trust me.  

No, my transgression was to simply point out that he wasn’t Hitler and to actually understand what the phenomenon was all about. I got it. A lot of people didn’t. And they still don’t. 

If you think the Trump train was about racism or sexism or xenophobia or white nationalism (whatever the hell that is) or putting kids in cages or persecuting brown people or creating some weird dystopian Handmaid’s Tale society, you not only missed the point completely, but given your thought process, you probably miss a lot of them.

The point of Trump was someone from the private sector, with no experience in government, getting the keys to the secrets. And then exposing them. And approaching the whole thing in a different way and proving that you can come in cold, without a political pedigree, turn a failing economy around, end a Middle Eastern caliphate without starting a new war, engage foreign leaders without selling them the farm, and still pardon the turkey every Thanksgiving. 

And do it all for free. 

And throw the tarp back to prove that, yes, it’s all as corrupt and political as we thought it was the whole time. And yes, it’s all as underhanded as we’ve imagined it to be. And yes, big tech power brokers are indeed in bed with the national news media and the Democrat party, to keep Tammany Hall protected and the status quo moving along, right on schedule. 

See, Trump was like John McClean in Die Hard. He was the fly in the ointment. The monkey in the wrench. Do I personally wish it had been someone else? Yes. But it wasn’t. It was him. And I can’t un-see what he basically exposed. 

That’s why I don’t watch the news. It’s why I just keep my head down and hope the NSA isn’t cataloging my texts and emails for some sting operation against people who share tasteless jokes among their friends and sell used household items on Craig’s List. 

There was a time when that would’ve been laughable. These days, who knows what the next “social justice” cause will be. I laugh at nothing. It seems to all be on the table.

When you’re a kid and you discover certain truths about your favorite holiday, it takes some of the magic out of it and a lot of things come crashing to Earth. Also, a lot of pieces start coming together in ways they didn’t before. 

“So THAT’S why mom and dad are always so tired on Christmas morning! Of course.”

“Now I understand why the big man loves the same kinds of cookies as dad.” 

“Oh – I get now why I’m not allowed to go in the spare bedroom after Thanksgiving.”

It ALL makes sense. 

After the last 4 years (and 7 months), I feel a little bit like that kid, having to come to terms with some new realities. 

Would my government lie in FISA court? Well…they kinda did. Would they use the power of office to persecute political foes? Yeah, that ship has sorta sailed as well. Would the powers that be prop up a puppet candidate, through a suspect series of voting events, so they could keep the agenda alive? 

I have no idea and want to believe…no. 

But every time I hear President (yes, I said PRESIDENT) Biden not answer a question because he says (HIS words), “I’m going to get in trouble with the staff,” I wonder how a President can “get in trouble” with his own staff. That one time I used to have an assistant, I couldn’t get in trouble with him…ever…for anything. Because I was in charge of the agenda. Not him. 

Anyway …

When I hear what’s happening in the world, now, none of it really surprises me. Excuse me? They want to raise taxes? Really? I did not see that coming (insert eye roll here). 

What’s that you say? The “cages” at the border are now being referred to as “temporary detention centers?” and the same border agents who were being called Nazis, two years ago, are now being called border agents again? Wow. Knock me over with a feather. 

Wait…say again? Michael Avenatti (a now convicted felon) can get prime time air to accuse Brett Kavanagh of running a gang rape syndicate, with ZERO corroborating evidence, from anyone, anywhere, but we have seven days of congressional hearings about it and an FBI investigation, but TEN women can accuse Andrew Cuomo of sexual assault and it’s not even a top 5 news story? Ever? On any day? 

Oh dear (fanning myself). I’m going to need a Mint Julep and a nap. I’ve got the vapors. 

Yeah. We get it now. The beard has been pulled off. The agreed-upon-legend has been exposed. We all know it’s just the old guy at the mall, using his beer gut and white mane to make extra cash around the Holidays. 

Trump, to me, was just the kid who called it all out. He was the loud mouth know-it-all in the line, who wouldn’t let it go and kept pointing out inconsistencies the true believers didn’t want to face. He’s the one who saw the Wal Mart boots and got a glimpse of the run-of-the-mill timex just below the white gloves.

He noticed the brown eyebrows and the stubble under the fake beard. He called out his old babysitter masquerading as the elf leading kids up to the perch. 

Yeah. Now, we all know. 

So, play the carols and light the tree. In other words, “get back to normal” I suppose. 

I’m just going to smile, drink my egg nog and keep my mouth shut. 

  

R

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VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS…

Two open-heart surgeries. 

That’s what my grandfather had to have. 

These were the days before stints and easy, out-patient procedures. These were the days of cracking open the rib cage and taking veins from legs – even for the most basic of heart issues – and long, painful recoveries.

The first one was a big deal – triple bypass.  That means that 3 out of the 4 arteries leading to his heart, were clogged to the point of having to be replaced. 

But he survived that surgery. And then he went on the strict diet the government recommended for his heart health; low fat, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean protein. NO FATS. 

But then, a couple of years later, he had to have another artery replaced. Whatever he was doing to mitigate his problem, wasn’t working. 

A few years later he died of a brain aneurism. Even if he had survived that, by now, he would be long gone from old age…probably. 

But for years, I’ve wondered about that diet he was on. And as I’ve travelled my own health journey, I’ve realized that he probably wasn’t on the proper diet for true heart health. 

He needed fats. He didn’t need lots of fruits. Yes to the veggies. Definitely no whole grains or dairy. And his protein probably could’ve been moderate. NO SUGAR. 

I wish we had listened to some other voices. 

There’s so much more we know about health and fitness now, than we did back in the 70s. The science is more defined. But there are definitely disparate voices still making opposite claims. There’s a lot of noise. 

But some of what my grandfather was strongly advised to do – BY THE GOVERNMENT – has been proven to be simply bad or wrong information. We all pretty much know that dairy is not a food group. It never has been. It was added to the food pyramid as a result of the daily lobby many decades ago. 

If you love dairy, that’s totally cool. I don’t for one minute believe it should be banned or ended or whatever. I love cheese, myself. I consume it from time to time. But let’s not kid ourselves into believing a human being needs it to thrive. We don’t. We never have. 

Can we digest it? Of course. Can it be a part of a healthy lifestyle? Sure. But is it essential to the point of needing to be on an official food pyramid?

Let’s just say you can live a long, healthy life without ever ingesting a single dairy product. Billions of people have. 

But if you were to say something like that, years ago, you might be seen as crazy or a health heretic. You might’ve been a single voice yelling against the noise. 

But you would’ve been right.  

There’s a trait in human nature that always fascinates me: everyone always believes they would be on the side of the rebel

Whenever we see a hero on the screen, bucking conventional wisdom and standing against the masses, we always believe we would be on their side. It’s how billions of Christians have assumed they would’ve stood with Jesus…in real time…as his story was actually unfolding. 

But the truth is, most people don’t rally around the lone voice in the wilderness. History bears this out time and time again. And even in the story of Jesus, Peter – Jesus’ tightest bro – hung him out to dry when the chips were really down and the stakes got high enough. 

We love the safety of numbers. So most of us go along with the crowd and buy into conventional wisdom. We wear the mask. We get the shot. We count the calories. We buy the low fat option. We comply. We don’t make waves. 

And that weird dude over there, spouting facts and figures we can’t quite understand? Well, we don’t have the time or the energy to get into his world. He sounds insane anyway. He probably is. 

Nah – the government knows best. They won’t steer us wrong. They hire the best experts. Surely the You-tuber can’t be the truth teller.Can he?

We’re watching a weird phenomenon play out right before our very eyes. And I’m not sure everyone is fully paying attention. In real time – as we see it unfold – we are literally seeing one of the big mysteries of Covid 19 begin to get solved…in front of us. 

The lab leak theory – that was seen as insane and conspiracy theory and right wing propaganda, etc, etc – is starting to be proven to be true. It’s at least starting to be seen as plausible.

This theory was actually BANNED from Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. BANNED. My son and I had a long conversation about it, on a drive to school one morning. He was explaining to me why Youtube needed to ban it. 

It was so nobody got the wrong information. That was his explanation. 

I asked ONE question that quieted him and sent his eyes darting around for answers: “Who decides the information is wrong?” 

“Well, like people need to understand how the virus originated from a bat and stuff like that,” he replied. 

“Yeah…right,” I quipped, sarcastically. He rolled his eyes. And I felt like that dad who still believes Aliens are being kept at area 51. 

But then, three months later…I may have been right, after all. But I was being made to feel, by my own son, who was simply regurgitating what he’d been fed on Youtube, like some out-of-touch tinfoil hat wearer. 

And that’s one of the biggest issues we face in the world, today. You can’t post a meme on Facebook, without some fact checker slapping a “missing context” link under it. 

But who’s fact checking the fact checkers? And who’s fact checking the fact checker fact checkers? 

We’re living in a cyber world where people who want you to think a certain way, can influence your point of view by the information they will or won’t let you see. And they mount huge campaigns against that contrarian voice out there, telling you a low fat diet isn’t good for your heart. 

After all…they’re just trying to keep you from making bad decisions. 

As for me? I’ll take chaotic cross-talk over uniformity of thought, any day of the week. I’ll take having to sift through a hundred weirdos to get to the one voice ringing true, over having only one voice to listen to, chosen by “the powers that be.” 

Because you never know when the voice you thought was insane, turns out to be the one with the actual answers. You never know when the rebel is right. You never know when the experts are ALL – like, every single one of them – wrong. 

Let’s hear all the voices. Let’s have more information…not less. Even if some of that information turns out to be wrong, let’s force it to stand scrutiny rather than simply crushing it when we don’t like its conclusion.

Maybe, if we have access to the information, more grandfathers will avoid getting their chests ripped open…multiple times. 

  

R  

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UNDER HIS EYE …

Canada.

That’s the part that always makes me break my suspension of disbelief. It might not have, a couple of years ago. But things are different now. 

I have too many friends from Canada who keep calling me, wishing they could get out of there and down here…to a “free state” (their words – not mine). One sent me a video of Canadian police arresting a Christian pastor for continuing to hold church services during the pandemic. 

It looked a lot like something from the show. Only the players and their ideologies were completely reversed. But it was chilling…and really happening.

The show?

I’m speaking of The Handmaid’s Tale. I know, I know…I’m late to the party. But I have a habit of not wanting to view things that are seen as “ripped from today’s headlines” and “prescient” and “so relevant” in the actual moment everyone is clamoring about it. I like to let those types of things age and then see how well they hold up and if their underlying premise is still plausible.

Also…we just got Hulu. Don’t judge. 

Anyway…

Is Canada a totalitarian state now? Of course not.

But we’re all seeing what we’re all comfortable with.

More on that later.

As far as The Handmaid’s Tale goes …

I’m not sure I’ve ever see a more well done show than this one. The writing, acting, direction and production are all some of the best on any screen, anywhere. The suspense and drama leave you riveted and the stakes could not be higher…Every. Single. Moment. 

It’s so tense that my wife and I can only digest about one episode a day. This one’s hard to binge. Your brain can only handle so much horribleness at a time. Then, you have to remind yourself that you’re watching a fiction series and everybody on the set is okay and safe. 

But the underlying premise is one that sticks with me (and probably everyone else watching): could this ever really happen? 

*** If you haven’t see the show, the following is a spoiler alert ***

Could something like the Republic of Gilead – a place established in America, after a military coup overthrows the government of United States and creates an uber-ordered, dystopian (that’s a writer’s word) society, where women are second or third-class citizens (dependent solely on their relationships to the powerful men in charge of everything), where homosexuals are seen as “gender traitors,” and eliminated from the face of the Earth (unless they can produce children), where these weird tiers of some brand of Biblical theology are the ruling principles, and where stepping out of line from those principles always (and I mean ALWAYS) results in swift, violent and often twisted and sadistic “justice.”

Could it happen?

Apparently (in the show), this uprising was a reaction to plummeting birth rates and an environmental crisis that has caused much of the world to be toxic for human habitation. The “handmaids” are the last fertile women left, who have the best shot at actually carrying a healthy child to term. So, they’re rounded up and forced to use those healthy ovaries to the advantage of a dying human race. And they’re not given a choice as to who the sperm donors will be. 

As you can imagine, the men who took charge of everything are the first in line to be a part of such a “sacred” act. Go figure …

But could that actually happen? Are there people in the world that deranged? Are there people in the world who believe so strongly in their own cause, they would have no qualms instituting that cause by force?

Obviously, the Nazis actually did an awful lot of what we see in The Handmaid’s Tale. Comparisons to Nazis are easy in this type of drama. Nazis were the prototype for Hollywood villains. It’s like they were tryingto be stereotyped for the rest of human history.

But there is religious dogma associated with The Handmaid’s Tale as well. I was raised in religious dogma. And, when I came of age, I opted out of it. That’s the beauty of religious dogma in a free society. You can leave. 

But what about dogma (religious or otherwise) that you can’t opt out of? Could that be put into place if the takes were high enough?

The sad part about it is, if you know anything about history or the state of the world, you know that it has ALL happened in the past and it’s ALL happening somewhere…even as I type this. 

But it’s not necessarily always the suspects we all want it to be …

 Years ago, Boko Haram (“A salafi terrorist organization” – according to Wikipedia) kidnapped 300 girls and forced them into servitude. You might remember the #saveourgirls campaign, started by Michelle Obama. 

The hashtag was all the rage and everybody did it: All the music stars. All the acting stars. Probably even some people who are now a part of producing The Handmaid’s Tale.

But it didn’t work.  

Those 300 girls actually did live out a nightmare like is portrayed in this fictional show, that’s so hard for me to watch. Those girls actually experienced it. 

And guess what? No American military action saved them. No savvy diplomat showed up at the last minute to talk their captors into letting them go. No – everybody just tweeted about it and went on with their business. 

The last report I saw about those girls was that they had all been raped repeatedly, forcibly impregnated and were all  – ALL 300 – pregnant. That report was posted a few years ago. Their kids would all be born now, and living in some strata of dystopia, themselves. 

There are a lot of real villains and real victims out there, right this very minute, who don’t have white faces, blonde hair or blue eyes? Does the world care? 

Maybe we should ask John Cena or LeBron Jam… Oh, never mind. I’ve said too much already. 

Watching The Handmaid’s Tale, post Covid, gives some interesting perspective. And, like all great art does, it forces you to ask questions of yourself. 

Would you fight? Would you question? Would you stand up to tyranny? Where would you draw the line in the sand? How much freedom would you be willing to give up if the survival of the human race was actually in the balance?

The odd thing about the past 18 months, is that we’ve watched some of these questions and answers actually play out…in real time. 

And now we actually know who might be okay with totalitarianism and who might not be. 

And, as it turns out, it’s not always the people we need to believe it is. 

It’s all about the impetus. 

If we are told an unstable virus that kills .01 percent of its victims is on the loose, who will be compliant with the government –any government. Who will question the leaders or the science or the conclusions? Who won’t? How many freedoms will we simply surrender without question, as long as we believe the cause to be worth it?  

What will you tolerate if you honestly think the world or the human race is about to end? 

The answer to the question of who will be okay with an iron fist and who won’t be, is always found in one thing: who is the truest believer. 

If you truly – and I mean truly – believe that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity, will you look the other way when the powers that be start regulating how much air conditioning you can use in the summer?

If you truly – down to your core – believe overpopulation is a plague on the planet, will you be good with allowing babies already born to be kept comfortable while the mom decides whether to kill them or not?

If you believe to your everlasting soul, that morality is the only way to get the human race back on track, will you stand aside and allow the civil rights of people you believe to be “deviants” be trampled?

How about if you’re not about religion – just science – and you are convinced that science demands that we trample some rights for the “greater good?”  

Everyone has to answer these questions for themselves and find their own compass. But I’ll be honest…some of the trends we’ve seen over the past 18 months haven’t been reassuring. 

Sometimes, those we think are going to be the freedom fighters end up being the compliant followers. And sometimes those we think are going to be the villains end up being the rebels.  

And sometimes, Canada turns out to not be as free as it looks on TV.  

Blessed be the fruit,

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PRIDE AND SHAME…

I’m more proud of my legs than I am my eyes. 

My legs represent hours and hours of running and lifting and sweating and pain. They ran relay batons in track, back in high school. They have gotten up before dawn many, many times, to run 5k’s or jump on treadmills, in gyms out of town, or do squats or lunges. 

When I was a teenager, they called me “chicken legs,” because those appendages of mine were so skinny.

But after years of toiling on those things, I am happy to say I now have great legs. In fact, a couple of years ago a young, twenty-something weight lifter told me I had prototypical calves and he wished he could build calves like mine. 

I’m proud of that. Because I built that. 

My eyes, on the other hand, came standard issue with the meat suit. I would’ve preferred ice blue Paul Newman eyes that seem to sparkle all the time. But I got these deep set, brown, serial killer eyes. That’s what I was given. I had no say in it whatsoever. 

I would’ve also opted for darker skin like my dad’s, that never burns in the sun – just gets darker like baked ginger bread. Instead, I inherited the fair, white fragile kind from my mother. It gets splotchy and pasty and red for no reason. 

I try to tan it a little in the summer, just to keep it from blinding people when they stare directly at it. But for the most part, I can’t do a thing about it. 

I also wanted to be 6’2” instead of barely 5’11”.

There are some other physical traits I’d love to have been born with…or without.

The bottom line? I just keep working on my legs…and arms…and abs…and things I have some say over. The rest is just what it is. That’s how I showed up.  

I’ve never understood being proud of something you had no control over. 

People often say, “I’m a proud to be from so and so” or “I’m a proud Black, Asian, Indian, Native American, Hispanic, whatever…insert some heritage of your choice here…man or woman.” Notice I didn’t insert “white” anywhere in there. Because that would be racist. Go figure …

The point is, none of those things are anything you had control over. Why would any of it be a source of pride? It would be like me being proud of my disapproving brown eyes. 

What’s the pride in?

I was born in the south. But I’m not necessarily a “proud” southerner. I’m proud to carry on some of the traditions of the culture into which I was born; kindness, friendliness, hospitality, common sense, resourcefulness, no nonsense action, self-deprecating humor, a sense of something higher than ones self (belief in God), etc. 

Some of the traditions, on the other hand, I do not carry on. 

Either way, I cannot change where I was born. And I am not necessarily “proud” of it. Kind of like my eyes. 

Conversely, I am not ashamed of it either…much like my eyes. It’s just a place on the map. It was here for millions of years before I showed up. It will be here millions of years after I’m gone. 

Where the shame or pride comes in is based in what happens here. And that is based on what other people do and have done. And heaving pride in that gets dicey. 

I am a proud American, not because of amber waves of grain or purple mountain’s majesty. It’s because I’ve studied history and I’ve studied the documents they founded all of this on, and I’m proud to carry on that legacy. Liberty and justice for all, and so forth. That’s something we have a say over. And so, much like my amazing calves, we can be proud of that. 

We can also shun and shift and change the things that have been shameful. And hopefully move on. 

But these days we don’t seem to get to do that anymore …

Ellie Kemper, actress and comedian known for The Office and The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, is just the latest in a long line of public people being forced to apologize for things she had no control over. 

The story is actually so boring I’m getting agitated having to type the details. But basically, she was born into a wealthy family and went to some debutante ball, where she won the crown of miss best of whatever, and twenty years before she was born that same organization didn’t allow in anyone in who wasn’t white, blah blah blah. 

Yeah, a lot of places were like that twenty years before a lot of us were born. That’s why – like my thunderous thighs – we work to change stuff like that. Then, we move on. 

But Ellie bowed to the pressure and publicly apologized for how she was born and where she was born and a bunch of things she had no control over. 

Meanwhile, like my sculpted hamstrings, she has a lot to be proud of that she has actually accomplished. But that is seen as some sort of unfairly advanced direct line from her privilege of birth to her current success.

No worries. As long as she takes her beating, confesses her sin of existence (basically, apologizes for her eye color) and votes for Democrats, she will be let off with a warning this time and sent to bed without any supper. 

As long as we continue to derive a sense of pride from things we cannot control, we’re never going to end racism or sexism or any ism. Because having pride simply based on things you were born with and had no say over, is the nucleus of all prejudice.  

By the same token, feeling shame over things you had nothing to do with is the nucleus of a psychotic society. 

We don’t ask people in Germany to constantly do penance, day in and day out, for what their grandparents did – which was horrible, by the way! 

We don’t ask people in Egypt to send people in Israel a check every month for that whole Moses/Pharaoh ordeal. And if you live in Egypt, and are proud of those pyramids, just remember that you had nothing to do with them. Everybody knows space aliens built them. But that’s another blog for another day …

I have often wondered if my “white privilege” has played a role in my career as a songwriter. Would I had achieved the same success if I had been born black? Would the mainstream world have listened to me?

There’s really no way of knowing that. But I have a few clues …

All I can say is that I have mistaken for a black person my whole life. In fact, several black producers have thought I was black, based on my name (Regie) and something about what my music sounds like. My first paid publishing deal was owned and operated by someone who thought he was meeting with a black writer, when I first showed up in his waiting room. 

From my perspective, I’m not sure my color made all that much difference in my career. 

On the other hand, no one would sign me to a record deal until I lost a lot of weight and got in really good shape. That part is (and was) real. 

So, I got my splotchy white ass in the gym (in Nashville) and did what I could control. And it worked. 

I’m proud of that. 

Was that gym a slave owning piece of ground before I got there? Yes. Was it part of the Confederacy at one time? Yep. Did that piece of ground inhabit a world that didn’t allow women to vote? Absolutely. 

Did it represent oppression for women and minorities? You bet it did.

But by the time I got there, there were Black men and Asian women and all sorts of different races and genders in there, free to work on the things they could control. 

None of us were working on changing our eyes. There’s nothing we can do about those.   

   

R

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DOWN ON THE FARM …

The guy didn’t look like a Canadian farmer. 

But then again, how would you be able to tell if someone looked like a Canadian farmer? I didn’t really care. I don’t ask a lot of questions in a public sauna. I just find my corner of it, get in my personal head space, and tune everybody else out. 

This was back before Covid, when we still got in saunas at gyms. The one at Mandalay Bay, in Vegas, is big enough to share with a couple of people and not really know they’re there. Before a show, I used to love getting a workout and a sauna in. Helped clear the head. 

Anyway …

The two other guys sweating it out, when I walked in, struck up a conversation. The older, severely out of shape guy, from New Jersey on one side. The fit, chiseled young farmer from Canada, on the other.  

I listened to their conversation…while trying not to. They gave me no choice. 

Eventually, the sauna talk turned to the weather. That’s good, benign small-talk fodder…you would think. 

But the big guy from Jersey began preaching to us about the issues with the weather and climate change and his sauna space became a bit of a soap box. Again, I just listened. I wanted these guys to leave, so I would have the place to myself. I definitely didn’t want a social justice lesson…in Vegas. 

Finally, the young guy spoke up and informed us of his farmer job in our neighboring land to the north (did I mention he didn’t look like a Canadian farmer?). He talked about how in Canada the environmental laws and regulations are almost impossible to adhere to. And how there are constant inspections and mandates and visits by government officials. 

According to the farmer (who didn’t look like a farmer) the farm in question had been in his family for a hundred years or so and had been a robust producer. But they were now teetering on the edge of not being able to keep it because of all of the regulations. 

But here was the interesting part …

He said NONE of the predictions made by all the “experts” who were constantly descending on their property, had ever come true. 

His words were, “they keep telling us things are going to happen, that never happen. Meanwhile, the farmer’s almanac, actually ends up being the accurate predictor of what actually happens.”

The big man from New Jersey took great issue with this, asserting that the farmer didn’t understand this study or that study and that he wasn’t seeing it from a global view. 

The young, unassuming farmer, very meekly and politely responded by telling the Jersey boy that he knew about the studies being cited. They were part of why this or that regulation was in place at their farm. 

The problem was the studies were WAY off in their hypotheses and caused the growth projections to be skewed to an almost laughable degree. In other words, the government was telling the farmer how to grow crops based on some computer model that actually turned out to be wrong. 

The farmer went on to say something I’ll never forget: “We actually have our hands in the dirt. We have to live with the consequences of these projections. It’s not theory to us. If you work on a farm you know that it either works or it doesn’t.” 

The man from New Jersey got tired of being bested by the Canadian farm boy and left the sauna, mumbling platitudes under his breath. 

With no one left to talk to but a disinterested Nashvillian, Canada farm hand looked to me as if to ask, “What do you think?” 

I just nodded and said, “I get it.” 

I have no idea if that guy was really a farmer or if anything he said was actually true. But I’ll say this: the guy from Canada at least appeared to have had his act together health wise. And the New Jersey know-it-all appeared to have had some health issues. 

Sometimes things are self-evident; they just are. And even though I didn’t know either one of them, I had a feeling one of those guys knew a thing or two about how things (like the body) work. I had a feeling the other one operated on speculation and theory. 

I was on a farm yesterday. Several people in my extended family have small farms. So we went to visit one of them with my daughter and son. 

And what the Canadian said is true – you can’t fake it on a farm. A farm isn’t a place for theory. 

On a farm, nonsense will get you killed or get the crop or the animals hurt or get everything so behind you can’t get caught up in time for the season to yield. 

When you go to the farm, it’s time to get real.  

I believe in the city. I think we do have to get off the farm and chase dreams and flights of fancy. 

We need the people with their heads in the clouds, believing in the impossible. 

But every once in a while, you need to go back to the farm and remember how things actually work. You need to see where that steak actually comes from or where those strawberries start. You need to be around people who deal with it – the real it – everyday. 

We have gotten so far away from common sense and “farm sense,” that we now think of it as offensive. It’s often not what we want to hear. We’ve so “Disneyfied” animals that we think of them as characters rather than what they actually are. 

We aren’t connected to the dirt anymore. We don’t live with the smell of manure in the air. We don’t kill the hogs for our bacon. We just order it on a cheeseburger. We don’t have to pick the peas. We just isolate them for the protein shake. 

And it skews our reality. 

And before long, we just accept the grey-suited bureaucrats who show up, demanding that we do things that run counter to the real. We accept theories that are based in aspirations rather than truths. And it affects our politics. And we vote for policies that are based in how we want human nature to be, rather than what it actually is. 

We want there to be trillions of dollars there, so we just print it. We want people to act lawful without the police, so we just defund them. We want the world to operate without oil, so we just strangle the flow. 

And we end up becoming the guy from New Jersey, telling the farmer that he doesn’t know what he knows he knows. 

And some singer/songwriter, who just wants a moment’s peace before his show, has to listen to it.  

R

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WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE…

Vegas will teach you. 

If you want to know someone’s true nature; how they will really act in any given situation, take them to Vegas. 

I used to have a policy that I wouldn’t get into business with someone unless we’d been to Vegas and played blackjack together. Everyone thought it was just me being wild and crazy or requiring some weird, partying rite of passage. 

But I learned everything I needed to know about them, their business practices and how they would handle complicated situations, by watching them place bets and make moves. 

How risk averse are you? How calm are you when a lot is at stake? How willing are you to press the bet? How far in debt will you go to chase the cards? How far up do you have to be, to walk away? Do you take it personal? Do you play with strategy or just throw money out there and pray for luck? 

Is it just fun and games or do you get obsessed? Do you get upset at other players who aren’t playing correctly? Do you place bets based on which seat you’re occupying; in other words, do you see the table (and the game) from the 30-thousand-foot vantage point or are you simply always only playing your own hand?

All of these little nuances of blackjack show your personality…your true personality. Not the one you try to show everybody, publicly. And guess what? Every person I ever watched play blackjack, actually did turn out to live their lives and conduct their business the way they played. 

I also learned things about myself I needed to know. And what I learned is that I probably don’t need to play blackjack at all. When you’re playing all the hands at the hundred dollar table, and reading about the game and the cards and the history of it and losing time, you realize that you either need to do this for a living or not do it at all. 

But I digress … 

One of the saddest by-products of the past 18 months, is that we have learned who we are…who wereally are. Not just the person we want everyone to think we are. 

If you’ve ever wondered if you would’ve been a Nazi, you now know. Maybe you haven’t quite grasped it yet. But in your heartyou know. 

“Not me. I would’ve fought against racism and tyranny!” is what everyone reading this is saying to themselves. “I would’ve stood up for the Jews! I would’ve probably hidden them in my house!”

I hear ya. Of course you would’ve.

But would you have even known which one was Hitler and which one was Churchill?

We all think we would’ve known. But Time Magazine didn’t know when they named Hitler 1939’s Man of the Year. A lot of Americans didn’t know either. A lot of Brits hated Churchill more than they hated Hitler…until he started raining bombs down on them. Hindsight is 2020 I suppose.

But here’s a wrinkle …

What if the Jews had all refused to get a vaccine that everyone in the world wanted and needed them to get? What if Hitler could’ve convinced the world that they were somehow carrying a deadly virus? 

How would you have reacted then?

However you answer that question is how you would’ve treated the Jews. No need to ponder any further. We know who you are. 

Everyone is the hero of their own movie. We all want to see ourselves as strong and brave and quick to fight against wrong. Unfortunately, for most of us, we don’t have to speculate anymore. We’ve all been exposed. 

Are you violent? Do you condone violence? You may claim you are peaceful and that you are here to promote love. But then, what happens if the wrong person is elected president? What happens if a video surfaces, showing a cop murdering someone of your race?

What happens if a U.S. senator opts out of the Covid vaccine? 

You still non-violent? You still a strong advocate for peace and love? 

You don’t have to answer. We know who you are. 

Are you compliant? Do you ask questions? Are you a critical thinker or a blind follower? Can you maintain your sense of humor in the face of disaster? Can you remain calm? Do you panic? How far do you have to be pushed to give up your core beliefs? 

Guess what? You don’t have to answer. You’ve shown us. We know who you are. 

This morning I was on a zoom call with a friend from Canada. He was telling me about some of his pastor friends who have been shut down by the government, for holding church services…even when they were completely compliant with Covid regulations.

He sent me a video of the police arresting one pastor and carting him off to jail. 

And the public outcry against these ministers is violent, strident and visceral. Even now, when we have a vaccine. Even now, when most of the pandemic has run its course.

If you are an officer about to put a pastor in handcuffs, we know who you are. You don’t have to tell us. 

If you have been paralyzed by fear during this whole ordeal, you don’t have to tell us. We know who you are. 

If you have allowed your fear to turn you into someone you don’t recognize, you don’t have to tell us. We know who you are. The bible says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of sound mind.” 

We don’t need to hear about anyone’s professed relationship to God, anymore. We kinda know. 

If you have ever wondered what it would take for you to turn on your friends, it’s all clear. You don’t have to tell us. We know who you are.  

This virus has taken several of my friends’ lives. It infected and almost killed my daughter. It infected and almost killed me.

We’ve all been touched by it – ALL of us – in one way or another. There is anger to be felt and blame to be placed. There are answers we still don’t have. There are lessons to be learned.

But maybe the hardest lesson we’ve had to learn, is who we all became…or maybe who we were all along. 

Either way, we know, now. Oh yes, we know. 

You don’t have to tell us who you are anymore. You don’t have to try and curate your Facebook profile or take down violent tweets or post anymore inspirational memes. We’ve seen you play blackjack, now.  

And we know who you are.  

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1963 …

Time moves on. 

At least that’s what they say. 

I was listening to a campaign sound byte by Hillary Clinton, back in 2016, where she said something about how little girls should be able to grow up to be whatever they wanted to be, instead of being told they couldn’t do this or that just because they were girls. 

I twisted my head to the side, like a confused dog. 

I thought to myself, “Who in the world tells a girl they can’t do something because they’re a girl, anymore?” 

I know, I know. Nobody knows your story. But culture as a whole has rejected the narrative of girls not being allowed to do something because of their plumbing. That attitude is simply not recognized with any sort of validity. And it hasn’t been for a very long time.

In Mrs. Clinton’s case, she has (as a part of her own personal legend) always told the story of NASA rejecting her request to become an astronaut (when she was 13), solely on the basis of her gender (did I mention she was13?). And so, her experience of sexism was burned into her psyche and made a part of her internal political directive.

But here’s the thing…

Sally Ride. 

Mrs. Clinton’s experience (in 1962), while certainly disheartening, was a product of a different time. We don’t think like that anymore. We don’t say those things to our girls anymore. 

And when she made a political statement based on something that happened to her in 1962, we all looked around at each other, like, “what?”

I have a daughter. I know dozens of fathers with daughters. Nobody tells their daughters they can’t or shouldn’t do something because of their vaginas anymore. I’ve never even heard of anybody from my generation on, even entertaining a thought like that. You’d be a punch line or you’d be seen as some weird relic from another time if you did. 

Maybe there are still people who think that way. But I don’t personally know any of them. If a female feels like she’s being held back by society, in 2021, solely on the basis of her gender, then there might possibly be some force at work in her personal case, none of the rest of us are seeing. 

Women are celebrated and empowered and portrayed in the media as strong and capable. And they are strong and capable. Are there still sexists and misogynists in the world? Of course. But society has done a lot to mitigate their power. 

And keep in mind that just because someone is an alpha male or acts in a way that wouldn’t be approved of in Sunday School, doesn’t mean they are actively participating in systemic sexism. Being a jerk is different from actively participating in a system that keeps someone from opportunity based on race or gender or religion or belief. 

As of the writing of this piece, the male-to-female ratio of NASA astronauts is exactly…50/50. 

But Mrs. Clinton needed it to still be 1962, for her political point of view to make sense. Her unfortunate experience was like one of those mosquitoes preserved in amber, in Jurassic Park. It still looked completely in tact. But it was actually a relic. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the world had already moved on.

The progressive left, in this country, seems to require that it constantly remain around 1963. That informs their opinions of the other side. It places their opponents on the side of clear-cut wrong and backward thinking. 

As long as you still believe it’s somewhere around 1963, you can march for “equality” with a straight face. Even though “equality” has already been achieved…a long time ago. 

Buying into the 1963 mindset, can drive you to make public accusations of racism and sexism and whatever-the-hell-else ism…even though those things are not actually happening in whatever crisis you’re assigning them to.

If people are suddenly not the 1963 stereotypes you need them to be, your argument (possibly even your entire world view) might fall apart.

We ALL saw the George Floyd video and were appalled. The polls suggested that over 90% of the nation believed George Floyd’s death was a murder and that the cop in question should’ve been prosecuted (which he was). 

But here’s where it all broke down: to this day, we don’t know if George Floyd’s race was the reason for his murder. A lot of people assume it was the motive. It may well fit into their own personal story or belief system. And I’m certainly not here to tell someone how they should feel. 

But we don’t actually know. 

If race had nothing to do with it; if the cop was just a power hungry moron, who liked lording his authority over people and let it finally get too far out of hand, it sure would mess up a lot of people’s internal story. It wouldn’t fit so neatly into the narrative that allows rioting and looting and tearing it all down.

As long as everything stays somewhere around 1963, we don’t have to think any more about it. We don’t have to do any deep dives into nuance or psychology. We can keep everything simple and straightforward. 

But things might be more complicated than that …

My daughter is Asian and has special needs. She has lived in Nashville, Tennessee, since she was 8 months old. She’s now 19. In almost twenty years of living in the south, she has only been the target of racism 3 times. 

In every case, the perpetrators were Asian women – not from here. 

To our knowledge, she’s never been the victim of ablism by any adult.

Sure, there was absolutely a time in Nashville, Tennessee, when my daughter might’ve been ridiculed or made fun of or even been a victim of violence. But we simply don’t live in that time (or that Nashville) anymore. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of adopted Asian girls in Nashville. It’s not uncommon to see mixed families and hear different accents and languages being spoken at the mall. 

We’ve all gotten off the farm. We’ve seen the pyramids. We have indoor plumbing. We have iPhones. We get the joke.  

I live in what is supposed to be one of the “whitest” counties in Tennessee. And my house is built on top of an old Confederate encampment. It is said that thirty thousand Confederate soldiers camped here, waiting to fight the battle of Franklin. 

But my next door neighbors are Iranian. Three doors down from them, our neighbors are Iraqi. Across the street from them, our neighbors are black. Two houses up from them, a muslim man is married to a white woman and they have an adopted son…who is black. 

We all wave to each other as we drive by. Not a Confederate solider in sight. 

Time moves on.

My father is a counselor and runs a school for counselors. He has certified dozens of black counselors, over the years. But he often talks about a strange phenomenon that happens at the beginning of their course. 

Inevitably, one or two of the new students will come to his office for a “consultation,” and assert that they know they’re going to have to work twice as hard for half the grade. But they are committed to doing it. 

He always answers the same way: “who told you that? And why do you believe it?” 

They usually say something like their mother instilled it in them or it’s just a fact of life for a black person in America, or some form of the two. 

He gives them some form of this sobering speech …

“Why in the name of all that’s holy would anybody require someone to work twice as hard for half a grade? That literally makes no sense. Not only is it illegal, but it also puts a lot of extra work on me as the teacher. Even if I were a racist, which I’m not, I wouldn’t want to have to do all that extra micro managing of grades based on your skin color. I honestly have no extra time to factor in your race, in this class. No…you do the required work and you will get the deserved grade. It’s really that simple.”

That’s usually how the conversation ends.

He has guided several of those students to PhD’s in counseling. And their race never came up again after that initial conversation.

But we have been so conditioned to believe we’re all living in some Mississippi Burning movie, that we actually look for the drama based on outdated points of view.

Meanwhile, it’s not 1963 anymore.

That cop might have pulled you over because your tags were expired. Not because of your skin. That white woman eying you in the department store, might actually be admiring your sweater or glasses…not thinking you are about to shoplift something. 

That dude saying horrible things about you might be responding to something horrible you said about him, and not caring one bit whether you’re a girl or a boy. 

In other words, he might be treating you as an equal

Are there still rapists in the world? Of course. But we stopped being a society of Vikings, where it’s standard operating procedure, a long time ago. 

Is there still racism? Of course. But it might not be happening when and where we think it is…nor, by whom

The world isn’t perfect by a long shot. And people still give in to the worst parts of themselves. 

But time moves on. 

And people grow. And attitudes evolve. 

And girls can become astronauts.

And it’s not 1963.           

 

R  

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