Saturday, September 30, 2017

#229 - Because, You Know, He's All About That Base

First off, I should apologize to Meghan Trainor for alluding to her hit single in the title of today's entry. On the other hand, it seems appropriate.

While people still struggle to climb out from underneath the wreckage in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, our President is busy accusing NFL players of being unpatriotic and divisive and basically laying blame for the disorganized rescue response in Puerto Rico at the feet of the victims. All of this, despite the fact that he himself displayed a first grade knowledge of geography when describing where Puerto Rico is.

Many on the right end of the political spectrum spent the first several months of the current administration calling those on the left divisive and encouraging them (actually, more like berating or browbeating them) to unite behind this President, something they failed to do during eight years of the previous administration. It's time to call the man and his supporters out for what they are. Hypocrites.

During the Presidential campaign, supporters of this President called for his opponent to be put in prison for her use of a private e-mail server while conducting government business. Now that it appears some of this President's inner circle have been doing the same exact thing. Where are the calls for prison now? Crickets. Hypocrisy at its finest.

Of course, his advisers and staff take their lead from the man at the top. And while he spends a lot of his time and public meanderings catering to his base, it ultimately is really all about him. He somehow manages to bring everything back to him and what a great job he is doing as President. Narcissus would be proud.

If he isn't giving himself credit for something that actually began or occurred during the previous administration ( some of the early economic reports come to mind), he's busy taking credit or proclaiming success for something that hasn't actually happened (the building of "The Wall," the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the great job the federal government is doing with relief efforts in Puerto Rico are all examples). And if he isn't doing either of those things, he is busy blaming other people for their problems or his own (blaming the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico for aid not getting to those in need and "Fake News" immediately come to mind). Hypocrite-in-Chief.

Episodes like these are partly what San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had in mind when he said America "is an embarrassment" to the rest of the world. Ronald Reagan famously coined the term "trickle-down economic" to argue that benefits flow from the top down. Well, something else is flowing down from on high, and it sure isn't money or respect or anything good.

I'll be the first to admit I did not do enough to prevent this man's election to the Presidency, although I did vote for his opponent. I'll also be the first to admit I have not done enough to oppose this man now that he is in office. Part of the reason for that is I have friends with opposing views whom I have tried not to anger or offend. But the time for worrying about that has passed.

While I can respect the fact that some people have differing views that I on issues such as immigration, the economy, the environment (well, not so much that one), foreign aid, and the like, I can no longer respect the fact that they voted for a man so obviously unqualified to be President of anything other than his own mutual admiration society.

The fact that people continue to support this egotistical blowhard in spite of increasing evidence that he is mentally and morally deficient negates any merit their arguments on other issues may have. The fact that what I say may offend or anger some to the point they no longer want to be my friends no longer worries me. The time for silence has long since passed.

Monday, September 25, 2017

#228 - We Just Don't Get It

This morning, as I often do, I played catch up with my news feed on Facebook. I noticed a number of my friends were upset with the NFL.

Specifically, they were upset with players not coming out of the locker room for the National Anthem and were also upset with players kneeling for same said anthem. They just don't get it.

Many of those same people were upset when people took to the streets during any number of protests over the last couple of years when various police shootings were reported in the news. They just don't get it

They were also upset when people gathered in various parks around the country to protest the presence of Confederate monuments and demand they be removed. They just don't get it.

Protest is not supposed to be comfortable. It is meant to disturb, to upset, to shake the status quo. Does anyone really believe the protests against the Vietnam War would have been as effective if they had only been a letter-writing campaign.

We say we are fine with people protesting until they actually do. Then, we find some fault with the message or the manner of the protest. We just don't get it

The NFL players being maligned by our President have picked perhaps the least violent, yet visible means of protest they could to call attention to what they see as a real issue of race in this country. Instead of listening to their concerns or engaging them in meaningful dialogue, he tries to suppress their First Amendment rights by calling them unpatriotic and suggesting they should be fired from their teams. He just doesn't get it.

Protest is patriotic. Protest is American. In fact, protest is perhaps the most patriotic, most American act a person can engage in. America was founded on the rock of protest. (Boston Tea Party or American Revolution, anyone?)

The American Revolution was not called the American Disagreement or Dispute or Argument for a reason. Revolution is the ultimate expression of protest when all other means of calling attention to an issue or an imbalance fail. These NFL players, and the many engaging in protests to call attention to continuing racial issues in this country are simply carrying on perhaps the most American of traditions. The rest of us just don't get it.

Monday, August 28, 2017

#227 - Struggling With Myself

Sometimes, the hardest battles are the ones you wage with yourself. For instance, at the moment, I am fighting over myself concerning just what it is I bring to the world's table. On days like this, I'm not so sure.

For instance . . . for years, I have called myself a writer or a would-be writer or a writer wannabe. The fact is, I really none of those. I can write and well. But I lack both the passion and the discipline to be a writer.

In college, I dabbled in writing poetry. I also wrote a novella. A bad novella, but a novella nonetheless. I have also written lyrics for somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 songs, roughly 50 of which have actually been put to music because I also lack the discipline and determination to learn any musical instrument well enough to be able to do my arrangements or write the music for any of my songs, many of which do have melodies bouncing around in my head.

I know in my heart that few people read anything I write or value any opinion I might have or any advice I might give. This blog, which was meant to be a continual stream of my thoughts, views, and ideas, has instead turned into the very occasional uttering of someone who writes when he gets too bored with the everyday trappings of his existence and finally feels the need to do something different or in addition to the normal routine.

In some ways, it is safe to say I lack the courage of my convictions, even the courage of my dreams. Along the way of my thus far 60-year journey on this planet, I have had and abandoned numerous dreams, none of which I apparently felt strongly about to risk pursuing. If I did, I might be the architect I dreamt of being in seventh grade or the lawyer I thought I would become in high school or even the world traveler I had hoped by now to be.

Instead, I respond on Facebook to people who hold views opposed to those I say I hold or try to make humorous comments about something someone else has posted. Or I agree with someone about something they have said.

I am not on the front lines of any fight or even on the back lines, for that matter. I sit safely at my desk, at my computer, and watch the world go by, rushing past me ever faster, without the courage to join in.

I think I can sing. I think I can write. But it wasn't until I was nearly 60 years of age that I even tried to share my singing or my songwriting with others. It turns out few want to hear it.

The first post of this blog was written January 25, 2008. That means that in a little more than four months this blog will be ten years old. In nearly ten years, I have managed to write 227 posts counting this one. I have managed to draw all of 15,068 total views in that time, which is actually more than I expected.

This year, I have written nine posts, including this one. It isn't that I don't think I have things to say. It's just that most days I don't say them because I don't think anyone will read or care what I have to say.

I have had three posts out of 226 previous posts that have garnered more than 100 page views. Roughly one-third of my posts have been viewed by fewer than ten people, including one just last month. Four posts have never been viewed. If I am a writer, I am a niche writer at best.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with any of this. Perhaps it's self-pity. Perhaps it's a realization that whatever I have to say isn't really all that unique. Who knows?

When I started this blog, it was not actually with the idea that it would attract a large following. On the other hand, I did hope that some people would read it. Occasionally, some people do. More often, though, people do not.

I'm not sure what any of this means for the future of this blog. I sometimes wish I had a focused interest or handful of interests that people could rely on reading about on these virtual pages. It would likely result in a more reliable readership, not to mention a more predictable publishing pattern. But I don't.

Unfortunately, my interests can change from day to day, just as my mind can wander from one subject to the next, sometimes without warning. That, in fact, may be the key reason I cannot consider myself an actual writer. My mind is often not capable of staying engaged in a subject long enough to write about it. That, in term, may be why I write song lyrics and not longer forms of prose.

Truth is, I don't really know that either. On the other hand, since it is likely that few people will see this, let alone read it, I suppose I can use this blog as a sounding board.

For a while, I had hopes of easily reaching 500 posts on this blog, which is why I began numbering them. Now that seems a bit out of reach since I am less than halfway to that number one decade into writing this blog.

Right now, at this moment, I do not know what it is I want to say or what it is I have to say. Perhaps things will be different tomorrow. In which case I'll be back with a new entry, though I'm not counting on it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#226 - Guess what? It really IS all about me

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine was called out for her post about voice. In it, she asked that other voices seeking to be heard not be shamed or silenced. She then went on to talk about the challenges, misadventures, and issues she has faced and continues to fight to work through and overcome.

In addition to the outpouring of love and support she received from most of her Facebook friends, there was this disturbing response:

Honestly, your post sounds like you perceive everything as being all about you. Most people, whether they be spouses, lovers, children, friends, are going to eventually have a problem with that.

 To which my Facebook friend replied (among other things):

When I'm writing something about my life and stories about what I've experienced, how can it not be something to do with me?

Well, guess what? It can't. Each person's Facebook account is about them in one way or another. Some people get deeply personal in their posts while others reveal themselves in more subtle and not so subtle ways through the items they choose to share and/or like.

My friend is a writer and, based on what I've read, a very powerful one. So, naturally, her posts are going to often be more personal and more intense than someone who adopts what I'll call the "let's all get along" approach and only posts pictures of cats and the like.

Yet both types of posts are about the posters and reveal aspects of their personalities and personas. In my friend's case, she has revealed herself as a fighter and, more importantly, a survivor. She has, I think (and she should correct me if I'm wrong), decided to no longer allow others to stand in the way of her quest for well-being and happiness.

This approach to life fits with how I have always viewed the words of Christ when he commanded us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If one does not take care of and love her or himself, how can that person truly love another? They can't. Not really. I know.

In the case of my second fictional Facebook poster (based on a composite of several people I've encountered on Facebook), what seems to be revealed is a desire to avoid conflict and keep people at arm's length. It is possible this person has also been hurt before and, rather than confronting that, has chosen to try to avoid going through it again. Regardless, they do not seem to want to face or deal with difficult topics or issues, at least not publicly.

Everything we post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like is about us in that we reveal something of ourselves: what we like, what we think, what we feel, what we believe. All of this helps to form a picture, perhaps imperfect, though perhaps less so than we believe, of who we are and the type of person we are.

In the case of the disturbing response I shared earlier, that person revealed themselves to be the selfish and self-absorbed person they implicitly accused my friend of being. They were focused on how such a post would affect them and make them feel instead of how to help and/or support my friend.

I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist and have never played one on television. Nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So I could be wrong about all of this. It has been known to happen.

On the other hand, these are my perceptions, and since this blog and my Facebook page are all about me, I'll conclude that I'm right. After all, this is my blog, and it didn't cost you anything (aside from a little time) to read it. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

#225 - When The Words All Wash Away

Toward the end of March, I posted the words to a song I had written titled "When The Words." The song was inspired by a Facebook conversation with another musician/songwriter about inspiration and how it often comes at inconvenient times, such as when we are doing dishes or taking a shower.

This post has nothing to do with that song, but the title seemed appropriate. Words are supposed to help us make sense of things good and bad, help us explain things to others, help us to communicate. There are, however, other times when words seem inadequate, even though they are all we have.

This is one of those times.

Earlier today, I got word that my brother-in-law had died suddenly, of an apparent heart attack. When such events occur, I imagine most people go through some series of reactions and emotions. First and foremost is the feeling of sadness for the family, in this case my sister and her children and grandchildren.

Second, perhaps, is a feeling of shock. My brother-in-law was my age, perhaps a year or two younger. Third for many people, though they would not want to admit it and might even be likely to deny it, is a sense of relief that it isn't them. This feeling may be stronger the further removed one is.

Right now, I suppose I am rather numb. I liked my brother-in-law and know he was a good husband to my sister and a good father to his three children, but I can't say we were particularly close. I had only seen him (and my sister) a handful of times in the last ten or 15 years. I don't know that anyone is to blame for that. It's just how things worked out.

I know my sister is hurting right now. I know her children are hurting right now. I'm not quite sure what to say to them. The words have all washed away.

At times like this, words have a tendency to become cliches or platitudes, all uttered by well-meaning well-wishers who, like me, are not sure what to say. Perhaps platitudes and cliches are exactly the things to say. Having never been much good at platitudes and cliches myself, I am left at a loss for words.

Not being a religious man myself (though hopefully a spiritual one), I have no words to offer up on high. I hope that God is watching over the family, but I don't claim to know one way or another.

There is, though, one thing I do believe and have for some time. So long as you keep the memories of a loved one close to you, hold those memories in your heart, the person is never really gone or lost. Perhaps that is the true afterlife.

I think there was a line in a movie or television show to the effect that death is but another step in the journey each of us makes. That notion appeals to me. If that is, in fact, the case, I hope my brother-in-law and I can get together for a conversation and a drink and make up for the time we lost on this side.

Until then, Godspeed, Kenny.