under the radar

Yesterday I watched President Trump take a moment to share the podium with America’s Truck Drivers. He put some guys front and center and thanked them for their contribution in this time of National crisis. It was a nice moment, one of many across the country honoring the professions that are on the front line at great personal expense as a unseen enemy ravages our Country. Our President knows that America needs heroes, it sells and makes people feel good.

My Dad would have appreciated it. To a degree.

My Dad drove a truck for 35 years. He was unequivocally the hardest working man I have ever met. I say that without bias. His work ethic was unparalleled. If he was to watch yesterday’s press conference he would have watched with interest for a while, smiled and then turned it off. It wouldn’t have been news to him, he always knew that America moved by truck and that just the slightest disruption in the supply chain would expose just how necessary his profession was. He didn’t consider himself a hero or essential. He just liked being needed.

He didn’t pick his industry by accident. He was a talented guy despite only a High School education. He was skilled at carpentry, electrical and plumbing. He renovated/rebuilt our house as we lived in it. But he chose driving a truck because it was one industry that would never be affected by the economy. I will say it again, America moves by truck. Everything would shut down if not for daily deliveries by trucks. I’ve always known this, many are just now learning.

As we honor the nurses, the grocers, the truck drivers, the mail carriers and other essential workers keep it in the back of your mind that it’s a day late and a dollar short. These are the people that have always kept us in the basics of life. They enable us to eat, to maintain communication, to stay or get healthy, to just function. We don’t urge our kids into these jobs because they don’t make what bankers and stockbrokers do. We want our kids to wear suits.

Sure, the world needs stockbrokers and bankers and other people in suits. But somehow in the push to make everyone go to college we forgot that our great Country was built by men in overalls with calloused hands and nearly destroyed several times over by men in suits.

Sure, celebrate the working man today as if it’s a new thing. But the grocery clerks, Nurses, Mail carriers and truck drivers and every other essential worker have always, and will continue to be the one who are making our lives as we know it possible.

When this is over, please remember to respect the Blue Collar. They are our real heroes. My dad would politely thank you. And then he would go back to work.

the middle of the road

It’s hard at my age to make change. But I’m working on it. I’ve reluctantly acquired the ability to look at myself with a critical, honest eye and I’ve had some success. My biggest challenge of late has been open-mindedness and I’m happy to say that I am really breaking down barriers.

A big one for me is my, for lack of a better word, politics. “Politics” is a funny word. Many shy away from it as if it was a civics course with a required grueling exam.
“I don’t talk politics.”
“Ugh, I don’t get it.”
“I don’t care about politics, it doesn’t affect me.” That one is my favorite.
To me, politics is current events. Knowing what is going on in the world. Being present as if my lone, infinitesimal opinion matters. Understanding the human element as it pertains to world events. It’s a game, really. But I believe that it affects all of us and knowledge of it is critical to our existence. Politics matter.

While nothing is cut and dry in the world I believe most people, at some point pick a side. Our personalities often play a large role in which direction we lean. The problem as I see it is that people feel that they must pick a side. In today’s charged political environment many have become entrenched.

There was a day, not that long ago that it was ok to think what you want and support who you choose and discourse was possible. We could agree to disagree. At some point we have lost that. The climate has gotten angry, intolerant even violent. Couples have broken up over who won an election, people have been attacked in public places for wearing a hat. Elected officials have publicly called for violence against those who disagree with them. Hate is in the air.

I got caught up in it. The attacks on social media, the anger, the intolerance and the name calling caused me to feel as if it was personal. I picked a side and I dug in. Forgetting that it’s ok to walk the middle of the road.

It’s a good place to walk, just don’t allow yourself to get hit. Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically.

Somewhere along the line I forgot that it was ok to not react. To think before I spouted an opinion. To not take a side. I forced myself to read blogs by people who are polar opposites of me politically. I tuned in to networks that lean differently than I do. I made an effort to challenge myself and encouraged others to challenge me. I found myself gritting my teeth at times but I’m a nicer person for it, and that was my goal. None of the anger made my life any better.

My father always said that nothing is ever simple, that everything has a story. In this day and age of soundbites and misinformation it is easy to forget that. Books have been placed by YouTube videos and everyone has a digital pulpit to speak. The question I have to ask is “is it true?” Then and only then should I react. React to what is right, not what aligns with whatever side I have chosen. Critical thinking is a God-given gift that I for one failed to open.

I don’t know. Let me look into it and get back to you. I’ll think about it as I walk down the middle of the road. That’s where the truth lies…somewhere in the middle.

political toxicity and the great epiphany

About a week ago I read a FB post of a dear friend. This particular guy is a fellow blogger whom I have a lot of respect for. As I prepared to read his post I braced myself for about 800 words that I would only agree with about 100. And that’s OK, I believe it’s good to expose yourself to material you don’t agree with. It’s called being open-minded and I really, truly strive to be just that

Or so I thought.

As it turns out…my self-proclaimed open-mindedness needs some work.

He brilliantly wrote about the Democratic field, his take on who he thinks is his favorite (s) and why. I bristled and bit my tongue as I read it but I kept reading. I disagreed so vehemently, with him and with the candidates and policies in general, that I reacted. I acted hatefully, intolerant and totally out of character. I surprised and embarrassed myself.

In fairness, my response was along the lines of being surprised at his left-leaning tendencies because I have always, mistakenly, thought that he was a moderate. But in the process of composing my response I attacked the candidates he supports. I even made a very unfair gay comment about Mayor Pete. Well, he called me on it. Not just the gay comment but my attacks on the candidates. I was surprised at the fury of his response because, as I said, my overall intent was to question how far left his beliefs were. Having said that, I got what I deserved and more.

I was told that my gay comment was out of line. He was right.

I was told that I was wrong in my assessment of the candidates he endorsed. We’re both right because this is still America.

He told me that I didn’t understand Democratic Socialism, Socialism or Communism. I didn’t agree at all, if nothing else I never speak of something that I don’t know of. I called him on that.

Then came the one thing that I strongly disagreed with, a topic that I didn’t challenge him on, a topic that is instead the topic of this post…he said that I didn’t understand people.

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Here’s the deal. We live in a toxic political environment, one that has permeated almost every crack and crevice in society and we have devolved from disagreement with civil discourse to digging trenches and taking sides. These sides have divided friends, couples and society in general. Now, if you hold a viewpoint that someone disagrees with it is personal and in some cases you are attacked.

As a conservative I have formulated a defensive attitude about my politics because I and people who share my beliefs are being attacked. Daily. It is an absolute true statement that if you support our president than you are believed to be one step away from shaving your head and donning a white hood. When your beliefs are constantly attacked, it is almost impossible not to be defensive. It feels personal and when we are personally attacked we lash out.

Unless we have the ability to control our initial, knee jerk reaction and take a deep breath. I needed to do that and I didn’t. I regret it.

I can’t change today’s political environment but I can change how I react to it.

My friend, if you’re reading this please accept my apology for my unwanted sentiments and I hope you read and appreciate my rebuttal.

I disagree with but respect your opinions. Above all else I respect any informed opinion and deeply believe that our political process requires, dare I say demands differences and a consequent civil exchange of ideas with tolerance of different viewpoints. I truly and profoundly dislike the entire pool of Democratic candidates because they don’t share my vision for my country. For you, they do and I need to respect that. But is it wrong to ask the same of you?

If I may circle back to the comment you made about my not understanding people…I want to thank you for that because it gave me something to think about. My question, after days of pondering it is as follows; is it possible, despite being on exact opposites of the spectrum politically, that in the end we want the same things?

Democrats and Liberals, there was once a distinction but not anymore (change my mind), have always held a grip on being the champions of the poor, the marginalized and downtrodden. I have always disagreed with that, I believe many people of my ilk, the dreaded “conservative” also care deeply about the same demographic.

I know I do.
I want an end to poverty, hunger, and homelessness.
I wish for a stop to endless wars.
I wish everyone had health care
I want a balanced budget and to eliminate the burgeoning deficit.
I wish for an end to institutional racism.

I understand and care about people more than you will ever know.

There are so many issues that our current administration is not addressing but overall, I supported the candidate that most shares my beliefs. This doesn’t, and shouldn’t, disqualify me as a compassionate person. I volunteer at food banks, I help old ladies with their shopping carts, I donate money I don’t have and I am always on the lookout for an opportunity to commit a Random Act of Kindness. So I am curious why my behavior didn’t reflect that. Fortunately, I had an epiphany and I learned once and for all that I need to do and be better.

My friend, I do care about people and I hope that my future behavior supports that. Thank you for putting me in my place. With the exception of the lectures questioning my education level, I got a lot out of it.

At the end of the day, everything is about people. And my, let’s face it, everyone’s politics should be ultimately about people. Regardless of who you support, no one, including myself has the right to tell you that you are wrong. We’re both right, we’re both wrong but we’re all brothers and sisters.

That is one thing that will always be a wonderful thing about this country that we both call home.

the power of youth

I am a conservative, words hardly uttered on the blogosphere or social media in general. Conservatives have it hard these days, we find our beliefs and values under fire, even under attack in today’s left-leaning society. I’m ok with it, I know that I’m neither a bigot, a Nazi, a Xenophobe or a racist and I really don’t have time or the desire to defend or explain myself. My blog has likely suffered, however, because I stay away from current events for lack of desire to be attacked as all of the labels listed above. Having said that, I am going to say something that may surprise many of my fellow conservatives and say that I don’t entirely believe that climate change is a myth.

Climate science is not an exact science. In fact, the term “alternate facts” comes to mind. About 2 years ago a debate erupted after Kelly Conway defended Donald Trump and used the term “Alternate facts” and a brouhaha ensued along the lines of factuality. “Alternate facts” was touted as a means of promoting falsehoods and I found it entirely disingenuous. Alternate facts actually refers to the existence of different sets of arguments or evidence. And that is where climate science breaks down for me. For every scientist that presents evidence that the earth is warming/cooling/changing there is another with a set of conclusions that says it is not. Especially when you read a story about a Arctic expedition heading to the North Sea to study diminishing ice and have to turn back due to too much ice. As a layperson I don’t know what or who is correct.

But, unlike my fellow conservatives I don’t deny that there is a problem. There certainly is.

Is the earth cooling or warming due to manmade activity? It’s possible. Is the earth going through a natural cyclical adjustment that may or may not involve eventual rising sea levels and massive weather events that may extinguish a large portion of the population? Also possible. It happened before and it was called an Ice Age. Another one is also possible. Whatever you believe, it is difficult to deny that animal methane emissions, fossil fuel consumption and rampant pollution are having a severe impact on our beautiful planet.

We only have one.

Enter Greta Thunberg. Never heard of her? You’re the only one. Greta Thunberg is a 16 year old, angry Swedish teen with Asbergers syndrome who has become the face of climate change through her fiery speeches lashing out in particular at boomers for destroying the planet for her generation. She has become so famous that Time magazine named her “Person of the year” (much to the dismay of Donald) and just today the prominent British Magazine Nature blessed her with her own issue for the awareness she has raised for environmentalism.

I have a lot of problems with Greta. None of which are her own fault. She is a tool of the left, likely backed by notorious leftist George Soros. It wouldn’t be the first time youth and the disenfranchised were exploited by the left, it wasn’t that long ago that caravans of “broke” people crashed our border after traveling thousands of miles in mere weeks and somehow had transportation, iphones and all of their meals and other expenses miraculously paid for. I also feel that she is being exploited by her parents who are undoubtedly making a small fortune off of their angry daughter. She is also woefully uninformed in environmental science as AOC is regarding basic economics and the accolades thrown the way of this angry little waif as a “expert” are misguided and borderline comical as she and the Bloomberg’s of the world lecture us about our “footprint” and tell us to use public transportation as they crisscross the world on private jets and jump their privileged asses into limousines.

But again, it doesn’t mean she is entirely wrong and as much as I dislike her and her angry rants she is energizing her generation and spreading awareness. Maybe boomers will reevaluate their rampant consumerism and millennials will use less plastic Starbuck’s cups full of complicated coffee drinks and be a little nicer to this planet. The miles wide patches of plastic floating in our oceans and killing our sea life will thank them.

There is a problem folks, even this conservative (one who is confused how conservatism somehow became synonymous with climate non-believer) knows it. So if it takes a angry little puppet’s scowling face posted everywhere to make us love our Mother then I will gladly watch it happen.

I can’t stand her, but she may be doing some good. Youth gets our attention. Youth is good. Youth is powerful. Embrace it.

hipster

I see you there
with the skinny jeans
your Che Guevera shirt
surplus military jacket
and silly wool hat
In the summer heat
You’re so delightfully ironic
Take another selfie
The world is waiting
Holding its breath
To LIKE your pic

You reject all that is
the status quo
Just one thing?
Do you know
what it is that you don’t?
You talk the talk
You’ve learned your lines
Your indoctrination complete
but can you speak for yourself?
You challenge
Rebel and dispel
Then expel
the lies you are fed
As easily as you reject
Those that know the world
Yet it would be odd
If the young had wisdom

Free thought is still free
But you join the sheep
grazing on the grass
that was planted for you
yonder meadow calls
if you have the goddamn balls
to put down the phone
and try some of its own
different
controversial
unpleasant
real grass

Youth is wasted on the young

the quest for open-mindedness

I have faced many obstacles in my life as I have gotten older. Health issues, financial issues and a turbulent marriage both scarred me as well as taught me many lessons. I have largely let go of anger and bitterness over things from my past and have learned to pick and choose what I allow to bother me. I can almost say that I have conquered all of my demons. Except one. I struggle with open-mindedness.

To be clear, I am not closed-minded by any means. I am largely receptive to opposing viewpoints and I am civil and tolerant of those who disagree with me. But that’s a learned behavior not a mindset. In my heart of hearts I still get annoyed, even angered by things that go against my grain. And it bothers me.

I’m sure that I am not alone in this, especially among my age group. I was raised in a wonderful time period. I was exposed to the influence of my Grandparents, people who lived through the Great Depression and a World War. They knew frugality, community and practiced old-fashioned values of honesty, integrity, civility and the unspoken bond of a handshake. I then had my parents, who had the luxury of the same influence but also of the societal shifts in the 50’s and 60’s that saw great turmoil but also resulted in an expanded view of the world and society in general. Yet, they both were largely black and white on a lot of things. Unfortunately, I have been accused of that very thing. I was very bothered by that accusation. I didn’t agree and resented it. I had a black and white reaction to being called black and white. Isn’t that irony?

Being black and white is a defense mechanism. We take between 18 and 30 years to form our identity and belief system. Our identity can either be our aura that casts light on the world or a suit of armor that shields us from that which threatens us. I feel it safe to say that as we get older it is almost inevitable that our identity becomes a shield. Unless of course we make the effort to recognize and change the pattern.

This is the road that I am on. I am annoyed at the extremes of society that gnaw at my sensibilities. While I have never lacked compassion or empathy, I have had a fairly narrow view of the world. I sometime feel that part of me fights to maintain that narrow view as another part of me struggles to escape the confines of my upbringing and take a broader view. It is a daily struggle.

The knee-jerk reaction is the thing that has to go. Life is not about what happens but instead how you react to it. The knee-jerk reaction happens when something that you don’t agree with results in a visceral and personal reaction. But it’s not personal and it only affects your life if you allow it. Very few things are actually a personal affront. Yet we act as if they are. I’m guilty of it. It took me a long time to admit and address it but I’ve made progress. I have come to the conclusion that in this day and age of bad behavior, short attention spans, poor education and general lack of civility people have taken sides. When one takes sides, it is not unlike war. Defend your position and attack when able. It’s going on everywhere but I refuse to add to the insanity anymore. I have chosen to take the “walk a mile in their shoes” mentality. Every hot-button issue exists because a percentage of the population is affected by it. It is not an attack on me and I need to remind myself of that. Constantly. It sometimes requires me to even count to 3.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion. There is a caveat of course, it must be an informed and properly communicated opinion. Just as in childhood, we responded positively to a even tone of voice laced with understanding, even love. When we were yelled at, we closed ourselves off and most importantly, fought to keep the words out. I am very open to an even voice, I am angered by being yelled at. In the whirlwind of the hundreds of issues debated constantly, the message is often drowned out by the noise and anger behind it. Thus, so is the reaction to it.

I have decided to count to 3 before I speak or type, I will then look at as many angles of the issue at hand as I can. I will do some research if necessary. Most importantly, I will try to not be offended. And then, once all that is completed, I will measure my response. If I even choose to offer one. I’ve been practicing this recently and I have to tell you it works. If more people adopt this mindset, imagine the difference in our current climate?

At an age where many are closed off, I want to open up. Many of my fellow bloggers are already on this path and I openly admire them for it. They are ahead of me. It’s up to me to catch up.

I want to end with a question? Would you call yourself open-minded?

Blogoversary

1 year ago I started my blog. I was at an incredibly low point in my life and I believed that putting it to paper, putting it out to random strangers would assist me in exorcising my demons. It did so much more than that.

230 posts, not including many discarded, later I find myself in a caring, supportive community that has embraced me at best and at the very least allowed me to share my unusual, unique and perhaps inappropriate take on life, love, family, work, relationships and chronic illness.

My blog, and consequently you, have become part of me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement, support, friendship and feedback. And of course, thank you for reading…