Is this too much to ask?

I want a country where all people are treated fairly and equally.

I want a tax code that is reasonable and easy for all Americans to understand and follow.

I want a country where hard working Americans are not expected to pay the way for non-working Americans, but I also accept that circumstances are sometimes beyond our control.

I want every American to have access to health care, but demand that regulations be put in place to restrict the annual increases that are crippling so many of us.

I want our prison sentencing to properly punish those guilty of crime.

I want all of us to respect the world that we live in, in whatever way each of us interpret that respect, provided that it is done lawfully.

I want our elected leaders to follow the rule of law and our Constitution and not just the parts that advance their political causes.

I want us to remain a nation of immigrants, but I want our immigration laws to be followed, respected and enforced.

I want us to understand that none of us have an inherent right to expect anything that we have not earned.  

I want cops to respect all people, regardless of their color and I want all people to respect cops.  In all cases, it is critical that we respect ourselves first.

I want a country that stands up to our enemies and allies, in a respectful manner.

I want a secure nation so that nobody has to live in fear.

I want every nation to demand that we all deserve to live in peace.

I want children to be happy, always.

I want to believe that we will achieve these goals, but I’m fearful that they may soon become nothing but dreams or distant memories.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wouldn’t America Be Better If We All Chose Love and Respect?

I’ve been struggling with how to articulate this for the past several months, but I’ll just come out and say it: I’m worried about the future of our nation.  The American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are a distant memory for many of us and I fear that the rights our Founding Fathers established for us will soon be a thing of the past because we’ve forgotten about the simplicity of love and respect.

Before you jump in and say that America doesn’t provide the same freedoms to everyone, or make assumptions that I think it’s OK that we oppress people because of their religious beliefs, skin color, sexual orientation, etc., that is not what I’m claiming.  Simply stated, all Americans have a right to their pursuit of happiness, but due to a distrust in our fellow human beings, it is now considered acceptable that those with differing viewpoints are our enemy.

 

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I’ll start with a simple anecdote.  

On September 11th of this year at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California, the College Republican group on campus placed small flags in the school quad as a memorial to the many innocent people who lost their lives 15 years ago.  Within hours, this memorial was torn up and vandalized.  Why?  A feeling of oppression.

Following the incident, an Occidental Student Group, “Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity,” posted a comment on their Facebook page that read: “When this institution allows thousands of American flags to be placed in the center of campus, it speaks volumes to the students that have lived their lives under the oppression of this flag. From Native students whose land was stolen to undocumented students who live in fear of deportation to black students who see their communities destroyed by state-sanctioned murder, this school is saying your fear and trauma do not matter here.”

What?  Seriously?  OMG…  While I can never pretend to understand what angers or frustrates anyone other than myself, I can question the sanctimonious language that the Coalition’s statement represents.  This memorial was done in memory of INNOCENT people that lost their lives due to an act of terror.  Yes, many Americans feel the flag is a symbol of oppression, but there is a time and a place for these acts of protest.  That time and place is NEVER when we are memorializing innocent people.  This type of action is a prime example of what I mean when I say we’ve forgotten about the simplicity of love and respect.

(Side note: The flags were placed with approval from the College, so please don’t assume that the vandals were actually campus workers tasked with cleaning up something that did not meet with the OK of the school.)

Aside from the issue of disrespect shown toward the victims of 9/11, this incident speaks to a larger issue.  At some point over the past several years, it has become a perceived right to crap on anyone that doesn’t share your belief system.  This goes both ways; we are all guilty of it.  When did this become acceptable?  Is that loving or respectful?

Take a look at the recent Colin Kaepernick controversy.  On a personal level, I disagree with his stance, but I absolutely defend his right to protest.  I would much prefer that he use his platform to bring about change, but I can understand why he has chosen to speak out in the way in which he has.  Many likely disagree with my sentiment and think he has an inherent right to object without doing anything further.  Others simply view this as a disrespect toward everyone that has fought for our freedoms.  That said, it appears as though we have a common ground when we recognize Kaepernick’s right to sit or kneel during the Anthem.  It’s the actions that follow that will matter.

Our Presidential election has also brought out more of this divisiveness.  Trump has said and done many things to widen the divide in America with his comments about deportation, building a wall, etc.  Hillary is equally guilty with her “basket of deplorables” statement and other alienating comments.  This is NOT what America is about.  We all share the same Constitution and we should all share the same rights.  Do we?  Absolutely not.  But should we?  One million percent, yes!

I may not understand the plight of those feeling oppressed, just as they may not understand the things that upset or worry me.  However, if we continue to fight each other over words and actions, rather than take the time to open our minds to differing viewpoints, we’re doomed to a future where we are all watching our backs in fear of our neighbors.  Does anyone want to live like that?  Isn’t it easier to choose to love and respect everyone?

Our nation, while far from perfect, offers us the right to pursue our dreams.  How we choose to chase after them is up to us, but we should always act respectfully of others as they pursue their own happiness.  The simplicity of it is the “Golden Rule” we all learned as children – “Treat others as we would like to be treated.”  We may have a right to treat each other disrespectfully, but should we choose to do so just because we disagree?

As we dig beneath the surface, there are so many things that bring us all together. That common ground is where we need to live. I have many friends and even some family members that I disagree with politically, but I love them for who they are, not what they believe in. I’m confident that they have that same mutual respect for how I live my life.

Continuing that train of thought, it’s reasonable to assume that we all hate seeing incidents of violence between the cops and minorities. When they occur, I don’t look at them and think “oh, he deserved it” or “cops are all criminals.” I look at them and view each incident as tragic. I was not present for any of these situations, so I get my “facts” from the same sources we all do – the mainstream media, social media, etc. But as I attempt to decipher the truth in each situation, I simply come back to this feeling of tragedy. Do others feel like I do? I presume so, but in this fast paced, instantaneous, news cycle we live in, that doesn’t sell. Divisiveness and bloodshed does. When are we going to stand up in protest of this?

Similarly, when someone shoots up a dance club, school, theater or a place of worship, I don’t look at those situations and think the actions of the terrorist are OK.  I don’t think any of us do, really.  However, instead of viewing these incidents as the tragedies that they all are, we’re conditioned to look at others as our enemy.  I hate that thought.

As I look toward our future, all of this really makes me sad.  Jamie and I are doing everything in our power to raise our kids to respect everyone, regardless of our differences.  Do we fail in that mission sometimes?  Of course we do, but when we step back from the situation, we always remind the kids that it is never OK to treat someone with a lack of respect or dignity.  Our actions have meaning, as do our words.  Love and respect are primal instincts, as are anger and hatred.  Given the choice, I know which actions I’d rather live by…

It’s probably viewed as disingenuous when I say that I’ve never encountered the feeling of hatred toward someone else.  Perhaps that’s because I’ve never truly been hurt by others, but shouldn’t we all try to live that way regardless of any perceived or real hurt?  When we take the time to tear down the walls of our differences, we all want to live a happy, healthy life in pursuit of our dreams.  If we continue to fight over who has more of a right to feel angered, saddened or oppressed, we’re missing the bigger picture.  Please, let’s instead choose to live life with love and respect.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I Am The Champion! Oh, Wait…

If you’ve been awaiting my next blog entry like that teenage girl that got a wink from the boy in third period Spanish she daydreams about, I apologize.  It’s not you…  (And the wink from that boy was really just a clump of dust from those damn Santa Ana winds, so quit beating yourself up about what could have been…)

My last couple of posts have delved into the more serious side of my life.  Since becoming a Dad in 2007, I’ve come to realize that my days as a bachelor made me oblivious to a lot of big picture things that will affect the generations that follow me – there really are problems with the world that we all need to work on, so go volunteer some of your time to a favorite local cause!

But enough about that for this post – it’s time to discuss something that more accurately reflects my day-to-day.

I’ve long been a competitive person, dating back to my earliest days in Little League and possibly farther back than that, assuming my memory of early childhood four-square matches is accurate.  Place me in a situation where I think I can win, and I become an obnoxious gloater that rubs my success in your face.  Given the opportunity to destroy you in a spirited Hangman match, I’ll be relentless in my mission.  Challenge me to ping pong and watch me fist pump like Tiger Woods (before the whores and hookers) when I take a lead on your hopeless ass.  Miniature golf?  Forget it – I won’t rest until I win that free game on the final hole, while watching you struggle with the pressures of such a life defining moment (like Tiger, after the whores and hookers).

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Of course, the problem with all of this is that my gloating is almost always followed by karma squarin’ up and kickin’ me right where it hurts the most.  While the family jewels were put out of commission last year in a well thought out and thoroughly researched decision about family planning, sweet karma still knows how to bring me to my knees.  Simply stated, I gloat like Muhammad Ali, but perform more like the Washington Generals, that team that loses to the Harlem Globetrotters every night.

WINNING?  I think not…

Jamie constantly reminds me that my gloating is almost always followed by my unparalleled jinxing talents, but I can’t help myself.  I like the smell of victory.  It’s the taste that rarely passes my lips.  The self realization of this causes a Pavlovian response whenever I’m in a competitive situation.  I gloat, I lose and then I gloat some more the next time I have the chance.  Suffice it to say that I’d be a terrible lab rat.  The electro-shock would kill me within minutes, but as I was taking that last breath, I’d still be celebrating my near victory.

All of this is probably a sickness.  At some point, my failures on the battlefield should tell me that I should ground myself, focus on the task at hand and live within the moment, yet I continue to gloat.

To make matters worse, my epic ability to claw defeat out of the hands of certain victory has somehow managed to transfer itself to the professional sports teams I’ve admired the most throughout my life.  I’m the opposite of a lucky rabbit’s foot.

As a prepubescent, I was a Miami Dolphin fan.  I take complete blame for the failures of Dan Marino and all who’ve followed him.  Yeah, he was a hell of a quarterback, but I firmly believe that the epic disaster that the team has become stems from the bets I placed on ol’ Danny Boy when the ‘Phins were facing the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX.  The Chicago Cubs curse ain’t got nothin’ on me.

I’m the guy that has passionately rooted for the Texas Rangers since the late 1980’s, a team that, until recently, perennially finished the season with a sub-.500 record and out of the playoff chase by late July.  In the last couple of years, that history has been wiped out, but the “Phil Curse” kicked in again when they were within one strike of winning the 2011 World Series, twice…  In those two moments, I wasn’t even preparing my victory lap, but I must have really pissed someone off in my youth – karma is clearly my cruelest mistress.  All of this is very defeating, but it never stops me from practicing my dance steps so that I can perform that jig when I finally “bring home the hardware!”

All of that said, there may be a glimmer of hope that I’m getting over my sickness.  Just today, while engaged in an epic battle of “Candy Land” with Gwen, victory was well within my reach.  Mentally, I was prepping to sing “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye,” and then she let the waterworks loose.  I immediately crumbled, cheated to put myself in a position to ensure her victory and watched as happiness radiated from her body when she arrived at Candy Castle before me.  Another loss for Phil, stripped moments before that celebratory dance.

Maybe that’s a sign – maybe I’ve taught Gwen that victory is more important than enjoying the opportunity to compete, but more likely than not, I fell for it again.  In my life, I’ve succumbed to every possible manner of defeat, save this one.  That little sneak tricked Daddy with her tears and chalked up the “W.”  It’s amazing that even the young know how to take advantage of my weaknesses.

LOSING!  Most certainly.  But this time I danced…

Categories: Change the World, Parenthood, Sports, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

“I’ll Take Door #2, Bob…”

Generally speaking, I don’t spend a lot of time preaching about my political affiliations.  Not because I don’t have them, but because I rarely feel the need to hoist those affiliations on others who may disagree.  I’m sure a part of that comes from a concern that the person speaking in opposition might have a point that makes me go, “Oh, crap, they got me on that one.  How do I counter-attack such a valid and worthy rebuttal?”  But it’s really, mostly, because I believe what I believe because of the teachings and values I was exposed to as a child, and I don’t feel the need to force my opinions on you.  I soaked up my education, learned how to be an honorable person and made it a point to remember, cherish and live my life based on the opportunities that were presented to me.  These things shaped my thinking and led me to become who I am.

We’ll get this out of the way now: I’m a Republican.  Republican because I strongly believe more government is not the answer, not because I think Obama is an embarrassment.  (Yeah, I do think he is a disaster, but we won’t get into that here.  I know there are plenty of people that felt that way about G-Dub, so we’ll refer to the point above about not having a strong rebuttal.  I like who I like, you like who you like, OK?  I completely understand the dissenting opinions on both sides of this aisle.)  Anyway, the point of all of this is that I was struck by something I stumbled upon this weekend while reviewing my Twitter feed – there are literally tens of thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of high school students in our society that have completely missed out on history.  The postings that brought this home for me all revolved around a general theme: the Titanic was an actual event and not an elaborately staged Hollywood tragedy set on the high seas.

I shouldn’t have been shocked by these Tweets, but I do find it incomprehensible that today’s youth has missed out on this type of information.  I understand that schools have basically become a vehicle for forced, corporatized education, but come on!  How can anyone that grew up in the age of the internet not know anything about the Titanic?  Look it up – just type the word “Titanic” into Google and you’ll find hundreds of links that will enlighten you!

Schools are being forced to teach to the state-mandated test, get good scores on said test, or lose your government funding, and this is why we’re in the mess we’re in.  Four years ago, we elected a President that preached and promised HOPE.  Again, I’m not here to bombard you with Obama-hate, but we bought into the HOPE thing like moths drawn to the light.  HOPE sounds like such a positive word.  It evokes positive energy and makes us think happy thoughts.  Of course, the lottery is the same damn thing.  HOPE.  “Mega-millions is up to $640-mil.  I so HOPE I’m going to win it, so I can retire to an island in the middle of nowhere and check out on society.”  Yeah, good luck with that…

I’ll drop a twenty on lottery tickets from time to time, not because I’m foolish enough to think I’m going to become an overnight tycoon, but because it’s fun to dream sometimes.  If I sat here and admitted to all of the other things I’ve blown money on in my lifetime, this post could rival “War and Peace” for length, but this is, again, not my point.  It’s OK to dream sometimes and it’s even OK to blow your money on something stupid, too…  We seem to have become a nation full of lazy.  What’s the easiest way to make it to tomorrow?  Challenge my mind, form my own opinions and make my own decisions, or Door #2 – do what everyone else is doing?  “I’ll take Door #2, Bob…”  We don’t seem to have a driving motivation to be better.  We go back to lazy because it’s simple.  We teach our children the stuff that’s on the state tests because we don’t have enough faith in our children to believe they have the ability to soak up an ounce of information that might adversely affect these stupid test scores that affect our government funded schools.

I’ve got a four year old daughter that is an absolute sponge for information.  She will recite quotes from TV shows she watched months ago, sing lyrics to songs that I’ve only heard her listen to a couple of times and dazzle me with the creativity that oozes out of every pore in her body.  Explain to me how a four year old can be that smart and how a teenager can be so out of touch with history and other scholarly pieces of information?  It just doesn’t make sense to me – they don’t lose “SMART” overnight.  They lose “SMART” because nobody allows our schools to teach “SMART” anymore – we teach “HOPE,” we teach to the test, we teach to dream about winning the lottery and the government taking care of us.

The wife and I had the opportunity to see Green Day’s musical, “American Idiot” over the weekend.  The message of the album and the musical follow the same point I’m trying to make here, even though it’s from the opposite end of the political spectrum – we just don’t have it in ourselves to challenge each other anymore.  It’s easier to be lazy.  It’s easier to do what everyone else is doing.  It’s easier to teach to the test.  It’s actually required that we teach to the test.  It’s our obligation to desire HOPE because our government has made it impossible to desire SMART.  It makes me sick, not because I’m a Republican, but because I remember, cherish and live my life based on the opportunities that were presented to me.  If we’d have faith in our children, I’ve no doubt that we could fix this mess we’ve made of ourselves…

Categories: Change the World, Education, Parenthood, Politics | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Did a Children’s Movie Really Just Change My Life?

This weekend, Jamie suggested that we take the kiddos to see The Lorax.  The three of them had seen it when it was first released a few weeks ago – Jamie had raved about the message, Gwen gave it high marks (she really liked the music) and Grayson made it through his first feature film experience without throwing a major screaming fit, so the assumption was that he was equally enthralled.  As we set out for the theater, I had every expectation that it would be money well spent.

A couple nights later, suffice it to say, I loved it just as much as they did and it’s changed my outlook on everything.  Admittedly, I’ve always been a sucker for a story that speaks to my heart, but this was something different.  Tears flow freely from my eyes when a film speaks to me emotionally, but the tears that flowed at the end of The Lorax were coming from an entirely different place, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Parenthood is something that I speak about frequently in my daily Facebook posts.  Rarely do I go more than a day or two without commenting about the latest endeavors of the G’s – I’m kind of obsessed with these guys.  The simplest things turn me into the doting Dad I spoke of in my last blog post, and I know that the joy I have in serving as Daddy will only get better as the days, months and years pass.  Sharing a film experience with Grayson is a prime example of how parenthood suits me, much like the first movie we saw with Gwen (The Princess and the Frog) did.  But, again, this particular experience was much more than just a first-ever family film outing.

For those unfamiliar with the story of the Lorax, the film is about a guy (The Once-ler) who has ambitions of inventing the next “must-have” item for everyone.  He happens upon the town of Thneedville and proceeds to cut down a tree to makes his “Thneed,” a do everything scarf, sweater, tightrope, whatever-you-want-it-to-be.  As success comes, so does the need to cut down another tree, and another, and another, until there are no trees left.  All the while, the Lorax has warned the Once-ler that his actions have repercussions and karma proves it’s point when the lack of trees causes the Once-ler to go out of business.

The message of all of this is obvious and even a four-year old gets it.  Overly simplified: Our actions have consequences – be kind to our environment, before we completely destroy it.  Hammering that message home, today Gwen asked Jamie if she could plant some seeds, so we now have a small strawberry plant, daisies and sunflowers sitting in the kitchen windowsill.  Am I proud?  You betcha!

Back to the original point…  I cry regularly at movies that speak to me.  I still get goosebumps when I watch certain scenes from movies I’ve seen dozens of times.  To me, that’s the power of a good film.  I could choose to be jaded and say that I’m really just a sucker for the people running Hollywood – they want me to have some kind of intrinsic connection with their movies so that I keep coming back for more, but I truly believe a movie that causes me to re-play scenes in my head several days or weeks later is something life changing.

The Lorax is all of that and much more.  Prior to becoming a Dad, I rarely spent a moment thinking about the world I’ll leave behind.  Today, every action I take, every thought I once had about littering or other acts of disrespect for our environment are gone.  My children deserve better.  Their children deserve better.  The WORLD deserves better.  We’ve become a society of mass consumption, who-gives-a-damn derelicts that would rather destroy than rebuild.  We’d rather drink our water from plastic bottles because they come in exactly the right quantity required to quench our thirst.  The Lorax reminded me of this and really made me question how I can impact the world in a positive way.  Can I plant a tree, just because?  Can I spend a few hours each month picking up litter, just because?  Can I just do something, anything, to make my children proud, just because?  Yes, I most certainly can.

When I think back on The Lorax several months, or years from now, I’m determined to think of it as a defining moment in my life.  One in which I was urged to do better.  To do more for my children.  To do more for their children.  To do more more for our WORLD.  You can choose to join me, or you can choose to continue drinking from those plastic bottles.  I know which choice will bring tears to my eyes.  Do you?

Categories: Change the World, Film References, Parenthood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

“Quid pro quo. Yes or no?”

For several months I’ve been pondering the idea of starting my own blog.  The general exercise of committing to writing something just for the sake of challenging my mind isn’t one that I find particularly daunting, yet I sit on the couch at night wasting life’s precious moments watching the continual loop of SportsCenter highlights and other mindlessness.  No more, I say.  I am committed to this process.  And, dammit, I am committed to entertaining a reader or two.  Maybe not you, Dear Reader #1, but there may be a Dear Reader #732 that chuckles at my spurts of stupidity.  (QUICK DISCLAIMER: I botch the crap out of my punctuation sometimes.  I love the use of a dash, when a comma, period or semi-colon is probably more appropriate, but I ain’t goin’ back to elementary school to re-learn this stuff, so get over it, or go find another blog – GOT IT?)

We’ll start this thing off with an explanation of the title I’ve chosen for my little slice of blogdom.  Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center is apparently an awful, horrible place where awful, horrible things are done to animals.  Check out their website if you’d like to see the work that they do…

Anyway, I re-discovered this lovely place as I pondered obscure references from some of my favorite films, in this case, my all-time #1 – “The Silence of the Lambs.”  We all remember the scene if we’ve watched the film: Clarice Starling is trying to coax our good friend, Hannibal Lecter, into helping the FBI locate that awful, horrible dude, Buffalo Bill.  She proposes a transfer to Plum Island if Hannibal cooperates and offers him some literature (probably not AAA Travel approved literature, but literature nonetheless) describing what a lovely place this is.  Hannibal seems intrigued and begins to cooperate, but demands a little “quid pro quo” from Clarice in return.

“‘Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center.’  Sounds charming.”

– Hannibal Lecter

As the scene progresses, Clarice picks up a few tips and as we all know, Hannibal eventually gets transferred to another facility, does some ginsu work with a switchblade and disappears.  Clarice later ends up in Bill’s god-awful basement, a couple of rooms away from Catherine Martin and that infamous basket that Catherine was supposed to put the f#@%ing lotion in.  Bill then gets all fancy with the night vision goggles, but makes that fatal mistake of cocking his trigger (hasn’t that happened to all of us, guys?) in a dark room where one’s sense of sound is enhanced and gets his dumb ass blown away.

Clarice is later enjoying the fruits of her labors at her graduation from the FBI academy when Hannibal calls and shares with all of us that he’s “having an old friend for dinner.”  And roll the end credits…  (SIDE NOTE: Check out that awesome FBI cake if you’ve forgotten about it – that thing screams government issued – I think Sears used to have the contract for government cakes if the memory of my childhood visit to Leon Panetta’s Congressional office serves me.)

OK, so is there a point in there?  Umm, honestly, not really, but lets try to get to it now…  As I develop this blog, I plan to take my readers on a journey through the various things I enjoy about life.  I’ll spend a lot of time doting on my amazing children, my love of films (which has taken a back seat to the amazing children referenced immediately before this point), baseball, or more specifically, TEXAS RANGERS baseball and Florida Gator football, but maybe it will also inspire me to write about other things as well.  I also warn that I’ll probably drop in a reference or two about Tim Tebow.  It will seem like a desperate attempt to up my readership through keywords and those other things that drive readers to random corners of the internet when they search for things through Google, but I honestly just like the guy’s game.  All of this will be a journey through moments or thoughts that pertain to my life.  And your reward for all this?  You’ll get “Postcards from Plum Island”…  (See how I brought it all home?  Cute, huh?)

So, with that half-hearted attempt at an explanation, I ask you this: Quid pro quo.  Yes or no?  Are you going to come back for more of my “Postcards?”  Last I heard, Hannibal was still on the loose – don’t tempt the guy’s appetite!

Categories: Film References, Florida Gators, Hannibal Lecter, Parenthood, Sports, Tim Tebow, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

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