1.14.2013

30

In the summer of 1982 I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. With all of my worldly belongings (including a live cockatiel but excluding my awesome stereo which I shipped separately via UPS) packed into an all black 1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, equipped with a rented U-Haul car topper, I drove all night from Garland, TX to my new apartment on New Bedford Way, inside the loop in Northeast Atlanta. At 5AM I parked the Monte Carlo in a Kroger parking lot near the apartment and slept for a couple of hours, since the leasing office wasn't open yet. The apartment was an affordable, unfurnished one bedroom with green shag carpeting that I had settled on during a quick two day interview/logistics planning trip the month before. The agenda for the day was quite simple. Get the keys. Buy a bed.


View Larger Map

Fortunately, water beds were cheap, at least in comparison to real mattresses, and even though that first night in an unheated water bed was pretty miserable, it still remains one of the better purchase-under-pressure decisions I've ever made. This story, however, is not about the waterbed or bachelor apartments or my first naive experience in corporate America, which had prompted this move. No, strangely enough, this story is about love.

Prior to moving I worked at Kraft Foods in Garland, TX. I started work there in 1981, fresh out of college, as an Accounting Supervisor intern. Not long after starting work at Kraft my boss, Quinn Hunter, decided it would be a good idea to sit me next to someone a little more outgoing. Apparently he thought I was too shy and quiet. Little did he (or me or she!) know, that one day I would marry his outgoing accounting clerk.

Before I moved to Atlanta there was an obligatory going away party, thrown by "the gals" in the office. This was immediately followed by a trip to Pampa, sort of a "I'm moving far away and don't know when I'll get back this way" trip home. By 'immediately' I mean the morning after the going away party. I had arranged for my previously assigned outgoing co-worker to drive me to the airport that morning. She pounded on the door of my apartment at some hour that I was not prepared for and proceeded to wake me up, get me packed and deliver me to the airport in time for my flight. At some point on the trip between the apartment and the airport, despite my massive hangover, the trepidation of a family visit and the uncertainty of my future, I realized that I needed this woman in my life. At the ticket counter, as she was getting my baggage checked and making sure I had my ticket and boarding pass, I asked her to marry me.

Her response, if I recall correctly, was to laugh. Not just a "ha-ha aren't you cute" laugh, or a nervous "are you serious?" laugh, but a grown woman "are you effing kidding me?" laugh. Fortunately, as it turned out, I was in too much physical discomfort to let it seriously discourage me.

So I moved to Atlanta, and my love stayed in Dallas. We spent way too much time on the phone (because in those days, long distance was expensive!) and when I wasn't talking to her on the phone, I was writing letters, the old fashioned kind. Pen. Paper. Envelopes. Stamps. My regular routine would be to come home from work, whip up something cheap and quick to eat, stroll across the street to pick up a six pack of Stroh's if necessary (you couldn't get Coors in Atlanta back then ... see Smokey and the Bandit for reference) and spend the evening doodling and writing letters on a legal pad. Sometimes I would write Eddie, or Linda, or even my Mom, but I always wrote to Cindy, even if I didn't always mail them. The point is there was a lot of time to think, and my thoughts always ended up with her. When she came to visit on Labor Day I asked her to marry me again, and this time, she did not laugh.

I couldn't even guess what I wrote in all those letters, and given the grumpy old bastard I've turned out to be if they ever showed up in public I'd have to deny I wrote them. But whatever I wrote about love and life and a life together in those letters, well, it couldn't be nearly as perfect as the last thirty years have turned out to be.

Today is our 30th wedding anniversary. Wow. Thirty years. I wish I could take credit for it, but thirty year relationships are not an individual accomplishment. I could say "this is the secret" or "don't do this" or "it's all unicorns and puppies and rose petals!" but the truth is that I have no explanation or answer or secret. I love my wife. There's work and fun, pleasure and pain, heartache and joy but there is no explanation, no secret, no formula. We are two individuals who love each other, are committed to each other, respect each other and somehow, in this miraculous, God-created world, we live as one flesh. I do not want to imagine life without her. She is not just my right arm. She is me, we are one. I completely understand how people, who haven't lived life alongside us, can look at us and say "what an odd couple", but then, they haven't been down our path, have they? People who believe in the mystery of love, however, get it. They know.

I could tell you how wonderful my wife is, from taking care of me at the airport to standing beside me when a loved one dies, from forgiving my flaws to encouraging my strengths, from loving my family as her own to growing our "family" beyond the bounds of blood, but I assume you already know she's a saint for marrying and putting up with me. I could tell you a thousand funny, insightful, poignant, meaningful stories about these last thirty years, but I'm sure you have your own. All I can truly say is that I would not be the man I am today without her, and I would not want to be any other man.

Love you more, Cinderella. You up for thirty more?

1.12.2013

Let's Be Reasonable

My last post was 6 months ago, but that doesn't mean I haven't been arguing with the proverbial fence post. Most of my political writings have been directed toward commenting on facebook posts, though I realize it's even less productive than this blog. Since the election I've tried to be Switzerland, but sometimes I slip. It happened last week, and yes, it was about gun control. I feel that the "conversation" requires a more extensive comment which would not be well suited to a facebook format, so I'm putting it here.

The Cliff's Notes version of the facebook conversation goes like this:


  1. Known conservative and therefore dangerous Oklahoman Shane (who is also known to be armed) posts link to an article regarding Joe Biden's "executive order" comment on gun control options.
  2. Shane is condescendingly chided and implied to be over reacting by known liberal and therefore intelligent Californian, DL. Shane graciously ignores the implication.
  3. Wild card John posts a link from infamously biased crooksandliars blog attempting to portray gun owners as crazed and angry. John also poo-poos the idea that the administration can do anything on their own.
  4. Unreasonable, known trouble maker and erstwhile Texan blogger, Dexter, posts relatively short diatribe attempting to show that yes, the government is quite capable of violating the constitution to serve their own purposes. Another dangerous Oklahoman, too smart to get involved, simply "likes" Dexter's comment.
  5. blah, blah, blah ... time goes by
  6. DL again scolds and implies that other commenters are ignorant by suggesting they all believe Obama is a tyrant.*
  7. Dexter tries to deny he is unreasonable.
  8. DL is having none of that and immediately positions himself again as the adult in the room.


If you're interested, the full conversation is below (if you can read the bad screen shot), and after that is my final, extensive, exhaustive and incredibly unreasonable comment on this little, representative slice of facebook political discussion.




Despite what the media portrays as pervasive public outrage over our gun-loving society, DL is absolutely correct. No one is going to propose a ban on all guns. It would be political suicide. Suggesting that a gun ban is the long term goal, however, will get you labeled a nut or worse, even though there is plenty of historical evidence to show that governments like to disarm their citizens. History, of course, doesn't apply to us. It's not just us; any current society is always so much more advanced, intelligent and worldly than their forebears that they need not rely on history, which leads them directly to their destiny ... repeating history.

The politics of gun control are well understood by everyone. What few people understand, or admit, is the intellectual dishonesty of gun control supporters. As Ben Shapiro so ably demonstrated in a debate with Piers Morgan, if the pro gun control crowd was sincerely interested in stopping children from being shot, they would advocate a hand gun ban, not an assault weapon ban. They would own up to their long term goal, the ban on all guns (the one they won't propose). Some might say they are just being smart politicians, but they are truly just cowards, afraid that their idea will lose in any honest debate. They are content to nibble around the edges, putting the camel's nose in the tent, taking that inch like they have on every entitlement, tax, regulation and socially destructive initiative for 100+ years. Of course, that's much easier to do when you take the long view and have no qualms about being dishonest in the present to achieve future goals.

The one critical judgement to make on any politician is this question of intellectual honesty. Do they do what they say? Do they openly articulate principles you agree with, and act on those principles? Are they "a leader doing what supporters asked" or an "ideologue with an agenda?" The difference is easily recognized. One is a leader and the other is a politician. Barack Obama, and the vast majority of our elected "leaders," are politicians, and very few have the intellectual honesty, and the character that supports it, to lead effectively.

A leader would propose the constructive ideas we need. Obama doesn't do that. It's not politically feasible  He farmed out healthcare to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, financial reform to Chris Dodd and Barney Frank and now gun control to Joe Biden. He bangs the drum about "asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more" and then exempts his ultra-wealthy supporters (whose primary income is capital gains) by raising taxes only on income earners. He leverages his faith and church membership until it becomes a political liability and then, poof, it no longer reflects his views. One would think that in order to follow a leader you would have to know what they stand for, but Obama is impossible to pin down. It makes him a good politician, one that presents himself as having character, but demonstrates none. Obviously, you can be elected to lead without character, but you will never lead effectively.

What, exactly, is Barack Obama's position on gun control? In campaigns he says he supports the Second Amendment. In practice his justice department executes Fast & Furious to implicate the gun industry in Mexican drug lord violence to create a gun crisis. ("Never let a crisis go to waste.") He says "I have no intention of taking away folks' guns", but supports local gun bans as in DC, Chicago, NYC which do exactly that. He is dismissive of "bitter clingers," effectively letting people with faith and/or guns know that he considers them ignorant, yet somehow expects** them to accept his leadership on this issue. He voted against every concealed carry law while a State Senator, except the one that allowed retired police officers to carry. Unsurprisingly, he was working on acquiring political support from the Fraternal Order of Police at the time. As always with politicians, getting elected trumps principle.

The gun debate*** that the media and the administration (and DL) are demanding after Newtown is, quite simply, another manufactured crisis for the federal government to insert itself in ... like healthcare, like finance reform, like the unending 'fiscal cliff' and 'debt limit' crises. Obama is not interested in proposing any constructive ideas to stop gun violence in our schools because he knows it won't and can't be solved by a policy or legislation. Obamacare didn't "fix" our healthcare problem ... it simply pushed us in the direction of socialized medicine. Finance reform didn't "fix" the financial markets, it simply gave the government more control. Raising the marginal tax rates solved nothing for either the debt, the deficit or the budget; it only gave the appearance of 'action' and provides the false political cover of "protecting the middle class." An assault weapon ban or other gun control law won't "fix" school shootings ... it will simply push us in the direction of being an unarmed, and therefore vulnerable and dependent, society.

You cannot have a constructive debate on gun policy if one side lies about their position. If we are honest the debate question is, which is better, an armed society or an unarmed one? It really is that simple and we can have that debate. And once gun control nuts**** are honest about that, they should take one more bold step and admit they are fundamentally, irrevocably and principally interested in empowering the state to control the citizen. That is the path of gun control. That is why it is expressly forbidden in the constitution. That is why gun control nuts lie to themselves and everyone else. They cannot accept or admit to the basic truth of the question at hand.

Here's my constructive idea. Require gun training in schools. Take away the ignorance and fear of guns and teach responsibility and respect. Teach them safety. Teach them control. Give them confidence. Undermine victim mentality. Show them the science and engineering involved. Provide another competitive arena, a practical activity, a tangible demonstration of how to be responsible. Teach them the history of guns, their influence on culture and that responsible use differs from criminal use. Allow them to compare for themselves the un-reality of video games and movies to the true destructive power of weapons. Teach them that actions have consequences. Build a stronger society, not a weaker one.

It seems to me there are only two paths to take ... we either go down the "control" path with bans, restrictions, the shaming of gun owners and the elevation of the state, or we go down the path of "empowerment" where we raise our expectations of others, promote trust and respect of individuals and re-ignite the concept of self reliance in our society. Until we are willing to start the debate there, at the honest and fundamental conflict between the individual and the state that the gun control issue represents, there will be no constructive debate. The right is honest about their position. They openly admit that this is about the citizen vs. the state and they are on the side of the citizen. The left (which includes squishy Republicans) can't afford to be honest. It might cost them an election, which they value more than principle.



* For the record, I think he's too stupid and gutless to be a good tyrant.
** That's not quite accurate. He doesn't 'expect' so much as 'demand'.
*** The debate is settled in The Bill of Rights. If you want to debate it your statement should not be  "let's talk about guns," it should be "let's repeal the Second Amendment."
**** have you ever noticed that if you are pro-gun you are a "gun nut," but if you are pro-gun-control you are an "advocate?"