Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A barely broken streak

Merry Christmas eve to all who celebrate the birth of Christ. Merry Christmas eve to all who celebrate the Toys R Us version of the day. Merry day before all the Chinese restaurants are empty for all who treat it like another day. Honestly, whether you actively celebrate the holiday or not, you get the impact. It's a big day. Some use it as an opportunity have 9 too many glasses of eggnog and have fun with family.

This is my 35th Christmas. It's a big one. It's the first one I'll spend truly with my Linda. We get to wake up under our own Christmas tree. Even while I was away and would come home, I'd stay with my folks so my Christmas morning was just like growing up. This one is different. It is a new tradition that my tiny family of 2 (and 3 furbabies) will begin. I feel like I get the best of all worlds to wake up in my very own home with my love AND then see my family too. I get everything.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

Of the previous 34 Christmases in my life, I've woken up with my family for 33 of them. There was one year I wasn't there. I am lucky it was only one. For Christmas of 2006 I was 7,000 miles away (I'm actually guessing) in the Middle East as part of a long deployment. The desert has a knack of being blistering hot for most of the year and then freezing for a small part of it. It's actually never freezing, but for a couple of months it drops from 115 during the day to 85 and down in the 50s at night. The 30 degree contrast that happens suddenly can be a brutal switch.

It was that Christmas that I was limited to a few minutes on the phone per week, 4 week delivery for mail, the same food day in and day out, but, most importantly, none of the warmth of home - metaphorical warmth.

So many have missed more than the one. So many have been in much worse situations while missing it. I know I felt it that year, that's for sure. I'm so very thankful I'll never have to risk that again. But I think about those that don't have that luxury. Those with full families or families on the way. While I'm so excited for my first Christmas REALLY at home, I'd still trade with any one of these deployed dads in an instant.

Please think about them or pray for them or send good thoughts or do whatever it is you do. Remember, that goes for the guy who is from Florida and stationed in Montana, or the girl from California and stationed in Mississippi. Or the family stationed in Europe or Asia. They may not be deployed to a war zone but they aren't home.

No matter how many Christmases I see, I'll never forget the one that created a barely broken streak.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I stand with logic

I've always been conservative, politically speaking. I like my guns, I think taking God so far out of schools that a child can't even privately pray is ridiculous. If a man wants to amass billions on his own work , so be it. We don't tax the rich for doing well to give to the poor for not doing well. We tax to fund the government and spread it evenly to those in need, but to penalize the successful is wrong.

Over the years I'd become closer to fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I give less than a shit who you love. As long as your freedoms aren't interrupting my freedoms, then go for it. Gay marriage? Have fun, but let's not pretend that homosexuals will fix the sanctity of marriage. They'll cheat and divorce too because, above all else, they're human. Abortion? Not in my world, but strangers aren't in my world so that's their business. See where I'm going with this?

We're all hypocrites anyway.
Dems want government out of their lives when it comes to love and marriage, but want the government to step in and grab tax money for social programs.
Republicans want government out of their lives in business and finance, but call them to regulate who people can marry.

In their own way each of our 2 parties is anti-big government and pro-big government in whatever way appeals to party lines.

The hypocrisy doesn't stop at people on the hill either. Average Americans act hypocritical on individual issues and then they complain about the hypocrisy of politicians. It's a weird ironic inception that I can't seem to figure out.

The catalyst here is the guy from Duck Dynasty. Is his name Jack or does he just say that a lot? I'm not sure.

So he made a bunch of anti-gay comments. Likened gay people to those who favor bestiality or something. Told them they're going to hell. People got outraged. He got fired. People on the other side are outraged because they are his personal opinions and he's entitled to them. I agree, but... see my above comment about your freedoms interrupting my freedoms.

I'm not outraged by his comments because... look at him. He's not a diplomat. He got rich making duck calls. He's proud of being a simple, uneducated guy from the middle of nowhere. The whole show is based on the family looking uncultured. What part about what he said is shocking? And why are you taking social cues from this asshole. You know why I'm not up in arms about his comments? Because strangers of opposite ecosystems from me do not guide me.

I understand the entire "if you don't like it, change the channel" idea and I subscribe to that in limited quantity. You get cursing on HBO and complain, tough shit because you pay EXTRA money for an uncensored channel. Are you forced to watch A&E? No. That also doesn't give him the right to use his extra reach to profess offensive views. It's also not like he was given a pulpit from which he is supposed to broadcast his beliefs. That's just not the topic of the show. So since TV is a luxury, are we all supposed to be on our guards for offensiveness?

On the other hand, A&E is all about culture so you'd think they would allow for all cultures and beliefs. So they sack the guy who expresses his beliefs, even when he didn't do it on the show directly. It was in a GQ magazine. That's not very supportive of free speech or free religion.

But just maybe there's another very conservative Republican line of thinking here. Maybe the people at A&E could really give a rat's fart about what this lunatic has to say. I mean let's be realistic, whether you feel a certain way or not is your business. How you run your mouth when you know you're under a microscope is something else entirely? Every single person on the planet has had a thought at one point or another that is not popular with someone else. Sometimes we say it, sometimes we don't. It's all about considering your audience. When you're in the public spotlight, you shut your mouth and do what's right for the real end game. For this guy, it's a successful show. It's a successful business. 

And that's A&E's point. The guy who canned the Duck guy may very well agree with him for all we know. But he's smart. He knows that at least one advertiser will disagree. Maybe the advertisers themselves will agree, but they are smart. They know that at least one consumer won't. Maybe some consumers will agree, but they're smart. They won't admit it.

People want to believe that the world runs on good feelings and getting along and respecting rights to free speech or right to be gay. It runs on dollars and cents. And like I've always said time and again, the business of business is business. What's it worth to A&E to respect his right to his beliefs? Maybe nothing. What's it worth to A&E to shitcan this guy in support of the biggest human, and subsequently socio-economic, movement of today? All the ad dollars. 

You can boycott this show all day long, but A&E took a stand that said they support gay rights over the free speech of one individual man. The needs of many outweigh needs of the few... mostly because the needs of the many keep the lights on at A&E.

Capitalism and big business is a VERY right wing perspective. Supporting gay rights is a very left wing perspective. Looks like A&E's movement straddled the line better than anyone really thought about. And since this guy is not important in the scheme of things, they won't be remembered for canning him. 

I stand with A&E for doing what's right for A&E, which as it turns out is a business, not a lobby group.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Escaping into a different world

Once upon a time a devoted father wrote letters to his son who was deployed to Africa while fighting in one of the two great world wars. The letters were stories of a world of fantasy, hobbits, dwarves, wizards, elves, dragons and so much more. Many years later those stories became The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That evolved into a universe of books, cartoons, toys, video games and blockbuster Hollywood movies. The world became further acquainted with Middle Earth with the three Lord of the Rings books became movies in the early 2000s. Now, we find ourselves two-thirds of the way through The Hobbit, 10 years later in our lives, but 60 years earlier in Bilbo's life.

Many people talk about it from a movie-goers perspective. Others talk about it from the perspective of fans of the books. There are some of us who live in Middle Earth in our minds. There are some of us who can give you directions from Bag-end in Hobbiton, a town in the Shire to The Last Homely House in Rivendell, if you felt so inclined to make the trip to visit Elrond Halfelven. We'd warn you about going beyond those borders, as the Misty Mountains are more dangerous than Led Zeppelin let on when they mentioned it in their song. We see big towers in the world and imagine them as Minas Morgul and want to hear the horn of Gondor bellow in real life.

People like us reach a level of fandom reserved for the nerdiest of nerds. The respect I have for J.R.R. Tolkein is immeasurable for 2 reasons. The first is simple. He defined a genre. He didn't create dwarves or elves or wizards, but he certainly outlined the images we use for them today. And some of the creatures are of his own creation. That's a mind that cannot be compared to. That's the least important reason why I love him.

Once upon another time, decades after Tolkein wrote these for his son, there was another dad. His son fell ill with a simple appendicitis. Unfortunately that 7-10 day stay (as it was at the time) was stretched into a full month of August (or just shy by a few days). The medical complications made that hospital stay full of more pitfalls and double-backs than a Hobbit's adventure. This son was 11 years old and terrified.

His mom was by his side caring for him. Friends and well wishers brought gifts and flowers and toys and cards and jokes and smiles. All of those things raised his spirits while he remained in the hospital.

At one point his dad decided to sit by his bedside every day for a little bit of time; with a book. The dad opened his very own copy of The Hobbit from many years earlier and began to read it to his son. His dad was replete with voices and inflection. More than reading the words to his son, the dad told the story to his son. For that amount of time each day, his son left the hospital and traveled to Middle Earth.

Once again these tales had come alive from a father to a son in crisis. Once again, these stories enhanced a relationship and saved a son while Hobbits saved Middle Earth.

To this day, his dad remembers this son laying on his side, eyes wide to absorb the visual imagery written by Tolkein, delivered by his dad.

To this day I remember my dad's voice as he read it to me.