Nobody asked me for my opinion about “kneel gate,” but I’m going to give it anyway. Yes, kneeling the way athletes have been doing of late is patently offensive to a person who can look at the flag and see it for what it is, or has the potential to be. So viewed through a patriotic lens, people are going to get mad about what looks like people metaphorically peeing on the flag.

What a friend helped me to realize is that isn’t necessarily the case. Sure it could be, because there are always going to be jerks out there, but I don’t think it is in regard to this situation. The reason for the protest, shortly spoken, is that racism is a real and present danger in our country. It has had it’s share of blame in the recent and fairly recent deaths of several young men of various colors.

What I was thinking is that if racial and racially based motives have been learned, they can also be “unlearned,” which they must be if there is any hope for us at all. I believe that is true of African-American and Caucasian alike.

We have much to learn, and much to unlearn.

So yes, I find the current protest trend offensive and disrespectful. I am just not sure that’s done by kneelers with prejudice and malice aforethought.

Athletes have a forum that is limited as to means of protest. They are entitled to do it, should they feel the need to do so. The constitution gives them the right to burn a flag in protest, should they wish to. I believe what they’re doing to be stupid and odious, but that right to do so is what so many fought and died for them to have. So if you don’t want to offend someone, or have your motives questioned, find another way. There are lots of ways to say lots of things. Even for athletes.

I am able to see that cries of oppression sound hollow if the people making them are highly privileged rather than oppressed. While outrage in the other direction is for me a bit easier to understand. Because the flag…well, I remember saying the pledge of allegiance in the second grade and getting all verklempt.

I saw a picture of my uncle wearing his uniform and a bronze star some time after that.

So I remove my cap when the national anthem is played and I stand with my hand over my heart.

You have a right to do otherwise. Just don’t be surprised if people find it offensive. Lots of people are offended by lots of things these days. If you’re doing something offensive and demeaning to something others hold highly regarded–whether deliberate or not–there will in some way be a consequence of that offense.

So it is with racially motivated offenses.

Unlearn, people. Unlearn.

Paradoxical Illogicalities and Limp Bizkit

limpbizkitThere’s been a great deal of conversation lately (if you can call it that) regarding the 2016 election and the behavior of each of the candidates—both current and past. This person is dishonest and corrupt. That person is an unrepentant sexual predator. The truth is that there exists credible (and in-credible) evidence to legitimize each viewpoint, depending on how you roll.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

What I’m wondering is what is it about the ardent supporters for each person that makes them willing to overlook such obvious…character flaws in the person they support, while calling for the metaphorical heads of the opposition. The truth is that when you take a good and close look at each candidate one thing (to me) becomes appallingly clear.

They’re people. They’re fallible people like us, albeit with a lot more money, and as such each also seems to have that same tendency everyone else does: they do stupid things about as often as the average person.

They make mistakes.

That said, what is behind the everyday person’s willingness to overlook mistakes with a light shining on them brighter than Kleig lights on a movie set?

Some of these fallacies are not very nice. Some illegal. Some resulted in death and other traumas. In either case, the people involved are proven to be crass and inconsiderate—even profanely so—on more than one occasion.

Yet even so we carry blue signs and wear red hats. I don’t get it. It seems like nothing matters to anyone—nothing real.

Rather, to quote the 90’s philosopher/poets Limp Bizkit, “It’s all about the he-says, she-says bull—“

Why? People don’t even seem to know what they’re for anymore, in any way they can explain. They can tell you what they’re against, though.

“Never Trump.”

“Jail her.”

[Insert slogan here]

What matters to you?

PC or Bust

I’ve been thinking about political correctness the past few days, and I decided I was tired of it. It’s too demanding–and that much ambiguity is unattainable. One must become racially, sexually, politically, religiously and culturally ambiguous–or “fluid,” I believe they say now.

Don’t distinguish yourself from the pack in any way, because we are all the same–meat-covered cookies.

Refer to people without gender specificity. Tell your DNA it isn’t the boss of you.

Referring to one’s self as any particular color is racist. We are all opaque.

Fiscal and governmental concerns? Nah. Give lots of stuff to people–who cares how it’s paid for.

Don’t worship, just…be. And wear scarves and patchouli so you can better find your oneness.

Personal pronouns? Make up one. We have 26 letters. Or maybe–since letters are specific–they should all be “—.”

Are you fleeing another country because it sucks? Which country? Oh, never mind, I can’t ask you that. Do you have ID? Oh, wait. Verboten. Sorry.

Do you identify as an ampersand? Come on, &. There are no letters.


Band-Aid on a Neck Wound

I think it’s completely understandable that when there is some sort of gun-related crime that makes the National news, people become more concerned about the ease of obtaining firearms, especially if the incident is a multiple-victim shooting.

There have been so many of those of late, the President has vowed to issue an executive order for what he and those like him have deemed better gun control laws.

Ok, go ahead.

It just seems to me that they are–metaphorically speaking–putting a Band-Aid on a neck wound. They may temporarily stop the bleeding, but the wound is still there.

If you doubt the veracity of that statement, take a long look at Chicago crime statistics–where you will find some very tough gun control laws.

In my opinion, our nation’s problem with guns is more related to the de-valuing of human life, and less related to gun purchases at firearm expos and large capacity magazines.

For so many, I believe, human life is meaningless.

The President rails against well publicized gun violence when it occurs, but at the same time supports an organization responsible for literally, millions of deaths. How am I then to take his diatribes seriously?

From what news sources indicate from all sides of the spectrum, gun purchases are surging. I’m not sure what that will mean in the end, but it’s seems very possible this president will go down in the annals of history a little differently than he would probably like to.

Maybe his executive order will help things. I really hope so. Time will tell.

Maybe the President will realize that all lives really do matter, and that simple truth needs to resonate.

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Seen

Still image from video shows men purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State kneeling in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli

I took a picture a couple of years ago, and the object I was photographing nearly took my breath away with its subtle beauty. I looked at it again today, and it made me think of how easy it is to find beauty when you least expect it.

I also saw the image above, and it took my breath away, too. 20 men–all ostensibly believers–about to die for nothing more than believing in a God a large group of extremists hate with a violent passion.

I have seen a lot in my life. There has certainly been a lot in the News this year–plenty for Conservatives and Liberals to chew on, and get angry about. For my part, the image at the top is the most terrible thing I have seen all  year, and maybe all my life.

These men are Egyptian Christians. Taken captive by ISIS for more or less doing nothing other than worshipping what this group of individuals thinks is the wrong God. I think the terrorists called this video something like “A message signed in blood to the People of the Cross.” Erudite, these people are not.

I found the image online, as well as an article and an accompanying video I will never be able to unsee. I didn’t intend to watch it, but the article mentioned the men crying out at the end, and I felt compelled to bear witness to that. They are marched down a deserted beach, and made to kneel on the sand. The man in the camo with the knife gives his shpiel and  near the end, mentions who the men are (without naming any of them), and what’s going to happen to them. He tells them to cry out to their God. They do cry out here and there, and then are forced into a prostrate position, and their heads are sawed off with knives.

There was even a link to an article quoting Pope Francis that mentioned the men crying out to Jesus in their last few seconds.

They really did die for their faith. Scripture promises they will be raised up again in Revelation 4. After Jesus, I want to meet these people and others who died for the God they believed in (I am not numbering the multitudes of idiots who blew themselves up for Allah among them).

Anyway, that image really made me think–long and hard–about what’s coming. I know many of you don’t believe in a literal bible, and that’s your choice.

That doesn’t change what’s coming, for those who believe and those who do not. In the movie Return of the King, Aragorn says something to Théoden like “Open war is upon you, whether we would risk it or not.” And that’s where we are today. It doesn’t matter much what the President chooses to do (or more accurately, not do), I don’t think.

And I have been wondering all year, what would I do for my faith?

Will I die for it?

Would I cry out for Jesus as some jackal with a knife executes me?

I hope so.

And then I’ve been wondering where all the beauty in the world went off to? Is there any left?

Turns out there is, and it’s everywhere. The world is terrible and wonderful at the same time. And amongst all the strife abroad, or here at home, there are nuggets of beauty among the ashes. I will do my best to consider the beauty that still exists, and the God that has a hand and heart in everything. And I will wait for whatever is coming, knowing that I will not go through it alone.

The image at the bottom of this post is what I was talking about at the beginning. I took it on a patch of dirt and gravel, next to a pile of old and rusted metal and a dumpster.

Beauty amongst trash. It exists. And it’s comforting. It comforts me because to me, in my heart and mind–it is evidence that God also exists. I didn’t need it, but it’s wonderful to see.

And it makes the rest…more bearable.



On Extremism, and Starting a Conversation

Not everyone dressed like this is a terrorist, or (according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation) radicalized Muslims. A hijab and a taqiya are just articles of clothing.


These people were, however, and did carry out their plan, although probably not to the degree they wished, thanks to a hail of bullets and a tactical vehicle.

For some reason—although they were known to the FBI very soon after their deed was done—it was determined by someone not to release information regarding their identities right away. I can actually imagine why without straining my brain too hard. The powers-that-be did not want to create anti-Islamic paranoia while blood was still hot over what had been done, which was, of course, murder motivated by terrorism and perpetrated by people taken captive by a hateful ideology.

No, I am not talking about the GOP. In spite of what many of our liberal friends might think.

(I am not planning to address Donald Trump’s remarks here. That’s for another post)

Personally, I do not know any practitioners of the Muslim faith. No, I do not believe they all want to kill me. I would say, of course, that some do. It would be foolish to deny that.

But certainly not all, and nowhere near a majority.

That said, what do we do? Do we round them up? Kick them out of the country? I don’t know. It makes me think of Japanese internment during WWII to an extent, and that was wrong. It feels the same way here.


Radicalized Japanese people were not coming to the U.S. under a peaceful guise and murdering people at office Christmas parties.

Also, I understand how left-leaning purveyors of social justice might be worried about citizens getting all exclusion-y and prejudiced regarding Islamic people in the U.S. I get that—and they probably should worry, to an extent. Many people do and say stupid things, especially when people have been murdered.

I don’t know what the answer to that is. I don’t know how to keep people from feeling like they are the arbiters of justice, social or otherwise.

I think this is a dialogue the country needs to (and hopefully will) have.

But I also think it is liberal-minded folly to behave as if NO Islamic extremism has occurred in the U.S. since 9/11.

Sure, the U.S. can be held captive by ideology, too. It isn’t just GOP, though. Extremism exists in every country, every faith, and it is beyond dangerous.

I’m just trying to recall the last time folks from the U.S. got dressed up in their cowboy hats and baseball caps and took their game to Islamic countries….nope, I got nothing.

We just need to stop denying what’s going on. And we need to have a reasoned conversation, and not a blame party. Are we honestly supposed to believe San Bernardino was because of the NRA? Come on, folks. Pretending there is no danger domestically, doesn’t mean there is not. It just means it isn’t only ostriches who bury their heads in the sand.

Let’s put our respective agendas aside, and figure this nightmare out.

Basic Human Rights 101

These two paragraphs from a New York Times article upset me so much I hardly know what to think about it:

When asked about American military policy, the spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, wrote in an email: “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law.” He added that “there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.” An exception, he said, is when rape is being used as a weapon of war.
The American policy of nonintervention is intended to maintain good relations with the Afghan police and militia units the United States has trained to fight the Taliban. It also reflects a reluctance to impose cultural values in a country where pederasty is rife, particularly among powerful men, for whom being surrounded by young teenagers can be a mark of social status.

The article was in reference to the struggles soldiers are having with looking the other way while these Afghan chicken hawks rape and abuse young boys (occasionally girls). Domestic Afghan Criminal law? Please. This is a country that seems to encourage (or at least condones) the perpetuation of child sexual abuse as policy.

Really? These are our allies?

Isn’t not being raped a basic human right?

And while I’m thinking about it, just because these…men have always been a rapin’, does that mean they always should?

Does it really take a doctorate and a radio telescope to see when something is wrong?

If placating our “allies” requires allowing them to violate children because they’ve always done so, then we need to rethink our own military’s policy.

I spent several years witnessing first hand the terrible cost perpetrators of this “policy” exact on the victims of it (meaning rapists and victims–though domestically rather than internationally), and the closest I can come to describing how it makes me feel is rage.

And I know that makes my own faith–my own Christianity–sound feeble and hypocritical, but I could not ignore something like that. And I have nothing but respect for the soldiers who acted, and are going to lose their careers because of it.

I will just say it. It’s difficult for me to see the wrong in putting a beat down on a sack of goat crap like this Afghan commander. He’s lucky they didn’t kill him.

My response to all of this is there are some things in life that should not be compromised–one of which is the right of children to experience life at their own speed, and to not be subject to things like what our soldiers are told to ignore in Afghanistan.

Ignoring the screams of children is wrong, and the message this…policy is perpetuating is also wrong.

No, it isn’t the United States.

Yes, they should police these men in Afghanistan, in accordance with Afghan law.

They aren’t going to.

In my opinion, ignoring this crap is going to backfire big-time.

There has to be something we can do?

At the very least, the people entrusted with command of these men–as well as our commander-in-chief, should create a dialogue with our “allies.”

Because eventually, someone is going to go all “Marcellus Wallace” on these Afgan commanders.

Think it can’t get any worse? Wait a while.

The Falling Man

Of all the 9/11 images readily available, the ones that twist my guts the most are not the extremely graphic ones, though there are many of those available with the click of a mouse.

It would be fair to describe it as one of the worst days in American history, if not the worst.

There are two photos of Father Mychal Judge that are very powerful. In one, he is praying over (maybe administering last rites) a firefighter killed by a falling body. In another–after being killed by either another body or falling debris–the Father’s dead body is seen as he is carried out of the building by a group of firefighters.

He did his job, fulfilled his calling.

And he died.

The worst for me, though, are the images of people jumping from the upper levels of the World Trade Center. From the Windows on the World restaurant. From Cantor Fitzgerald. In fact, there is one well-known image of a large group of Cantor Fitzgerald employees standing in the broken windows of their workplace, and it’s almost as if they were looking over a cliff. I guess they were, in a sense.

They didn’t jump in sequence, but there was a rhythm to it just the same. Some of them held hands. Some tried to parachute, until the wind from their fall ripped whatever they held from their hands.

Then there was the image of a person who came to be known as the “Falling Man.”

We’ve all seen it. He’s wearing a white coat–like a restaurant employee–and he’s head down. His leg is drawn up, knee neatly folded. He looks almost peaceful.

Of course, the image is one of a series, and the rest reveal the chaos of his descent. But for that one frame, he looks at peace with things.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 file picture, a person falls headfirst from the north tower of New York's World Trade Center. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 file picture, a person falls headfirst from the north tower of New York’s World Trade Center. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

There was nothing peaceful about it.

And when I think of 9/11, I think of that picture, and I agree with the “never again” statement.

And I remember.

The Esquire Magazine article “The Falling Man” surmises the Falling Man may have been food worker Jonathan Briley, though no one knows for sure. The article then says this:

“Is Jonathan Briley the Falling Man? He might be. But maybe he didn’t jump from the window as a betrayal of love or because he lost hope. Maybe he jumped to fulfill the terms of a miracle. Maybe he jumped to come home to his family. Maybe he didn’t jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God.

Oh, no. You have to fall.”

The Lifeguard

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Our country has some serious problems–both domestically and abroad. These are issues the executive branch is capable of handling, but for some reason has been choosing to act and/or negotiate from a position of weakness rather than strength, in both areas.

I think there are times when that sort of approach can be affective, but in this instance, it seems the greatest country on earth is approaching the head of the soup line with our palms up in supplication, asking if we can please have some more.

Do I think we should act like the playground bully and take more control?

Of course not.

I think our current USA CEO could even be a great president under better conditions–under peacetime conditions.

Except that in our current domestic and world situations,


There’s a war going on, and a pestilence made up of radical Islamic thugs and murderers spreading in the middle east.

Is the answer to keeping Iran out of the fray gently petting their back like a kitty?

Maybe not.

But letting them inspect themselves to determine if they are stockpiling nuclear weapons?

Have they proven themselves to be both truthful and trustworthy? Sane, even?


And what about the Islamic State?

What about our own country, for that matter? What is going on?

It seems as if life has no meaning beyond Webster’s definition.

People kill each other almost arbitrarily in places like Chicago, and really across America.

Young African-American men are killing cops, because black lives matter.

Cops are occasionally killing African-American men because they have been conditioned to fear them, and even expect the worst.

Stupidity, AND latent and active racism have a hand in both.

Here’s the thing, in my opinion.

Life is never easy, for most of us.

But it has value. Each life has value.

Black, white, blue, born or unborn.

How do we get people to realize that?

It’s there where I usually get myself into trouble.

It isn’t by preaching wrath.

I think it’s by preaching the love of Christ.

Not Allah, or Vishnu, or Baal, or anything like that.


It’s a shame so many people don’t know that.

It’s a shame it often seems the government is working toward criminalizing people for saying it, in one form or another.

It’s my belief that if people knew what value they had to their maker, maybe they would act, think, and feel differently.

Maybe I’m being optimistic and naïve, but I think there’s always hope. It may be that my saying that in the way I have offends you.

I’m sorry if you’re offended, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

There’s just one way to find real peace.

It may not be popular.

It may be difficult (of course it is. Morality seems more vice than virtue these days). And moral relativism is a lot easier to achieve and maintain than a relationship with Christ.

Man, I don’t know what to tell you. I only know my own pain. I only know my own hopes, dreams, and fears. I only know the sources of my own scars.

And I only know that it wasn’t until I began a relationship with Jesus that I began to find relief.

I know that with the same certainty I felt when I knew I wanted to marry my wife.

Listen, folks, you don’t have to believe me. You get to decide the route your life takes.

We are all different, in almost every way.

But we are also all the same.

We’re drowning in a deep, dark pool, and we need someone to throw us a rope. Lots of people will, but only one rope leads to rescue.


Cling to that one with all your might.

Labels Lie


My niece posted a meme a day or so ago that really made me think. It was about separating from people that hold us “back,” or something to that effect. I stared at it for a moment or two, and the next thing I thought of was that it wasn’t necessarily people that held me back at one time or another. It was the things they said about me that I believed.

They were not always true, or perhaps based in truth but executed in cruelty.

I don’t think many people would disagree our preteen and teen years truly are formative. That time is our proving ground for adulthood. We learn how to treat people. For all intents and purposes, we form ourselves from the looseness and carefree time of childhood into what we will become.

We form our self-images.

In some cases, this is a good thing—maybe in many cases. But I believe for every kid that comes out of their childhood thinking positive things about themselves, there is probably another who struggles—sometimes a great deal.

We hear the things people say about us, and probably more often than we should, we believe them. Sometimes even our friends can inadvertently say things that we wish we could forget.

We can’t.

I think it would be fair to say there are always “those kids” at the teenage level, who make it their mission to dismantle the self-image of kids who do not conform to their normality. That was me. Those kids let me know who I was in their eyes, and who I was not. At the same time, my brother had already got started on turning me into a bit of a mess.

For as long as I could remember, I heard things—these Iago-like whispers—that made it oh so clear I was not supposed to be here. I was an accident. They only pretended to love me. Things like that, and worse. And because I was young, I believed that shit for most of my adolescence.

Then I had the kids in my junior high who seemed to focus on my size. I had always been tall for my age, and became broad as well once I got through puberty. All my “classmates” could focus on was my extra “padding” in the midsection.

They said things like “fat,” “fat cow,” and one time the extremely eloquent “fat p.o.s.” It slowly dawned on me they were right, too. I knew it was possible to change that, but it seemed pointless. I wasn’t ever going to amount to anything anyway.

I was carrying that when I started High School. It would not be an understatement to say I was not one of the cool kids. We were not well off at all, and my clothes were never designer, and sometimes not even new. It shouldn’t have mattered, but kids can be more cruel than the Marquis de Sade so it ended up kind of making things harder.

I was bussed from Santee to Grossmont high school, and I remember how crappy the kids from that neighborhood were to those of us who could not afford the trappings of wealth many of them could, and who didn’t look the way cool or attractive people were supposed to.

That was me for sure. Overweight by the in-crowd’s standards. Average-looking at best. Generic or used clothing, for the most part. The “fortunate” kids were always kind enough to let me know where I fit in the scheme of things.

There was one time in particular that stuck with me–well, two. The first was one day early in the school year. I remember getting on the bus and feeling like the clothes my sister had purchased me looked pretty good for a change, and my new Payless shoes looked just like Adidas. I thought it might make a difference.

I remember one kid when I got off deliberately stepping on my shoes and making them dirty, while another berated the “Kmart specials” I was wearing. I was utterly humiliated.

The other time I was getting out of my car at the Parkway Bowl theater about a year after my mom died and I was wearing this rugby shirt I liked a lot and a pair of actual Levi’s I’d purchased myself. A carload of high school boys (football players, by their jackets) drove up and yelled “egg the fat kid,” which they proceeded to do. Thankfully, their aim was much worse than their probably beer-impaired judgment, and they only hit me once, right on the chest of my rugby shirt.

Egg the fat kid, indeed.

I’m not sure why, but when I saw my niece’s meme today, it made me think of the careless cruelty of my peers when I was the age we care about what people think the most. I so wanted what they had, because I thought I’d fit in. Maybe even get popular friends.

Instead I got labeled.





I went against everything most guys my age were into.

I read—books and comics.

I didn’t watch sports (though we did play a lot of pickup basketball and football).

I was poor, and out of shape.

I was into drama, and men’s chorus (glee?).

The friends I did have cared not at all what kind of jeans I wore, how I dressed, or how much weight I carried.

They still don’t. Maybe that’s why I never really cared much for brand clothes as an adult.

And then there came a point where I stopped caring about my labels, and began to realize the person I was had little to do with them.

God did.

A couple of years ago, some executive at Abercrombie and Fitch made some comments about “fat chicks” patronizing his stores. He created a pretty big stink, and it goes without saying a lot of people were angry. It also made a lot of women (and men) reject their labels, and that is a very good thing. It might be worth adding that by all accounts, the A and F CEO is supposedly a bit of a troll in addition to his PhD in douchebaggery. It seems evident he is attempting to make up for whatever he feels he missed out on in his youth.

He’s going to fail, and no matter how expensive the clothes are he wears, in his heart he will always be the fat kid, or the poor kid, or the kid with buck teeth. There is only one way to find healing for those kind of wounds, and it is not through wanton buying sprees and callow and superficial attitudes toward people who don’t meet some arbitrary fashion standard.

If it weren’t for Jesus, I would still be trying to meet those standards and trying to please people who didn’t like me for who I was, and would never love me for who I wasn’t. It was and remains ridiculous.

Let me say to you now, if you live your life trying to please people by being cool, you’re going to fail.

It’s human nature to try and conform to what “everyone” is doing. We have an inherent need to fit in somewhere.

Unless the people you’re trying to fit in with know the real you—know your true self—than whatever it is you’re trying to do, or whoever you’re trying not to be, will amount to a handful of smoke.

Maybe you were once the fat kid.

The ugly girl, or geek boy.

Or maybe you were poor.

The stupid retard.

The bible thumper.

The whore, or the worthless junkie.

Don’t try to live down any of that stuff. Don’t let what people have said in the past—or are saying now—define you.

Don’t be subject to a label.

Don’t label anyone else.

Labels are false.

They lie.

While you may even be some of those things, you are not defined by that. It isn’t you. What you do (or have done) and who you are don’t have to be the same thing.

Let me tell you a little about the people I spend most of my leisure time with now. We’re a bunch of different folks. Stay at home moms. Property managers. Children’s ministers. Sound engineers and musicians. My closest friend is a pastor who doesn’t get to preach that often, but still helps change lives, mine included.

These people know the truth of me and love me in the purest sense—as friends.

That label I accept.

Friend. Along with husband, father, brother.

Lastly, consider there was a person designed for you to be before you got here. Your path to becoming that person is not always easy.

But I believe you get there not just by rejecting people who are holding you back, but by rejecting the many, many labels we are given who do not define who we are.

We are not:

Worthless junkies


Forever broken

Stupid retards


Fat kids

Our true identity lies within, given to us by our maker. We are his children above all other things—sons and daughters. He does not make mistakes. Whether or not you believe that does not make it any less true.

Once you accept that label, everything changes.