THE WORDS OF THE FOURTH …

Right about now, I imagine Thomas Jefferson was sweating a little.

I’m writing this blog four days before July 4th. 244 years ago today, The Declaration of Independence was having the finishing touches put on it, in Philadelphia.

I often wonder if T.J knew he was changing the world with every stroke of his pen. Did he think he was signing a death warrant? Did he think he was writing just another manifesto, in the long history of manifestos, that would simply get crumpled up and thrown away? As a writer, I wonder.

The actual date of the document being finished and signed was July 2nd. But it was read…to the whole world…on July 4th. And everything that followed the reading of it was nothing short of earth shattering for mankind.

We’re in a season of de-construction, here in America. We are dismantling the past to force it to line up with the present. I call it “telescoping.”

It’s the equivalent of comparing your full grown self to your newborn self; destroying all evidence of your infancy to make it reconcile with your adulthood. Any reasonable person knows that nothing works that way.

But yes, when Thomas Jefferson wrote the words, “all men are created equal,” he – at that very moment – owned people who were not considered equal. So, was he lying in word or lying in deed?

Maybe a little bit of both. Or maybe he wasn’t lying at all. Maybe he was writing something aspirational that even he himself had yet to live up to.

All I know is we still, 244 years later, take those words as scripture. People may question the author. But nobody questions the premise. He was right, even though he was wrong.

As a writer, I can tell you that is often the case and sometimes the best you can hope for.

Revolutions are as common as each new generation that spawns them. And revolutionaries often get compared to those famous, white-wigged gentlemen farmers who spoke like aristocrats and dressed like extras in Hamilton.

How many times have I heard in my life, “This is like the Boston Tea Party,” or “This revolt is like the American Revolution”?

But there’s a difference between the American Revolution and any other garden-variety revolution that shows up with a hot-headed leader, shouting grievances through a bull horn. That difference is the words and the declaration.

The Declaration of Independence is what separated the American Revolution from the French Revolution and Haitian Revolution and Serbian Revolution and every revolution since 1776. The words, the promises, the guarantees and the stakes, made the Declaration, and the American Revolution that followed it, the greatest single gift to humanity since the birth of Christ. 

Imagine, if you will, those people in CHOP (who are being dismantled as we speak) delivering a document to the White House, that not only separated them once and for all from the United States, but refused anymore help or aid from the United States, in any way. No more power grid. No more cell tower access. No more water and sewer. No more food brought in. No more medical access. No more moving beyond the roadblocks.

Imagine them giving all of that up in exchange for their ideals.

Then, imagine the leaders of that movement pledging their lives and families to its success or failure. If it dies, they die.

Then, imagine them picking up guns and attacking United States military installations in order to solidify their point and win freedom for their cause.

See, until you are willing to do all of that, you’re not anywhere close to what the American Revolution was. If you haven’t yet addressed what, to you, are inalienable rights or what truths you hold self evident, then you’re not staging a revolution. You’re just changing the names at the top of the stationary.

Until your words elevate and inspire and clarify your intentions, you are just standing up to power for the sake of doing it. But that isn’t sustainable.

The Declaration of Independence took a bunch of angry guerrilla fighters and asked them the tough question: are we really doing this or are we not? And if we do it, what are we basing all of this on?

That document is the difference between a passionate movement being joined, and a nation being born. The guarantees it makes, even for people not yet able to participate in it, is what makes it endure all these generations later.

When Martin Luther King Jr. Stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, he said that he come there to “cash an un-cashed check.”

That was the perfect way to describe it. And America has tried to bend and shape and re-form to allow everyone to cash that check.

But the check had to be written first. And it was a check that had never even been attempted to be written in human history, to that point.

When a 35-year-old slave owner from Virginia signed his name at the bottom of it, along with 55 others, it divided the world into two pieces of history: everything that had happened before it and everything that has happened since.

And to this day, we all cash that check every time we stand up for our life or our liberty or simply pursue our own happiness.

We cash that check when we question authority or challenge the statues quo.

We cash that check when chase a dream or dare to attempt something great.

We cash that check when we fight for forgotten or stand up for the least among us.

We cash that check when we assert that we are all created equal and should all be treated as such.

Sooner than later, we may find ourselves in a world purged of marble and stone that celebrates men who lived hundreds of years ago, in complicated times. And we may tear it all down and try to start all over again.

But eventually we will likely find ourselves right back in another revolution for being innocent until proven guilty, for freedom of speech and assembly, for the right to bear arms and self-defense, for the right to remain silent and the right to privacy and the right to a legal defense and the right to vote and the right to question the very government that protects those rights.

The Declaration led to all of that. It still does.

And even if the messenger was flawed, 244 years later, that’s a revolution I can still get behind.       

    

R

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AMERICAN DREAMS …

No face on Mt. Rushmore ever presided over a country where women could vote.

Three of them presided over a country where humans could be legally owned, bought and sold.

You have to get to Dick Cheney before you reach a President (or even Vice President) who openly supports gay marriage. Eventually, Barack Obama came around in his second term. A few years after Cheney. But still…2012.

For those who want to tear down the American construct, I actually kind of get it. I’ve often wondered how a black or brown person might feel living in a system no one of their ancestors had anything to do with actually setting up. Where do they find the pride? Why would their hearts swell and what would make tears flow when they saw the flag or heard the Anthem?

I guess you’d say black people in America have always been between Plymouth Rock and a hard place.

But if you want to tear it all down, you’ve got your work cut out for you.   

I might start with Columbus, Ohio myself. I mean a whole city named after…well…you know.

But then, there’s New York, named after the Duke of York, who formed the Royal African Trading Company, in 1660; a company built for…you guessed it…trafficking slaves from Africa. Yes. That is who New York City is named after; one of the architects of slavery itself.

The Coca Cola company was started by an ex Confederate solider and Jack Daniel’s father died fighting for that same Confederacy. The first wrist watch ever made was given to Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Caroline. Napoleon re-established slavery in Haiti, in 1802. Her silence in the matter was deafening.

So, if you fly from Columbus to New York City, have a Jack and Coke and check your watch, I don’t even know what to say to you right now.

You are participating in Western Civilization. And when you participate, you perpetuate.

England and France both abolished slavery before America. But they all kept buying the cotton, corn and tobacco.

They didn’t bear the direct guilt, but they participated in the system.

If you’re reading this on a computer or a smart phone, enjoying the beverage of your choice, in an air conditioned room somewhere, deciding for yourself what you’re going to do later today, you are participating in the American construct. There’s just no way around it.

And at some point, as an American, you have to come to terms with how all of this got here. At that point you either accept the flaws and scars, knowing it’s a forward moving continuum that bends toward justice and freedom; basically a good thing. Or you reject the entire system outright and decide to form CHAZ or CHOP or whatever that experiment is in Seattle, that won’t exist three weeks from now.

It won’t exist because starting your own country is harder than it looks. And you’d better have a stronger foundation than just saying “everything is going to be free and no cops allowed.”

If you’re asking for food and medicine to be brought in and you still need the water, sewer and electrical grid of the country you just seceded from, you’re still participating. Anyway …

The thing that made Martin Luther King Jr. a transcendent figure for all time and a bone fide American hero, was the clarity he had of his own dream and how it related to the complication of the American dream.

He didn’t dream that the nation would be torn out by the root and reformed into something other than itself. His dream was that everyone, regardless of race, color, nationality, etc, fully participate in the American Dream, as it should be.

In order to have that dream, he had to first acknowledge that the American Dream was a good one to have and one worth participating in.

Yes, a little black boy from Georgia – a state named after King George – a slave trader – grew up to have that dream.

Even if the 4 faces on its greatest landmark presided over racism and sexism, and NONE of its national monuments were created in a time of equality for gays, and even if its largest city was named after a slave trader and its most popular soft drink was concocted by a Confederate soldier, and yes, even if a lot of the Jesus statues look like a brown-haired surfer dude from San Diego (and don’t even get me started on how California became California), Dr. King was still able to pine for a time when he could sing full-throated, “my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty …”

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American. And he wanted to be. And he worked toward being able to stand for the Anthem and the flag with a full heart.

That’s what all Americans want, even when we know America has been a mess in the making.

When I pledge allegiance to the flag (and the Republic for which it stands) I don’t just think about a bunch of wig wearing white guys who owned slaves, 200 years ago. I think just as much about MLK and Harriet Tubman and Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Airmen and Bass Reeves and Vivien Thomas and Madame C.J Walker, as I do Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.

If you’re unfamiliar with some of those names, you should look them up. They were all world changers. They were all black. And they were all Americans…participating in the dream.       

You have to decide in your heart if, on balance, America is essentially good or essentially bad, and if the dream America offers is something you want to fully participate in.

And if you decide the answer for you is no, then you have to understand that even if you remove all the statues and evidence, you’re still going to be left with the same choices: do I buy a Starbucks coffee today and support a self-avowed capitalist?

Participation perpetuates.

Steve Harvey once said, regarding America, “The dream is the thing.”

The dream helps us re-write the future without having to re-name New York or Columbus or blow up a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It allows us to enjoy a Jack and Coke and check our watch and know that we’re not bound by how all those things got here.

They’re in our time now. And we can attach our dreams to them in new and more equitable ways.

That is the dream. And it’s the most American thing of all.     

  

R

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THE FUTURE OF THE PAST …

Andrew Jackson’s face has fed my family.

He has gassed up my car and covered a couple of beers and paid my electric bill.

If I find him in the pocket of some jeans I haven’t worn in a while, I don’t burn the jeans and go on a social media rant. No, I usually get this wonderful little hit of elation after finding him.

Now, granted, it usually takes more than one of him to buy anything of consequence, but hey…the more of him the better.

I look down at that face and smile. Because the more of him you have, the more comfortable your life is.

This wasn’t always so …

My great, great, great grandmother didn’t like him at all. And she had good reason not to.

He uprooted her from her home and forced her to walk west on something called the Trail Of Tears. He was horrible to her and her family. He was responsible for the brutalization of her tribe and the systematic dismantling of her entire way of life.

Andrew Jackson’s racist policies were the undoing of my family…170 years ago.

But something happened to my great, great, great grandmother along that trail. An Irishman, who had worked his way out of indentured servitude, and down into Tennessee, where he set up a roadside trading post along the trail, found himself at the perfect crossroads of sexism, racism and legal pedophelia. He saw my great, great, great grandmother, took a liking to the young 14-year-old, and purchased her from the tribe (for a couple of horses) and out of the march westward.

Then, he started making half-breed babies with her. One of them was my great, great grandmother. I knew her daughter as Mama Hamm.

Mama Hamm had dark skin and high cheekbones and in order to become a “Hamm,” she married another dark-skinned, high cheekboned suiter, who had been an orphan, left on the doorstep of a couple of German immigrants named Hammershmidt (or something like that). In order to assimilate into the culture easier, they shortened the name to Hamm.

By the time my grandfather was born into their house in 1920, they had all but forgotten about how Andrew Jackson had brutalized their grandparents.

In fact, I went on a walking tour through the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s historical home, just outside of Nashville) with my grandfather, once. He was mildly interested in the way people used to live back then. He was respectful and quiet and he nodded and said, “interesting,” at all the appropriate times.

But finally, he’d had enough, looked at his watch and said, “we need to get home. I’m hungry.”

At no point did he ever break down and cry, weeping for his people. At no point did he ever seethe with rage and have to fight back his urge to burn the place to the ground. At no point did he feel the need to spray-paint anything on any of the buildings or monuments there.

My grandfather had enlisted in the Navy, during WWII, to serve a country that had massacred and mutilated his own great grandparents. And yet, here he was, walking through the home of his oppressor, not even mentioning it.

Why was he more preoccupied with present matters than he was with something that had happened to his own great grandmother?

Maybe it’s because he had kids and grandkids around him and new technology and a better world. Maybe it’s because my grandfather understood that life in America can evolve and grow and re-shape, and in less than a couple of generations, it can look completely different than it did when your grandparents were young…if you let it.

My roots are from people who were not participating in any part of the American dream because they weren’t allowed to. I have known women in my family who remembered life before they were legally allowed to vote.

But you know what? They didn’t harp on those days and constantly dredge them up. They didn’t go on endless tirades about the injustices of systemic sexism and how it held them in some sort of life limbo that they would simply never be allowed to rise above as long as the white, male patriarchy ran the world.

No. They just voted. They took the win and never looked back.

On balance, I’m not a big fan of Andrew Jackson. I think he did some horrible things. But when I read about the past, I don’t feel the need to punish anyone now, for it.

The people who inflicted that suffering on those distant relatives of mine, are long dead, as are the ways of thinking and systems that enslaved them in their time.

I see the past for what it is – the past.

And I can look at all those horrible things and still believe in a nation (and a system) that allows itself to grow and become better. Because it does and it has. But it can’t if I continue to re-litigate it and re-live things that actually don’t have to be re-lived or re-litigated.

I have a daughter, adopted from China, who isn’t much older than that young Cherokee girl, sold to an Irishman at that trading post, all those years ago. Could my daughter be trafficked today, in 2020? Sure. Could she get sold to some Irish pub owner, somewhere? It’s definitely possible.

But it isn’t legal, it isn’t probable, and it isn’t anything anyone in the mainstream of life would even consider the least bit tolerable.

In less than three generations, a child getting sold to a former indentured servant, along a road designed for genocide, can turn into their great grandson getting bored at the museum of that very thing, wondering what’s for dinner.

And in less than five generations, it can turn into a Chinese girl being raised like an American princess, living less than a hundred miles from where her great, great, great great grandmother was sold.

The future of the past is in question. How much of it are we ready to destroy and erase? And how do we do that anyway? Maybe the best way to erase the past is by fully embracing the present and allowing it to allow us to build a better future, knowing where we came from but not being tethered to it.

If we can’t accept the complication of America, we can never really see the beauty in its ability to evolve. As long as we live in that moment where my great, great great grandmother is getting sold, we never get to the part where my grandfather doesn’t really think too much about it.

If we constantly obsess over what Andrew Jackson’s face meant then, we lose perspective on what his face means now

Twenty bucks.    

  

R

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THE GAS LIGHTING OF AMERICA …

I’m dizzy.

I’ll bet you are too.

I had this whole, really cool blog written about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how, in America, some people in our population can be at level 5 without feeling like they’d ever achieved level 4, but much of the rest of the world was still languishing in level 1, and how we’re the only country on earth where you could be at level 1 on a Thursday, then get a call from your agent on Friday and move all the way up to level 5, but then still kinda worry about level 2, blah, blah, blah.

Not gonna lie. It was good.

Then, I tied that in to the conversations I’ve been having with my black friends and how they’ve been feeling about level 4 and how we’ve talked about truly being seen and heard and how they’ve told me that someone saying “they don’t see color” feels like they’re saying they don’t actually see them.

And then I wrote this cute little blurb about how I was a middle-aged, pasty white guy, with splotchy skin, grey hair and a dad bod and if you didn’t want to see that when you looked at me, that would be just fine.

I crack myself up.

I did this whole thing about how I support (and have always supported) putting away the Confederate flag.

I did a thing about how I support saying black lives matter. Period. Because it makes black people feel not seen when you come back with, “no, ALL lives matter.”

And maybe the breakdown in the conversation was that a lot of people have wondered, “who in the name of God ever said black lives didn’t matter in the first place? The whole concept of someone not mattering because of their skin color is so perverse, I don’t even want to consider that thought,” and that’s what the whole “black lives matter – wait, JUST black lives matter? of course not – all lives matter – so you’re saying ALL lives matter? NO! Black lives matter …” eye-rolling political “who’s on first” routine is all about.

Again…I’m a funny guy.

In that blog, I went through an average day of mine, which basically consists of being a care-giver for someone with a severe disability, maybe going to the grocery store, trying to get a workout in, trying to write something that will earn some money, and watching TV with my wife at night. Then, doing it all again the next morning.

And I asked the question: what part of that day was systemically racist?

I had to conclude that on the surface, at least, none of it was. But what about beneath the surface?

Did I have my house because I was white? Did I live in the part of town I live in because I was white?

If I had been born in a predominantly black culture, would anyone had even liked my music enough to provide me enough money to get out of poverty? (which is how I got out, by the way – it’s also how I got back in – but I digress …)

These are questions worth pondering. But they’re really difficult to answer, because there’s so much nuance and complication involved. It’s not all black and white…literally.

And that’s the way it is for most people who participate in the American system…no matter what they look like.

When I see most Americans, I see people – of ALL races and nationalities – trying to work to provide for a family, trying to do better, trying to get something right, trying to obey the laws, trying to chase an opportunity or a dream, trying to get through life without rolling down the hill backwards.

Are there racists involved in all of that? Sure.

But as I watch what’s happening right now: as city blocks, in major American cities, are being seized and re-organized (to what? I don’t know), as I watch entire police precincts surrender and go home, as I watch city councils all over America actually convene about dismantling their police departments (it’s actually happening in my town), and as I watch young, militant white kids killing people and burning things to the ground, I start to wonder if maybe none of this was about racial reconciliation in the first place.

All the big flash points in our society: racial protests, #metoo marches, climate change warriors, and even Covid 19 mavens, seem to end up being hijacked by the same people who always come to the same conclusion: tear down the whole system.

It’s like these causes are just the horses the real revolution rides in on. And it’s staring to feel like it’s not a coincidence.

While we’re having our “real talk” and “examining our hearts” and preparing our “reconciliation sermons” and bowing and apologizing and posting mic drop memes and making sure we check all the right outrage boxes, and while Lady Antebellum is changing their name (I never understood why two dudes were in a band called “Lady Before the War” anyway – but whatever), those who are driving the real agenda are using all of this stuff to distract us while they work to eliminate the actual system itself.

They’ve been gas lighting us…ALL of us…black and white, alike.  And we’ve been twisting and turning, throwing our backs out trying to figure out what we did wrong or how we’ve been wronged and how we can fix it. Meanwhile, something else was happening we haven’t been paying attention to.

Look, I get it. If you think the system doesn’t work for you, you want to kill it and start all over again. I guess that’s what America did in 1776.

But remember this: if you destroy a system, you’d best be ready to replace it with a better one. That’s also what America did.

The dismantling of police departments might feel good in the moment. But the domino effect is this:

You leave the population questioning basic safety (number 2 on their hierarchy of needs). And that makes them not want to send their kids to school in those areas or start businesses in those areas, and finally they move from those areas.

And that drives property values down.

And that creates a strain on banks and lending institutions.

And if enough strain is placed on them, they go under and cease to exist.

And one by one, every enterprise, on every city block, has to shut the door for the last time.

Entire areas of town just board up and stop operating.

Pretty soon you can buy a house for $500 bucks, but you won’t want to because there’s nothing there.

And when the people who want to “revitalize” that part of the country or city show back up, they’re going to have to start with an operational police force, because…basic safety (number 2 on the hierarchy of needs).

Unless you’ve got a real plan to replace that intricate system you just destroyed, with a better one, you’re just a rebel without a Declaration.

I’m all in on racial reconciliation. I always have been. I’m ready for ALL people to achieve level 4 on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (being seen and heard). I always have been.

But the American system is a good one. It’s the best one ever put together in the history of the world. It’s a system that can be tweaked and re-shaped and amended and revised. And it has been.

I don’t know where all this ends, but at the moment I’m not sure what to do or what to say.

Like a lot of people, I’m paralyzed by not wanting to offend and not wanting to get cancelled and, quite honestly, sometimes not even wanting to exist. Because just existing in today’s world – especially in this splotchy skin – carries with it all these weird undertones I can’t seem to keep up with.

I’m just a dude trying to get to Friday. That’s what most of us are. I don’t know how to do that at the moment without triggering somebody, somewhere.

But I am a willing and unapologetic participant in the American experiment and fully committed to a system that I actually believe can work for anybody and everybody.

The tricky part is that it is managed and operated by human beings. And that makes anything imperfect.

For those who want to tear it all down, just remember that when you build your new society.

R

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PROMISE KEEPERS …

I don’t march.

I hate crowds. I hate heat. I hate chanting things. I hate carrying signs. I’m not all that fond of people, in general. And it all feels so pointless to me. I’m not sure, in my lifetime anyway, what in the world has ever been changed by a march.

The only way marches have any sort of impact is if they are led by charismatic leaders who give important speeches, with memorable words and powerful ideas at those marches. Or if there is some specific legislation that is being asked for, that gets voted on, passed and signed.

Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of people showing a bunch of other people how they feel about something.

Isn’t that what we do on Facebook every single day, anyway?

The only time I was asked point-blank to attend a march was about 22 years ago. My father organized a Nashville based contingent to go to Washington D.C and participate in the Promise Keepers march.

I love my father and I was very close to saying yes to him…ONLY because it was him asking me. But then, once he explained to me that they were driving up in a van and sleeping in sleeping bags in a church, I was pretty much out.

I did enough of that when I was a kid to spread the experiences around to several other people. So it was going to be a hard pass from me.

But beyond that surface stuff, I just kept asking myself why people were doing this. Why do you need to march on Washington D.C to keep your promises to your wife? It really bothered me.

So, I asked my dad, “Dad, does it matter to you if I march as long as I keep my promises?”

He shook his head and laughed, “No, son. It doesn’t matter to me.”

So, I stayed home and kept my promises, while the other 22 guys sweated it out in a van and slept on the floor of a church…then marched around in circles declaring their intentions to keep some promises or whatever.

I spoke to my father last night and asked him how many of those guys are still married.

As it turns out, about half of them are divorced, now.

The march couldn’t make it last. Because marches don’t do that. They make you feel like you’re changing the world, in that moment. But what’s actually happening is you’re getting some sort of adrenaline rush or endorphin high from being around the crowd of people chanting and singing and doing whatever.

It’s the same thing that happens at a stadium concert or what happened at Woodstock or what happens in a mega-church worship session.

Crowds moving toward a common goal release all these hormones in people and make them feel a certain kind of euphoria. And if the context is hoping you change something, then you’ll feel like you’re changing something. But you aren’t. You’re just feeling really good.

Real change is hard and it’s a process that must be worked in private moments, when no one else is looking. Not in public moments when nothing is really on the line.

I’m old enough now to have seen this cycle of whatever you want to call it, happen several times in America: something bad happens to a black person – someone gets it on camera or tape – it illicits outrage – people take to the streets – then someone takes it too far – more people die and more property is damaged – a bunch of politicians jump on the bandwagon and come up with a catch phrase or hashtag or red ribbon or whatever – then come the benefit concerts and telethons where everyone gets to virtue signal so much you can light Vegas with it – then someone writes a song (yuk) – then it gets a moment of silence on the Oscars – then the next crisis that must be attended to right now shows up on the 24-hour news cycle. By the time Chris Rock is making jokes about it on an HBO special, we’re done for a few years.

Does anything really ever change? Not really. And if it does, it’s probably not because of anything that happens in any part of the cycle above.

Real change happens when one person decides to break out of their comfort zone and go on an uncomfortable journey. When they face things they never wanted to face and ask questions they never wanted to ask and make decisions that are hard to make…only then does the earth move beneath our feet.

I never went to a Promise Keepers meeting or march or rally or whatever. But I’ve been married almost 29 years. And some days it sucks. And a lot of days it’s just a day. And some days it’s awesome. But everyday it’s a choice. Do I pack up the Mustang and check out? Or do I pull myself together, hug my kids, take the dog for a walk, punch the heavy bag a little, and walk back in that house and face whatever we’re going through together – together?

The answer to that question is where change happens. It’s where promises are kept. It’s where hours turn into days and days turn into months and months turn into years and years turn into a life and life turns into a legacy.

Our problems with race in this country have never been (and never will be) solved with marches and protests and riots. They will only be solved by people doing the hard work of the day-in-and-day-out. They will be solved by tiny, difficult choices that are almost too small to see in the moment but huge in the scheme of things.

Sting wrote, “men go crazy in congregations but they only get better one by one …”

I think that’s just about right.

Yesterday, I was supposed to not post on Facebook to stand in solidarity against racism. So I didn’t. But then I kept seeing these profile pictures of just black and I realized I didn’t do something right. By the time my wife and I talked about it and figured out we hadn’t changed our profile to black, it was over. Then I saw where some people were posting that Black Lives Matter. Then others say ALL lives matter. Then blue lives matter.

It’s literally the worst game of political “who’s on first?” we’ve ever played in this country. And honestly, I can’t keep up with all the virtue signaling I’m supposed to be doing, how I’m supposed to do it, and who I’m supposed to aim it toward.

We’ve had about enough symbolism in this country. It’s time to do the hard work. Or 20 years from now, we’ll be back in this same cycle, doing all of this nonsense again.

And a lot of people who had every intention of keeping their promises will be divorced.

R

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DONE …

Okay, so I’m officially done with being told where I can go and how many people I can go with.

I’m officially done being told I can go to Wal Mart but not to church.

No more “I’m a nurse, so …” posts or “You’re not wearing the mask to protect YOU, you’re wearing it to protect ME,” or “The church needs to show the world TRUE compassion by protecting its most vulnerable,” or “our grandparents went to war. All you have to do is stay home and watch Netflix…” memes allowed.

I’m officially done with HCQ study links and “If you think this is like the Flu, you’re an idiot,” links, and “There’s just no way we will ever be back to normal until we all get vaccinated,” links.

I’m done with comments threads that drag on and on about mask wearing and how it works in Japan because they’re just a more civilized society than we are and if wearing a mask bothers you, you’re part of the problem, blah blah blah.

I’m done with people parsing out every single word uttered in the air that might question something scientific or raise a medical concern about an unintended consequence of an extended lockdown.

I’m officially done with simply bringing up the fact that suicide rates are skyrocketing and every hack/wannabe comedian in cyber world making that same dumbass joke about hoping they don’t “catch the suicide.” Yes – we get it. It’s not an infectious disease. ROFLMAO

I’m officially done with social distancing. I’ll stand as close to you as I have to, to get to the string cheese. And I’ll walk any direction I damn well need to, to get down the aisle to the maple syrup. Sorry, grocery store. I don’t read your little traffic rules anymore – not now.

I’m officially done listening to commercials that start with the phrase, “In this difficult time …” If you want to sell me something, you’d better cut together a better ad LITERALLY as I’m typing this. Because I will turn your ass off immediately if you try to drag me back into that bullshit mindset.

All you late night talk show guys – go back to work. Get the audience in there. I’m tired of watching you act “just like us,” in your professionally decorated living rooms, with your shiny faces, tousled mane and unkept beard. Get in the hair and makeup chair, put on a damn suit, walk to your mark and do your job with all the dedication of an Amazon delivery driver.

I’m officially done washing my hands 20 times a day until they’re red and chafed.

I’m officially done sitting around my house, binge watching shit I didn’t want to watch the first time.

I’m done. Just. Done.

My quarantine ended the minute my Mayor (and several around the country) not only allowed, but INVITED AND ENCOURAGED people to attend a mass rally.

As of Saturday, May 30th, I’m done with Covid…whether I am or not.

Let me say that I agree with having the national conversation about police brutality. I MORE than agree with bringing George Floyd’s killer to justice.

I’m all in on racial reconciliation.

I do not blame people for wanting to take to the streets and show their anger. I do not blame the protestors or even the rioters for what happened on the last weekend in May, 2020. I totally get it. And I support most of it (I never support the destruction of personal property).

But if you pen people up for months on end, constantly talking about how close to death they all are and how their family may die and posting death numbers hourly, THEN, after an emotionally charged, unjust event takes place and the whole world has been watching the video over and over again, because they’re holed up and have nothing else to do, you I.N.V.I.T.E them to a protest march, what in God’s name do you think is going to happen?!?!

If you allow a march to happen, in the midst of a global pandemic, you are either putting the protestors at extreme risk or you don’t really believe they were all that much at risk in the first place.

In either case, you’re not fit to lead.

As my city (Nashville) burns, I am genuinely concerned for the people who attended the march/protest/riot. There were more than a hundred thousand people down there, sweating on each other and breathing on each other and yelling and sneezing and coughing and doing all the stuff nobody is supposed to be doing right now.

I’m sure the masks caught everything. (insert eye roll here)

And yes, I know people have been protesting the lockdown in other parts of the country. And I’m not taking their side over the side of people protesting racial grievance. Racial grievance trumps protesting the wearing of a stupid mask any day of the week. It’s not about that.

It’s about this: one group of protestors gathered organically and against the advice and allowance of the government. Fine. They’re pissed. Whatever. But they were not sanctioned to do what they did. It was frowned upon. And they sure as hell weren’t invited to do it.

The official positions – BY THE GOVERNMENT – were that these people were engaging in dangerous behavior and should go home and “stay in place.”

Fine. It’s a virus. Okay.

But the rally in Nashville (and many other places), on May 30th, was not only sanctioned by our Mayor but encouraged by our Mayor. He was even in attendance. That happened several places in the country. And hey, that is totally fine with me. I’m all for civil disobedience. These folks have a legitimate grievance. I might’ve been down there myself if I hadn’t been told to stay away from crowds of over 25 people.

If this rally was actually going to put people in danger, then the Mayor should’ve, at the very least, said that people could only attend at their own risk but that it was not recommended by his administration or the city. At the most, he should’ve issued an order to disburse and released a public statement that supported the spirit of the protest but in the interest of public safety strongly advised that all citizens stay home and safe.

But that’s not what he did. That’s not what anybody did.

The hierarchy of political expediency got the best of everyone in power and they just couldn’t resist the opportunity to grandstand and prove they aren’t a racist – all in one weekend. And they just abandoned the whole Covid narrative and protocol altogether.

I guess black lives only matter up until the point where you’re willing to sacrifice their safety to assuage their grief and fuel their anger.

If you are in a government leadership position and you encouraged a public march on the 30th of May, and in 10-14 days people start coming down with this virus again and dying, then you have just opened your city up to the mother of all lawsuits. And you might even be responsible for some deaths.

OR, if in 10-14 days, a bunch of people don’t get this virus or they get the sniffles or they feel a little achy and run down…then forget about it and go back to work, then you have drug us through what-ever-the-hell-this-was, as well as participating in the systematic dismantling of the greatest economy in human history…for nothing.

If the virus was going to be a deadly threat throughout the summer, before George Floyd was murdered, that means it was a deadly threat on May 30th – AT the marches, all over the country.

The good (OR bad) news is, we’ll know in a couple of weeks just how infectious it is. Either way, if you are a Mayor or Governor who encouraged this, resign. Because you suck as a leader. You either put people in extreme danger or you forced them out of work and into near insanity with an unnecessary, draconian lockdown.

Go do something else. Public service isn’t for you.

Who knows? I may die of Covid, now. But if I do, it will officially be on my own terms.

I’m done being told to be scared and how to live. If I can riot, I can worship. If I can march shoulder-to-shoulder with people in the streets, I can eat and shop and go to a movie shoulder-to-shoulder with them. If I can lock arms with fellow protestors in solidarity, then I can watch my daughter and her friends graduate from high school.

If the government won’t step in to protect people who are legitimately angry, but may need to stay home for the safety of all, then it’s just wielding power over those who will consent.

I no longer consent.

R

 

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THE FIGHT OR THE WIN …

I don’t want to write about this.

Even as I type, there’s this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s the feeling of imminent dread; like I know I’m about to be sent to the principal’s office, no matter what I say or how I word it.

I know  – even before I finish writing this – that I won’t put something the right way or I won’t actually think about something the way I should think about it or I will have a blind spot somewhere. I am told this all the time – literally every hour of every day. So I know it will be true. And I’m giving you fair warning for the rest of whatever this is.

Honestly, I’d rather just let it go and move on. But I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that silence is “noticeable and deafening.” So I feel compelled to say something. And we have to start being honest with each other.

So, I take a breath, and here goes …

I don’t post videos on my Facebook page, of any sort of “breaking news” story. It is my personal opinion that that is how incomplete information spreads too easily on social media.

So, you’re welcome to scroll through my wall and try to find any Coronoa Virus conspiracy videos or Nick Sandeman videos, or Jusse Smollette videos or anything that looks like it was shot on an iPhone, that isn’t me or directly related to me, or isn’t something funny and/or silly.

I just don’t participate in immediate outrage about anything.

It’s always my policy to wait and watch and listen and consider before I post. It is my personal experience that when I violate that policy, I often end up regretting it. And nobody wants to be wrong. Maybe that is one of the biggest problems we have.

Anyway …

I saw just enough of the George Floyd video to know I was watching a murder. And I just had no words. And yet I still didn’t post the video. And I don’t know if that was a right or wrong decision. I have a lot of kids who follow me. I like to keep it light and funny. I save the heavy stuff for my blog.

So here we are …

But all my black friends posted it immediately. They were (and are) in a state of almost inconsolability. And as a white man, I honestly don’t know what to say to them. What can you say?

You can post the obligatory, “THIS HAS TO STOP!” thing…in all caps…you know, to make sure everybody knows exactly where you stand on racism.

You can post the long, meandering, run-on paragraph indictment of America that will hopefully inoculate you as a white person from any culpability associated with the death of an innocent person.

You can go the other way and dig your heels into the “this doesn’t represent all cops” narrative or even the “what about that video of the white guy in Kansas that got the same treatment by the cops – why isn’t THAT getting any press coverage” route.

You can post some extremely crass meme of football players taking a knee right next to the cop with his knee on George Floyd’s neck, with a caption that reads, “THIS is why they took a knee” or some other horribly opportunist quip. Dear lord …

You can blame this on Trump by trying to place that cop at one of his rallies. Or you can try to blame this on liberals and their policies. After all this IS Minnesota: bastion of liberalism and the only state Ronald Reagan didn’t carry – not the deep south.

I’ve seen all of that come up on my feed, and none of it solves anything. None of it moves anyone toward anything. None of it changes how we write the story going forward. None of it changes me. None of it changes you.

I’m not much of a spiritual or intellectual leader in my house. I stopped being able to teach my son anything when he turned 9. He teaches me, now. I usually just trying to get through the day without anybody dying or breaking anything. But occasionally I do come up with something usable.

And I have developed a question I ask all of us, as a family, whenever we are faced with any issue: do we want to fight or do we want to win?

What that means is, we can argue about something and explain our positions to each other and make our cases and retreat to our corners and insist that we’re right about whatever we’re discussing, OR we can find a solution to the problem at hand.

An example might be if the cable goes out. We can all fight about why it’s out. We can blame each other for someone not paying the bill or allowing something to lapse. We can do this all day and all night. Or we can win; we can work the problem and get to the bottom of it and get the cable back on.

If we do that, one of us might have to realize we were wrong about something in the process. But the others have to show mercy. One of us may have been right – but the cable company may not have been on the same page as us. And we then have to show mercy to them. Everyone may be right and the weather might have knocked the cable out. Then, we ALL have to accept the thing we cannot change.

Obviously the cable going out in our house is an insignificant thing. It means nothing in comparison to someone losing their life.

But I believe the concept can be applied to how we all deal with each other in the wake of something horrific. We can decide to either fight or win. And deciding to win might look different than fighting. After all, we’ve been fighting for hundreds of years.

I know I’ve already screwed this up, and will be destroyed in comments threads all over the country, but I’m going to keep going …

I didn’t know anything about people with special needs until I was raising one. I used to use the word “retard” with regularity. I thought nothing of it. I certainly didn’t want to harm anyone with a disability…but I didn’t necessarily want to hang out with them either.

You see, I didn’t think of myself as a prejudiced person toward the disabled. But I was. I just didn’t know it. But that didn’t mean I was evil toward them. I wasn’t. And when I had to walk through all the dark corridors you walk through as the caregiver to someone with a disability, I did it…and I learned…and I took on the burdens. And I changed a lot of my thinking and a hell of a lot of how I interact with the world.

I’m pushing my word count at this very moment because instead of writing “a disabled person” I wrote “a person with a disability.” Do you know why I did that? Because in the special needs community, we practice something called “people first” language.

It’s a subtle thing and it seems trivial to to some, but it means we don’t refer to that person as “disabled” first. We refer to them as a person first – followed by their particular challenge. No one is “Autistic.” They are a person first…who has Autism.

Johnny isn’t Autistic. Johnny is Johnny…who happens to have Autism.

I’ll bet most of you reading this didn’t know that. But I forgive you for not knowing. How could you know? I had to learn the hard way, by being berated by a few caregiver moms. I still get the occasional verbal beating for continuing to call my daughter “The Angel.” But I still think she is an angel. I’m working on myself and still need grace. But I digress …

Instead of fighting you over it and catching you saying it, then dropping the mic on you in an internet fight, let’s win this little battle of language a different way: let me just help you understand.

I’m not better than you. I’m not more educated than you. I’m just walking a different path than you and maybe I can show you some things I deal with on my journey.

There’s a 65% molestation rate among people with disabilities. My wife and I fear this all the time for our non-verbal daughter. But whenever we see some video of a child with Autism (not an “Autistic child”) getting locked in a closet or beaten by a babysitter when the parents leave, or forced to do something at school that triggers their sensory issues, we don’t lash out at everyone in the caregiving community.

We decide to win instead of fighting.

We make closer connections to our daughter’s teachers and caregivers. We say things more directly and less passive/aggressively to those who deal with her. We make it our business to vet (as much as possible) everyone who touches her throughout the day. And we befriend them. We don’t take adversarial stances when it isn’t warranted. We are on their side. In other words, we’re not looking for a fight. We’re looking for a win.

How do we apply a thing like this to our racial issues in the country? Again, I’m a white man and don’t pretend to have answers for any of us. But maybe if George Floyd had been seen as “person” first and “black” second, he’d still be alive. Maybe not. Maybe that cop was going to kill someone that day, regardless.

Maybe it could’ve just as easily been a white man with Autism, or an Asian kid with Down Syndrome. This is where the “fight” gets confusing …

But I would say that we as white people could start by befriending people of color. If you don’t have any black friends it’s hard to see things from their perspective. I often see posts from white friends of mine, straining everything within them to convey how “non-racist” they are, but I know for a fact that they wouldn’t feel comfortable in a room full of dark skin.

It doesn’t make them racists. It just makes them blind to certain things. And if you wouldn’t be comfortable in a room full of dark skin, imagine how people with dark skin feel most of the time in America. They are forced – just by numbers – to constantly be in rooms full of people who don’t look like them.

When they see videos of George Floyd, it’s very hard for them to put all of it in some dispassionate perspective and move on. They see their sons and daughters. They see what appears to be the cover coming off all the true covered up racism…whether that’s what it is or not.

The “whatabouts” and “yeah, buts” and “ALL lives matter” rebuttals don’t help. That’s a fight. Not a win. Maybe listening and hearing and seeing should come first, before the reactions.    

For the people of color, maybe they could understand that disrespecting the flag and the anthem and all that sacred, ingrained stuff a lot of Americans hold dear, doesn’t help to get anyone to see things from your perspective.

I just watched another History Channel special on the Civil War and was again stunned by the sheer numbers of men who died in it. At least half of those deaths were laid on the alter of freedom; freedom for people of color. And that’s what all those silly American traditions represent to so many of us.

They represent a country willing to turn itself inside out to help the least of us. They represent people willing to give up their lives for the lives of those they will never meet.

I would personally like to think the country is on the side of your freedom and security and health and well-being. And when it’s not, that is the exception – not the rule.

I would like to think we could get a win with that approach and not just a fight.

For most of us, we don’t really know what to do about a situation like George Floyd. Not really. Words are cheap in the face of a murder.

I can say that I want to scream at people who look like me, who are heading toward that dark place of wanting to harm someone based on their race, “STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?”

And I do that when I see it. But it doesn’t bring George Floyd back, and sadly, it doesn’t seem to stop the next video from surfacing that I cannot explain and feel instantly guilty for. And I’m just so weary of it.

And I know my black friends are more weary than I could ever imagine.

I’ve watched both conservative and progressive friends, alike, show the same moral outrage over this incident. And maybe that’s moving in the right direction.

But I fear it won’t be long before we descent into the, “If you voted for this or that candidate, YOU are just as guilty as the cop,” posts.

“Blood on your hands” shaming is a great political tool and it never seems to go out of style.

And that will be followed by the “what about YOUR candidate who supported this or that?!?! Now YOU’VE got blood on YOUR hands!”

And there will be more kneeling. And more defiant standing. And more outrage over the kneeling and more outrage over the not kneeling. And more outrage over the outrage. And more outrage over the outrage over the outrage.

We’ve gotten very good at picking the fight.

But I’m not sure any of it ever gets us a win.

George Floyd deserved a win.

               

R

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THE SCIENCE AND THE ART …

I had 60 kidney stones.

My uric acid levels were off-the-charts, liver panels were elevated, cholesterol was 325 and I was 40 pounds overweight.

My urologist prescribed six medications that I would have to be on…FOR. THE. REST. OF. MY. LIFE.

I was 33.

On the way out of his office, I wadded up the scripts, threw them in the trash, took out my phone and called an old friend that had gone through an astonishing physical transformation, under the direction of this mysterious, eccentric doctor from Virginia. It was time to try something unorthodox before medicating myself for the next 50 years.

I needed to expand my scientific horizons.

Several months later, my wife and I sat in the office of the strangest and most unpleasant man I’ve ever been around, while he explained mysteries and functions of our health I have never heard in my life. He had absolutely NO social skills whatsoever, but had some innate scientific/medical sense that I had never encountered. And I still haven’t to this day.

He was what we call “alternative medicine.” But it wasn’t about Essential Oils or “cleansing your energy” or placing crystals in the right chakras. He categorized all of that as “non-scientific” hogwash. This was about blood work, hair analysis and urine samples. His charts were about the science actually happening in the body. Not VooDoo, Whole Foods mumbo jumbo.

After reading my chart to me (and taking 3 hours to explain it all), I realized that he was understanding things about my body literally no other doctor had ever understood or explained to me. Then he did the exact same thing for my wife. Our skepticism faded and we knew he was right.

It was a long, exhausting, life-changing day. And my wife and I left hoping that if we got our bodies in alignment, maybe we could finally conceive a child.

After the next eight weeks (the worst of my life), existing on protein shakes, organic vegetable juice and around 200 supplements a day, I had lost 42 pounds, my liver panels were perfect, my uric acid levels were perfect, my cholesterol was under 200 (dropping 150 points in 8 weeks), and my depression was alleviated in ways I hadn’t experienced since I was a teenager. And I started passing all those pesky kidney stones…one at a time. I eventually passed them all.

*Let me pause and ask that no one contact me about this diet. I’m not qualified to create it for you, and trust me – you wouldn’t do it anyway. It was simply horrible.

“If I had achieved these results with a pill, I’d be on the cover of every medical journal in the world,” he told me, when it was over. No doubt about that.

“But we did it with good, old fashioned science,” he chuckled.

I’ll never forget that phrase. Good, old fashioned science. As if science was something passé or obsolete.

The results (for both my wife and me) were jaw dropping. But we did not conceive. Some things not even good old fashioned science can fix. But our lives changed and our approach to health and wellness changed and we now had knowledge and understanding we’d never had before going through that physical crucible.

After failing to conceive, we had a falling out with this doctor. He wasn’t in favor of our going to China to adopt a child. He warned us that we could bring something (possibly in the way of a virus – ironic, I know) home and it could affect our lives forever. He warned that the child we brought home could be carrying something mysterious and challenging that we might not be ready for. As it turns out, the CDC agreed with him that we shouldn’t go. So did the WHO…all for different reasons.

But we did. She was. And we weren’t.

As a scientific theorist, he was right on target. But as a human being, he was 180 degrees out of phase and wrong on every level.

Yes, we brought home a child carrying something mysterious we weren’t ready for.

But she was also carrying unconditional love and sloppy kisses and infectious giggles and soul hugs. She changed our lives in every way imaginable. She helped heal our wounded marriage, she taught me empathy and acceptance and patience and she broke my pride down to a fine powder that eventually transformed into a type of spirituality.

Her unique medical condition (Angelman Syndrome – a deletion of the 15th maternal chromosome), that was undiagnosed for five years, sent us back to this doctor, where he helped us with a nutrition plan but ultimately failed to properly pinpoint what her core problem was.

So, we dove into traditional medicine at Vanderbilt (one of the most prestigious teaching hospitals in the world) which helped in other ways, but also failed to properly diagnose her for several years. Because of the lack of a proper diagnosis, she was prescribed the absolute wrong medication for someone in her condition.

Nobody’s science was working, because it was all incomplete. 

Finally, after a friend recognized her symptoms as those of another friend’s child (yes, just someone without a medical degree simply paying attention), and after we did some research on the internet (yes – the internet), we were finally able to get her to the right floor of Vanderbilt and properly diagnosed, through a three-stage genetics test.

We pieced things together by getting ALL the information we could get. Not just some…ALL. We took it all in and discounted nothing – even if we didn’t want to hear it.

On our journey we’ve gone from holistic healers to cutting-edge medical professionals to now being in the universe of world-changing research science.

Through it all, I’ve learned a few things:

1. Real science cuts across all political lines.

If your understanding of science doesn’t occasionally have you at odds with your own politics, it’s probably not science. It’s probably propaganda laced with enough science to make you feel good about yourself and your position.

2. Real science works. But it’s not always complete.

That’s why it’s important to keep testing the results of anything and everything scientific. And it’s not bad to question mainstream conclusions AND alternative conclusions. The truth will probably end up being something no one saw coming.

3. Life is science but it’s also art.

That doctor died at age 63 of some unknown illness those of us who followed him are still unclear about. He ultimately couldn’t heal himself.

The girl I brought home from China, however, with all the damage and all the problems, who’s parents defied the CDC and the WHO and the best advice from a medical genius, graduates from high school next week. She will be walked down in a closed, “socially distanced” ceremony…because of scientific unknowns.

But her story has opened doors and led to corridors no one could’ve imagined. She has transformed everything and everyone in her wake. And that has led to more science and higher awareness and better information.

Life is art.

As we all become armchair scientists and doctors, remember that just because you want something to be true doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes the crazy person is right. Sometimes they’re wrong. Sometimes the internet is full of crap. Sometimes, it actually provides valuable information. And sometimes you have to wade through both at the same time to get to the truth.

Sometimes the agreed upon facts are skewed or just incomplete. Sometimes the most unpleasant person in the world is the one who’s going to save your life. And finally, getting to the bottom of something scientific is an actual process – not a Snopes fact-check.

And sometimes the biggest mystery, that no one can seem to solve, is here for reasons far beyond science.   

R

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GET UNDER YOUR DESK …

Running shoes.

I needed running shoes…and socks. I’ve sheltered in place and waited. I’ve done what I’ve been asked to do. But all my socks have holes in them and the rubber has started coming off my shoes. And as I was harnessing the dog for our daily walk, and already starting to feel the concrete on the ball of my left foot, I knew it was time. I had to buy shoes.

So, I called the place where I get my shoes and asked them their protocol. I can come in as long as I’m wearing a mask? Ok. Got it.

I walked in and stood 6 feet away from all the other train robbers from Gun Smoke. This would be quick and easy. I know my size and the brand I wear. The salesman went to get the shoes and showed them to me from a taped off section I couldn’t step into. Then, he placed them on a bench. After he stepped 6 feet away, I could approach the bench and try on the shoes. Then, I stepped 6 feet away so he could re-enter the taped off area and put them back in the box. Yeah – we actually did all that.

But then I put on my readers to check the prices of some socks, and as I looked down, the glasses fogged up. Unable to see, I slammed my leg into a different bench I hadn’t noticed (because I was wearing a freaking mask), and actually broke the skin a little. So, I left DNA and whatever else I might possibly be carrying, on that bench…that I couldn’t see…because of the mask. But at least I was 6 feet away from everybody and breathing through fabric.

Then, I stood on little blue tape squares until I reached the register, where I handed the guy my debit card (with my germs all over it) and then I pressed buttons on a screen THAT. EVERYONE. ELSE. WHO. HAD. PURCHASED. SHOES. AT. THAT. STORE. THAT. DAY. HAD. TOUCHED.

As I limped out of the store, trying to breathe through this thing on my face, wondering why we were allowed to touch buttons but not breathe freely, watching the mom and daughter (who had come out ahead of me) spraying their hands with disinfectant before they got in their car, I started thinking about nuclear war …

My mother and father have told me stories of the “duck and cover” drills they used to do when they were kids in school. These were government sanctioned classroom drills, where the kids got under their desks in case of a Soviet nuclear strike. Under…their…desks.

I guess they got that idea from all those kids in Hiroshima who survived the blast by getting under their desks. (insert eye-roll here)

And that got me thinking about World War II and my grandfather, who fought in the South Pacific. They sprayed him, and all the other Marines, with DDT every morning to make sure they didn’t get eaten alive by mosquitos and catch Malaria. DDT. SPRAYED. ON. HIS. BODY. EVERY. DAY. FOR. THREE. YEARS.

The United States government did that. Not some “quack” on the internet.

My grandfather survived Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, only to come home and die at age 50 from an aggressive form of Cancer. I’m sure his extreme exposure to DDT was only a coincidence. Whatever …

But that got me thinking about my other grandfather and the food protocols he was put on after his first heart attack. Low fat/high carbohydrate. And yet his cholesterol never got right. Even after eating exactly what the government told him to eat. He eventually went on to have two more heart attacks. Hey, whatever. Right? After all, he’d been a smoker when he was younger…in the service…WHERE. THE. GOVERNMENT. PROVIDED. HIM. CIGARETTES. AS. PART. OF. HIS. RATIONS.

Then, I sat in my car and pulled up Facebook on my phone and scrolled a little, to clear my head and wait on my shin to stop throbbing. And I saw posts about this movie called “Plandemic.” And I saw some people sharing it and then some posts from others, looking over their glasses at the “idiots” sharing it, claiming it was “anti-science” and just a conspiracy theory, and how they were fed up with conspiracy theories because we need “facts” and “evidence” and scientists doing scienc-y things.

It was a little ironic to me that most of these same people had accepted the idea that Donald J. Trump was a Russian agent, for the last three years. Whatever…Ok…science.

But that made me think about all the scientists I’ve talked to over the past 17 years, and the research I’ve helped fund, and how two scientists can see the exact same thing in two completely different ways. And how science isn’t always what we think it is.      

And that got me thinking about Vanderbilt and how they secretly gave my Grandmother (and hundreds of other women) radioactive milk when she was pregnant with my father. They didn’t tell them because the government was trying to get some data on what the effects of radioactivity would be on unborn children. You know…in case of that nuclear strike where the desks would save the kids. And I mean, who would volunteer for that? Am I right? You really have no choice but to do it against their will and without their knowledge.

You know…it’s for the greater good. So …

Oh, by the way, that’s not a conspiracy theory. I mean, it was at one time. People scoffed and tisk tisked at those who claimed such outlandish things. If there had been a Youtube video of it, I’m certain all the smart kids would dismiss it as another misinformation campaign by Fox News or something.

But then, Vanderbilt finally came clean 50 years later, released the actual documents and settled a class-action lawsuit that my Grandmother and father were a part of. My Grandmother lost all her teeth shortly after my father was born. I’m sure it’s all just a coincidence.

For those who never question the government or scientific findings, you have made those things your God. You have given them inerrancy and omniscience. Being a patriot means keeping your elected leaders in check. Being pro-science means questioning all the findings. Scrutiny is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

Those who don’t question leaders or scientists, don’t know anyone in either profession.

As it turns out, the best way to fight a nuclear attack from the Soviets had nothing to do with getting under a desk or even sounding an alarm. “Preparedness” wasn’t worth the trouble and wasn’t what was needed.

What was actually needed to reduce the nuclear threat, was people standing up to Communism and fighting for a free-thinking society to overtake the brow-beaten servitude of the U.S.S.R. A free society was the cure. Not getting under a desk.

A free and informed society is almost always the cure for almost anything.

If you want to protect yourself from death, lose weight. Stop smoking. Stop eating sugar. Stop drinking alcohol. Stop ingesting caffeine. Stop eating dairy. Maybe even stop eating meat. Exercise and tend to our mental health. There are strong cases to be made for all of those assertions.

In my state (Tennessee), as of the date of this writing, less than 500 people have died from Covid 19. On the other hand, thousands will die TODAY from heart attacks and Cancer and suicide and obesity-related illnesses. The government is telling all those people to stay inside and reduce their public activity. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m sure it will all work out just fine, as long as they wear masks when they go buy their new running shoes.        

R

PS – As I was putting the socks on the counter, I saw the “made in China” fine print. And I just smiled and shook my head.

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AMERICAN ROCK AND ROLL …

They told us to bow to the King and pay his taxes or we would be shot. So we threw his tea in the harbor and started shooting back.

It cost us years of death and destruction; frostbite, starvation, scurvy, madness.

But we did what we wanted to do.

They told us we had to be slaves. So we burned down the cornfields and blew up the cities and stabbed and slashed and screamed and bludgeoned and gnashed and…emancipated.

We did what we wanted to do.

They told us we couldn’t have a drink anymore. So we made criminal sociopaths captains of industry. We build underground bars and turned regular folks into booze runners. A whole sport (NASCAR) developed from the profession of running illegal booze through the backroads of the south.

People died as a result of “Bathtub Gin.” Livers got pickled. Homes got destroyed. Untouchables got shot. Tommy guns lit up Chicago. Stills got made. Hooch got passed around. And alcoholism flourished.

To this day, alcohol still kills tens of thousands of people a year, from drunk drivers to health issues exacerbated by liver malfunctions. But we still show beer and whiskey commercials at the Superbowl.

We did what we wanted to do.

They told us not to have sex before we got married. So, we flipped them off and started a sexual revolution.

Chlamydia, HPV, Herpes and, eventually HIV, ran wild among the population. Single motherhood went from an anomaly to a normalcy. And while I’m not condemning single motherhood – some single mothers do just fine – the breakdown of the nuclear family was a result. And the result of that – homes without fathers, deadbeat dads, etc – has been catastrophic in so many measurable ways, they are almost too numerous to name. But we didn’t let no squares tell us how to live or what we could and couldn’t do with our bodies.

We did what we wanted to do.

They told us not to do drugs. And we laughed at them when they told us to “just say no.” We did the opposite. We said yes. We turned on and tuned out. We smoked and popped and dropped and snorted and sniffed and shot-up and tweaked and mixed and chased and flew and crashed.

And our addiction rates skyrocketed. We raised children trapped in generational cycles of slavery to substance. We had to create entire industries and professions dedicated to rehabilitation and recovery from all the chemicals the buttoned down people told us were dangerous in the first place. But we destroyed our bodies and minds on our terms.

We did what we wanted to do.

They told us to turn it down, so we turned it up and stacked Marshall amps on top of each other so we could turn it up more.

We did what we wanted to do.

They told us to disburse, so we all went to Woodstock and played in the mud for a week.

We did what we wanted to do.

America is rock and roll. We rebel. It’s how we started. And it’s still how we think.

If you want to watch an American drive a hundred miles and hour, tell him (or her) he (or she) can only go ninety.

America is the unruly 14-year-old boy, who refuses to be told when he can go to bed and what he can or can’t eat. Rebellion is the ethos of our national consciousness. It always has been.

America is Evel Knievel, Elvis Presley, Rosa Parks, Kanye West, Amelia Earhart and Muhammad Ali.

When the majority is telling us to do something, it might be one hundred percent the right thing to do. But it’s not the American spirit. You will see the American spirit in the person refusing to comply. That person may be wrong on every level. They may be upside down on facts and have no truth on their side, but something inside them is telling them to resist.

Once Rock and Roll went to rehab, cleaned up its act and opened a Hall of Fame, it stopped being Rock and Roll. Now it’s just family entertainment. Nobody is going to burn a guitar on stage at the Grammys. The fire codes won’t allow it. Just stand o your mark and exit where you’re told. Basically just follow the girl with the statues. She knows the way.

“I live in America and I have no choices,” was the phrase my wife so casually quipped the other day, regarding our current state of being in this country. I had to shake my head in agreement.

Then, I quickly flipped on the news and saw a bunch of people defying stay-at-home orders and protesting outside a capital building somewhere. And I wasn’t sure if I agreed with what they were doing or not. I wasn’t sure if it was safe. I felt this little sting of fear. But then I smiled. Because I knew that the spirit of America – and Rock and Roll – was alive and in tact somewhere.

The spirit of this country not only lifts and elevates, but it destroys and decimates. There is a down side to us. And if you don’t understand that you – yes you, reading this right now (if you’re an American) – are a product of that in some way, you really don’t get the idea of America.

We touch the hot stove. We walk into the creepy building. We strap into the rocket ship.

How long is this virus, and this quarantine, going to last? There are probably going to be waves of the virus. So it’s going to be here a while. Are we going to beat it without losing a lot of lives? Maybe not.

Are people going to do some stupid things that make it worse than it has to be? Oh yes. That is a one-hundred percent certainty.

But someone, somewhere, is going to have to walk outside first and refuse to do what the powers that be tell them to do.

I’m not saying that’s the right move. That move might get them killed. But it is downright American.

R

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