Independence Day

I wrote this about fifteen years ago and have for the most part dragged it out every Fourth since then… this afternoon I’m halfway home sitting in a much to luxurious hotel room in Chicago looking out over a city I love to visit…. the staff takes good care of me here, most are immigrants working hard on this “holiday”… I take the time to listen to their stories when they are willing to share… It’s the true story of freedom – independence – the pursuit of opportunity this country still represents to those outside clamoring to come in… I think about my trip East from Seattle this past week – the beautiful country I have passed through – but also the blatant racism in so many small towns where Native Americans are treated as second class citizens – how do we embrace “…all men are created equal…” when we look the other way uncomfortably? Maybe these are questions without simple answers… I think probably, but I believe when we stop asking we have conceded point and the bright shining example we should and could be is tarnished a little more…

INDEPENDENCE DAY

The sweet smells of cotton candy and caramel corn dance through the early evening air mixing with the laughter of children and the soft murmur of a thousand conversations. The sun begins its slow descent and you can feel the anticipation thrumming through the stadium. As the sharp cadence of the Color Guard recedes the lights go down and the first shells burst in a spectacular blaze of color and thunderous sound. I lean back in my seat and let the show assault my senses.

Independence Day, a day of celebration, a day of remembrance, a holiday so simple yet so fraught with the complexities of modern day politics and the ever-shifting landscape of international policy it should challenge us to examine its true meaning. In its purest form we celebrate the courage, vision, and perseverance of our forefathers. They created a new nation with their very blood and infused it with a set of ideals and beliefs that has not only become a rallying banner for democracy everywhere, but a siren song for the oppressed and downtrodden the world over. ‘We hold these truths to be self evident…” the power of these words shaped a nation and challenged the greatest imperial power of the time. They also set an inescapable responsibility for us as a people, we cannot embrace our history, our independence, carry on our annual celebrations and displays if we ignore the balance of our declaration: …” 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.”

We have taken this responsibility upon ourselves and have found opportunity in our history to rally to it: The fascism of the Axis powers in WWII, our vigilance against the insidious creep of Communism during the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Jihadist of the Middle East and in defense of those most vulnerable within our own borders. These political and military battles may represent our collective will, but the achievement of our independence was built on the personal efforts and decisions of those men and women who chose to shoulder the burden of, not only defeating our imperial masters, but also investing themselves in the creation, nurturing, and guiding of our country as it took its first steps on the path to greatness. Too often it seems that the ideals our founding fathers espoused have become the fodder for today’s self-serving political machine. It unfortunately transcends party and pollutes the purity of the democratic process. We must always remind ourselves of those “self evident truths” and understand that the preservation of them is a personal responsibility.

The final rumbles are fading into the distance and the last vestiges of smoke have cleared, chased across the horizon by a warm breeze. I take my daughter’s hand as we begin the slow walk to our car and I silently rejoice in the fact that she will grow up in the greatest country in the world. I promise myself to teach her the history of Independence Day so she can one day become the conscientious steward of our freedoms that is the legacy of our citizenship.

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day I am always reminded of our men in uniform and how cavalier we tend to be about the potential sacrifice they face everyday. I think back to the tales my father and grandfather shared with me about their experiences in WWII. I was always fascinated by their differing perspectives: my father joined the Navy at 17 and served aboard a submarine in the Pacific theater and my grandfather was a Colonel in the Air Force stationed in Panama during WWII. As different as their military service was they shared the common bond of having lost men they knew and served with; as a young boy I didn’t really understand the significance of this sacrifice and the impact it had on them.

In the many years since, I have often wondered if we, as not only individuals but also, as a society truly understand the sacrifice we expect of our military and what Memorial Day actually signifies. I know for myself – as a young man still in high school – I had the good fortune to read a speech by Gen. Douglas MacArthur addressed to the West Point cadets in 1962. I am still stirred by his words and the impact they had on me and even more how they bring a substance and gravity to the memories of my father and grandfather. I imagine I can hear these words echoing as he spoke: “…It is the story of the American man at arms… His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast… I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips, the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light…”

I find it impossible to read these words and not take a moment to reflect on those who have laid down their lives for this country and the ideals we hold dear. Whether it be 200+ years ago in a war for self determination or yesterday in somewhere far from home – it is incumbent upon us to honor the sacrifice of our fallen. I recently re-read the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, from a speech he gave in 1884 at a Memorial Day dinner, remember this wasn’t shortly after some world wide conflict of good vs evil but a war among ourselves brother against brother… he said “But as surely as this day comes round we are in the presence of the dead…where the ghosts sit at the table more numerous than the living, and on this day when we decorate their graves–the dead come back and live with us.” I believe he was speaking about more than just their memories he was reminding us that on this day of all days it is their sacrifice we not only honor but remember lest we forget the mighty toll of our conflicts and vast responsibility it creates.

So my friends as you gather together for that afternoon BBQ, the morning round of golf, or whatever activity you may have planned for that “end of spring extra day off from work Monday,” let us take even just a brief moment to honor and remember those who embraced “Duty, Honor, Country” as more than just a slogan.

#Charlottesville

I feel like I need to preface this particular commentary with a bit of a disclaimer or at least explanation I believe racism and even more than racism – prejudice transcends the traditional boundaries of white and black extending to any number of “colors” and includes ethnicity, beliefs and orientations. Unfortunately, humanity has not managed to constrain its ability to hate based solely on the observation that someone is different than I am. What I sometimes find truly puzzling is that even groups that have traditionally been on the receiving side of systemic prejudice manage to manufacture plenty of their own.

As I am sure most of you have seen on your local news, social media or any number of other places we are witnessing another flare up of racial intolerance and hate in Charlottesville VA. I’m not going to comment on that specifically, you don’t need me to tell you why this type of behavior is abhorrent – however don’t make the mistake of thinking the revocation of “free speech” is the answer – it isn’t; that protection exists for all of us and the erosion of it, even for a group such as this, affects us all.

But what has me a bit worked up this morning is the number of shares on my social media quoting some preacher, politician, or celebrity decrying the situation in Charlottesville, they use words like: terrorist, Nazi, extremist and so on – point is they are worked up and outraged and many people are rallying to this message and sharing it with their endorsement, good for you I say.

However, I have only one real question… where was the ferocity of your rage yesterday, last week, last year? Where will it be tomorrow, next week or next month? When the torches have been put out and the crowds have disbursed and we return to the mundane everyday racism and prejudice that hides in the shadows of our everyday lives, where will your fervent outcry be then? Will we still see your pointed posts, will you still be preaching it from your pulpits? You see the problem is we already know the answer… and unfortunately most will return to their tepid outrage and tacit acceptance of “that’s just how it is…”

You know there is a word for this… hypocrisy…

#Firstdayofschool

This is for all the weeping parents out there… sending their precious one(s) to school today, suck it up buttercup they are going to be fine, no seriously…

Love an empty nester!

Okay having said that let me redeem myself a little by posting up a piece I wrote about five years ago when I dropped my daughter off at college and found myself blubbering the next day… which I will vehemently deny by the way!

Hopes Dreams Transitions…

I am up early for a Saturday, sipping a cup of fresh made coffee and thinking back over it all. I dropped my daughter off at college yesterday and marked a bittersweet milestone, yes I know quite the overused word in my opinion and honestly it’s lost the significance it once had. A milestone should symbolize a major achievement, the completion of a great effort or undertaking… not just a simple “I made it to the finish line so look at me…” No a milestone infers challenges, obstacles, setbacks and having exercised the will and perseverance to have overcome them. As parents can we count those first steps are children take into adulthood as a milestone? It matters not the path be it the military, college or the job-market those first few steps embody all the hopes, dreams and wishes we have for them. Read more ›

SOCK YOGA

SOCK YOGA
The struggle is real…

 First let me say that I have a ton of respect for those who practice Yoga and the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of this ancient discipline; but come live in my world for a week and we’ll see how you hold up.

Okay having said that we need to discuss the realities of being a road warrior and a person of some substance, or in the common vernacular – FAT. Don’t worry no self-loathing here, I love my roundness; but it does create some challenges. So, this is for all you professional travelers who if you’re like me are on the road more than we are home. We are the ones shoehorned into an airline seat, picking through the hotel breakfast buffet, or God forbid having to take the compact car at the rental depot. I can’t even speak about being forced to remove my belt at TSA – that alone is enough reason to get Pre-Check, but I digress. Actually, if this isn’t you read on anyway, at least you can pity us. Read more ›

I keep coming back to this picture…

standing-rock-protest-ryan-vizzions-5_0

Photo used courtesy of Ryan Vizzions www.amodernghost.com

I keep coming back to this picture… I am not the “activist” type, I’m an advocate of working within the system to achieve change where possible and I support the need for law enforcement in a civil society. If I am honest with myself my activism is somewhat pedestrian, I write books with a social commentary, I’m active on social media and I vote; but do I leave the comfort of my desk, my office, my car, will you see me on the nightly news holding a placard, being sprayed by a water cannon, rinsing tear gas from my eyes – the simple answer is no.

This admission doesn’t change that I am fervently supportive of equality, I stand against oppression and have no tolerance for discrimination in any form. But the more I think about what this picture represents the more I believe it really transcends or maybe encompasses all of these. You see there is something uniquely disturbing about the blatant militarization of a domestic police force. I have heard all the arguments about “arming” up to combat the gangs, drug cartels, terror cells etcetera, and I understand all of it – but the reality is this has become the status quo – the first response posture not the strategy of last resort. Read more ›

The Wilderness

…it exists at the junction of betrayal, heartache, and hope.

The days seem to blend together in an endless stream of sameness as I journey further into the wilderness. There really is no beginning or end just a senseless jumble of destruction. The once mighty forest lays in ruin about me charred as if some hell spawn has unleashed the very fire of the netherworld upon it. I remember the mighty oaks, majestic maples; the stately firs that seemed to tickle the top of the world. If I close my eyes I can feel the dappled sunlight on my cheeks, I can hear the creek in the distance as it carelessly chooses its path down the hillside. It’s only an illusion there hasn’t been any life or joy in these parts recently, the sun no longer warms the earth beneath my feet and an endless twilight reigns in the heavens. Read more ›