Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day, Dad?

I always get a little melancholy on Father's Day. It's been 31 years without the ability to talk with my father. There is still a faint pain that continues to linger. I think of him regularly.

I blogged The Importance of Fatherhood in June 2013. As I reread this blog, I thought of current topics and issues I'd love to discuss with my father. So I'm picking up where I left off.

Dad, I'd love to discuss with you the critical issues facing our country and our world, including:
- the epidemic of gun violence, gun safety and gun control (the US leads the world in gun-related deaths)
- healthcare issues and the out-of-control costs (nearly 23% of North Carolinians don't have healthcare coverage)
- the opioid epidemic (over 130 people die from opioid overdoses every day)
- the issues surrounding abortion (Alabama just passed a bill that ALL abortions are against the law including those for women who become pregnant by rape and incest)
- the profound cynicism assaulting democracy including the surge of right-wing populism (the GOP has turned its back on reducing the debt, a popular talking point with them until 2016)
- the eroding of principle-based leadership (including pleasure without conscience and business without ethics)
- the lack of compassion for the poor (more than 3 billion people in the world live on less than $2.50/day)
- building more walls to keep people out rather than longer tables to invite people in to break bread
- The FBI revealed it has been tracking "Bigfoot" AKA: Yeti, Sasquatch
- The US Navy revealed we are not alone ... UFOs are real

Dad, I would like to talk with you about ...

... security and privacy are huge issues in our lives today. It goes way beyond locking doors and walking in well-lit areas at night. There is literally only one computer on planet earth today. It's called the Internet. While it's an incredible tool and resource, there are those who use it to take advantage of others like getting access to personal information. It's even impacted our election outcomes. What do you think?

A big part of the Internet is called social media. Social media revolves around personal connections via locations called websites and applications. Some social media, like LinkedIn, is about business relationships. Then there are social media like Facebook and Twitter where we can share personal thoughts, information, and opinions. I've come to the conclusion social media like Facebook and Twitter is anything but a picnic with friends and family. Social media seems to warp and distort everything. It feeds and stimulates obsessions and brings out the bully in people. Our current President of the United States loves to use the social media application, Twitter. Do you think real men should tweet?

Dad, the current President of the United States, is unlike any other president this country has ever had in your lifetime or mine since your passing in 1988. He has an unbelievable over-the-top ego. He is very thin-skinned, lacks grace, humility and compassion. His presidency has brought out the worst behavior in people. "Leaders" who support him have revealed a lack of values and principles. Politicians who I thought I knew what they stood for, have shown they value getting reelected with the help of big-money over logical, rational, life-enhancing legislation for us. I would love to hear your thoughts and observations!

This president has done nothing to unify the divide in this country and has added to the anger among us more than I have ever experienced. Our relationships seem to be based on finding connections with others who hate the same people or issues we do. Personally, I do not trust him. I am afraid we have become ignorant of the peril of America's soul. Dad, it looks like he may run again in 2020. Would you vote for him?

Dad, I think we take ourselves way too seriously today, beginning with this president. The average child laughs 300 times a day. While the average adult laughs less than 50 times a day, I'm not sure I have ever seen the POTUS laugh! We need to be more child-like. We all need to read or reread Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

We have a lot of unrest in the country around racism, white supremacy and privilege. Racism is an epidemic. Harvard professor, David Williams, a leading researcher on race and health, states 200 black Americans die every day, who would not have died if the health status of blacks and whites were equal. We are waking up to the fact that equality is not equity. We are facing the fact that white supremacy is the overwhelming number of older white males who have power and control of our government, our corporations, our media, our sports teams, our educational institutions, our religious institutions (even God is depicted as an authoritarian, older white man with a white beard) and women's bodies. Dad, what are your thoughts?

I have come to discover I have an implicit bias towards people of color based upon my socialization. I am working to overcome this. As you may recall, most of my early life was being around people at school, church and organizations who looked like me. There was no diversity in my Boy Scout troop, Sunday school class or the swim club to which we belonged. Knowing what you know now, what might you have done differently?

Dad, I recognize the tailwinds of privilege I have received. Were you aware that while you got the benefit of the GI Bill having served in WWII your Black military cohorts did not? Were you aware how FHA housing loans that benefited our family were not available to people of color? I have had the privilege of tailwinds including growing up white, being male, being Christian, being able-bodied, being heterosexual, and even being right-handed! I am not ashamed of my privilege, but I'm learning I need to use my privilege to help my underprivileged neighbor.

"People with privilege have the power to deconstruct the single stories that dehumanize others."
                                                  - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Dad, we are coming to understand being any sexual orientation other than heterosexual is not deviant behavior. Your granddaughter found love and got married to another woman. We are so happy for them. Isn't that one of the greatest joys, when your children find love? I'd love to have a conversation with you about what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer. 
Dad, this is still one of my favorite Kodak Moments of you. I always loved the picture of Mother you had over your desk. It's the reason I have a picture of Terri over my desk. It continues to remind me of what is important in life - relationships. I also loved seeing Poco laying on your desk. You had a wonderful relationship with that dog! I, too, have a similar relationship with our rescue named Jackson. Jackson reminds me and reteaches me what unconditional love is and how essential it is in our lives. I'm still a work in progress.

Dad, I still remember a couple of years before you died, you came over to our home. We had a serious conversation about moving our company forward. I remember in great detail, concerns we shared with each other. Then, I recall quite vividly, standing up, looking into each other's eyes and saying to each other, "I love you." We hugged! I'm not sure we had ever said those words to each other before. I am not sure we had hugged before. It does not matter because I am so grateful for that memory and the gift of telling each other. I wish I could repeat that with you today. I love telling our daughter and son, "I love you," and I love hearing it back from them. Every time this happens, I think of you.

Dad, I apologize for all the heavy conversation about storms brewing in life. Thank you for listening. I believe one of the great lessons you taught me was when I experience the "hurricanes" of life, find the "eye" and dance! It is in the eye of the hurricane I find life is good. Thank you!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

TIME On The Road*

Typical pack of Timeless Time in its typical drop!
“Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.”    ― David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

I began noticing Timeless TIME on the street in our neighborhood back in 2013 when Jackson and I would walk. Usually we would find a Timeless TIME hard pack opened with a couple of cigarettes missing once or twice a month along a quarter mile stretch of Haw Creek Circle here in Asheville, NC. I started documenting these sightings with my smart phone and posting pictures on Facebook. I have over 60 photos of Timeless TIME taken over the past several years in different conditions and at different seasons of the year.

“It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.”  ― Vincent van Gogh

It's an ongoing mystery! 

Why does someone do this? Are they a closet smoker and don't wish to be found out? 

A hard pack of Timeless TIME costs nearly $5.00/hard pack or about $0.25/cigarette here in North Carolina. With 16 to 17 cigarettes left in the pack, this smoker tosses about $4.00 on the street. Why?

Why does the toss, drop or pitch seem to occur in this same area? What makes this area of road so attractive or special to toss the remaining Timeless TIME cigarettes?

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”                                                   ― Susan Sontag

A crushed and broken pack of Timeless Time.
Who is this mystery smoker? A couple of neighbors have an idea or at least a theory. There is a thin, lanky, bare-chested, long haired, dark sun glassed, gentleman who "jogs" in our neighborhood known as "Running Man," (although he waddles more like a duck when he runs!) He's been spotted driving slowly in his car through our neighborhood smoking. We can't be certain Timeless TIME is his cigarette of choice but he is a prime suspect! A couple of well-placed trail cams with motion detectors might reveal the mystery smoker and confirm the theory. But then my Facebook page would become boring ...

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”     ― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Only once...something different!
I did find a hard pack of menthol Marlboro cigarettes along the side of the road one time with the same MO - couple of cigarettes missing. Maybe this smoker's regular store was out of Timeless TIME? 
Why does this person smoke Timeless TIME? 

Timeless TIME reviews:

"I am now smoking your menthol 100 lights in the light green color box and really like them. Would like to have some coupons."     - bktenorio6             
"I really love the menthol 100 full flavor of Timeless Time cigarettes. Really hoping the tobacco isn't sprayed with radiation though." - Lori Ann

"Were do I start. Boy do these make me feel like a bag of shit. I tried them becuase there only 4 bucks a pack and I'l never smoke another cigarette again in my life because of these. I smoke one and they made me feel like shit the rest of the day. At first I didnt believe in that FSC stuff but after smokin these I see its true. I had headache stomach ache confusion, flet like vomitting all of the symptoms. Please avoid these try roll your owns instead" - xmaner

Timeless TIME cigarettes are made by KT&G Global, headquartered in South Korea. They've been manufacturing cigarettes for over 110 years. They are a market leader selling their cigarettes in over 50 countries around the world. They recognize they are selling a dangerous product as noted on their webpage: "While operating in a most controversial industry, we take pride in the way we run our business Sustainably & Responsibly. We will continue to deliver our value to our stakeholders today and tomorrow by investing in our people and our processes."
Several packs of Timeless TIME from a 6 to 8 week period.
And yes, I do pick up this "litter" and dispose of it properly!
It has been suggested that I created this as a prank! First of all, I'm not a smoker and never have been. My father smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day, and I'm convinced they were a contributing cause of his untimely death of a massive heart attack at age 62 in 1988.
“I'm afraid of time ... I mean, I'm afraid of not having enough time. Not enough time to understand people, how they really are, or to be understood myself. I'm afraid of the quick judgements or mistakes everybody makes. You can't fix them without time. I'm afraid of seeing snapshots, not movies.”                                              ― Ann Brashares 

Second, I'm too cheap to spend this kind money on a prank! 

It's also been suggested that this some kind of way to deal drugs or pass on information. 
“Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.”  ― Paulo Coelho

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” ― William Penn

“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
― Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie  

OK. I've given this blog enough Timeless TIME. It's TIME to move on! Love to hear your thoughts, ideas or questions!

* Title credit goes to high school friend, Donnie Goodwin

Monday, March 12, 2018

Guns, Guns, Everywhere There's Guns...

"My sister Wendy died by suicide with a gun, and my son, Galen, was killed in a school shooting. How do I pierce America's complacent hide? I am fed up with carefully worded essays. I'm fed up with vigils, candles and moments of silence, and I think America is too. Perhaps my next sound bite should be a snarl. I know of a survivor who has crime-scene photograph of her daughter's bullet-riddled corpse. When she speaks with politicians about gun laws, she shows them the photograph. I have a similar photograph of my son. Perhaps the time has come to use it." Georgy Gibson in The New York Times.

It is time we have an evidence/fact based conversation about guns in the United States. The mass killings have got to stop. It's time we paid attention to the Center for Disease Control and the Institute of Health and allow them into this conversation to study and share the facts on death by guns. I know we will not like what they will report, but the NRA can no longer control the conversation or the politicians they support. We need to end the practice of willful blindness.

Me firing an M16 at Parris Island MCRC, SC, March 2013.
Let me begin by saying I have shot an M16, the military version of the AR15. It is fun! It nudges that primitive urge to take down that imaginary enemy in my site.

Let's acknowledge the purpose of a gun. A gun is a machine to dispense death. Guns have only two purposes: for sport/hunting and for killing another human whether for protection or murder. If you only want to stop a human being without killing him or her, consider a taser.

An assault weapon is designed to create imminent destruction of another human being. An assault weapon is not a hunting rifle unless you are hunting human beings. Go to Google and learn of the creation of the assault weapon. You will find it was designed for the military to kill enemy combatants. Legitimizing the ownership and use of assault weapons by the 2nd amendment "logic" also means any U.S. citizen should be able to own hand grenades, land mines and missiles. After all, the 2nd amendment calls for a well regulated armed militia. 

I have been researching the facts and talking with people about guns here in the United States. Here is what I know for sure:

There are over 300 million guns in the United States.

Video games do not contribute to mass shootings. Google Patrick Markey, PhD, professor of Psychology at Villanova on his studies that show 80% of the mass shooters had no interest in violent video games.

You can be 18 years old to purchase an assault rifle. I am fine with an 18 year old purchasing a gun, but not an assault rifle. After all, we allow 18 year olds to join the military and train them in combat. Since we are teaching 18 year olds how to kill, I believe they should also be allowed to drink alcoholic beverages.

With rights come responsibility. You own a restaurant, you get health inspections. To drive a car, you need a license to show mental competence, good vision, insurance and to pass a driving test. Not so with guns. There is no federal law to prove competence. There is no requirement to demonstrate sound mental health or excellent vision.

Presently 700,000 names are missing from the federal background check because there is no national mandate. However, 97% of Americans agree that there should be universal background checks for gun ownership.

Every country in the civilized world has common sense laws on gun ownership and policies to protect its citizens except for the United States of America. You want to own a gun in Canada? You need to provide character references. 

Remember the 60s philosophy, "If it feels good, do it!"? That is the line adapted by the NRA. The NRA operates on fear. The NRA uses fear to keep us believing criminals and terrorists are everywhere. We react much like when we hear about a shark attack and stay out of the ocean even if the shark attack was a 1,000 miles away.

The automobile industry has the right to manufacture cars and they also have the responsibility to make them safe. I remember our car growing up did not have seat belts, airbags, safety glass or a mirror on the passenger side of the car. Today's cars are much safer because auto manufacturers have taken responsibility for adding safety.

Did you know the NRA is 501(c)(4) organization? That status means as an organization, the NRA is to operate exclusively to promote social welfare, primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements. Yet, the NRA has thwarted making guns safer. Our politicians are afraid of the NRA but addicted to their money. The NRA believes more guns are necessary to protect us, yet they fight gun safety. The NRA has blocked technology that would make guns safer. The NRA has thwarted CDC and IHS from studying gun deaths and reporting findings. The NRA lacks the courage to have a critical thinking discussion on what would truly make Americans safer. To ask Ms. Sights, my 60-something year old kindergarten teacher, or any of my grade school teachers to be armed in my classroom lacks logic and rational. 

"Giving teachers guns in schools is like giving passengers who board an airplane guns in case there is a hijacker aboard."  - Dr. David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health and an expert on the public health impact of gun violence. From what I've read, giving guns to every teacher in the United States for the purpose of taking out an active shooter will only work if their weapons can be accessed in an instant.

The same forefathers who created the 2nd amendment also created and justified the laws for slavery and women not having the right to vote. How is it we came to realize slavery and women not allowed to vote were evil and wrong, yet still justify a very broad interpretation of the 2nd amendment regarding firearms?

If you study the history of the creation of the 2nd amendment, you will find that gun ownership during colonial times was used to suppress the voices of the disenfranchised. Women and slaves could not own or use guns. Selling guns to Native Americans was illegal. Guns were THE staple of "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of (some of) the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The primary purpose of a "well regulated militia" was to keep slaves from uprising and starting rebellions. Study the Bacon Rebellion and Stono Rebellion. This is what our forefather's feared more than anything - a slave uprising. The greatest fear our Colonial forefather leaders had was that the British would confiscate their guns and give them to slaves to create rebellions and uprisings. If you are willing to learn more about this, read Nancy Isenberg's White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America and Michele Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

“…one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I’ve ever seen in my life time. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies—the militias—would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.” 
                        - Chief Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger 

When the 14th amendment ended slavery, gun ownership by white men was a considered essential and preventing blacks from owning guns was part of the Jim Crow era. To this day, white gun ownership is deemed essential and black gun ownership undesirable. Recall 2015 when Philando Castile, a black man who had a license to carry a gun and was following protocol, announcing he was legally carrying a gun when pulled over while driving, was killed by a white police officer while reaching for his ID. The NRA did nothing to support Castile's right to carry a gun.

What do you know now that you did not know before? Are you willing to have a thoughtful, critical conversation on guns to reduce death by guns?

I have been careful to check and recheck my sources for this blog so as not flame "fake news." I welcome legitimate, thoughtful challenges to what I have written. 

Postscript: Photos from March For Our Lives in Asheville, NC, March 24, 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Happy New Year?

Children go where I send thee
How shall I send thee?
I'm gonna send thee two by two
Two by Paul and Silas… 

                                         - African-American Traditional

While the beginning of a new year is a great time to push a reset button, I don't do new year resolutions.

I do spend time noodling about a word to focus on for the coming year and create a relationship with that word that leads me to be more healthy, more mindful, more thoughtful, more humble, and more loving with the ultimate goal of helping me leave 2018 better than when it started.

Some words I've been trying on include:

Advance - Some believe retreats should be called advances as in moving forward rather than backwards. Advance suggests being open and creating possibilities, forging a new path, looking with new eyes and hearing with new ears.

Vigilant - To be vigilant means to be awake, to be present, to be aware.

Delight - Delight seems to be calling me to reconnect with gratitude and not take people or things for granted. Finding delight in the ordinary can make people and things extraordinary.

Surrender - Surrender doesn't do it for me. It seems to say settle. I believe I unknowing surrendered last year. Surrender, has that link to the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr which caused me to reconsider:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The word that seems to be calling me is resilience.

Even though resilience is a noun, it is call to action. It is a challenge to fight entropy. To be resilient is to stop being complacent, to stop shrugging one's shoulders and stop saying, 'It is what it is,' 'Whatever,' and 'Not my circus, not my monkeys!' Resilience is a call to take a stand. It's a call to face and act upon that mega vision, "What kind of world do I wish to create for tomorrow's child?"

The scallop shell is the iconic symbol for pilgrims to look for and follow on the Camino de Santiago to reach the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. There are different routes pilgrims can take to reach St. Jame's tomb. Like all the different possible routes to Santiago, the lines of the scallop shell converge to one point.

The call for resilience is to find the route that brings us together. I challenge you to join the pilgrimage. It may be inconvenient. You may have a load of excuses. It will be messy. You may not enjoy the journey. It is necessary. It needs to begin now. Come struggle with me! Become resilient!