Masks

I did something yesterday I haven’t done in a few years. I shaved. That’s not entirely true. I shave every day but I have worn a goatee for years and I haven’t shaved my whole face for a long time.

Interesting the responses you get. I work as a school custodian and not a single teacher in whose rooms I work (21) either commented, or noticed, I am not certain which. It is pretty easy to accept that they didn’t really notice because I AM a custodian and as such not really on their radar. They are polite, as a group, but they are also mercenary. I am reminded that when I first took the job my teacher friends all bragged about how well they got to know the custodians at their schools because the custodians were the go-to guys for things they needed. They were proud of the fact that the primary reason they cultivated these relationships was for the good it did them. Not a single one of these educated people were moved to comment on the irony of their statements. I have one kindergarten teacher on my “route” who is more blatant than most. She will speak to me but never unless I speak to her. She will look up and have conversations in front of me with other teachers never acknowledging my presence and even go so far as to reveal in these conversations uncomfortable facts that I certainly do not need to know. But what’s the harm? Who guards their tongue in front of the furniture? But, should she need something in her room fixed or cleaned you would think we were kissin’ cousins! The other reason some might not have commented is they think I looked a hell of a lot better with parts of my face covered. And, really, who am I to argue? I did receive comment from the men on the staff, none of whom I work with directly. Polite but not really encouraging, if you know what I mean. That is to say, absolutely appropriate coming from them.

The question remains; why shave and why now? I have mentioned to some of my friends that I have had a less than easy time of it with this new employment. I had been self-employed for so long I am amazed at the drudgery people put up with for the distant chance to improve their lot. It is still months away for me to even drop the probationary title and potentially years from an improvement in shift or responsibilities. And, the emotional toll of changing my self-image from self-employed to school janitor has left me somewhat lacking in self-esteem. (Though, creating a sentence that properly contains three hyphenated words does buck up my morale a little.) As you can tell I have been living inside my own head a bit too much lately and it occurred to me that I might want to figure out why I am where I am and why I am tolerating the state of affairs. It also occurred to me that, perhaps, I am punishing myself a little for needing to take a job like this in the first place. So, I thought maybe I would take a look under the mask and see if I could still like the pudgy bastard who lives under there. It seemed a good time to remind “me” what “me” really looked like and decide whether “me” needed a little work.

I was struck by two things off the bat. First, I was most definitely hiding behind the beard. I feel exposed and unmasked. I look in the mirror and every thought seems writ large on my face. It seems to me that no amount of poker faced resolve can keep secret the thoughts lurking behind such a thin veneer. Second, I note that I have gotten old while hiding behind the veil of whiskers. Eyes that I had convinced myself were wise and knowing now simply look tired when surrounded by such a wrinkled and blank canvas. But, all in all, I think I could like the guy looking back at me from the bathroom mirror. He is after all the more real me. He is the guy I should be working to improve, not the beard that grants me distance from the world and its realities. I may grow the goatee back some time. I kind of like the way it looked, white hair and all. But, I am happy I shaved. I need to see the guy under the mask once in a while so I don’t fall victim to believing he is the real me.

Also, stripping off the pretense is a way of facing the serious work that needs to be done. I can’t live in these circumstances for years. At least, I won’t. Too much of what I want falls in conflict to this schedule and work. I need to figure out what to do about it. There is much to be done and “miles to go before I sleep”. Masks are for people who are about things like play and drama. I need to be about the work of creating the life I want and the time I need to spend with my wife and my children. I need to do some serious, grown up work and it is time, if for but a moment, to put away childish things. Things like masks.

We all wear masks. Mine was made of hair.

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Freedom – All or None

As we sit here in relative safety and comparative comfort as citizens of the United States celebrating Independence, the word “Freedom” is thrown around as if we still knew what it meant. Today’s definition has little to do with the definition understood by the founders. Today we use freedom as if it relates to free stuff. Women can’t be free unless other people pay for their birth control pills. And, not just any birth control pills but the exact kind of birth control pills they desire. Men and women can’t be free if their health care isn’t paid for by the masses. We have lost our ability to discuss freedom rationally because we have lost the understanding of what freedom really is.

The most important distinction we have lost is the one that makes us look the smallest. We only define freedom in the U.S. today by how it affects us personally. The single most important aspect of freedom is that it is not now, nor has ever been, a “me” thing. It is a “we” thing. If your freedom is reliant on others to pay for it whether they care to or not then you are not a free person, you are a member of the tyrannical class. I don’t mean the sacrifice of others who have dedicated their lives to serving in ways like, for instance, the military. I mean the every-day member of society whose goods or services are taken to pay for your this or that or the other without their consent. I mean the kid who wants to be an accountant who is forced to study chemistry because society needs doctors and pharmacists to supply your “free” health care. I mean the small business owner who works eighty hours per week who is forced to give up his earnings and future because he must pay the teenager who was willing to work for him for nine dollars an hour last week fifteen dollars an hour tomorrow without being one bit more productive or valuable to the business. If your freedom to achieve your stuff rests on the backs of others who have not freely chosen to sacrifice for you then you aren’t a free person. You are just another bully stealing the lunch money of others to pay your way through life.

If the lessons of history have taught us nothing else then it should have taught us this; freedom relies on each and every one of us putting the freedom of those around us paramount to our own. When Kennedy cautioned us to “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” he wasn’t calling us to live in servitude to our government. He was reminding us that protecting the freedom of your neighbor is the critical component to protecting your own. Looking out for only yourself is a trap. It weakens your business. It weakens your relationships. It weakens your sense of self-worth. It weakens the very fabric of freedom. Looking out for the freedom of others strengthens us all. Taking responsibility for your own actions and achievement strengthens your standing in society in business, community and self. Being a guardian of others freedoms whether it be their economic freedom or their freedom to fail strengthens us all. Telling the takers of this country that forcing others to pay for their joys in life is unacceptable lets those others achieve joy on their own and teaches the takers a valuable lesson.

On this Independence Day please rededicate yourself to the cause of Freedom. Please remember that personal independence is the only path to freedom for yourself and for the rest of us. Please remember that when we force others into servitude either through taxation or regulation that freedom is strained and weakened.

On this Independence Day and every day remember that if we are not all free then none of us are.

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When People Tell You Who They Are…

“When people tell you who they are; believe them” – Maya Angelou

In the past couple of days the candidacy of the new darling of the left for Governor of Texas, Wendy Davis,  has fallen apart under the weight of her own dishonesty. I don’t blame her for her embellishments.  I mean if you read what is now coming to light the facts are pretty embarrassing. Especially for a woman who claims to be a paragon of virtue in regards to all things motherly. The Dallas Morning News out-ed her as a standard form lying politician instead of the fresh voice of modern feminism she portrayed herself to be.  While the dishonesty is damning what is more so is that she played the victim of patriarchy when it turns out she was the victimizer.

The irony of course is her entire campaign has been based on the premise that she was taking charge, taking on the men and fighting for women just like her!  And, that is exactly the real story of her past.  She took advantage of the men in her life financially, left them with the kids and strayed to her own delights over the marriage contract.  Like our President, her platform looks exactly like her past and she knew she couldn’t let the light of day shine upon it.

One wonders if the world would be a better place if the candidates we look to elect were not ever allowed on TV to campaign.  What if they had to put in writing their beliefs and positions on issues and the voters were required to read it to vote?  Imagine if the best candidates were vetted by the press based on long form policy statements and personal histories instead of casual references in sound bite interviews.  Imagine how it would be if you would never know the race of the candidate but only the content of his or her character and the quality of his or her thinking. If you had read Obama’s speeches you would know that while he spoke in couched terms he has frequently said exactly what he would do to “fundamentally transform” America.  If you read Wendy Davis’ speeches and the content of her filibuster you would know she is all hat and no saddle.

There is no surprise here unless you allowed yourself to be fooled by looks and charisma.  Wendy Davis and Barack Obama are the reason why justice is blind.

These folks and a parade of others have told us who they are.

When will we learn to believe them?

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Talking Around the Issue

While the media new and old spend time, ink and electrons discussing the relative merits of the O-Care website and the effect it had on Black Friday and whether or not Johnny and Jane can get insurance before or after, the real issue at hand is being ignored. This argument over health insurance is an old one and it only has relationship to health care in the way a sneeze is related to a cold.

Health insurance provided by the government is only a symptom of the still raging question of unresolved politics. The unresolved question is the question of Natural Rights. As old a political issue as there is and we are truly fighting over it now.

If the Affordable Care Act can insert into the American psyche and law books the belief that health care is a right, then the standard of natural rights has suffered a significant blow.

Our founding documents espouse natural rights when they talk of being…” endowed by our creator with certain…” Don’t get trapped by the word “creator” either. It doesn’t matter if your creator is The Creator or just your Daddy; you were endowed with those rights as a birthright. It was not a function of government that supplied you with those rights it was a function of you coming into the world.

A Natural Right is a right I can avail myself of without imposing on you. I can speak freely but that right does not go so far as to impose on you the obligation to listen, much less agree. If the ACA and its proponents can convince you that you have a right to health care then they will have convinced you that someone has the obligation to provide it to you.  Health care cannot be a Natural Right because it presumes that some person can be forced by law to provide that care.

If there is no available doctor or nurse or physician’s assistant to care for you in your time of need by what means will you exercise your right to health care? If the shortage of care providers is predictable and the government is charged with providing for your health care rights then the government will have to force some young man or woman into the healthcare field in order to provide for that right. But what then of the right of the bright young woman who has a mind for chemistry and wanted to be a chemical engineer instead of a Doctor? Isn’t it pretty lucky that the Obama administration and the lap dog legislature have allowed the Federal Government to be the only source for educational loans? “Sure Janey,” says the O-bot in charge of student loans, “we will be happy to help you with college if and only if you decide to be a Doctor or Nurse. Otherwise, I don’t think there is enough money for your loan to get approved.”

These are the reasonable outcomes of the ACA and the acceptance that rights are given to man by man. If you stick to the thing that made America exceptional, the concept of Natural Rights, you know that your rights end where mine begin and you are obligated to take care of yourself in ways complex and fundamental.

This is the argument we should be having over the issue of health care and health insurance. And, this is the argument the right has been having with the left for a millennia or so.

As long as we fight over the symptoms we are distracted from curing the disease.

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Dead Frog

The coup is nearly complete.  All it took was the capitulation of the Senate and the easy distraction of the House.  While dictatorship is probably too strong a term the feel of it is correct.   At the very least we are now under the governmental process of a third world strong man.  Mr. Obama is far less Lincoln and far more Noriega.

There is an old adage about how to cook a frog.  We all know it.  It refers to tossing the frog into lukewarm water and slowly turning up the heat so it doesn’t know it is being cooked.  Soon enough the waters relax the frog so much it can’t find the strength to jump out of the now scalding water.  I don’t know if that is how it works or not but as a cautionary tale it serves the purpose.  The only better one for future generations is the one they can now tell about how the American experiment died completely on November 21, 2013 when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and each and every Senator in his caucus finalized his surrender of the Legislative to the Executive by rendering the Judiciary an entirely political tool of the President. The Constitutional system of checks and balances is no more and the consolidation of powers in the Executive is nigh on complete. In the not too distant future the 2nd District Court will be stocked with reliable leftist progressives willing to find with the Executive Branch on any challenge from the neutered right.  In short order the very fabric of the tension between right and wrong will have been supplanted by the inexorable pull of leftist bureaucrats in the Executive with willing support from a politically purified judiciary. Challenges to laws that might be overturned by a marginally conservative Supreme Court will have been in effect for years before the court will ever hear the arguments and the damages will be permanent.

And, the demise of the American experiment was just as the founders predicted it would be; a product of the failure of Americans to be vigilant in the protection of liberty.  I saw an online graphic credited to Chieftain the other day that was spot on.  It said that “People who work for a living are being overwhelmed by people who vote for a living.”  I only quibble with the tense.  It has already happened.

Now we must accept that the America of old is dead and gone.  The America that honored the work of free men and offered opportunity to those who pursued it is no more.  The America whose Senate refused to let Roosevelt pack the court in a blatant power grab has been replaced by an America whose Politburo does the bidding of the Party over the desires of the citizenry.  The America that would have stood up and said no to such an egregious display of naked ambitions over the will of the people has been replaced by an America that is ignorant and flaccid.  It seems that not only will no one stand up against the coup that has occurred, it seems that most of America won’t even know it has happened.

It is time to recognize the facts.  The frog is cooked.

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We Are All Racists Now

In February of 2009 the ersatz news magazine, Newsweek famously lead with a cover stating, “We’re All Socialists Now”. I wonder how things change now that we are all racists.

Perhaps at long last, we can have substantive conversations in regard to the policies of Mr. Obama without the standard hyperbolic ad hominem attacks. For the last 6 years, I have been called a racist, a homophobe, a misogynist and more all for the horrific crime of failing to support the policies of Senator and then President Obama. My own family members have called me names both to my face and behind my back for having a differing viewpoint than that of Mr. Obama. My mother has posted on FaceBook so many insulting things about conservatives over the last 6 years that it is impossible to even estimate the number. My father stated in front of guests that at least 80% of the motivation conservatives had for campaigning against Candidate Obama was racism.

But now things are different. To paraphrase Newsweek, “We Are All Racists Now”. Even the uber-leftist Ed Asner bemoans the lack of Hollywood outcry over the Presidents desire to enter into military conflict with Syria. He claims that the left in Hollywood are afraid to stand against this policy of the President because they are fearful of being called a racist. Well, they should be. They and the left in general have been calling anyone who thinks the President wrong on anything a racist for so long it is the punch line of jokes. So now that we have an issue that a full 70% of Americans and Code Pink finds to be not just wrong but very wrong mustn’t we all wear the mantle of racist?

Or, perhaps we could recognize the stupidity of the attack and realize that there are substantive disagreements on significant amounts of Obama policy that have not one damn thing to do with the color of the man’s skin. Perhaps we could talk calmly about why conservatives think free markets are the best and fastest way to feed the poor in this country and beyond? Maybe we can talk about how the Obama administrations rule by executive order and departmental regulation is in conflict with this country’s founding on the concept of natural rights? Perhaps we could discuss the science behind reproduction and why conservatives believe that abortion is a crime against a distinct, living, human being with the rights we agree all humans should have? Maybe we could discuss fiscal policy and talk about why conservatives support smaller government and believe that asking our great grandchildren to pay for our birth control is ethically wrong and fiscally foolish? Maybe we can discuss why the truth behind any tragic loss of life of American soldiers and diplomats always makes a difference? Is it possible we could have open, calm, logical, rational discussions on any and all issues upon which this administration takes a stance without being called names first and having our positions discounted as evil without even being heard?

I do not now nor have I ever cared about the Presidents race. It is the least relevant thing about his presidency. I have and do disagree with the vast majority of the President’s political views and the way in which he has led this country. If that disagreement makes me a racist then you must accept that if you have even had second thoughts about attacking Syria then you are a racist too.

Kind of a low blow isn’t it? Yes, it is. And, it has been for a very long time.

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Grilled Cheese and The Question

Note from the Author I wrote this in late March concerning a couple of people who have become very important to me.  I feel honored to have come to know them and witness their love and respect for each other.  Some time early this morning, May 8, 2013, the Mr. in this story passed away in his sleep.  A gentle passing for a gentle man and a blessing to us all.  BP

I was in the kitchen making lunch. Grilled cheese. They love my grilled cheese. It’s funny, too. They have the resources to have the best of the best. But they love my grilled cheese because it is just grilled cheese; good bread, butter and cheese. No fancy cheese, either but the mildest shredded cheddar cheese you can find. That’s it. Nothing fancy. That’s the kind of folks they are. Middle American money. They can afford a chef. They choose a neighbor who makes a simple grilled cheese. There it is; a lovely kind of thing, simple and honest and real. This is the life they live, for now, at least. I know when they were younger they travelled often and sometimes in their own plane. I have seen pictures of them both on camel back with crowns on their heads. But, even then, I suspect they preferred a good grilled cheese to gorgonzola and sprouts on gluten-free flat bread. It just seems to be who they are.

Anyway, I was in the kitchen and I could hear them. They were bickering a bit. It often sounds worse than it is because neither can hear worth a darn. Mr. was talking about buying a car. Mr. can’t drive anymore but that is not a concern to him. Mr. has always had a car and doesn’t have one now so …he needs a car. When Mrs. was in the hospital it was a common topic. We talked a lot about which make and model would be a good fit. It was as a safe topic and because he doesn’t drive, nothing would come of it. But, Mrs. is home now and for some reason when Mr. talks of getting a car it aggravates her. Mrs. told him in no uncertain terms he was not getting a car. Mr. was curious as to why not. Because of the universal inability to hear, this calm conversation is being shouted across the great distance of about three and a half feet.

Both Mr. and Mrs. are settled deeply in the envelopes they call chairs. Over time these chairs, which once could have politely been referred to as overstuffed, have given way to the irresistible force that are Mr. and Mrs. The chairs are now as completely formed to the body of the users that they might have been created by an artisan of unmatched skill. And, in a way, they have. For enumerable hours, each chair has held its occupant as they watched the world evolve through their grand picture windows. The chairs, planted in the same spots on the carpet, she on the right and he on her left, closer to both her heart and the front door, allow both proximity and distance. Only three and a little feet apart, the chairs face not each other but the same window. They face the world as a brace of shotguns; working together to see what there is to see and keep the homestead safe. And, over the hours, days, months and years those chairs have adjusted to their task and allowed themselves to cradle Mr. and Mrs. like a babe in her mother’s arms. Those chairs are so desperately in need of cleaning and repair I suffer a bit each time I look at them. Those chairs are so completely theirs that the thought of replacing them makes me want to cry.

Mrs. reminds Mr. with an insistent tone that he doesn’t have a driver’s license. No license means no driving and no driving means no car. Mr. says, “Fine. I’ll go get a license.”

The argument is familiar. He sees no reason why he shouldn’t do what he has always done. She knows that time has settled around them as they have settled into those chairs. And, the time for new cars and drives in the country has eroded away. Mr. still feels the need to be up and out and in charge. Still, instead of arguing the point he settles a little further into his chair as Mrs. states, “You can’t get a license anymore.” He bristles a bit at the remark and in his lined face and watery eyes you can see the outline of the lion he once was. Age and time have taken much but what it takes it burns in stone as immutable history. Once, not all that long ago, Mr. was a force of nature creating, driving and making both things and futures. And, while the memories fade the attitude survives.

He seems for a moment to choose to stand his ground and rage a little. Then he sees, again, who he is talking to and he softens. His face now without guile or artifice, like a child’s, he asks, “Why can’t I have a license?” Now her face, a moment ago shining with the energy of aggravation with Mr., radiates with a different energy. She exudes anger at the world but this time in defense of the lion that once was only tamed by her. I don’t know what exactly she sees when she first looks at Mr. I know when I look at my wife of nearly thirty years I often see the beautiful young woman I dated and pursued. I reckon Mrs. sees not the man of nearly ninety but the man she agreed to marry some sixty-five years ago. I think it was the unfairness of a world that respects no privacy that caused the spark in her eye. I think it was in defense of the man who loved and loves her that put the harsh tone in her voice when she said, “Because of the internet. They know what you have!”

I have been watching and listening from the kitchen. It is not the first time I have heard this conversation. But normally it is a conversation that wanders off topic before now. I think I know what is coming. I stand over my “Cuisinart Griddler” where my exceptionally simple grilled cheese is toasting and melting just as it should. I wonder if I should stick my nose in and see if I can change the subject. Maybe I can ask about the house that Mr. and I sometimes talk about that he always wanted to build on the flat ground in the back of the property. Or, maybe I could ask about one of the kids or the bevy of grand-kids. Maybe I could throw in an anecdote about my son or my daughters. But, in my indecision I have squandered my chance. Choosing what to say has also cost me the moment and now there is nothing I can do.

Because now in a much more quiet, much more open, much less certain voice comes the question. “What do I have?” he asks.

There it is; the ironic, maddening, aggravating, heart-rending question. “What do I have?” Mrs. looks Mr. in the face and now the whole world softens. The air in the room moves with a gentle caress as if to carry the caress in her voice across the three and a half-foot chasm for her. I am blessed to witness the steel in her that gives her the courage to tell the terrible truth, again, in a way that delivers a punch like a kiss.

Mrs. says, “You have Alzheimer’s.”, with a softness that resonates to my soul. Mr. looks back with no anger at all.

He does say, “I love you.” in a way that I will carry with me to my grave. He tells her he loves her in a way I hope I can someday, somehow, someway convey to my wife and children. Mr. looks at Mrs. with a face as pure as the face a father shows his newborn child and says, “But you’re OK aren’t you?”

Mrs. just looks on and wordlessly nods. He smiles and nods, and, then goes back to reading the words on the page of the paper. Words that are familiar but whose meanings elude him more and more each day. But, it doesn’t matter to him because she is OK.

It is time to serve the grilled cheese.

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