Several years ago my regimen included an almost daily 3-mile run on the well maintained natural grass turf of the University of Texas’ Intramural facility. It was a particularly hot day in June just before my birthday. The mercury stopped rising at 105 degrees. I got back to my place dehydrated on the inside and soaked on the outside. Re-hydration was essential. I selected a pair of large San Pellegrino fizzy waters from the fridge and made for the back yard where I planned to water a good part of it with the fluids my body was shedding. The first bottle did little more than get the process started. Clad only in a pair of running shorts, golf sock, a pair of reflective sun glasses and my running shoes I stood there in the shade of a copse of trees that lived there long before I did.

As I waited for my pours to quit pouring I noticed a hummingbird flitting about in the trees. I remained still so as not to disturb it. I’ve marveled at their ability to defy gravity and watch them often in the back yard aviary. On this particularly inhospitable day I was poised to share a unanticipated spiritual moment – I was about to dance with a hummingbird. I named her Rose.

Rose took note of me; perhaps it was the reflective sun glasses or the sweat running down my chest. I certainly was no flower…unless you consider stink week a flower. As I stood there watching, Rose descended from treetop level to a level just above my head. She unabashedly moved toward me and hovered eye to eye at a distance of three to four feet. I fully expected her to flit off at any moment, but she didn’t. Rose circled me at a constant distance taking it all in. Do hummingbirds smell I wondered – no silly, not do they have body odor, but do they have a sense of smell?

I had carefully removed the sun glasses as she completed her orbit and now looked her eye to eye. She was unfazed. As would any proper dance partner after a trip around the hard woods she curtsied. That’s right she curtsied. Rose first dipped down a couple of feet and then Rose rose a couple of feet above my head. One more eye to eye look and she retreated to a high branch on the pecan tree. I took a long drink from the bottle and realized that I had not offered her refreshment. She flew from the branch and buzzed me, circled and flew off to her next encounter leaving me filled with a sense of wonder.

We, upon occasion ask for a second chance thinking all the while that the second chance should be kind for kind. Maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t work that way and maybe – I just danced with my sister Rose that one last time.

Old age isn’t for the young and it isn’t for the weak of heart…if you’ll excuse the poetic license. Old age is as much a fact and an element of life as is birth, death and the payment of taxes. Old age is earned, it is a right of passage like a driver’s license, and the vote. Old age awaits us all if you are lucky enough to achieve it. The old are marginalized, made fun of and ignored because they are, well, old and no longer relevant. This is an unfortunate cultural norm. In Europe and Asia, in South America, elders are revered as they were in ancient cultures. There is only coincidental wisdom in youth, and it is often wasted on the wrong things.

Wisdom comes with maturity and maturity comes with age. Do we fear old age, shun the toll it takes on our youth? Does it remind us too personally about what awaits us? Why do we fear what the morning brings when every day begins with the same way? Old age is merely another chapter as was youth and ignorance. What would become of youth and ignorance if wisdom didn’t accept it? Would it simply go away? Ignorance is a chosen behavior, and it only fosters ignorance and the things that accompany it. When the old organize against your youth, when they seek to rob you of your opportunity to join them gracefully, it is your right, your duty to revolt, to resist. When that happens, I offer a caution – you may be turning the page yourself. Accept it or not, the truth is self-evident. The old remind us of what awaits us all, if we are lucky enough to achieve it.

We all heard Kellyanne Conway say it to Chuck Todd, the White House Press Secretary was merely presenting alternative facts. That means other truths. How many other truths are possible with a fact? That’s become the new political reality, thank you George Orwell for the warning we are choosing to ignore.

When lies, the kind of lies we are now being fed on a daily basis as the unfiltered truth become acceptable, we can neither believe nor trust those who say them. It becomes increasingly easier to lie, and it changes the way you think. I do not believe that #45 and his posse knows or cares what is true. I also believe that #45 thinks that what he believes is the truth, and nothing else matters.

How can you understand, prove, administer or regulate alternative facts? How can a government run on such thinly disguised fabrications? How can the courts adjudicate? When it starts at the top, it will infect everything, it will alter reality, but not in a way that works. Individuals, groups, corporations, special interests all have a framework to follow the leader. How many times do we have to see that politics, like capitalism, needs little help to get out of control?

The fact checker is about to become an alternative. When truth is no longer valued and the public tolerates the misinformation, what are we to believe? Who are we to believe? When you disparage the media and become the only one who speaks the unfiltered truth, you supplant the media. When you combine a demonstrably disquieting leader whose character at every level is tarnished, who says what he wants with disregard, when he takes no counsel, refuses to put his personal interest aside – when he mocks and belittles those who disagree with him, when he puts himself above the law and distances the media from their stated purpose, when he distorts and mocks the First Amendment, when he accuses the other side of what he is guilty and feeds on people’s fears, he can only lead us in the wrong direction.

If you believe that #45 is the answer, the leader that this country needs, that his acts and words don’t speak to the character of the man, then you’ve chosen to believe in an alternative reality. I believe that the truth is being diluted and our democracy usurped one tweet at a time, one Executive Order at a time, and one lie or alternative fact at a time. The swamp may eventually be drained, but it won’t happen until the mid-term elections.

Governments have conjectured for hundreds of years: Where did he come from? How did he become so popular? How did he know if you’d been bad or good before Facebook and Twitter? What makes Rudolph’s nose glow red? I can tell you it isn’t a cold winter’s night. He’s tapping the brandy if you ask me. I doubt he could guide a team of inebriated deer to the barn.

NORAD and the CIA exhausted their resources trying to track him on December 24th – all to no avail. He eluded any attempt to discover the source of his power. The final reports said that it must be magic. The CIA operative that wrote the report became the Assistant Director – for a short while. He now operates a car wash in Fargo.

Santa Clause remains an enigma to everyone who has attempted to discover his true identity. Some thought perhaps he and Superman were acquainted since the aforementioned maintains a fortress of solitude reputedly near the North Pole. But I have my own theory.

Santa Clause is a hoax. That’s right, Santa Clause is a fraud. He doesn’t venture far from Mrs. Clause and a warm fire during frigid nights before he heads for warmer climes. Are you nuts, its damn cold at the North Pole, not to mention at ten-thousand feet. No sir, he’s a schemer.

Santa is a deal maker. Rumor has it that he wanted to be a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, but you know who didn’t want to be upstaged. For centuries he quietly peddled his toys and games, pajamas, sweaters and neck ties to parents. It’s a con game. He’s made jillions from the greatest scheme since war. He gets parents and loved ones to buy lots of expensive gifts during a really popular holiday and pockets the profits. What, you going to tell me you buy that elf toy shop propaganda or that he eats cookies washed down with milk? He drinks champagne.

How do I know this? Come-on, get a life. You know it’s true. He even has you telling your prodigy that he’s real. It’s a brilliant scheme. After it proved successful in frozen countries of northern Europe, he exported it to the rest of the world. Why, people in tropical islands even bought in.

I’ve tried to buy stock in his companies, but they are well disguised. It’s rumored that Warren Buffett is his financial partner. That’s never been proven. Mr. Buffett simply smiles when asked about the arrangement.

So this and every December holiday season when you go out to expand your already leveraged credit card debt with expensive Christmas presents, remember this: Santa Clause ain’t coming to town. He’s in Miami, although it is entirely possible he’ll be moving his winter vacation spot to a hotel he’s building in Havana. Ho, ho, ho!

I watched Tuesday evening as the scam of our lifetime unfolded. Marks were placed on the ballot, the tally shown in vivid blue and red. Detractors, supporters and the world looked on in awe, the shock was yet to come. Politics were put aside, and the 45th President of the United States was duly elected while the system was defeated. Dreams were shattered and promises were made – some things never change. The bitter-sweet irony that was the 2016 Presidential Campaign divided the nation. The marks sought a voice, a voice that can be raised only once every four years. For now they have spoken, and the system will be resurrected.

Many of the voters believe that the their candidate was just like them, spoke for them. The thought of that alone is motivating others to seek a more reasonable place to live. In my lifetime there has never been a more clear lesser-of-two-evils choice. Both candidates controversial, both candidates flawed, both candidates supported by their base. One could do no right while the other could do no wrong. For the past year the mass hysteria has swept the country and the result was palpable.

Whatever your viewBlue Man (4)s, it has become clear that evangelism has followed elected officials to Washington and to the state house. Whenever politics and religion are preached from the same platform, the results do not speak for those who don’t share the same religious views. We live in harmony with our neighbors who attend different churches or no church, pray in a mosque or read from the Torah, but yet we cannot tolerate their faith unless they see the world as we see the world. A nation built on diversity now votes to shun that which made the nation great in the first place. Change does not come from the core, from those huddled inside the circled wagons – change comes from those who venture out, who explore, who pioneer. I fear that on November 8, 2016, we constructed a wall around the circled wagons. Those who venture out will not be welcomed back, and the changes we seek will be walled out with them.

We have become a nation that fears, and we have mistaken human values for religious ones. That, my fellow Americans, is no way to govern a Republic. Politics have always been a contentious business, but it has never been as divisive as in this election. We’ve been served up apolitical rhetoric mixed with sentimentality that should not be expressed by the leader of the free world. The free world will no longer accept America and our President as its symbolic leader. You may not care, but you should. Walls that are built to exclude no longer protect, they divide.

I’m concerned for the future of our country and the concentration of too much power for too long. When one party controls the process by which laws are made, when advise and consent are blindly withheld, when barriers separate us from reason and compromise, the system will fail. When it does, it will fail for all of us except the very privileged. We have become our own worst enemies who expect everyone to support and defend the nation that seeks to exclude them. That paradox won’t be seen by those driven by ideologies aimed willy-nilly at neighbors who are now viewed as outsiders.

I look for the positive in the aftermath, but I fear what has unfolded is a portend of what is to come. Believe what you must, but temper it with logic and human values, and do not seek to control but to understand and accept that which is different, for it is in that very difference that the best solutions are found. If we continue to look at the world from the same perspective, we will miss the reality of it.

Blue Man (4)I’m reminded of a decades old joke: A forgetful priest has difficulty remembering the correct order when making the sign of the cross. Is it left shoulder or right shoulder first? The wily priest realizes he can use the customary places for his wallet and vest watch to aid his memory. So in his mind, he recites “spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch” to remind him of the proper order.

The staunch defenders of the Second Amendment have given that new meaning in New Gun City. Forgetful priests are taught “spectacles, testicles, wallet and Glock.” Give me a break you say. I say, not so fast, quick-draw.

There was a time when you carried your firearm for protection against an attack from the indigenous people whom you displaced or against outlaws who might come to rob you. When you went to town, however, you left your firearm at home. If you planned on stopping in at the ‘Long Branch Saloon,’ you left it for safe keeping with the Sheriff. Even in the Wild West they realized that firearms were unnecessary in most settings. It didn’t make the townsfolk feel safer to see people packing in the bank or the saloon. That’s why they had a sheriff or marshal to see to it that law and order was preserved.

The NRA whose purpose was to teach gun safety now has the objective to arm each citizen in all settings. That, I’m confident, is precisely what the framers had in mind when they envisioned the Bill of Rights.

When soldiers came home from war, they left their gun behind. Unless they were hunting for dinner, there was little need for a firearm. If you are at Walmart, the mall, your favorite family oriented fast food or caffeine haunt, are you going to feel safer for yourself and your family if a bunch of people are packing, open or concealed? Are you that good at spotting the good guys with a gun? When the shooting starts, who gets it in the crossfire?

I’ll admit, you never know when someone might flip you off in traffic. Who’s going to stand for that – just show-em you’re packing, that will chill them out. When the doors open to a long anticipated loss leader sale, you want to be packing in the front of the line. That’ll keep-em from pushing you out of the way. When someone insults your parentage while at your favorite watering hole, what-are-ya-gonna-do, just sit there? Hell no, if you’re carrying, you’re going to get respect. If you aren’t, you’re going to get shot. Of course, if you’ve had the NRA gun safety course, you will shoot true and straight, no collateral damage.

I can see a problem when you’re older and can’t slap leather fast enough anymore. When you check in for that gallbladder surgery, you might want to have an armed guard while you’re in the hospital. Takes a while to grab your Smith and Wesson out of the bedside stand. Caution when going to the dog park. Some people bring aggressive canines. You want to be able to defend and protect your best friend from a bully-dog.

While I’m thinking about it, you know how contentious religion and politics can get. When some nutcase wants to get in your face and express his First Amendment right, you’ll have your Second Amendment right handy to strengthen your argument. Nothing like standing outside the abortion clinic with my AR-15 and my Glock. Those reflective sun glasses help people see the fear in their own eyes as they look into mine. Gotta step it up to protect the right to life.

Glad we had this conversation. I feel somehow safer knowing that the more people around me with guns will insure my personal safety and protect my other Amendment Rights…like the Ninth:The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Think I’ll write the Archdiocese to ask what their policies are in regard to concealed and open carry. You might want to check with your Rabbi, Minister or Cleric; you want to be sure that you are able to protect yourself as you worship.

Did anyone see a firearm at the GOP Convention? That could explain why there were no shootings on the convention floor. Can anyone give me the link to contribute to the NRA?

Coin Image - E-coverPolitics has become a career path and unlimited contributions are permitted through the Super-PAC. The media has become a for profit business focused as much on entertainment and the bottom line as it is on reporting the news. The electoral process is out of control.
It’s all about the money, the campaign war-chest. That’s where the focus is, not on doing what’s best for the nation and for the constituents that elect our representatives. It’s us against them. The prophecy is self-fulfilling and we are becoming a house divided.
We’ve permitted common sense and compromise to sink to a new low and we have closed the open mindedness and spirit of working together. Rhetoric and blame are the new political capital, and we are spending it freely in an effort to elect the best President money can buy.
The collective mania that has continued to build throughout the primaries is so far out of control that the GOP is prepared to nominate as their candidate a person that they privately and openly dislike, if not hate. It is the bitter irony that confronts them and will prevent the party from unifying. All this comes at the nation’s expense – at our expense – at your expense.
We have to live in the here and now, but we must look forward into the future if a course is to be set. We have seen that a recalcitrant Congress waiting for the political capital to become stronger paralyzes the nation. The de facto outcome is transforming our form of governance into a plutocracy.
The rest of the world has historically looked at America as the land of opportunity. While we over-consumed the resources we exploit, argue among ourselves, politicize social issues and make them moral imperatives, that has changed. If we don’t wake up soon, those changes will be irreversible.

Blue Man (4)

In this Presidential election year, particularly with the media frenzy and debate intense environment, the political process has been compromised by the inclusion of religion. I’m reminded of the sentiments that followed JFK into the White House…Republicans warned that the Pope would move in with him and soon be running the country. That didn’t happen. Now evangelical Republicans want to merge their concept of Christian values into the law of the land.

Few believe literally in what the bible says, it’s too contradictory, notwithstanding it was not written by God or Jesus, but by other men who tell us what they think, what they heard and what they were told. For the system to work, politics and religion should be separate, otherwise it is the personal beliefs of the individual that are represented, not the electorate. If we allow our view of the world to color our judgment, what’s best for the country becomes distorted.

I think George Bernard Shaw had it right…”No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.” Everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs, but they were never intended to be a way of governance. Redacted religious platforms spawn religious wars. We don’t live in a theocracy, and we shouldn’t condemn them outright when we seek to create the same. That’s hypocrisy.

If a person seeks to be a civil leader and superimposes their religion over civil authority, they are in the wrong building. The scales of justice and the Constitution are not balanced by the weight of religion. Anyone who goes about professing their religiosity, quoting scripture and preaching the evils of those who believe otherwise seeks to deprive one of their Constitutional rights, not to protect them.

No religion is supreme, it is a matter of individual choice. Keep your faith and practice it freely with others who share it, don’t evangelize it as evidence of your credibility, because it isn’t.

Homeless NeighborPoverty is blind, but it will claim anyone who wanders close. Once it claims you, it holds you like quicksand – struggle is futile.

I had a dream, a dream that I lived in poverty, in squalor, and it clung to me like the dirt under my fingernails and the scabs of untreated wounds. Every day I awakened only to find that the dream wasn’t a dream at all, it was reality, a reality that I could not escape even when my eyes were closed. There is hope in my dream, but none in my reality.

I didn’t start out to be poor. My life was productive, it had purpose; I loved and was loved in return. I never had much, but at times there was enough to help others. I had a home, a car, a mortgage, a wife and children. I voted in elections, worked hard, raised a family, paid my bills and planned for a sustainable life. They called those like me, the middle class. It was the American Dream; it was my dream, and it ended.

No one picks poverty as a way of life, but once it finds you, poverty is grudging, unyielding, and escape without help is all but impossible. No longer welcomed by the American Dream, you sleep in public toilets, alleys and places where you are permitted to gather with others who share your plight. Your meager possessions are tattered and soiled. Poverty is a shared existence unlike the one hoarded by the rich.

Many who spend their lives here never had a taste of prosperity. Those who did are left with bittersweet memories. There are generations that have been in and out of poverty, never escaping its despair. You’ll find children here, babies, innocents who will never know the warmth of humanity, only its disdain. These are truly children of the damned, victims who grow up in a semi-feral life of ignorance and scarcity.

The American Dream isn’t dead, it is being hoarded. With each generation more and more are condemned to poverty and homelessness; they need help, not isolation. They are imprisoned just as assuredly as criminals locked up and kept apart from society. They are fed and clothed while they serve their sentence.

The homeless and the poor are treated worse than criminals. We pay corporations a profit to house and care for those convicted of crimes while the alleys and streets, the bridges and abandoned buildings shelter the poor and homeless. How can this be acceptable? Do people whose crime is being poor or who have been victimized by others deserve less consideration than an inmate? On the rare occasion when the rich are convicted of a crime, they are sent to camp where their wealth continues to buy them privilege.

It hurts being poor, the pain is real, tangible. A good day is sunny when everything you possess isn’t wet and clinging to you like your circumstances. Here a good day is a gift, not a birthright. The wealthy ride elevators to their spacious, climate controlled environment while the poor huddle beneath them with their cherished, filthy blanket around a steel drum burning scrap wood to survive the cold. They are the fortunate ones. Others huddle under bridges in the paper lodgings hoping that there’s enough warmth to get them through the night, one hour at a time.

That’s how it is in poverty, it’s abject. When it is cold, you are frozen out. When it is hot, whatever touches your sweat-covered skin is baked on in layers.

There is no such thing as petty theft among the impoverished. Every possession serves a purpose. A blanket or a salvaged dumpster meal become the measure of one’s wealth. I clung to my father’s watch. He wore it proudly on his vest. I shared that pride; it is one of the few things left that comforted me. I pawned it before it was stolen for a few hot meals and a bed.

If there is a heaven, will the rich own it too, will the poor still be poor? If the answer is yes, I don’t think I want to go there. If the answer is no, then why is it so important for some to have everything now?

It’s immoral and criminal to hoard wealth, or at least it should be. The poor envy wealth, they don’t begrudge it. The wealthy don’t have to give up much to stop the poverty cycle for the many. Go out on the street, meet the homeless. Walk the impoverished neighborhoods and see what they come home to. See for yourself what it looks like, what it smells like to live in poverty. If you can do that and walk away, you have helped to create the problem.

Income inequality has become conspicuous. We’ve all heard the statistics – it isn’t opinion, it is reality. Years ago I visited Bombay, India. There you could smell caste poverty on the streets, but not in the numerous world class restaurants. It had to be laundered from your clothing and polished from your shoes in the hermetically sealed hotel. I fear for the future of our great nation. We seem to be oblivious to the signs and stuck in denial that it could happen to us. Look around, with the decline of the middle and working class, the schism has grown deeper. We build walls to keep the wealth and the wealthy safe.

The wealthy use the law to build the walls, and we stand all too ready to defend them.

I don’t understand the debate. What source of pride is there in honoring the symbol of those who fought to preserve slavery? A slave was deprived of all rights and human dignity. Their life’s work and their children belonged to the master who occasionally fathered them. Horses were treated more humanely. Gray Pride and the Rebel flag is not a heritage to be flown above the heads of those it once subjugated.

It is tantamount to saying that the Nazi’s were bad, they were wrong, but someone had to do something about the Jews. OK, so the holocaust was evil, but the Nazis fought bravely. It is a false honor to cling to such a legacy. By all means, love your ancestors and be proud of your heritage for the good things it represents, but not for its contribution to preserving slavery.

The Confederate battle flag belongs in a museum next to the swastika. It was a dark time in our history; one we should never forget, but not one to be remembered with pride. If you support Gray Pride you should have a serious conversation with yourself – what message is it that you send? While you’re at it, consider these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Nowhere does it say, unless you were born black. Hatred and bigotry have no stake in it. The grace and dignity of the people of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church speaks volumes and it should ring loud in the halls of the South Carolina State House.

Slavery is dead, bury it under equal rights for all.