CHEROKEE PEOPLE …

Mules are sterile.

Horses aren’t and donkeys aren’t. But when they (horses and donkeys) mate, they make a mule …and that’s where it ends. I guess that’s natures way of saying, “this doesn’t need to go any further.”

Nature or God or evolution or whatever you want to call it, tells us certain things loud and clear. Frogs and crocodiles don’t get down together. There are no “frogadiles” anywhere. To my knowledge, there are no dog/mountain-lion hybrids. Species breed within their species. That’s how you know they’re ONE species.

Where am I going with this?

One of the ways we know humans are all …well, humans …is that we can interbreed with any race. A white man and a black woman can produce children. An Asian woman and a Mexican man can produce a child. Any human, from any “race,” can reproduce another human …that will become a mix of those two races.

So, are humans really anything but ONE race?

As the story goes in my own family, my great, great grandmother (a Cherokee girl) was walking the trail of tears, when an Irish tavern owner, who’s tavern was just outside Nashville, bought her away from the tribe and married her. Then they produced my great grandmother, who married a man who’d been left (as a newborn) on the doorstep of some German immigrants inside Nashville. Those two produced my grandfather, who hooked up with a grocery store owner’s daughter (they stayed “hooked up” for the next 60 years) and produced my father …who married a preacher’s daughter (who’s great-grandparents had come to America as Irish, indentured servants to the transcontinental railroad) from Mississippi …and they produced me.

I married the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who’d produced her with an orphaned white girl from Clarksville, Tennessee. Because of some health issues, she and I couldn’t produce anyone (I guess that was nature’s way of saying “this doesn’t need to go any further), so we adopted a little girl from rural China. Then we adopted a little boy from Mississippi …who is 1/16 Cherokee, kind of completing the Cherokee circle. For the first ten days of his life, the Cherokee nation held the right to take my son away from us and bring him into the tribe. They chose not to …so now he’s being raised as a little white boy from Brentwood, Tennessee.

If you see my family, you will automatically categorize us as “white people.” We are anything BUT white people …and yet, we really couldn’t care less about whatever strains of humanity are flowing through our veins. Do those things make us, us?

Racism is the strangest of all ignorances. The idea that someone’s skin tone and physical makeup would make them inherently “something,” is akin to actually thinking girls with blonde hair are really dumber than the rest of us. And yet, I hear “blonde” jokes all the time …FROM BLONDES. I know it’s all in good fun, but it does speak to the fact that somehow we need “other” to make fun of.

We all have questions about the different races that we never say out loud. We all secretly wonder why people with black skin seem to have overall better athleticism than people with lighter skin. We all see the stereotypes of Asians playing violins and crushing math problems …literally on TV shows and in movies. Anyone who works in the entertainment business has heard all the “Jews run this town” jokes. And if you are raised white (or even just look white) you are deluged with white stereotypes constantly, both subtly and overtly. It’s just in the air; White Men Can’t Jump, the “white man’s” overbite (it’s a dance), “slow and white” (referring to white runners) and on and on and on.

Of course the granddaddy of all “white” bashing is the idea of “white privilege.” And to the probable shock of some of my readers, I do believe in such a thing as white privilege. Although I think of it more as cultural or majority privilege. The majority always has a certain leg up in society. That’s pretty simple math. The idea of America is certainly to level that playing field, so that my great, great grandmother (the Cherokee) would have as much privilege as my great, great grandfather (the Irishman). Something tells me, however, that neither of their lives carried much privilege.

This past week, we’ve been inundated with video clips and news reports of a United States senator getting a DNA test to prove she has some sort of genetic heritage. I’d like to say it has been the silliest thing I’ve ever seen in American politics …but after the last few years, I fear it doesn’t even crack the top ten. Taking DNA tests to prove our genetic bone fides is us continuing to wallow in tepid racism. Why does it matter if someone has Cherokee blood? Because everything has become about race again; who has the most oppression on their side; who came from the worst circumstances, etc. It’s silly and it should be joked about …often.

Meanwhile, while SENATOR Elizabeth Warren is squeezing out an oppressed ancestor, ten generations back, the rest of America is going to work and dealing with the immediate and not really caring what great grandpa was. Because we all know – in the now – that it doesn’t matter. The point is that we all came from somewhere. And we all got herenow.

All of our “racial differences” are actually “cultural differences” when you actually break it down. The skin actually means nothing. It’s just the covering. But I sometimes fear that what it’s covering is not yet illuminated enough to drag us out of identity politics once and for all. What made Martin Luther King Jr a timeless visionary and a true American hero was the fact that he saw beyond the colors. He saw that humanity was simply one great family with one great story and that the tribes we came from were ultimately incidental. In his view, if we could set all of that aside, we might be able to achieve great things. I guess we’re still not there.

In that spirit, I actually have a dream that one day my little “white” boy will not have to take DNA tests and produce ancestry charts to prove his “Cherokeeness” in order to be seen as “authentic” to anyone. And I hope his bloodline isn’t used as a qualifier to get him into college. Maybe one day he will just be seen as a “man” and be judged solely on the content of his character …although on second thought …never mind …I digress.

Maybe one day, my daughter will just be seen as Isabella …her own person …not just an Asian girl, with an Italian name, being raised by a Mexican mom and a white dad.

Maybe one day, all those DNA tests, that tell us where our ancestors migrated to and from, will be simple parlor games that mildly interest us, rather than badges of honor we have to wear like uniforms.

 

R

OUTRAGE FATIGUE …

(LANGUAGE APOLOGIES IN ADVANCE)

For two solid years, we have watched a protest or a march almost every weekend, in this country.

We’ve seen hashtag movements and we’ve heard celebrities lecture us. We’ve watched news journalists publicly melt down and we’ve seen former presidential candidates hurl insults and innuendos toward not just the current, sitting president, but the people who voted for him. We’ve read Facebook posts and tweets and Instagram memes, telling us we’re idiots if we believe this or that or if we don’t believe this or that. Yes …we’ve heard and we’ve seen.

So here’s the deal: we get it. All of this is duly noted. I would contend that all positions, on all sides, are understood. Got it.

Over the past few weeks, we have all heard – until we almost cannot hear anything else – how women have been treated through the years. It is a shame and something to be rectified. There is no doubt about that. And as someone who has always been a champion of women; a former first-grader who got pulverized on the playground once, for coming to the aid of a little girl getting made fun of; a former teenager who put his life in danger to stop an attempted rape, on a Greyhound bus to Kansas City; a current father of a daughter with special needs, who watches over her like a Buckingham Palace guard; I welcome the new conversation about how men should treat women. I welcome it with every fiber of my being.

But, in the welcoming of that, here’s what I’m not willing to do …

I’m not going to legitimize a claim that a man was a gang rapist in college, without a little more proof than, “I’m pretty sure I saw him standing by the punch bowl at one of the TEN gang rape parties I attended …AS. A. WOMAN,” without someone – ANYONE – backing up that claim.

I’m not going to legitimize the claim that “I think he waved his penis in my face …I THINK it was him. Although I was really drunk,” without someone – ANYONE – backing up that claim.

I’m not going to simply accept a “recovered memory” (which are proven to be flawed around 40% of the time) that a man tried to rape someone 36 years ago, when literally ZERO people who were supposed to be there, can even remember being there …much less corroborate an attempted rape claim.

Look, for me, this isn’t about not believing women and only believing men. I loved Bill Cosby. He was my TV dad. But Bill had too much verifiable evidence against him and he needs to rot in prison. And my heart goes out to all the women he hurt.

I don’t know if Brett Kavanaugh should be a supreme court justice. I don’t know him. I don’t love or hate him. He might be a piece of shit as a human being. But the notions and protests that have surfaced, in the wake of his confirmation, have pushed me, and I think millions of others, to the point of slamming our hands down and saying, “ENOUGH!”

It’s all duly noted. We hear you. Trust me …we hear you. But you officially asked us to stretch our suspension of disbelief too far.

Two days before the Ford letter was released to the public, I was working with a retired Army veteran, who was recounting his final years in the service. He was in charge of investigating military misconduct claims. Part of that job was investigating rape claims. His counterpart, in that particular duty, was a woman who did those specific investigations. There were plenty of those claims that were substantiated. Too many. But this woman occasionally uncovered rape claims, by military wives (who’s husbands had been on long deployments), that turned out to be false. Apparently, when you’re three months pregnant, and your husband has been gone for five months, some women decide rape is easier to explain than good, old fashioned infidelity.

So pardon me if I don’t believe ALL women …ALL the time. I’ve been lied to – by credible women – enough times, myself, to know that lying isn’t exclusive to men.

Denying that women cannot lie is denying them their basic humanity. It is, in and of itself, a form of sexism.

Now, men are coming out of the woodwork to apologize to women as a gender, and somehow try to make up for their own sins. John Mayer (who has screwed more actresses than Disney) stood on a stage this past week, and went into some convoluted diatribe about his own indiscretions and how sorry he was and how WE (yes …WE) as men, have some stuff we need to change.

Hey John …you made your choices, bro. Own ‘em and move on. Don’t drag me (and US) into your world. We don’t live in it. While you were balls deep in Jennifer Anniston, I was probably holding my daughter’s head, trying to keep her from choking to death on her own vomit, during a seizure. I don’t need or want any part of your pathetic cry for absolution. Most guys don’t. We’re not John Mayer. We’re raising kids and paying mortgages and trying to be good guys and decent husbands. If you want to stop being a womanizer …then stop. If you want to stop playing “Your Body Is A Wonderland” and using it to take advantage of doe-eyed starlets …we don’t create your set list …you do.

The good men of the world abhor attacks on women. We want to live in a world where there is no rape, no assault and no fear of us as men, by women. But much like racism, we will never be able to eradicate all of it …just by blindly believing people we don’t know. The Duke LaCrosse boys would have some thoughts on that. Every individual case has its own set of facts. And just because something happened to you as a woman, doesn’t mean Brett Kavanaugh did something to Christine Ford. Just like just because John Mayer gets booty calls from Jessica Simpson doesn’t mean I do.

We can teach our sons to be good men and we can police our own actions. But the protests and marches and screams and tweets, calling for the death of a supreme court justice, and being thankful that at least “we ruined his life,” and the constant drum beat of how “old white men” are inherently evil …well …all of that is simply getting old. And I, for one (as an aging white man), am starting to simply tune it all out. I’m starting to disengage from all women I come in contact with almost involuntarily.

And that’s a shame. Because there is a real conversation to be had, here. Unfortunately, we can’t hear each other over all the screaming.

 

R

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THE WASHINGTON GENERALS …

I am not a Republican.

A lot of people think I am because I lean conservative in certain areas; fiscal matters, constitutional rights, etc. And I end up voting for Republicans because they usually represent my interests. Believe it or not …it’s okay to vote in your own interest. Anyway …

One of the things that has always intrigued me about Republicans (and people on the right, in general) is their absolute inability to shape culture …or even connect with it, in many cases. Republicans, the party that freed the slaves and signed the 19th amendment (guaranteeing women the right to vote), and nominated the first African American to a cabinet position (D. Eisenhower), and appointed the first African American Secretary of State (G.W Bush), and nominated the first African American FEMALE Secretary of State (same), and voted in greater percentages for the Civil Rights act of 1964 than Democrats, have allowed themselves to somehow become the default bad guys of society. And if not the bad guys, at least the “ignorant” guys.

Now, they do themselves no favors by putting up candidates who say patently stupid things like “legitimate rape” or telling jokes publicly about Abraham Lincoln getting groped by Ruth Bater Ginsberg in 1862 (a Facebook meme that was barely snicker-worthy, anyway). But the main thing Republicans have never figured out (although I think I see Lindsey Graham having a life epiphany, in real time) is exactly what they’re up against. They don’t have a clue about the end game or who is backing it.

A friend of mine recently got back from traveling around the world, shooting a documentary. This person was trying to tell a story about one thing, then stumbled into a web of communist revolutionaries. The accounts of how deep and dark the lines of misinformation and corruption run, was almost hard to follow and difficult to believe. Every sort of mind game that can be played …is being played. Every sort of deception that can be perpetrated …is being perpetrated. Every person who stands in the way …is removed. Nothing is off limits and the ends justify ALL means …ALL.

Why?

Because statists believe they are doing God’s work. They have substituted a deity for the state. And they worship at the altar of centralized power and control. And they genuinely believe that that sort of construct is the only way to move the human race forward. Once you embrace something that existential, all bets are off. And everything is on the table when it comes to removing obstacles in your way. The greater good is in the balance. You’re a soldier. And it’s war. I’m not saying all people on the left are communist revolutionaries. But they embrace their beliefs with the same zealotry. And, above all, they play to win.

People on the right tend to be philosophical in their approach to politics. It’s theory. It’s “constitutional.” It’s maybe even moral. But mere philosophy and belief in what “should be” will never stand up to absolute, soaked-to-your-core belief that your opponents aren’t just wrong …but evil and bad for the world. If you believe with all your heart that the confirmation of a certain judge to the Supreme Court is going to be the end of freedom for women …forever …what would you be willing to do? How far would you be willing to go to stop it? And would any and everything be on the table?

The Republicans have been playing like the old Washington Generals used to play against the Harlem Globetrotters. Competent …yet destined to lose. They get close …it’s almost a tight game …but they’re just no match for the free-wheeling athletic geniuses whirling the ball in every direction and walking away with the inevitable win. And it’s happening again …

Now, for the record, I actually don’t care if Brett Kavanaugh ever puts on a SCOTUS robe or not. I’m not in favor of overturning Roe V Wade (for several reasons …although I don’t think he would do that anyway) and I couldn’t care less about somebody who went to Yale and has worked for the government his whole life. These aren’t my kinda people. Although he does seem to like beer and have a good time. Maybe we could hang …but I’m probably not someone they would allow into the country club …unless I was performing.

But as an observer, who has been in on a LOT of strategy sessions, determining how to sell the buying public something they don’t even know they want yet, I can see a script and a narrative being written right before our eyes. And once again, the unwitting Republicans are falling for Medowlark Lemon’s dribble through the legs routine.

First …the people who control the language, control the high ground in any debate. Second …the people who control the visual images, control the public perception. Third …humans move in herds and all you have to do is steer them by an inch, to steer them by a mile.

What’s about to happen to Brett Kavanagh is this: a new allegation against him will surface, every single day of next week. Either another woman claiming something sordid, or a witness who now maybe thinks they do, after all, remember something that happened back in 1982 will come forward. Or, something as simple as friends coming forward to refute what those yearbook innuendoes meant or asserting that they saw him pass out at a party once, could emerge. That calls EVERYTHING he has ever said into question.

These stories will lead Good Morning America and Today, with ominous music lead-ins into the serious graphics, then be reported by stone-faced, credible-looking (and sounding) journalists. Then, the day’s news will be chewed up and spit out and finally used as fodder for punch lines that will punctuate the late-night shows, complete with right-on-cue laugh tracks and rim shots. The public perception will get imprinted with still-frame pictures of Kavanaugh’s face in a grimace or strange contort. Facebook memes will circulate. And celebrity videos are probably being done as we speak. All these images burn grooves in the brain. And we will start to dislike Mr Kavanaugh …a lot. And even if you don’t believe something …with enough stimulation in the other direction …you will find yourself believing it, or at least accepting the premise. Because there will be too much in the air. Too much to digest. Too many people to stand up to. Too many images to refute.

With enough time, the industrial media complex can make you believe your own mother is working for a drug cartel. So you’d better hope they’re on your side if you ever decide to be a voice in the wilderness. If you’re a Republican …they are not on your side, no matter what the truth may be. You should know that going in.

By the this time next week, Brett Kavanaugh will be a footnote in history. He will never wear a SCOTUS robe. And he will be ruined as a man. And the truth about what actually may or may not have happened in a house, in Maryland, in 1982, will STILL not be known. The people who believe her …will still believe her. The people who believe him …will still believe him. But the big, wide middle, who are swayed by images and voices and perception …will have purchased the movie tickets and suspended their disbelief long enough for the case against him to have been made. The Democrats played this game to perfection. And the Republicans were unwitting participants.

This is how we (the entertainers) get you to believe things. We just say it loud enough and long enough and credibly-looking enough. And eventually you say, “well …I suppose Madonna really IS a great singer. I mean …everybody else thinks she is …and I like that one song …so …whatever …I’ll buy it.”

I’ve seen it happen a few dozen times. And it’s not about special talent or special vision or right or wrong or any of those surface pursuits. It’s about one thing and one thing only: the will to play to win …no matter what it takes.

One side has been playing to win in this debate. The other side has simply been scared to lose.

Well, their fears are about to become a reality.

R

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THE NEW PURITANS …

“Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks …”

That’s a lyric …in a song …by an artist who now does game shows and TV commercials. Oh, by the way, that’s the chorus and it’s probably the tamest part of that song. I really can’t put the rest in print …at least not here.

I could literally fill this entire post with x-rated, misogynistic lyrics that are considered mainstream, and probably being sung by a nine-year-old girl somewhere, right now.

No, this isn’t going to be an “art bashing” piece. I’m a first amendment crusader and always stand up for freedom of speech and expression every chance I get. I am also a Snoop fan (of sorts) and I’m not here to bash him either. However …

I was born in the summer of love. And so I’ve lived through the sexual revolution (and the rock era) in real time. I was also raised under the watchful eye of a strict Church doctrine. So, like so many my age, I’ve been in the eye of the cultural hurricane my entire life.

I remember Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” coming out and sparking controversy. I can still hear the sermons. I can recall, in great detail, the emergence of Prince and the firestorm he set off with so many of his songs. Oh yes, I remember Tipper Gore (Al’s wife) making a federal case (literally) out of Darling Nicki and the horrible things it was going to bring about in our society. By today’s standards, the lyrics in Darling Nicki could be on a Disney track. But I digress …

The point is, we were all warned about the pushing of the sexual envelope. We were told time and time again, about the dangers of treating sex casually and the horrors it could unleash. But those people were prudes. They were do-gooders. Bible-thumpers with no worldly wisdom. Those stuffy preachers, in suits and ties, were just wound too tight with too many “control” issues. Those puritanical hypocrites were simply trying to keep true joy and wisdom and understanding and illumination from us, the bold pioneers.

And so, we pushed the boundaries. We took consequences off the table. We took judgement off the table. We admired those willing and able to stretch our reality. We worshipped the rebels and tried to emulate them. And in some ways, we did find some truths we hadn’t yet found. In some ways we did shatter some norms that needed to be shattered. But we turned the world upside down in other ways.

We encouraged both men and women to shake off any sexual restraint for decades, through music and culture. It hasn’t been preached directly, like those old-timey preachers used to do it. It has been more insinuation, encouragement and coercion through concert chants “come on and start me up!” I love that song, by the way …and that’s the conundrum.

I wasn’t told how to specifically treat women on dates, when I was young. I DID, however, understand that you don’t go any farther than the girl is comfortable with. Nobody had to tell me that. It seemed self-evident. But there was a greek chorus blaring in my brain, constantly, saying, “Rock Me Tonight” and “Bust a Move” and “I Just Wanna Use Your Love Tonight” and “Give It To Me Baby” and even (to some degree) “Baby it’s Cold Outside (which has always felt a little rapey to me – but we sing it with a smile at Christmas time) and on and on and on and on.

The overtly sexual culture I was raised in, made me often think that most girls were down for anything; that they were sex fiends and would be willing participants in whatever debauchery was on the menu (although I didn’t seem to actually know any of these girls), and that everything seemed to be on the table. You just had to get them “loose enough” or “in the mood.” We were all under the impression that being uptight and prudish about sex was out-of-date and some weird throwback to another time – even those of us raised in church.

Then, the worst thing of all happened …we actually met some of those girls and found out that they did, in some cases, exist. We watched porn and we saw behind-the-scenes shows about rock stars and movie stars and how available all kinds of sex was to them …at all times. Then, we immersed ourselves in the rap culture and finally decided that, as was expressed earlier, “bitches ain’t shit.”

That mentality has unfortunately grown and evolved and produced some painful experiences in our society. And now, we find ourselves with a new, almost puritanical backlash.

Literally EVERY woman I know (or have ever heard of) is claiming victimhood to some form of sexual assault. Literally. Every. Single. One. So, either nearly all men are predatory in some way, or we’re defining “assault” on a sliding scale. Was my going for second base, in the back seat of that car, in tenth grade, an assault? Did her blocking my hand mean I was crossing a predatory line? I honestly don’t know, anymore. My culture was telling me it was all normal and playful and that everybody was dong it and that I (and she) should too. But now, can that be remembered differently? Can it be remembered as an “unwanted advance?”

(As a side note, the tenth grade example is completely fictional. And I categorically deny any “blocking” incidents …anyway …)

The new puritans aren’t fire-and-brimstone preachers, warning of the justice of hell. They are lawyers warning of prison bars and life sentences. And the culture as a whole is scratching its head, wondering what’s on the table and what’s off the table.

Let me be clear …rape and assault is nothing to trifle with. It’s horrible for the victims and it should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But I often wonder where the line is. Can telling someone “it looks like there’s a pubic hair on my Coke can” be seen as some sort of sexual misconduct? According to Anita Hill, it can. And that makes me question everything I’ve ever said to anyone …even in jest. It makes me question this very piece. It makes me think a lot about what to tell my son, when he asks me about how to deal with women, whether he’s on a date with them or not.

Obviously, we’re currently in the throes of the Brett Kavanaugh fiasco. And this isn’t about that. Not directly, anyway. But the attitudes that are on display in the center of it, as well as the #meetoo movement, are something of a re-set for male/female relations. Everyone, including rock stars and rappers, is going to have re-think everything. And maybe that’s a good thing.

And maybe all those stuffy preachers, yelling and screaming at us to “shape up” and “stop messing around,” and “watch what you put in your brain” were onto something.

 

R

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AS I RECALL …

I guess we can’t actually be sure they weren’t witches.

For all we know, the Salem witch trials made pretty good cases against the 200 some-odd people they accused and the 19 people they killed. You certainly don’t want witches in your colony. That’s for sure.

Anyway …

As we all roll our eyes at incidents in our past, like the Salem witch trials, it’s always good to remember that incidents like that were considered in the founding of the United States. The whole “innocent until PROVEN guilty” thing was pretty revolutionary for its time. It was revolutionary for any time, for that matter. The idea that you could be at the scene of a crime, with blood all over you, leaning over a victim, and the state would still have to prove that you weren’t giving him CPR, is a serious built -in protection for every citizen of this country.

I, for one, embrace the idea …strongly.

Because, You. Cannot. Prove. A. Negative. It’s a universal principle that is philosophical and existential and all of those big words, combined. But what it means is simply this: I can accuse you of pretty much anything. I can say, “you look like a child molestor …prove to me that you’re not.” And there is no human way for you to prove you are NOT something. At least, not without running a real-time movie of every second of your entire life.

The real-time movies we have at our disposal are our memories. Our brains store all the information we’ve ever learned and all the deeds we’ve ever done …in theory. The problem is our ability to recall everything that has ever happened in our lives, is simply impossible to access. And in some cases, it may even be false …

We are learning some interesting things about memory that we may not want to know. A lot of research is being done that suggests our brains sort of discard things we don’t want to remember about ourselves and then even make up things that we want (or believe) to be a part of our story.

I read a piece, just today in medicalxpress.com (by Giuliana Mazzoni), that talked about how we make memories …or how, sometimes we even make up memories.

“Memories are therefore very malleable, they can be distorted and changed easily, as many studies in our lab have shown. For example, we have found that suggestions and imagination can create memories that are very detailed and emotional while still completely falseJean Piaget, a famous developmental psychologist, remembered all his life in vivid detail an event in which he was abducted with his nanny – she often told him about it. After many years, she confessed to having made the story up. At that point, Piaget stopped believing in the memory, but it nevertheless remains as vivid as it was before.”

This is intriguing stuff. But it’s also disturbing.

I’ve been reminded lately, of things I did in my past (not bad things …just things), that I literally have no recollection of. In fact, going through a closet, this past weekend, I found a trophy I won in high school, that was some sort of award for having “Christian character.” Some of my high school friends saw the picture I posted and remembered the day it was awarded to me. Some of them have even remembered how and why it happened. I still cannot recall a single thing about it. I sat and stared at it for a few minutes. And honestly, I was disturbed at the lack of information I could access regarding said award.

Maybe I’ve decided to discard a memory of something redemptive about myself, in order to retain the image I’ve created, of someone with a little more edge. Maybe there was something positive about me …I simply don’t want to know. Or maybe I’m just getting old and have simply sipped too much whiskey through the years. All I know is it bothered me that I couldn’t (and still cannot) remember anything about that little trophy, when there were other people who remembered it vividly.

The trouble with relying on memory as an accurate source of information is that it simply may not be all that accurate.

Our nation is embroiled in yet another “he said/she said” incident, regarding Supreme Court Justice nominee, Bret Kavanaugh. And the madness that always surrounds these things is bubbling yet again.

Every woman who has ever been assaulted, is overlaying her own experience onto this one. Every man who doesn’t know whether to shake hands or bow when meeting a woman, is overlaying his experience onto it as well. And the arguments fly.

The core of it is politics: everyone thinks this nominee is the deciding vote in overturning Roe V Wade, hence reversing the legal precedent on abortion in The United States. Most people’s hopes and/or fears are completely unfounded, legally speaking. But legal misinformation aside, the stakes seem to be as high as stakes can be. So, is this man fit to sit on the bench?

Enter memories …

We are being asked to form judgments on a man (and a woman) based on their individual memories. We’re being asked to solve a mystery that cannot be solved. And in the process, we’re being invited to place our own memories in their room. And that is the most insidious thing of all.

This is why the founders placed a burden of proof on the state or the accuser. Because the truth about what happened 36 years ago, in a room, at a party, will actually never be known …quite possibly even by the two people in question.

Does she remember it wrong? Maybe. Is his not recalling it at all proof of anything? Absolutely not. He may have simply decided to not remember this dark thing about himself. Who knows? I still don’t recall my little award. God knows what else I’ve forgotten.

The standard, then, has to come from the aggregate of a life. Every woman who has ever been raped or assaulted remembers it vividly and should always be heard out. Victims of assault are nothing to joke about or take lightly. However, in the absence of proof, what do you do? My father (the Phd counselor), always says that people behave in patterns. If they’ve done something once, they’ve probably done it many times. So, when several women come forward, who have similar stories about a person, there is a more than good chance the man in question has a problem and is what they say he is (Bill Cosby, anyone?).

In the absence of a pattern, however, we’re right back to one memory against another. And that is a frightening thing.

I don’t know what happened with Bret Kavanagh and his accuser. Neither do you. But the thing that nags at me more and more, as I get older, is …quite possibly, neither do they.

 

R

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GHOST WRITER …

So, I’m writing a new book. It’s about a songwriter in the mid 90s, in Nashville (go figure – write what you know, I suppose). This young man finds himself in a very precarious position, one Halloween night. And his actions on that night, will haunt him for the rest of his life.

My other books are spiritual journeys with redemption at the end. They will leave you crying and cheering and feeling good about life. THIS one will scare you and haunt you (I hope) and also take you inside the dark places of the music business.

If you care to join me on this ride, you can click the link at the bottom of the page and join my Patreon site. Subscribers to the site get my daily blog as well as all kinds of extras. One of those is having access to my books. THIS one is literally in progress and I will be posting a chapter a day until it’s finished (sometime around Halloween).

Okay …I hope you enjoy the first chapter …

 

THE BLOOD AND THE PAGE …

Danny couldn’t bleed on the page. And he knew it.

It wasn’t that he was too privileged or wealthy or even sadistic, lacking the basic empathy required to understand the struggle, heartbreak, tragedy and majesty of the human condition. He wasn’t emotionally bankrupt, lacking the proper development of the frontal lobe. The problem might’ve been that he was none of those things.

Still, Danny knew true heartache, triumph, pain and pinnacle all too well when he saw it …or HEARD it. But he knew deep in the core of his bones that he couldn’t access it. Not like his heroes could. Not like he needed to be able to do, to do the job at the highest level. He’d never broken through to that sublime contrast of comfort and discomfort inside the muse. He’d never balanced himself on the head of that elusive pin and become a truth-telling angel.

He longed to find the simplicity and ache of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” or the plaintive resignation of “Crazy.” How does one find the handle on a narrative like “Hotel California?” So far, in his twenty-nine years, all Danny Jones had found in his soul was fools gold and an impostor’s heart. He WANTED “it” …but he feared that he didn’t HAVE “it.” He could recognize genius …but he couldn’t tap into it.

Maybe it wasn’t there. Maybe Danny was mediocre and incapable of greatness, and it was just that simple. As he stared into the mirror, one week before his thirtieth birthday, he was being forced to face truths he’d been allowed to skirt for almost a decade, now.

He and his guitar had been the center of attention in small town America. He’d crooned at parties and weddings, and brought on inadvertent smiles from maids-of-honor and tight little coeds, dizzy on one-too-many Bud Lights. His simplistic rhymes and slightly awkward melodies had wooed the hometown crowds of Samson, Alabama. Then, he’d won favor at the small-but-stout Blazers College with his frat-house party band, “Elroy Jetson.” They did jam band covers of classic Saturday morning cartoon theme songs. They were an ironic version of something already ironic. But they played all the parties in town and learned a few more chords than just C, G and A …a few.

Danny made his way through the minor college as a minor celebrity of sorts. He had one song that got sung at pep rallies called, “We’re Fired Up Tonight.” And he was featured in the campus paper a couple of times as “the one to watch.” Whenever he would be at a party, at someone’s dorm or apartment, to drink cheap beer and hit on girls, someone would always ask him to pull out the guitar …then they would eventually tell him how great he was and how they just knew he was going to make it one day. That became his main drug of choice; applause and adulation.

Danny and his guitar were inseparable and a campus fixture. He’d designed his identity and chosen his part in the powerful play. He was going to be the troubadour; the songsmith; the soul singer. And he knew where people like him went to become kings. He decided that after graduation he would move to Nashville, Tennessee and take the town by storm.

Nashville was unassuming and sleepy compared to New York or LA. It was his speed and it churned out the music he loved – Country, Gospel and Bluegrass; music with roots; music with a lineage. Surely someone with his ability would be a wake-up call for the gate keepers there. Sure, they’d heard Kris Kristofferson and Tom T Hall. They’d heard the songs of Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson and Harlan Howard. But Danny? They’d never heard anything like Danny. At least that’s what he told himself at twenty-two.

Now, almost eight years later – most of those years spent waiting tables and delivering newspapers at five in the morning – Danny knew he was reaching the end of the line. Thirty was the death nail in the music business. If you can’t do it by then, you probably can’t do it. Danny knew this.

And so, Danny Jones, would-be words-and-music icon, was on the verge of giving up his dream, one week before his thirtieth birthday of November fifth, 1994.

It was October 30th and Danny had had yet another fight with his long suffering girlfriend, Jill, the night before. Jill was beautiful in a somewhat nondescript way. She was lean and curvy with full lips avery man in any room wanted to taste, with straight, short-blunted brown hair and deep brown eyes you could get lost in. Danny got lost in those eyes on more than a few occasions. And in his flailing, had made promises. Promises he fully intended to keep, but somehow feared he would never be able to.

Jill worked as a Dental assistant and was already making a steady income. She was a grown-up with health insurance and vacation days. Her apartment was nice and her furniture was nice. She was ready for a life.

Danny was still lost in his dream and eeking out a meager existence through turning tables at the Cooker Bar and Grill and throwing papers for the Tennesseean. The Cooker was the place to work if you were an up-and-comer in the music business, in Nashville. It was also where those on the way down worked. After working there for almost six years, Danny was stalling and knew he was morphing from on his way up …to on his way out.

He had seen a few of his friends serve iced tea for a year or two, then catapult to stardom. A singer here …a studio player there. One or two hit songwriters and even a record executive had spawned from this proving-ground. He’d seen them come through the ranks of the service industry …into the ranks of the music industry. That’s where he wanted to be.

But Danny wasn’t making that same leap. Oh sure, one or two of those people took phone calls from him. He even got a few meetings. And through the years he learned that he wasn’t as good of a singer as he thought he was. He learned he definitely didn’t have the chops to be a session guitarist. And now his age and already slightly thinning hair was leaving him the one choice left for troubadours …professional songwriter. But Danny never seemed to have “the right song” at the right time. And this was getting old. It was getting old for Jill, too.

She didn’t need a knight in shining armor. She didn’t need a millionaire super star. That wasn’t the point. She needed a man with direction. She wanted children and a home and a man by her side that gave it all purpose and leadership. She needed a partner, not a boy in a man’s body, still hanging on to an adolescent dream.

Danny was weak-in-the-knees gorgeous to her when they first met, at that crazy Halloween party, three years earlier. She was dressed as Genie, from the old I Dream of Genie series. Danny was dressed as Zorro. And she could feel his dark eyes piercing into hers through the mask, from across the room. He looked like a thief in his loose, black shirt, unbuttoned to below his chest – just enough chest hair showing to announce he was a full grown man in every way. His sleeves were rolled to just below his elbow, revealing the bulging veins and sculpted sinew of a man who’d been gripping a guitar neck most of his life. The brim of his ranchero hat was shadowing his chiseled jawline and prominent check bones. The 6 foot, 170 lb. specimen, in the mask and black square toed boots, was striking and dashing and made her heart beat faster.

Jill had caught Danny’s eye as well. Her 5’4’’ frame was delicate yet fit. Her supple, mocha skin was partially hidden by the absurd genie garb. But her flat, midriff breathed in and out and tightened when she laughed. Beneath the red costume vest, Danny noticed her pert breasts leading up to a shoulder and neck line that looked to be almost drawn it was so perfect. She turned to get a drink and he saw her hair tied in a whimsical pony tail that bounced and danced with her every move.

The tight small of her back cascaded downward into that careless bob and jiggle that causes men to howl and gather for the hunt and go to war. Two tight, lean legs silhouetted through pink taffeta, led to her tiny, pristine feet, traced and restrained by the bejeweled Genie sandals. Each toe was in perfect harmony with the next, capped at the nail in high gloss, naughty red. Danny knew if she ever reached up to kiss him, she would have to raise herself up on those beautiful toes and it made him breathe harder.

Behind his mask (and two beers in), he summoned the courage to walk through the crowd and make an impression. He swaggered up and said, “Hello. I’m Danny …I mean …Zorro.”

Jill giggled like a school girl and replied, “I’m Genie. You’ll have to take off the mask to get my real name.” Then she smiled coyly. Danny didn’t remove the mask. He just took her hand and kissed it. Then said, “Nice to meet you, Genie.” The sheer courage in that move made Jill giggle even more. Danny had orchestrated the ultimate “meet cute.” And the night was on …

The two costumes were metaphorically sexual in nature. Hers made her feel more feminine. His made him feel more masculine. And the combination of sights and scents and fantasies attached to the archetypes of each garment, swirled in their collective consciousness to produce a hailstorm of pheromones and emotional charges that whisked both of them into a torrid euphoric mix of uncomfortable laughter, too many drinks and uncontrollable touching.

By the end of the night they literally couldn’t keep their hands off each other. The host of the party walked in on them in the bathroom, making out. They rushed past him laughing and embarrassed and knowing that they were now “together.” From that night on they had nicknamed each other, “Zorro” and “Genie.”

As the sun came up, they were still talking about childhood and college and favorite books and TV shows. Danny had long since removed the mask and they had made plans for the following night.

But this morning, three years later, Danny didn’t feel much like Zorro. And he knew he was losing his Genie …his Jill.

He stared in to that mirror, donning his blue buttoned-down shirt and black, cotton slacks. His black leather tennis shoes still had smatterings and smudges of shaved carrots and caked gravy. No matter how much you wipe them, a waiter’s shoes are never really clean. Danny stared at himself and realized this was it. He wasn’t Zorro. He was in a blue shirt and black pants. He was a cog in a wheel. Nothing more. He wasn’t special. He wasn’t “the one.” He was just a guy getting people meat loaf and iced tea.

For years, Danny had tried to capture the poetry of Jill in a song, but it never was as perfect as she was. It never had her curves or brilliance or undiscovered mystery. It was never as unexpected and whimsical. It was never as deep or as passionate. He could never reach the heights or depths of her spirit. He could never quite capture her breath on his skin or that look of surrender when he was about to kiss her. Danny was captured by this woman he couldn’t paint on the page.

And that page, that damned lyric page he’d spent so much of his life pouring over and re-writing and starting fresh and ripping up and throwing away and crossing out and underlining and putting tittles and hooks at the top of …well …he would have to let it go. It had beaten him. He was never the master of it. He just wasn’t good enough.

He wanted to be Zorro. He wanted to open his soul and let the pain and longing and disappointment and trauma and defiance and beauty and love and hate and sex and prayers and rhythm and anger and hope and lust and murder and heroism and his very own devil and his very own God …spill out. And he wanted to be known for it. And he wanted to be praised for it. And yes …he wanted to be paid for it. But his soul was too cautious and his pen was too weak. And now, he had to face it.

Danny couldn’t bleed on the page …and blood was required.

To follow this book as it gets written, and to read my other book from this year, 8 Rules, click the link below to subscribe to my Patreon site:

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9/12 …

“And our flag was still there,” was the line delivered by Julia Roberts, as she choked back tears.

She’s either a better actress than I thought or she was genuinely moved and emotionally shaken than night. Not to take anything away from Ms Roberts’ acting skills, but I actually believe it was the later. For all the performers and celebrities who contributed to the 9/11 telethon, mere days after the attacks, in 2001, you could see that was true.

People were shaken. They were broken. They were moved to action. But most of all …they were scared.

We just – literally yesterday – celebrated (although I think that’s the wrong word) the anniversary of 9/11. There were solemn remembrances and TV specials and social media memes …and yes …even blogs. 9/11 is seared into our collective consciousness as a nation. And it always will be. It is as a part of the American story as the Alamo or Pearl Harbor.

But the day I never forget, is the day after. 9/12. THAT’S the day everything sank in. That’s the day people around the world decided where they stood regarding America. Everywhere in the free world, people flew American flags and cried and grieved along with us. There was an outpouring of support for our nation and our people. The allies of this nation understood all too well – immediately – what was at stake in the human story.

But Americans themselves also went through an identity correction. We went from our frivolous in-fighting and political back-and-forth games to contemplating a larger question that loomed over us …could this nation end? Could America as we know it cease to exist? And if that happens …then what?

That question is the question we should always keep in the back of our minds, when we are rolling our eyes at flag wavers and no-questions-asked patriots, and people who cry every time Lee Greenwood sings his song. We should think about 9/12.

While I watched the aforementioned telethon, I almost snickered at a few of the celebrities. Because I had just seen or heard one or two of them poke fun at America and its people. Chris Rock had likened America to the rich uncle who molested you, in the special he’d put out, weeks earlier. Now, here they were (Chris included), arm in arm, singing God Bless America with all the earnestness of grade-school children. Why? Because they were actually face-to-face with the notion of losing America. And that thought leads you down a horrible trail.

Where else do you go for justice? Where else do you go for freedom to be and do whatever you choose in life? What other country on earth will protect you while you protest it? There are some. But the ones who do, all learned it from one place …America.

When I was writhing in a fever, in a hotel room, in China, one thought kept racing through my mind: If I can just get to America everything will be okay. They’ll fix this. Somebody will fix this. I’ve just got to get to America.

That thought was completely involuntary. But I believe a lot of people around the world think it often. And I know why.   

We are in an ongoing war of words in the culture, at the moment, over the idea of standing or not standing for the national anthem. Nike and the NFL and individual athletes are making waves and “starting conversations” about injustices they see in America. Okay …fair enough.

But the next logical question, and the one that keeps the other side so enraged, is simply this: what’s the alternative to America? Where would we go and what would we do, if this nation, its ideals and its protections went away? We actually felt the sting of that answer on 9/12 …and it was terrifying. And isn’t that something worth at least acknowledging before we tear into ourselves?

Look, there are many things we can fix in America. It’s made up of people; human beings. And human beings are flawed creatures …which makes America a flawed place. But it is incumbent on us to at least recognize, on a daily basis, that in the course of human events, the idea that was founded on this continent, two-hundred and forty-one years ago, was a good one; that America has been a force for good in the world; that without this idea and this place, the globe might still be languishing in darkness …literally and figuratively.

9/11 brought us to our knees and shook us to our core. But 9/12 made us reflect on why. And it’s because for the first time in many of our lives, we had to contemplate a world without the United States. And as many atrocities and injustices as our country has lived through, from slavery to interment camps, to segregated water fountains, the thought of a world without this experiment terrified us beyond just the possibility of death. It terrified us for what kind of a world our children and grandchildren might live in. Even if it wasn’t a conscious thought, we wondered what the world might look like in the absence of liberty and justice for all.

And those thoughts brought us together. Those thoughts made us embrace each other …and embrace our nation …in ways we might not have until then.

We are always going to fight amongst ourselves in this country. There was never a time when we didn’t. But there was one day in our history when we collectively recognized something existential about our unique nation. And we honored it without embarrassment, for one brief moment.

We talk about never forgetting 9/11.

But we should also never forget 9/12.        

R

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THE DIRT ON MY SHOES …

The soup aisle made me think about the peppercorn wars.

Somewhere in the 15 or 16 hundreds there were skirmishes out on the open seas, involving trade routes and fancy spices. Peppercorn was kind of a big deal and it sparked a lot of ships to set sail and a lot of sailors to put their lives on the line, and there were pirates and there was territory and there was seized cargo and lost fortunes and blah, blah, blah.

Now, you can buy all the pepper you want on aisle 3. It costs around four bucks …with tax. You can literally get it pretty much everywhere. We have no pepper shortage. It’s not a delicacy anymore. It’s not rare. It’s nothing anyone will lose their life over. And every waiter, in every restaurant sporting a tablecloth, will ask you if you want it freshly ground on your salad. See …it’s just pepper.

My stroll through the supermarket, the day before Labor Day, made me remember all of this. I suddenly marveled at all my choices. I was struck at the magnitude of opportunity I saw before me. And I wondered how someone from the 16th century would react if they walked through any garden-variety American supermarket today, where you can get almost anything you need.

People don’t often wonder why they have all these choices. How do the sweet potatoes get here? How does the bottled water get here? Why do we have so many flavors of Pringles? And how are they ALWAYS stocked? My little neighborhood supermarket is literally a never ending supply of steak and chicken and fresh vegetables and canned vegetables and fruits of all kinds and sugary treats and beverages of all brands. I never say to my wife (as some homesteading “paw” might say to “maw”), “I just hope they have molasses this month.”

Yeah …molasses is on aisle 10. And they’ve got plenty of it. If they don’t, the grocery store two miles away has it. You can count on it.

What made this marvel of human survival emerge? Why aren’t we still praying for rain and hoping the crops come in? Why don’t we fear our food supply is running out?

Well, it’s really quite simple: the FREE market has created this masterpiece.

Buying and selling goods and services, on an open market, has created a world where we never run out of eggs or butter or gasoline or underwear or cardboard or plastic bottles or paper or booze, or …or …tennis shoes.

If you spend any time at all reading about our past, you have to recognize that what we have access to is unprecedented in human history. Everyone in 2018 lives like a millionaire in 1968. We all have hand-held devices that posses all the information ever collected in the world. We have large-screen TVs that pipe in first-rate entertainment, 24-hours a day. We touch a button and the lights come on. We tap a few things on our phones and we’ve booked a plane ticket halfway around the world. We can have any food we can imagine delivered to our homes. We can tap one button and have a car pick us up and take us anywhere we want to go. Then we can tap our phone and tell our friends about it …via video.

We actually live in the brave new world. And I, for one, think it’s amazing.

But we disagree on so much. And rather than going to war, these days, we choose to fight our battles in the world of commerce. If someone does or says something we don’t like, we hit them where it hurts …in the wallet. The hope is they will get the message and “stand down” from their position.

We boycott everything: chicken, burgers, music, movies, car companies …and now, tennis shoe companies.

I just bought my son some Nike tennis shoes two weeks ago. He loves them. We got em on sale and he and I got to spend the day together, trying on shoes all over town, rather than his mother just ordering them online like she usually does. I didn’t actually care what brand he chose, as long as they were comfortable and he liked them. So we settled on the Nike’s.

Now, Nike has decided to embrace Colin Kaepernick as the face of its new ad campaign. I’ve written about this kid’s actions several times. I don’t resonate with where he’s coming from or how he went about it, and I think he kind of single-handedly destroyed the NFL. This is all well documented from me. But I’m getting a tad weary of trying to keep up with all the things I’m supposed to buy or boycott.

Our brands are becoming code language for where we stand on issues. I have this Bob Marley t-shirt that I love to wear. Stoners and uber liberals always give me the head nod or the thumbs up or come out and say, “Bro …love the shirt,” when I have it on in public. In fact, it happened JUST today. But I don’t wear it because I particularly loved Marley. I mean, I dig Three Little Birds and One Love. But I’m not a Marley freak by any means. I don’t wear it to signify my solidarity with pot legalization people. I don’t wear it because I want to send anyone a message of any kind. I wear the stupid shirt because it’s quite possibly the most comfortable shirt I own. And at my age, THAT’S the biggest deal of all.

Look, you can only protest the United States BECAUSE of the United States. You have protection from the VERY THING you’re protesting. You can only flip off the flag …BECAUSE of the flag. Also, being willing to “lose everything” is easy to do when you know you’re not going to lose everything. I actually DID lose everything over a choice I made, once, and trust me …losing everything doesn’t involve maintaining endorsement deals.

Finally, if you want to launch a campaign about people “losing everything” then maybe you should price your items toward people who have lost everything …instead of people who can afford everything. Are none of us paying attention to the paradoxes built into all of this nonsense?

My problem with all of it isn’t as much the politics as it is the fact that apparently half the world has lost its sense of irony.

Having said that, I’m not boycotting anything or anyone. If you want to …be my guest. But I’m so weary of what’s about to happen: wearing the “swish” will start to mean “being woke” or some other stupid term that means nothing. NOT wearing it will mean you are on the #maga side of things. And on and on it will go, and in the balance of it all will be people with jobs, just trying to get the kids to school on time and keep the bills paid. Even in China, that will be the case. Much has been made about the meager wages paid to the Chinese employees who make the shoes. But working for Nike is actually considered a good job over there.

In the meantime, I hope Nike doesn’t actually don’t lose everything. I hope none of us do. The free market has created a wondrous world of choices and options not seen before in the story of mankind. And we shouldn’t have to think about the politics of In & Out Burger to enjoy them. There are plenty of people I probably agree with and/or disagree with at that company. Those burgers tho …

The same can be said of every company on earth. And my politics will never line up perfectly with all the companies that make all the products I buy. And that’s as it should be. That gives us choices. The invisible force of self-interest creates a level playing field for all products, goods and services.

In other words, if Nike drops the prices of all their products, the boycott will probably be over. And they’ll never have to change one thing about what they believe.

 

R

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JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS …

“I KNEW it!”

“See …what did I tell you?!?!”

“There it is …it’s EXACTLY what I thought it was!”

These are some of the most satisfying thoughts and phrases in human existence. Nothing makes us feel more secure in the world around us, than for all of our assumptions about something to be reinforced. We get to rest securely in the world we’ve created and we don’t have to grapple with any complication.

I contend one of the reasons we talk so much about Hitler, is because he’s easy to stereotype. We don’t have to think about Hitler, or wrestle with anything in his character. He’s a monster; maybe the worst person who ever lived. We’re not like him. We share nothing in common. He’s a guide post as to what NOT to be. End of story.

As humans, we often need for everything (and everyone) to be as simple, and as easy to asses, as Hitler. We need people and circumstances to be that cut and dried. The problem is most things in life are not as simple as Hitler.

I am amazed at how often we now jump to conclusions about everything. The easily accessed information floating around the internet can allow anyone to bolster their already deeply-held beliefs, with the click of a link. And while we are all aware of how much complete hogwash is being written and shared, somehow we refuse to believe we have just read any of it.

This scenario plays out upside-down and backwards, almost every minute of every day, these days. Sometimes we get so invested in a belief, that we cannot WAIT for the proof. We KNOW it’s out there. It also works in reverse. We are so convinced something IS NOT true, that we will gobble down whatever news calories we are fed, no matter how lacking in nutrition they may be.

Months ago, Senator John McCain was being lambasted by many people (some were my very own friends) on social media for acting like “an idiot” during a congressional hearing. He was making no sense and stuttering and his words were trailing off into babbling. I read post after post (from seemingly “loving” people) about how he was becoming a disgrace or too old to keep doing his job. “What’s with this guy? Is going crazy?” was a common theme.

As it turns out, Mr McCain had a brain tumor. And that is why he was acting the way he was. If we had simply waited for more information, and not jumped to conclusions, we would have understood. That doesn’t mean we would magically agree with Mr McCain on everything. But it does mean we wouldn’t conflate a brain tumor with a disagreement in policy. And there’s where the rub seems to be these days.

Every little thing that happens in the world must have bigger implications or point to the conclusion upon which we have already jumped. If you hate Trump, you’ll find fault in every move he makes …even the innocent mistakes. If you love him, you’ll find an excuse in his every misstep …even the big ones. And THIS is how tensions rise and arguments escalate. It’s also how we start comparing people to Hitler. Because we need them to be that simple.

A year ago today, Joel Osteen’s church in Houston was under fire for not taking in flood victims. As fate would have it, while I was watching people pile on Mr Osteen online, I happened to be hanging out with one of his friends …that very day. It was interesting to watch the juxtaposition of people acting like third-graders on social media, while in real time, watching someone actually TEXT Joel.

Needless to say, what was being reported WAS NOT what was happening. The anti-Osteen chorus was rising and telling the tale of how he was refusing to get his hands dirty to help the people of Houston. While that story was being told and believed, my friend was getting texts about all the meetings he was in with local authorities, and all the safety assessments they were doing of the building.

“I keep telling him the PR is killing him,” she said, casually. “But he just told me the city is mainly looking for beds and showers …which his church does not have. So he and his staff are trying to help them find what they need.”

The truth was actually in the middle. Osteen was indeed NOT opening his church. That part was true. But it wasn’t for the reasons people thought. His church wasn’t a desirable place for what was actually needed.

On and on this went, and it was fascinating to watch and listen to.

In the end, if you love Joel Osteen, you didn’t believe he would turn anyone away. If you hate Joel Osteen, it didn’t surprise you he would do such a selfish thing. And neither side probably cared much about the facts on the ground, as they were actually playing out. Both sides just needed their assumptions reinforced. Because that is easier than having to deal with complication and nuance. The truth often requires us to say, “you know what? I actually get that. I suppose that makes sense.”

I don’t hold myself up as some sort of beacon of objectivity. I too jump to conclusions and have beliefs I want proven to be true. But there are some pretty good rules of thumb, when it comes to information, I’ve learned over the years:

1. Always assume your side could be wrong.

Being a lock-step soldier for your belief system can put you in peril of being on the wrong side of something, and having to back-pedal for the rest of your life. If I want to believe something, I try to hold that belief to a tougher standard than the belief I’m rejecting.

2. Don’t allow your identity to be wrapped up in a person or an institution.

People are human. They all fail. Some of them fail spectacularly. And the institutions they create are imperfect. If you find yourself constantly defending a PERSON or a group of people, rather than an idea or a concept, you will eventually have egg on your face. Because I promise you on a stack of bibles …nothing and no one is as perfect as you want it – or them- to be.

3. Don’t completely believe the news until you have THREE sources, from THREE differing news outlets. 

I don’t share news links. I just don’t. I’ve seen too much news get written wrong. I take it all in and weigh it against what else is being reported. I’ve often said, these days …we have to triangulate the truth. Even then, we may not completely get to it.

When President Trump says “fake news is the enemy of the people” he is actually correct …whether you hate him or love him. News that isn’t fully vetted, but that bolsters certain belief systems, is our enemy. Because it brings out the worst in us. It causes us to jump to conclusions that may or may not be true. And it eventually turns us into babbling fools, who don’t know which way is up.

And once you get there, jumping in any direction, to any conclusion …is dangerous.

R

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TRUMP, OR SOMETHING LIKE HIM …

“Give me an asshole who can play …”

This is a famous quote from iconic drummer, Buddy Rich. Buddy only wanted the best on stage with him. He didn’t care about their “moral character” or if they were pleasant to be around. He didn’t even care if he, himself, liked them. He hired only guys who could burn the room down with him …not boy scouts who were mediocre. Hence, the famous quote.

President Donald Trump appears to be in trouble. A series of confessions and convictions, of and by people around him, are casting a strange, dark light on his presidency at the moment. There is a perception (at least) that shady stuff has gone on around this guy. And when shady stuff constantly goes on around someone in charge, you have to conclude that the guy in charge is okay with shady stuff.

Has he hung around tax evaders and money launderers? Clearly. Did he pay off porn stars and Playboy Playmates to keep their dalliances quiet? I think we can safely conclude that he did. Is he a petulant child in the Twitter-verse? One hundred percent. Does he say things in public my mother would slap me for saying? Literally, everyday. Did he conspire with a foreign power to win an election? Maybe. Will any of this make a difference to his supporters? That’s a complicated answer. Let me explain …

I have a theory that all presidential elections are reactions to the sitting president at the time. I’m old enough to remember Jimmy Carter getting elected (in large part) because he was a wholesome, moral breath of fresh air in an atmosphere of corruption and scandal created during the Nixon years. I was only a kid, but I distinctly remember entire churches being excited to go out and vote for an openly Christian man for president. Then, after four years of that disaster, I remember those same people breaking speed limit laws to get to the polls to vote for Reagan as fast as they could.

The conditions that created a “president Trump” kinda started with Bill Clinton, who led to George W Bush …who led to Barack Obama.

By the time we got to him, Mr Obama was going to be the antidote to incompetence and corruption and war mongering and, yes …even racism. But a very strange thing happened during Mr Obama’s presidency. Racism didn’t end. Corruption didn’t end. Wars didn’t end. And incompetence might’ve actually gotten worse. My full day of talking to the customer service agent at the newly created healthcare exchange, did NOT leave me confident.

And what was discovered during Mr Obama’s 8 years, was that in a free market nation, over-taxing, over-regulating and a leader who constantly berates the business community and supports policies that place more emphasis on celebrating the “diversity” of people groups than on law and order for every individual, and foreign policies that take everything but the nation you’ve been elected to lead into account, simply doesn’t work.

What was also exposed in those 8 years was how feckless and weak Republicans had actually become in their opposition to such things. And with candidates literally talking openly about socialism and nationalizing private institutions, a guy like Trump comes along and promises to re-set the foundation of the nation the way Americans understand it …and the way they want it. Is he really that much of a surprise?

I talk occasionally about the fourth revolution. And Donald Trump is the leader of it.

If you’re appalled at the lewd behavior of your president, you’re behind. That ship sailed when one was getting blow jobs by an intern half his age, in the Oval Office …AND. NOBODY. CARED.

If you wish your president was decent and measured and refused to return fire at his critics, you’re behind. We already had that guy and he was called a war criminal, who should be tried at the Hague (Rosie O’Donell’s public announcement) and “retarded” (Chris Rock’s word – DEFINITELY not mine), someone who should force his daughters to go to war (Matt Damon’s suggestion) a monster who deliberately broke the levies in New Orleans to drown black people (Spike Lee’s claim) and on and on and on …AND. NOBODY. CARED.

If you wish your president was upstanding and righteous and said all the right things, you’re behind. Mitt Romney already ran. AND. NOBODY. CARED.

If you wish your president was a humble and honorable true public servant, without moral blemishes, you’re behind. Bob Dole (a man who gave his right hand to his country) and John McCain (a man who gave both arms to his country) already ran. AND. NOBODY. CARED.

Donald Trump was the last branch to grab before the nation hit the ground. But he has changed the game in some ways. Nobody believes a nice guy can get it done, anymore. We’ve had nice guys …and nothing changed.

Cutting taxes and repatriating a trillion dollars was the right thing to do. And it’s working. And only a guy who doesn’t give crap about what people think of him could’ve gotten it done. Moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was the right thing to do. It sends a message to the rest of the middle east and, in turn, creates a stability hard to quantify. Presidents on BOTH sides of the aisle have promised to do it. It should’ve been done decades ago. But only a guy who doesn’t give a crap about what people think of him could’ve gotten it done.

Taking Kim Jong Un on …head on …is looking like it was the right thing to do. But only a guy who doesn’t give a crap about what people think of him would’ve even attempted it.

While Mr Trump’s lawyers and campaign people were perp-walking in and out of ivory towers, a teenaged girl in Iowa – as middle-America a place as you can find – was being murdered by someone in the country illegally. That creates real world fear for Americans everywhere. We have enough fear of our own citizenry, breaking our own laws. And reasonable Americans don’t think it’s UNreasonable to ask people wanting to come to our country …to sign the hell in. They don’t see how that makes them racists. It simply doesn’t compute. And the only elected leader giving them any cover is the flawed president.

So, did Donald Trump collude and conspire with Russians to win an election? What the media and his opponents (and even a lot of Republicans) STILL don’t or can’t or won’t understand is that it doesn’t matter. He didn’t have to collude with anybody. He was going to win either way. He had millions of Americans at “build a wall” and “cut your taxes” and especially at, “I don’t give a crap what people think.”

Donald Trump may get impeached or arrested or disgraced or unseated or whatever. But what people had better realize is that if he’s gone, a large percentage of the population will be looking for something or someone JUST like him …to replace him. There’s too much at stake; too many socialists on the horizon, too many empty suits looking for lifetime political gigs, too many “nice guys” with great smiles and weak spines, to take anymore chances.

We just want an asshole who can play. And with the economy roaring and North Korea neutralized and ISIS basically contained and defeated, it appears that despite all the weirdness that surrounds him, he can, indeed, play.

R

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