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I Don’t Do Stupid

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I have tried to keep this blog mostly lighthearted.  I don’t like to get caught up in political slander.  I don’t want to spread ignorant rumors.  I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories.  However, I’ve decided to adopt a new philosophy.  It’s simple really.  I Don’t Do Stupid.

The only way to call out Stupid is to talk about it.  I have come to realize we have been battling Stupid for as long as humans have learned how to communicate with each other.  The main character in the movie, Forrest Gump, adamantly spoke out against Stupid.  Every time someone asked if he were stupid, he quietly but unequivocally answered, “Stupid is, as stupid does.”  Forrest wasn’t stupid.  Maybe his IQ score was a little south of average, but he was wise in his simple way.  If you have not seen the movie then I would recommend it.

I don’t fully understand people who insist on being Stupid, but I do understand how we have allowed people to continue being Stupid.  We dismiss it.  We don’t talk about it.  We don’t want to get involved with it.  Why?  I think because we don’t want to acknowledge that there are more people who are Stupid than we realized.  (I could be politically correct and say people who do Stupid things, but I think simply calling them Stupid is more accurate.)  We have tried to be kind.  We have patted Stupid on the head like it is a poor creature to be pitied.

But we have allowed Stupid to infect us because we have tried to be kind and not point our fingers at it.  We have allowed Stupid to have a national stage.  We have legitimized Stupid by ignoring it.  Now, Stupid is not to be pitied.  It is to be feared.  By doing nothing to counteract Stupid, we allowed it to grow into something that threatens society.

Now is the time for Americans to grow up, to stop being entitled, spoiled brats.  Our Bill of Rights is there for all people, not just a few that want to cherry-pick the pieces of the Constitution that suit them.  Just because the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to bear arms does not mean we have to allow citizens to own weapons of mass destruction and assault weapons (like the AR-15).  If people are so paranoid that they need assault weapons for protection then I would argue that they may have mental health issues and should not be allowed to own weapons at all.

Today, I saw news articles about people who are saying that school shooting are hoaxes.  They are saying the teenagers who are advocating gun control measures are not really students from the schools that were attacked.  They continue posting these things regardless of the factual evidence.  That is Stupid.

People say we just need to keep weapons out of the hands of the wrong people:  criminals, the mentally ill, etc.  That’s true, but no one suggests how to do that.  How do we determine if a person is mentally ill?  Not everyone with a mental illness exhibits obvious symptoms.  Mental health is protected medical information.  By law, we cannot compel people to reveal that information.  How do we know if a person is going to commit a crime after buying a gun?

Representatives and senators are saying that gun control legislation will not keep people safe.  That’s true.  However, doing nothing accomplishes nothing.  Limiting the type of weapons available to the public can provide a higher level of safety.  Making background checks mandatory for every type of gun purchase can provide a higher level of safety.  We have to be mature enough to accept that we cannot continue to allow unrestricted access to guns.  We have to stop this obsession with playing with guns.  It was okay to play with toy guns when we were children.  We have to grow up and start acting like adults.

We have to stop being Stupid.  There is no excuse for it anymore.  People are dying because of it.  I think we should all adopt the philosophy, I Don’t Do Stupid.

 

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The G Four Letter Word. Yes, I’ll Say it: Guns.

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I will let the letter I sent my state Senators speak for itself.

I am proud to say that I support the U.S. Constitution and all it stands for. I support the entire bill of rights, not just the ones that I like. I own a gun, and I do not want to see the 2nd Amendment repealed.

However, it is disgraceful that we allow lobbyists to buy the support of the representatives that we the people have elected. It is disgraceful that we allow people to play with assault weapons just so they can feel empowered by these weapons while wrapping themselves in the American flag and calling themselves patriots. It is disgraceful that we allow children to be slaughtered just so that gun manufacturers can increase profits. We call abortion taking a child’s life, but after that child is born then that life is reduced to noting but dollars and cents. It is no wonder that the rest of the world has little to no respect for us.

I, your constituent, want you to propose legislation that will make it mandatory to conduct a full background check on every single gun transaction. I want AR-15 assault rifles to be banned for sale to the public. I want every person who owns a gun to be licensed and registered and each and every gun a person owns will require a license and registration. I don’t care what this costs. Take the money that the President wants to spend on a useless wall on the border with Mexico to pay for it. We have to stop putting a price tag on human life.

I know a lot of your constituents will oppose this type of legislation, but maybe you should take the time and make the effort to find out how many constituents will support it. I know it will be difficult to get this type of legislation passed in Congress, but you were not elected to an easy position. It is your job to pursue the difficult and persevere until it is done.

I lived in Jonesboro, AR in 1998 when two boys killed five people at Westside Middle School. We had friends who worked there. Fortunately, none of them were shot. I worked with a lady who lost her daughter that day. My heart still aches twenty years later. The heartache in Parkland, FL will also last a lifetime.

Please do not make a token gesture. Do something that will have a meaningful impact. Thank you for your time.

A Whole New World, In the Old World

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In January, our daughter went off to do a full semester of study abroad in London, England.  It was hard leaving her at the airport and waiting to hear from her when she finally landed on the other side of the pond.  But today’s technology made her physical absence easier to handle.  We used WhatsApp for texting and Skype to talk face-to-face.  And it was great hearing about the places she went.

Then, we came into a little more money than we were expecting and my wife and I actually got to travel to England in April.  We never dreamed we would ever be able to have such a wonderful experience.  We saw the things we had only heard about:  Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the River Thames, etc.  We even got to spend a couple of days in Dublin.  It was exciting to see places that have existed for 800 years or more.  And yet, it was all so new to us.

Even so, that was not the wonderful experience we had.  That came in watching our 20-year-old daughter guide us through one of the largest cities in the world as if she had always lived there.  She had only been in London for about three months, but we followed her lead at every step.  Our little girl was now a woman.  It was a whole new world for us, and it all took place in the old world of Europe.

To say the least, traveling in London City is confusing.  There was one bus stop after another with sometimes three double decker buses lined up.  We not only had to find the correct bus number, but also the correct stop to be at to catch that bus.  The underground, or The Tube, was often a maze of tunnels that led to who knows where.

And we had to stay out of the way.  Native Londoners walk fast, when they are not running.  I’m sure we were called bloody Americans more than once, but that’s okay.  We hardly noticed.  Our attention was on our daughter who was tracking our route through meandering underground tunnels and winding city streets that were crowded with pedestrians, little cars zipping along, bicycles, red buses, and black cabs.  We were amazed and proud of how our daughter had adapted and conquered this new, old place all on her own.  Not only had she mastered London, she also travelled to several destinations in Europe (France, Norway, Germany, Italy, Greece, and other countries), sometimes alone.  We have no doubt she can conquer any place she desires, new world or old.

So I take my hat off to her.  All I can do is hope I can guide you through my stories as well as she led us through the streets of London.

 

 

The Right Path

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Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the right path.

There are lots of different paths I follow, most of the time simultaneously.  I have my family path, my career path, my path to retirement, my spiritual path, etc.  Sometimes these paths cross; sometimes they run in parallel; sometimes in opposite directions.  How do I know if I’m not only on the right path at the right time, or going in the right direction even if I’m on the right path?  Right or wrong, I suppose I’m always moving, and most of the time I don’t know if I’m moving in the right direction until that specific journey is over (or nearly over).

For instance, yesterday I followed my political path.  I voted.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I don’t think it can be said too many times.  Voting is so important.  It may not seem like it, but it is.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t vote for the person who wins the election.  What matters is that you speak your mind when you vote.  It doesn’t matter if you think no one hears you.  Your vote counts, even in the electoral system that we have.

Voting is not a selfish thing; or it shouldn’t be.  When election day nears, I try to keep in mind some of the great things that have been spoken in the past.  Like when John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”  Too often, all we do is think about ourselves.  We ask, “Well, what am I getting for my tax dollars?”  Or, “How is my tax dollars benefiting me?”  Often it is, “What do I get out of this?”  Instead, we should be asking, “How can my tax dollars benefit my country?”  We need to support people who want to do what is best for our country, even if it is not what is best for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can be as selfish and self-serving as the next person.  I believe people who are truly selfless are few and far between.  When I vote for someone, I try to pick the person who is the least selfish of the bunch AND can get the most accomplished for the country.  If a candidate is someone that can get a lot accomplished, will that candidate get the most accomplished for the country as a whole or for just a privileged few or, even worse, just for the candidate.  It’s getting more and more difficult to make that choice these days.  It takes a lot of research to make that choice.  That means taking the time to learn more about candidates than what they say about themselves or about each other.  Self-praise means nothing.  Bashing the opposing candidate means nothing.  Not only researching the facts is important, but also believing what you find.  Too many times, people will not believe the facts, only the perceptions.

I’m not going to say who I voted for in the presidential race (or any other).  I’m still not going to endorse a specific candidate.  However, I believe I would be on the right path if I did.  We enjoy freedom of speech in this country, and I am free to voice my opinion.  Of course, I have to accept the consequences if I do voice my opinion.  You are not forced to agree with, or listen to, my opinion.  You don’t even have to respect my opinion.  However, you do not have the right to censure my opinion just because you don’t agree with it.  Nor can I censure you opinion.

That right is guaranteed in our Constitution.  Along with all the other rights.  You may not respect my opinion, but you have to respect my right to voice that opinion.  In the same way, you have to respect my right to own a gun, my right to worship God in the way I so choose, my right to privacy within my home, my right to life, liberty, and due process of law, my right to a just defense and a speedy trial if accused of a crime, and every other right afforded to me by our Constitution regardless of my race, color, or creed.  You must respect my rights as a citizen of the United States of America regardless of my sex, my gender, or even my gender identification.  I am an individual and I am a human being.  I have rights, and you will respect them as long as they are within the confines of the law.  You don’t get to cherry-pick which rights to respect.  You either respect every right, or you respect none of them.  It is all or nothing.

I take issue with people who call themselves “patriots”, but they choose to respect only certain rights, only the rights they agree with or only when those rights pertain to them.  You are not a patriot if you do not respect all rights for all people.  You are just a selfish, self-serving, petty person if you only care about your rights and no one else’s.  Don’t sully the word “patriot” by belittling the people who fought and died for all of our freedoms listed in our Bill of Rights.

I apologize for the soap-box moment.  I’m far from being perfect.  When people say we need to take back our country then I agree; just not in the same way they usually mean.  Who are we taking our country back from?  Greedy politicians?  I’m all for that.  From people who are not white?  Definitely NOT.  (I can say that.  I’m a pasty-white male from the South!)

All I can do is to caution everyone to make sure the path you are on doesn’t lead to a place you can’t get out of.  You may come to regret it.

Pitfalls: Part 2

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In the Lions and Lambs Saga, Jacob Trimble emerges as a leader in a post-apocalyptic world where all survivors are no older than twenty years old.  In fact, he is only fifteen when the world he knows comes to an end.  He doesn’t know how to handle the situation, so he has to make up a plan of action as he goes.

Over time, Jacob hits pitfalls similar to the ones I described in my previous post.  He is afraid, angry, and resentful.  He encounters these same emotions in the people he is trying to lead.  Fear and anger turn into hatred in some and it infects other people like a disease.  All he can do is react.

And his reactions result in people dying.  It is a tough lesson to learn, but he must learn from it in order to lead more effectively.

So Jacob becomes more and more proactive.  He starts feeling better about his ability to govern his small community.  People like him — and he likes being liked.  They trust him — he begins to think he can handle just about anything.  Until strangers show up and threaten to destroy what he has built.

Even so, Jacob still believes he can handle this new boy who calls himself the Marauder and the gang who follows him.  This leads to a new pitfall:  arrogance.  Little does he know that the situation will again lead to chaos and more death; this time to someone he loves.  Jacob does figure out how to deal with this threat, but at a great price.

Jacob Trimble is a human being with many flaws.  He learns from his mistakes, but that doesn’t keep him from making new ones.  Pitfalls line the road of his life.  No matter how hard he tries, he can’t avoid them all.

In the third book of the series, A War of Lions and Lambs, Jacob becomes even more vigilant, taking total control over the life of the community.  He becomes hard and cold, but that doesn’t help him with the next pit that is as wide as the road he travels.  Jacob finds out how easy it is to allow fear and hatred creep into his life.

I hope to have this third book finished by the end of this year.  The first two books can be found at the following:

A Gathering of Lions and Lambs at Amazon
A Reckoning of Lions and Lambs at Amazon

A Gathering of Lions and Lambs at Smashwords
A Reckoning of Lions and Lambs at Smashwords

The books are also available at Barnes & Noble and Apple iStore.

 

 

 

 

Pitfalls

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It is Easter Sunday!

As I mentioned before, I am a Christian and Easter is like the Super Bowl of the Christian year.  It is a reminder of many things, but I like to reflect on how we are supposed to relate our faith to life in general.  I can’t help but be disturbed by the trend of blending religion and politics.  I believe the writers of the Constitution warned us about keeping religion and the state separated.  I believe government should stay out of religion and religion should stay out of government.

Now that doesn’t mean government employees should ignore their faith, whatever that faith is, but I don’t like it when politicians use religion to justify what they want to do as public officials.  I know that is not what this country’s founders intended, and I know that is not what Christianity is about.  Followers of Christ are to love God, love their neighbors, and love their enemies.  That’s right; love, not hate.  We can defend ourselves and others without abandoning the love we have pledged to feel for others, even our enemies.  We are not to attack others out of fear or hatred.  We can defend against injustice without being unjust.  Unfortunately, today’s politicians try to get votes by playing off our fears and want us to act out hatred.  Don’t be fooled by these people.  They are not following the teachings of Christ.

Many evil things have been done throughout history in the name of religion.  The extreme terrorists are doing it in the name of Islam.  Our politicians are doing it in the name of Christianity.  The degree of wrongness may be different, but they are still both wrong.  We have to stand up and let the politicians know this is not what we want.  If we say nothing, we will get nothing.  If we stand with evil, we will get evil.  If we live and lead by love, we will get love.

Yes, I sound like I’m preaching, but I do believe this.  Love is more powerful than hate.  It always has been and always will be.  The politicians who preach hate believe love is weakness.  That is the pitfall they have fallen into.  Let’s not join them there.

I think it is the other way around.  Love is strength.

 

Political Pop Stars

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I’m back again.

I think I’ve said this before and you’ve probably noticed:  I like to observe people.  One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to do a lot of the same stuff most of the time.  We call it our “Routine”.  I definitely have my weekday routine.  I get flustered if something interrupts it because then I can’t rely on my body to go through the motions of getting through the day without having to think about it too much.

Maybe that’s why this year’s presidential campaign is so interesting.  We have had so many politicians going through the same tired routine of campaigning that we only half listen to what they say because they have all said it before.  John McCain tried to mix it up some by enlisting Sarah Palin.  She made it interesting for a short time until we all figured out that she really didn’t know much about anything that mattered.  This time around there are certainly some interesting characters.

The Republican side has more than its fair share.  You know the ones I mean.  I’m glad these candidates are shaking things up, but that side of the political stage disturbs me.  The top polling candidates are determined to get attention by shouting over each other.  It feels like the campaign has become an episode of Survivor.  We can’t wait to find out who gets voted off the island next.  Maybe it’s because there is a “reality” show pop star in the mix.  He has brought “reality” show drama into mainstream politics.  I find it sad because people are responding to it.

And the candidates who want to ignore the parts of the constitution that guarantee human rights are being thrust forward by these same people.  The Republicans proclaim that our freedoms are in jeopardy, but some of them are endangering our freedom of speech and freedom of religion put forth by the constitution.  I am a Christian, but the last thing I want is for Christianity to become the “state” religion.  If we squash the rights of people who follow a different religion then how long will it be before the government decides to dictate what Christians can and cannot believe.  That’s scary.  Please, let’s not do that to ourselves.

Then there is the Democrat side.  We have a moderate candidate who isn’t doing as well as everyone thought because she is boring.  The other choice is so much more colorful and fun to watch.  It doesn’t matter that he goes to the opposite extreme of the spectrum.  He’s entertaining.  We fear extremists when it comes to terrorism.  Why don’t we fear extremist political pop stars?

(Insert sigh here.)

I’m not going to back any particular candidate in this post.  Whoever I vote for is my business.  I have the right to vote the way I want.  I have the right to vote privately.  I hope I get to keep those rights if the wrong person is elected to office.