Thursday, February 27, 2020

Jamie's Perspective - Part 2: My Life is a Puzzle

"There are times when Jude is working on a puzzle when two pieces look like they should fit together and he tries so hard to make them work. That sums up the last 9 months of our lives.

After deciding not to renew my contract at the high school and go down to becoming a single income family we quickly found ourselves reduced to a no income family. Mitch got the news right after our Disney family vacation celebrating his parents 40th wedding anniversary. Not exactly the best news to come back to but an answered prayer nonetheless.

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.' Now is when our faith gets tested. What do we put our trust in? The income we were depending on or the belief that God has something better? I’d been praying for him to find a new job but this wasn’t the way I would’ve planned it. Thankfully the first couple of months we were getting my salary from the school since it runs August to August. We cut down to bare the minimum and made the decision to move in with my parents. Life has a way of keeping us humble. I would’ve never thought at 35 years old I’d be living under the same roof as mom and dad. This season of my life has been one filled with unknowns, trust, and faith. It’s very challenging when you struggle significantly with self-control to realize you can’t control the outcome. We went from one temp job to the next giving just enough to make our necessary payments. There were times when we didn’t know how we were going to pay for next weeks bills when another project would creep up at just the right time to cover us and keep us afloat. 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.'

We’ve gone from one hopeful prospect to another. He’s been the top candidate more times than I can count, many of which later came back to say they just decided not to hire for that position after all. What do you do when when your heart gets crushed time after time? When it’s the one you love most in the world taking the brunt of forceful blows? Rejection plays a huge role on our psyche.

Light at the end of the tunnel began to creep through at the start of the new year. Mitch was in the final running for three different positions. One in Austin. Yay, we’d be close to Mitch’s family. The cousins would be able to see each other more often. We could hang out with our siblings. Second position, work from home. Yay, we’d move somewhere close to Dallas putting us closer to my family. I could team up with my cousin in homeschooling our kids together. Both positions are win/win. Then the third position. Indianapolis. Where we know no one. Where we’re far away from our families.

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.' I’d love to say in this moment I did just that but I found myself negotiating with God. Have you ever done that? I knew where he was leading us to before the final interviews took place and I was mad. Why would you take us away from the people we love the most? I had to get to a place where I was willing to go wherever he may lead. Surrendering your desires to his can be one of the hardest things we do but the beauty of it is watching him mold your desires into his.

If you don’t know already, Mitch got the job in Indianapolis. He starts in two weeks. They have been nothing short of amazing. It’s interesting to see what happens when you let go. I can honestly say I am extremely excited about our upcoming adventure. I would’ve never thought a year ago we’d be Hoosiers but it looks that way. We’ve wanted to adopt and we knew wherever we were going the rest of our family is there. We’re looking forward to what lies ahead. Thankful for the time we’ve spent living in the present. Hopeful for what the future has in store. No matter what we’re still Texans at heart.

As Jude the puzzle master would say, 'This piece goes right here.'
"

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday 2020

"Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focused on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God.  The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior."
Thomas Merton

Today, much of Christendom enters the period of Lent.  The 40 days leading up to Easter.  A time of fasting and devotion, mirroring the 40 days of Jesus' temptation in the desert.  And one of the most prominent aspects of Lent is the self-denial.

This often manifests as a goal to give up something for the 40 day period. To give up sweets, alcohol, caffeine, meat, chocolate, fast food, television, internet, etc.  Something that represents a challenge.  That is a true denial.

It's a form of fasting, like the full-fasts on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as the abstinence from meat on Fridays during the period.  In that aspect, it is important to remember the purpose of a fast.

Fasts in scripture are generally used for two purposes: to seek direction or to beg for mercy.

Both require the proper attitude for the fast to be fruitful.  With those purposes, it's easy to see why.  A half-hearted attempt to seek mercy will be clearly seen through and reveal unresolved issues that must be dealt with first.  Likewise, an attempt to seek direction that will likely not be followed is folly.  Both purposes have the ultimate goal of bringing the supplicant closer to God.  That should never be done lightly.

For God warns us of the fasting that He desires.  And of what follows from self-serving fasts.

"For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.  'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?' Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?  Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.   If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yoursevles in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-sorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will rise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
Isaiah 58:2-12

Oh, what the world would be if all of Christendom took these next 40 days to fast as the Lord has indicated.  How far His mercy would go.

May we use this time well.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Fat Tuesday 2020

"It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans."
Mark Twain

Today marks Fat Tuesday.  The end of Carnival, of Mardi Gras.  The end of Shrovetide.  A day of the feast, for tomorrow brings the fast.  The last day before Lent.

Today is a day of celebration. Of joy. It's time for good music and great food. To embody that special joie de vivre.

So grab another slice of king cake or fry up some beignets.  Put on a little Preservation Hall Jazz Band or Marsalis Family.  Add a little rum to the punch.

Celebrate this wonderful world we live in and make an effort to enjoy as much of it as possible.

To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.

Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.

Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CD's in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year--people whose names you may or may not even know but you've watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they're not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?

It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.

Now that part, more than ever.

It's mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88's until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under Claiborne overpass and thrilling the years you find them and lamenting the years you don't and promising yourself you will next year.

It's wearing frightful color combination in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who--like clockwork, year after year--denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the ten bucks for the next one.

Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.
Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic: Post-Katrina Stories.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!


Monday, February 17, 2020

Presidents' Day 2020

Today marks the celebration of Presidents' Day.  Initially, a holiday in celebration of the birthday of President George Washington, the day has expanded to encompass the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as a celebration in honor of all those who have served as president of the United States of America.

In our current day, where our leadership disappoints us, where the divisions of our country seem to be widening, it is encouraging to look back to the exemplary presidents of our past for wisdom and counsel.

It is traditional today for Washington's Farewell Address to be read and it's surprising how much it is still applicable to us today.  He pleas for unity and warns against partisan fighting.  He emphasizes the purpose and importance checks on political power.  He pushes for neutrality and free trade.

I've included an excerpt of text of his address below, with my emphasis added, as well as a bonus at the end.

"Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers."

George Washington
United States - September 17, 1796

One last time.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Jamie's Perspective - Part 1: My Life is a Puzzle

Y'all get a lot from me, so I thought you might appreciate Jamie's perspective on this period and the move.  Here's her part one:

"'This piece goes right there,' I hear Jude say several times throughout his puzzle making. This little dude loves his puzzles. He also doesn’t take too kindly to people putting a piece in the wrong place. He’s not rude, he just knows where they go. I can’t help but think about life in that way. It’s one gigantic puzzle and we don’t know how it’s supposed to look. We keep trying to jam the pieces to fit together the way we want them to, to make us more comfortable, to keep us close to family, to keep us safe from physical and emotional pain but there are some pieces that will bring these in our lives.

Before every school year I would do the Daniel fast to pray for the year ahead with my students, for the upcoming journey we’d take through the shows but this time it was a little different. This time I began to pray for Mitch. His job had become unbearable and it was affecting him in a way that was detrimental to his health and well being. To anyone who doesn’t know Mitch is about as loyal as they come. He stuck with this company in the hopes that changes would be made. I began to pray he’d look for a new job, one that he was excited about, passionate about. I wanted him to feel what I feel about my students, about the shows we get to perform and the family we become. As the prayers became more frequent and furious a change did occur, just not in the way I was hoping for or would have ever counted on. I began my journey into a dark place. The joy I once had in teaching was quickly fading. I was shot into depression. I didn’t want to get up in the mornings. I didn’t want to teach. I didn’t look forward to the musical. I didn’t want to be there. We as teachers all have moments when we want to give up, when things get tough but this was different. This hit me like a bolt of lighting. There was no external factor propelling me to feel this way. I loved my students. I had a supportive administration. There wasn’t anything I could point to to say this is why I feel the way I do. I got to a place where I knew this would be my last year to teach in Wills Point and I got mad.

'What the crap? I’m praying for Mitch’s job. His is the one that sucks. I’m trying to make a difference in kids lives. God, what are you doing to me?' I wrestled with this decision for months but the moment I surrendered to the fact this would be my last year here I had peace for the first time in months. Not only did I have peace but I also had excitement for the show that was approved for competition, for coming to my classes, for the privilege of just being alive. What started as the worst school year in the 11 years of my teaching was transformed into one of my favorites. Second semester pulled a 180. I was extremely proud of our OAP. I met such amazing parents who worked their butts off for the show. We took a journey that few ever take. The year ended with bittersweet goodbyes.

I didn’t know it at the time but God was orchestrating the ability for me to stay home with my kids. To invest in them. To start our homeschooling journey. I would’ve never thought this is where my story would lead. I don’t know if my public school teaching days are over. I don’t know how long our homeschool journey will last. All I know is I’ve got to be thankful for each season as it comes. There’s a great adventure out there and it’s only just beginning.

'This piece goes right here.'"

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Happy Birthday Jude!

It's hard to believe this guy is three years old today.  He is our incredible little problem solver.  A lover of puzzles, dinosaurs, and Mickey Mouse.  A singer of "Mambo Italiano" and "Hey Jude".  Our new three-nager.

We love you buddy!  Hope you have a most incredible day!  And we can't wait for everyone to get to party with you next week!


Friday, February 14, 2020

Mitchuation Update - Hoosiers

Now to the celebratory part.

In the previous update and request for prayers about the job search, I relayed how we were excited about three opportunities.  One in Austin as an eDiscovery Consultant Manager, one remote as an eDiscovery Project Manager, and one in Indianapolis as an in-house eDiscovery and Information Manager.

The interviews and discussions all went well, and over the last couple of weeks, our future finally started to come into shape.

If you had asked us to plot the trajectory of our lives, we were most excited about both the remote position and the one in Austin.  The remote position would allow us to pick somewhere in Dallas to live, included the potential for travel, and kept us relatively close to all family.  The Austin position had great benefits, would allow us to be closer to my family for a while, and would have been something squarely in my experience.  The position in Indianapolis was exciting, but also a little terrifying.  Beyond the distance, it is a bit outside my realm of experience.

I think you see where this is going.  Man makes plans, God laughs.

Slowly, His plan for us became clearer.  The position in Austin disappeared; the company decided to completely restructure and offered me a chance to start the process over for a position at a $30K pay cut.  Thank you, but no.

The remote position became consistently less stable.  It would be a greater leap of faith.

All the while, the position in Indianapolis kept progressing.  Through it all, the company treated me very well.  The people I met were incredible.  And the opportunity became too good to pass up.  I got an interview with the Vice President and General Counsel.  Was told that I was the top candidate.  Heard from the recruiter saying they desired to move forward.  All the while waited, somewhat impatiently to get an offer.

We got the offer last Friday.  It was better than I could have anticipated and will include some relocation assistance.  I accepted immediately.

So, starting March 9, I will be the new eDiscovery and Information Management Specialist for Cummins Inc.  Right now, we're going through the pre-employment paperwork and processing, and are getting the last bit of our stuff altogether in one place for the move.  Thankfully it's mostly all boxed already, so that's not going to be too big of an issue.

We've begun web research for houses, for churches, for locations and are really getting excited.  We're going to be Hoosiers.  The first time really that either one of us have lived out of the state of Texas for a considerable period of time.  A lot of new places to explore and visit.  An opportunity for me to connect to a bit of family heritage and see where my dad's dad was from.

It's really funny and humbling to think how we got here.  From Jamie becoming depressed and unsettled teaching the fall semester of 2018, reaching the point where she decided to take time off to homeschool Avalyn and Jude for a season.  From being fired last June.  Moving in with my in-laws.  From taking a spur of the moment side-trip to Indianapolis and Franklin, IN on our family road trip last July.  From living out of boxes for the past nine months.  From the temp job that picks up right after the road trip.  To the next temp job that starts immediately after that.  And so on and so forth.

Everything that was necessary to get us to the point where we were able and ready to just pickup, and go.  To go where He tells us to go.

We have seen His hand of provision in incredible ways through this period.  We have struggled with patience, with frustration, and with depression.  We have also been closer to family.  Enjoyed time together and a lot of flexibility to just pickup and go.

It's been an incredible journey so far and I can't wait to see what this new chapter brings.

To everyone that has prayer for us, laughed with us, cried with us through this season, thank you.  You are family and we will carry you with us no matter where we go.  We're looking to get a large place up there, so if you ever have the itch to travel north, come up and see us.  We'd love to have you.

We're going to try and cram as much as we can in these coming weeks, so we hope we get to catch up with as many of you as possible.  If we don't, please know that we love you, we'll miss you, and we look forward to seeing you again.

I will be continuing to write this blog, and hopefully on a more consistent basis as I continue to improve.  And will definitely keep updating you on the move, the new place, and on the life up there.

Stan Lee always closed his musings with the word "Excelsior!"  He claimed he saw it in old English material and liked it, so he started using it as a sign off.  He probably also saw it on some of the tunnels in New York as it is the official motto of the state of New York.  It translates to "ever upward" and I think sums up a good bit about this journey.  Let us run with endurance the race set before us, ever upward.

Excelsior!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mitchuation Update - Sick, and Tired

Also titled, Why No Post?

It's been a while, but it's been a crazy time.  There has been a lot happening and a lot good over these past several days.   And with these next couple of blog entries, I want to tell you all about them.

First, I want to say thank you for all your thoughts and prayers for the job interviews and the ultimate new position.  They were felt, they were appreciated, they were heard.  And I promise to get into that entire story, in the next entry.

First, I want to update you on the past couple of days, explaining why I have not gotten to post that entry yet, and to ask for your prayers again.

Last week was good, but crazy.  Started with a final phone interview for one of the positions I had been vying for.  Moved to an impromptu trip to Buna to visit family for a couple of different reasons.  Headed back to Wills Point to drop Jamie off for an incredible Women's Conference she attended Friday night and Saturday.  Me getting to have fun with the kids that time.  Church on Sunday.

Busy, good.

Sunday afternoon, I got sick.  I thought it was just a stomach virus.  Jude had one the previous week.  So did our nephew, whom we also babysat.  I thought I had just caught it.

By Monday, it became apparent that this was no ordinary stomach virus.  The stomach and abdominal cramping was worse than I had ever had.  Blood came from where it should not.

I was taken to the local ER that night and was diagnosed with colitis.   Inflammation of the colon, causing the bleeding.  Given two antibiotics, a painkiller, and an anti-nausa medication, and sent home.

Despite following the medication instructions, things did not improve, but I made it through Tuesday.  By Wednesday morning, I was severely dehydrated, worried I was becoming anemic, and feeling worse than I have ever felt.

Jamie took me to the ER in Tyler yesterday morning, where I spent last night and most of the morning.  Administered fluids regularly, clear liquid diet, and poked and prodded for various tests.

Thankfully, the diagnosis was a bacteria, causing acute inflammatory colitis.  A bacteria that will thankfully run its course on its own caused it all.  I'm now back at home, tired, worn, and recovering.  Trying to drink as much as possible, but not overdo it.  Just to keep from getting dehydrated again.  Trying to add soft foods in little by little.  And then work from there.

I am feeling much better than I was.  I am on the road to recovery, but am definitely still weak.

For those that Jamie contacted and who sent thoughts and prayers, they were definitely appreciated.  I would definitely ask to continue to be in your remembrances, as the recovery continues.

It was such a strange occurrence.  We had just really gotten to start celebrating and then got to feeling so horrible.  Thankfully now we can get back to celebrating.

And with sharing the celebration with everyone, too.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Patriotism

"The Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic's success, and we each strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it. The Constitution established the vehicle of impeachment that has occupied both houses of Congress for these many days. We have labored to faithfully execute our responsibilities to it. We have arrived at different judgments, but I hope we respect each other's good faith.

The allegations made in the articles of impeachment are very serious. As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise "impartial justice." I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

The House Managers presented evidence supporting their case; the White House counsel disputed that case. In addition, the President's team presented three defenses: first, that there can be no impeachment without a statutory crime; second, that the Bidens' conduct justified the President's actions; and third that the judgement of the President's actions should be left to the voters. Let me first address each of those defenses.

The historic meaning of the words "high crimes and misdemeanors," the writings of the Founders and my own reasoned judgement convince me that a president can indeed commit acts against the public trust that are so egregious that while they are not statutory crimes, they would demand removal from office. To maintain that the lack of a codified and comprehensive list of all the outrageous acts that a president might conceivably commit renders Congress powerless to remove a president defies reason.

The President's counsel noted that Vice President Biden appeared to have a conflict of interest when he undertook an effort to remove the Ukrainian Prosecutor General. If he knew of the exorbitant compensation his son was receiving from a company actually under investigation, the Vice President should have recused himself. While ignoring a conflict of interest is not a crime, it is surely very wrong.

With regards to Hunter Biden, taking excessive advantage of his father's name is unsavory but also not a crime. Given that in neither the case of the father nor the son was any evidence presented by the President's counsel that a crime had been committed, the President's insistence that they be investigated by the Ukrainians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit. There is no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the President would never have done what he did.

The defense argues that the Senate should leave the impeachment decision to the voters. While that logic is appealing to our democratic instincts, it is inconsistent with the Constitution's requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the president. Hamilton explained that the Founders' decision to invest senators with this obligation rather than leave it to voters was intended to minimize—to the extent possible—the partisan sentiments of the public.

This verdict is ours to render. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a "high crime and misdemeanor."

Yes, he did.

The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The President's purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

What he did was not "perfect"— No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine.

In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, "I stand with the team." I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history's rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.

I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?

I sought to hear testimony from John Bolton not only because I believed he could add context to the charges, but also because I hoped that what he said might raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment.

Like each member of this deliberative body, I love our country. I believe that our Constitution was inspired by Providence. I am convinced that freedom itself is dependent on the strength and vitality of our national character. As it is with each senator, my vote is an act of conviction. We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.

I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the President from office. The results of this Senate Court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgement of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the President's lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the President did was wrong, grievously wrong.

We're all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen."
Mitt Romeny, voting against party to remove the president, February 5, 2020

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Presidential Medal of Freedom

For those paying attention, one action alone spoke volumes about where we are at as a country, how low we have fallen.  Not in the speech filled with rhetoric, propaganda, half-truths, and outright lies.  Not in the weak response.  Not in the political grandstanding.  Not even in the literal tearing apart of the speech by the Speaker of the House.

One action alone capsulated the entirety of the conflict in our country.

The awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor that can be bestowed in the United States.  Established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, it superseded the Medal of Freedom established by President Harry S. Truman to award to honor civilian service in World War II.  The medal is designed to recognize those people who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to (1), the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Last night, that award was given to a man who has done more to drive the division in our country than any other.  A person who has used their entire career to paint one side, one half of the country as the enemy.  To champion the use of "libtard," "liberal snowflake," "feminazi," and other terms of division.  Who has been embroiled in controversy regarding statements against minorities, women, allies, the disabled, veterans, and the like.  Who has a terrible truthiness rating, with 84% of his statements ranging from "Mostly False" to "Pants of Fire" false when verified.

And he holds sway over an audience of 15.5 million listeners.  15.5 faithful followers.  Or about 4.5% of the American population.

The fact that there was a 100 year old Tuskegee Airman veteran in the room last night and Limbaugh was awarded the Medal should be appalling.

But it's not.

As if we needed more proof, half the country would vehemently disagree with my characterization of Limbaugh and view him as a vital voice in the Conservative movement.  Half of the country views him as I do, a performer, who hides behind his persona to shield him from the consequences of his misrepresentations and lies.  See also Alex Jones.

The fact that the medal was awarded last night at the State of the Union should also cause concern.  The medal is typically called to be awarded around July 4, and generally at a distinct ceremony at the White House.  The State of the Union is supposed to be a time when the president fulfills his Constitutional obligation to update the Congress on the state of the nation and its affairs.  To put it in Southern, it's a regular business meeting.  It's supposed to be boring.

It's not a stump speech, it's not a campaign rally, it's not even for the American people.  It's business.  For Trump to choose to award such a divisive person via such a large forum speaks volumes about his priorities for the country.  Especially about his pandering to such a small, devoted base.

I don't know where we go from here.  As I write, the Senate is surely voting to acquit Trump of all charges of impeachment and keep him in office.  To now have an impeached president run for re-election seems absolutely crazy.  Even crazier is the proposition that he might win a re-election because of people's ability to deny truth.

What does a narcissistic conman who has been enabled at every turn go when he finds out he's bulletproof?

What remains of our Constitution and Republic after that?

All I do know, is that it now falls to us.  To the people. To the vote.

Do we rise above, and appeal to the better angels of our nature, putting country above party, others above ourselves, and come together for the betterment of all?  Out of many one.  E pluribus unum.

Or do we continue with more of the same?  Making Rush Limbaugh the most fitting recipient after all?


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

One More...

Two women are dead and one child is hurt from a shooting Monday, February 3, 2020, at a residence hall at Texas A&M Commerce.  The child is 10 years old and is thankfully in stable condition.  The residence hall houses freshmen at the university.

Because we know what would actually work and refuse to do anything about it, I'm repeating an article that I've had to post multiple times now in the near-year-and-a-half that the blog has been running.  I'll continue to do so, until maybe we start to listen.

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Because there have been 20 school shootings so far in 2019...
Because there are five students and one school employee dead from school shootings this year...
Because there have been thirty-seven other people wounded in school shootings this year...
Because active shooter drills are now common place in elementary schools...
Because we're teaching kids to run at shooters and then praise them as heroes, but are forgetting to mourn that necessity...
Because we have a generation of kids who view school shootings as just the way things have always been...
Because we still haven't done anything of substance to stop them...
Because chances are, we will still do nothing about this one...
Because I'm tired...

It bears repeating - From a post at the beginning of this blog:

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I'm tired.  I'm tired of this topic continuing to come up.  I'm tired of us continuing to have the same response - thoughts and prayers, then talking at each other, then a whole lot of nothing, and it's forgotten until we move on to the next one.

When I started this blog, my second post was a repost of a Facebook message on the Second Amendment in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting.  There have only been 54 days in between these posts.  And here we are again, with a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.  And I haven't even touched on all of the school shootings that have occurred.  There have been 5 other school shootings in the interim, just not to the same scope.

We have an addiction to guns in this country that causes us to look at anything else except gun control as a possible solution.  It's far past time we put everything on the table.  We should be looking at mental health care.  We should be looking at bullying.  We should be looking at the family structure.  We should be looking at socio-economic status and mobility.  AND we should be looking at sensible gun control.  We're a big country and pretty good at multi-tasking.  We're more than capable of looking at it all.

But I'm too tired to write anymore on this.  Who knows what good it does at this point.  In lieu of further debate, I'm just going to post facts and let them speak for themselves.
  • On an average day, 96 Americans are killed with guns.
  • On average, there are nearly 13,000 gun homicides a year in the United States.
  • For every one person killed with guns, two more are injured.
  • 62% of firearm deaths in the United States are suicides.
  • Seven children and teens are killed with guns in the United States on an average day.
  • In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by an intimate partner in the United States.
  • America's gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other high-income countries.
  • The United States accounts for 46% of the population, but 82% of the gun deaths.
  • Background checks have blocked over 3 million gun sales to prohibited people.
  • Black men are 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with guns.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of the woman being killed by five times.
https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/

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Until it's heard...
Until we stop pretending like it will go away...
Until we do something, anything...
Until we care more about people than things...
Until we listen more to constituents than to special interest groups...

Until the next time...hopefully with a much longer gap in between

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There have been 28 mass shootings in America in the 35 days so far in 2020.

Humbling perspective.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Groundhog Day

"Then put you're little hand in mine, there ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb..."

Well, the little bear rat in Pennsylvania didn't see a shadow, so supposedly we will have an early spring.  So that cold snap and light freeze I hoped for might not be in the cards.  Fingers still crossed.

An odd custom, tracing back to German traditions regarding Candlemas and the bear, then the badger.  Really it seems at some point, any hibernating mammal would have sufficed.

United States groundhog day itself dates back to the 1840s, with the round woodchuck in Pennsylvania identified as Punxsutawney Phil starting in 1886.  As weather forecasters go, this little rodent is either really good or pretty terrible.  Part of the problem is defining what an "early spring" means; depending on your definition, his accuracy is somewhere between 28% and 70%.

Phil has become an international film superstar thanks to the movie surrounding his holiday.  His co-stars had nothing but good things to say about working with him.*  This success has also translated into Broadway fame.  Shockingly, the  a wanted felon, with outstanding warrants for his arrest Butler County, Ohio, Merrimack, New Hampshire, and Monroe County, Pennsylvania dating back to 2013, 2015, and 2018, respectively.  For fraud, naturally.

Whatever your feelings on the groundhog, I must say, the Wikipedia article on Punxsutawney Phil is extremely entertaining.  It reads a bit like a defeated and sarcastic conspiracy theory gone awry.  Well worth a look.

*with Bill Murray's recent behavior, perhaps we could change the day to check to see if Mr. Murray sees his shadow and what his prognostication is.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

This Is How Democracy Dies...

"So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."
Padme Amidala, Revenge of the Sith

The Star Wars prequels at least gave us one good quote.  In the previous film, Senator Palpatine was given autonomous emergency powers in light of a coming war.  In Revenge of the Sith, the senator uses those powers to great the Empire, for security and safety of the republic, of course.  So the senator becomes the Emperor, to the delight of the galactic senate.  Senator Amidala recognizes it for what it is, a power grab that means the end of the republic.

Yesterday, we witnessed two blows to democracy as we know it in two of its previously staunchest defenders.  But what Star Wars couldn't predict is that the thunderous applause will come from only a fraction of the population.  In Star Wars, the resistance was small; most everyone sided with the Empire, until it was too late.  What we are seeing across the globe today is such division that whatever group can get a small majority can inflict potentially irreparable harm.

First, the United States Senate, led by the Republican Party, voted against calling witnesses or presenting evidence in the trial of President Donald J. Trump.  It's not surprising, it's what they told us they would do from the beginning.  But it is disheartening.

It reflects their loyalty to party, or should I say to Trump, above country.  They are too afraid of Trump's 30% base across the country to do anything against him.  We knew that the word came out that any Republican who voted inconsistently with Trump's position would have their head on a pike.   We know GOP leadership had coordinated the entire trial with the White House.   "We'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate," McConnell said.    We know they are still coordinating now.
We also know the Republicans conceded the evidence already presented.  The deciding vote, Senator Lamar Alexander acknowledged "mountains of evidence" against Trump.

And yet, here we are.

It's not as if Republicans believed Trump was innocent.  The argument largely shifted into either the false argument that the offense wasn't a crime so it can't be impeachable, which has never been the standard, or to the argument that even if it's impeachable, he shouldn't be removed.
So, we've had an impeachment from the House, though driven by Democrats, supplied with ample evidence of "high crimes and misdemeanors," leading to a trial in the Senate, in which the defendant and the judge and jury have colluded on the ultimate acquittal.  Foreign leadership is already pointing out how we are conceding our position in the world as a bastion of liberty and democracy.
 Ilves is the former president of Estonia.

If all of the posturing surrounding the impeachment trial were not enough, the United Kingdom finally stumbled out of the European Union yesterday.  After a deal was finally drafted and approved in the United Kingdom in December, and agreed upon by the European Union on January 23, 2020, the Brexit was finally accomplished at 11:00 pm GMT on January 31, 2020.

Not one day removed, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to ramp up and implement full customs and border checks on all European goods entering the United Kingdom.   This is a vast departure from pre-election discussion of the goals of Brexit, which previously emphasized the ease of trade with the EU.

So, we have xenophobic and nationalistic sentiment winning the day again.  The ideal that differing parties could work together through dialog and debate, that we can do better together, has been dealt a serious blow.

The good news is that democracy is not dead, it is dormant.  It lies to us to remember where the true power lies.  With the vote.

It's up to us to remind our elected officials who they are to answer to.  Who they are responsible to.  Who puts them in power in the first place.  They are to represent us. They are to look out for the best interests of the country, even when we may not recognize it.  And they are to respond to all of their constituents.

It's a reminder that your vote matters, now more than ever.