Saturday, November 19, 2016

Polarization of us and our Nation

My entire life, I have enjoyed politics.  My family has a history of politicians.  We have spent many a day and night discussing political events and theorizing about outcomes.  From a young age, I was taught to enjoy the discussion and to relish those who believed differently, than myself.  I was taught you become better when you challenge your beliefs with intelligent dissent.

This year has been different.  Much different.  Actually, I would go as far to say; "This year has just been sad."  I have watched people in my hometown squabble over roads, instead of coming together with a strong foundation.  I have watched State level politicians take large sums from lobbyist and actually crow about it.  Then, of course we all know what has happened on the National scene.

Throughout the Presidential election, I have watched as some people's friends became their foes.  I have watched as some families discussions went to all time lows.  Sadly, I watched as a Nation allowed their differences to come to blows.

Azar Nafisi, an Iranian born writer, who immigrated and became an American citizen, in 2008, said; "I see people who talk about America, and then undermine it by not paying attention to its soul, to its poetry. I see polarization, reductionism and superficiality."

We raise our children to believe in the "Golden Rule." Yet, we don't live by it.

We raise our children to know the awesome love of Jesus Christ.  Yet, we don't exhibit it.

We say, "take the high road and don't get down in the mud with those slinging it..."  Yet, we cheer when leaders get dirty, in front of us.

I hope each of you, reading this, will pause and think.  Just for a moment.  Don't think about this in terms of politics.  Republican OR Democrat.  Think of this in terms of humanity and each of us as Americans.  

If we truly desire to "Make America Great Again", we need to reflect upon what was great about America.  Civility.  Respect.  The ideal that, "All men are created equal."

If we can't agree - can't we at least be civil?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

"The American Dream, as I see it". (Immigrants are not the problem, "we" are.)

      As a young child, I grew up believing in "The American Dream".  My family always told me and my sister we could be whatever we wanted to be, as long as we were willing to work hard.  My Father demonstrated this ideal to perfection.  He worked long hours during evenings, holidays, weekends.  He worked.  He worked to support our Family, to improve our lives.  Never at any time did I think I could fail in life, if I were willing to work hard.  

      As I have grown and experienced the World, many of my beliefs have changed.  I have seen things, made mistakes, learned from others, but one thing never changed - in fact if anything it has become more solidified - and that is what my Father taught us.  You CAN accomplish anything, if you are willing to work hard. 

      When I was in grade school, I became a real American Patriot.  It was then that my love of America grew.  I learned there was no better Country, to grow up in.  There was no better land, for real opportunity.  It was implanted in my DNA.  This is still true today.  There is no better Country, than the United States of America.  We are not perfect and I think we have much room for growth.  

      One of the best parts of America is our willingness to allow others to speak freely.  We can pretty much say whatever we wish, without fear of criminal prosecution.  That is amazing.  Even today, many Nations still have restrictions on speech.  In Germany, for example, there continues to be restrictions on Nazi related works and speech.  Is that speech vile?  Of course, but should it be banned?  Who decides?  You? Me?  

     Point is, America is great because our forefathers were fleeing persecution and faults they experienced, in other Countries.  In order to keep America great, we must be willing to be honest with one another and to speak freely.  Speak our minds, in a civilized way, so we may see things from different perspectives and work to solve our problems.  This is what led me to write, tonight. 

     Earlier today, I read a piece in The Atlantic  about how certain immigrants view The American Dream.  This led me to want to express my views on the American Dream..........

     Contrary to what many of my neighbors and Donald Trump believe, immigrants are not our problem.  We do not need to build a "wall".  We do not need Mexico to build a "wall".  We need to look in the mirror and be honest about "The American Dream, as I see it".

     After working as a police officer for more than 20 years and volunteering in many social capacities, I have come into contact with most all segments of society.  I have grown frustrated with people and their bigotry.  Their blindness to what is actually happening....again, in "my" opinion.  

     When I use the term "we", I mean "us", "Americans", "people who have been born and raised in these here parts", get it?  Ok.

     "We" are the problem, because we have decided it is OK for people to be declared "disabled", because they have a drug addiction, drink too much beer, have a sore back - but could still work at some job........I think you get the idea.  We have made it easier for people to stay at home, than for them to work.  It is easier for some people to qualify for Food Stamps, if they limit the hours they work, so they may get the maximum allotment from The State.  We have become a Nation entitled to all we want, without having to put "any skin in the game".

     Now, "We" complain about immigrants "flooding" into "our" home and taking away our jobs.  "We" complain "they" all need to be deported.  Shipped "back to where they came from, because they broke the law to get here".  What "law" did they "really" break?  They broke the "law" that wants to stop them from having a better life, for their kids.  The "law" that does not want them to be "free" and get a great education.

     Some of you will be fuming, by this point in my rant, but please allow me to have "free speech" and ask that you kindly take a deep breath and challenge yourself, right here, right now.  Why have "these people" come to America?  I think we can all agree, the vast majority of them have come here to seek a better life.  Chase the real "American Dream", which "we" have declared dead.  BUT WAIT, it is not dead, it is there for the picking, but YOU have to be willing to work to harness it.

     I am in a new career, now, and recently I came across a child, from Somalia.  This child was in McDonald County and he worked on a farm.  His father worked at a chicken plant, in Noel.  When I came across them, the child was tired and not feeling well.  He claimed to be sick.  He appeared to be sick.  Like most kids, he said to his Father, "Now, I get to stay home from school!", as if he was excited at the prospect.  However, his Father said, "I was shot at.  I fought to come here.  I risked your life, your sister's life, your Momma's life, to come to America!  I fought so you could learn and be scientist!  Be great!  I fought so you, would not have to work in a chicken plant!  Tomorrow, you go to school!  You learn!  You become scientist!"

      That moment was defining for me.  Do all fresh immigrants feel this way?  Probably not.  Do most fresh immigrants feel this way?  I believe so!  My Dad felt this way.  He taught me in a similar manner.  I could see my own Father, in this man from a land in Africa.  A man I knew nothing about, I suddenly knew everything about.  A man, who like me, loved America.  Who understood "The American Dream" and knew in order to grab it and not work in a chicken plant, you would have to go to school when you did not feel your best.

     How many of "us" teach our kids, like this, now?  How many of "us" believe it is better to work three jobs and only sleep five hours a day, in order to remain off of Government Assistance Programs?  

     As our Nation is in the middle of a historic Presidential campaign, I feel the issues are being "hyped".  They are being thrown into five second sound bites, where none of us really stop to think.........what would it take to "Make America Great Again"?

    How about we only give government assistance to those able bodied people, who are willing to work hard?  We have a crisis with our infrastructure, as our water and sewer systems crumble, and our bridges crack.  Could we not teach the masses how to pour concrete, drive heavy equipment, dig up trenches for new water lines?  Why should it be more rewarding to sit on your couch, than to rebuild Interstate 70? 

     This leads me to many of you are clamoring to build a "wall" across the Mexican Border, have you thought for a minute that maybe we are wanting to keep the wrong folks constrained, by that very barrier? 

     Would it not make more sense to allow the hard working people, who seek a better life, to come IN; while we encourage those of "us" sitting on the couch to get OUT?  You see, I am in favor of a different kind of immigration policy.....I think we should keep the eleven million who came here to work and we should ship out the red blooded, rednecks, who just want to cash a check.  One we can not cash!

If we can't agree, can't we at least be civil?


Monday, December 14, 2015

Life, Love, Liberalism, and the Legacy we wish to leave...

As anyone who knows me will tell you, "there is no doubt" where I stand on most issues.  Recently, I expressed opinions, which were not popular with many people, about the admittance of refugees from Syria and being careful to not lump all Muslims into one boat.  My Facebook posts brought about lively discussion. I was greeted by several people around the area who expressed they were surprised by my positions and why they felt I was misguided. 

I always appreciate hearing from those who see issues differently, as they challenge me to grow intellectually.  But, comments from a few people led me to write this Blog let's get to it!

Over the past several weeks, there have been some political developments in the area which have led some people to ask if I intend to seek political office.  I won't ever rule out a political run, in some capacity or another, as I will go wherever I feel led to improve our Community and Region.  

As I spoke with some folks about my political beliefs, I had a couple of people say, "You need to be concerned about your "liberal" views and how they will affect you in a race." Those remarks struck me at my core....many of my political views and political life lessons were gained at an unusually young age.  They are not "liberal".  

I have been blessed to lead a life unlike most people.  As a youngster, I spent a great deal of time with my Grandfather, Herbert Douglas.  Herb, as he was known by many, was known as "Granddad", by me. 

Granddad ran for the United States Senate, in Missouri, in 1956.  He won the Republican Primary, but lost the General Election, as Missouri was generally a Democratic leaning state, in those days.  Granddad told me many stories, from "the good old days", as he and I traveled all over southern Missouri, going to various Republican gatherings.  On one occasion he shared with me a powerful I have not forgotten...he told me, "never be afraid to stand up for what you know is right; particularly when everyone else around you knows you are wrong."

I knew what he was saying...Granddad was telling me, when a large group of people were traveling down a path I honestly believed to be dangerous, to take the road less traveled.  

When I die, I don't care to be a monetarily rich person.  Money has not mattered to me, beyond wishing to provide for my family.  I haven't heard people reflect on the life of others and remark, "They sure were great, because they had money."  Instead, I know people are remembered for their contribution to society.  Their legacy.

I hope each of you will get this from my life, a glimpse of my legacy, which I am trying to sew, to always love when you can and when you can no longer love, step back and ponder what road you are on.  

We are all molded by our own experiences. As a career police officer, I have seen many horrific parts of humanity.  That experience has allowed me to cherish the good times and know, while there is evil in the World, there is way more good. Good always trumps evil.  We just have to believe.

Growing up in The Ozarks, I know the importance of neighbors, family, God, and friends.  In every instance of my current existence, I face issues and ask myself, "Can I face my neighbors, my family, my God, and my friends"; if I act or believe in a particular way.  

Often, I fall back on teachings of Love and knowing I don't have to conform to anyone else's model to "be accepted".  I am not striving for acceptance.  I am striving to set an example and in some very small way make our corner of the World nicer, better, greater.

It is OK for us to be afraid of people and "things" that are different.  It is OK for us to protect ourselves against people who legitimately wish to do us harm.  It is OK to use force to protect ourselves in the face of an imminent threat.  I know all of this first hand.  I have seen it staring me in the face, more than once.  I have been terrified, on numerous occasions.  

But, the one thing I have never done is lumped a group of people into a pile and believed all of them were bad, because one of them tried to kill me.  That is illogical, but more importantly it is not following God's teachings of love.  

Along with my Grandfather, my parents also gave me a very simple gift.  They not only taught me the Golden Rule, they preached it.  Any time I made a mistake and treated someone badly, one of them would ask, "How would you feel if that had been you?"  It took me awhile, as I am not always the swiftest learner, but eventually the Golden Rule hit home.  

I saw kids in High School, who were teased because they didn't have the nicest clothes.  I wondered how I would have felt.  I saw a college roommate treated differently, because he was Black.  I wondered how I would have felt.  I saw people denied job interviews, because they didn't "know" the right people, but were more qualified.  I wondered how I would have felt.  

Today, I see people being judged and ridiculed because they come from a foreign land and have a strange religion.  I wonder how I would feel, if it was me...if I was trying to save my family from stray bullets and bombs that had nothing to do with me....if I was hungry and just wanted food....if I just wanted to lay down, with my arms tight around my family in a place where I did not have to worry about any of us being killed..........How would I feel?

I would feel like coming to America, because contrary to what some people will tell you; America IS GREAT.  America IS a place of hope.  America is a place where I could get off a boat or plane and upon working hard...I could be CEO of ANY Fortune 100 Company.  That is how I would feel, if I were a refugee.  

It is not about being Conservative or is about the Legacy I wish to leave.............

If we can't agree......can't we at least be civil?