THE DAY OF …

www.patreon.com/posts/35035723

So, on my Patreon site I’ve been sharing a day-to-day account of what was happening 17 years ago this week, leading up to the release of my CD, American Dreams.

Most of you know me as a blogger and social commentator. But all of that started as a result of some epic twists and turns in my music career.

Tonight, on Facebook Live, I’ll be playing the entire American Dreams record – for the first time since its release on March 18th, 2003.

If you find this blog helpful in any way and you would like to learn more about my “other” jobs, consider becoming a Patreon subscriber.

If every one of my blog followers became Patreon subscribers, at just the $3 a month tier, I could take care of my family solely on that, without the 6 or 7 other things I do to keep the ship afloat.

I’m not a fan of asking anyone for money, but I have a feeling those of us who “create content” are going to be leaning harder into our online profiles now more than ever.

So, if you like what you get from this blog, once a week, maybe you’ll like it even more once a day.

The link to today’s blog is above.

The $3 tier gets you the daily blog and all the behind the scenes stuff.

The $5 tier gets you access to the 5 books I’ve written.

The $10 tier gets you access to everything I put out: music, books, blogs, everything.

If you’re on Facebook, stop by and say hi tonight. It’ll be good to see you whether you become a subscriber or not.

Thank you all!

R

THE ROCK STAR AND THE ZONE …

Thursday night I will be performing my entire American Dreams record on Facebook live, 17 years (to the day) after its release, in 2003. The last time I performed the entire record was that night at the listening party.

For those of you who have read my book, Angels & Idols, you will be familiar with this. For those who haven’t, this might be a facet of my career you have no idea about. But trust me, that record (and that week) is why I’m here right now, talking to you.

The week that record came out, a deadly virus was circulating through China and the CDC warned my wife and I not to fly there (we were scheduled to go on the 21st). So, a lot of what’s happening now is eerily similar to the conditions in the world, that week.

So, I thought I would post a blog every day sharing different perspectives on what that week was like, leading up to the listening party.

Maybe it will help a little, to take your mind off today and remember that sometimes things work out in the most wonderful of ways …

Official Post from Regie Hamm: So, this week I’m going to be performing the entire American Dreams record on Facebook live, exactly 17 years after the original listening/release party. The recent events in our world have me reeling back to those days. THIS time 17 years ago, SARS was in full swing i…

THE ENEMY WITHIN …

I really hate being right all the time. Imagine how annoying it is for my wife.

I wrote, a couple of weeks ago, that once the first patient with Coronavirus died in the U.S, the marches and protests would start. Well, they have started – not out in public, with signs and slogans, but online and in the media.

The blame has begun.

The government didn’t provide enough virus tests, quickly enough (I actually agree with that). They didn’t restrict travel quickly enough. They haven’t given us enough information, quickly enough. The president called it all a hoax (which he actually didn’t do, if you understand the context of his statement. But he DID use the word hoax in a sentence and that’s probably not a good idea when talking about illness, publicly  – oh, and you’re the president).

Then some are freaked out by the president wearing a MAGA hat to one of the press conferences (which I saw but thought nothing of. He was clearly dressed casual and probably didn’t have the extra hour needed to get his hair in that iconic state of being. I’ve been there. That’s when it’s hat time. And I’m sure he only has MAGA hats in his closet. As a fellow dude, that was my thought, anyway).

The point is, we get to question our government and criticize it when we feel it isn’t serving US as well as we would like. This is a fundamentally great thing. It’s a fundamentally essential thing. And this nuanced little turn, where the state answers to the people – NOT the other way around – is going to ultimately save lives and keep people safer in the long run.

The most interesting thing about the varied responses to the Coronavirus panic (and it is a panic) is how people have directed their anger. We find it easy and satisfying to direct our anger toward the President of the United States. Fair enough. If you run for that office, you get the arrows that come with it. But almost no one wants to direct their anger toward the actual culprit – The leaders and system of Communist China who didn’t (or couldn’t) address this quickly enough to stem it from becoming what it has become.

Let me be as crystal clear as a human being can be: there is nothing about the Chinese people or the Asian race at fault, here. My statement is NOT about the people or their culture or their race or their value as humans. But a SYSTEM that doesn’t allow for criticism of its leadership and doesn’t force any feet to any fire, BY the people, is a great place for a crisis to bloom.

Viruses are not racists. They don’t check the physical features of someone or what country they reside in, before entering. They’re just looking for healthy hosts. Kind of the way we think of planets. Could we live there? That’s all a virus asks.

And this virus is finding hosts all over the world. And people are freaking out to discover that they are prime real estate. And they want their governments to do something about. And every government on planet earth is working on it in some form or fashion. Yes, even Donald Trump and his administration is working on it.

As of this writing, the United States has fewer cases and fewer deaths than most of the other infected industrialized countries. Of course that could change in a few weeks. But here’s a fact that cannot be overlooked or washed over: the top down, command-and-control, state-runs-everything system in China basically failed the entire world. Obviously NOT because they are Chinese (I’m actually pissed off that I have to keep qualifying this. But trust me…I DO. Oh yes – I do – and it still won’t matter. I’ll still be called a racist). Their system failure should be the biggest takeaway from this current crisis.

But the takeaways have been numerous. Here are four others that have stood out to me:

I’ve sort of always known this first one, but I’ve learned it all over again …

1. All the happy talk about compassion and inclusion goes out the window when someone thinks their life is in danger.

I mean, we here at The View love you, but get the hell out of our studio until this thing is over and we can all go back to talking in terms of “theory” again. Yes, we here at Good Morning America believe in all of you. You’re wonderful people. Now, DO. NOT. TOUCH. US. Buh, bye. We here at the NCAA and NBA love all the fans and couldn’t do it without them, and we’ll wave at them through the TV screens. Don’t come here.

People love to pronounce themselves as righteous saviors until they’re facing danger. Then they (most of the time) do what survival dictates. Jesus doesn’t. That’s why I still love and follow him. But I digress …

It’s almost as if all those people who raised their hands and said, “Hey, should we maybe vet people who come into this country? Should we maybe have a border and not just allow entire caravans of people we don’t know anything about, to walk across willy nilly?” don’t look as xenophobic and racist as they once did. It’s almost as if they were just thinking about what could happen in a situation EXACTLY like this one. Who knows …

As far as this second one goes, I’m not an “anti-vaxxer” (per se – although I have nagging questions) but this new virus has shown us all that …

2. No matter what you get inoculated for, there’s always the thing you don’t see coming lurking in the distance…and it’s usually the thing you have to worry about the most.

Viruses mutate and weaken. That flu bug that killed all those people during WWI is still around, apparently. But it’s not what it used to be. It’s the new virus we can’t seem to stay ahead of – not last year’s.

And that means that we have to, at some point, embrace the uncertainty of it all and realize that we cannot protect ourselves from everything, no matter how hard we try. We should try. But we ultimately won’t. And that’s okay. It has to be okay or we will go insane…which is kinda what we’re doing now. Anyway …

This next one is one of the most impotent ones …

3. Our very way of life is more nuanced and delicate than we think.

This is why large, sweeping statements for “change” aren’t as easy to do as they are to say. And sometimes, maybe they shouldn’t even be tried.

It just rolls off the tongue to say, “Let’s get off all fossil fuels.” You could even make up a rhymy little chant to it: “No. More. Fossil. Fuels – Go. Back. To. Plows. And. Mules!” (what can I say – I love to rhyme things).

It’s easy to talk about how we should all “reduce” our consumption or travel, or how we should limit this or cut back on that. Well, we are watching what happens when we do just that, in real time.

And what happens? In just a matter of weeks, markets crash, businesses go under, wages dip, layoffs happen, concerts vanish, sporting events wane. And what happens when all of that happens? Dreams die. The human spirit contracts and doesn’t move forward. People start reacting out of fear instead of love.

Eliminating something or changing something or restricting something in theory is very different from actually doing it in reality. Once we all run out of toilet paper, we will be begging those diesel powered, environment killing, trucks to deliver it to us once again. And we will cheer their arrival. Then we will go back to talking about how we need to get rid of them to protect the planet. It’s kinda what we do.

Finally, this is the last and biggest takeaway that continues to baffle me the most …      

4. We continue to hear what we want to hear and spin it the way we need to spin it to fit into our own belief system, EVEN in a global crisis.

This makes me realize that we are probably not actually even wired for unity.

Two people can (and will) listen to the EXACT same press conference and get two completely different things out of it. And the strange but logical conclusion of this is how we project it all back on social media.

All of the little sub texts are in full force: if you declare that this is all panic mongering, you are clearly a supporter of the president and an enemy of the media. If you implore us all to take this seriously and stop posting snarky comments about something so dire, you are clearly in the MAGA resistance and on the side of “science.” And the sides and teams are all so obvious, that it has stopped even being entertaining.

The push-and-pull of the panicked versus the cavalier isn’t really serving any of us very well and it’s just adding to the chaos.

The bottom line is this: unseen forces are unseen until they are seen. I was never sure what George W. Bush could’ve actually done to stop 9/11. No one ever saw it coming. Not like that. I’m not sure what Barack Obama could’ve done to stop Ebola. Presidents aren’t on-the-ground health officials. And they don’t always get information until it’s too late.

I don’t really know what more Donald Trump could in this current situation. I do believe the test kits should’ve come online sooner. And I definitely plan to find out why the FDA took so long to make that happen. That’s one of the civic recourses we are allowed to access, here in a free society. And it’s a good thing.

In the meantime, we can vote people in or out, depending on which 70-plus-year-old man we think will best handle the next crisis like this. Not there’s anything wrong with 70-plus-year-old men. Those are just all the choices we have left at the moment.

One day, the Covid 19 virus will be in the history books. What will the chapters include? Who knows. I am certain we will see deaths we didn’t want to see. That’s horrible. We will get answers to questions we didn’t even know we had. That’s probably good. And some of us will get fevers and coughs and probably recover just fine.

The chapter we’re writing now, is the one where humans get rattled and afraid and freak out and cling to their deeply held belief systems tighter than Tom Hanks held onto Wilson, in Castaway.

And speaking of Tom, may he get well soon. May we all get well soon.   

R

If you get something meaningful out of this blog and want to support it, please become a Patreon subscriber. Patrons get the daily blog for $3 a month but you can also get access to the author’s books and music by becoming a subscriber. Click the link below:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger       

BIRTH OF A VIRUS …

As I watched my neighbor put her dog’s poop in a single-use plastic baggy, I thought about split pants in China.

When my wife and I got off the plane, 18 years ago, to adopt our first daughter, we were taken aback by the split pants. Split pants are (or at least were, back then) pants the children wear that are open in the crotch area. That allows them to urinate or defecate unobstructed, onto the street or wherever they may be. The theory is that eventually they will learn to “aim it at the toilet” or something to that effect.

Either way, I distinctly remember my brand new Nike slip-ons (probably made not far from where I was standing) sloshing into a mix of urine and who knows what else, and continuing to do so for the next three weeks.

As I started feeling the cough coming on, I remember one of the women in our group saying, at one of the airports (as she too, stepped into urine) “The people in this country probably have built up antibodies inside them our bodies have never even thought about.”

I replayed that line in my head for the next three weeks, as I descended into night sweats, fevers and a cough like I’ve never experienced.

Over the next several days and weeks, we would experience the amazing culture of China, in several different cities. But some things stood out to this germophobic American. I watched a man hock up something from his chest and spit it on the floor, right next to us, in a restaurant. No oysters for me, thanks. I’ve suddenly lost my appetite.

We visited a Hutong (inner city – where the locals live) and saw raw chickens, skinned and bleeding, just laying on the floor, waiting to be thrown on a restaurant grill…for public consumption. No FDA or USDA or food inspectors or “codes” to comply with, here. But why? This is the last purely communist country on earth. You’d think there would be red tape everywhere. What was happening here?

Then, my wife and I had to rush our newly adopted, 8-month-old daughter to the public hospital…and suddenly it all started making sense.

As we stepped in more urine, took our number from the print-out machine, walked past the line of children whining and crying from the scalp IVs in their heads, then rushed to clean up blood and mucus (left by the last patient) on the plastic table they were now laying our baby on, then waited on the ONE overworked doctor (attending to no less than three hundred people) try to round up a basic anti-biotic to administer to my daughter (right there on site – no refills) it dawned on me what I was seeing and what I had been seeing this whole time. I wasn’t watching a “backward” culture or a third-world society. These people weren’t genetically inferior to first-worlders. They weren’t “less-evolved” than I was.

I was witnessing the kind of maximum, almost brutal efficiency a society must develop when the state is the master and the individual is merely a subject. Why would a Communist country not have an effective FDA? Because who are you going to complain to if you get tainted food? The government? They don’t answer to you. The press? They are owned by the government. And again, they don’t answer to you.

So what if you don’t like the conditions in the hospital? Where else are you going to go? This hospital is the last (and only) stop. You can’t opt for another place and then just pay out of your own pocket. The government has capped financial upward mobility. There is now “income equality.” And that means nobody has the means to buy their way into a different (or better) situation. And even if you could, one doesn’t exist. The state provides it all. You’re stuck.

In every one of those places I described (especially the hospital) there were uniformed guards posted everywhere. The government was literally on every corner. And yet it didn’t feel like help. It felt like surveliance.

“Yes, communism is bad, Regie. We get it,” I hear you saying, through your screen. But it is much deeper than surface ideology for me, personally. As our group was sloshing through the stuff on our shoes, we all speculated as to what new viruses we might be bringing back to the States with us. Well, even during SARS, none of us brought any viruses back. But my family did bring back one of the rarest genetic disorders on planet earth. My daughter was carrying, in her beautiful little self, a messed up sequence of genetic code. She was missing a piece of her 15th maternal chromosome. It brought with it dozens of different symptoms, one of which was seizures.

A month after getting her home, she went into a ten-minute seizure that could only be described as terrifying. And as the doctors and nurses ripped her from my my screaming wife’s arms and dragged us into the waiting room, I was incredibly thankful to be at one of the best children’s hospitals in the world. This hospital was clean and sanitary, with highly trained people everywhere. There were comfortable chairs and private rooms. There was any and every medicine we needed, readily available. And as horrible as that day was, and as expensive as it was (that day basically contributed to bankrupting us. Fortunately, I live in a place where I was able to earn all that money back and more), we were incredibly grateful we were in the United States and people were getting paid large sums of money to tend to our precious little soul. And she survived.

What we know, without a doubt, is that she would not have survived had she not gotten out of China; out of that system.

China is back in the news with yet another deadly virus we are all wringing (and washing) our hands over. And I’m certain we’re more freaked out about it in the United States than they are in the epicenter of it. Trust me on this one. I’ve lived it.

If ONE American were to die of this virus, the marches will begin and the public outcry will be never-ending. Why? Because we are oriented to the individual, in this country. We believe – whether we practice it in our politics or want to admit it to ourselves – that one person makes a difference. And our government answers to us. We don’t answer to them.

As this virus is doing whatever it’s doing, we are also having a heated debate over our own politics as a nation. We are literally discussing the merits of “democratic socialism” in the context of a Presidential election, in the United States, in 2020. I don’t think this is an accident.

I’m watching people (even good friends) on the left, basically throw their backs out, trying to contort and explain away why “some’ socialism is a good thing and how public services are all really “socialist” constructs anyway and how it really isn’t as bad as all that and how ‘this isn’t Communism – relax” and basically try to shoe-horn themselves into possibly having to take a deep breath and vote for a guy who sees the bright side of Fidel Castro but at least is not Donald Trump.

And he has ignited the debate over “single payer” healthcare. And that notion always seems to be reasonable on the surface. Why not just streamline the whole thing? Why not get the bloated insurance companies out of it? Why not eliminate the greed and corporate bureaucracy from our health?

That all sounds very reasonable.

But here’s the thing …

Single payer also means single buyer. That means the dynamics of the market get eliminated. One of the natural checks-and-balances of finding a hot-shot surgeon willing to do the risky procedure or even just seek a second opinion, get chopped away little by little. Because now we’re answering to the government. It isn’t answering to us. After all, where are we gonna go? They’ve got us. And our cancer treatment or skin graft surgery or kidney stone blast is up to their red tape. Sure, we can get in the door for free. But we might die in there, waiting on someone with no incentive and who faces no recourse, to change our plasma bag.

I am not a registered Democrat or Republican. But if you don’t like the state of healthcare in this country, just remember that not ONE Republican has their fingerprints on it. NOT. ONE. Your current state of healthcare was voted on unanimously and signed into law by DEMOCRATS only.

And now, ten years later, we seem to need to fix it all over again. Why?

I personally believe it’s because we’re moving in the wrong direction when it comes to healthcare. We keep moving away from the free market toward a more controlled government system. Why not allow insurance companies to sell their products across state lines? Why not offer them tax incentives to keep high risk patients (like my daughter) on their actuaries? Why not put them in positions that force them to compete harder for the public dollar and become more competitive? In other words, why not make them more accountable to US?

Why not offer dollar-for-dollar tax incentives to individuals who pay for their own care out of pocket? Why not offer incentives to doctors who do pro-bono work?

If those ideas sound like decent ones to you, you may find it surprising that all of them are in a bill proposed by Marsha Blackburn (my long-time representative, now my senator) back in 2009. It’s 27 pages long and it would only take two weeks to implement. It never made it to the floor of the House for a vote.

What if there are answers in the free market?
There are companies like Weltrio, in Oregon, that provide comprehensive healthcare concierge services to corporations who provide insurance, and they lower costs by as much as 68%.
It seems like these ideas are right there for the trying.

The thing about free-market solutions when it comes to healthcare, is that if they don’t work, you can always trash them and go to a public option. But once you nationalize healthcare, there is no going back. And that terrifies me. I’ve seen the natural conclusion of what happens when only one buyer is purchasing gauze and morphine; when one source pays the doctors and nurses.

And I suppose my answer to all of it is: what have we got to lose by trying the easy thing first? What if the evil Capitalists are right and it kinda works?

Vladamir Lenin said, “Give me your four-year-olds and in a generation I will build a socialist state.”

He also said, “The goal of socialism is communism.”

Then, he said, “medicine is the keystone of the arch of socialism.”

We’re finding out – IN America – just how right he was about all of it. And some of us aren’t thinking twice about it.

When Ronald Reagan said, “One of the traditional ways of imposing statism or socialism has been through medicine,” many scoffed at him and joked about how stupid he was or (worse) how he just wanted the rich to have healthcare and didn’t care about everyone else.

But the truth is we all want the same things. We want our children to have access to affordable and GREAT healthcare (that last part if the key). We just have different ideas on how to get there.

As for me, I’ve seen what happens when the choices are taken away. And what happens ends up being a place where new viruses can spread too easily, to too many people, and aren’t contained quickly enough.

And that ultimately affects us all.   

   

R

To subscribe to my daily blog, click the link:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

UGLY LOVE …

“For better or worse.”

That’s the one that gets you. It’s enough of a catch-all to keep people guessing, even when they find out they’ve married a thief or a (God forbid) a lawyer.

But the others are pretty darn steep, too: “in sickness or in health” (that one will break your heart) or (the worst) “for richer or poorer” (half of that one is fun – the other half….not so much). Then there’s the kicker: “Till DEATH do us part.” Good lord. That’s basically getting chained together until one of you drops dead…LITERALLY.

I don’t know who came up with the wedding vows, but they left very little wiggle room in them for people to breathe. You literally have no outs. There are no, “if you turn out to be a person who posts on Facebook in all caps, we get a two-week break to date other people,” or “If you get drunk at the party and start conga line, I am not legally bound to live with you anymore,” clauses.

Nope. It all falls under “for better or worse.” What no one ever tells you is that there is almost always more “worse” than “better.” Why? Because you are marrying a human being. And ALL human beings are in some sort of process. If you only see that human being from a distance, you might think they’ve conquered many things or have it all together or are exactly what you’ve been looking for. But living with someone day-in and day-out shows you who they really are. And over time, you’re going to see things you didn’t want to see. And guess what? So are they.

I’m intrigued by the current notion of love and coupling. Everyone’s looking for a “soul mate.” I don’t even really know what that is. I’d say most people don’t know what that is. Not really. Everyone has an idea of what they think it is, but nobody really knows.

“Love” as we currently understand it, seems like a relatively new concept. If you read the Old Testament (mainly Genesis) nobody was finding their soul mate or “dating” or in any real courtship, they were basically just hooking up and pounding out babies. Sometimes I read Genesis and wonder when sex even became something people enjoyed. It all feels very functionary and utilitarian. And we don’t see people start “falling in love” until maybe the book of Ruth or something. And it feels like love as we now view it, has actually evolved over the years.

Definitely, when society was male-centric and male-dominated, marriage was a much different arrangement than it is now. Dudes (who could afford it) had wives all over the place. It appears that you could be a player as long as you ponied up and took responsibility for whatever offspring you produced with the new sister wife. But the whole idea of one man and one woman didn’t seem to be a thing until the new Testament.

I’ll just leave it there. My wife hates it when I start talking about this stuff …

The ever-maddening dance between men and women has been going on for thousands of years. Essentially, we’re all fighting our own internal instincts; men are designed to spread their seed all over the place. That’s to ensure survival of the species. It’s hard-wired into every boy you’ve ever met. It’s not an “evil” urge or a “sinful nature.” It’s just biology and thankfully so. It’s why everyone reading this is even here: dad was a cad at one point.

Conversely, women are all protecting ONE egg at a time. So, their internal imperative is 180 degrees different than their male counterparts. They are looking for “Mr. Right” to fertilize that egg. And they aren’t interested in just allowing any old bro to take a shot at it. This is why rich, powerful men, rock stars and overpaid athletes seem to always have any woman they want. Because they are the best candidates for mama’s little egg.

In the big middle of this socio economic, biological maze, we try to find something as elusive as “love.” And we write songs about it and tell stories about it and make movies about it and we actually base our very lives on it.

Every Valentine’s Day we celebrate the ideal of that elusive thing we all seem to be searching for. We want the butterflies and the “spark.” We want our hearts to skip a beat when that person walks into the room. We somehow think they will always look as beautiful and young as they did on our first date, when we couldn’t take our eyes off them. We never see down the road, to 30 pounds heavier and hair loss. We never realize that the “beauty mark” will one day have a hair growing out of it.     

But love – real love – isn’t this pretty thing we all want it to be.

Real love is ugly and gritty and rough. Real love holds her hair when she’s throwing up, or it washes his sweaty sheets while he’s trying to kick the flu. Real love gets told horrible things in the heat of a fight, but decides to get up the next day and try again. Real love watches him lose over and over again, but keeps cheering him on…knowing it probably won’t really help.

Real love notices his love handles…but doesn’t notice at all. Real love watches her closet morph from stilettos and pumps into orthopedics and still wants to take her out on the town.

Real love goes blind over time. Because if it kept seeing everything perfectly, it wouldn’t hang around.

Toward the end of her life, my grandmother would occasionally blurt out things about my deceased grandfather that I simply didn’t want to hear. This man was a saint in our family. He was the best man I ever knew. He was the kind of grandfather they write country songs about. But I wasn’t married to him. She was. And as she got closer to the end of her life, she would, from time-to-time, forget to keep his perfect legacy alive for all the kids and grandkids, and tell some story that put in him in a not-so-favorable light.

And in those moments I would always remember that for me, these people were my foundation and my bedrock. But they didn’t start out that way. They started out as two young, wild-eyed kids thinking (like all young lovers) that they could beat the odds; that they were the exception; that they had found the real thing. But 52 years has its own say in the matter. And the last thing they were doing, when my grandfather suddenly died of an aneurism, was fighting over the plumbing in the kitchen.

That’s what real love looks like.

This Valentine’s Day, send the flowers and eat the candy and write the cards. But know that that little fat angel who shoots us with arrows, isn’t doing us any favors. He’s plunging us into an ocean we can’t swim. He’s sending us on a long journey toward heartbreak. He’s sending us to better …but then to worse. There’s no good ending to a love story. Eventually somebody leaves or somebody dies.

And the only way to truly appreciate real love is to embrace the imperfection of it.

And when you finally see the ugly part of love, and you can run toward it with the same passion you ran toward the pretty part, that’s when you finally discover how beautiful it actually is.   

  

R

TO SUBSCRIBE TO MY DAILY BLOG, CLICK THE LINK:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

THE INFIDEL …

“I hope he fails.”

That’s one of the most incendiary quotes ever uttered by Rush Limbaugh. It’s also quite possibly one of the most misunderstood.

When I first head it, I (like many people, I’m sure) sort of winced. After all, he was talking about our newly elected president, Barack Obama. And everyone was sure this new presidency (and this new face, with the different skin tone) was going to bring with it a fresh wind of hope and change and all of that good stuff we couldn’t quite put our finger on.

Why on earth would someone root for the failure of this man?

So, unlike so many people in the media, I listened to Rush explain himself, on his show, in his own words. And his explanation made sense to me. And as a Libertarian, I agreed with him. I, too, hoped more collectivism and central planning didn’t happen. And THAT was what Barack Obama was promising. And he delivered as much of it as the electorate would allow.

Now, years later, after losing my health insurance and my doctor, after my taxes going up, after having to go into in-depth explanation after in-depth explanation about the difference between disagreeing with someone on policy and disliking their skin color, and after watching the wrecking ball of Donald Trump be chosen by the American electorate to roll back so much of what President Obama put in place, I, too, wish he had failed.

That doesn’t mean I wished him harm or ill-will. I didn’t wish for him to fail as a human. I didn’t wish for his health to fail. I simply wish he hadn’t been as successful at his attempt to fundamentally change (his words) so many things that didn’t need to be fundamentally changed. It had nothing to do with the man or his race or his family or his “agency” as a human being.

And that’s what Rush meant.

But it was taken out of context so many times it started to get laughable.

I could understand not getting it at first. It was a jarring comment. But if anyone had simply taken the time to put it into context, it wasn’t all that controversial. Maybe one could disagree on the substance; maybe you WISH for more government and more central control. That’s a legitimate disagreement. But people attributed this quote to someone with a racist heart.

And that is a huge misunderstanding.

I started listening to Rush in the early 90’s, right when he burst onto the national stage.

Up until then, my politics had been informed by having been a child in the south and watching southern Democrats practice systematic racism. Members of my family had been involved in the civil rights movement. My father pastored a black church. The Republican party was the only party that would register blacks to vote in some places in the south. It’s why Martin Luther King Jr was a registered Republican. And it’s one of the reasons many of us broke with generations of tradition and became Republicans.

But then, Jimmy Carter came along and we all felt that his goodness as a man would finally end the scourge of what we had witnessed Democrats standing for, for so many years. And make no mistake – Jimmy Carter is a good man. But as his presidency unfolded, we realized his policies simply didn’t work. It was no more complicated than that.

By Reagan’s second term, we all knew, without having to be political experts, that something was working. And it kept working.

Still, the country as a whole, was not in constant “political thinker” mode as it is now. Only the most boring among us lived in, and relished the weeds of, foreign policy and tax codes; public and private sector debates.

While on tour, in my early 20’s, I turned on a hotel room TV and William F. Buckley was on, explaining human cause and effect and how it related to carrot-and-stick politics. I was transfixed for the next two hours and felt everything he said resonate with me to my core, as a young songwriter and student of the human condition. And I suppose that set me on the course of being a Libertarian.

Then Rush Limbaugh came along and was able to distill all of that high-brow philosophy into easily digestible bites. But he also brought with him a bluster and tone that was off-putting to so many. I remember my wife and I listening to him in the car, once. As she turned him off, her exact words were, “I actually agree with everything he just said. I just can’t stand to hear him say it.”

I would imagine that was the case for many.

I’ve listened to Rush for decades. I haven’t always agreed with his points of view and I haven’t always agreed with his methods of communicating them. But I have never found him to be a racist or a sexist or a homophobe or any of the things ascribed to him by the media. I can assure you I wouldn’t be able to tolerate racism for any length of time.

But sometimes what we think is racism, is actually not. And sometimes what we think is “inclusion” is actually not. And if you don’t examine the subtleties, you will fall for the big lies.

So many quotes ascribed to Rush Limbaugh are things he never said. It is well-documented (and actually a running joke on his show) that many, many horrible Rush Limbaugh quotes have been simply made up out of thin air. As a blogger and occasional public person, I can tell you this happens more than you might believe.

Even in my small universe, I’ve been assigned belief systems or points of view that weren’t mine at all. Sometimes my quotes have been confused with some crazy comment on one of my social media comments threads. And sometimes people just make it up. You can imagine how this issue might be a nightmare for someone who talks three hours a day, five days a week.   

In the early 90’s Rush stopped doing taped interviews because he realized that they could be edited in ways that made him look horrible. So, his standing order was that he would only do live, un-edited interviews. As you can imagine, that cleared the field pretty quickly. But it also relegated the explanations of whatever comments were being taken out of context, solely to his talk-radio world. And unless you are an avid listener, it’s easy to just resign Rush Limbaugh to white, imperialism, racist, misogyny. Because you’re not putting any of his statements in context.

As I’ve said, I don’t always agree with Rush. I’m not an apologist for anyone. I don’t own everything someone who interests me might say or what they might do. But over the years, I have heard Rush articulate the heart of what I believe to be true; that when the human spirit is unleashed, there is nothing it cannot achieve; that when people are free, they are more likely to conquer the problems that face humanity; that the government isn’t an evil entity, per se, but that it’s also not a noble entity either just by virtue of being government, and that the reason the United States is a unique idea in the history of the planet, is that it embraces those notions and actually protects them in founding documents.

The entirety of “conservatism” (or as I prefer to call it, Libertarianism) is rooted in those beliefs.

I’m for letting people run free, not forcing them to languish in red tape. I’m for people chasing and catching their dreams, not having their dreams shaped and tempered by some “for-your-own-good” public policy, made by someone who’s dream is to restrain rather than unleash. I’m for the human being. I believe in the divine spark. The human is sacred in some way. And the human story is an incredible art piece that can be woven and wound into something better than it has been.

This is the sentiment I have always believed Rush Limbaugh believes and articulates. At least that’s how I have heard him.

Around the ’08 election, he and I (for the briefest of moments) shared an agent…sort of. She shared my song “Infidels” with him and not only did he get it (a lot of people didn’t) he apparently loved it. Through this agent, he asked me to insert all the names of the (then) political players on the scene. He didn’t want me to choose a side or make a political statement. He didn’t even ask about my politics. He just said he loved the idea of setting all of the craziness to music. His only stipulation was that I try to use some of the funny “nicknames” he’d coined (“Sheets Bird,” “Breck girl Edwards,” etc) and that I include HIM as an Infidel at the end, the way I had included myself in the original.

I thought about it and mulled it over. You can certainly get cancelled as an artist by making any sort of political stand that isn’t the obligatory “Democrat talking points” stand. But that’s boring and about as brave as saying you love Tom Brady in Boston, or playing Sweet Home Alabama in Montgomery. So, I decided to take chance and at least write the parody.

As it turns out, Rush didn’t use it on his show. Politics moves at the speed of light and by the time I got it written and re-recorded and re-mixed, some of the political players I wrote about were actually gone from the scene. And then the agent wasn’t in the picture. And then we all forgot about it and moved on.

But I can say that my one personal experience with Rush was that he never asked me to compromise in any way as an artist. He didn’t tell me what to believe or how to articulate what I believed. He didn’t demand that I come to anything from any sort of point of view. That’s more than I can say for some of the music companies I’ve worked with.

Here’s the lyric I wrote for him. Sadly, I cannot find the actual recording. But these were the people in the news, in 2008. And this little tongue-in-cheek musical comment on the fundamental difference in a pluralistic, open and free society, and one ruled with an iron fist, by religious dogma, was almost a Rush Limbaugh parody.

These days, just saying you listened to Rush Limbaugh and that you agreed with him on some things, will get you ostracized. Even as I write this, I’m imagining the online beating I’m about to take from some parts of the cyber world. Some of it will even come from people I consider to be friends. But one thing I’ve learned from Rush is that fear is a thief. It robs you of yourself and it forces you into places you might think are safe, but actually diminish you as a human being.

So, I’m posting this. That’s what we Infidels do. And, like Rush Limbaugh, that’s exactly what I am.

The ones who get it, get it. The ones who don’t…well…they never will.      

R

TO SUBSCRIBE TO MY DAILY BLOG CLIKC THE LINK:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

INFIDELS

Barack Obama, Michael Moore

Albert Sharpton, Albert Gore

all the hippies in the peace corps …

Infidels

Hillary Clinton, John McCain

Breck girl Edwards and his perfect mane

George Sorros, the gravy train …

Infidels

1st cho

You know we’re living in the wild, wild west

we’re only doing what we do the best

put your religion to the acid test

move over here

and try to make it work without machine guns …

Charley Rangle, Charley Sheen

Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean

Ralph Nader and the Green Machine …

Infidels

Mitt Romney, Barney Frank

Jane Fonda in a commie tank

all the Jews on the west Bank …

Infidels

2nd cho

you know we like to let the women vote

we think they’re smarter than the average goat

I guess that’s why you want to cut our throat

and blow yourself up (just remember now)

a virgin’s just a virgin for the first time

Giuliani, Tom Delay

all the guards at club Gitmo Bay

black or white – straight or gay – still …

Infidels

bridge

Nancy  Polosi, even Rosie

sheets Bird and Richard Durbin

John Glenn, Sean Penn

even if he wore a turban

that little crazy guy Dennis Kucinich

who looks like Popeye without the spinach

the lefties, the righties and everybody else in between – know what I mean?

3rd cho

some people think we like to play too rough

stick out our chest and talk too tough

but we’ll surrender if you whine enough

and protest ourselves

put the blame on us we seem to like it

Fred Thomson, Ron Paul

the gutsy Gipper at the Berlin Wall

George W and Rush Limbaugh …

Infidels

every movie star you ever saw …

Infidels

you and me – one and all …

Infidels

   

NOT TODAY …

My daughter graduates from high school in May.

But on her second day as a Hamm, I was fairly convinced we would never get out of China together.

I called the the American embassy, the CDC as well at the World Health Organization, every time I was scheduled to board a plane, to ask if it was safe for me to travel. And every time, every person I spoke to told me to not get on a plane under any circumstances. And every time, I would hang up the phone…then get on a plane.

This was 2003, and the virus SARS was running rampant throughout China. By my fourth day in China, I had all the symptoms. Then, on day seven, they handed my wife and me a baby with a high fever, extreme lethargy and vaccination marks all over her feet and arms. The whole situation ran the gambit from confusing to terrifying.

One of the translators assigned to our adoption group pulled me aside the day we got our kids. He said that if I ended up in a Chinese hospital with that horrible cough I had, they would quarantine me with the people who had SARS. So, even if I didn’t have it now, I would almost certainly contract it in the hospital. So, stay away from hospitals at all costs, he admonished.

“Ok…just stay away from the hospitals,” I kept thinking to myself.

At 6 o’clock the next morning, my wife burst into the room, holding our new baby. She’d just been to the hotel doctor and had clear instructions.

“Dude – we have to go to the hospital…right now!” she exclaimed.

And without thinking, I jumped up to get dressed…and went directly to the place they told me I shouldn’t go.

The hospital was mostly an open-air structure with a urine trough running through the middle of it. The sheer numbers of people waiting to see a doctor were hard to fathom. It was all very utilitarian and bare bones. Nothing was plush or comfortable. Concrete was used wherever possible and the cleanliness was based on whenever a state worker got around to it. As we lay my daughter down on the mat, in front of the bank teller looking window, my wife reached inside her bag, grabbed some handi-wipes and feverishly cleaned off the bloody gauze and human fluids before my baby’s head actually touched them. After several masked nurses poked and prodded and yelled things back to the doctor on call, a scalp IV was called for.

The first time they inserted it, my daughter’s head began to swell and they had to stop the procedure and start again. They had obviously not put the needle in the right place and it was simply filling her head with fluids. Finally, through all of her screaming and writhing and us holding her down, while dozens of intrigued Chinese people (who had probably never seen Americans before) pushed in around us to get a closer look at this anomaly, they finally got the needle in the correct place in her head. Just at that moment, the now infamous (for those who have read my book, Angels and Idols) peasant woman raced up to me, to give me her son to take back to America and raise as my own. That’s when I went into an uncontrollable coughing fit. And that’s when the guards came for me…I thought.

As it turned out, they were coming to drag the woman away and to keep her from engaging anymore with these Americans adopting this little girl.

But for a brief moment there, I was certain I was about to be taken to a room, where I would encounter the virus that would probably end my life in China.

After a couple of hours, we were finally back at the hotel and our baby was sleeping. But her fever spiked again early the next morning and we couldn’t bring it down. We were directed to take her BACK to that hospital and do it all over again.

That night my wife went down to get everybody dinner while me and little one rested in the room. We were both weak and each fighting some unknown illness. I was sitting up in bed, staring at this sublime creature sleep. She was painfully gorgeous and just as painfully damaged in some way. We wouldn’t know exactly how damaged for years to come. But she was ours and we were in love. And there was no way in hell we were leaving that place without her.

I stared at her through her crib bars. I watched her breathe in and out. I put my finger through the bars and placed it on her hand. She wrapped her tiny fingers around mine in her sleep and she never let go.

I started to cry and realized that after all my years of traveling; after all my restless wandering, I was finally home…in a place ten thousand miles away from where I actually resided.

And in that moment it was all okay. I could die in China. And I finally understood the words to the song It Is Well With My Soul.

As the days and weeks unfolded, my caught got better. And my daughter got a little stronger and we didn’t have to go to anymore hospitals. I didn’t have SARS and I didn’t get it. Neither did my wife. Neither did my daughter.

We got back to the states and were under house quarantine for ten days before we were technically supposed to go out into the world and interact with people. But let’s be honest…we didn’t stay in our house for ten days.

Soon, SARS was out of the news and everybody was on to the next thing that was going to be the end of the world. Now, most people can’t even remember SARS.

This week, we have the Coronavirus. It’s a new and exciting virus coming out of Asia, that is spreading fear and trepidation throughout the population. If it’s anything like what we learned about SARS, it has probably been around longer than the Chinese government is letting on. And they’re probably WAY more worried about it over here in the States than they are in China. Losing 150 people in China isn’t even a blip on their radar. In a country of over 2 billion people, something would have to wipe out millions and millions of them before they saw it as a real threat to the “population.”

But when something like this virus threatens the western world, we take notice and sometimes we even panic. These are the things Hollywood movies are based on and we start getting uncomfortable when someone coughs or sneezes next to us in a theater or on a plane.

Well, it has been my experience (literally) that sometimes things might not be as bad as we think. What if everything is going to be okay? What if we survive? What if, instead of the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario actually happens? What if this isn’t the end at all, but simply a detour on the road to something more beautiful?

The truth is we are all going to die. It doesn’t end well for anyone. But if you’re alive today, you still have a chance at something. You still have hope. You still have room to run.

I could be wrong and the Coronavirus might be the thing that gets most of us. It could end up being an epidemic of biblical proportions, that wipes out a large percentage of the population. But if you start from the place of knowing that even if you die, it is well, then it can’t hurt your soul…only your body. If you can get to that point of love, knowing you are at peace with God and man, you can shake off the terror around you.

We are all going to die. But are we all going to live? That’s up to each individual.

As for me and my daughter? SARS didn’t kill us. Neither did Angelman Syndrome.

And I’m planning on her holding my hand again…at her high school graduation, in May.     

R

When I got back in my studio, after the harrowing events of China, I wrote the song Not Today, loosely based on what we had experienced and from the perspective of knowing everything is going to end…just not today. To hear the song (and maybe even become a Patreon member) click the link:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

THE KIND ONE …

It’s the curse of having been raised on love offerings and merch (merchandise) sales.

Call it the unfortunate by-product of life as carney. I can walk into a room and pretty much tell you how much disposable currency is in the pockets of the people there. I don’t even do it consciously and I wish I didn’t do it at all. But it’s a force of habit I literally cannot control.

So, when I walked into that small, rural Pennsylvania church last summer, and saw less than a hundred people in it, their average age, how they were dressed, ratio of male-to-female (trust me – that’s a thing), factored in their attendance to a Sunday morning service, I quickly (and maddeningly) calculated about how many books and CDs I would probably have to re-pack after the service. And my calculation was that I would probably have to re-pack most, if not all, of it.

But as it turned out, not only did I receive almost twice the honorarium I was expecting, I sold out of books and came close to selling out of CDs as well. This was the middle of summer, yet a couple of people glanced inside the CD box, saw my Christmas CDs, and bought them as well. I left two empty boxes in the church trash can. I was dumbfounded. These people were literally throwing money at me. And it didn’t add up.

Later that afternoon, I did an inventory and counted the money. The “dollar-per-head” (which is a real thing that sounds very crass, but ask any road manager and they will tell you it’s real) amount was kind of staggering. I would’ve never assumed there was that much cash in that room. How did these people have all this money? And why were they so free with it? It was humbling.

At lunch, the pastor asked me if the people had “treated me well” (which is code for “did they buy your stuff?”) I told him that I was actually a little stunned by the response and that I even felt kind of guilty about how much money they had forked over. Surely they were digging deeper than they could afford to dig.

He just smiled at me and said, “they’ve got more money than you think they do. Since the energy sector has come back to life, the money is flowing for them again. Their jobs are back. Their work is back. And they are re-emerging from several years of panic and near-poverty.”

I refrained from asking why. I had a feeling it was because of something directly related to Washington DC, but I don’t talk politics when I’m working and I don’t make judgements on people who are kind enough to bring me in for a show. But he volunteered the information that since the Trump administration had rolled back so many of the energy regulations that were crippling the industry during the Obama years, the people were experiencing good economic times. In his explanation, it was a direct result.

All through that little Pennsylvania run, I saw “now hiring” signs everywhere. And it wasn’t just fast food joints. Banks, real estate companies, retail centers – everybody was needing help. And I felt good for the people of Pennsylvania. Having a robust place to live and work is a good thing. Having healthy open road in front of your economic future is a positive. Not a negative. Those are people out there. Not just statistics. They have children and grandchildren. They have hopes and dreams. They have plans for their families. And they deserve to have the best possibilities placed in front of them.

I’m for humans. I like to see people achieve their goals and reach for their dreams and do well. I liked what I saw in Pennsylvania.

And it got me thinking …

There is so much contention over our President. So much hand wringing. So much pearl clutching. So many people are so constantly “appalled” and “heart-broken” and “worried” and whatever, whatever. And I understand not liking him. I’m not sure I like him all that much, myself. I’m certainly fascinated by him. And a lot of times I, too, do double takes and have to ask my wife, “now, what did he say, again?” And yes, I occasionally shake my head in disbelief.

But here’s the thing …

There was a REAL reason to elect a person like Donald Trump as president. There were some desperate corridors that needed to be addressed, that hadn’t been being addressed. If you don’t get that, you’re not keeping up. And now, there’a a REAL reason to like what he’s done.

The decisions he has made (which are different than tweets or off-the-cuff statements or insults) have, in my opinion, been by and large sound ones. The current state of the economy is a direct result of his actions. No, it wouldn’t have been this good if we had just elected President Obama for a third term. His policies were strangling economic growth and expansion. They were actually anti-expansion of certain industries; the fossil fuel industry being one of them (hence, my new found friends in Pennsylvania).

Personalities aside, certain economic principles are always in play:

Whatever you tax, you get less of.

Regulation is needed, until it’s punitive. Then it becomes a way to choke something out by attrition.

A free market economy is not a zero sum game. Just because someone has a lot doesn’t mean others can’t have a lot. The pie expands if it’s allowed to.

These principles will always be in play as long as we have a free market. You can replace one president with another one and keep the revolving door going. But it won’t change the principles and concepts in play.

Every small business (and large business) owner will tell you that the first liability they have to tend to is taxes. That’s the only line item in your financials where the vendor can literally reach into your bank account and take what they want, when they want. It’s the only line item that carries a prison sentence with it for non payment. But it’s also the only line item that doesn’t directly factor into your business. Yes, you get the protection of the police and firefighters. Yes, you get roads. But you get those things whether you go into business or not. People with no profit margins whatsoever get those things. And if your business goes under, you can drive on those roads back to your house and pack it up, while the government seizes it. But I digress.   

Over the last week or so, I’ve read posts and articles and opinion pieces on how loathsome our president is; how morally bankrupt he is; how his character is not worthy of the presidency. And I’ve listened to House managers stand in the well of the Senate and rail against the nebulous corruption of the current mob-boss-in-chief with accusations of unorthodox behavior bereft of any real crime. Yeah, we get it. Donald Trump is a big meanie.

But then I’ve read comments from commentators stating that they would actually take higher unemployment and lower wages if it meant having a president they could be proud of again.

I don’t get angry very often. Anger is caused by fear and I’m not all that afraid of much, other than my children being harmed. But statements like that actually make me angry. And maybe it has something to do with my children after all…or someone else’s children. You see those unemployment numbers you would be so cavalierly willing to trade, represent people. They represent actual human beings trying to make their way in the world. And in the case of this particular economy, they represent a lot of minorities.

We currently have the lowest unemployment rate for minorities in the history of the United States.

Saying you would trade higher unemployment for a different president is the height – the absolute pinnacle – of white privilege. “I’m sorry you don’t have a job but I really need to feel good about myself at the cocktail party and not be embarrassed when I talk to a French person.”

Donald Trump is, for the rest of history, a controversial figure. He is the easy punching bag for those who like to use Christianity (when needed) to make a political point, or when showing the world how smart you are or when proving just how “not racist” you are or how “kind” you are, or whatever. But his actual actions as president have lifted a lot of people, in a lot of sectors of the country, out of financial problems. They’ve also kept a lot of America’s young boys and girls from coming home to their families, from some sand-covered country most of us can’t pronounce, in plastic.

And that is not talked about enough.

Would I prefer all of the good economic news and our not getting involved in war have happened under a president who looked and acted like Harrison Ford in the movie “Air Force One?” Sure. But it is now. And there are reasons it is now.

I have, in the past, gotten into business with people who were the sweetest, kindest people on earth…until they turned out not to be. They spoke with a kind voice and they smiled a lot and (in more cases than I ever wanted to believe) they invoked the name of Jesus. And in all their “kindness” they left me twisting and turning in a mess I couldn’t clean up.

Then, I’ve been in business with people who were first class jerks but at least did what they said they would do and understood the nature of the problems and challenges we faced as partners, and did their best to mitigate those. Maybe they only did it because it ultimately helped them. Who knows?

I didn’t want to hang out with them. I wasn’t going to invite them over for dinner under any circumstances. In some cases, I didn’t really even know them all that well. But I knew I could take what they said to the bank…literally.

As I get older, I often wonder who the kind one really was. And I’ve decided that there’s a difference in acting kind and being kind.

If you are morbidly obese and on a collision course with type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, who is the kind doctor? The one who tells you you’re fat and it’s time to get it under control or the one who tells you to simply learn to love yourself as you are?

If I were the doctor in question, I would tell you that loving yourself is definitely important and it’s a piece of your bigger issue. And that making changes to your diet and getting more activity is the ultimate way to love yourself. See? I’m a writer. I can tie it all together.

But I can’t be everywhere. So we’re stuck with the people who show up.

Give me the asshole who delivers, over the sweetheart who makes me lose my house (or my life) any day.

I can guarantee you there are some people in Pennsylvania who feel that very way.           

R

SUBSCRIBE TO MY DAILY BLOG HERE:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger

BLOG FOLLOWERS …

I’m posting a blog every day this week, to give you a taste of what it’s like to be a subscriber to my daily blog on Patreon. You can sign up for any amount per month – even a dollar.

I have chosen not to allow ads on this site, so the Patreon route is how I monetize this part of my life.

If you are inspired to help keep me writing in this regard, join up and support the cause. I will try my best to make it worth your time and money.

 

Thank you all!

R

To subscribe to my daily blog, click the link below:

https://www.patreon.com/blahblahblogger