Friday Night Opinion: Gun Control is Not as Easy as You’re Being Told

The absolute terrible events that occurred in Las Vegas have perpetuated a very touchy, and stale, argument that carries on in the halls of Congress.  They also carry on in the halls of State and local governments, particularly government regulatory agencies .

Last year, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, of King County Public Health made an impassioned argument that local government should add their own gun controls since Congress has been less enforcement-oriented then the numbers he deals with in the Greater Seattle area suggest; he claimed that the numbers of gun deaths surpass those deaths attributed to traffic collisions in King County, and then argued that nationally and locally lots was done to curb traffic deaths, which is still the in the top five of causes of death nationally, still surpassing gun-related deaths on that scale.

From a local perspective, it would make sense that this argument would come forth; in that we look at the biggest causes of death locally, and act to limit, or hopefully eliminate those causes.

Here is the major problem to this ‘local’ argument: Dr. Duchin highlight, but failed to go into detail, that those gun deaths he was talking about, included suicide, which attributed two-thirds of that total.  If you remove suicide from this gun death total, the number of gun deaths in King County are far below those caused by traffic collisions.  Here is why that matters:  No one in King County, as of today, has killed themselves in a traffic collision as a means to commit suicide.

Yes, suicide is terrible.  We know that suicide is in someway related to crisis, acute, or even long-term mental illness suffered by the person committing it.  Mental illness remains to be a serious problem in our society, from local to national levels, that needs to be addressed.

However, enacting public health ordinances, regulation, or similar structures ‘to combat gun deaths’ is a rather sophomoric response to the all too serious state of mental illness in our country, and speaks to agenda, rather than real solution building.

Believe it or not, the NRA has requested democrats to get serious about mental health checks being tied to background checks for firearms purchases.  The problem is that democrats routinely won’t agree, because the proposed legislation would also loosen restrictions on what sane people can buy.  The NRA is not asking for citizens to have the right to buy automatic firearms, or more serious military-grade weaponry.  Instead, the NRA has been since this issue of mental illness and firearms first came up nationally in the mid-90’s, that those that pass the instant background checks provided by the FBI needs to be given greater latitude to access rights through ATF regulated firearms rights, and to remove antiquated bans from legislative efforts permanently, especially those involving media-induced fabrications about certain firearms and accessories.

Gun control measures are not as easy as you’re told they will be, because those that are proposed are rarely based on logic and thought of the problem.  Democrats would rather placate the mentally ill, and allow them to interact in life unchecked by professionals, than actually tackle neurosis that threaten neighbors, families, and innocent bystanders.  Mental illness treatment however, even in it’s smallest form, can have a much greater impact than any gun control effort ever could.  And yet, efforts to address mental illness are continually thumbed down, not just by Congress, but local leaders who continue to claim they don’t have enough resources to enact them.

Democrats, including Dr. Duchin, don’t want to give up the “tool” of gun control tactics for their efforts.  They would rather work citizens into a hot lather about how this one accessory, or this one gun is the problem, and that banning it can save the day.  One need look no further than Chicago to see that bans don’t work.

And whether we like it or not, people like Dontray Mills, who admitted to perpetrating gang violence through illegal gun purchases, who get a reduced plea agreement that leads to no jail time, make it clear that those who actually perpetrate gun violence visited upon others are not getting the justice they so rightly deserve.  Instead, we have democrats who make a mockery of mental illness, cloaked in their government and medical credentials as some sort of expert, but then use the pain of those who don’t receive resources they actually need as a reason to stop everyone else from owning a firearm.  We don’t call it political grandstanding because in our eyes, they’re an appointed “expert,” but they are simply a politician who isn’t subject to election.  A local-level cabinet members expanding an agenda through a filtering of statistics and data.  It’s not a service to the citizens, it’s a weak attempt at shaping discussion and outcomes.  You should be outraged at the level of patronizing that goes on from offices such as those occupied by Dr. Duchin.

To sum it up: it’s a disgusting, dystopian take on life and pursuit of liberty.  It’s unfortunate that this particular issue does split along party lines, because I’ve yet to run into anyone who denies the need for mental health treatment to be expanded when needs are identified, but no one with temporary power will accept that, and in turn accept that law abiding citizens can own firearms without incident.

And if we look a smaller community, like Grays Harbor County, also in Washington State, we see that causes of death attributed to gun violence in Table C1 and C2 are well below the top ten threshold.  It stands to reason how a county with a more isolated  population with less resources is able to report these numbers, and King County sees an increase.  Guns aren’t the problem.  The high-stress that comes with trying to sustain a life in Seattle and King County are to blame.  More people in King County find the need to escape their reality through drug and alcohol abuse, sex addictions, and number of other behaviors that increase mortality risk.  To be fair, these are behaviors we see everywhere in the country, it’s not exclusive to King County.  However, they are increasing in King County, and the reason is that the government in place is making it tougher and tougher for ‘regular joe’ citizens to succeed personally.  Surely, they are not intending this, but it is a consequence of overreach and draconian thinking that was originally banned from the US-lexicon.

Whether Dr. Duchin and people like him realize it, regulations aren’t going to stop people from committing suicide: help is.  Actual help for those people in those situations.  The type of help that defrays stress and pressure on individuals, so they can dream, and work, and fail, and succeed.

One last thing to consider:  Washington State has legalized assisted suicide, making it possible for terminally ill people to seek help in ending their own lives, when they feel they can no longer take the pain of living in their condition.  If this is the ideal that Washington State wants to live by, why attempt to criminalize suicide by other means?  Has no one considered that those who are suffering mental crisis are too in pain?

For such a “progressive” outlook, it certainly seems short-sighted.  If you live in King County, you need to be asking that if such a high tax rate is necessary, why are those funds not being directed towards true mental health resources that provide results.  Because if you visit King County Public Health’s website, you’ll find they are thick on studies and research, and thin on direct efforts.  Maybe if Dr. Duchin spent more time in the field, working to expand mental treatment for the wide array of people in need, and empowering County Designated Mental Health Practitioners with multiple methods of addressing mental crisis, rather than solely three day involuntary hospital stays, instead of writing position papers, we’d have a government that was achieving an end to some problems, rather than tracking increases, with little to show for the effort.

If you know of someone contemplating suicide, please give them the following: 1-800-273-8255.  And continue to check in with them, you make actually be the difference in their world.

Go Cubs Go! NLDS Game 5

Game 5 was a wilder, out of control version of the first four games all rolled into one.  When the dust settled, Wade Davis controlled the game from the Bottom of the 7th to close, in about the best possible way we could expect.

Washington is not a slouch of team, despite their clear lack of offense had suggested through the first four games.  Our side was not nearly as good when it came to the bats, and several costly errors paved our way.  It’s nice to win, it’s a character building exercise.  It’s not awesome building this kind of character in the playoffs.  It’s a bit concerning in fact.

The better team, but not by much, and only because the other team enabled them far too much, and paid for that.

There’s really nothing else to say about it, critiques from the first four games still apply.

Another Loss: NLDS Game 4

This really should not have happened.  It did.  The way the Cubs played they certainly deserved the loss, but it should not have happened.

Most likely you watched if you’re a baseball fan, but to recap, two things happened:

  1.  No offense ever got started for the Cubs
  2. Carl Edwards, Jr. had another meltdown

A third was that Wade Davis pitched into a grand slam by Michael Taylor, something he has never done before, but that was not the issue.

This series has proven a couple of things about the Cubs current roster:  Javier Baez, Carl Edwards, Jr., Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward are expendible.

To their credit, Zobrist and Heyward actually produced some hits in this game, but it’s too little and way too late.  Both players cost way too much for the little they provide, and Heyward dropped a catch that would be difficult for most, but seeing as he’s a defensive dynamo it should have been routine.  The ball was in foul territory so it didn’t hurt, but if he’s not going to snag everything he attempts, then his value becomes less and less.

Javier Baez had an at-bat, I can’t remember now if it was in the 7th or 8th, where he faced six pitches, all outside of the strike zone, he managed to reach a 3-2 count, placing the sixth pitch into play for an out……to say he lacks plate discipline is to greatly understate his problem.  He’s suppose to be part of the future of this club, but he needs something we apparently don’t offer him, and I’d rather take my chances with free agent infielders than continue with someone who can’t buckle down and hit when it counts.

While I will concede the three players above could have arguments for their overall play, there can be no doubt that the experiment of Carl Edwards, Jr., a prospect picked up in the Matt Garza trade, is over after this season, preferably now.  It’s one thing to find a steal on the open market, and surely he’s had great moments on the mound.

That said, he’s folding to the Nationals.  They are a competitive team, in a division of non-competitive teams.  If you can’t find a way to defeat their batters, who spend half the season facing lackluster clubs, then you are on the wrong team.

Perhaps it makes me a non-believer in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s team build, but only of a small fraction of it.  And while the four players highlighted have more or less done their jobs up to series, they’ve floundered before, and it appears they are floundering more so than usual.

Later today Game 5 will take place.  Let’s hope for some Harry Caray magic out at the DC Navy Yard.

Cubs Win!: NLDS Game 3

This was another nail biter.  And it’s great to see that the Cubs are still perennial winners in the categories of small ball tactics and tie games.  But the offensive effort needs to improve drastically, especially if there’s any hope of advancing, and winning in the NLCS.

Both Quintana and Scherzer pitched strong games, striking out a boatload.  To put in perspective, there was 56 total at-bats in tonight’s game, and together they struck out 14.  Of the five innings that both pitchers were not part of, there were only three strikeouts.  Neither pitcher reached seven innings, but both were brilliant, as was expected.

The Cubs bullpen was anchored by great showings by Pedro Strop and Wade Davis.  Edwards Jr was back out for an inning plus, and he too got the job down efficiently.

The game came down to what it came down to in Game 1, the difference being that it was an even thinner win margin, Tommy La Stella came in as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 8th for Edwards Jr, who’s night was done.  La Stella took a walk, at which point Leonys Martin took over as a pinch runner.  In similar fashion to his performance in Games 1 and 2, Rizzo took his stance at the plate, and belted a hit to center field that dropped in, giving Martin the needed time to sprint the bases, scoring the Cubs’ second run of the game, which led into a defensive hold in the top of 9th, securing the win.

Similarly, in the bottom of the 7th, Zobrist punched a single, and when he was aboard, Albert Almora Jr pinch hit for Kyle Schwarber, and he too singled to center, leading to Zobrist crossing the plate.  I’m telling this action backwards of course, but the point is that pinch hitters made the difference for the Cubs.  It’s nice to have these options, but it would be better to see some offensive production within the starting lineup.  Rizzo has been a difference maker in the series.  But he can’t do this alone, even if he has done most of it thus far.  Bryant needs to get cracking, though he has a .273 batting average through Game 3.  Zobrist did get a hit tonight, but to my count has two hits in 11 at-bats.  Addison Russell has two hits in 10 at-bats.  Javier Baez has zero.  Jason Heyward, who’s turned into offensive albatross since being signed has one hit.  These four need to get going if the Cubs are going to sustain any momentum in the playoffs.  Almora Jr and Jon Jay also have low batting averages, but since much of their action comes in pinch hitting situations, it’s to be expected that they are not hitting for average from appearance to appearance.

Speaking of Jon Jay, when he’s been in the field, his defense has been brilliant.  I’m starting to wonder what the value in Jason Heyward is defensively too, since that is the other thing he’s evaluated on in terms of why he’s on the roster.  If Jay keeps making snags in the field, I’ll put up with his offensive, because at least he has a chance of being productive on both sides of the ball.

That said, Game 4 is going to be interesting.  The Nationals are down to an under-performing Tanner Roark, facing the sharp Jake Arrieta, who’s just coming back for the first time after recovering from a hamstring injury.  If Arrieta can dial in 70 percent of his typical effort, I do believe we may have this series wrapped.

EAMUS CATULI!

Cubs Implode: NLDS Game 2

The game was clinched by the 8th.  There was no reason to worry.

Except that Lester’s performance was lackluster, the hitting that did come was just enough to be better than the Nats, and up to this point the bullpen was having it’s way with the Nats.

And then Carl Edwards Jr unraveled.  Edwards is one of the many pitching projects the Cubs have invested in over the last few years.  And by all accounts, he’s the future of the bullpen.  That might be, but you can’t hang your pitches in the zone like they are drywall.  That’s exactly what he did though, with Bryce Harper, with one on board.

Maddon did the thing that we all would do quickly, and that’s put Mike Montgomery in.  That worked out just as bad.  Montgomery walked into the Nats high on momentum, and then handed them a three run watermelon to clinch Game 2.

Much of the Cubs bullpen is projects of the current management, and while it’s nice to develop relief pitchers in a league that is thin on relief talent, and both Montgomery and Edwards have been great additions.  But this is a problem.

One night off is not a big deal, but it’s well known that the projects of the northside have more than their fair share of bad nights.  It just so happens that Wade Davis, our closer, bails them out of problems.  But when multiple guys are failing, there’s only so much he can do.

Davis pitched last night in the Game 1 win, and my guess is that Maddon wanted him to rest.  These projects have to start taking it on the chin and accept their results of their failures.  Hopefully a two-game stand in Chicago rejuvenates the bullpen.  I don’t want the Nats finally cutting their playoff teeth on us.

And big picture, this bullpen needs to be re-evaluated.  We can’t have guys that every seven or eight games can locate their pitches.

CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! NLDS GAME 1

In true Harry fashion, I shout it loud and proud, but know that it takes a couple more to make it count.

Tonight’s 3-0 game in our Nation’s Capital makes it clear that the Nats are going to have to play tight defense if they intend to stop the Cubs.

Strasburg was completely dominant all night.  He did allow three hits and had two unearned runs over seven, but he also struck out ten, he was definitely hitting all the corners.

However, like most playoff baseball, winning comes down to three moments in the game where momentum plays a major factor.

When Rendon missed a play to first in the sixth inning, it setup a minor rally that notched two runs.  This was the inning that clearly blew out the game plan for Nationals Manager Dusty Baker.

He yanked Strasburg out after this inning, despite the fact that these runs were not on his stats, and the hits were mostly standard fare from both Rizzo and Bryant, two all-stars that hit in the .300’s in October.  Strasburg threw 81 pitches over his seven innings, 60 being strikes.  He was near perfect.  True, he has a sorted injury past, and all things being equal it would make sense to pull him before he risked his arm, if there was a lead.

However, the Nats needed his arm to keep the Cubs at bay.  The way Baker took him out was equally embarrassing, from a managerial standpoint. He put veteran infielder, and clutch contact hitter, Howie Kendrick in as a pinch hitter to try and stretch Michael Taylor from first base, and drive him in.  Taylor didn’t steal second, he didn’t advance on a bad pitch, nor did Kendrick hit in the clutch, and thus Strasburg’s night was over, and the Nats continued to be shut out.

Jon Jay pinch hit in the 8th, bringing Kyle Hendricks’ night to an end, he too pitched well.  Jay’s lone at-bat was a double, and it was big.  It setup Rizzo to knock him in, bringing the Cubs to a 3-0 lead, which was inevitably the final tally.  Carl Edwards, Jr and Wade Davis took the 8th and the 9th to shutdown the Nats for the rest of the game, and it was history.

This was supposed to be the ‘Do or Die’ Nats.  The team they have now is in it’s swan song, because much of their core is in final contract years, and it’s going to be difficult to keep everyone, with their undoubtedly higher price tags.

I have to say, they’re already falling apart.  In the 8th, Ryan Zimmerman was a put-out, and half the reason was because he ran the inside base path, which led to him being beaned, rather than tagged for the out.  It’s a rule violation, though rarely called, and unfortunately for him, the first base umpire had a clear view of it, and called.  Jayson Werth, a notorious under-performer that the Nats employ, and has also called this year his own swan song lost his mind with the umpire.  For a guy who said he was humbled by weekend jail terms he had to serve for driving like banshee in Fairfax County, he sure displayed it in that moment.

Hendricks pitched a solid outing, but he’s supposedly the weak pitcher in the Cubs rotation now.  That was Game 1.  Game 2 the Nats are facing Jon Lester, and Game 3 they are facing Jake Arrieta, who’s recovering from that end of season hamstring injury, but is also dying to throw some heat now in October.

The Nats aren’t going to have any easier day at the plate than what they just had.  And their defensive play squandered it, but more importantly, their weak batting played an even bigger, more silent role.

For me, it’s full sails, and we’re cruising to the NLCS, go Cubs!

For the Nats, it may be time to forget this team, and to continue finding a way to actually win in the playoffs.

EAMUS CATULI!

Travel: Oklahoma City, America’s Best Weekend Getaway Secret

I’ve been to Oklahoma City twice in my life.  Both times didn’t disappoint.

The fact is, this place is way too cool, and has way too much going on, and yet, when you think of weekend getaways, when was the last time that Oklahoma City came up?  I’m willing to bet that if you’re from Oklahoma, or Western Arkansas, you didn’t think of OKC once.

That’s a shame, because aside from an massive amount of US history, covering many time periods, all located in around the greater OKC area, there is plenty to do for both families, and young adults, without bumping into each other.  How many places in the US can host both audiences, and claim that?

First, I’m going to talk about food.  I shared some of the offerings with my private circle, but I have to tell you, even a whole album on Instagram isn’t going to do justice for the food in OKC.

OKC has a plethora of Italian cuisine.  You’ll find plenty of offerings, whether it’s Stella in the north end (1201 N Walker), Patrono (305 N Walker) which is closer to downtown, or Zio’s in Bricktown (12 E California), there are plenty of options to get your pasta on.  Italians have had a long history in OKC, though understated, much like the city itself.

When I go to OKC, I pass by all those great offerings, and go straight to the barbecue.  Look, you can talk about Texas, Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and all that is great.  None of it compares to Oklahoma Barbecue.

Oklahoma barbecue goes all the way to the Trail of Tears, when Choctaw and Cherokee Natives that were marched from Alabama and Tennessee came to the area now known as the Osage Reservation.  They brought with them “hogfires” which is quiet similar to the Hawaiian tradition of roasting a whole pig on open flame.

As cattle ranching took full hold in Texas, and the meat markets in Kansas City, Omaha, Chicago, and Eastern Wisconsin, cattle needed places to overnight, and coincidentally Oklahoma served as a great location to feed cattle on their way north.  Eventually the idea of ranching took hold Oklahoma, and soon beef cuts were incorporated into Oklahoma’s fine tradition of hog cooking.  As the 20th century roared, so did the style of Oklahoma barbecue.   An emphasis on wood that produced fragrant smoke, less reliance on sauce (a Texas trait), but definitely the type of sauce ingredients you’d find in Kansas City.  Oklahoma also incorporates Bologna Sausage into their repertoire, which you won’t anywhere else in the barbecue ecosystem.

They serve green onion, cut at the root, to neutralize the smokey flavor the meat leaves behind, because Oklahoma barbecue carries smoke with it.  It’s not over the top, nor does it dry out the meat like heavy smoke can sometimes do.

My favorite places when it comes to this delicious cuisine, Blu’s BBQ and Burgers (612 N Robinson), Earl’s Rib Palace in Bricktown (216 Johnny Bench Drive), and Bedlam BBQ (610 NE 50th Street).

I won’t go heavy into the menus, because the real experience is figuring things out for yourself, but I will tell you can’t go wrong at any of these places, but to give you a heads up, yes the ribs at Earl’s are too good to be true.  And Blu’s offers a side called a Haystack.  You’d be crazy to pass it up.  Bedlam has a side called green rice….you’d also be crazy not to order it.

When you visit OKC, make sure to visit Bricktown.  It’s a former warehouse district, turned entertainment mecca.  Plenty of local acts, even The Flaming Lips make appearances from time to time, and are immortalized in Bricktown by the aptly named “Flaming Lips Alley.”  For my money, I like to hang out at Mojo’s Blues Bar, nestled at the west end of the alley, near the back end of Bricktown’s canal and riverwalk, which features a water taxi, with corresponding history spoken from the driver/tour guide.  If you go to Mojo’s, be sure to bring cash, to tip all the bands performing, and keep your drink orders simple.

Outside of the bars, and there are plenty of them, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ AAA affiliate, the Oklahoma City Dodgers play in Bricktown at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.  It’s tops in AAA ballparks, and is certainly built to standards you would associate with major league parks, minus the capacity.  That said, you could take a family of six, eating in the stands and still keep the bill below 200 bucks at the end of the night.

Of course, Seattle’s prized franchise, the Seattle Supersonics now play in OKC under the alias Oklahoma Thunder.  If the NBA interests you, that is downtown, several blocks north of Bricktown.  But I’ll be frank, I liked OKC better before they brought the NBA to town.  I could say I’m bias because I don’t care for the NBA, but that’s not the issue.  The issue is the endless road construction projects that are found every few blocks, to redirect traffic, to widen lanes, all to accommodate the arena.  It makes for a drag, but in the end, it’s progress, and progress always has a toll.

A mere six miles south of downtown is the Cherokee Heritage Center, which is the proverbial end to the Trail of Tears, where the iconic statue by James Fraser, The End of the  Trail sits for all to see, and reflect on the results of greed and ignorance.

Equally as sad, and more intense in the present is back downtown, across the street from Blu’s BBQ & Burgers.  The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum (620 N Harvey).  The ebb and flow of manicured beauty, and remnants of destruction is too much for my soul when I visit.  Every time I visit OKC, I visit this large chapter in our history, and I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I didn’t mention that I cry.  I can’t stop crying when I walk into the courtyard, where the north side of the Alfred P. Murrah building once stood.  I take in the inscription along the large concrete pillar entryways, showing the time explosion started, and the time build finally collapsed, a mere two minutes after the bomb went off.  I cry at the sight of the pretty tile art provided by children through the world, all informed by adults of the terrible day.  But mostly I cry at the site of the bronze chairs that are all neatly organized.  There are large chairs for adults, and small chairs that represent are most grime realizations, the brutal, horrific death of 19 children and infants.

I was a middle-school aged teen when the bombing happened, and the weight of that day didn’t reach me until many years later.  But forever more, whenever I visit the memorial, I cry at the sight of all those tiny chairs.

I can’t say this is the note I want to end on, as it’s never good to end a travel piece on such a raw, sour note.  But in the case of OKC it works.  The bombing was and is egregious.  But it did help bring the city together, something that had long disappeared prior to that awful day.  I have to tell you, if you’re looking for a weekend getaway with your friends, or a new place to take the family, you have to go to Oklahoma City.  It may not have the kinds of things that you associate with a vacation, but it has lots of new things, and historic things worth your time.

Oklahoma.  It’s not typical, it’s anything but.  I wonder if they’ll buy the tagline?

Thanksgiving: How Should we Spend this Holiday?

Last year I wrote about Independence Day and how our forefathers made clear that it was a holiday meant to be celebrated with our neighbors, rather family.  If your family happens to live on the same street, that would be the exception.  But, by and large, our forefathers we quite clear on what the importance of Independence Day was for our country, and that it was the people to our left and right that we should be celebrating with, as it was those people to our left and right that fought hardest along with us.

Another holiday that gets misconstrued thanks to advertisement is that of Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday that turns our airports, railroads, and even bus stations into a fiasco.

The movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles dissected this very issue through the genius comedy of John Candy, and help from Steve Martin.  In the movie, Martin an ad-man, is trying to get home promptly prior to Thanksgiving from New York City to Chicago.  Candy, a travelling salesman bumps into Martin on his way to his gate, and the two are reluctantly attached at the hip for a three or four-day fiasco that has them landing in Wichita, Kansas, getting stuck in a pasture in Missouri (if I recall correctly), and in between catching rides with some of the Midwest’s most stereotypical redneck types.  It’s funny, and a bit typical.

At any rate, the movie centers around Martin’s immense desire to get home to his family, where his parents have flown in already, and kids are waiting, and so on and so forth.  And, it’s a nice a movie to play during Thanksgiving, if you’re into that sort of thing.

But, the problem here is that this movie is likely the product of an onslaught of nonsense that travel agencies, airlines, and Amtrak has sold to all of us for years prior to the 80’s: we should be with family during Thanksgiving.

I grew up in a house that demanded it.  In fact,  I believe that the most terse words I’ve heard from my mother were times I had to confront the fact that I would not be home for Thanksgiving.

And being with family during holidays is great.  I wouldn’t suggest it to be a bad thing, necessarily.

But, I will say that we’re not doing the holiday of Thanksgiving justice, in the way it was defined by our forefathers.

For one, look back at the original Thanksgiving.  It was a major feast between pilgrims and native Americans.  They came together, broke bread, corn, fish, and lots of other food that would likely scare us all the way it was prepared.

It’s fair to say that at this particular Thanksgiving, there were family members among the larger group.  But the difference here was, that these people were all neighbors together.  They lived separate lives day to day, and although there was much in the way of interaction prior to this one day, they didn’t necessarily rely on each other from minute to minute.

From this Thanksgiving, came many Thanksgivings that brought us to 1776.  All of these Thanksgivings were with neighbors, the people most close by proximity.  And true, families still were living together, or in the same town as one another, but the idea of sitting down with your neighbor played a more important role.

You may wonder why that is.  I can tell you, it’s because people had Christian values, and were living the example of how to treat their neighbor.  That is why Thanksgiving in the past was a very neighborly endeavor.

There’s no reason why this shouldn’t be the case now.  All of this air travel that we put ourselves through, because we have little in the way of vacation to take, because we had to take all our vacation days in the summer.  It’s madness.

Part of the fabric of our country is developing meaningful relationships with those closest to us, and that’s our neighbors.

I heard one person talk about the fact that when it came to raising money for medical bills, they didn’t know what people did before Go Fund Me came along.  I can tell you what they did.

First, medical bills were not nearly as high as they are today, so that’s helpful.  Second, their neighbors pitched in.  I know that might throw some people off, but the fact of the matter is, neighborhoods in the US were at their strongest when the neighbors were their closest allies.

And now we’ve let all that slip away.  It really didn’t take long.  I think as a kid, growing up in the 80’s, quite a bit of that sunk in then.  And yes, there was some of it developing even as far back as the 40’s, thanks to racism, classism, even politics.

But the age of technology has truly wreaked havoc on this concept of being neighborly.  Somehow we’ve reached a point where we have more in common with a total stranger than we do the family living right next door for the past ten years.  How can you not think that is sad?

So if you’re truly interested in doing something about this issue, consider creating a traditional Thanksgiving in your neighborhood.  But don’t look up recipes from the Pilgrim era, you’ll hate them, and it will be sure to keep the neighbors away for good.

I think in the end, you’ll find the wisdom in developing solid bonds with your neighbors, and sharing in the delight of a holiday or two with them.  The airlines will get plenty of your money come Christmas!

OKC Memorial: Did We Learn Anything?

I recently spent a long weekend in Oklahoma City to promote my recent project, an anthology of veteran’s which encompasses many veterans, from many walks of life, and many experiences.  With the exception of career, there is nothing any of us have in common.  Not in interests, culture, upbringing, style, attire, absolutely nothing.

As we all know, Oklahoma City has the displeasure of being the location of one of the saddest parts of US history.  On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a U-Haul truck full of fertilizer and explosives, rigged to explode, targeting the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, found between North Harvey and North Robinson Avenues.

The bomb killed 168 people inside the building, and injured 680, and effectively destroyed half of the building, not to mention causing serious damage for 16 blocks.

McVeigh’s plot, which was assisted by Terry Nichols, came about because of their ideological views, and their disagreement with the actions taken by government at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.  In both instances, federal agents began investigations into firearms and other weapons acquired by the groups at each location, and whether it was legal to possess them.  In both instances, there has been wide disagreement about the volume of illegal weapons that each group had, but in the end, what was factually reported by our federal agencies was a small amount of truly illegal weapons, that on their own, may not have garnered the aggressive investigative efforts that the groups initially garnered.

However, while the motivation of these two men is still subject of some debate, what I want to talk about is their actions.  McVeigh had said publicly that he was not aware of a daycare being located in the building, making that discovery over the course of his “canvassing” or scouting of the building.

He passed over another federal building he targeted, because it had a florist shop.  But yet, when actually walking inside the Murrah Building, he managed to miss the fully-windowed day care, in the hall lobby.  He was asked about this on the stand, and said had he known there were children present, it might have given him pause.

Regardless, I can’t imagine the disillusionment McVeigh had to visit daily to carry out this plan.  And the fact is that he left the area, and if not for a traffic violation 90 minutes later, he might still be out in the wind today.

During my trip, I spoke to many long-time OKC locals, who spoke about the tremendous healing affect that this incident had on the entire city.  At the time, OKC was an unsafe place to be.  There were strong-arm robberies at will, muggings, break-ins, and wide spread violent crime that seemed to target strangers to the actors at an elevated rate.

But the sheer violence of McVeigh’s act brought the entire city together.  By and large, the citizens realized that life in OKC could not continue down the path it was, and maintain a place that people would want to live in, let alone spend any time in.

Since that ever tragic day, OKC has rebuilt much of it’s downtown, has worked hard to bringing relevant artistic elements to the area, to celebrate the many communities that make up the city, and to embrace the uniqueness and charm that only can be identified as being that of OKC.

Today we see a very similar scenario playing out at the national level.  We have extremists on the left and right scales of political ideology battling one another on city streets, throughout our entire country.  We no longer have room to speak with others, especially others that are determined to talk in rhetoric and circular logic.  There may be true value in ignoring such tactics, but it does not mean it’s wise to ignore the person.

It doesn’t mean you need to treat them differently either.  It does mean we need to decide individually what it is that we hold dear, truly.  I for one want an immigration system that will be followed and respected.  That doesn’t mean I want immigrants to be shunned, or foresaken, or to have previous agreements ripped away.  None of that holds to American values, and we would be foolish to engage in such third world politicking.

At the same time, there are people that want to vilify those like me who stand for a rule of law that is pragmatic, and sound.  They are extremists, just as those who chanted over and over again that building a wall is a solution.  We should not be so ignorant to identify that both these views are extreme, and truly have no business guiding our country.

At the same time, I respect that there are those that view my words as some sort of threat.  Technically they might be.  But there is no intention of threatening anyone, and having sound, pragmatic law is not a threat to anyone, except to those that break the law.  Perhaps that sounds circular.  But consider our past.  If we did not have sound laws that respected a true view of right and wrong, would we have made it as far as we have?  Would the US still be what it is, after nearly 250 years of existence?

I appreciate ideology, it’s a great place to start from.  But ideology can’t be the only thing guiding rules, law, how we think, or what we fight for.  When you do, you produce extremism.

And quite honestly, one need to go no further than 620 North Harvey Avenue in Oklahoma City to see what raw ideology produces.  The aftermath of which is something too hard to stare at.  Admittedly, I cry so much when I visit the Memorial that I can’t even make it to the museum.  This time I got in the door, and 45 seconds later bolted back out.  I don’t want to live in the aftermath of the Memorial every second in this country, everywhere I go, and I don’t believe anyone else here wants to either.

It’s going to take everyone who’s shouting for their cause to sit down, truly consider what it is they are saying.  If all you are doing is spouting ideology, you are not helping, and it would be best for all of us if you stopped and found a quiet place to park yourself.  You are adding only vitriol, in both what you say, and who you say it to.  It’s not going to produce anything positive.

Be honest with yourself, no matter where you sit on the spectrum, because more than ever we need both sides to accept that there are some very wrong things they are promoting, and there are some very right things they are promoting.

If you are idolizing people within your spectrum, that’s not helping us either.  No matter who’s President, they are only as effective as Congress, and we haven’t had an effective Congress in many years.  You can’t blame that on any President.

Don’t think of this as a call to centrism, because it’s not.  True functioning ideas to fix problems need to prevail, no matter where they come from.  Fabrications, “full-court presses,” and ideology are not going to help us get any of the solutions that we truly need.

In the beginning I mentioned how the group of veterans that I worked with on this project, Walk with Warriors, came from very different backgrounds, and very different places in life.  But somehow, we came together, vividly.  We didn’t know each other before, and it may be difficult for us to stay in touch after, but we came together as one and continued in that vain as we worked to promote our project, and reach an audience we didn’t define.  Time will tell if we were successful, but we tried, and never fought with each other over ideology.  It may seem a small, mild example, but it’s people working together.  I’d like to think if we can do this, then the rest of us can do this too.  We can be big boys and big girls, who sacrifice our ideology, for what it is truly fair and beneficial for all.

For my part, I think after visiting the Memorial, I’m going to search my own ideas and see what really matters, because it’s only fair that if I issue this call to action that I embody it.

Perhaps the future will find me in an even better place.  Until next time!

Walk with Warriors Book Launch

There is always some nerves involved in a new endeavor.  Even the most consummate professional has that feeling when going into a new situation.

Such was the case when I appeared for the Walk with Warriors book launch, held in downtown Oklahoma City at Rose State College’s Innovation Station.

It’s a very neat spot, with MakerBot supplies and equipment, lots of Lego’s, and a massive electronics charging bay that surpasses any of the charging stations you see at the airport.

I’m not sure what goes on there day to day, but what I do know is that it was an incredibly vibrant spot for a book launch.  We made a success of it, with 12 of the 22 authors making appearances.

Oklahoma City is a college football town, in particular, the epicenter for Sooners fans.  This town lights up on fall Saturdays, and though we were a week away from the official start of fall, it was week two of the season, and the Sooners were on the road in Ohio.

Here’s what many people don’t understand about college football towns that don’t have a professional football following; college football is life.  People, even when the team is on the road, tailgate at the home venue, they bring out large televisions to watch the game in the parking lot, they barbecue (more on that another time), and they eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, until the game, which was a night game, is over.

The Sooners play in a town a few miles south of downtown Oklahoma City named Norman.  And so, that wreaked a little havoc on our launch.  The crowds that might typically form on a Saturday downtown didn’t materialize.  But like the true soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen that we are, we handled the situation the best we could, by applying a full-on blitzkrieg to anyone who was within sprinting distance of the venue, and telling them our story.

I have to admit, it’s not the tactics that I would have associated with a book launch, it had its advantages.  Because, it’s something we’ve all trained for and carried out, in one way or another.

And in terms of sales, the results were in: we sold dozens of copies, all with signatures from the whole lot of us.

Oklahoma City was wonderful to Walk With Warriors, and we couldn’t have been more appreciative.  Maybe on the second go around we won’t try to overtake college football Saturday.  Oh, did I mention we’ll be putting together a second installment?

See you then!