2031

In the year 2031, I most-likely will be in prison. Maybe sooner, or maybe a little later, but I just can’t imagine my life’s path detouring in any other direction. Of course, this prediction is only plausible if Lord willing I’m even still around in 2031. It’s not too difficult to see where this country is headed, and I can’t envision any type of escape from what I perceive as the inevitable. I’m not alluding to our deplorable political landscape although I suppose ultimately it will be our government’s justice system deciding my fate in the near future. The reason for my probable transitioning from a law-abiding citizen to a willing lawbreaker will undoubtedly be due to – in a word – technology. Rather, more explicitly, it will be my refusal to embrace some technology that will provoke a prison sentence by 2031.

Many things I disapprove of have become acceptable in today’s society, and that’s okay. However, there’s much speculation that some things I’m opposed to may eventually become mandatory, and that I cannot (will not) accept. One such thing on the horizon is the possibility of being forced to utilize driverless cars. It has been rumored that in the near future we might all be required to surrender our driving skills to “intelligent” sensory control systems. Supposedly, computers are better drivers than people.

The main reason commonly given, for enacting an autonomous vehicles only policy, is the anticipated reduction in collisions on our roadways. I’m sure we could reduce accidents, without banning physical drivers, by prohibiting cell phone use while driving, imposing stricter penalties on repeat offenders, and expanding photo enforcement nationwide. I’m not averse to those who are fond of the new technology, but I am against revoking a person’s choice in the process. I know I for one will not give up my right to manually control my own vehicle. I will continue tooling around town in my laguna blue Dodge Dart regardless of any new laws that may be imposed concerning self-driving cars.

Another thing which might land me in the slammer is in regards to dealing with our beloved government every April. I fill out my tax returns by hand, and I like it that way. That’s how I’ve done it for 34 years, but now the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suggests (almost demands) I file my returns online. Each year I have to call the IRS to request the most recent instructions booklet, and each year the government’s representative on the other end, not even attempting to conceal his disgust towards me, argues his case for why I should file via computer. Each year he loses. However, I’m painfully aware my preferred choice of filing will one day be taken away. The day I have no other option than to file my tax returns online is the day I no longer file tax returns. This will surely pose a problem for me, and it may very well be the reason I’ll likely be sporting state issued, black and white striped attire in 2031.

If neither my refusal to get on board with driverless cars, nor my intentional refraining from filing tax returns electronically, sends me to the big house then possibly the contempt I have for drones will. I despise the uprising of drone enthusiasts, and I think it’s sort of ridiculous for anyone to own one solely for personal use. The preceding sentence reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld when Jerry, during a family dinner conversation at Manya’s house, amusingly says, “I hate anyone that ever had a pony when they were growing up.” Of course, the elderly Manya immediately divulges that she had a pony as a young girl. Can you say awwwkwaaard? My apologies, if I too offended, but let me explain.

Drones have increasingly been showing up on countless Christmas lists, of the young and old alike the past couple of years, and this is quite bothersome to me concerning my privacy. I do not wish any harm on drone owners, but I don’t want their voyeuristic robots anywhere in the vicinity of my residence. The lion’s share of drones have both photo taking and live streaming capabilities. It is my understanding a drone can legally invade my home’s airspace, but it’s illegal if I see fit to capture it or shoot the hovering nuisance out of the sky. I don’t think I can play by those rules; hence, appointing myself as judge and jury in the matter could realistically result in me being fitted for an orange jumpsuit by the year 2031. I live in Arizona. It’s hot! I should be able to shed my clothing in my own backyard without having to worry about an uninvited drone joining the party. I will not give up my constitutional right to privacy.

This past decade I’ve seen much that is wrong with our country’s infatuation with technology. I’ve witnessed cellphones (and the like) replace meaningful relationships. I’ve seen the blatant discrimination against those who would rather pay their baggage fees at the airport than beforehand online; The airlines charge more if paying in person. I’ve also noticed the obvious bias against traditional coupon clippers and people who prefer to pay with cash. Grocery stores have begun presenting their best deals to only those who are willing (and able) to download digital coupons, and some businesses are now offering consumers more if they pay with plastic instead of with cash. I recently experienced this type of injustice firsthand when putting air in my car’s tires at a local convenience store. Using a credit card would’ve given me 5 minutes worth of air whereas good ole American currency only afforded me 4 minutes for the same price.

We are continuously coaxed (strong-armed), many times by way of a small threat to our pocketbooks, into using debit or credit cards and managing all of our finances and business transactions online. Why go that route? The last I knew, one’s identity cannot be stolen or their life hacked into when using cash. For convenience? In my household we use the tried-and-true envelope system, so online banking would actually be a great inconvenience to us. Do we kowtow to every technological advancement simply because we want to appear as though we too are hip (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) and to avoid pompously being accused of “not being with it” or “still living in the horse and buggy days”?

To each his own I guess. I know it’s much easier to conform…to society…to the government…to the world. There just comes a time when enough is enough. For me, I can never accept commuting in driverless cars, submitting tax returns online, or drones invading my personal space. I may be in the world, but I am not of this world. My hope is I’ll be able to joyfully sing like Paul and Silas, knowing God holds the key, while locked behind prison doors in 2031.


In My World

In my world racism is non-existent. I understand in the real world there are bigots, and unfortunately racism will never be completely extinct. It’s a regrettable, unintended consequence of our God-given free will. The good news is I don’t think racism is running rampant in America as what is continuously being purported by the media and a select group of talk show hosts, celebrities, and even a few of our country’s representatives. I tend to agree with what President Barack Obama said recently, during his weekly radio address, concerning current race relations in the United States. Our nation’s Commander in Chief said, “I know that for many, it can feel like the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed and even widened. But the America I know…is just not as divided as some folks try to insist.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 63% of those asked think race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, but I personally have not witnessed any prejudice against minorities in all my 50 years residing on this earth. In my world racism did not exist in the small Iowa town I was born and raised in. There were only a handful of minorities living amongst Newton’s population of approximately 15,000. My initial exposure to a different race, that I can remember, was when I was in elementary school, and one day a foreign boy sheepishly entered the classroom. He had moved to town from either Peru or Panama (I know the name of his country started with a “P”), and he instantly became just another classmate. I can’t say as the Peruvian or Panamanian ever became my best friend, but we did get along swimmingly. Even though the new kid looked, dressed, and spoke a little differently, than everyone else, I certainly never considered him to be “less than.”

My next encounter with different nationalities was during high school. There were now a couple of handfuls of minorities in the same small town. Among them were Black siblings, and both were in my graduating class. I didn’t have much contact with either of them because although the male was into sports he didn’t play high school baseball (my forte), and his sibling was a girl. My senior year I enlisted the services of an Asian professional photographer to take my graduation pictures. The kind, soft-spoken, local business owner somehow managed to make even my mug presentable enough for the Class of 1984 yearbook. I never once felt an indifference toward my Black peers or Asian photographer, and I assume they felt the same about me.

In my world I believe the perception of a racially divided country was ignited in the summer of 2013, with the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now I’m sure the members of Black Lives Matter couldn’t care less what some White guy has to say in regards to their organization, but I highly value my thought-provoking input (pause here for chuckles); therefore, I cannot remain silent on the subject. I think the majority of those involved in the extremely loud and sometimes disruptive movement are misguided in their transparent us (Blacks) vs. them (Whites) mentality. Additionally, the organization’s obvious blatant disregard for others is quite evident with their numerous attempts at shutting down major infrastructure when protesting. Any sympathy one might have for the Black Lives Matter movement surely diminishes once they become a nuisance and risk the safety of others. It’s one thing to knowingly cause an upheaval, but putting officers’ lives even more at risk, with the uprising of extremist cop killers, is reprehensible.

I sincerely believe the recently exposed shootings of Black men by White police officers are almost entirely of a peace officer vs. alleged perpetrator nature rather than a race related issue. Sadly, each new reported case erroneously gets lumped together, by the Black Lives Matter movement and the media, with all the prior police involved deaths instead of rightfully being examined individually. In my world the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile aren’t related whatsoever. Martin was killed by a neighborhood watchman…not a cop (and not White). Brown had committed a robbery and assaulted the store’s clerk shortly before being fatally shot by police. Garner was placed in a chokehold (forbidden by the NYPD) while resisting arrest which resulted in his death.

Gray’s demise came at the hands of law enforcement while intentionally being negligently transported in a police van (driven by a Black officer). I don’t think the public has enough information yet on the Sterling or Castile shootings to adequately determine whether the officers involved were justified or not in taking such extreme measures. Some of the aforementioned situations, ultimately ending with a person being killed, seem defensible to me while some don’t, but all are tragic. There is one common denominator in almost all of the incidents mentioned: resistance to authority. I cannot help but think the majority of those who died would still be alive today if only they had fully cooperated when being questioned.

Much has been said lately, and YouTube videos have been made, about the need for parents to have “the talk” with their Black sons. No, not the talk. Parents are being encouraged to teach their children what to do if ever they’re pulled over by the police: stay in the car, turn off the engine, roll down the window, and keep your hands on the steering wheel. However, many in the Black community seem to think it’s unfair that they should be singled out and forced to bother with such a thing, and some are even irritated by the measly suggestion. In my world proper protocol when being pulled over by the authorities is not a Black or White issue. This White guy was taught to stay in the car, turn off the engine, roll down the window, and keep my hands on the steering wheel by both my father and my Driver’s Ed instructor. It’s just common sense.

Time and time again I’ve heard the tiresome argument, mainly from those most vocal in the Black community, how a White person especially a White man can’t fathom what it’s like to be Black. I suppose I can’t – not completely anyway. I certainly can relate though when it comes to being followed around by a store’s employee for apparently no other reason than due to one’s appearance. There’ve been many times throughout my life when I’ve sported long hair and earrings, and during those times I was treated differently (whether real or imagined) by others. I reckon my tattoos don’t suggest I’m a straight arrow either, but I am (for the most part). In addition, I’ve been pulled over by the police and left wondering why even after the officer drives away.

I don’t pretend to entirely grasp the plight of the Black man; however, I assuredly can empathize with anyone who has ever been treated unfairly due to the color of their skin. In the 90’s I was turned down for a small business loan mainly because I’m a White male. (Thank you affirmative action.) The media, especially The Arizona Republic, continuously insinuated that if a person was White and did not vote for Obama, during his initial bid for the presidency, then that individual must be a racist. As a White male I have often been made to feel as though I was a problem, an obstacle if you will, preventing minorities from achieving success. In my world the implementing of quota systems and the numerous “no Whites allowed” award shows tend to make me feel “less than.”

I have lived in Peoria, Arizona, for the last nine years, where the city’s population is well beyond 150,000. The Valley is much more diversified than the Midwest town I grew up in, and in my world racism is still non-existent. My lovely wife and I were at Desert Ridge Marketplace a mere three days after the nationally reported White cop shooting of a Black man, Philando Castile. We were enjoying FREE live music at the mall’s outdoor stage, amongst other ethnic groups, and it was obvious everyone was having a splendid time. I noticed the mix of people dancing to the funky sounds of the Thaddeus Rose Band in particular a Black gentleman near the stage who was partying like it was 1999. (Prince would’ve been proud.)

A couple of young White girls joined the older Black man on the concrete dance floor presumably to learn his choreographed dance moves. The man tried earnestly to teach his eager students (who by the way – in stereotypical fashion – had no rhythm) how to properly “bust a move,” but to no avail. It suddenly dawned on me that here we were, lost in the moment without a care in the world, while our televisions at home were reporting on broken race relations and a country deeply polarized. I leaned over to the missus and shared how difficult it was for me to comprehend all of the recent negativity in the news, concerning alleged racism, when in my world I just don’t see it.

I’m thankful to be part of the 32% listed in the Washington Post-ABC News poll, which includes President Obama, who think race relations in the U.S. are generally good. Obama, also during his radio address, eloquently proposed, “If we can open our hearts to try and see ourselves in one another, if we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right…then I’m confident that together, we will lead our country to a better day.” Well said, Mr. President. In the real world we can only hope that one day racism will become extinct.


Another Hall Of Fame

I recently got back home from a trip of a lifetime. My lovely wife surprised me, for my half century birthday, with a planned vacation – ALL ABOUT ME. I had expressed my desire to someday travel to a few cities including Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. Sound familiar? Anyway, I noticed the missus kept using the phrase bucket list whenever discussing our trip with other people. Her terminology sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Call it what you will – simple semantics, “you say tomato and I say tomahto,” or chalk it up to me being a dope, but eventually I felt compelled to make my thoughts on the subject known to her.

I tend to view a “bucket list” somewhat negatively. I see the popular trend as being just a list of stuff a person assumes will bring true happiness once completed, yet if everything on their list is not crossed off before their demise then tragically the person thinks their life came to an end without ever having known complete fulfillment. I do aspire to travel and experience different things, but I certainly don’t need new adventures to possess contentment. Regardless, “bucket list” or not, I had a wonderful time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but that was just a portion of our week-long vacation. My trip of a lifetime included another Hall of Fame (also found in Ohio).

The feeling I got when entering Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame was akin to how I felt when going through the doors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There was that familiar aura of greatness inside the hallowed walls of the National Football League (NFL) enshrinement. Only the elite, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the crème del a crème are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Their eminence is rewarded with a bronze bust of their likeness to forever be displayed in Canton. No good players, coaches, or special contributors to the game are allowed in the exclusive club: only exceptional individuals are welcomed.

In the recent past, I was guilty of taking those already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for granted because it seemed as though each and every year several new inductees were being admitted. I thought surely by now there must be hundreds of bronzed busts occupying The Hall. All that is true. There are now 303 individuals (including the 2016 inductees) honored within Canton’s revered facility. However, there’ve been tens of thousands of people associated with professional football since the game’s inception; therefore, in actuality the number of those who’ve been selected is fairly scant.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame includes an informative, up-to-date timeline showing how today’s NFL as we know it came to be. I learned the first player chosen in the very first NFL Draft was that year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but the talented, most sought after player had absolutely no desire to play professional football. The Hall also boasts endless memorabilia and numerous interactive exhibits. I discovered I throw a football just like Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly (well, maybe not as far – or as tightly spiraled – but somewhat similar nonetheless). I grip the pigskin in the exact manner as the former Buffalo Bills’ legend probably because our hands are the same size.

I was caught a little off guard when I came across a modest display featuring the most perfect picture. The photo was taken at the first professional football game played after the events of 9/11. (The NFL postponed all games for a week out of respect for the lives lost during the attack on our nation.) The inspirational picture, capturing a burly football player bursting through the stadium’s smoke-filled tunnel while proudly waving a life-sized American flag, was both sobering and uplifting. The way the United States came together during that horrific time in history was a thing of beauty. I wish we could experience that type of unity as a nation again without requiring another tragedy of that magnitude to bring us all to our senses.

By far, my favorite part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was strolling by the rows of busts. They were arranged in chronological order by the year in which each member was inducted. I took my sweet time as I read each name and studied the inductee’s bronzed likeness before proceeding to the next bust. The first grouping of Hall of Famers I came upon, that I was genuinely interested in, were of a few players I had routinely heard of as a child. I certainly knew about Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, and Joe Namath, but I was a little too young at the time to recall ever watching them play. My father has been a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs’ fan, so I’m well aware their Hall of Fame quarterback, Len Dawson, massacred opposing defenses throughout the 60’s. Unfortunately, I can only remember rooting for the Chiefs’ subpar quarterbacks, Mike Livingston and Bill Kenney, during my initial years as a football fan during the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I eventually came across some standouts I could actually remember witnessing firsthand their superior play on the football field. My interest in the bronze busts escalated when spotting many of my favorite players from my youth: Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Terry Bradshaw, and Lynn Swann. I guess there was a time when one could be a fan of both the Cowboys and the Steelers. I also admired Hall of Fame running backs, Earl Campbell and O.J Simpson, around that time. Yes, O.J. Simpson. I even had (and still have) an O.J. doll…ahem…I mean an action figure complete with football uniform and jogging suit (knife not included). Sometimes our heroes fall – and sometimes they fall hard. I was a huge fan of Earl Campbell. I fancied the power running back not only because of his bruising-style of running but also because the Houston Oiler dipped Skoal tobacco (my beloved grandpa’s brand).

After a while I found myself amongst the gleaming heads of the more recent Hall of Fame inductees. Two of my favorite players from the 90’s were Deion Sanders and John Elway although I liked them for entirely different reasons. I was enamored with Sanders’ athleticism as an All-Pro cornerback and gifted return specialist. Watching “Prime Time” return a kick or an interception was anything but boring. The way Deion pursued the end zone with reckless abandon brought everyone to their feet and made opposing teams’ fans cringe. Many times the versatile athlete’s improvised returns would result in choreographed touchdown celebrations. I used to thoroughly enjoy Sanders’ showboating and his high-stepping into the end zone, but with age I’ve come to despise excessive celebrations of any kind on the football field.

John Elway, on the other hand, brought a controlled passion to the game. I can’t say as I cared too much for the lifelong Denver Bronco quarterback at the beginning of his career, but his obvious heart and vigor for the game converted me into one of his fans by the time he retired. (I felt the same way about Hall of Famers, Joe Montana and Brett Favre, and future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning, at the end of their storied careers. I admit to having a soft spot when it comes to most NFL quarterbacks’ last hurrah. Of course, Tom Brady is the exception.)

John Elway led his team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, during his final two years in the League, with sheer determination. I was reminded of his tenacity while watching footage of Super Bowl 32 inside the sacred walls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The highlights showed Elway willing his aged body to perform as though he was a robust rookie. The scrambling quarterback can be seen sacrificing said body, for the slightest extra yardage, in pursuit of a much needed first down. His tremendous effort led to a touchdown – and his 1st Super Bowl ring. The next year Elway was even better, winning Super Bowl 33 and being named the game’s MVP, as the gritty quarterback undeniably went out on top.

Spending a day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame was definitely a dream come true. I wonder what’s next on my “bucket list.” Boston? Washington, D.C.? Paris? Ireland? Perhaps another Hall of Fame?


Cleveland?

This past February my lovely wife surprised me on my birthday with a planned vacation – ALL ABOUT ME. My reward for turning a half century old included us visiting Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked, “Cleveland? Why Cleveland?” after sharing the news with others, about the generous birthday present I had received, before our impending June departure. The answer to that incessantly proposed question is easy: because Cleveland rocks! The Ohio city is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as a former music store owner, music connoisseur veteran, and Rock and Roll historian (I aced my Rock and Roll History class during my one year of community college) it makes perfect sense that I would desire to one day wander the esteemed museum’s halls.

There’s an immediate aura of greatness when entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The phenomenal facility exudes energy and excitement. There’s also an overwhelming feeling of unity amongst the sea of assembled fans; People of all shapes and sizes, age, and color have come together in celebration of Rock and Roll. The sizable, uniquely designed building boasts seven levels filled with all things music related. Inside the remarkable museum is the complete history of Rock and Roll and how it relates to the world. There’s also numerous exhibits and displays, countless memorabilia, and a few mini-theaters that continuously show video clips of those who’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The first theater my wife and I just so happened to enter was showing some footage of my beloved Prince, so we quickly found a couple of empty seats and nestled into them with anticipation. Seeing my all-time favorite performer on the big screen was surreal. I was fraught with mixed emotions as I watched the recently passed, enigmatic superstar wailing on his guitar. Not even my wife was aware (until now) how close a teardrop, balancing on the rim of my right eyelid, was from toppling over and trickling down my cheek. Thank goodness the auditorium was dark.

Prince’s accomplishments and contributions to Rock and Roll are extensive, but The Hall also recognizes the “Rude Boy’s” significance in how the Parental Advisory labels on recorded music came to be in 1985. The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was a committee whose goal was to slap warning stickers on any music they deemed too sexual, violent, or drug related. The organization compiled a list, known as the Filthy Fifteen, which included the most “objectionable” songs during that time, and Prince was on it for his sexually explicit “Darling Nikki.” Supposedly, PMRC committee member, Tipper Gore, had found her 11 year old daughter singing the words to Prince’s less than wholesome song when she decided the government should intervene to prevent minors from listening to such “filth.” (Here’s a novel idea: maybe parents should better monitor their children’s choice of music rather than getting the government involved.) The results of the mandatory Parental Advisory labels were far from what the PMRC had intended. In fact, there was an increase in sales of Rock and Roll music after the warning stickers were introduced.

I know there’s been some pushback over the years concerning Rock and Roll music. I’m well aware Elvis Presley was initially banned from The Ed Sullivan Show due to the King’s inability to control his swaying hips. However, I did not realize the extent as to how long it has been going on or how relentless politicians have been in their attempts to silence Rock and Roll. It does appear politicians and the music world have mended some fences in recent years though. The saxophone that former President Bill Clinton played, during his first presidential campaign in 1992, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Clinton became somewhat of a “rock star” after integrating music with the political world. The unlikely partnership between the two entities has flourished ever since. I’m not too keen on government officials attacking the music industry, but I certainly don’t care for entertainers publically endorsing politicians either.

After 6 hours of leisurely roaming The Hall (bless the missus for humoring me that long) I decided I had probably had my allotment of all the sights and sounds the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had to offer. My wife and I then set out for a nearby duct tape event. The aptly named Duck Tape Festival was precisely what one might expect from the event’s unambiguously titled celebration. The Duck Tape brand festival featured all things duct tape. There were seemingly endless rolls of every color and design imaginable of Duck Tape for sale, duct tape crafts for the kiddos, and several famous landmarks crafted from the sticky stuff. My field of expertise is not critiquing works of art, but I must say the Eifel Tower, Liberty Bell, and Mount Rushmore displays, concocted almost exclusively out of the “fixes everything” product, were truly sights to behold. “Mt. Duckmore,” an amusing and clever replication of South Dakota’s magnificent landmark, included Trust E. Duck, Duck Tape’s mascot, sculpted alongside the carved busts of the four former U.S. Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.

The Duck Tape Festival was interesting enough (and FREE), but we were actually there to see the evening’s musical guest (also FREE). The event ended with a performance by 80’s MTV darling, Lita Ford. The Heavy Metal queen began her set over an hour and a half late, but it was worth the wait (at least to me). It was a little hard to complain since the price was right (FREE). FREE is good. Besides, attending a Rock and Roll concert just seemed like the perfect ending after an entire day spent at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland? Absolutely!


I’m Exhausted

I was sitting in church yesterday when I first learned of the tragedy that had occurred in Florida only a few hours earlier. My pastor began the service by partially apprising his congregation of the sobering facts of what had happened. He told us 50 people were dead and another 53 were injured due to a senseless, one-man attack in Orlando. Pastor Brad did not talk about motives, offer any theories or opinions, or even mention that the shooting took place at a gay nightclub. (Unfortunately, I think there are some “Christians” who aren’t too concerned with what transpired over the weekend since assumingly those who perished were homosexuals. Those are not the type of “Christians” I identify with.)

Pastor Brad just said that every life lost mattered to God, and every victim was somebody’s loved one. He then led us in a heartfelt prayer for the victims, their families, and the city of Orlando. Later on, when Pastor Brad was about midway through his sermon, I noticed my mind had wandered. I also felt exhausted. Don’t get me wrong – my pastor is not boring whatsoever (he’s a wonderful teacher) – but I had been brooding over what was surely to come in the aftermath of Sunday’s disastrous event.

After arriving home I turned on the television, and as predicted the news coverage of the morning’s tragedy was fraught with moronic opinions, laying blame, and partisan politicizing. The first thing I was subjected to were written statements, read by a news reporter, from presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and Senator Bernie Sanders. Hillary, of course, just had to mention her desire for stricter gun control as part of her statement. I don’t disagree with that, but we already know her stance on that issue. We also know the Republicans will counter with their typical response insisting that if everyone in the nightclub would’ve been armed then this latest tragic event most-likely would not have happened or at least it wouldn’t have been so severe. Constant political rhetoric, without adding anything new, is exhausting to me.

The news correspondent then read a tweet from presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, which said, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” For some reason the reporter took offense to the word, “congrats,” appearing in the tweet, but I’m not sure why. The Donald was obviously responding to someone else’s tweet to him, and he did say he didn’t want congrats. In addition, the biased news correspondent failed to mention Trump’s initial tweet which read, “Horrific incident in FL. Praying for all the victims & their families. When will this stop? When will we get tough, smart & vigilant?” Those against Donald Trump have been grasping at anything and everything, ever since he participated in the first Republican debate on FOX News, in attempting to bring down the billionaire businessman.

The same Trump haters who claim The Donald has offended all people of Mexican descent, and who emphatically and continuously make their unflattering thoughts of him publically known, just so happen to be the exact haters who can’t (or refuse to) understand why Trump might be a bit worried about an American-Mexican judging him in a court of law. Trump haters surely cannot have it both ways. I’m not convinced Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the justice presiding over the Trump University lawsuits, won’t be able to properly do his job without prejudice towards Donald Trump, but the possibility does exist. Judge Curiel would have to be a shallow individual to allow Trump’s stance on illegal immigration to interfere with his rulings.

I would like to believe that every justice throughout the history of our judicial system judged every case before them fairly and unbiased, but I’m afraid that’s nothing but a chimera. We need not look any further than to our Supreme Court Justices, and the empty seat left open with the passing of Antonin Scalia, to realize not all judges are completely impartial in regards to the law. Why else would the Democrats want to fill Scalia’s seat now, but the Republicans are perfectly content waiting (some might even say stalling) until after November’s presidential election? Could it be there’s a difference in the way a liberal judge may view a case as opposed to the way a conservative justice may handle the identical case? In a perfect world one’s political affiliation would have absolutely nothing to do with the way one presides over a legal matter.

Now back to Trump for a moment. Defending Donald Trump has become somewhat of a hobby of mine. Not because I’m in love with the guy but because so many people, especially in the media, simply don’t acknowledge the truth. They don’t care for his brashness, and are appalled by his narcissistic attitude, so they scrutinize every move he makes and embellish whatever he says. I’m not a fan of Trump’s personality either, yet with an open mind I’m able to comprehend the gist of what he’s actually saying. Defending Donald Trump can be exhausting at times, but I think someone needs to hold Trump’s critics accountable when they’re wrong.

Although I think political posturing is mainly nonsense, especially during times of tragedy, I did surprisingly appreciate what former presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, had to say at a press conference yesterday afternoon. The Florida Senator began by acknowledging that what took place on Sunday could’ve happened anywhere in the world, but it must’ve been his state’s turn. He then had a message for terrorists and a message of unity for our country. Senator Rubio eloquently said, “They won’t terrorize Floridians, that we stand for and with all Americans, irrespective of sexual orientation, irrespective of their party ideology, irrespective of where they live.” Sounds quite “presidential” to me, for what it’s worth.

I imagine the investigation of Sunday’s horrific event is far from over. Many things will need to be discussed, and I assume a few improvements to our national security may need to be authorized, to make our country safer. There certainly are some legitimate questions that’ll need to be answered sooner or later. For example, how can someone who’s been interrogated by the FBI on three separate occasions (twice in 2013 and once in 2014) have clearance to legally purchase an assault weapon? However, now is the time for mourning and personal reflection…not partisan politics and taking advantage of the grave situation. We are a great nation, but we need to be better.

Living in America can be incredibly tiresome if one watches TV or reads the newspaper. The daily doses of bickering, name-calling, half truths, biased reporting, and partisanship is almost too much for me to bear. It seems as though a great magnitude of people residing in the United States have a self-absorbed, warped sense of righteousness: an “I’m always right and you’re always wrong” mentality. The constant sparring of the media vs. Trump, the gun-rights supporters vs. the gun control advocates, the LGBT community vs. social conservatives, and the Democrats vs. the Republicans is more than enough to fill the ugliest of fight cards. Sadly, the majority of these people are not about to entertain the idea that there may be another side to the story. They also tend to think compromise is not for them. Shame! I’m gonna go take a nap. I’m exhausted.


Forced Diversity

And the Oscar goes to…nobody Black (not this year anyway)…and that’s okay. I’m well aware some would disagree with my assessment based on what took place immediately after the 2016 Academy Award nominees were announced. The topic of diversity, or rather the alleged lack thereof, took center stage leading up to the ceremony, and the all too familiar “race card” was played by many ethnic minority celebrities. A few of their White colleagues joined in, and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending on Twitter in response to the Academy’s perceived failure to diversify. Some of Hollywood’s finest even promised to boycott the annual event.

Then came a statement from Academy President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who said, “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.” She went on to explain the Academy had already been implementing changes in order to diversify, yet there was more work to be done. I think boycotting this past February’s prestigious awards show, and even the industry’s insistence on “needing” to have a serious discussion about race, due to the supposed lack of diversity, was disgraceful. In actuality, this year’s Oscar winners, of the five major categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director, were a Brit, a Swede, a Mexican, and two Americans (of different descents). Now that’s diversity!

Diversity is a wonderful thing. Life would be pretty boring if everybody mirrored one another. Imagine living in a world where everyone was exactly like yours truly. Perhaps the world would be a better place, but boring nonetheless. However, forced diversity is not a wonderful thing, yet the unsound practice appears to be spreading throughout the land like an aggressive cancer. Nowadays, there always seems to be some individual or organization trying to make a case for increased ethnic diversity where none is really warranted.

For example, I recently came across a story in USA TODAY, written by correspondent Bill Theobald, about the Centennial Initiative (a partnership consisting of numerous conservation, civil rights, and environmental-justice groups) whose members are very concerned about the lack of diversity at our national parks. The coalition’s main objective is to raise the percentage of minorities using the National Park System. Additionally, the alliance would like to see more minorities employed by national parks and an increase in the number of parks emphasizing the role of minorities in American History. The partnership (named for this year’s 100th anniversary of the National Park Service) is worried about a 2008-09 study which found that those visiting national parks were disproportionately White. Carolyn Finney, a member of the coalition, says, “The face of America is rapidly changing, yet our public lands do not reflect this demographic and ethnic diversity.”

So what? The same 2008-09 study, the Centennial Initiative is referring to, also cited explanations as to why minorities weren’t visiting national parks. The main reason was they simply didn’t know much about them. Neither do I – and I’m White. The minorities surveyed also viewed parks as being unsafe and unpleasant. If people, regardless of their skin color, desire not to embrace the National Park System then that’s their choice. It looks as though the Centennial Initiative is fighting an uphill battle, in attempting to force diversity at national parks, since the Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans surveyed have apparently already made the decision to stay away.

An even more outrageous article, concerning so-called lack of diversity, comes from Bob Nightengale. The USA TODAY sports writer is troubled because he thinks there aren’t currently enough Black pitchers in Major League Baseball (MLB) and that true diversity is still only a dream. The columnist wrote, “There’s an alarming trend that mystifies the industry. It’s the dearth of African-American pitchers.” First of all, I think there are numerous other things of greater importance to worry about than the color of pitchers playing professional baseball.

Secondly, the USA TODAY story offers a few different reasons as to why the percentage of MLB’s Black pitchers may have declined over the years. The list does include stereotyping and hints of racism, but Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President, Bob Kendrick, says, “Maybe it’s simply a case of parents not wanting their kids growing up to be pitchers. People don’t really view athleticism transcending onto the pitcher’s mound as you would an outfielder or a shortstop. It’s really the last choice of the parents.” Choice!

There’s really no good reason for trying to force diversity because it’s already amongst us. It may not be equally proportioned, but rarely in life is anything 50/50. The fact is there are more Whites in this country than any other nationality, so simply alluding to a percentage as an indicator of some sort of injustice is extremely misguided. Forced diversity is nothing less than counterproductive. Elevating any race at the expense of another (e.g. Affirmative Action) only amounts to reversed discrimination. We do not need more people of color in the entertainment industry, or an increase of minorities to visit our national parks, or more Black pitchers in professional baseball – just for the sake of diversity.


Friday The 13th

Don’t look now, but the calendar shows today is Friday the 13th. Some people become overly cautious, while others actually expect something bad will happen to them, whenever the thirteenth day of the month falls on a Friday. The sporadic occurrence is considered to be unlucky, but I can’t recall ever having a bad experience on a Friday the 13th, so I don’t subscribe to that pessimistic notion. Of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead wandering about Camp Crystal Lake today. Not even Superman has a chance against famed serial killer, Jason Voorhees, on Friday the 13th.

Many people are not only afraid of Friday the 13th, but they’re also fearful of the number 13 itself. That’s why some hotels and customer oriented businesses omit the thirteenth floor in their buildings. Try telling Kurt Warner that the number 13 is unlucky. I’m sure the former NFL quarterback and future Hall-of-Famer would disagree. The four-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl 34 champion (and MVP) wore the “cursed” number throughout his entire football career with abundant success. The number 13 also represents a baker’s dozen. How can receiving an extra cookie or doughnut, for the same price of a dozen, ever be a bad thing?

There’s really not too many things I am frightened of – not even a Trump presidency. I don’t believe in karma, coincidences, or superstitions. I’ve been known to walk under a ladder just to prove superstitions are a bunch of nonsense. Black cats and broken mirrors don’t bother me one bit. However, I’m definitely not a fan of most reptiles, and ducks simply give me the heebie-jeebies. Any living creature lacking a pair of arms is just plain creepy. God certainly showed us His sense of humor when He created our feathered “friends.”

I must admit that in the past I used to be a little superstitious when it came to sports.  I thought I could lead my favorite football team to victory by the clothes I wore during the game. If my team came away with a win then I’d try to duplicate what I had worn for the next game. Sometimes they’d win and sometimes they’d lose, so really what was the point? To think I could somehow be partially responsible for my team’s performance out on the football field, by donning a specific outfit in the comfort of my home, was a tad egotistical. Life just happens, but it’s up to us how we deal with the circumstances of the lower story. I know the upper story (God’s plan) is flawless, so regardless of what may or may not transpire today, I’ll be fine this Friday the 13th.


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