Consistent Consistency

Consistent consistency, among other things, is what I long for but many times seems out of reach in today’s society. My wife enjoys a breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s every now and then, but she doesn’t care much for the hash brown that comes with the meal deal offered on the breakfast menu. Therefore, my loveliness attempts to be at the establishment precisely at 10:30am, during the switch from breakfast to lunch, in hopes of getting french-fries with her meal instead of the dreaded hash brown. Some McDonald’s shift managers will allow her to do this, but others say it is against company policy and will not. That is not an example of consistent consistency.

Inconsistency is commonly found in the world of politics as well. It’s confusing to me when a certain political party is so adamant that their president is not responsible when gas prices are high, under their party’s leadership, claiming our nation’s Commander In Chief doesn’t have any control over the situation. That claim is probably correct. However, those same individuals will gladly blame the president for high gas prices if our nation’s leader happens to be from a different political affiliation than their own. They cannot have it both ways, yet time and time again they use that baseless argument to their advantage come election time.

I can’t help but think of the most recent inconsistent fiasco, that is the National Football League, when pondering consistent consistency or the lack thereof. The Carolina Panthers’ defensive end, Greg Hardy, was convicted in July for assaulting a female and threatening to kill her. There is no video, that I am aware of, but it was an assault nonetheless. Mr. Hardy has filed an appeal and is awaiting trial but continues to suit up, on game day each week, meanwhile Ray Rice is out of a job. Breaking news! Since I began writing this blog…The Panthers’ organization has discharged Greg Hardy from the team’s active roster. He will not be allowed to practice until his domestic violence case is resolved; however, he will continue to receive his weekly salary.

San Francisco 49ers’ defensive end, Ray McDonald, was recently arrested also on domestic violence charges. He is accused of hitting his pregnant fiancée, but the player remains a full-fledged member of the team. NBC sports analyst and former pro, Cris Collinsworth, stated the other night during a 49ers game that regardless of what one thinks about McDonald’s situation he is still a very good football player. The ex-Bengals’ wide receiver then went on to say McDonald should be allowed to continue playing, while the whole process is being played out, since he hasn’t been indicted yet. I was astonished to hear those words coming from Mr. Collinsworth, but I of course agree with his assertion. The overwhelming majority of sportscasters and the media are acting as both judge and jury, in the infinite number of abuse cases now being exposed in the NFL, and denying the accused due process. I guess their justice system denotes that people are “guilty until proven innocent.”

Another case lacking consistent consistency transpired this past week and once again came out of the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings’ hometown favorite and great running back, Adrian Petersen, was charged with felony child-abuse. He purportedly used a switch to discipline his four-year-old son. This adds a brand new twist to the viral discussion on domestic abuse, but it appears to be just as confusing to deal with. The Vikings’ organization quickly dismissed their star player, for one game, immediately after being informed of the allegation. They then brought Mr. Petersen back, for about a minute, before again releasing him from the team’s active roster pending the outcome of his scheduled October court appearance. He is currently on paid leave similar to that of Greg Hardy’s punishment. For those of you now anxiously awaiting my thoughts on corporal punishment, you will be extremely disappointed to know I’m not going to address that controversial topic in this blog.

I feel I can no longer go on without again mentioning everyone’s favorite subject, Ray Rice, since he deserves most of the credit for starting this entire mess. The ex-Raven has certainly provided me with some material to write about. Mr. Rice was sentenced by the NFL, for his bad behavior, and served half of his two game suspension before ultimately being suspended indefinitely by the League. The Baltimore Ravens’ organization supported Ray, until they no longer supported Ray, before eventually dismissing him from the team altogether. That scenario sort of reminds me of Hilary Clinton’s flip-flopping stance on the 2003 Iraq War. She was for the war, before she was against it, and now has recently criticized President Obama for not wanting to go back into Iraq and fight a winless war. But I digress. The NFL Player’s Association has filed an appeal on Ray Rice’s behalf, and Mr. Rice along with his wife (aka the victim) is considering taking legal action against the League citing “double jeopardy.” That term means being punished twice for the same offense, so I hope he wins. I am not an advocate of most lawsuits, but I am in favor of equal justice for all.

Seemingly lost in the continuing NFL saga were the racist remarks, conveyed via e-mail, by the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks co-owner, Bruce Levenson. The e-mail was sent two years ago, and Mr. Levenson freely admitted his ill-advised actions to the NBA back in July, but it was not made public until two weeks ago. The contents of the e-mail was arguably worse than the words spoken by former Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, just a few months ago. Mr. Levenson apologized, before stepping down, and has agreed to sell his share of ownership in the team. He had no choice! Not that he necessarily should have lost his ownership rights because of his offensive language, but he absolutely needed to step down just to be fair to Mr. Sterling. Bruce Levenson, strangely enough, was one of the most outspoken critics of Donald Sterling after Mr. Sterling’s scandal broke. What ever happened to judge not lest ye be judged?

Many of you may presume, based on my blogs, that I have a somewhat blasé attitude when it comes to racism, domestic abuse, and probably now child-abuse, but I assure you I do not. I’m simply for exhausting all evidence, circumstances, and scenarios of an investigation before sentencing someone and changing their lives forever. You may also be surprised to know I strongly believe in severe consequences for an individual’s proven unacceptable actions. I assure you that you would not want me to be the presiding judge handing down a sentence in your case if you were found guilty.

Last night Arizona Cardinals’ backup running back, Jonathan Dwyer, was arrested on you guessed it…aggravated assault charges. He is accused of head-butting his wife (breaking her nose) and then punching her in the face the very next day. The incidents happened in July. The Cardinals’ organization dismissed Mr. Dwyer from all team activities for now. Hold onto your hats folks. I think we’re just getting started separating the thugs in the NFL from the respectable players in the League. The National Football League has been a safe haven for abusers, drunk drivers, drug users, and numerous other criminal activities, for quite some time now, regardless of what the NFL Commissioner may claim to the contrary. It appears the NFL opened up a can of worms when they decided to publicly take an active role in denouncing domestic abuse. A good cause, no doubt, but pretty soon there won’t be enough professional players left to fill every team roster in the League.

There is probably only 1 Kurt Warner type for every 50 Ray Rice types, employed by the NFL, and that’s disheartening. Warner’s caliber of character is second to none and something the fans could always count on. The future Hall Of Famer’s gentle nature was the same before, during, and now after his time on the football field, and he is a fine example of consistent consistency. That is exactly what I am longing for whether it’s discipline in the NFL, a politician’s stance, or even the McDonald’s french-fry policy. Consistent consistency.

Sept. 11th, 2014

My father-in-law was murdered, on this very day, 13 years ago. James D. Cleere was in New York on business the day of the terrorist attacks. He was staying at the Marriott Hotel, located between the Twin Towers, when two airplanes struck the nation’s landmark. The Towers ultimately collapsed before Jim was able to get out of the hotel. His remains have yet to be recovered which for some of us I imagine does not allow for complete closure. Our family was able to get through the tragic event by our faith in the one and only God. Jim will be remembered as many different things to many different people. That’s all we really have, our own perception of an individual, until we truly get to know them.

To me, my father-in-law was a big, friendly guy who fancied the performing arts. He was in charge of the lighting at the local community theater, and at one time he was a member of a Praise and Worship vocal group. He frequently sang at weddings although not at ours because he thought he might become too emotional (I can’t say as I blame him considering who his daughter was marrying). Jim enjoyed reading, and I believe he may of had a sweet tooth. He traditionally received a Barnes & Noble gift certificate from us at Christmas, and my wife always made rice krispie treats for him on his birthday. During the weekdays Jim wore a seemingly endless supply of dress shirts and neckties, since he was a thriving businessman, but on the weekends he typically wore a pair of overalls, resembling a Midwest farmer, when doing yard work or just putzing around the house.

My father-in-law had a fondness for music although he didn’t play an instrument, and he placed a great emphasis on education although he never earned a college degree. Jim adored his grandson (my son) and was so delighted he could play the piano and that he excelled academically in school. I remember once, several years ago, when I was home alone, and out of the blue I had a tearful moment regarding Jim. I had been thinking about my son’s upcoming high school graduation and basking in knowing he was a class valedictorian and that he’d be graduating with several honors. As proud as I was of my son it dawned on me that Jim would have been ecstatic and in awe of his grandson’s many accomplishments, but he was no longer here to share in the excitement.

It’s kind of strange, but nice, when the past meets the present to form a new memory of a loved one. I was well aware my father-in-law was fascinated with technology, but I recently learned, or else I had forgotten, he enjoyed writing as well. Jim has been gone for 13 years, but I can’t help but think he’d be pleased to know that his son-in-law is now a blogger. I still feel somewhat cheated, after all these years, because even though I had known Jim, for 18 years, I didn’t know him well. I think we were just beginning to feel comfortable with one another on a different level. We were starting to relate more as two adults instead of one adult and one punk kid. I think we know who the kid was.

The following is one of only a handful of poems I have ever written. I wrote it in 2009, as an assignment for a college class. The piece conveys my deepest thoughts about that horrific day and imparts the isolation I was feeling, as Jim’s only son-in-law, shortly after Sept. 11th, 2001. I have not forgotten you, James D. Cleere.

An Insignificant View

Some memories now faded, while others so vividly clear
That devastating day in September, my own personal hell
The silence, panic, and concern, then relief from the call
Silenced again, this time extinguishing all remaining hope
Entrapped in a supporting role, staying strong for wife and child
What about me?
Surrounded by the media, but off to one side I stand
Observing the crowds of well-wishers, gathered to support
There’s neighbors, co-workers, clergy, some family, and friends
Receiving numerous letters, cards, e-mails, and calls
but What about me?
We mourn in different ways, I’m isolated once again
I attend the funeral, they’ve deemed “A Celebration of Life”
I’m in my grieving process, they’re professing their faith
The many tributes, memorials, and speaking engagements
They’re wanting to remember, I’m doing my best to forget
What about me?
I’m part of the picture, but on the outside looking in
A marriage almost ruined, by the consumption of the events
No peace of mind in sight, until the killer is caught
Loss of a husband, father, grandpa, son, brother, and friend
but What about me?
I lost my father-in-law when the towers came down

The Injustice To Ray

The entire video footage, of the elevator incident involving professional football player, Ray Rice, and his then fiancée, Janay Palmer, was finally released to the public yesterday. The majority of people who were lending their support to Mr. Rice, and championing his effort to learn from the experience, apparently have now abandoned ship after viewing the TMZ footage. The Baltimore Ravens organization immediately parted ways with their talented running back, and the National Football League’s Commissioner, Roger Goodell, suspended him indefinitely. I suspect Ray’s former supporters are now surrendering to peer pressure and for what they surely perceive as being politically correct. I have never been a proponent of that. I just like to stick to the facts.

I have watched the TMZ footage over and over and over, and in my mind absolutely nothing has changed. What did everyone think happened in that casino elevator anyway? I had envisioned Mr. Rice pummeling Ms. Palmer, like a prizefighter defending his title, prior to viewing the recent video; therefore, I was not nearly as shocked by what had actually transpired, as so many people apparently were, after observing the updated footage. The video is somewhat grainy, but as far as I can tell before the couple even gets into the elevator the NFL star appears to spit on his then fiancée (some might call that an assault), and she returns the favor with a slap to his face. Ray then has Janay cornered, once inside the elevator, and I’m not quite sure what’s happening at this point.

Mr. Rice is obviously in Ms. Palmer’s face and it looks as though she raises her elbow and turns her head to one side. What, if any, punches are thrown at this time I can’t honestly tell from the video. However, The Baltimore Press has also viewed the TMZ footage and says at this juncture they strike each other. Ray then moves to the other side of the elevator, and Janay either walks or rushes towards him. This is when it’s clear that the ex-Raven punches her in the face and she hits her head on a railing while falling to the ground. Not a pretty sight. The results of the situation certainly could’ve been worse, but regardless he should not have punched her.

That being said, I adamantly disagree with the League’s decision of changing Ray Rice’s two game suspension into being suspended indefinitely. Even if retroactively adjusting someone’s punishment, for their previous behavior, was legal then the three-time Pro Bowler should be suspended for six games at most. That is the NFL’s recently enacted policy for first time offenders. Modifying the player’s punishment, for the same incident after he has already been sentenced, is equivalent to negating the sentence of someone already serving time in prison and increasing their penalty in order to comply with a new and different set standard. Should an offender, who has served his time, be sent back to prison if the punishment for his past behavior becomes harsher in the future? I think not.

The NFL Commissioner is evidently a bit flaky and grasping at straws, trying to appease public opinion, instead of doing what’s right. Let me be perfectly clear. I am not a fan of Ray Rice or the Baltimore Ravens (even less so now), but I cannot get past the fact, and probably never will, that Janay Palmer chose to marry Mr. Rice after the violent incident. It stands to reason, if the current punishment prevails, with Ray now out of a job he will likely be spending more time at home with his “victim.” He will also have a significantly lower income to support his new bride with. Is that really what society wants?

It’s Coming!

It’s almost here. I’m not referring to autumn, Halloween, or even the Pumpkin Porter beer at Four Peaks Brewing Company. I am not talking about Thanksgiving either, but what I am alluding to is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas! Now, for all of you scrooges out there, although I cannot imagine any of my readers fitting the bill, please just simmer down. My sudden enthusiasm, for the upcoming glorious holiday, began quite unexpectedly this past week while I was relaxing at a Starbucks. Well, that’s not completely true. I was already on the Christmas countdown as far back as January 25th, when I announced to my lovely wife, “only eleven months ’til Christmas.” I make a similar declaration, on the 25th of every month, as to how many months are left until the “big day.” It has become one of my many traditions.

Anyway, I was sitting in my usual comfy chair, enjoying a second cup of dark roast coffee, and making a list of my top 10 Prince songs (“Computer Blue” was #1) when I could not believe the words I heard coming from the mouth of a woman who was standing in line at the counter. She was appalled the coffee shop was already offering the seasonal flavor, Pumpkin Spice, and obviously wanted everybody in the store to hear her displeasure. The curmudgeon just kept repeating in a loud voice, “It’s too early!” When the surly woman finally reached the cash register, several minutes later, she again voiced her disapproval, but this time it was aimed directly at the poor soul behind the counter. I was tempted to chime in with, “hey, Christmas is just around the corner,” but I’m sure the angry customer would have then become livid, and most assuredly that wouldn’t have been good for any of us in the entire store.

I don’t exactly know what the woman was trying to accomplish, but Starbucks is a chain store so the corporation, not the employees, makes the decisions. Besides, Pumpkin Spice is simply a flavor, not a holiday, so maybe the angry woman should just settle down. My wife certainly wouldn’t mind if the seasonal flavor was offered all year long. The woman’s complaining did remind me of what I had heard on the news the previous evening. Sam’s Clubs around the country reportedly had Christmas products displayed in their stores, and people were being asked if they thought August was too early to be thinking about Christmas. I knew what my answer was. I left Starbucks and made a mad dash to a Sam’s Club just down the road. It was true.

I suspected I was in for a tremendous treat, immediately after marching through the store’s entrance, when I spied several artificial trees glowing in the distance. The lifelike trees, with their twinkling lights, were a sight to behold. I roamed only the aisles stocked with Christmas merchandise, and I intently examined the varieties of bulbs, ornaments, wreaths, cookie tins, and outdoor displays. The boundless designs and array of colors were a feast for my eyes. Many people complain about the commercialization of Christmas, but I say, “bring it on.” What harm can it do? The people who know the true meaning of Christmas (the reason for the season) aren’t going to forget what the day’s really about, and if the department stores can benefit, from marketing the holiday during late summer, then so be it. We shouldn’t complain about the annual boost to our nation’s economy regardless of when it begins.

I am aware the build up to the “big day” does seem to come earlier every year, but I don’t mind. I’m not even embarrassed admitting I usually begin seriously thinking about Christmas on the 4th of July. That tends to be the date each year when I first realize we are now closer to Christmas future than to Christmas past, and my excitement only increases from that point on. That’s probably why, during the past two months, I have prematurely purchased a couple of stocking stuffers. Every single year as the magnificent holiday approaches I’m like…well, a kid at Christmas, but if you still happen to be a scrooge, at this point into my blog, then how about “I’m like a kid in a candy store” instead. Is that better?

I am not the only one filled with the Christmas spirit this early. My neighbor across the street already has his house decorated with outdoor Christmas lights. The colorful old-fashioned bulbs, stapled to his house and garage, runs the entire length of his roofline. Oh, that’s right, he just hasn’t gotten around to taking them down from last year yet. Some people detest when stores go from promoting Halloween straight to advertising Christmas; therefore, skipping the Thanksgiving holiday altogether. I don’t mind that at all since Thanksgiving is basically a celebration of when the White man trampled my people. Not exactly. The Indians associated with the first Thanksgiving (with the Pilgrims) were Wampanoag Indians whereas I’m Cherokee, but I can still empathize. Besides, I begin listening to holiday music on November 1st, so I’m already in full blown Christmas mode and not too concerned about Thanksgiving when it comes around.

I am inclined to be more jubilant than usual, if you can imagine that, during the holiday season. I think most people change for the better, even if by only the slimmest of margins, as the season nears. Whenever a tragedy strikes our nation, or when a natural disaster occurs in a small town, people tend to unite with one another and become better versions of themselves. I think the Christmas season bears those same kind of results. The human race generally seems more compassionate, generous, and full of good cheer during the month of December more so than any other time of the year. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice, how can anyone not be excited about celebrating Santa Claus and the birth of Jesus Christ (not necessarily in that order) on one special day. Brace yourselves people. Christmas is coming!

The ’90s?

Was the ’90s the last great decade?  That’s a question I recently came across while reading an edition of USA Weekend.  I only skimmed the article, but I already knew my answer to the question was an easy, “no.”  There are a few things I do cherish from that decade like raising my son and watching my brother play college football for the University of Northern Iowa.  Go Panthers!  I also owned a music store, for five years, during what some call the “decade of alternative media & alternative music.”  I never had a job, prior to or since, that I enjoyed as much as when I owned Mac’s Compact Disc Shop.  There really wasn’t much for me to like about the ’90s, other than the previously mentioned, especially after just experiencing my favorite decade to date (the ’80s), so the new decade was destined to be a letdown.

The ’90s brought us the first internet boom.  Technology can be a good thing.  With my blog I am able to reach all four of my faithful readers without having to use a single stamp.  However, what I find to be quite humorous is the recent wave of “in depth” reports, on the subject of technology, flooding our television airwaves.  “Could you live without your cellphone, or iPad, for a week?”  That tends to be the most commonly asked question, proposed by reporters, on these type of “news” programs.  Initially I can’t help but chuckle, at the absurdity of the question, but then I realize there are probably an infinite number of people who would answer, “no,” and sincerely mean it.  Seriously?  Food, water, and the air we breathe are necessities.  Cellphones, iPads, laptops, and even the internet are not.  At least they shouldn’t be, or at the very least we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become so dependent on them.

Does anyone else even remember the Y2K scare?  This country was in such a frenzy because we didn’t know if our advanced technology during that time would be able to handle the transition into a new century.  We feared the possibility of a significant number of computers crashing, since our nation had become so reliant on them, and the impending consequences associated with such a disaster.  Fortunately the severity of damage, resulting from the Y2K scare, was barely even a blip on the radar screen, but unfortunately the near catastrophe was then quickly forgotten about, so we rapidly became even more ensconced in technology without considering any of the future ramifications.  The world hasn’t been the same since the explosion of technology, and that’s a bad thing.

I think the ’80s was the last great decade.  What’s not to love about Discmans, boom boxes, big hair, and I-zod shirts with the collars worn up?  Well, that last example may be pushing it a bit too far.  I admit to being partial to the ’80s since I found my future wife, graduated high school, got married, and experienced the birth of my son during that decade, but there was so much more.  The ’80s ushered in the largest variety and arguably the best music of all-time.  Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson were in their prime.  Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Aerosmith, and Van Halen had made huge comebacks in the music industry.  New Wave Music (Blondie, Devo, Duran Duran) was introduced to mainstream radio, for those seeking something out of the ordinary, and Rap and Country were still available for those with minimal good taste.  Most importantly Glam Metal was in full swing with Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Poison leading the way. 

Stryper, for whom you are now familiar with and no longer puzzled by, if you’ve been reading my blogs, was discovered by the mainstream music world, via Music Television (MTV), although at first the network was reluctant to broadcast the Christian band’s videos.  The spandex and make-up wearing quartet fit the Glam Metal genre to a tee, but MTV was concerned about how their viewers would respond to “God Rock.”  They soon had their answer when Stryper’s “Free” and “Honestly” both became the most requested video on the television station’s popular call-in show, Dial MTV.  This was at a time when MTV actually showed music videos all day long, instead of airing a bunch of asinine reality shows, and the new short video format became a force in the music industry during the ’80s.

I remember my first encounter with MTV very well.  I had stopped by my aunt’s house, and as I entered the living room I was captivated by what I saw on the television screen.  It was a beautiful woman, with a unique voice, singing a pretty strange song.  She was wearing tons of make-up, but as a pubescent teen maybe that’s what I liked most about her.  The petite songstress swayed back and forth, to the fascinating music, in a somewhat sexy manner.  I could not take my eyes off of her.  The song credits magically appeared at the bottom of the screen, as the music faded, and I discovered the name of the band was Culture Club.  That’s right.  The stunning “woman,” who I was so smitten with, was actually Boy George.  Ouch!  It’s still obvious to me, even after my aforementioned traumatic experience, that the ’80s was the last great decade.                        

To Sing, Or Not To Sing

To sing, or not to sing.  That is the question prospective contestants, of reality television singing shows, should ask before subjecting themselves to possible ridicule from so-called judges.  The first thing aspiring professional crooners should do, before appearing in front of a national audience, is to at least be honest with themselves about their singing ability.  However, based on what I’ve been hearing through my television speakers, the past few weeks, wannabe singers are not heeding that sound advice.  I am of course referring to this year’s new show, Rising Star, and I’m only aware of it because someone in my household was a fan of the program, although she somehow managed to miss the season’s finale the other night.  I won’t embarrass this lovely woman by revealing her identity.

You know a television network has hit the bottom of the judge’s barrel when Ludacris, Ke$ha, and Brad Paisley are chosen to critique the performances of those hoping to become singing sensations.  Ludacris is a rapper, and we know rappers can’t sing.  I’ve barely heard of Ke$ha, although I’m at least hip enough to know the proper spelling of her name, and Brad Paisley is merely a country artist (enough said), so who are they to evaluate who can or cannot sing.  The personalities of the Rising Star judges seems to mimic every other panel, of reality show competition analyzers, beginning with talent shows’ pioneer, American Idol.  I did watch the first two seasons, of the enormously successful program, but only because I found performances like William Hung’s to be hilarious, yet even he received a recording contract.  I guess (actually I know) I’m “old school” because I think all artists should have to go through a period of suffering, for their art, before becoming nationally famous.

Now back to comparing the panel of judges from Rising Star and American Idol.  Ludacris appears to be the Simon Cowell of the show, honestly assessing each contestant’s performance, but he does so in a much nicer fashion.  Ke$ha is a younger version of Paula Abdul, but just as annoying, and she elevates the mushiness factor of the show to another level.  She lends her support, during the performance, by always pushing the green ^ button, regardless of how miserable the singing actually was, and then afterwards she has a compliment awaiting each and every contestant.  Brad Paisley’s comments are typically somewhere in the middle (a la Randy Jackson).  I’m positive that even I would receive a compliment from Ke$ha if I was one of the participants.  Heck, I’d probably win the whole competition considering the rest of the contestants on the show.  Not really.  I’m a realist, and although I am a pretty decent crooner I’m not quite that good.

However, I was generous enough to bestow my vocal talent to my junior high school choir, for all three years I was a student there, but I really don’t know why.  Maybe because my older sister had paved the way, or possibly because a lady at church, sitting in the pew behind me, had told my mother I had a nice singing voice.  Most likely though I joined the school chorus after calculating the girl to boy ratio of the class.  There was bound to be only a handful of guys enrolled, so the odds of me finding a special someone was quite favorable especially for a “playa” like myself.  Just kidding of course.  Those who truly know me are well aware I’m a pretty reserved person at heart and don’t yearn to be the center of attention.

For example, when I was a freshman, and our choir was to perform at our school’s annual talent show, I was asked to sing a brief solo during our rendition of the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin’.”  The teacher had meandered through the male vocal section of the choir, during one particular rehearsal, and narrowed the field down to two, myself and another guy, of who could adequately sing the solo.  I wasn’t near as brave as my sister, who had sung a portion of “Summer Nights” from the movie, Grease, by herself two years prior, so I refused the offer.  The other guy declined as well.  Eventually an alto, of the female persuasion, was man enough to volunteer singing the minimal part, so us two scaredy-cats were finally let off the hook.  I’ll never know how well I would’ve performed, if I had decided to sing that solo, but I do know Ke$ha would have given me a standing ovation.           



War.  What is it good for?  Absolutely nothing!  Edwin Starr popularized those lyrics in 1970, with his #1 hit, “War,” and I whole-heartedly agree (in most cases) with that sentiment today.  The American Revolutionary War, the United States’ involvement in World Wars 1 & 2, and the War in Afghanistan were all necessary wars for the U.S. to partake in.  Our Nation’s independence, and retaliation against those who attack us, on American soil, are the most plausible reasons, for declaring war, and is worth the price of bloodshed and monetary costs to this country. 

Some of our presidents have been a bit too eager, whether concluding on their own or being persuaded by those in their administration, to engage our military in warfare.  Many of our wars, in hindsight, have been mistakes and others foreseeably misguided before they even began. Both of the Iraq Wars were certainly mistakes.  I realize it may sound somewhat harsh, and a little insensitive, to say those who served in the U.S. Military, on active-duty in Iraq, were in no way fighting for our freedom, and their service to our country was for not, but that is the truth as I know it.  I absolutely do not place any of the blame on our U.S. Soldiers because the men and women in uniform were simply carrying out their assigned orders. 

Last week The McLaughlin Group listed several Iraq War statistics, from March ’03 – December ’11, and the figures were very sobering.  The death toll of U.S. Soldiers was reported as 4,425 and an additional 31,947 was listed as wounded.  The war also left 134,000 Iraqis (soldiers and civilians) dead.  The cost of the most recent Iraq War, besides the bloodshed, was an astonishing $806 billion (for operations) and an extra $894 billion going towards Veteran care.  Furthermore, there was the mind-boggling $9 billion listed as either lost or unaccounted for.  How in the world can that be?  The United States sure could use that money to put towards our national debt right about now.  The $9 billion admittedly would only scratch our debt’s surface, but at least it could be put to some use instead of being  listed as “missing.” 

At the present time the Islamic State of Iraq, an extremist group, is attempting a takeover of the entire country of Iraq.  Where is Saddam Hussein when you need him?  I’m not joking.  Yes, he was deplorable at times, but he never would have allowed a terrorist takeover on his watch.  To revisit the Iraq War, with U.S. ground troops, would be foolish.  So far, President Obama has stuck to his guns and has refrained from doing just that.  I believe America elected him, in great part, for his promise to end our country’s involvement in wars.  He has succeeded in that area, and I hope he continues to remain true to his word.  Our wars overseas have proven to be disasters.  Keeping the peace in Iraq can be somewhat sustainable, for a period of time, but never winnable, and that’s why the United States should mainly focus on the issues at hand in its own backyard.

The war currently being conducted in Ferguson, Missouri, between the city’s police department and protesters, is hardly worth mentioning, but since the situation is plastered all over our television screens I will offer my short common sense response to the subject at hand.  We know a young man was shot, at least six times, and killed by a police officer.  We also know the victim is suspected of being involved in a robbery, earlier in the day, in which he acted in an aggressive manner towards the convenience store’s clerk.  We really don’t know much more than that at this time.  We can only speculate if the dead young man was an actual thug or if he just resembled one on that particular day.  Regardless, vandalizing and looting your fellow man’s property is a senseless act under any condition.  Waging war, whether at home or abroad, should always be the last resort, and only after the indisputable facts are in.  There must also be a clear and winnable, not just sustainable, objective in sight.  Neither the Iraq War, nor the Ferguson fiasco meets that criteria.



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