MAMMY …

I think she loved me. Although, I still wonder sometimes. She smiled at me occasionally and put her hand on my face, once.

All I know is she terrified me. She terrified all of us. Not one person in our family ever thought of her as an equal. No …she was superior to us. And we all knew it. We never spoke to her in anger and definitely never in a sarcastic tone. We listened intently to her. And we would’ve never thought of showing her any disrespect in any way. She was powerful and commanding and downright mean, sometimes. I would love to follow that sentence with, “but she was lovely and sweet and graceful and soft-hearted.” But that wouldn’t be a complete picture. She was kind and generous and loving …in her own way.  And she believed in the transformative love of Jesus. But she was a rock-ribbed badass who took zero crap and who would simply NOT allow weakness in her presence. To this moment, I’ve never met any man, anywhere, tougher than her.

I’m referring to my great grandmother. We called her “Mammy.”

When Mammy was born, women still weren’t allowed to vote. She would occasionally recall seeing a car for the first time. She was a rural girl from the American south, caught in a time less kind and less forgiving. She ran away from home at age twelve and married a twenty-seven-year old moonshine runner (I know …gross. But hey …it’s how I got here). Three years later (at age fifteen) she gave birth to my grandmother. A year after that, her husband (my great grandfather) was shot in the ass by federal agents. He died of gangrene.

By seventeen, she was a widow and single mother. Then, she married a railroad man at age nineteen. They say he used to get drunk and beat her. But, as the story goes, she tied him to the bed one night (with bed sheets) and beat him senseless with a baseball bat. She beat him until he swore he would never touch her in anger again. And, apparently, once his broken bones healed …he never did.

That story was supposed to always remain a family secret. But pretty much all the people who would be affected by it …are now dead.

The repentant beater died a few years later and left her with two more daughters. One of them was crippled by polio and couldn’t walk. She was only twenty five. Then, she married yet again. And on her wedding day, her new (and third) husband introduced her to his SIX children, none of which she had any idea existed until that moment. Still, she took all of them in and raised them as her own. Soon, she bore another son. Then …that husband died.

By the time I met her, she was on husband number four. I remember him as a kind man who kept quiet and did pretty much whatever she told him to do. But several years after I came on the scene, he died as well.

Mammy raised ten children and buried four husbands. She travelled the world and started over forty churches in Tennessee alone. She could rough in plumbing all the way from the street, do electrical work, hang sheet rock, play the piano and preach a sermon. I never – in the sixteen years I knew her – ever saw her back up to let a man do something for her. I did two cross-country tours with her in tow. She carried her own bags and moved as quickly as any of us. She was the first one up and the last one down. She intimidated me every waking minute of every day. And my whole goal in life became to get as strong as her, physically, mentally and spiritually.

As of this posting …I still haven’t gotten close.

Sometimes I think we’re further down the road than we are. I often discount racism because I wasn’t really raised around it in my immediate family. And so it’s always dumbfounding to me that there are still racists out there. I look at this #metoo movement and often wonder why more women haven’t kicked more guys in the nuts …but I digress.

I hear actresses give speeches, telling young girls how they can be whatever they want to be and how they are JUST as powerful as men, and I think to myself, “don’t we already know this?!?! Haven’t we known this for decades?”

But then I remember …I guess not everyone had a “Mammy” in their life.

Mammy was the embodiment of what a truly powerful person (not just woman) is. I fear what would have happened to a Harvey Weinstein had he tried any funny business with her in the room. She wouldn’t have been “one of his victims.” I can promise you that.

Mammy was a primary school dropout. She was a bit unrefined and definitely rough around the edges. But she was constantly trying. After her death, I remember going to her house while they were moving out her belongings. I walked over to a book shelf and thumbed through several books she had dog eared. One was on the anatomy of hummingbirds. She’d written notes in the margins. One was on the mechanics of the internal combustion engine. She’d made notes in that one too. She was still learning; still empowering herself; still refusing to allow her circumstances to dictate what she could and couldn’t do.

Through her example, Mammy taught me a few things: if I have to give you power …you don’t really have any. If I have to lift you into leadership …you’re not really a leader. If you have to keep telling me to respect you …you’re not commanding it by how you conduct yourself.

I don’t endorse everything my great grandmother did in her young life. I think her older, ordained minister self would tell young women to not get married at twelve and refrain from assault with a baseball bat. But the thing is this: she was thrown into a violent world and yet she didn’t allow it to break her. She refused to be a victim of anything. She didn’t attend marches or burn bras and she would’ve laughed at the idea of hashtags and “a sisterhood.” It would’ve been foreign to her to trust other women just because they were women.

Mammy had her own power, her own strength, and her own wisdom. She didn’t need inspirational speeches to motivate her. She didn’t stand against “patriarchy” or make symbolic gestures and she wasn’t appalled by and aghast at lecherous men. She just put them in their place and moved on. She definitely didn’t talk about abstract concepts like “the gender gap” all the time or how the deck was stacked against her (even though when she walked the earth, it actually was). She didn’t constantly go on and on to men about how she could do whatever they could do. She. Just. Did. It.

Maybe instead of #metoo we need #mammy.

That would be a movement we could all get behind.

 

R

OUT OF THE PARK …

“It’s like a hot coal inside my brain. And if I don’t get it out, I will go crazy.”

That’s how I described my obsession with certain projects, to a friend of mine recently. He had originally asked me how and why I write. What was the impetus? What was the reason? Why did I keep doing it? The hot coal analogy was the most accurate one I could come up with. And I think a lot of writers can probably relate.

I started writing poetry at around seven or eight. I’ve got some books of it, somewhere. Every other decade or so (when we clean out the storage room) I read back over my scribblings and wonder how and why my nine or ten or eleven-year-old self was so concerned about so many heavy things. But this – a writer – is who I was supposed to be.

I never said, “I want to be a writer.” I just always wrote. I never “decided” to do any of what I do. I just always did it. That’s what I always tell people who ask me how to start doing this or that. If you want to be a singer …sing. If you want to be an actor …act. If you want to be a writer …write. It has never been more complicated than that. The complication only comes when you start trying to turn those things into money and a living and a mortgage payment and so on.

But usually your gift (and everybody has one) shows itself throughout your life. Often, early on. The meaning of life, in my view, is to simply figure out what that gift is and act on it with all of your spiritual force. Sometimes, it’s about accepting your gift for what it is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I was a great athlete or wished I had wealth building skills. Being what I am is not all it’s cracked up to be. And now that I’m older, I can name several things I would rather have steered my younger self into rather than chasing down words and music.

But I keep getting ideas. So I keep running with them. And here’s why …

My grandmother recently passed away, at 92. But she was a huge influence on me and imprinted a lot of my early development. She told me several things I will never forget. But the main thing she always told me, that continually haunts me, was this: “if you are given an idea, you are also given the responsibility for that idea. It’s yours. And you are its care taker. YOU – not someone else – have to get it to the finish line.”

That thought spurs me on when I don’t feel like being spurred on. And, in a weird way, comforts me when I’m questioning myself. There are so many times when I think to myself, “surely someone else has thought about this or has had this idea.” But then I remember what my grandmother said and I don’t worry about that. I just continue on.

And there are also many times when some idea or project of mine doesn’t make any business sense. That happens A LOT. But my grandmother’s admonition still applies. And I press on. Because I always believe that if something is stirring me about a certain song or record or book or piece of art, then it will stir someone else. If it doesn’t stir me, it probably won’t stir you either. And so I lean into the the things that are burning me up inside …like that hot coal. And I feel responsible for them.

I recently finished my latest offering, One Silent Night. It’s a Christmas story that is full of songs and performances. And just as I was about to sing the last song and send it all off to my mixer, my studio computer failed and ultimately self-destructed. It was old and on its last legs for some time. Now, it is digital heaven somewhere, surrounded by angels of ones and zeros and streets of code. But it left me in a difficult situation.

A dear friend brought a computer over for me to finish on. But we had some issues with licenses of certain plug-ins and we had a headphone mystery we couldn’t solve, etc. These are all bugs that are usually worked out with time and attention. But Thanksgiving shut both of those concepts down. And I was bumping my head on a dead line. So, I sang the last song of the project – the TITLE cut, in fact – without being able to hear myself at all. I just took one “can” off and listened myself in the room, while listening to the piano track in one ear phone. And there was no vocal tuning plug-in available. So, I actually had to sing in tune (what a concept).

Honestly, it was one of the most difficult vocal performances of my life. But I remembered what my grandmother told me. And I pressed on. And I sang it until I got it right. And when it was all said and done …it’s one of my favorite performances. Because I had to focus on what I was doing and I couldn’t rely on fixes after the fact. It was old school. The way we used to make records when I was a kid. I also felt that I was being responsible to the idea I was given. I hope my grandmother was proud.

I hear people talk about things they would like to do, all the time. “Wouldn’t it be cool if …” is a common start to millions of conversations. But how many things actually get finished? How many ideas fall by the way side? How many life changers are gathering dust, in the bottom of a junk drawer?

The doing of something brings power to it. You learn things and discover things and re-work things based on your discoveries. You get somewhere. Whatever idea you’ve been thinking about doing, do it …now. Whatever action you’ve been planning on taking, take it …now. It’s yours. You are responsible to get it over the finish line.

It’s going to be harder than you think and more frustrating than you can imagine. It’s going to require more of you than you want to give. It might cause you to make some new friends and lose some old ones. It might cost more money than was budgeted. It might cost more time than you can spare. But it will get you closer to who you’re supposed to actually be. It might take you to the edge of yourself. But it’s yours to curate and cultivate.

I love the movie The Natural. Mainly because it’s not about baseball. It’s about a man being who he was born to be …if for only one moment. Through all of his missteps and mistakes and meanderings, he finally comes back to himself and his purpose. And in one, last, righteous act, he’s able to use his thunderous bat to rain down sparks and thunderbolts of justice upon the corrupt. He reverses fortunes and curses and sets the world right …by being his true self.

If you keep pressing on and following that little voice – the one telling you you’re on the right path, you never know where it might lead. If the time is right and the stage is set and everything is looking like it’s about to fall apart, you might just step into the pitch and swing …and shoot out the lights.

R

UNTIL YOU LOSE IT ALL …

I ran thirteen miles on my daughter’s first birthday. I was training for the Chicago marathon and felt extra good that day. I had a great endorphin high during her birthday party. I was relaxed and calm and thin and healthy. And though I had suffered a few minor career set-backs since bringing her home, I was certain everything was going to be fine. I had a lot of options. I had a lot of friends. I had a lot of money.

But soon, because of that very same precious little one-year-old, I had to stop training for the marathon. She had not slept more than two hours at a time, for four months. And I was getting so little sleep, I would actually throw up if I tried to run. Very soon after that first birthday, most of my money was wiped out as well. It only took a few months. Multiple ambulance rides (at around ten grand a pop) and several emergency procedures at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital can clean you out pretty quickly.

All those options I thought I had? They dried up as well. Three or four serious missteps by my label and my management and ME, was all it took. And the friends? Well, let’s just put it this way: friends are plentiful when the money and wine is flowing and there’s laughter and success all around. Those are the times I love, too. I don’t blame people for not wanting to be around serious trouble. I wouldn’t want to be either.

And so, my entire life’s foundation came apart, piece by piece, year by year, dollar by dollar …day by day. When you go from driving a Mercedes, having meetings about where to invest your money and how to “expand your brand” to pawning instruments and rolling quarters to feed your family, and you’ve lost your swagger, and you’ve lost your ability to earn a living, and you’ve lost your looks, and you’ve lost your health, and you’ve pretty nearly lost your mind …only THEN can you finally start becoming who you are actually supposed to be.

I’ve often said losing everything doesn’t only reveal WHO you really are …it reveals WHY you really are. At least it did for me.

In every person’s novel, if there isn’t a chapter called, “I lost Everything I had and Questioned Everything I’d Ever Believed,” then they’re not close to being finished with it. Because if you haven’t yet lost everything in your life, you may not be risking enough. If the answers to your questions are simple and the fixes to your problems are easy, you may not be doing it right.

My favorite Jesus story is the one about the rich young ruler. I love it because I think it’s the most misrepresented and misunderstood Jesus story of all. It also may be the most important. For those who aren’t preacher’s kids and who haven’t heard bible lessons since they were old enough to gum baby food, it goes like this:

A rich young ruler came to Jesus for some advice. “Rich young ruler” in today’s terms would be “trust fund baby” or “one per-center.” This kid was a good kid. He’d kept all the commandments all his life. He did all the good stuff. He hadn’t missed a beat when it came to “doing the right thing.” So, just to keep it real and keep himself “woke” (as the kids say), he went to this Jesus dude and asked what MORE he could do to keep his game tight. Jesus didn’t miss a beat. He just said, “sell all your stuff and give it to the poor …bye.”

The kid couldn’t do it. It was just too much. He wasn’t ready.

A lot of people make this story about “the poor” and how the rich have a responsibility to give all their stuff away and social justice and all of that. And I’m sure those temporal things certainly play a part in Jesus answer. But being rich and being poor are surface, physical things. They’re not “soul” things. I think Jesus was a little deeper than that. I think Jesus was saying to this kid, “you can’t buy your way out of getting your hands dirty, bro. YOU have to do it. Not someone else.” He was giving him a chance to find his real, true self. He was opening a corridor that would’ve been life changing. This (to me) was about saying, “until YOU LOSE IT ALL, you can’t find out who you really are. And until THEN, you can’t really make a difference in the world.”

And that translates further of me. I have to love and forgive and give back …not comment on ethers who don’t. Rather than trying to make everybody else conform to something …it’s on ME to constantly check my own self.

I lost everything, not by choice but by circumstance. So believe me, I’m not telling everyone to try and become poor. I’m not making a value judgement on how much money or stuff you have. I don’t think any of those things are, in and of themselves, evil. I’m also not telling you to give everything away. But I am advocating risking a lot for love’s sake. I am encouraging you to give more than you think you can.

I had lunch with a friend some time ago. They talked about how unhappy they were, even though they had plenty of money and security and success. I asked a simple question: “where are you giving back?” And that one question seemed to halt them. To me …THAT’S the point of it all.

And that leads me back to my daughter’s first birthday …

That little one-year-old mystery just turned fifteen this past week. She didn’t get better. Chances are, she never will. And that’s okay. In the fourteen years since that first birthday, I’ve learned a lot about Angelman Syndrome and special needs care giving. I’ve learned a lot about PTSD in parents of special needs children. And THAT has led me into PTSD work with veterans and others. I’ve learned what music is REALLY about. I’ve learned a whole lot about not judging people at first glance. And listening for some deeper issue in their lives, rather than making snap judgements on their choices. And I’ve learned to try and help instead of just being a spectator.

ALL of that was born of loss …not gain. I didn’t learn to love by winning. I learned by losing. Not that we shouldn’t try to win – of course we should. I’m cheering you on. And I’m always striving to win, myself. But there is a door you can walk through that will change you forever. And it involves finding yourself without all the things you thought were stable …to hold onto.

What I learned from losing it all is that terrible things are going to happen …and it’s okay. We will all come face-to-face with our greatest fears …and it’s okay. Everyone we love is going to die …and it’s okay. The world is not going to turn the way we want it to …and it’s okay. People will fail us and disappoint us and surprise us with their weakness …and it’s okay. We’re going to grieve great losses …and it’s okay.

My baby still has Angelman Syndrome …and it’s okay. I lost everything and then re-gained it all and then some. But even if I hadn’t, it would still be okay.

You see, once you lose everything you think you want …you can finally find what you actually need. And THEN, even when everything is not going to be okay …it’s okay.

R

GENERATION GAPS …

She’s my last remaining connection to the “Greatest Generation” and she lays dying in a hospital bed. She can barely hear me and doesn’t really respond when I talk to her. So, whatever conversations I was ever going to have with her …have been had.

My grandmother won’t survive the month. She’s 92. And once she’s gone, I won’t know anyone left who lived through the depression or World War II. People who lived through WWII never called it that. When you’re in the middle of something you don’t call it what pointy-headed history buffs label it in books, years later. My grandparents always just called it, “the war.” My son will never hear someone talk about it like that. He’ll never have a meaningful conversation with anyone who remembers it first hand. They’re all about gone.

As I watch my grandmother slip away, I think a lot about her generation. I’ve been binge watching every made-for-TV-mini-series and documentary I can find, lately. I’m missing something about the stability of having those folks around. I’m craving something about them I can’t quite put my finger on.

My mother and father’s generation went to the moon and invented rock and roll. And I love their generation for a lot of things, too. They soared higher, raced faster and reached farther than any generation before them. But let’s be honest …they can be a little unstable at times. And they are prone to wild swings in belief. They developed plastic – wrapped everything in it – then told us to stop using it or we’d kill the planet. They got free love …we got AIDS. They invented the credit card …and left us a pile of debt.

I suppose with great accomplishment comes a downside.

Our generation didn’t win a great war OR go to the moon. No, we took the most advanced technological achievements mankind has ever seen and used them to argue about politics, post cat videos, and send pictures of our penises to people. I’ve been wondering where it all went wrong. When did the adults leave the room?

Don’t get me wrong. I have some mixed feelings about the Greatest Generation. If you think about it globally, only about half of them were really great. The other half actually STARTED World War II. You wouldn’t really put old Japanese or German people in the same group as the American, British and French people we call “the greatest.” And that drags our politically correct, “safe-space” notions to the edge of our comfort zone. We don’t like the idea of “enemies” any more. But guess what? That was reality in the 1940s.

I’ve been examining what made that generation “great.” Was it it their toughness? Their ability to endure hardship? Their absolute refusal to give up? Their unmatched bravery? Honestly, I don’t believe it was any of those things. I know Iraq war vets who are as brave as anyone this country has ever produced. I sang at a soldier’s homecoming once, who had volunteered for NINE (that’s 9) tours in Iraq. On his ninth tour, both his legs got blown off by an IED. And when they found him he was still dragging himself toward his men to help them …without legs. That’s as brave and as tough as anything I’ve ever heard about, in any war, anywhere.

Lots of people have endured horrible things. But generationally, what was it that made these people special?

I was watching a documentary on WWII and something jumped out at me. In one of the South Pacific sea battles, there were over two hundred (200) American war ships engaged …in one single battle. I sat up in my chair and realized THAT was the answer. It was right there.

These days you wouldn’t be able to get two hundred PEOPLE to agree on anything, much less two hundred WAR SHIPS full of people. And yet there they were, in ONE battle, in ONE theater of war, among thousands of other battles, being fought in concert and striving toward the same goal. ONE voice. ONE purpose. ONE focus. That’s spectacular.

When my grandmother was born, women had only been allowed to vote for 5 years. We were 40 years away from the civil rights movement. Homosexuality was still considered (by the medical profession) to be a mental disorder. Slavery had only been abolished for 62 years. No one had yet flown from New York to Paris. And the possession of wine was illegal.

Yet the people of that time rose up in unison to defend an unfulfilled idea and a flawed republic. Why? Why would a Tuskegee airman go wheels up at sun up for a country that wouldn’t allow him to eat at the same lunch counter as his white counterpart? Why would a Navaho wind talker share his ancient secret with a nation that had defaulted on every treaty it had ever signed with his ancestors? How could a Japanese American solider become “gung ho” for a president who was imprisoning his relatives in an interment camp? How did these disparate, victimized groups get beyond their own grievances long enough to fight alongside their oppressors? Somehow, these people knew something about the promise of America that we seem to have forgotten.

Maybe they didn’t see America as an injustice that was DONE to them. Maybe they saw it, rather, as an idea they could affect by participation. Somehow, they ALL knew they were on the side of the good guys …even if the good guys were still pretty messed up.

To me, THAT’S the greatness of the greatest generation. Their ability to see the greater good and their willingness to fight for it.

There are a lot of things I love about now. I love that individuals are more free to be themselves than ever before. I love that everyone has a voice and a way to express it. But I do miss the idea of common experience and shared belief. Today, we can’t even agree that our president is duly elected. We can’t agree on common facts. We don’t even know if the news being read to us is true or made up. In that kind of environment, could we defeat a modern-day Hitler? We would first have to agree that WE aren’t him. Then we’d have to agree that he must actually be defeated. Then, we’d ALL have to take some part – some responsibility – in destroying him. I fear public sentiment would turn against the struggle and moral equivalence would crowd out reason before the job could get done. Maybe even before it could get underway.

When my grandmother dies, a lot of memories and ideas and beliefs and ways of doing things will die with her. And maybe some of them should. But I’m gonna miss people who got dressed up for church. I’m gonna miss people who didn’t feel the need to constantly tell and show the world every single thing they were thinking or feeling …or eating. I miss the idea of lifetime commitment. I miss dignity. I miss grace. I miss humility. I miss understatement. I even (in a weird way) miss consequences. I love undo buttons. But life sure got taken a lot more seriously before they were there.

My grandmother has travelled a long, wonderful journey. And while I will grieve her passing, I know it’s time. She has lived well and she will die well, surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, probably in her sleep …peacefully.

I will miss her. But I think I will miss her generation, and the example they set, just as much.

R

THIS HITLER NONSENSE …

I am not an expert on Hitler. But my father is.

He toured post-war Germany extensively in 1957 and ’58 as a child performer. And he often recounts the stories. He befriended  teenage Lebensborn children (if you don’t know what Lebensborn children are …well …before you post anymore about Hitler you should read about them). He visited an SS widow and got a peek at her husband’s uniform and Luger (that he’d committed suicide with), she had stored in an old trunk, in the attic.

These and other intense experiences in Germany sent my father on a life-long quest to understand this sociopath (Hitler) and the country that allowed itself to be dragged into one of the darkest chapters in world history. My dad is a Hitler/Nazi buff the way Indiana Jones’ dad was a Holy Grail buff.

As the son of a man with this hobby (one might call obsession) I learned a lot about Hitler and the Third Reich just by osmosis, growing up. My father would weave WWII stories into his sermons. He would talk about new books he was reading on the subject. When I was nine-years-old I bought him a book on the battle of Stalingrad for Christmas. Not a tie or a pair of socks. A book …on the battle …of Stalingrad. Yeah …it was kinda like that.

The thing my father and I have often discussed, through the years, is the eye-rolling art of comparing American presidents to Hitler. It is such an absurdity we find it amusing …and frustrating. It’s often just a punch line. Like the Soup Nazi wasn’t really a Nazi. He was just mean. The Nazi part made it funny. You know …over-the-top. Like “grammar Nazi” or “spelling Nazi.” Nobody is really a “Nazi.” It’s our representation of something we consider jarring, strident, intractable and inhumane.

But the truth about Nazis isn’t funny at all. It’s bloody and horrible and gut churning. And it involves machine guns and butchery and inhumanity on a scale that takes your breath away. Nobody is really a “soup Nazi” …unless they served it in a concentration camp.

The idea of comparing an American president to Hitler is just as absurd …from any angle, in any context. The American system ITSELF pretty much prevents “Hitlers” from showing up. And America ITSELF is anathema to what Hitler was trying to create. An American ANYTHING or ANYONE is hard to fit into the Hitler model. It’s just not apples to apples.

There are some fundamental things to understand about Hitler:

1. He took over a small, failing state that didn’t have separated government, enumerated powers or checks and balances. It’s difficult for a guy like that to show up here, in this system.

2. His entire political career was violent from the beginning. There was always death in his wake. He didn’t just suddenly “turn” violent. It was a pattern …as it always is with sociopaths. This is THE most important thing to watch; the violence. I always keep an eye on who is rioting …breaking things …throwing rocks and bombs. It doesn’t make them Nazis. But it signals how far they’re willing to go.

3. He entered office with his own personal military construct (the SS) with allegiance to him ONLY. They would carry out things the regular military would never carry out: i.e. the murder of private citizens and political opponents. Nothing like that exists or COULD exist in America. We simply wouldn’t allow it.

4. He didn’t start out just killing Jews. He started out euthanizing people with special needs …for the betterment of the care-givers’ lives. (You can decide which side of the aisle favors the extermination of “inconvenient” people).

5. He disarmed the population, then nationalized healthcare and education. (Two-out-of-three of those are Bernie Sanders moves …But, guess what? Bernie isn’t Hitler either …not by a long shot)

The list goes on and on. But the deal is this:

Hitler was a real life murdering sociopath. He wasn’t just a charismatic speaker who incrementally fell into bad behavior. He wasn’t just a racist corrupted by unfettered power. In other words, you or I probably couldn’t end up being Hitler. A garden variety KKK leader probably couldn’t end up being Hitler either …or a community organizer …or a New York real-estate tycoon. It’s not that easy or simple.

NONE of our American presidents have ever been Hitler. But the people of Germany certainly thought FDR was a murdering dictator when B-17s started dropping bombs on them. This is why you have to KNOW what you believe and why you believe it. Good guys and bad guys are often in the eyes of the beholder. And they often look similar in the fog of conflict. I would imagine Japanese Americans in internment camps wondered if their president was Hitler-like. Nope. Horrible act …but not close to Hitler.

To that point, ironically, the American president who could’ve actually been likened to Hitler (before Hitler) in some of his methods was …wait for it …Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln broke more constitutional law than any other president in U.S history. He imprisoned political opponents without due process. He suspended habeas corpus. He was personally responsible for the deaths of six hundred thousand people.

He invaded countries that had declared their own sovereignty and forced them back into a union they didn’t want to be a part of. He unilaterally annexed Nevada, without 60 thousand residents, (a pre-requisite for becoming a state) in order to carry it and win the 1864 election. In other words, he pretty much rigged it.

And when he was killed by one of the highest paid and most famous actors of his day (ironic …don’t you think?), the actor screamed “thus always to tyrants!” (in latin) because the man thought he was being a patriot for ridding the world of a dictator. But he wasn’t …and he didn’t.

Lincoln did all of those things to end and win the Civil War. And today we love him for it …as we should. Because in the end, his vision was right …even though his methods were suspect in the heat of the moment.

When people think they’re seeing a Hitler, they might actually – sometimes – be seeing something closer to a Churchill. Before WWII everyone thought Churchill was the big bad wolf. His own people hated him and thought he was a Hitler type character (again …pre-Hilter). But he just kept saying, “guys …I’m telling you. This Hitler guy is the real problem. Not me.” And he turned out to be right. There’s a difference between an abrasive leader who makes you uncomfortable …and a despot.

Now, people are comparing Donald Trump to Hitler. And the countdown has officially begun, to …well …I don’t know …but something really bad. I get that someone who is combative with the press and who wants to vet refugees and shut down open immigration fits the bill some are always looking for when it comes to finally getting their “Hitler” villain.

But if you study enough about it, you realize the guy vetting and banning refugees is probably not Hitler …the guy CREATING refugees probably is.

If we keep looking for Hitler in every United States president we disagree with, we’re not going to recognize the real one when he actually shows up …in a different country.

R