An Imagined Angelic Rant (Sorry, some profanity included.)

It must be awful for all the souls in heaven who were victims of gun violence to have to welcome yet more angels into their fold.

They must be astonished and wondering: “What are you doing here? Didn’t our deaths mean ANYTHING? We thought our lives were sacrificed so yours wouldn’t have to be. What the fuck is wrong with people down there?” (I know that they probably don’t curse in heaven, but I don’t speak Angel.)

“Well,” say the newly arrived, “we come here bearing all of their thoughts and prayers.”

“THOUGHTS and PRAYERS!? THOUGHTS and PRAYERS!? We have more thoughts and prayers than we know what to do with. We have rooms full of thoughts and prayers from Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Miami, Las Vegas and on and on and on. And, just when we think perhaps we’ve had enough for someone, ANYONE, to actually do something, we get more souls bringing us more thoughts and prayers. When will enough be enough? If people would stop praying things get better and start taking action to make things get better, maybe you wouldn’t be here now.”

“Well, it’s hard for the politicians to …”

“POLITICIANS! POLITICIANS? To hell with the politicians. We’re talking about the people. Blaming the politicians is just a convenient excuse for the citizens not doing anything. When politicians wanted to ban alcohol, but the people did not, that amendment was appealed. When politicians wanted to stop blacks and women from voting but the people did not, changes were made. If people want gun control to prevent tragedy after tragedy, which the thoughts and prayers they sent along with us suggested they did, something would be done.”

“Well, we were just worshiping together in church. We did not expect to be coming up here today.”

“Oh, we do not blame you. Your souls, of course, are welcomed in heaven, we just hate to learn, once again, that we died in vain and are hoping you do not come to that same conclusion in a week or month when we have to give out more wings to souls who were just minding their own business when tragedy strikes.

We do not want any more thoughts and prayers we want actions and dares. We want someone or some group of courageous mortals to take action and dare the politicians to stop them. The pen can be mightier than the gun if and when some hand finds the courage to start writing the bill, law or petition. Maybe we can cash in some of these thoughts and prayers for a human spine. Maybe we angels should send our thoughts and prayers down to Earth and pray that your deaths are the triggers for the changes we thought our deaths would result in. We pray that you are the last souls to join our club. We have no more room for another group of souls from gun violence in America.

Make America Great Again!? My ass. How about making America safe again? If they treated automatic weapons the way they treated refugees maybe you would still be in that church worshiping with your neighbors.

Now, go dump those thoughts and prayers over there and then come join our choir as we pray for courageous Americans to stop the insanity.”

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Is America Sleeping?

Whereas, John F. Kennedy’s treatise, “Why England Slept” describes the unwillingness to stop the advancement of Naziism due to England’s lack of preparedness to fight a foreign foe at that time, I almost feel like a future treatise, “Why America Slept” will be written to describe our unwillingness to stop the destruction occurring at the hands of the Trump administration due to our lack of preparedness to fight an Administration run a muck.

Kennedy warned that America should learn from England’s mistake and prepare for war just in case, hoping preparation can prevent war rather than have unpreparedness be the cause for appeasement and watching silently from the sidelines.

I am not saying that I think the Trump Administration is comparable to the Third Reich, just drawing a parallel to the inability to confront a threat out of unpreparedness to deal with the threat. Even though our Constitution does include provisions to deal with an inept and dangerous Administration, I just wonder if our unwillingness to go down those paths will end up in a nightmare while we sleep.

I wonder if America is currently asleep while isolationism and nationalism guide us in a direction we ought not go and tyranny starts to chip away at democracy?

Are we allowing cries of “Fake news” to clog the gears of a free press upholding the 1st Amendment providing the cornerstone of our Democratic experiment? Are we being serenaded to sleep by a lullaby of constant lies and alternative facts?

Are we asleep on our feet, singing anthems to a flag at sporting events, simply to drown out the cries for civil liberties fought so hard for in a not too distant past?

Are we slumbering through one gun violence tragedy after another simply to let commerce hide behind the façade of 2nd Amendment patriotism and a far too powerful gun lobby?

Are we napping while a complete and intentional sabotage of an imperfect but working Health Care System takes place because of the previous President’s name being hung on the label?

Have we hit the snooze button while foxes are put into position to guard the hen houses of Climate Control, EPA, Banking Regulations and more?

Have we grown weary to the defamation of historical allies while coddling the man-crush behavior towards known enemies of the nation as they tinker with the ruination of our government and electoral process?

It’s one thing to sleep as external forces threaten the peace and stability of our world, but quite another thing to sleep while the threat happens from within.

Just as when JFK penned “Why England Slept”, there is a large contingent who would guffaw at the thought that we are sleeping while our world as we know it is approaching the brink of destruction. I know that my suggestion that the Trump administration has the potential of causing great harm to our democracy will be easily brushed aside by his supporters and those still intoxicated with the thought of Making America Great Again. But, I, for one, find it hard to sleep without, at least, raising a red flag and doing what little I can to voice my concern.

So, I will say it before you do, I am no John F. Kennedy, but I do believe there may be some lessons still to be learned from this great American who did, indeed, help make America Great during his time at the helm. Please, let’s not let unnecessary damage be done to our democracy by an unwillingness or unpreparedness to do battle with the current Administration when and where the time calls for it. Such as now.

Wake up America! Before it is too late? Which, I hope, is not already the case.

Find the Common Ground

Today, in America, it takes just as much courage to applaud our new President as it does to walk in protest against him.

There are just as many Americans who believe it is our responsibility as an American citizen to honor, respect and follow our President as there are Americans who believe it is our responsibility as an American citizen to stand up in opposition to government leaders who we believe jeopardize the principles of democracy that our republic was established on.

And, both sides plead for love over hate; and, both sides plead for unity.

“Unity”, however, should not be a call to dump your convictions and embrace mine. “Unity” should be a call to come together to find a common ground.

Americans definitely have the courage to take a stand; that has become painfully obvious. The courage we seem to lack, however, is the courage to compromise.

Stand by your convictions, one and all, but I also challenge you to find a common ground. You may never agree on the character or qualifications of the POTUS, but perhaps you can agree that the local park could use some cleaning up – reach out to each other and do that. You may forever be on opposite ends of the abortion debate, but maybe you can agree that domestic violence education could benefit your community – reach out to each other and work on that. You may never gain agreement on what, if any, gun control laws should be in place, but maybe you can agree that the public library could use some upgraded technology – reach out to each other and work on that.

Pointing fingers at and blaming the other side for today’s divisiveness will not help bridge it. We want our leaders to lead by example? How about we, as citizens, set the example we wish our leaders to follow.

Find the common ground. Our country is depending on all of us to get us through these tough times. Whether America is currently in a state of carnage or quickly plunging towards one, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do next. What you do next. Find the common ground.

My Personal Independence Day (The Silver Lining I Was Looking For)

Today, I have gained my independence.

I am no longer the worshipper of a false idol I have known my entire life as the President of the United States of America. I am no longer enslaved by the shackles of an arrogant patriotism. I am no longer imprisoned by the imaginary walls of ideologically defined country borders and will not allow future, physical walls to block my path towards helping my earthly brothers or their paths to me. Today, I no longer allow citizenship to define my community or my extended family. I no longer limit my values to the subset of values included in the American Way. Today, I have gained the freedom to be a citizen of the world and no longer allow my government or the power brokers within the country of my birth to define who I am. Today, I am free.

Today, I will no longer shed my responsibility of making life better for those around me, complacent in the false belief that the government will do that for me. Today, I will no longer look up to an elected master to tell me who to love or who to hate; who to embrace as an ally or fear as an enemy. Today, I am free to decide those things on my own.

Although I fear the country within I live is not a better place than it was yesterday, I am consoled by the confidence that I am a better man today than I was yesterday, because today is my personal Independence Day.

The News

Every time I turn on the news,
I am saddened by stories of hate;
I am discouraged by death and destruction;
I am disheartened by signs of greed and struggles for power;
I am appalled by the lies and misrepresentations;
I am troubled by the troubles man causes other men.

The answer, however, is not to turn off the news;
The answer is not to look away.

No, the answer is to make our own news,
Make news of peace and news of love;
Make news of life and creation;
Make news of charity and of assistance;
Makes news of truths and acceptance;
Makes news of man unburdening the burdens of other men.

You do not right the wrongs in this world simply by refusing to witness the bad;
You right the wrongs by overpowering them with goodness.

The absence of doing bad is not enough.

We must make the good news impossible to ignore;
We must become the news by helping each other in newsworthy ways;

We must be creative with our love;
Magnanimous with our charity;
Spectacular with our assistance;
And unforgettable in our tolerance.

We must stand up and be recognized as the news people should hear.

Rotary Installation Speech

I have a brother who traveled the path to heaven over 25 years ago.  While he blessed us with his presence in this existence he did so as a very gifted and talented young artist among other great traits that he possessed.

I remember, as a boy, Jimmy would set up his canvas and the tools of his talent in the basement of our home.  I would often watch the canvas transform from a blank slate, to lightly sketched shapes, to a smattering of paints and colors, to a masterful Monet-like scenery, Van Goh-like landscape or Rembrandt-like portrait and just marvel at its spectacle.  When finally it reached what I was sure was the point of completion, with envious pride, I would tell Jimmy just how wonderful I thought his creation was.  Jimmy would just stare at his art and, with annoyance at his stupid, younger brother, simply state, “It isn’t done.  This isn’t nearly finished.”  And he would mix some more colors, dip some more brushes and continue to paint.

Meanwhile, I would go back outside and play tackle the man with the ball with my friends, blow up the heads off my sister’s dolls with M-80s, do belly-flops in mud puddles and, inevitably, end up being chased by an angry, pancake-turner yielding mother determined not to spare the rod.  I would eventually, once again, seek the sanctity of our basement, which somehow seemed to serve as a miraculous safety zone from the wrath of angry parents.

I would peer over the shoulder of my brother and be amazed to discover that the painting I thought, just hours before, was as good of a painting as a painting could be, was, indeed, somehow, better.  I could not always tell exactly what he did, but the shapes would appear sharper, or the sky would have somehow come alive, or the flowers would have miraculously bloomed, or a sparkle would shine in the subject’s eye.  What I thought was perfection in the morning, was improved by the time the sun had set.  And, I would, once again, beam with pride for my brother and praise him with as much glory as a muddy, bloody, dirty, stinking, trouble maker of a young boy could.  And, Jimmy, once again, would look unsatisfied and announce, “It’s not done.”

Six years ago, Ralph Flick invited me to my first Midday Rotary meeting.  I was greeted at the front door by a sharply dressed and smiling Lorraine Green, my $14 was graciously accepted by a helpful Jean Smith and I immediately recognized the face of Scott Bush as a fellow Adventure Guides father in the group with our sons.  Laura stood behind the President’s podium dancing a Happy Dance and I marveled at the beauty of this picture and I thought what a wonderfully complete masterpiece this Rotary Club was.  But, I soon found out, it was not done.

Ralph Flick then improved upon the art by organizing the objects in the painting and explaining the intricacies of Rotary in a way that even I could understand; Scott Bush added a splash of spontaneity, humor and fun that brightened the images upon the canvas while losing a lot of weight in the process; Joe Urvina transitioned from a reluctant, nervous speaker to a confident and accomplished leader while teaching us more about ourselves through two truths and a lie, and the painting got better.  Mary Gorman added highlights of gratitude mixed with tears of happiness and empathy and the masterpiece continued to be improved.  And, Howard, throughout this past year, added all that stuff and things like that to whip us into shape and help us appreciate why it is good to do business with a Rotarian and the art got better, yet.

Now, it is my turn, and all I can do is marvel at the beauty of what I see.  Deep down inside I am proud of the masterpiece my brothers and sisters crafted right in front of my eyes and stand in awe of their talent, envious of their creativity.  I, however, am not an artist – but, I can certainly appreciate art and celebrate in its beauty.

So, I invite you to join me this year, in what I wish to make a Year of Celebration.  I think we, as a club, have earned the right to sit back a little bit, celebrate all that we have accomplished and marvel in this masterpiece we call Midday Rotary.  We should bask in the joy of the friendships we have forged; celebrate the good we have achieved; and be proud of the journey we have traveled together as a family of Rotarians; albeit, we may be a dysfunctional family, but we are family nonetheless.

Join me this year as we splash through mud puddles, somersault down hills of soft grass, and create mischief along the way, only to return each week to Anthony’s basement and marvel at the beauty of this masterpiece, celebrating the ever-improving art on what not so long ago was a blank canvas.

I will leave it up to those Presidents who follow behind me to once again improve upon the artistry of our club, but, for my year, I want to take the time to just … Celebrate, Celebrate, dance to the music.