A Very Good Week For The President

Last week was a very good week for President Barack Obama. The United States Supreme Court upheld a provision (government subsidies) crucial to Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). In addition, Congress approved a bill allowing America’s leader “fast track” dominion over free-trade agreements, and same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide. Of course, the President wasn’t actually responsible, for giving homosexuals the right to legal matrimony, but the Supreme Court’s ruling did happen on his watch. I’m not exactly sure what platform the Republicans will be able to embrace, this next election cycle, with “Obamacare” and gay marriage now being laws of the land. I suppose there is the nation’s gargantuan debt, in which one of their own (George W. Bush) began, and Obama unashamedly increased by colossal proportions, still left for debate.

By now, it’s no secret my lovely wife and I are proponents of the ACA. We’ve heard the horror stories and numerous rants, in opposition to the historical piece of legislation, but for us “Obamacare” has been nothing but a good thing. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with degenerative hip disease which means I’ll most-likely need hip replacement surgeries at some point. Without the Affordable Care Act we had decent health insurance, but the insurance company attached a rider to our policy denying coverage of my hips. With “Obamacare,” through our state’s health insurance marketplace, my wife and I have even better health insurance (at a slightly lower premium) that covers my pre-existing condition as mandated by the new law. Although the ACA is not perfect I’d absolutely hate to see this country’s healthcare system revert back to what it was.

I’ve also heard the arguments, for and against, concerning the recently proposed free-trade agreements. It’s interesting to me how seemingly equally intelligent individuals can be on opposite sides of any given issue, and each side can cite specific data in support of their chosen stance. Some say the trade partnership with other countries will help the U.S. economy while others say it will further hinder the nation’s unemployment rate. I tend to agree with the latter, based on the consequences suffered at the hands of a previous free-trade agreement (NAFTA), although I’m not too familiar with the details of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreements. I do know there already are not enough jobs, in the United States, for every able-bodied person wanting one. Almighty technology is responsible for continuously squeezing out the human workforce and forever causing a lack of employment in this country.

Computers and machines have been replacing human beings, at an alarming rate, and will continue doing so. Bank tellers have lost out to ATMs and on-line banking, and more and more stores are replacing checkers with self-checkouts. The days of seeing two men on the back of a garbage truck have all but disappeared. Eventually and inevitably we’ll be saying goodbye to FED-EX and UPS delivery drivers – thanks to drones, and we’ll be bidding a fond farewell to truck, taxi, and limousine drivers – thanks to driverless vehicles. Regardless, whether or not the TPP or TTIP would aid in diminishing more jobs, here at home, I do not think the agreements should be “fast tracked” as is now permitted by the recent somewhat bipartisan passage of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). In general, rushing into anything is not usually recommended, so I wish our elected officials would’ve taken more time considering such an important matter.

I do not pretend to understand homosexuality, and my religion certainly does not condone it, but just like the millions of illegal immigrants, occupying this land, homosexuals are here to stay. I think everybody saw legalized same-sex marriage coming at some point; however, I think the Supreme Court’s citing of the United States Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, in its ruling, quite possibly provides a gateway to other legitimate requests for legalized marriages. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state governments from depriving its citizens of “life, liberty, or property.” What about those people whose desired liberty includes polygamy or marrying someone within their own family? It’s something to think about.

I heard a new argument, soon after the Supreme Court’s ruling, as to why gay couples should not be allowed to marry. Some people are saying the newlyweds will have a negative economic impact on our federal government, and they’re also suddenly concerned about Social Security and how legalized same-sex marriage will assuredly reduce the fragile system of its funds. That may be true; however, heterosexuals have been draining the system for years, and I haven’t heard too many complaints. Besides, others have suggested that the decreased spending on Medicaid and Medicare, after gay couples marry, would more than make up for the increase in payable Social Security benefits. The real problem is our leaders, from both sides of the aisle, have been making withdrawals from the beloved program for decades. Maybe now is the time for our elected officials to have a serious, bipartisan discussion about Social Security before the well runs dry.

In 50 years (probably less) no one is going to ponder when homosexuals weren’t allowed to marry. I rarely contemplate a way of life that was different than my lifetime, so why wouldn’t others be prone to do the same? I don’t think much about the telegraph, eight-track tapes, or segregation, since they were before my time, although I know they all existed. Likewise, future generations aren’t going to dwell on landlines, compact discs, or the days when there was heterosexual marriage only, because they’ll all simply be things of the past. That’s just how it is…like it or not. Yes, last week was indeed a good week for homosexuals, trade advocates, and “Obamacare” supporters. It certainly was a very good week for the President.


Seriously?

My lovely wife and I were in Palm Springs this past weekend, celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary, when she said, “there’s your next blog.” She even suggested its title. We had been conversing about current events, throughout our mini-vacation, and my wife noticed we inevitably would ask ourselves the same question at the end of many of our discussions. One morning after getting our caffeine fix, at a local independent coffee shop, the missus finally made her suggestions known to me. We were leaving the establishment when I pointed to the colorful sticker affixed to the door. It donned the colors of the rainbow and stated, “diversity is welcome here.” My wife and I both immediately said, “Seriously?”

We didn’t understand why the coffee shop would purposely solicit the homosexual community, to be their customers, seemingly above everyone else. I initially felt a little discriminated against, since we were mere heterosexuals, but then I remembered those cake decorating businesses that caters to everyone except homosexuals. I guess fair is fair. However, when I owned a business I was thankful for anyone who was willing to be my customer. Anyway, it has been well over a year since the last time I let my wife influence my writing, and actually name my blog, so I figured it was about time I’d honor her request and allow her to do it again.

Last week a massacre took place inside a Charleston, South Carolina church. A young, White gunman opened fire, during a Bible study, shooting 10 Black parishioners: killing 9 of them. Apparently, some people think the despicable attack was against Christianity since the act of violence happened in a church. Seriously? I think the senseless crime was obviously racially motivated. The shooter, Dylann Roof, allegedly shouted racial epithets, while committing the murders, and his Facebook page and a website contains racist rants and photos of him wearing white supremacy attire. If any offence was ever to be labeled a “hate crime” I would think this one would certainly qualify; however, I’m generally opposed to using that term because all intentional murder derives from hate.

Also tragic, but of course on a much smaller scale, is the way such horrific events are politicized after the fact. The gun control and mental health debates quickly surface, but they are usually forgotten once the victims are laid to rest. This time there is an added dimension, to the political arena, since there is now a crusade to remove all Confederate flags from the capitol grounds of several Southern states. I’ve never claimed to be a history buff, so I’m not exactly sure what their flag is suppose to convey. I do know the Confederate flag’s design looks pretty sweet on top of The General Lee: the ’69 Dodge Charger co-star of The Dukes of Hazzard. Regardless, I would have to agree that if the Confederate flag construes a message of hate, towards the Black community, then it most-certainly should’ve been retired at the time slavery was rightfully abolished.

However, I adamantly disagree with those who profess that the recent shooting has set this country back in terms of our race relations. The atrocious actions of one sick individual does not erase several years of racial progress. I also fervently disagree with Eleanor Clift’s assessment, in wake of the devastating aftermath, when referring to the Charleston congregation’s decision to forgive the murderer. The McLaughlin Group panelist said, “This congregation and the Black community there is being extraordinarily gracious in forgiving – I’m not sure if that were a White congregation and a Black shooter if the Whites would respond quite so graciously.” Seriously? I worship at a predominantly White church, and I’m quite sure if the roles were reversed the majority of the flock would react in precisely the same manner.

I don’t really understand racism. My high school graduating class, of around 300 students, consisted of two Blacks, one Indian, and the rest of us, who were many shades of White; therefore, I’m hardly an expert on race relations. To single out an entire race though, or a religion for that matter, as being “less than” seems asinine to me. I might not be able to fully comprehend the past oppression of Blacks, but I do know a thing or two about reverse racism. When I was attempting to open a music store in my small hometown, during the mid-nineties, I became aware of just how difficult it can be for a White man to start his own business in this country.

I had researched the music store industry, contacted plenty of distributors, and found an excellent location for my establishment. I then formed a business plan and presented it to the city’s Chamber of Commerce. They approved the plan and agreed a music store would make a nice addition to the downtown area. I went to the bank, with my outstanding credit history in tow, to request a loan for the startup costs. After a pleasant meeting with the bank lender my request was denied. The representative solemnly and reluctantly informed me that I would not have any problem receiving the funds if I was Black, or a woman, or better yet if I was a Black woman. Seriously?

Fortunately, a special person was in the financial position to be able to loan me the money (and at a much better interest rate). The aforementioned type of reverse racism will continue to exist as long as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and affirmative action continues to exist. Likewise, this great nation of ours will never entirely rid itself of racism until all Whites consider minorities as their equals and all Blacks are willing to stop reminding the younger generations of their ancestors’ past years of persecution. That will never happen. Seriously!


Unpatriotic?

Let me be 100% politically incorrect and probably viewed as unpatriotic by many. This past Memorial Day I did not give the United States Armed Forces even one iota of a thought. That certainly wasn’t due to the media’s lack of trying. I quickly became desensitized to the numerous commercials, airing on television, and the print advertisements, found in the local newspaper, honoring those who have served in the United States Military. To me, Memorial Day is a time for enjoying some burgers on the grill and then gorging on several bowls of homemade ice-cream afterwards. It’s also the day I intentionally set aside each year to remember all of the people I’ve lost throughout my life.

Of course, I think of them many times during the year, but on Memorial Day I purposely attempt to envision their faces, one at a time, as I reflect on their unique personalities. I try to recall precisely what each individual meant to me while they were present on this earth. I fondly remember my grandma, two grandpas, two great-grandmothers, and a father-in-law. I think of my great-aunt, my great-uncle, some very special relatives, from my wife’s side of the family, a few acquaintances, and a friend. I believe only one of the aforementioned had ever served in the U.S. Military, but they all deserve to be remembered nonetheless.

The way in which those who have ever enlisted in the military are praised, in today’s society, is difficult to ignore when there’s multiple days, imprinted on every calendar, honoring those who have served their country. The annual designated days of celebration includes Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, Independence Day, and Memorial Day. Presidents Day and Flag Day were specifically designed to salute our past presidents and “Old Glory,” but somewhere along the way both days were erroneously converted into observances for our nation’s military. In recent years, even Thanksgiving Day has become somewhat distorted into a day that appears to be more about recognizing our armed forces than anything else. I’m referring to those publically aired messages, during the day’s football games, sent home from our military personnel overseas. We are bombarded with their greetings, to their families, which suggests Thanksgiving is at least partly about our U.S. Soldiers. Some holidays just aren’t about (nor should they be about) honoring our armed forces.

However, for anyone who does not think we have enough days throughout the year, for celebrating our military, the entire month of May is National Military Appreciation Month. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due although I do not believe all military personnel are heroes. There certainly are some, who are deserving of the “hero” title, but many are not (E.g. Bowe Bergdahl). Simply enlisting in the military, or becoming a police officer or a firefighter, for that matter, does not automatically make one a hero (contrary to popular belief). These people absolutely should be commended for their service to the rest of us. Undoubtedly, there are possible risks involved, with those chosen professions, but I would think the rewards would be even greater. Not many professions can offer an unfailing sense of pride, throughout the duration of one’s career, as does the previously mentioned occupations.

The word, hero, is greatly overused (and misused) these days when describing both organizations and individuals (E.g. Bruce…I mean Caitlyn Jenner). I think the adjective has become so diluted that its meaning has lost all significance. True heroes can be ordinary people who rise to the occasion to help their fellow man in need. Heroes can be those who rigorously fight hard to overcome adversity. Heroes can also be loving parents who’ll do whatever it takes to keep their family unit strong. Heroes surely are amongst us, but they’re not necessarily wearing uniforms. Remarkably, Jesus has less days of honor than the U.S. Military, stamped on our calendars, yet He is undeniably the greatest hero of them all.

I think the Fourth of July is the day to celebrate anyone who has ever served in our country’s armed forces. Independence Day is the foundation in which all other days of military observances are built upon. Every Fourth of July I proudly display the American flag, and I cannot help but discern an overwhelming sense of appreciation, more so than any other time of the year, for those who are willing to protect our freedom whenever called upon. I’ve also been known to listen to Stryper’s version of the “Battle Hymn Of The Republic,” on our nation’s birthday, and tearfully watch the pertinent Mel Gibson flick, The Patriot, in recognition of those who’ve ever served. Of course, I do devour grilled hamburgers, and homemade ice-cream, on Independence Day as well. So, am I unpatriotic? I don’t think so.


Integrity (My Father, Tom, And Pete)

My father has integrity. Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, not so much. What about Pete Rose? First things first. I think Tom Brady has a bright future in the political arena, if he so desires, since it appears as though he has perfected the nonchalant attitude, and vague memory, that many of today’s elected officials possess. The main player (pun intended) in the “Deflategate” scandal was more than willing to break National Football League (NFL) rules, and I’m not exactly sure why he thought he needed to cheat to be successful.

However, Mr. Brady was less than willing to provide any viable answers or explanations, when questioned by investigators, as to why he used illegally deflated footballs during (at the very least) this year’s American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game. I say at least because when someone gets busted, doing something wrong, it’s usually not the first time the individual has committed that same violation. Most people who are caught speeding on a freeway, stealing from an establishment, or dealing drugs had most-likely been breaking the law, for who knows how long, prior to being nabbed. In the scope of all that is evil, in this world, breaking a League rule, by intentionally deflating a few footballs, barely seems worth mentioning, but any quarterback who would do so certainly lacks integrity.

A person who does not lack integrity is my father. Throughout my entire life that has been the adjective most commonly used by people when they’re describing him. The word, responsible, typically comes in a close second place. My father was the financial secretary, for over 35 years, for the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 997. His job was an elected position, so he was required to run for re-election, time and time again, during his career. Many people encouraged my father, even implored him, to move up through the union ranks, but my father was quite content remaining where he was because he epitomizes the definition of “a family man.” He’d rather be present at all four of his children’s school events, and attend every single ball game, than be forced into traveling in pursuit of climbing the company ladder.

My father was continuously re-elected to his position simply because he was outstanding at fulfilling his secretarial duties. It definitely was not because he was a seasoned politician. In fact, he was so far removed from that type of character that he would not even entertain the idea of conveying ambiguity for the sake of possibly receiving additional votes. I remember there were times when candidates, campaigning for other union positions, would ask my father if they could count on his vote. Sometimes those people asking for his endorsement, if victorious at the polls, would then secure a position of authority over my father.

Of course, the easy and safe thing would’ve been for my father to offer his support, regardless of what he actually intended to do in the voting booth, but that’s not what a man of integrity does. At times my father was faced with having to look his potential boss in the eye and tell the person they did not have his support. He would do so in a courteous manner, and there were no attempts at futile rhetoric nor any hemming and hawing during the process. I can hardly imagine how uncomfortable the conversation must’ve been, for both parties involved, but my father handled the situation with tremendous nobility. Tom Brady could learn a thing or two from my father.

Then there’s Pete Rose. I would not rank the former baseball player’s offence, in today’s professional sports’ world, at the top of the list. Yes, the 17 time All-Star (aka Charlie Hustle) bet on baseball games (forbidden by Major League Baseball). He also agreed to “permanent ineligibility from baseball” in 1989. However, it wasn’t until 1991, when the Baseball Hall of Fame committee voted to ban those on the “permanent ineligibility” list from ever entering Cooperstown. Pete’s gambling violations occurred when he was a player and a manager of the Cincinnati Reds. The former Rookie of the Year even gambled on his own ball club to win games. Win!

If Mr. Rose had waged bets against the Reds then assuredly I would have little sympathy for the two-time Gold Glove winner. I view Charlie Hustle’s misconduct as very minor in comparison to the deeds of numerous other professional athletes who are already enshrined or who’ll be heading there after their playing days are over (E.g. Tom Brady). I am normally a “black and white” sort of guy, but I’m not beyond showing a little mercy once in awhile. Pete Rose remains baseball’s all-time hits leader; therefore, I think he deserves a place in Cooperstown: integrity notwithstanding. In conclusion, my father…yay, Tom Brady…nay, and Pete Rose…okay.


Reunion Time

It’s that time of year again. This illustrious month is when beaches become crowded, cookouts are in full-swing, and gobs of clueless couples are saying their I dos. Please don’t misunderstand…I love being married, but the divorce rate continues to border on 50%, so half of those “happy couples” eventually aren’t going to be so happy. June is also the time for those dreaded high school class reunions. It’s not that I’m opposed to class reunions, but I figure whichever classmates I wanted to remain friends with, after graduation, I would already still be in contact with without needing an organized get together, every five years, to stay in touch.

For example, my high school sweetheart (aka lovely wife) was my best friend on my graduation day, so I’ve continued seeing her practically every day since. The fact that we’ve been married for almost 28 years now might have something to do with that. The rare exceptions are when she goes on a women’s retreat (I get it – no boys allowed!) and five years ago when the missus flew back to Iowa, to attend her class reunion without me. I gave her my blessing to go solo, but I preferred to stay at home rather than be susceptible to the uncertainty of a high school reunion.

I’m not exactly sure why I just said that since I’m so far removed from being an expert on the subject. I’ve only been to my wife’s 5-year reunion (she hasn’t missed a one), and I have never been to any of mine. That’s just a total of 1 out of a possible 11 reunions I’ve attended in my lifetime. If an elected official possessed a voting record similar to that of the number of times I’ve been present, at any high school class reunion, I’m pretty sure the representative’s anemic voting percentage would be deemed quite pitiful. The only (but major) difference is…I’m not being paid for my presence. I would venture to say I probably know more about politics than I do about class reunions.

However, I presume many people attend their reunions only when things are going well, but they choose to stay at home when their lives aren’t going as planned. I suppose I can’t really blame them for not wanting to discuss an impending divorce, wayward children, or lack of employment with their estranged peers. I imagine class reunions are indeed a boasting contest, so who would want to make an appearance, with those kind of credentials, when there’d be absolutely no chance of winning. I would like to think if I were a Pulitzer Prize recipient, or a famous celebrity, I would not attend my reunions just the same. I’m not sure why I compare high school class reunions to that of other unpleasant situations like visiting the dentist or undergoing a colonoscopy.

My aloof attitude towards reunions may have something to do with the numerous personalities I assuredly would be forced to endure at such a gathering. I purposely aim to spend my time around those whose company I truly enjoy, and I’m positive that would not be the case amid a sea of former classmates. I can barely fathom rekindling a friendship with my former best friend, during our sophomore year of high school, even though at one time we were inseparable. We were baseball teammates, partied together on the weekends, and enjoyed much of the same kind of music (Rush, Journey, and Styx). We had even formed a rock and roll band (mostly imaginary), but then my buddy fell hard and fast, to the lifestyle of a typical rock star, after discovering marijuana.

I experimented with the mind-altering drug twice, alongside him, before deciding that was not the path I wished to continue following. However, by that time my best friend had officially become “a pot-head,” and he issued me an ultimatum; He insisted I either continue smoking weed with him or else we could no longer be friends. Friendship over! My decision was not a difficult one at all. I was stubborn, even as a teen, so I wasn’t about to bow to any peer pressure. In addition, I certainly did not want to be labeled a pot-head like my friend. Once a person is placed into a specific category, by their peers, it’s nearly impossible to find a way out.

I think one of the perils of high school, at least during the early 80’s, is realistically depicted in the classic movie, The Breakfast Club. The film, released in 1985, accurately captures the unfortunate, yet seemingly acceptable, segregation amongst teenagers. The John Hughes masterpiece explores, with brutal honesty, the way our society tends to embrace categorizing individuals. The Breakfast Club focuses on five students, falling victim to five different classifications, simply trying to make it through high school. They are labeled the jock, the princess, the brain, the rebel, and the outcast.

I could expand that list (if I agreed with labeling human beings) to include cheerleaders, goody two-shoes, and the aforementioned pot-heads. Those types of teens could be found roaming the halls, at my high school, in addition to the ones featured in The Breakfast Club. I have to assume some kids were classified as “everyone else” because they did not fit too nicely into any one of the other groupings. I don’t remember there being any “goths” per se, at my high school (I don’t think they had been invented yet), so the outcasts were most-likely the farm kids: the students wearing those dark blue FFA (Future Farmers of America) jackets who literally smelled a bit like a farm. We lived in a small, blue-collar town, so the rich kids were oddities as well.

My wife and I probably fell into the everyone else category during our high school days. She was a pacesetter (not a cheerleader), and I was just a baseball player (not a jock). Neither of us were entirely immersed in any one classification, and we weren’t afraid to associate with classmates from several of the other categories. I guess we appreciated diversity even way back then. I’m not sure if the labels we were given, over 30 years ago, are still intact or not, but I reckon I’ll find out next week when I accompany my lovely wife to her class reunion. I decided to be a good husband, since I’ll be in town visiting family anyway, and prove to her former classmates that us high school sweethearts are still together. I know at least I’m not going to be remembered as a pot-head. It’s reunion time!


I Wanna Be A Cowboy

I wanna be a cowboy. I’ve been a city boy all my life, but that certainly has not prevented me from desiring to roam the countryside on the back of a horse. As a youngster I dreamt of becoming either a fireman, policeman, baseball player, or a cowboy, like most boys I presume, when I got older. A couple of those aspirations were realistically attainable, but I have to wonder where one would even go to apply for the position of “cowboy.” My fascination with simpler times, horses, and jingling spurs most-likely stems from faithfully watching episodes of Bonanza and How the West Was Won during my childhood.

I can also recall watching reruns of The Lone Ranger, Maverick, and The Big Valley on a daily basis. (My love of Rawhide and Clint Eastwood westerns came much later in life.) I fondly remember trotting up and down the hallway and around the living room, on my imaginary steed, every time the Bonanza theme song coursed through the speakers of my parents’ console television. I would ride into the sunset at the beginning and at the end of every episode. My prancing somewhat resembled the way The Church Lady, from Saturday Night Live, would dance around at the end of “her” (Dana Carvey’s) Church Chat skits. Well, isn’t that special?

I can imagine the serenity of living on a ranch. I can even picture myself riding my horse, Prickly Pete, from one end of the property to the other while looking for trespassers and mending fences along the way. For some reason I have it in my mind that that’s what cowboys do for most of the day. The spirit of the Old West is very appealing to me (except maybe for the lynchings). Bringing someone to justice was certainly swift back then. Whether the accused, with the noose around their neck, was actually guilty or not was often a moot point. I hate to think how many innocent men were strung up under that type of justice system.

Entering through the swinging doors of the local saloon, after a long day of mending fences and searching for trespassers, seems very enticing as well. Quaffing a mug of beer or having a shot of whiskey, to cure one’s dry throat, undoubtedly would be right up my alley. Of course, I’d prefer a craft beer, or at least some Diet Coke with the whiskey, although I’ve never seen that on television. I’m not at all into the bar scene, but I would think the atmosphere of an old-time Western saloon would be quite alluring. The dancehall women mingling with the customers, the piano player in the corner doing his thing, the serious gamblers gathered at the poker tables, and the assortment of cowboys getting drunk would surely be a sight to behold.

I’ve only ridden a horse on two different occasions, throughout my entire life, but I still have the notion to become a cowboy nonetheless. The first instance was when my family called on my grandparents in Missouri, and I was shocked when I found out my grandpa had acquired a pony since the last time we had visited his modest farm. I was ecstatic after being told that us youngsters would have the opportunity to ride the miniature horse later in the week. When the anticipated glorious day had finally arrived my father put me on top of the pony, and my grandpa placed a large cowboy hat onto my small head. He then grabbed the rope, loosely looped around the critter’s neck, and began slowly walking us about the backyard.

The new experience was wonderful (for about 5 seconds) until my hat fell off, spooking the animal; therefore, the beast bucked me off onto the hard ground. I absolutely thought I was finished imitating a cowboy at that point, but you know what they say one should do after falling off a horse. I assure you I did not care, but my father whole-heartedly subscribed to the aforementioned theory, so he and my grandpa eventually convinced me to get back on the horse. I was again placed on top of the varmint, with a few tears in my eyes, but this time without the oversized cowboy hat. The rest of the ride was smooth sailing, and I’m glad I was pressured into…I mean lovingly urged to…get back on the pony.

The second time I rode a horse was in 2003, during a Caribbean cruise, while the ship was docked in Casa de Campo. My family and I had signed up for a horseback riding excursion to entertain us while we were on dry land. We were immediately given plastic helmets to wear after arriving at the site. The unattractive headgear fit our heads just about as well as my grandpa’s cowboy hat had fit mine so many years ago. Our instructors did not speak much English, but we got the gist of their basic instructions from their continuous pointing and nodding. We wandered the foreign land, taking in the exotic scenery, as a couple of guides kept watch over us.

Trotting along the dusty trail was a dream come true, and I felt like a genuine cowboy once I forgot about the hideous helmet on top of my head. That is until our instructors decided to take our horseback riding excursion up a notch. One of the guides hollered something, and suddenly every one of the animals picked up their pace. My horse bolted past all of the other riders, including the lead instructor, and the sprinting steed kept going and going and going. The guides were yelling for me to stop (now that I understood) although I had already been pulling back on the reigns and shouting, “Whoa!,” for quite some time. The lead instructor did eventually catch up to me, only for a second or two though, and desperately tried grabbing ahold of my horse’s reigns, but he was nowhere near triumphant.

My horse was now galloping as though it was favored to win the Kentucky Derby. I realized it was entirely up to me to get the beast beneath me to stop. Making the situation even worse was that my backside was involuntarily rising up from its seated position, with every step the horse took, and then painfully slamming back down onto the saddle. The unpleasant ordeal reminded me of a game of Paddle ball: where a player continuously smacks a rubber ball, connected to a cheap piece of elastic and stapled to a wooden paddle, for as many consecutive times as possible. Obviously, my buttocks represents the rubber ball in the previous example.

My greatest fear was that the dashing horse would come to a screeching halt (like in cartoons) and I would find myself air born: soaring past the animal with only my plastic helmet for protection. I’m not exactly sure if I finally yanked the reins hard enough, or if my assigned horse simply got tuckered out, but ultimately the thrilling ride was over, and fortunately I was still alive. The consequences, for inadequately posing as a cowboy, were an extremely chaffed rump, for the rest of the cruise, and some visible scarring, reminding me of my venture, for several months thereafter. Even after the two less than perfect experiences I’ve had, with the four-legged creatures of the Old West, I still think someday I wanna be a cowboy.


Bring ‘Em Back

I am absolutely fond of traffic enforcement cameras on interstates and at intersections. (Well, there probably goes half of my readers.) Photo-enforcement is such a touchy subject, amongst us civilians these days, although it really doesn’t make much sense to me why some would be against curtailing speeders and red-light runners. Why doesn’t everyone desire safer roads? There seems to be two main reasons why some people are opposed to the cameras: they’re either certain it’s a ploy by local governments to make money, or they’re convinced an individual should have the right to confront their accuser.

It’s true that a traffic violator cannot cross-examine a camera; however, neither can anyone who’s captured on a surveillance camera when robbing a bank or a convenience store. Should all cases then be dismissed simply because the offender was not caught in the act, by an actual human being, at the time the offense was committed? Of course not. If that sort of logic is acceptable then I would think we’d have no other choice but to also render all security cameras, in all establishments, useless in the aiding of law enforcement. The right to confront the accuser, under these types of circumstances, is a weak argument at best.

Concerning municipalities receiving funds (via fines), from non-abiding citizens, I say, “so what.” If a city can garner a few bucks while making their streets a little safer then good for them. Slow down, don’t run any red lights, and it won’t matter. Besides, obeying traffic laws isn’t all that difficult. Speed cameras on freeways allow for drivers to exceed the posted speed limit by 11mph (at least they did on Arizona’s Loop 101) before snapping a photo of the perpetrator. Unfortunately, most of the municipalities in the Valley of the Sun have discontinued using the traffic enforcement technology. I miss the cameras. I miss them a lot.

The majority of Arizona’s elected officials erroneously embrace the ideology of “personal responsibility” above all else. That apparently includes the public’s safety, and it surely explains why the Grand Canyon State is one of only three states (Montana and Texas being the others) without statewide texting while driving laws. I have lived in the Valley for eight years, and I’ve utilized the same roads when there was and when there wasn’t photo-enforcement; therefore, I know of which I speak. When Arizona had speed cameras on the Loop 101, I’d set my cruise control 7mph over the posted 65mph speed limit. I’m aware I was still breaking the law, but I found 72mph to be my self-appointed “safe speed” in which I thought all drivers should adhere to when on the freeway.

I flowed with the majority of the traffic (at 72mph), and I wasn’t at all concerned about human law enforcers even though they had every right to pull me over. I never had the propensity to tap my brakes either, when going past the photo radar, because I knew I was within the “acceptable” speed. Now that the cameras no longer exist I am literally one of the slowest drivers, if not the slowest, on the 101. I’ve increased my “safe speed” to 73mph (sometimes 74mph) in an attempt to keep pace with the rest of the drivers…but to no avail. The vast number of vehicles whizzing by, and the rate of speed in which they’re traveling, is absurd and undeniably unsafe. Removing the red-light cameras, at most of Arizona’s congested intersections, was just as ridiculous and just as unsafe, and their absence has contributed to the decline of our state’s public safety as well.

It is not uncommon, after one’s traffic light turns green, to encounter one, two, three, and sometimes even four vehicles carelessly (and illegally) veering directly into their path of right of way. That definitely was not the case when the cameras were in place. I have learned over the years that leaving “personal responsibility” up to the individual is almost always a monumental mistake because many people tend to take a lackadaisical approach to their responsibility. One need only read the blog, Responsibility…And The Blame Game, by the talented up and coming writer, James McCleary, to understand what I’m saying. Sometimes we need our government to intervene, on behalf of its citizens, to make our world a safer place, and I think this is one of those times. I miss the traffic enforcement cameras…I really do. I wish they would bring ’em back.


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