Author Archives: Jacob Donovan

About Jacob Donovan

Christian, Father, Husband, Writer, Reader, Observer, Participator, Storyteller... lover of life and reciter of poetry.

INAUGURATION TACTICS

As I watched the Presidential Inauguration this morning, I was struck by how somber the tone was of our newest President.  There are many things that he said and did, with which, I totally agree.  The most notable of all was the fact that he did not pander to the people who did not elect him.  That is a total departure from politics as usual, where a president fills inaugurations with platitude after platitude, all in warm, pear shaped tones.  Make no mistake, the media in all of its forms is allied and aligned with a clear mission: to ensure as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, get the worst possible view of President Trump.

This is not by accident.  I don’t believe anything he could have said would have been well received by anyone who did not, and does not, think he is the better person for the Presidency between him or Hillary Rodham Clinton.  If he had said,

I am sorry for my harsh words during the campaign, but I didn’t run for President because I wanted people to like me, I ran to win.  Politics is a blood sport and you do what you have to do to win.  Now is the time to come together.

The media would have said he was a disingenuous racist, bigot.  And if he had said,

I will do my best to also represent the people who didn’t vote for me.  I am YOUR president too, and even though you didn’t support me, what you have to say matters to me.

His many bitter and destructive detractors would have said he is lying and pandering to the left, classic politician trying to move to the middle.  Just as every blowhard politician for decades has done.  If, instead of calling out the abysmal failures of the last eight years, he had said,

Barack Obama did as good a job as anyone could have, and the country is now recovering.

The opposition would seize on it as evidence that leftist policies work and that everything he ran on was a lie to get elected.  That is simply not true.  The economy is not recovering because of Obama and his policies, it is recovering in a few ways in spite of Barack Obama.

I contend that this inauguration was a lose-lose for anything he could have said to ameliorate the misplaced rage and anger of the left and the media.

So, in what I think was a wise choice, he did what a smart tactician would do in the face of a media hell-bent on his destruction, and a pitifully confused urban population who thinks government is the answer to all of man’s problems: he flanked and fought the battle he could win.  He spoke to his supporters alone.  Any aisle crossing, any grace toward the endless bureaucratic failings of the past would have been slapped away anyway, so it is a fools errand to waste your breath on the countless snowflakes who would plug their ears and shout “NA NA NA” because they are still in the throes of a temper tantrum.  Anyone who hates Trump and thinks the world is going to end, or threatened to move to another country if he is elected, is lying to you and themselves if they recount their feelings as they watched the inauguration,

I was open to the idea of him bringing the country together.  I hoped he would unite us.

Lies.  Those same people thrive on complaint and dissent and live in academic bubbles of half-baked philosophy and often half-baked theology as well.  They harbor such intense hatred inside of them that they project it on everyone and everything that does not boil down to complete agreement with their life, choices, lifestyle, and woefully under-educated worldview.  Most are on depression medication in one form or another.  The mentally ill.

If you support Trump, and hope he really does turn Washington on its head, then you must also feel how keenly every single talking head in the media from Lester Holt, to Charlie Rose to Saturday Night Live, wants nothing more than to destroy, discredit and belittle him.

So I say, well played Mr. President.  I am glad you spoke plainly and while there were several times I felt like you were on the verge of a diversion from your written speech, and I think I am going to invent a drinking game based on your comically frequent habit of hand waving, you showed verbal restraint and spoke to the only people who would listen to you anyway.

Now let’s see if you have the courage to make good on your declarations, particularly the one to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth.  That is a tall order…

Islamic-Terror

But I have to admit, I’d love to see the kinds of people willing to behead Christians like those above in Ethiopia, or anyone for that matter, for not praying to Allah get everything that is coming to them with interest.

Time will judge you as it has Obama, in spite of the endless sycophantic love letters Obama has enjoyed from the media and the acolytes and useful idiots on the left, the people I know will remember him as an even more weak and traitorous President than Jimmy Carter.  Who spent our great-great-grandchildren’s savings, made us look truly pathetic on the world stage, was less transparent and more secretive than any administration in history, and abused executive privilege in a way that utterly mocks the separation of powers and our beloved US Constitution.

I wish you good luck Mr. President.  You’re going to have to be ten times the President Barack Obama was to receive even one-tenth of the credit.

2016 – AN ADLIB REVIEW

We rang in the 2016 New Year with a fireworks show that rivals any I’ve seen in Alaska.  Lacey’s sister Michelle and her husband Rob lit off a pallet of grand finale firework-cakes and had a bonfire and drinks and it was wonderful.  I as I write this, I am looking forward to a similar bash in 11 days.

The 2016 New Year celebration was respite much-needed, being still shy of mid-way through the expensive and painful lesson each do-it-yourself oriented newlywed couple learns for themselves when they decide to high five each other and build their own house.  I write this from the cozy nook Lacey calls the loffice, taking its name from the merging of one small corner of living room into office.  Though I could, and likely should, take the time to write a book for foolish newlyweds entertaining the insanity of home-building, with Chapters I might name There is no such thing as an honest plumber,  An inspector’s life is to ruin yours, Time and materials mean bend over, Cheap lumber is seldom less expensive, and Why bamboo hates Alaska, I likely will not find the time.

As a kindness, luck found its way to our inbox in early Spring, right as we were at the end of our frayed emotional ropes and desperately needing some hope.  We finally caught an unexpected break and were able to purchase upgraded airline and Celebrity Cruise tickets for a 10-day Mediterranean sojourn in early June for about 1/3rd the normal price.  God bless Costco Travel.  It was the promise of a real vacation that kept us going and we finally finished our financing and moved into our homestead home on Lacey’s birthday, April 1st, having passed the most grueling marital stress-test any couple can endure.  Lacey immediately went to work unpacking and turning this giant rectangle into a cozy sanctuary from the stresses of the world.  I am so lucky to have a wife who takes pride in the presentation of her home, instead of seeing cleaning and decorating as some kind of Sisyphean torture.  Having survived the building process, and the moving-in, and though I am embarrassed to admit it, the continued uncertainty I feel when reaching for one switch in a bank of four, I realize now how well suited to one another Lacey and I really are.  We speak the same love language and spend most of our time belly-laughing at each other and the world around us, or doing trivia, or playing cards.

The one upside to doing almost all the work but saving no money is that the house is filled with special touches most contractors would never care enough to bother about, and it is in those we find much joy.  There is a custom sliding track door carefully built into the half wall at the top of the stairs as a built-in baby gate.  Our bathroom has extra loops of in-floor heat to keep toes cozy when on the throne.  Our kitchen has room to spare in the refrigerator and freezer.  There’s a special nook for my piano.  The pantry makes storing and later finding food a breeze.  We are pretty blessed, and people have been generous with their compliments.

After just enough time to feel moved in we embarked on Lacey’s third and my first trip to Europe.  You have not flown unless you have flown Condor and been courtesy upgraded.  That airline still wants you to look forward to flying, and for good reason.  When we sat down in our courtesy upgrade, we each found a goodie bag with blanket and toothbrush, eye pillow, cotton slippers, magazines, a bathrobe, a mattress and an iPad.  Those last three may be fiction, I’m not sure…  I did enjoy several airport scotches before I sauntered onboard.  After a thorough inspection of my eyelids we arrived in Rome.  What no one tells you when you arrive is that you may be exiting the subway in the shadow of the Colosseum and Roman Forum.  Literally.  I’m no Nolan Rylan but even I could have thrown a baseball through the 4th story arches from within the shadows of the subway exit.  I felt like I entered Rome through the Colosseum, the size of which can only be appreciated in person, much like Michelangelo’s David, or the inside of the Duomo in Florence.  Though I missed the cattle-call that has become the Sistine Chapel, I did see enough astonishing relics of ancient history by the end of the trip to marvel at my own indifference to them.

We ran the same starting lap as the Olympic Torch carriers in the Panathenaic Stadium.  We climbed the acropolis of Athens and walked up through the Propilini to the Parthenon and the Erectheon with its floors still standing on the backs of seven stone and vestal Virgins.   We climbed the stairs and stood on Mars hill where Paul called out idolatry and other sin.  We stood also in the Ephesian Theater, on the very same sounding stone as Paul when he was run out on a rail to the deafening chants of “Great is the Goddess Diana of the Ephesians!”  We learned how the great marble blocks used to build ancient Europe were carved and quarried with nothing more than silk and olive oil.  Fascinating that, as well as how they spin the silk.  German airport employees and their waggling of assault rifles, groping inside my underwear and lost luggage notwithstanding, the kind and genial nature of people is my favorite part of travel. While we missed the bombing of Istanbul by only a handful of days, we spent our time impressed with the hospitality of Turks, Greeks, and Italians alike.

The highlight of the trip is my memory of our time in Naples, good ol’ Napoli, and a short road trip that is forever seared into the marble slabs of my memory in a way neither bottle in front of me nor frontal lobotomy could ever erase.  Where to begin…

For as long as I can remember, I have been prone to motion sickness.  If I am at the helm or wheel, it seldom rears its ugly head through the scenery and consumes me, and the view from the seat directly behind the driver of a massive Class A tour bus is both panoramic and preventative medicine for people like me.  But, by the time I arrived in Naples, the last stop of our voyage, I had relaxed my militant vigor and exertions to be first in line to the bus so that I could pick the safety seat.  It is easy to take things for granted.  Every tour before this had been a half an hour through the wineries of Santorini, or the back streets of Mykonos or Crete.  What harm could be done?  Let someone else have the good seat in the massive… wait, is that van our tour bus?  Babe, we have to hurry!  Too late.  Fifth in line. Fifth couple that is.

Where once we enjoyed large seats, air conditioning, and panorama, now I enjoyed a window the size of a matchbox, and tinted to keep the upholstery from fading in the scorching Vesuvian sun.  It’ll be okay though, how far away can it be?

The first words of our tour guide were “Welcome to the Amalfi Coast driving tour, you are about to see breathtaking views of the Italian coast on the most serpentine and labyrinthine road in the world.” An hour in, I had a fever of 103, and it was 90 degrees outside so I’m proud to say I made it all the way to the Hotel of St. Peter, $5000 euro a night, before the tiny person that lives in the glands of my mouth began pumping saliva and shouting wildly into my mind “Abandon ship, save yourself!”  It took 17 hours to reach Amalfi, Lacey says only 2 but I know better.  The return trip, roundabout through the winding Milky Mountains took another three days, and I somehow survived to tell the tale.  Somehow.

What I now know, but didn’t at the time, is the importance of certain food safety.  The dining on a Celebrity Cruise is on a level not exceeded by any restaurant I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, so it’s easy to forgive myself the assumption that the clean and fresh looking fruit in our stateroom was exactly that, clean and fresh.  The ship had picked up fruit in Turkey, and I like my father before me, consider it a point of manly pride to eat kiwis skin, hair and all.  So the day before our arrival in Naples, I had eaten the one thing that would later prevent me from seeing the City of Pompei at the end of the most interminable day of my life.  Instead, I literally sat in the street gutter of a taxi cab roundabout in front of the entrance to Pompei, dry heaving Ecoli and praying Jesus would take pity on me and send a meteorite to crush my skull and call me home.  Lacey didn’t get to see Pompei either, so worried was she for my awful state, as I sat like a beggar and prayed for death to take me.   I have promised we’ll go back someday.

After the cruise we spent a glorious two days hiking the colorful vineyard trails of Cinque Terre.adlib-cinque-terre
We both leapt from cliffs into the cerulean waters of the Med.  We ate at a restaurant in Rio Maggiore that WILL boast a second Michelin Star before too long.  And we ended our trip with another two days becoming numb to the splendor of Florence’s utterly endless antiquity.  Lacey’s Aunt Jackie, a lighthearted firecracker, lives in Florence and arranged dinner with friends in a house built in 1200AD, as well as a private tour with a talented tour guide.  Jackie was instrumental to our enjoyment of Florence.  It’s one thing to see the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa in the Piazza adjacent to the Medici Palace.  It’s another thing to see it with someone who explains the entire bronzing, sword and all, was done in one revolutionary casting and if you’ll look closely at the back of his head, you’ll see the face of the sculptor who had brazenly left his own visage as an artist’s signature.  A face carefully woven into the locks of Perseus’ curly hair in a way that was clearly a beard and moustache, but only if you happened to notice the eyes peeking out from behind the wings of his Helmet.  There were endless details we would have surely missed without Jackie’s gift.  Lacey’s knee held up splendidly to the hiking and walking, I kept pebbles from the walkways of my favorite ancient monuments, and we came back with memories and pictures to sustain us for years.

The summer and fall have been busy for our business, we were able to take a trip to see my father in late July for a few short days and capture footage of his amazing house in the Wyoming Bighorns.  Lilly and Alera are doing well in school.  Lilly ran Cross Country in the fall and will likely run track in the spring.  Alera will be doing dance all school year as well as Volleyball in the spring.  She has even begun parking and driving my truck around the homestead, and I am encouraged at how mature she is when behind the wheel.

Lacey has our house decorated in the most Christmas-y fashion and each day coming home feels especially magical.  We are all well, and for the most part, thriving.  We hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

REGARDING WISDOM

Recently, I overheard two co-workers discussing whether our western philosophy of thought and logic has set-up a framework for us westerners that inherently arms us with the ability to “think outside the box.”  As a man with THBXNK for a license plate, the gravitational pull of this banter was understandably strong.  The basic point from person A, we’ll call him Phil, was that the ability to think critically is a social inheritance of our culture.  Meaning; there are groups of people, or even whole societies that do not have this thinking ability taught or otherwise handed down to them.  They are simply stuck in their cultural rut, and can never escape.

Phil believes, to paraphrase in my own words, they simply have no way of imagining their circumstances vastly different, and insodoing, begin to undertake the laborious process of affecting sweeping change that will improve their station in life or lift the tide that will raise all the ships in their cultural harbor.

The counter point to this view was held by person B, we’ll call him Tom.  Tom asserted that it’s very dangerous territory to start rationalizing what a group of people are, or are not, capable of doing.  Phil thinks that society is either oppressing people actively OR passively oppressing through the lens of history by passing down dated methods of thought, whereas Tom thinks that no matter the society or its chains each person has it in them to make the choices necessary to radically transform their situation.  The fact that most choose not to do this is simply a choice, whereas the original point by Phil was that they (except in extreme exceptions) simply cannot, they are in a prison of heritage.

When I pressed Phil with the all-important question, “so what are we to take from your point?” he became defensive and said I was trying to paint him into a corner when really, I was just trying to take something meaningful from his point of view.  In my opinion observations are meaningless without conclusions.  To that end, and after an apology, he finally offered up the conclusion that he believed society ought not be so seemingly quick to denigrate a people in a certain situation, because the critic would have behaved differently.  His example was a study he cited that many people who drowned in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina did so because they stayed in their homes.  He said the study asserted that they did so because the welfare culture had literally trained these people to stay put with their hand out, and they were psychologically unable to help themselves.

His very valid point being, instead of saying “Those idiots, how stupid were those people” to instead look at the policy that has trained them into such a prison of thought with the ire that he believed many people in America direct at the person.

As a Christian, we say, hate the sin, love the sinner.  Or at least we are supposed to say this, and do this.

As an aside, Phil also said that the differences in thought were evidence that what is true for you may not be true for me.  Phil believes truth is relative to your ability to understand and relate to it.

After the longest foreword in blog history, on to the point of this essay.

I think a great discipline has been lost in our American culture.  Namely, the question to ask of our own thoughts and actions, as well as of our laws, “Is this wise?”

Truth and wisdom are closely aligned, and neither are acceptable in Academe.  I actually thank God almighty that when my mind was young and mushy, it was never poisoned by the circular and largely emotional arguments of leftist, and wholeheartedly socialist professors. I dodged that intellectual bullet by joining the military and learning the old-fashioned way, by reading and thinking, and reading some more.

While I will concede there are certainly relative truths, but there is no room in Academia for absolute truth.  There is no room for Good or Evil, nor Right or Wrong.  Never was higher education built upon such a shaky, sand foundation than that which leaves no room to ask the most important question of our age “Is this wise?”

For to ask “Is this wise?” implies that the answer must be measured against a standard of Wisdom, which derives its very meaning as “the knowledge of what is proper or reasonable.”  Put much more simply, the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong.

As a Christian, I am a fan of practical facts.  Since we are on the subject of right and wrong, take sin.  Begging Chesterton’s pardon, whether or not a man could be washed in miraculous waters, there is no doubt that he wanted washing.  A century ago religious leaders disputed the highly disputable miraculous waters, but today Academia disputes the obvious dirt.  Where once philosophers admitted a man was divinely sinless, which they could not have imagined even in their dreams, now College Professors deny sin itself, which they can see in the street.

The standard of right and wrong is clear as a bell to me, and to those who have their copy of the best handbook for life on earth, namely, the Bible.  The bible lays out truth in the most marvelous way, by first telling a story, and then stating a truth.  The bible looks back through history and tells of Herod the Great and the Slaughter of Innocent Children, and then looks forward and commands us not to murder.  It teaches us history, and lays bare the truth in our hearts.   It teaches us that real truth does not come from man, and therefore, man cannot take it away.  Such wisdom that.

College Institutions today flood the empty corridors of young minds with a kind of intoxicating secular sophistry, and the collegiate are drunk on those fallacies.  They make arguments against the existence of right and wrong, of absolute truth, and a personal God, with fallacies that young minds are neither practiced, equipped nor allowed to defend.  No, if you argue with a secular professor in America today, you can kiss any chance of a decent grade goodbye.  College has become a refuge for the lack of thought, not the instigator thereof.

At the University of California at Berkeley, black students now march to self-segregate where their ideas will never be challenged and their minds will never be expanded, in all-black dormitories.  I believe Martin Luther King would weep to see such a vacuum of wisdom on display at any time, much less at the end of 8 years of America being led by our first black president.   Merry Christmas is now a micro-aggression, and everyone gets to pick their own gender pronoun.  We have become a nation of imbeciles.

The internet has exacerbated this problem.  No, the irony of my current medium is not lost on me.  It was asked long ago, “What wisdom have we lost for want of knowledge?” and it is rightly asked now, “What knowledge have we lost for want of information?”  We are today twice removed from sound judgement and the ability to actually think clearly.

Where our worlds used to be a lot smaller and a lot simpler, now, we are daily assaulted by every injustice the collectively great world can tweet at us, never asking if the actual numbers of such injustices are actually worse, or whether the tragedy is simply our new perception of their apparent frequency.

I had a lieutenant in the Navy who’s favorite shirt read:

STOP

American educational culture today strives to convince young people to simply get angry about some injustice, if they will pick up a banner and join SOME fight, Academe will cover the backside of that banner with fallacy after fallacy and most will never read the fine print.  They will never ask “Is this wise?”

My belief is that God, yes I just invoked what I believe to be our great cosmic and very personal Creator, has given each of us the power of discernment, and transformational free will.  I do not believe that certain cultures, or sub-cultures, or ethnicities are unable to imagine a better life; a wiser way.  I do not believe that traditions and environments are inescapable prisons except for the one-in-a-million gifted at picking ideological locks.  I neither resent the success of others, nor greatly pity abysmal failure.

I believe that until we radically transform the way we approach and instruct truth and wisdom, we can never produce a generation who will leave America better than the one they inherited.

I agree with Tom.

THE PATRIOT FAST

In order to mobilize the patriots of America we must begin on common ground.  To be a patriot, you must love America for its own sake, for how it came to be, and for the radical notion of liberty that it was.  If you love America because we are becoming more and more like your values system, then you don’t love America for herself, you love her for yourself.  Your loyalty is a reflection of your agreement, a mere nodding of the head, and no such patriotism stands long under the crushing weight of conflict.  If you love America as a patriot, her origins are a reason to love her, and her current plummet into darkness is reason to love her more.  I believe you have no ground to criticize a thing unless you love it like a patriot.  You can complain and chastise and scream and even insult, but the right to offer up the ways in which it must be improved are the province of the lover only.  All else fails the test of investment.  Someone may criticize your spouse, but the spouse need only value it from you.    You see them for both their strengths and their weaknesses, and don’t love them more for one and less for the other.   So it is with all things.

Therefore, it is to the true American patriot I address this letter.  I will attempt to offer a solution to the problems that beset our nation, instead of adding another voice to the chorus of complaint.

who

I imagine our American heritage, and the energy and moral strength we draw from it, like the bulging backs of aged warriors, chained in an arena and being made to fight society’s sins for show, so the audience can feed upon the spoils of our victories and the spectacle of our efforts.  The spectators, ravenous not for food but purpose, release beast after beast for us to battle: pride; for tolerance, envy; for success, gluttony; for distraction, sloth; for virtue, lust; for danger, greed; for excess, and a tentacled levitation of wrath; for God.

We are weary, but the spectators are hungry.  Our numbers shrink but theirs grow.  Our backs bend and their fingers straighten.

Make no mistake the forces of evil in this world are winning.  Earth is fallen as man is fallen.  We live in the province of the enemy.  But take heart, because darkness never cloaked the Colosseum so thickly that sunrise never came.  The enemy’s ticket takers are roving the stadium aisles as doomsayers and fear-mongers.  Those ruinous men, about one in every dozen, who foretell the end of the world is near.  They take great secret pleasure in “being sorry to say all is lost.”  They encite the mob to shout at us from the safety of the grandstands phrases like “we are nearing the cliff,” and “we are over the cliff and falling,” and “trainwreck,” and “armageddon,” ad nauseum.  The problem with these metaphors is that everyone dies together at the end of them, and that is not going to happen in America.  Everyone dies in a trainwreck, or by going over a cliff.  The conservatives wouldn’t walk away from a liberal trainwreck, and vice versa.  These ideas are planted in the hearts of men with a penchant for schadenfreude by the enemy, and they keep us in line.  Oh we, the working warrior patriots of America, of little faith.

how

I offer another metaphor, and none more fitting so close to Black Friday.  We are simply drunk. Utterly trashed in actuality.

I watched a video compilation of Black Friday insanity the following Monday and each scene looked like poor footage from a movie set where actors were told to act like the love child of a drunken jackass, and a mindless zombie.  It was truly chilling to watch people swarm around, and cry out in ecstasy over being able to receive… a stapler.

For generations, we have become more and more intoxicated by our own decadence, and increasingly less charmed by it.  As we edge God out of our culture, we edge our purpose out with it, and no amount of excess can fill that void.  America now offers what God intended as the reward for hard work, with little to no work at all.  Our parents, and their parents, going back to the greatest generation, failed to train huge numbers of American youth what our values are and how vitally important is the character only found in the arena of life… in the battling of our individual sin.  Instead, we have lived well off the fruits of the baby boomer, who inherited the work ethic but not the moral ethic.  Work hard and love your neighbor, became “work hard, play hard.”  Then lately it seems, they just dropped the “work hard” altogether.  It’s just “play hard” now.  Get while the getting is good.  Find your fun.

I say again, we are drunk.

Drunkenness is not a fixed state, it comes like temperature, in degrees.  One may be a little goofy, or a tad louder than normal, but a great deal of time and consumption separates the reddish cheeks of these first two, with the great retching we hear and see each day on the news.

The majority of people in America today, these chronic moral inebriates, simply do not know what it means to love this country as a patriot.  They want to make America into a thing they can someday love, when cleansed of its Judao-Christian values. We cannot give America over to them.  You must love them as you would love a spouse, or a friend, who has had far too much to drink, and is retching, while at the same time beckoning another beverage.

You might say “No, you’ve had enough,” but the America we love has developed quite an addict’s tolerance, and they will not listen to any voice insulting vice.  A raging alcoholic, America screams, and throws a drunken tantrum as it stumbles, but all is far from lost.  We will fall down, but not perish.

answer

Do not buy into the end of the world.  Every generation since Jesus has read his return into the tea leaves of current events… every single one.  America is not going to die, but she is going to have one hell of a hangover.  It will come with headaches, and pain, and suffering, and even more retching, but it will be a cleansing process, not a dying process.  As anyone who has loved someone who has obviously drunk too much, you can hardly stop them soon enough.   The challenge now is to understand that to stop them, we must stop trying to take away their beverage.  We must quit buying their booze.  We must get completely out of the way and allow them to pass out on their own.   We must turn the other cheek, not in weakness, but in wisdom.

I call on the Patriots of America to fast.  Our country only functions on the lifeblood of our efforts.  It is we who foot the bill.  To not pay our taxes is a crime, yet no law exists to minimize our own earnings, and our spending.  To fast.  If you are self-employed, as I am, you pay a tremendous amount of money for the privilege of working half-days, and you also get the luxury of picking whichever 12 hours you like.  Understand this is a choice.  You could likely get by with far less, and have far more time with your family.  Now is the time for such an exercise.  The practice of fasting is a gift, and was originally used as a reminder to pray each time you felt the pang of hunger.  The Patriot Fast is the same.  Each time we feel the need or want of another thing, or another toy, or another experience… instead remind yourself to be thankful.  We must work less, produce less, consume FAR less, and give every dime we make above and beyond our basic needs to charity. We must massively and intentionally diminish our taxable income and expenses.  There are an infinite variety of ways to implement the Patriot Fast depending on your family’s situation but to help spark your imagination, here are a few:

Go on a complete consumer holiday and buy nothing that is non-essential.  Choose a hobby that requires your time instead of your money, I recommend geocaching.  Read great literature instead of buying movies.  The possibilities are limited only by your commitment to this vision, and your imagination.

The system cannot survive for more than a year or two if enough Patriots decide to stop feeding the government beast and instead, speak with their cheek.  In a way, it’s a much more difficult fight when you are swinging the sword of self-discipline, to fight our own urges, to battle our own sin, but it’s past time to do so.  It’s time for the hangover to begin.

Now is the time for the Patriot fast.

ON PARENTING IN 2013

The sculpting begins on day one.  From the very first moments of a child’s life they are building a framework for how to handle situations.  Even though they do not understand words or have concepts of what we are talking about as parents, they are indeed identifying with the energy and harshness that we are putting out.  I know so many parents who feel, or at least behave, as if their children couldn’t learn or emulate their language or actions at this point, so it’s still okay to hang on to their adolescence.  Your child is putty in your dangerous hands from day one.  You know you have held him or her while you were angry and thought later that you could have been more gentle, not that you were rough with them, only that you later remembered they are so little and innocent, and precious, and wish you could have been more soothing and less moving.  Even a hard heart has these feelings, even if the person thinks they have no heart at all.  That is why we must take seriously the notion of parental responsibility from day one.  The sculpting begins on day one.  From the very first moments of life they are already learning the kind of person to be.  They are learning what normal loudness a voice is, and how much variation in a voice is normal.  If harsh movements and harsh sounds often occur together, they begin connecting the two.  Raising a child in the year 2013 is the honor of a lifetime.  You have the chance to be aware at day one that your actions are creating the capacity for greatness in your child and no generation before us has ever spread that message for the greater consumption, I have ever found.

What a tremendous burden to bear, but what a tremendous gift. One of your biggest contributions to the world is the person you raise your child to be.  All great men and women are remembered for their accomplishments, and all will tell you that they could not have done so without the help of others.  We cannot all be very great men and women, but all those male and female titans of our communities and society overall are supported by amazing people.  The way to create more very great, very good men and women is to raise a generation trained to seek them out or become one themselves.  It is a privilege and an honor to serve mankind in the pursuit of creating young people who exercise enough of their potential to increase the pool of true greatness in the world. I believe every single child has the capacity for greatness at the moment of conception, and we have discounted that our actions and emotions after conception and through infancy may vastly impact the attitudes and personhood of our children later in life.  From the instant of conception there is foundational activity in the unborn child.  If you believe that people are made of energy, then you already know or need to realize that your energy is affecting the energy of the child whether that child is inside you, or next to you in bed, or in the car, only a foot or two away.  If you do not believe people are literally made of energy, I recommend some rudimentary physics lessons.

Sculpting begins on day one.  Remembering that it is an honor to instruct, and love, and guide, and praise, and correct, and open the mind of your child.  To truly open the mind, a person’s mind must be able to see differing philosophies of life with neither fear nor longing, and confidently remain in the place from which their goodness flows.  The world will tempt your child to do things you will not want your child to do at the age when the tempting begins.   The constancy of your love will determine how resilient they are to the awful temptations in the world.

When language becomes commonplace in a child’s life, the opportunities for learning expand by factors immediately.  Everything gets a name and a folder for experiences.  Everything gets a touch entry, a smell entry, a visual entry, sometimes a sound entry, and more often than is appropriate a taste entry.  We as parents cannot wait for some arbitrary number of years as deemed by the state for learning to begin.  Sculpting begins on day one, the sculpting of their energy and personhood.  Instruction begins on day two, not teaching so much as introductions to their new world, and each moment builds on its last.  Intense learning is happening by the 6th month. Exponential learning is happening at the one year mark. It’s easy to think that because your child cannot communicate words back to you, that he is not learning how to interact with the world.  Watch a seated 6-month old child watching a person in the act of doing something.  It doesn’t matter the banality of the something, only the amount of focus that the doer has, and provided it is a fairly low stimulation moment for the child, and he or she will literally sway with amazement.  Remember for a moment how vividly you can recall moments in your life where you would accept an accounting of it as having “stared in wonder.”  You know you can remember in great detail those exhilarating events.  The first year of your life, you experience this feeling many, many times a day.  From realizing you can move your foot a certain way, to feeling what it feels like to touch your own elbows or feet or ears, every moment is a first few times.  If you are accomplished at something, take music, you have likely forgotten countless times you have played music after having become proficient, but you know you can still remember exactly what it was like when you first began the journey.  Everything is a first beginning, and they are learning how the world should work from the moment they open their eyes.

Never forget however, that there is only so much of how a person grows up to be that you can lay at your own feet.  Fate, luck or its lack, and the temptress that is the world, have squandered many chances for greatness, or even chances for goodness.  In the face of that, what an honor to try and build the bulwark around your sons’ and daughters’ goodness such that if they choose or allow themselves to be led astray, you can rest in peace that you have done your absolute best.

It is this honor, the honor to serve mankind, the honor to help move us forward that compels us to begin the societal march back toward responsibility, self-discipline, honor, loyalty, humility, honesty, and respect.  We all know to be true that it is not a political statement to say that gratuitous sex, drugs, and all around immorality in our society are at an unacceptably high level.  This will only change on a societal level when another generation, an even greater generation of transformative energies than those in the 60’s and 70’s, lead a movement toward energetically responsible parenting, to treating the act of raising a child as one of the highest honors and privileges that a human being can experience.  If raising a family was more important to society, you would see a shift away from the passé acceptance of abortion.  You would replace the negative act of condemnation and judgement with the positive act of believing in something greater.  The problem with opposing any idea is that you are giving it energy by offering your opposition.  The real solution is offering something better than the idea you are opposing.  Fight the bully and someone gets punched, but inspire the bully and you have offered something better.  Increased belief in the sanctity of parenting, equals a decrease in the number of times that people choose abortion for its convenience over the oxcart of responsibility that is parenting.

Your children are your charge.  You do them no service by always giving them what they want.  The world exists and functions based upon a set of golden rules.  Like the master painter, who has spent a lifetime learning the rules, can break them in such a way as to take your breath away, so too does the human only have the freedom to transcend from normal into greatness when he has mastered the rules.  If you do not teach your child the rules, he or she may be forever doomed to break them and exist in the trap of consequences that follow.

The child that never learns to speak with respect, will never learn to earn it. He may demand it but won’t understand the distinction.  The child that never learns patience, will be forever irritable on some level and consistently without good reason.  The child that never learns charity, will be forever fearful of loss.  The child that never learns restraint, will never fill the hole inside of them with any substance.  The child that never learns that all people worship, will most often fall into the bitter trap of worshipping themselves.

The child who extends respect, will earn it wherever he goes.  The patient child will unknowingly and happily recruit friends who are always looking for people that could be labeled ‘easy going,’ because they’re always the best friends to have.  The thoughtful child will be most often grateful for what they have.  The child who learns to control their temper will later do a far better job of controlling their desires or urges or cravings, for all are simply manifestations of our most base and carnal energy.  For the child who learns to see the hand of God in every wondrous detail, life will be spent asking the kinds of questions that matter.

Take pride if you are raising a child in the year 2013.  You are a pioneer in a familiar, yet bravely-new world, and your child’s life is history in the making.

TEARS IN THE FABRIC

Last night, as I stretched out in bed to get comfortable between my oldest and favorite sheets, my big toe clawed a gash down the middle of the top sheet.  These sheets were a splurge when I was a single man renting his first apartment back in the year 2001 when I had just finished my 6 year tour in the US Navy and had no real savings on which to depend.  Now, after over a decade of married years, we’ve had lots and lots of sheet sets, all kinds of fabric ranging from flannel to that awful sateen that makes me feel like I’m sleeping in someone else’s sweat suit.  These have always been the best, and I destroyed them with my velociraptor toenails.

More aptly, I discovered the fabric has been washed that unknowable number of times and is now disintegrating, a fact learned only after poking more holes in it with my finger while mumbling a string of curses alternating between remorse and disbelief. It sounds weird to say that it would make my heart heavy to lose something so benign and ubiquitous as a set of sheets, but it does.  I couldn’t bear to strip the bed that very night, being so enamored of them for so long and so I slept one last time in that embrace that was always the perfect blend of insulation and ventilation, and I dreamt.

Happy moments, distant friends, leaping through fields, my daughters running and laughing…

When I woke, I lay still for a moment, relishing that idyllic sheet sandwich, and then swung my foot out of bed to rise for another exciting day of life.  As I did so, I caught that hole again expanding it three fold, and the sound of tearing fabric has been with me ever since.

I see a tear in the very fabric of our society.  I love what America once represented, and I am a lover of liberty.  Where once we took pride providing for our family, many leave that honor to the state entirely.  Where once we took pride in attention to detail and effort and diligence, now we seek to get the most for the least, and take pride in how cheaply we gather more possessions.  Where debt was once an abhorrence, now it is a prescription written to almost all by society as we enter adulthood.  Where family values once came from the family, morals now come from Must See TV.

Everywhere I look I see tears in the fabric and I can’t help but wonder, are we the sheets, held together only by the strongest of threads but ultimately doomed to fall apart?  Has our worth been laundered that unknowable number of times?  Have our traditions been scrubbed out of the zeitgeist and left us such a fragile weaving that any pressure at all means collapse?

How do you convince a generation raised to mock the worshipers of God, that they too worship, only at the much darker altar of the alimighty self?  When you are taught from birth that what feels good to you is good for you, how then will you ever arrive willingly at the necessary place of personal growth that can only be found on the other side of painful self-examination?

Christians call this the spiritual walk: realizing how rotten and sinful you are to the core, repenting, and living for eternity’s sake.   Chesterton once wrote “you know you’re at your worst, when you’re convinced deep down you really are a good person.” Again I posit, when your sake is the only sake, and vast swaths of societal fabric live only for their own sake, how can the unraveling of society be anything but certain?

We are a people in dire need of weavers.  We have always had the thread of absolute truth, but we have forgotten how to weave.

I miss my sheets already.

POWER TO THE PARENTS

Many of you are aware of the current battle for the future of education, the argument for school choice.  There are two sides poised to wage an epic media war for the hearts and minds of the voters.  On one side, you have unions, union interests, and quite frankly, union money outfitting the cannons of fear and marching with the cavalry of institution.  On the other side you have concerned parents and the taxpayers smart enough to care.  These citizens, wholly unfunded, and largely unorganized, are preparing to wade into the fray against seasoned veterans of successful past campaigns of misinformation, intimidation and outright deceit.

The battle lines are drawn, the standards raised, and the first volley has been loosed.  On the radio, you will hear the union fear-mongering echoing through the theater of your mind.

“A voucher system threatens public education, and limits options.  This will hurt teachers and hurt families and hurt our kids, and we’re proud to tell you.”

The analytical mind can’t help but scrutinize how exactly, in education and no other industry, competition reduces options, but there are many parents standing on the battlefield who have neither the time nor the interest to don the armor of skepticism and the shield of statistical fact.  They buy the lie.

Our education system was once the envy of the world.  We stood tall atop the mountain of greatness, but over thirty years ago, a chill wind from the mouth and mind of one James Carter sent us looking for shelter further down the mountainside.  For over thirty years now, this top down management of education, this stifling bureaucracy, has pressed us further and further down the slopes of success and into the dreary plains of mediocrity where the US trails most developed nations in literacy, math and science.  It is this system that prevents rapid adjustment to student needs, stifles the flexible development of curriculums, and prevents our great teachers from being justly rewarded.

So here we stand, parents and taxpayers alike.  The time for watered-down, apologist commentary that says all teachers are great and all our teachers are doing their best with what they are given, must end.  I don’t blame the teachers directly for Alaska’s abysmal education numbers, but the numbers are the numbers, and our system doesn’t need modest reform.  Our education system needs radical improvement.  At the recent AEDC forecast luncheon, the state of Alaska’s education system was recapped in a short video available here. The results speak for themselves.

I teach a two-day program sponsored by a local rotary club called Choices.  In it, I speak to 7th grade classes about how their grade is really the turning point in their lives where actions and performance directly determine the number of doors that are open to them in life, both in college or in a non-academic vocation.  I encourage them to take an hour or two per week to learn about the industry that supports their personal interest.  Video gamers would be served to learn programming.  Artists would be served to learn Photoshop.  In one class several years ago at Colony Middle School, I spent half of the final day arguing with the union-protected, tenured teacher who kept vocally insisting most students would be best served to drop out at 16, get their G.E.D. and enter the workforce.  After trying to respectfully disagree, I eventually disagreed in a substantially less respectful way, after which the class erupted in laughter and I was branded a hero.  Later, when I was leaving the administration offices, I mentioned his attempted torpedo of the program to the staff and was amazed by the response; “we’re just kind of waiting for him to retire.”

A system this dysfunctional does not need some little reform, it needs to be overhauled.

When the power of the purse is placed with the parents, the education system will radically improve.  It must, because now parents must make a choice, and choices must be weighed.  I submit, when given a choice, even uninvolved parents who are the bane of most talented teachers, will try to make a good choice for their kids.  Power to the parents means schools must appeal to them, must vie for their child’s interest, must demonstrate the ability to succeed, and most importantly, must listen to the feedback of their customers parents.  Monopolies are outlawed for good reason, and we’ve suffered the pains of poor options long enough.

The unions loathe the notion of accountability and mediocre and uninspiring teachers fear it but for very different reasons.  Great teachers however, embrace it.  Great teachers know not everyone is cut out to educate and inspire, and they’re correct.  Great teachers know the material is largely irrelevant.  It is their interaction and presentation of the material that engages students, as each of us with fond memories of an amazing teacher can attest.  I believe teachers deserve to be paid well when they educate well, and a good teacher understands power to the parents is a pay-raise in the works.

We must change our language to win.  Choices don’t inspire people, dreams inspire people.  I dream of an education system as varied and diverse as my options for footwear, where two computer-game-loving parents with a son who wants to spend his whole day playing Halo can enroll that boy in a school that is staffed with people who get excited about software and want to train the next generation of the world’s best coders.  A school where two hippie soul-mates can enroll their animal-loving daughter into a school designed around a fully functional ecosystem where the latest in forestry, farming, and agriculture technology are innovated at the same time they are educated.  Where two thespians who met in acting class can send their precocious kids to master the disciplines of poise, articulation, delivery and timing that will prepare them for a career on the stage.  Imagine a system where Christian parents, or Muslim parents, or Hindu parents can send their children to a school that wraps a classical education into and around the foundations of their faith.

I dream of a teaching environment that aligns teachers with the subject they are qualified and excited to teach. I believe in a system that rewards teachers a cash-bonus for each student who performs above grade level, cumulative bonuses per category.  With power to the parents, the negative consequences take care of themselves through natural market forces.  We need only concern ourselves with the duty to reward excellence, handsomely.

All this is possible in time if we are victorious, but victory lies in the language.

This must not be a war between choice and public education, that language is pure foolishness.  The public will continue to be educated, only at the behest of parents, and not political purchase. Educational unions and top-down bureaucracy are effectively dream thieves.  Through their systems go the bulk of our youth, and the results are pitiful, measured not only by the poor literacy rates and abysmal math scores we witness today, but by the loss of each affected child’s American dream.  That average student who straddled the line between his smarter peers and his lesser, whose chance to believe in himself and have the spark of imagination fanned into the flames of a bright future was instead, snuffed through the pure avarice of the NEA and the apathy of tenured teachers.

We can no longer allow the status quo to steal the futures of our middle-class children.  Do not be seduced into framing the argument between choice and public education.  Do not apologize, and stop worrying about people’s feelings.  After all, these are our kids were talking about here.

Opponents of school choice are the dream thieves, we are the parents.

Power to the parents.

 

FUN IN THE MEXICAN SUN

When traveling around the world, I find half of the experience can be found in the local cuisine, the other half in the culture. There’s nothing more ridiculous than going halfway around the world only to dine at Subway or McDonald’s or some other recognizable chain. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to limit yourself, be my guest… I just think it’s ridiculous.

Never was it more true than with the ceviche de pescado in Barra de Navidad, Mexico.

This little fishing village is quaint, quiet, polite and boasts mind-blowingly good food.

If you’ve never had ceviche (se-VEE-chay) you’re in for a treat. I was watching the man who caught my lunch as I ate my lunch while he caught someone else’s dinner. The kind of fish they use here in Barra (for ceviche) is called Sierra and they grind up the meat and let it sit in fresh lime juice until the acidity in the lime literally cooks the meat – as well as imparts a rather glorious flavor. No fishy smell, no fishy aftertaste, just fresh tomatoes, diced like pico de gallo with onions and fresh jalapenos. That’s it, a little of mamasita’s secret spices and buckle up for one tasty meal. I’ve had ceviche made from halibut in Alaska, salmon in Washington, limpia in Thailand, wahu in Guam, and tuna in Japan, but this meal sets the global bar in my opinion, and sets it rather high.

One disclaimer for a few readers who I know will be thinking ‘if you don’t like a fishy taste, then you don’t like fish’: a ‘fishy taste’ is not simply the taste of fish, it is the taste of the smell of rotten fish, when I use the word fishy. Salmon ‘should’ taste like salmon, and cod ‘should’ taste like cod, and so on… but good fish doesn’t need to smell like hockey socks in order to be good authentic fish… moving on.

The other thing that is key to a fine meal abroad is to engage the locals the way YOU would want to be engaged back home where you live. Guys, this blog is about you: American notions of feminism aren’t nearly as widespread as your resident feminist friend would have you believe. The waiter will almost always look to you to order, so try and make a great first impression. Learn a little of their language, and speak what little you know the way ‘they’ speak it, not in your American accent. If you can hear your American accent in your Spanish, try harder. The worst thing you can do is expect them to speak English and understand exactly what you want.

Picture it, you’re a waiter at the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage, Alaska… a Japanese couple walks in and starts speaking Japanese to you. You don’t understand Japanese, so you try and tell them so, and instead of being understanding or patient, they get irritated and loud until the one person on your restaurant staff who speaks a little Japanese rushes over to help out. What a couple of assholes… right?

It astonishes me how many Americans (and Canadians) do this exact thing in Mexico, or Thailand, or Japan, or Bahrain, or wherever. Now I do speak a little Spanish, enough to crack jokes with the locals and chat it up, and I tip well, and because of it my wife and I are remembered by name, we are hugged when we return literally two years later, our favorite meal AND drinks are remembered and ordered without asking, and we get invited to parties with the locals – which is the OTHER best way to experience culture abroad: befriend your waiters, waitresses, and restauranteurs because they know where the real culture happens, and if you’re cool… they’ll invite you along.

So the next time you are in the neighborhood, learn a little Spanish, try to sound Spanish when you speak it, and if you are in Barra, order the ceviche… it’ll blow your mind.

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THE SILVERBACK SYNDROME

So often as a married man, I am exposed to the emotions of my darling wife. Women either know and disregard, or have no idea just how impactful their ups and downs can be. On one such instance, my wife called me at the office and proceeded to tell me how one of our dearest friends had decided to end their friendship over a religious disagreement. Now I recently heard on the radio, and laughed at the absurd notion that scientists needed a study to confirm this, that when women cry, there is a measurable, repeatable, and verifiable negative reaction in men. A man’s mood is depressed, his happy hormones (dopamine) have decreased production – basically everything in your life sucks whenever your wife is crying.

[hear the men of the world uttering a collective “duuuh”]

So when my wife called me with the astonishing news that one of our dearest friends no longer wanted to be our friend because she had a truly minor umbrage with my wife’s religious views, I was angry and defensive on her behalf. I’m calling this the Silverback Syndrome. You know how it feels, your wife is driving and someone rudely cuts you off… or your waiter talks down to her… (always something fairly trivial in my experience) and your hackles go up in a massively disproportionate way. You fantastize about running the guy off the road and then going back to make sure he was hurt so you could laugh and drive away – that kind of thing. Usually these angry notions never make it past the notion stage. You have them, dismiss them as crazy talk, and then move on with your day.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to police yourself when crazy talk moves on to stage two.

Back to the story… after being regaled between sobs how terrible a thing had been done by our very close friend, I was angry that my wife had to have her heart broken over something utterly trivial (or at all) and since it appeared that the bridge of our friendship had been burned, I decided to write a letter that was for all intents and purposes a giant sign reading “kiss my ass” which I then e-mailed thereby waving from our side of the canyon that now separated us as couples. Or so I understood at the time.

My reasoning: wife was devastated… friendship was over… I was offended as well because I very much liked these friends… therefore notions of defending wife’s honor made it past the crazy talk stage.

It all happens very fast… this kind of thing.

With the hopes that our newly ex-friend would realize how horrible it was to have done such a thing, I composed an e-mail designed to utterly crush any shred of self-worth in said ex-friend and sent it. This was where I passed an opportunity, the importance of which I can’t impress enough when writing angry e-mails, to click ‘discard.’ Rationally, we all know the catharsis comes from actually writing out what we want to say, but rarely do these kinds of decisions end well. As you might expect, this was no exception. You see, the ex-friend responded that they were devastated I would say such things, and that my wife had misunderstood the e-mail… and as it turns out, indeed she had. In one of those incredibly rare instances where the meaning of a paragraph can be transformed by the omission of a single word, my wife’s eyes had repeatedly missed the imperative and operative transforming word and thus began the domino effect of the Silverback Syndrome.

So here it is men: unless your wife is physically threatened, in that case I recommend guns, knives, bats or anything else you can find, beware the Silverback within you. While quite strong, and capable of much destruction, the Silverback Gorilla is not known for its particularly large brain.

Beware the Silverback. I don’t know of a single person who ever made a decision having exercised intelligence, patience, and restraint, who later regretted their decision.