Happy Thanksgiving

I hope that this Thanksgiving finds you wherever you wish to be. Around a table with friends and family eating a good meal, quietly enjoying a day to yourself, volunteering with the less fortunate. No matter how you spend the day however, I hope that you are thankful. Thankful to have the sun upon your face. Thankful to have food upon your table. Thankful to have people who love you and whom you love.

The following link is a brief video history of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. From its possible origins at Plymouth Rock to its declaration as a U.S. holiday by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. It is the creation of the staff at the History channel, but I thought it was worth a little publicity.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. Eat well, laugh, and take a few minutes to reflect on everything you have. Despite highs and lows in our lives, we are lucky indeed.

A video history of Thanksgiving in the United States

This is not a political statement…

…no, we’ve had and will have enough of those in the past few days, weeks, and months and in the days, weeks, and months to come.

This is not a political statement…this is a statement on American politics.

The American political process is a deeply flawed and broken system.  It needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.  In speaking with people throughout this recent political campaign, regardless of which way they voted in the end, Republican, Democrat, or third party, the common theme I heard was that people were embarrassed with our nation and this system. They were frustrated with the candidates put forth, and they felt that they were voting for the “lesser of two evils” rather than a candidate that they truly believed in.

I sum up my personal thoughts on politics and politicians as this:   I believe that our nation’s leaders should be people we hold in high regard, people who would and should act as role models for our children and the rest of us in society.  Unfortunately, I view most politicians as reverse-role models. I point them out to my children as a symbol of how NOT to conduct yourself.  The pettiness, the nastiness, the unethical and immoral behavior; these are not the traits that I have striven to instill in my children and it is embarrassing that these are the traits that our politicians display on an ongoing basis, and in front of the American people and the world. They are no different than the classic sleazy used-car salesmen. They will say whatever needs to be said to get elected, then wash their hands and walk away while we drive off in our clunker.

So how do we fix this system, and can it be fixed?

The second part of that question is the easiest part to answer: Yes, it can be fixed. Of course, it can be fixed.  By involvement, by speaking out, by voting not against a candidate, but instead, for a candidate that you believe in. By knowing that there is no “wasted vote” when you vote your conscience, contrary to what many would have you believe. Twenty hours ago, a CNN headline read: How Gary Johnson and Jill Stein helped elect Donald Trump.”  This is a profoundly foolish statement. It implies that voters who voted their conscience “wasted their vote.” I would argue that their vote was LESS wasted than that of someone who chose to simply vote against “the lesser of the two evils.”

The first part of the questions, however – how do we fix this system – is not as easy to answer. Here I will present my thoughts. I hope that others will see some logic in some of these and perhaps add to them, and that a firestorm demanding changes that benefit us – the people – be ignited.

The Two-Party System and the Debates

democraticlogoIn this nation, we have created a belief that we operate on a two-party system. This is in fact false. The Democrats and the Republicans are by far the largest U.S. parties, but not the only ones. There is the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Worker’s Party, and on and on.  The Democrats and Republicans would like you to believe otherwise, though.republican-elephant

We need to reform this attitude with our system on who can and can’t be a part of the Presidential debates.  This year, only Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took the stage for the debates. This is due to an arbitrary decision that a candidate must be polling at 15% to be invited.  This is wrong.  If a candidate achieves the right to be placed on the ballot in all 50 states, they should automatically be included in the Presidential debates. I, for one, would have really liked to have seen and heard more from Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. I am sure many would have liked to have heard more from Jill Stein. We have forgotten that third parties have a following and a right to be heard. We have libertarian_party-svgforgotten that once upon a time it wasn’t the Democrats and the Republicans but the Federalists and the Whigs. Other parties rose however, and now they have a voice, and that should be no different for third parties today.

The Debates

This is a section all in its own, but a short one.  The debates need to become just that – debates. Not two (or more based on my previous idea) sour-faced individuals spouting rhetoric and innuendo: DEBATES. Asked a question; answer the question. Answer with what THEY will do, not their opinion of what their opponent WON’T do.  We are not interested in opinions; we want your plan. Moderators need to take greater control of the debate. When a candidate gets off topic, or makes the famous green_party_of_the_united_states_earthflower_official_logostatement “before I answer the question I want to go back…,” the moderator needs to firmly cut them off and tell them “No, answer the question posed.”  When the candidate, as they always do, continues on, the moderator needs to have the authority to shut off the candidates’ microphone.  I have grown tired of debates that are rhetoric-filled “pissing” matches where I learn nothing substantive about the candidates’ positions. This needs to be corrected.

Election Funding

As with the debates, any recognized party that meets the criteria for placement on the 50 states ballots should receive equal federal funding to the other parties. The ability of the ustaxtwo major parties to outspend the third parties keeps additional thoughts and voices from being heard a time when we most need to hear them.

Additionally, Political Action Committees (PACs) need to be abolished.  NO ONE in America should be able to “buy” or financially influence any candidate or party. The era of political favoritism needs to come to an end.

Election Day News Coverage

So, this one will peak a bit of controversy due to the constitutional right to “Freedom of the Press,” but I think we need to place a moratorium on election day news coverage.  No exit polls, no state-by-state electoral college updates, no analysis from newscasters who really aren’t qualified to give analysis so what we really get is their opinion. Just for the 24-hours of election day. It influences many voters to act in opposition to what they may really be believing is the right course of action. It effects the stock market. It causes to much unnecessary disruption to the operational and election well-being of the nation.

The Nastiness that has become Politics

This is probably the biggest area that needs to be reformed. How do we make it explicitly clear to political candidates that we DO NOT want to hear the relentless negativity and nastiness that campaigning has become?  I find myself embarrassed for our nation and the candidates during the election season. I fail to understand supposedly intelligent, successful, educated individuals acting more childish than 5-year-olds on a playground fighting over a toy.

As a citizen, and a citizen who DOES exercise his right to vote, I am not interested in your opinions of your opponent. I am not interested in your thoughts on your opponent’s platform. I am intelligent enough to make those decision and determinations on my own. I want to know, in fact need to know, your thoughts on your platform. I need to why and how you plan on making changes. I want to know your thoughts on foreign policy, defense, domestic affairs, terrorism. I DO NOT want your opinion on your opponent’s lifestyle decisions, their charitable contributions, that they drive a foreign car, or eat too many hamburgers.  Tell me about you, your team, your policies, and how those policies will improve my life.the-golden-rule-quotes-5

I stated at the beginning of this article that I would never view a politician as being able to be a role model for my children.  That is sad. It is also true.  As children, we are raised to believe in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Why does this go out the window in one of the most important times, and on such a public stage, as it does in politics.

Let’s hope that we will see positive change in campaigning by 2018. While I am not hopeful, I can still have hope.

If it rings true…

This past week, I was at a business meeting and on the wall of one of the hallways in the building was a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. The quote was:

“I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”

I was quite taken by the quote. We all have our own interpretations of what great quotes mean, and to me this quote meant that I don’t have to win but I must be honest – with

Lincoln 1858

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

others, and with myself; and, I may not always be successful, but if I live up to the talents that life has provided me, then success is more in that detail than the actual outcome of the endeavor.

Since the quote struck a chord with me, I decided that I wanted to blog about it and its meaning to me. As I researched the quote further, however, I discovered that while often attributed to Lincoln, there is in fact no evidence that Abraham Lincoln ever said this.

I was disappointed. Abraham Lincoln is a hero of mine. When I was a boy, I dreamed that one day I would be President of the United States and Lincoln was my role model (I will also tell you that as an adult watching the embarrassing carnival freak show that is U.S. politics I am DAMNED glad that I am not in politics at all).

Then I had this realization. If it rings true…does it matter that it wasn’t a quote by Abraham Lincoln? Does it diminish the value that the statement had to me?  No, it doesn’t.  It doesn’t really matter who said the words. It’s if the words have value: to me, to you, to one, to a million.

I laugh at all of us as human beings sometimes. We come to place our athletes, our politicians, and our celebrities on such pedestals that if they were to say, “I had tomato soup for lunch,” the world would spin on its head at what a deep and astute statement that was. We are a funny lot.  That was proven to me by my initial disappointment that the quote wasn’t Lincoln’s. I don’t know who made this quote originally, but I thank them for their insight and wisdom.

What else do we do in life that mirrors this type of behavior? We all know that celebrities make great pitchmen (and women) in advertising.  They are frequently in the news supporting politicians, or standing up for animal rights, chaining themselves to trees to protect the forest, and on.  Why should this person have any more sway over your opinion than you have over your own opinion? Aren’t we supposed to be free thinkers? We’re not always going to be right and succeed, but as the quote so eloquently asks, have you been true? Have you lived up to your light?  Only you can decide what your “light” is.

Now let’s set my little rant here aside.  Read the quote again.  Do you agree? How do you live this quote in your everyday life? If one hundred people read this quote it is reasonable that there are one hundred varying interpretations, but that they all probably fall along the same line. Take your interpretation and apply it to your life.

As always, thank you for reading my Senseless Ramblings.  For those of you who have followed my posts in the past, I apologize that I have been away for a while. Life gets busy sometimes. I am hopeful that I will be back more frequently again.

Stay true.

Looking back…Looking ahead!

While I started writing the Senseless Rambling blog in 2014, I feel that 2015 was the year that it really started to come together. I don’t know why. So I want to summarize highlights (life highlights, not just blog) of the year past and my hopes for the year to come.

First and most importantly: Thank you to all the people who have stopped to read a post or look at a picture. I have appreciated your likes and follows. I appreciate the reach that my small little page has had. I have had readers from 15 different countries, including Canada, Russia, India, Japan, England, and of course here at home in the United States. I have enjoyed new friendships made, even if in cyberspace.

2015 was a huge year in my life and that of my family. Many things happened, both good and bad. So before I look ahead to 2016,

Let’s take a look back…

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2015 started with a trip to New York State. My youngest was accepted to the State University of New York at Albany and we drove over to look at the campus and talk to an adviser in her program. January is not really the prime time of year to drive 10 hours across Michigan, Ontario Canada, and upstate New York, but you go when you gotta go, especially when this is your child’s #1 college choice on the list. We really found Albany to be a pretty, active, and interesting town, but after touring the university, my daughter decided it wasn’t for her. I support my kids in whatever they decide, but the dad in me would be lying if he said he 16223_10204588372383722_2140344112163685114_nwasn’t a little relieved: 10 hours is a long way from home! The side trip to New York City was well worth the adventure however. My wife had never been and I hadn’t been in 20 years. We all had a great day traipsing around Manhattan seeing the sights.

 

A couple of years ago, my son, the oldest of our kids, relocated to Los Angeles, California. In February, my wife got an opportunity to travel to LA to visit him. She had a great time and gained the valuable experience (and stress) of driving on the SoCal freeways. Due to work, I was unable to go, but she had a great visit and got to see other family as well, as California is my home state and my family all live in the greater LA area.

She returned to Michigan just in time for me to hop aboard the train and take a quick trip to Chicago to see the Detroit Red Wings battle the Chicago Black 10984040_10205075883409208_8549791197190978495_nHawks at the United Center. With the changes to the conference boundaries the prior year, the Black Hawks are no longer in the same conference as the Wings, thus they only play a couple of times a year. This has always been an epic rivalry though, and my fellow Michiganders, many of whom live in Chicago and many who traveled from Michigan presented an impressive and united front. The Wings won, which is even better, and made the sub-zero temperatures bearable. Special thanks to my nephew who lives in Chicago with his wife for A) going to the game with me, and B) for giving me a place to stay the night.

In April, my youngest turned 18 – an adult. When did this happen? I still clearly remember my little girl who made faces and made us all laugh at her comedienne antics.

Right after we celebrated the birthday, my daughter and my wife were off! 21297_10205026276131042_6966113743023924834_nSpring break! Myrtle Beach, SC. Again, I was trapped in my work world, but they had a fantastic seven days in South Carolina soaking up the sun, lying on the beach, walking the pier, going to a comedy club. I was so happy that they had a very special week together.

On the down side for late March, April, and into May was that I got sick. What I thought was a minor head cold developed into an extreme bacterial sinus infection and bronchitis. I have never been so sick in my life. I missed more work than I ever have. I lost 20 pounds and it took two rounds of antibiotic and three trips to the doctor to get it resolved. I am sure that I spent far more time sleeping than awake, but it did eventually go away. Eventually (unfortunately), I did manage to find those misplaced 20 pounds.

When you work in law enforcement you tend to work in a more reactive mode than proactive. Sure we plan for ways to avoid bad things happening, but the reality is that the world is a wild place and we spend more time in this career field reacting to the idiocies of other humans than planning for how to keep those things from happening. In May, I and three of my partners were awarded a life-saving award for just such an incident from late in the previous year. A prisoner in our city detention center attempted to hang herself. Due to proactive training and procedure, we were able to react to the situation as it occurred, cut the woman down, and save her life. This was the second time in my career that I have received this award and both were for very similar situations. I am glad that this chapter of my career is behind me – more on that later. To my partners (as they are still there) stay strong, be vigilant, look out for each other, and remember the most fundamental goal of our career: everyone goes home at the end of the shift!

Diploma in handAt the very end of May, my youngest, my “baby-bird” as I have taken to calling her, graduated high school. What pride at such an accomplishment and the great college choice she had made. She was the last of my children to go. Bittersweet. No more sporting events or choir concerts. Life sets major changes upon our heads from time-to-time and this was one. Not a bad change, just one that needs adapting to. For my daughter, a life at college, away from home. For my wife and me, we’re empty nesters. The house is very quiet. Sometimes too quiet. Sometimes gloriously quiet. As I said bittersweet, but far, far more sweet than bitter. Those kids make me so proud every day, how could it be anything else.

In July my wife and I made our annual 4th of July pilgrimage to the Upper UP 4thPeninsula. We visited with family, watched the parade, and otherwise just hung out. We have done this every year since 1999 and it is a tradition that I can’t imagine not continuing. I love Michigan’s glorious UP. So rugged and beautiful. It is, as the bumper stickers say, “God’s Country.”

Now, if you remember, I didn’t get to go to Myrtle Beach for Spring Break due to work. Neither did my older daughter, as she is already in college and her schedule did not sync with her sisters high school schedule. So in July, she and I took our own “Spring Break,” to one of my absolute most favorite places in the world – Toronto, Canada.

11666139_10207350677512109_1078765563397942095_nToronto is my New York City. I love Toronto! My wife and I spent our honeymoon 25 years ago there; I took my son there 4 years ago, and I will take my younger daughter there in another year and a half.
Toronto has so much to do and is so multi-cultural. My daughter and I went to the Toronto Zoo (they had visiting exhibit of pandas, my daughters FAVORITE animal; and yes!, they are as cute in person as they are in YouTube videos), the CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, the Ontario Science Center. We rode Segway’s in the PandaDistillery District, and took a walking tour of downtown Toronto’s most haunted sites. We ate in an Irish Pub where everyone except us was literally from Ireland, and the cherry on the sundae (at least for me), we toured the Hockey Hall of Amelia TorontoFame.

Toronto was a good prelude to two big events that would happen the next month. Not bad events, but big. The first, we moved my youngest daughter into her college dorm. OMG…this is real! The house is really going to be empty! Number two: Two days after moving her in, I turned 50. You can read my blog post on turning 50 here.

September passed quietly and October found us traveling again. This time just a short few hour trip to the Indiana/Kentucky border for our nieces wedding. The wedding was absolutely beautiful, as was the bride. Both the ceremony and the reception were held at a 200-year-old plantation and the setting was perfect. My brother-in-law, a chef, prepared all the food which was delicious. It was also, quite frankly, amazing as he was also the father of the bride! How some people can squeeze 30 hours out of 24 I will never know, but he can.

A quick aside, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. During the reception, several hundred miles away, the Michigan State University Spartan football team had a miraculous and devastating football win over the University of Michigan Wolverines! As a Spartan fan, I was more than happy Crisp Pointwith this!

At the end of October our son came for a visit. This was the first I had seen him in a year and a half. It was a great visit and he and I enjoyed a special father/son trip up to our beloved Upper Peninsula. We mostly relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet, but the trip to the Crisp Point lighthouse on Lake Superior was a definite highlight. It was a perfect Fall day and the view was amazing.

Unfortunately, sad things happen too, and just a couple of days after returning to California my son called me to tell me that my older brother had passed away. I won’t go into any detail as my blog on that experience is here. To my sister-in-law, niece, and nephews, however; I hope that 2016 sees an ease to the pain of your loss and that you cherish the memories of your husband and father. The pain will lessen; the memories brighten, and rest knowing how proud he was of each and every one of you.

The rest of the year has passed pretty unremarkably. Holidays with family. Winter setting in. Girls home from college for few weeks. The highlight of the last month of the year: I retired from my job and accepted a new position with a new police agency. The new position however, won’t require me to wear a uniform, or work midnight shift. I will no longer work holidays or weekends. I will get to spend my evening and weekends at home with my beautiful and lovely wife. My interactions will be with police departments and no longer with arrestee’s. If I never have to stop a suicide again, it will be too soon.

I want to add one more thing here, and I am getting on my soap box a little. Since it’s my blog, I can do that! Please continue to support and respect your local police. We have received so much negative press in the past couple of years. The media is quick to point the finger of blame and make spontaneous accusations. They are equally slow to retract these accusations when they are proven wrong. This is sad because the media has immense power to reach out into people’s lives, and to do so without any moral or ethical compass is a disservice to the society they serve. I fear that the scrutiny of the media of late will cause an officer to hesitate when they shouldn’t and get killed. Simply because while the officer actions might be justified, they will hesitate at the thought of “how will the media portray this?” Police officers, corrections officers, fire fighters, and military are all a unique breed of people who put their lives on the line to protect others. 99.999% of those are hard-working, honest individuals. No career should be viewed through the prism of the “bad seed.” There will always be those, but they are such an insubstantial portion, and they pervade all fields of endeavor.

Let’s take a look ahead…

For 2016, I wish each and every one of you happiness and joy. I wish you time with family and friends. I wish you much love and laughter. I hope that your times of sadness will be few and short. I hope that you have people in your life that can lift you up and comfort you when needed.

I wish these same things for myself and my family. I look forward to 2016 and all it holds.

For my son who is going back to college after some time away: may you find success, happiness, and continued growth. I love you and am so very, very proud of you. Be proud of yourself and keep inspiring those around you.

For my older daughter I wish continued success at school. You are such a committed, focused, and on-target young lady. Rarely does one find a person who has such a map of their life in mind at such a young age. I love you and look forward to great things to come.

To my “baby-bird.” Wow! Have you ever excelled in your new life away at school. I know that you’re still not sure what your future holds, but it will come and you have time, so lay that worry elsewhere. I am so proud of you, of the young lady you continue to become, and of the new challenges you undertake. I love you and love watching you write new “chapters” every day.

To my most lovely! It is just you and I again, my dear. Just like in the beginning. Gregg-AnnTwenty-five years and I love you more than the day I first met you. I look forward to all that our future holds for us. New adventures and new things to see, learn, and do. I’m a crotchety old crap, but I’m your crotchety old crap!

Happy New Year, everyone. Blessings.

Rambler

Happy Holidays

To everyone who reads my blog or otherwise see my posts on various social media, I want to wish you all a very, very happy holiday season.  Regardless of your faith or beliefs, I hope that you have a wonderful season and that the new year greets you warmly and offers hopes for a fulfilling New Year.

See you again in 2016!

Merry_Christmas

To all my friends around the world!

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Faced with the growing depths of the Great Depression as he entered office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to lift the spirit of Americans in his first inaugural address.  His famous statement that we

Franklin-D-Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States 1933 – 1945

have nothing to fear but fear itself,” has become one of the great and oft-repeated lines of our nation, and it is a line that bears repeating today, not only as we climb from another recession, but as we find ourselves at the forefront of a new war, the war on terrorism.

In the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the rhetoric against Muslims has grown immensely.  Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a halt to immigration into the United States from those countries that are on our “watch” list.  Many Americans have taken up his cry and are standing behind this man whom I personally find more treacherous than any outside power. I would argue that we are simply allowing ourselves to become victims of our fear, and not of reality, by doing so.

In recent weeks and years, not just since San Bernardino but really going back to 9/11, the amount of hateful vitriol that I have seen people post on places like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter is shocking.  People whom I consider educated, well-reasoned people post and re-post messages of hate and fear. They make odd, unfounded arguments that the Koran is a book of evil and that all followers of it are enemies of Christianity and thus the United States. They are equally shocked that radical Muslims think Christians to be infidels and believe the bible to be an equally evil book.

How can we think we have such an incredible insight and world-view when in reality our eyes are so tightly shut? Hasn’t history shown us that to lump all people together based on their race, gender, national origin, religion, or any other means that differentiates them from another group is a recipe for disaster; a recipe that fosters and creates a “stew” of hate, pain, oppression, and ignorance.

We have to accept people for the individuals that they are. We have to separate the actual human being – the words, the actions, the DNA – from the labels. Are there evil Muslims in the world? Without a doubt.  Are there evil Christians in the world? Again, without a doubt.  In fact, we can list every religion or other factor of human difference here and we can find both immensely evil as well as immensely kind people.

Arbeit

The gate at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp – WWII

The consequences of painting any single group with a wide brush is that we paint over the detail and create a blank, flat expanse.  Perhaps we need to ask a holocaust survivor, or any one of the millions who did not survive, if they deserved their imprisonment and loss solely for being Jewish.  What about all the Japanese-Americans who found themselves in internment camps during World War II solely based on their ancestors national origin?

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Japanese Internment Camp, USA – WWII

Many will argue that today’s situation is not the same.  I argue that it is.  We are allowing fear to rule us. We need to let our common sense guide us. We need to use that fear to come together for good, not to push us apart.  Another great president, Abraham Lincoln, made the famous statement that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” That was in 1858, three years before he became president and the onset of the American Civil War. Almost 160 years later, we still need to learn this. If we drive our fellow American’s apart, based on what happens elsewhere in the world, it is ultimately our “house” that crumbles.

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Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States 1861-1865

America has always been the great melting pot of our world.  We are a nation born of “rabble,” of those who felt they weren’t accepted in their homelands. On that premise we have built a great, strong nation; a nation that endures its hardships. We should not seek to turn others away, but embrace them, show them what it means to be American, and why we fight so hard for what we have. We need to create allies in the faces of our enemies.  Subjecting certain populaces to scorn and fear does not accomplish this task.

We need to unite. Unite as Americans. That means unite as one cohesive group: not a group of whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, etc., but as a human wall who hold shared values and will not allow fear to tear that wall down.coexist