The Audacity of Patriotism

January 22, 2017

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to…remain silent.” – Thomas Jefferson

As our ‘indivisible’ nation embarks on a new era under Trump, we may actually be as divided as we’ve been since the Civil War. The presidential election process brought out the worst in those from both sides of the political fence. We called each oth names, pointed fingers, and dispised those who believed differently than we did — despite many saying they were simply supporting the lesser of two evils. Someone had to win, and now Donald Trump is our president. Some of us are very upset and scared, some are unsure what to think, and others are gloating. This would be no different if Clinton had emerged as the victor. I voted for Clinton, not as the lesser of two evils, but rather because I thought she was a good candidate. Besides her political experience, we share many of the same values and beliefs. Mostly, she seems to have some compassion for people, which I think is extremely important for a president.

I could go into much greater detail about why I believe Clinton was the better choice, but that isn’t why I’m writing…

Since Trump was elected, many of his supporters are asking the rest of us to give him a chance. “Take it easy,” they suggest. “Get on board and see what he can do,” they recommend. “Whatever happens, it won’t be that bad — just like it wasn’t that bad with Obama,” they insist. “Come on, be patriotic and support your president,” they plead.

“Be patriotic…” This is why I’m writing.

What if I said that true patriotism doesn’t mean that we should always be proud of our country. It doesn’t mean that we should always support our leaders. It doesn’t mean that we should always agree to simply try to make the best of the situation in our country. What if I said true patriotism means we should do the exact opposite? A truly patriotic person should question everything that impacts their country. I think our Founding Fathers would agree. Keep in mind that the original Patriots were also known as Rebels and Revolutionaries. Not only did they refuse to make the best of the situation, they declared independence from their country (England), and many died rather than be forced to live under what they felt was unjust rule. I’m not suggesting that anyone should declare independence, start a revolution, or literally fight for their freedom — at least not right now — but when someone tells me that I should support the president because it’s patriotic, I have to speak up.

I understand that we have an election process and that my candidate lost fair and square (or something like that). Like it or not, Donald Trump is in fact my president. However, I will never blindly support him, just as I would never blindly support any president, regardless of their beliefs or political affiliation. I sincerely hope we can get through this term without reversing progress that has been painstakingly made over the past decades and even centuries. I hope we will show compassion for all of the different people who share this nation. Diversity is one of the many things that truly makes America great. I hope people are right when they claim it won’t be “that bad,” and I hope people realize they can act to help make things better. I hope we will protest peacefully and in a way that earns respect from those who believe differently. I hope we will question and debate Trump and his supporters in a respectful way, whether this respect is reciprocated or not. I recall very clearly not liking it when people were hateful to President Obama — and turnabout is not fair play. I hope that Trump is held accountable for his mistakes, and is applauded for any successes. Mostly though, regardless of who we cast our vote for, I hope we will all remember to be truly patriotic. If we do this, the rest should then take care of itself.

When I was young, my father said Sonny

If you want happiness you must make lots of money

People adore those who acquire great wealth

It demands respect and promotes good health…

Swimming laps in the cesspool and recording great times 

First in class (Ivy League), and my car is so fine 

Engaged to the best girl, yeah her daddy’s real rich

An aspiring actress, she has perfect fake tits


Swimming laps in the cesspool and in the lead pack

A nagging wife and two kids are a pain in my back 

You have the best of everything, so give me a break 

Don’t bother me now, I have too much at stake

White lies and blurred lines, my eyes have turned red

Have to get the deals done, I’ve got the enemy in bed


Swimming laps in the cesspool but falling behind

My arms burn, my legs ache, but I’ll keep up the grind 

Working each day to pay for my sins

Swimming laps in the cesspool is a race no one wins


Treading water is really no fun, the pool is so cold, and my body’s gone numb

I stretch out my toes, but I can’t touch the bottom 

I’m stuggling and realize that my time has come 

Young swimmers splash by, they’re moving so fast

I reach out my hand, but they simply rush past 

They don’t even see me, they’re focused ahead


I can’t hold my breath…

It’s that time again. The holiday season is winding down, and we are bracing for the long winter that lurks outside our frosty windows. Unwrapped but unopened gifts clutter various corners of our homes. Boxes and plastic storage tubs sit restlessly in our basements, longing to be reunited with fraying stockings, fragile ornaments, and dusty wreaths. Our perfect plastic trees will soon be dismantled and neatly put away until next season, which I promise will be here in the blink of an eye.

As the holiday decor is coming down, lists are being posted. Resolutions, or as I think of them, decent ideas that most people don’t really expect to follow through with. Many of us resolve to exercise vigorously (“I’m joining my local gym, which is very close-by so it will be easy for me to get up and go at 5AM every day before work.”), eat clean (“I’m cutting sugar completely out of my diet.”), quit drinking (“Seriously, after New Year’s Eve I’m done.”), etc. These kinds of resolutions are all fine ideas, but for most of us they simply aren’t very realistic — or are at least not very sustainable. So what seem on the surface like positive goals, actually end up making us feel worse when the goals are not met. The only resolution I’ve made that has seemed to stick was a few years back when I swore off resolutions. I would encourage everyone to try this. What if I suggested that rather than coming up with daunting resolutions that we don’t want to do in the first place, we simply decide to live intentionally and do things we believe will make us happy?

There is a mountain of scientific evidence suggesting that happier people are healthier, more productive, and live longer than others. I think we can agree that happy people are generally more fun to be around, and as a former grump who has become mostly very happy, I can attest that it feels a hell of a lot better. Unfortunately many refuse to give it a try — or perhaps just honestly don’t know how.

“Happiness” is subjective, and we all define it a bit differently. But when we make a list (preferably an actual written list) of things that bring us a bit joy, we can more easily make an intentional effort to regularly increase our happiness level. Instead of coming up with lists of bad habits to break and agonizing things to attempt, we have “tasks” we enjoy and actually want to do. When we associate happiness with healthiness and longevity, we no longer need to feel guilty about making the time to cross these tasks off our to-do lists.

So here are some things on my list; maybe they can provide some inspiration:

1.  I will not worry as much about healthy eating. I’m not a health nut, but I definitely watch what I eat. I rarely have fast food, fried food, or even red meat. I’m certainly not going to start chowing down on everything in sight, but I’m not going to avoid the bacon this year. Or the ice cream. Or the gravy. And I might have seconds of each.

2.  I will ride my bicycle more. I rode my bike constantly as a child, and have periodically as an adult. After a trip to Colorado, where approximately 1 out of 1.1 people were cyclists, I was inspired to give it a go again. Cycling is obviously great exercise, but it also makes me feel like a kid again. Racing down a long, steep hill with the wind in my face, knowing that at any second a blowout could send me tumbling, is truly exhilarating. So exhilarating that I no longer care about looking goofy in a helmet. 

3.  I will take more hikes in the woods. This is another activity that is great physical exercise, but I find it to be much more beneficial mentally. I jog or walk most days for fitness, but it becomes a boring routine. However, when I’m hiking through wooded areas I lose track of time and the outside world as I become pleasantly lost in my surroundings. I completely forget about the fact that I’m exercising at all. Everyone should get lost in the woods from time to time — it’s amazing what you might find.

4.  I will read more books. Besides stimulating the brain, reading is said to strengthen memory, reduce stress, hone one’s focus, improve sleep, and much more. Mostly though, I enjoy it.

5.  I will continue to make an effort each day to be somehow kind and helpful. I’ve discovered that how people treat others is almost always directly related to how they feel about themselves. Similarly, being kind helps me like myself more. I often hear the term “random acts of kindness,” but I prefer regular acts of kindness. These acts don’t necessarily require any time, money, or even much thought. For me, it is simply an intentional attempt to do little things like smiling more, saying “hello” to strangers on the street, or returning my shopping cart. I have felt horrible after being negative or rude many times, but I have never once regretted being kind. 

Maybe this to-do list doesn’t fit you, but there is one that does. Another year is passing, which means we have one less to take advantage of. What are you waiting for? Forget the resolutions to do things you want to avoid; instead figure out a way to do things that make you happy. If nothing else, remember that happiness is good – not something to feel guilty about or put off for later. Go live intentionally, and savor the gravy.

Cheers and Happy New Year

Don’t Forget Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016

My favorite holiday is on the horizon. If you immediately think of Christmas, you’re completely wrong. I love the simplicity and comfort of Thanksgiving. During a time of extreme division and animosity between so many different segments of our nation’s population, we need this day to come together — not for religious purposes, not to share gifts, but to eat, drink, be merry, and share our gratitude for each other and for all that we have.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas, but I’m saddened that consumerism and greed are tarnishing the greatness of Thanksgiving, all under the guise of Christmas. Unfortunately, our new Thanksgiving tradition is to skip out on board games, movies, and other family activities, and instead opt to leave shortly after dinner in order to get a good spot in line outside of a department store. Once the doors are unlocked, we swarm inside like an unruly mob, sometimes screaming, trampling, and literally throwing punches, all in order to…shop.

I understand that times are tough for many of us and that there are good deals to be had, but there has to be more to it. I believe many people think they are happier when they are spending money or, more specifically, shopping. There’s a certain sportsmanship and one-upmanship that’s involved with shopping, especially on Thanksgiving. It’s a primal hunt for the best deal, followed by a desire to beat one’s chest and howl in triumph (or at least post on Facebook about how awesome it was). It’s a societal change that is the result of unbelievably successful marketing. Thanksgiving shoppers may be getting good deals, but it is actually corporate America that is really winning — just as they’ve strategically planned. There’s a reason that Christmas marketing starts the day after Halloween. Thanksgiving just doesn’t sell well. Corporate greed trickles down and unknowingly becomes the greed of the consumer. Meanwhile, retail workers — people making $8-$10 an hour — are being forced away from their families to deal with the madness as they simultaneously help line corporate pockets. But, hey, it’s all for Christmas…

My beef really isn’t with Christmas or capitalism, it’s with American consumers. In a time when we bitch and moan far too much, when our possessions define us, when our politics divide us, can’t we take one full day to be grateful for what we already have? Let’s reverse the trend of diminishing the importance of our country’s first holiday. Let’s stop shopping on Thanksgiving or even at the stroke of midnight on Friday. Let’s spend time with our family. The gifts you’re buying don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things (in fact, if you look in your children’s closets, you’ll probably find some unopened toys from last Christmas). However, our kids will quickly grow up and start their own families, and our elders will eventually leave this world. The best gift we have is time with our family. The appreciation of which is also one of the best gifts we can pass on to our youth.

I read a quote once — I’m not sure where it originated — that said something like: “It’s not happy people who are thankful, but rather thankful people who are happy.” We have plenty of time to shop before Christmas. Let’s put Thanksgiving back on the pedestal it deserves. Let’s carry on a tradition that began in 1621 when immigrant and native families shared food, stories, and gratitude. Let’s preserve the best holiday of all, Thanksgiving.

(By the way, this also means no Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving is over. Please and thank you.)

A Few Words on Blasphemy Day

September 30, 2016

Today is Blasphemy Day, an international “celebration” of speaking up against religion and religious laws. I am all for the separation of church and state. I’m against any laws based on religion — laws are made to protect citizens, not promote any agendas. I’m also very glad I live in a country that allows people to stand up for what they believe in, whatever those beliefs may be. However, I don’t like any religious ideologies being shoved down my throat. Similarly, I don’t need to have non-believers shouting about how ridiculous religion is, which is what Blasphemy Day has become in many cases.

Religion is probably the world’s leading cause of war, hate, fear, guilt, and anxiety. I can’t imagine a God who would willingly put His creations through the suffering that we humans are suffocated by on a daily basis. Are we all just some school project that the Lord is working on? Are we rats in a cage being tortured by a Master, seeing what lengths we will go to in order to receive a piece of everlasting cheese? I don’t think so, but it isn’t my place to criticize those who believe. It’s counter-productive. I have better things to do.

There’s a thought that’s been regurgitated by philosophers for thousands of years, which basically states: a wise man realizes he knows nothing. This belief is paradoxical and somewhat self-deprecating…and pretty damn perfect. Count me in.

Today, like every day, we have a choice. We can criticize those who believe differently, or we can accept it and move on to fight more useful battles. Some will put their faith in religious texts, some will put their faith in science. Both of these leave plenty of room for error and modification. I will choose to put my faith in those of any religion, or lack thereof, who use their energy towards making the world a bit better for everyone living in it. If there is a God — and I can’t say that there isn’t — I think it’s what He would want; taking care of each other and our world. Let’s be good to each other. Anything else seems like blasphemy to me.

Today is International Day of Peace. This year’s theme is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace,” and emphasizes ending poverty, protecting the planet, and creating prosperity for all. These are nice, lofty goals, and I hope significant progress is made in each area.

However, today — and every day — I think it’s important to focus on what peace really means. What begins the process of ending poverty, protecting the planet, and creating prosperity? What makes people want to be better as a whole? What can you and I do on a daily basis to make a difference?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” In other words, teach those close to you the importance of loving our families, our neighbors, and ourselves. Show kindness and respect to everyone. Take responsibility for our neighborhoods. If we all did this on a local, personal level, it would naturally start to take hold globally. Perhaps this sounds naive and over-simplified, but to me it makes perfect sense. Some are doing it already, and seeing results. But not enough.

When we tune into any news source, we are bombarded with stories of violence and hate. It’s true that the good news — and there is good news — doesn’t get the airtime it deserves, but there are a lot of bad things going on out there on this planet we must share. If everyone had been brought up being taught the need for kindness and generosity, would we have different newscasts today? If criminals had a parent or someone else tucking them in at night, saying “I love you,” would the world be a better place? If you and I made an effort to simply genuinely smile and say “hello” to the many different people we encounter each day, would it make a tiny impact? The answer is definitely yes.

If you find that these things are difficult for you to do, I have to think that you may need to make peace with yourself. It took me many years to figure it out, but I can promise you that being kind will not only make a difference to those around you, it will also change your own life in ways you can’t imagine. Forgiveness is a breath of fresh air. Positivity trumps negativity every time. And, most importantly, loving feels so much better than hating. To any naysayers rolling your eyes and assuming I’m some kind of tree-hugger, I assure you that peace has nothing to do with being a hippie. Peace is about being happy, and happiness is damn nice.

So on International Day of Peace, please go home and love your family. Make it a priority to teach — and show — those around you the importance of love, kindness, respect, and generosity. These are truly sustainable goals. Spreading love in our own home is the first and best building block to peace. Pass it on.

With the early-morning squeal of the bus’s brakes, I knew that the end of summer was actually a reality. Sure, summer isn’t over on the calendar. There will be some heat, humidity, and fun yet to be had on weekends to come. But the days of the kids riding bikes past dark and sleeping in past noon have been halted for another year. We will continue to hear the hypnotic hum of weed-eaters, have our favorite baseball team to cheer on, and be met most days by singing birds and beating sunshine. There will still be some splashing in pools, backyard badminton, and — at least for now — the ground still feels very inviting to our bare feet. But a change is coming soon.

Summer certainly swims by faster than when I was young, but so does the rest of life, I suppose. Sadly, I don’t see it slowing down any in my lifetime. It feels as if the earth’s rotation is gaining momentum, and there are simply no brakes. The passing of summer is not all bad, however. It actually brings plenty I look forward to.

Like Friday nights, when my family will wrap ourselves in comfy sweatshirts and sit in our driveway, listening to the distant P.A. system announcing names and numbers at the local high school football game. We will watch leaves turn colors and breathe the strange, wonderful smell of decay when they fall to the ground. Autumn brings Halloween and Thanksgiving, flannel shirts and cozy blankets, bonfires and the roasting of marshmallows.

Before we know it, there is snow on the ground and flames in the fireplace. Wet boots and heavy coats pile up by the front door, with sleds and shovels waiting just beyond. The frigid air stops our kids’ running snot in its tracks, causes our old joints to ache, and keeps everyone from wanting to leave the warmth of our beds. But we keep forging ahead, until the holiday season and new year bring joy and hope to all. Slowly the snow begins to disappear as the mercury creeps upward a notch or two at a time.

Spring renews our faith in all that is good. We feel truly alive for the first time in months as the grass turns green, leaves fill the barren trees, and neighbors come out of hibernation. Bicycles are dusted off, balls are aired up, and cars are washed. We inhale the aroma of freshly mowed grass, budding flowers, and charcoal. Life is finally good…although it was never actually bad.

And in the blink of an eye, school is out again. But our children are a year older. So are we…

My kids are excited to get back to school. It’s a time of endless possibilities for them, and excitement of the unknown. I guess it’s bittersweet for me. I’m happy to see them ready to go back, but I will miss our summer life when laziness is not only respected, but encouraged. When happiness is the main goal. It seems like that should be the case more often. The occasionally melancholy, over-thinker in me realizes that summers with my kids are a fleeting time and one day will truly be only a fond memory. But, as with the changing of the seasons, I know there will be more to experience, love, and remember as they grow older and become adults, themselves.

In the meantime I hope and trust that we can all make an effort to pay attention to what’s happening around us, and appreciate what life offers us. There really is so much it offers. Let’s cherish the time we have with our families, and look forward to the changes. Sometimes life will be good, sometimes it will be bad, and we may never know the reason. But may we all have endless summers, regardless of the season.