Consistency: Our Pervert President, his blind followers, and their insidious link to professional wrestling. (A love story)

I was a huge professional wrestling fan for a few years when I was a kid. Think AWA, not WWF or WWE. The American Wrestling Association was a much smaller organization than the professional wrestling empire that is on television today. It was based in Minnesota and it featured tremendous mythical heroes like The Crusher, Buck “rock and roll” Zumhofe, The High Flyers, and Hulk Hogan among others. These defenders of of all that is good and righteous in the world defended our country and squared off in the wrestling ring against an army of pure evil featuring monsters such as Andre the Giant, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, The Road Warriors, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, The Iron Sheik, Mad Dog Vachon, Baron VonRashke “The Claw”, Big John Stud, and many more. Interestingly, many of these bad guys were foreign. Some were on the wrong side of the Cold War. All of them were capable of great villainy. They stood for everything that we fear or loathe while the heroes embodied all of the virtues that we aspire to. It was melodrama on a Shakespearean scale played out by a bunch of sweaty and obnoxious muscular dudes in Speedos. In the end, good always triumphed over evil and we loved it. Then, we grew up and realized it was fake.

Somewhat like professional wrestling, the battle lines are pretty clear in the super hero movies these days. The characters aren’t overly complicated either. The narrative is easy enough for even a child to understand. Nobody cheers for Thanos the Titan as he wipes out half of the population. Nobody cheers for The Joker as he terrorizes Gotham City. Everyone cheers for the Avengers. Everyone cheers for Batman. Thanos is evil, the Avengers (though somewhat more complicated than professional wrestlers) are good. Batman good. Joker evil. We want the good guys to win, to succeed in their goals, to save the world or the galaxy or Gotham City.

I was strongly reminded of super heroes, super villains, and professional wrestling when I watched the events unfold at the Capitol in Washington D.C. this month. Here are a few other things that also remind me of these simple melodramas:

  1. The coverage of the election. Both sides.
  2. The hyperbolic statements of the candidates. Both sides.
  3. The debates. Both sides.
  4. The ubiquitous campaign ads. Both sides.
  5. The endless political memes and snarky commentary by my friends and family and the pundits on Facebook ,Twitter, and virtually every other online outlet for opinions.
  6. The pandemic coverage.
  7. Our standard American debates over issues like immigration, health care, taxation, abortion, vaccinations, racial equity, science vs religion, gun rights vs gun control, etc.

What do all of these topics have in common that remind me of the farce of professional wrestling? THE SIMPLE NARRATIVE we make out of them.

We, the unwashed masses, are always served the simple narrative on a silver platter. It’s easy to choose a side on issues based on whatever your friends, family, preferred news source/media platform, or favorite celebrities believe. It’s easy to choose one simple series of arguments to believe and then be done.

What’s harder is to look at and respect the nuances that fill up all of the cracks and corners of the world. It’s harder to listen to opposing opinions and have some respect for the people who hold them. Hate and rage and vilification are easy. Discussion and understanding is harder. It’s easy to shoot someone. It’s harder to honestly discuss an issue with them. How many times in the last few years have you heard someone say something like “I just can’t understand how someone can believe that!” There are people that think the same thing about what you believe.

Let’s unpack this idea a little and talk politics for just a moment.

Am I a Republican or a Democrat? Talking politics in America, those are generally the two options you’re given. It may be stated as Conservative or Liberal, but it’s shorthand for the same ideas to most people. You’d probably want to know where I stand before we talk politics, wouldn’t you? The easy path is to say “David is a (fill in the blank with a political party), therefore he believes X, Y, and Z.” Then you can quickly pull up your stance on those issues, put me in my box, and you’re done, right? Easy.

The harder, and I would argue better, approach is to not only ask me what I believe but also WHY I believe it. What are your inputs? How did you get to this spot? Help me to understand where you’re coming from. We all have histories and experiences that shape us into who we are and it’s rarely simple. And guess what? Everyone else’s opinion is just as valid as yours. Same weight. They get the same number of votes as you. (But, of course, both sides in recent elections believe that the other side cheated. Their party is the good guy, the other is the bad guy. And, we’re back to wrestling.)

It’s no shock that you think your opinion is worth more than most others. You understand all of your inputs and experiences and you can see the path that you took to arrive at this opinion. The other person’s path is hidden from you unless you engage them. Yours is hidden from them too. But, it’s easier to respond to their post with a cutting meme than to discuss the issue with them. Easy. Done. You showed them, right?

Leave your knee-jerk reactions at the door and think about the following ideas:

Were all of the German soldiers and citizens during WWII Nazis who wanted to exterminate Jews and take over the world? Of course not. Most of them were like most of us. They were told a simple narrative about the enemy and they did what they were told to do. The Japanese were the same. The British and Russians and Italians were the same. We were the same. Most people just want peace and prosperity. They don’t want to take part in genocide or war. But, we are all born into our circumstances and formed and controlled by them to some extent. Nazis were heroes in Germany and every institution in their society backed up the idea that they were engaged in the righteous cause. Our soldiers and citizens had the same experience here. If you had been a young man or woman born into that world, you would have fought alongside the others. Again, it’s easy to go along with the masses. It’s harder to be an individual and arrive at your own conclusions and especially when you’re surrounded with propaganda. They were surrounded then and we’re surrounded now.

Next topic: Truth or bias?

Let’s discuss our perverted President. You may be thinking of Donald Trump when you read that, but I could also be talking about Bill Clinton, couldn’t I? What is the truth about Donald Trump and Bill Clinton? They are virtually the same guy. Bill and Donald are both perverts. They both presided over booming economies that ended as they left office during a storm of crisis. Both had impeachment trials. The facts are that they are both adulterers, they are both guilty of sexual harassment, and they are both neck deep in shady business dealings. Many people love and hate them. One is a Democrat and one a Republican. I would argue that there is very little real difference. I have friends who would defend one of them and murder the other one if they could get away with it because of their party allegiance without ever thinking that they’ve been manipulated into holding conflicting beliefs. My friends, this is professional wrestling. We cheer the person that we see as the good guy and we boo the villain. That’s the simple narrative that we’ve all fallen for at one time or another.

The events that occurred after the George Floyd incident in 2020 and the events that occurred at the Capitol the week before the inauguration of 2021 are either riots or protests depending on your view. Conservatives made fun of the media as they reported on “mostly peaceful protests” while American cities burned, people’s lives were destroyed or ended, and the divides in our nation grew. Liberals did the same as the events at the Capitol unfolded. They went on to be called a coup and an insurrection. In both cases, the situation was WAY more complicated than those simple narratives. There were real issues being protested in both cases. There were politicians on both sides inciting violence. There were hundreds of thousands of good people standing up for their beliefs in both cases. Buildings were attacked and damaged. There were bad actors in both cases that did terrible things. Your bias informs your commentary on them. Your bias simplifies it and makes all of the participants either good or bad. Your bias scapegoats one organization, one candidate, one race, one occupation, or one party. Your bias is the path that leads to the simple narrative you’ve fallen for, but you can step back and look at the facts. You can be consistent regardless of the party or person. You can grow up and stop believing that our professional wrestling masquerading as political discussion is real. It’s not. We tend to get bogged down in simplistic arguments and beliefs that only add to the problems that make life worse for everyone. Rioters are rioters regardless of their motivation. Protesters are protesters regardless of their cause. Rioting is not protesting. Protesting is not rioting. In both instances, rioting and protesting happened, there were good and bad law enforcement actors involved, and both sides saw their actions as justified and the other’s actions as criminal. This is not consistent. There are facts and truths and problems that should be acknowledged by both sides.

Side note: Watch the excellent documentary “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix if you haven’t already. The social media algorithms use our biases and tendencies for their profit and as a side effect they fuel the hatred, misunderstanding, and divide. They must be stopped. You must stop them. That starts in your mind.

As I’ve written before, I love the idea of America. I love freedom and our constitution-based representative republic that the founders gave us. But, in truth we’ve become an oligarchy and the power brokers and wealthy people in our country are the ones that have a seat at the table and the rest of us are given the crumbs of the simple narrative as our standard of living and values continue to decline year after year and as we fight with, dehumanize, and belittle each other.

I believe one of the ways out of this mess is consistency. If we could all generally agree on a set of standards, as our ancestors generally agreed on Christian/Biblical standards, and then hold our leaders and institutions to those standards, things would change. Right now, we tend to hold our opponents to a set of standards, but our allies get a pass. That’s inconsistent and intellectually dishonest. If Donald Trump is pervert, so is Bill Clinton. If Barrack Obama is praised when he’s nominated for a Nobel Prize, Donald Trump should be too. If Brett Kavanaugh, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, or anyone else is accused of a crime like sexual assault, they should be investigated. If The Fighting Sioux mascot for the University of North Dakota is offensive, then so is The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame or the Minnesota Vikings for that matter. If it’s wrong for one, it’s wrong for all regardless of political affiliation, race, income, or any other factor. If your team cheats to win the game, it should outrage you as much as the other team cheating to beat your team. Let’s be consistent and reintroduce a little sanity to these issues.

Learn to disagree and be respectful. If you can’t, at least be quiet. Work for the causes you believe in, but not at the cost of vilifying those who oppose you. You do your thing and let them do theirs. If you can’t treat them with respect, at least you can keep your mouth shut. This includes your social media mouth. Be a good person, regardless of your circumstances. Be consistent. Love the idea of America. And, for God’s sake, stop believing that professional wrestling is real.

The American Formula: Use it or lose it.

I buy, trade, collect, restore, and sell vintage guitars, amplifiers, and other audio equipment like radios and stereos. I’ve been doing it off and on since I was 15, so I’ve had a lot of gear pass through my life and I’ve met a lot of interesting people and made some great friends too.

On a recent trip to Northeast Minneapolis to buy a tube radio, I met an older couple who triggered this writing. Northeast or “Nordeast” as some call it is an interesting neighborhood of mid-century and older homes and buildings. I love a lot about the area as I love a lot of things from that era. The couple’s home was a post-war rambler with a two car garage and an addition. This same home configuration can be found from coast to coast. This one was meticulously maintained from the lawn, flower beds, and garden to the paint and roof. It was obvious that the people who own it pride themselves on keeping it nice and clean and orderly. It wasn’t maintained in a sterile way by others like a wealthier person’s estate might be. The older couple did it and did it well and took obvious pride in it. The personal touches made that clear. It was a home rather than a house or simply property.

We scheduled a time to meet and when I arrived the radio that I wanted to buy was sitting on a table next to a nice arrangement of outdoor furniture that was probably from the 1960’s or 70’s judging by the construction and decoration of it. It, like the house, was clean and well maintained. The wife was waiting for me and came out to meet me when I got out of the car. She greeted me with a wave and smile before putting on her mask and reminding me to do the same. She told me all about the radio and we had a nice conversation about old radios and the neighborhood that lasted for about fifteen minutes with her husband also joining in at the end. They were baby boomers and stereotypical Nordeasters from my experience of living in, working near, and visiting the neighborhood over the years. They invited me into the back yard to see their garden and I ended up buying two radios from them. They were friendly, polite, kind, and decent people and spending just a few minutes with them brought me back to the 70’s and 80’s and reminded me of how different people and life are now.

Often times, when I go to look at something off Craigslist or some other platform, the people want to meet in a public place rather than at their house. The last person I met with wanted to meet at a police station for safety reasons. Sometimes the people don’t show up. Sometimes the items are misrepresented. Often, the people seem nervous or suspicious. The older couple were none of these things, for good or bad, but meeting them made me miss the past. Of course things weren’t perfect in the past as they’ve never been perfect anywhere or ever. But, in my experience, it was generally better in most ways. Of course there were aspects of our past that were terrible or simply unfair or annoying, but again I would say that it was generally better than the current state.

The Problems with America:

Why? Why do most things seem to get worse rather than better for the average person? I believe I have a good answer for that and I believe that we all shoulder part of the blame for it too. Yes, you and I are part of the problem, my fellow Americans. Health care costs along with taxes continually go up while wages and consumer buying power goes down. Your fault. Discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, or a variety of other distinctions persists. Again, you. Violence and suicide are still major problems. You and me, bud. Should we add immigration issues, pandemics, education struggles, or the ever rising cost of living to the list? What about child abuse and human trafficking? Drug and alcohol abuse? You and I have helped to cause all of this and here is the best part: Without the intervention of aliens or a higher power, you and I are the only ones who can fix it.

The problems are obviously plentiful and the solutions are few in modern America. Even fewer are the people who are willing to get involved to solve said problems. I’m not going waste your time listing or discussing our problems any further because it leads to the blame game and the childish sport of finger pointing.

I am going to ask you to make a short list for yourself of what you see as the biggest problems in America today and I’m going to challenge you to argue that the answer to these problems that I’m going to propose wouldn’t take a large step toward fixing them. Read that again if you’re not clear on what I’m asking. Test your top problems with America against the plan that I’m going to propose and see what you think. I don’t think you’re going to like it and I also think that you’ll probably forget it soon after reading about it if you haven’t stopped reading already, but I also think that, like eating your broccoli, you’re going to need to swallow it to be healthy. Uncle Sam and lady Liberty need a big serving of broccoli at this point and regardless of how tough it is to swallow, I believe it is the only way for America to be healthy again and make the fabled American Dream attainable for all.

The Solution to our common woes:

I believe that America is a formula that works. It took less than 200 years for America to become the most powerful and prosperous nation the world has ever seen. How did our ancestors do it?

(Many folks today get upset and sidetracked at this point by talking about the mistakes and terrible injustices of our ancestors without remembering their accomplishments or realizing that things like slavery, genocide, and the subjugation of women still persist all over the world. In fact, some of our “allies” are the biggest offenders and human rights violators. In America, those problems are mostly relics of the past. Is it productive to flog America for the sins of the past? I believe it is not. Correct it as much as possible and move forward.)

The idea of America, or the formula that works, is a combination of freedom, personal responsibility, and a common set of values. Our nation was founded for the purpose of granting religious and economic freedom to its citizens and the common values held by the colonists and early Americans are what bound them to and made the whole idea of America work. Those values were Christian values in the beginning of America and they worked well as the glue to hold our union together.

Note: This isn’t a sermon or plea for you to accept Jesus, by the way. I am a Christian by my own definition, but I have a lot of thoughts about the state of Christianity today and they’re not much different than the way I view our state and federal governments. It’s broken, in short, and it makes me want to puke as much or more than our political situation. As much as I personally believe in God, I don’t think you have to believe in a higher power or be a devoted Christian to have integrity, be a good person, or share the type of common values that make you a good citizen and benefit the nation. Please keep that in mind.

Government in its simplest form just means control or regulation. You govern your own life to one degree of success or another. A family is another type of government. A town, county, state, or nation is the same on a larger scale. And, no unit of government can exist without common values. A marriage has common values called vows and when those shared values or agreements are breached the marriage is usually destroyed. Any relationship, business, rock band, club, circus, or any other organization that can’t agree on a core set of values cannot stay together, function, or prosper. Common values are the answer to unity and give any organization direction. This is why companies have mission statements.

My proposal is that the majority of Americans do not hold a rational set of common values at this point and that is why our country is dissolving and our situation as common Americans continues to erode. I believe the simple answer to this problem is to return to the values of the past. The golden rule. Common decency. Common sense. Hard work. Honesty. Integrity.

In embracing these common values, societal and generational thinking needs to replace selfish individualism. Why would you plant a tree that you will not live long enough to see grow to maturity? Someone in a previous generation planted the mature trees that you enjoy and breathe oxygen from today. You attend schools that someone sacrificed to build. You read books that someone labored to write. Your mother gave birth to you at great cost to herself. We enjoy the freedom that men and women died to give us from the revolution against King George by the colonists through the Civil War that ended slavery, two World Wars, and countless conflicts since. Why would all of those people have sacrificed their time, their dreams and desires, some of the best years of their lives, their health, and their very lives to plant those trees, build those schools, have those children, and even die for the idea of America? America is a great idea and it was and is worth the sacrifice. Those common values gave it to us and the loss of those values is taking it away from us. The resurgence of those values in you and me along with us passing them along to the following generations is what will renew it.

Babies, naturally and for obvious reasons, only think of themselves, but the natural order of things is for a person to grow up and by a combination of training and nurturing to outgrow that selfishness and become a physically and emotionally mature adult. We need to grow up and stop being selfish, self-centered babies who need to be taken care of by the government or anyone else. It’s called personal responsibility and freedom. Stop thinking of only yourself and start thinking of how to sustain the good things that our ancestors made and help the next generation to keep that momentum going. We are standing on the shoulders of the men and women who came before us and we need to teach the next generation to keep climbing rather than making it acceptable for them to crawl back into the crib. They need to become mature adults rather than just “adulting” now and then only when they absolutely have to.

As a nation, we’ve allowed this slide to happen. Nixon resigned for crimes far smaller than the many following Presidents have committed. Why? The nation would not have tolerated his crimes. He would have been impeached. I think of some of Bill Clinton’s actions as president which disgusted me and I think of some of Trump’s actions which also disgust me. Many of them are the same, but it has become acceptable to many people as long as the offender represents your party or position. It was Bill Clinton’s private life, the Democrats shouted when the Republicans wanted to hang him. Now those same Democrats want to hang Trump for similar offenses, deny one of his Supreme Court nominees for similar accusations, and endorse Biden to be the next President as he’s being accused of similar offenses. They scream about Trump’s pardons while remaining silent about Obama’s record number of pardons. The Republicans are no better and the majority of both parties are unfit for office in my opinion. Why? They lack integrity. Integrity would say that wrong is wrong regardless of who the offender is. Partisan Washington does not believe wrong is wrong because they lack integrity on the whole. They lack the common values that created and sustained America into the last century. Why are we offered leaders who are set up to fail and harm us collectively because they can’t even govern themselves let alone a company or nation? We must demand better and we must be better.

Today I was flicked off in traffic. A woman was going well under the speed limit and I pulled over to pass her. She sped up after I passed her and honked and flicked me off as I pulled over in front of her. There was plenty of room until she sped up to cut me off. This type of behavior confuses me. Also, I usually drive 5-7 miles over the speed limit and in the last decade I’ve gone from being one of the faster cars to being one of the slower. I get tailgated, flicked off, and have high beams flashed at me for not speeding enough. This also confuses me, but I believe it also illustrates the change in attitudes we’re experiencing. I’m suddenly wrong or bad for not doing what the other driver wants me to do, in these cases. Years ago, the lawbreaker was the problem and now the law follower has become the problem to many. You’re slowing me down! You’re in my way! Just like social media, the car is enough insulation for the shouting, flicking off, and other rage to safely come out without any real consequences for the baby who is throwing the tantrum. But, what’s going on with the guy in the other car? Did he just come from the hospital where his wife or child died? Did she get fired or diagnosed with cancer today? Is there something wrong with their car? Or, do you just call them an idiot and fly past? If we shared some common values and gave even the slightest thought for the other person, maybe we could grow up a little and get away from some of the childish temper tantrums and playground behavior that we see all around us.

A larger and sadder example played out for us in Minneapolis as the righteous protests for the killing of George Floyd became riots and anarchy. Looting. Burning. Murder. Destruction. Another temper tantrum. More rage. Another lost opportunity to grow up and make a lasting change for the better. And now, as in the past, the tragic situation is being used by unethical people to push changes on society that will continue to victimize the very people who called for the change. Tear the monuments down, forget your history, and in your immaturity you’ll become the very thing that you’re supposedly protesting against. The names and groups change, but racism and injustice and violence continue.

My son and his girlfriend got overcharged at Applebee’s a while back. His friend got undercharged by the same server. My son questioned the bill and the server apologized and recalculated it wrong the second time also. This time, it was too low. He tried to get her to fix it again and paid something close to the correct amount. His friend paid his bill and left. They came over to my place afterwards and we were talking about it. I pointed out that his friend had stolen from the restaurant and it made him mad. He said that the restaurant had made the mistake and that was their problem and, anyway, they were a big corporation that screwed everyone over and they deserved to get screwed once in a while too. I argued that he had ordered the food for a certain cost which he knew upfront and agreed to pay for it by ordering it. The ethical thing would have been to point out the error and pay for it. This same logic applies to your taxes, a payroll error at work, or seeing a bag of money fall out of an armored car at the bank. Do you steal or do you follow your agreement as a citizen or employee? What are the consequences of taking the money that doesn’t belong to you? It’s stealing, for sure, but it also has to come from someone else. Your gain is someone’s loss and there are consequences for them. If you complain about politicians and large corporations ripping people off, you’re against stealing and fraud and abuse too. If you do the same thing on a smaller scale, you’re no different.

We ridicule and blame churches, politicians, corporations, celebrities, lawyers, educators, and others for the problems in our country, but all of those institutions are made up of individuals like us that are choosing to act with integrity or not. They’re all just little governments run by people like us. Our families, churches, corporations, and governments will change when we start making the right choices in all of our roles in these organizations.

No person or party is going to save America or fix our problems. You are. We the People are the answer and we are the only ones that can fix and preserve the idea of America. It starts with going back to the common values that we started with. This doesn’t mean following a religion, it means having integrity and maturity and taking responsibility for yourself and thinking of future generations as well. The formula works if we’ll do it. We must do it. The America that we are all honored to live in cannot survive without it.

Alexis de Tocqueville said “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” He was a famous 19th century French statesman, historian, and social philosopher. He traveled to America in the 1830’s to discover the reasons for the incredible success of this new nation. He published his observations in his two-volume work, Democracy in America. I couldn’t agree more with his observation and I hope you can also see that it’s true.

Which of America’s problems would not be helped or ended if the majority of the individuals in this nation had good integrity and tried to do the right thing? None of them. It would transform America. Nothing is perfect and there will always be problems, but having and following these common values will go a long way toward making America a country that we can all feel safe and happy to live in.

Regardless of your political or religious affiliation or lack thereof, I hope you can agree with me that the way forward in America is to unite under the common values that made America the most powerful and influential nation on Earth. If we adopt the failed practices of other nations or revert to our own failures and the mistakes of the past, we are truly ignorant since we have so many examples of the outcomes. The American formula works if we will follow it.

New Band Names:

The Drunken Wiener Dogs

Duct Taped Toilet Seat (DTTS)

Black Hole’s Matter (popular with science nerds)

What are your ideas?

Consider this:

Not one human on Earth 100% agrees with any other human. Accept that. Disagreement is natural unless you’re in a cult or dictatorship. It’s how we handle disagreements and conflict that shows our maturity and character.

It’s you and me.

How much of the “news” you’re reading on social media is designed to manipulate you? How much is even true? It’s a maelstrom of dueling agendas out there and it’s impossible to know if ANY of it is true unless you were there. Have you noticed how every side is claiming that they’re being persecuted and everyone seems to be trying to one up someone else from the President down to your friends? If you agree or disagree or have an opinion at all, you get labeled or shamed or “educated” by someone. This whole process leads nowhere. The pendulum just swings back and forth. The nuances, simple logic, and TRUTH are being trampled in our rush to prove we’re right. Do you want change? The world will change when the truth is told and accepted and real, honest solutions to the major problems with all of us, regardless of your agenda or race, are faced. Be quiet now and fix yourself. If we all do that, the rest will follow.

The Walk

I went for a walk yesterday. At the beginning, I stopped to stretch on a granite bench next to a monument to a little girl who had died in an accident. She was a student at Dassel Elementary School at the time of her death. I think she was nine. There is a beautiful stone with her name and a thoughtful verse carved into it along with the bench and some nice landscaping in a small courtyard on the east side of the school near a side entrance. There is a giant oak tree that overhangs the courtyard too. It’s really nice. I live across the street from it and I can see the bench and stone from my bedroom window where I have my home office during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As I stretched I looked up and saw another entrance farther down the block that brings you into the old gymnasium that doubles as a stage and theater like many older schools had. It’s a lot like the former middle school gymnasium and Orwall Auditorium in North Branch where I grew up. I like the old schools with their humble facilities a lot more than the richer campuses that our tax dollars and levies build these days that produce far poorer results for everyone except the administrators and unions in my opinion. Why are the teachers and students the ones who seem to suffer? Aren’t they the reason for the school being there in the first place? I think we’ve lost focus on what we should be prioritizing and spending our time and money trying to accomplish. This isn’t my overall point and I apologize for the side track. I’ll get the wagon back in the ruts now.

Two of my daughters played basketball in that gym when they were little. It was really fun and really hard to watch at the same time. I so much wanted them to do well, but I also wanted them to have fun and be okay with whatever the outcome was. It was hard to listen to the other parents whose children weren’t living up to their expectations. It was worse when they yelled at them or coached them from the stands. It was also hard to listen to the parents who didn’t pay attention at all or the ones who displayed their lack of care by playing with their phones the whole time. There were also the parents that criticized other people’s kids and talked about how much better their kid was.

I sat behind a lady who criticized and made fun of my daughter one afternoon. Four of her kids had worked for me at my restaurant at one time and I had a good relationship with three of them. I fired the fourth one for stealing and generally being lazy, among other undesirable habits, after giving him many chances to redeem himself and this is why the lady hates me and my kids. I’m sure she knew I was there and she took the opportunity to take her petty revenge. It was really hard, but I kept my mouth shut and let her do her thing. I still struggle and go back and forth between despising her or feeling sorry for her and her family. Few things make me happier than seeing good parents who pay attention to their kids and really care about them and few things upset me more than bad parents who don’t realize how much they’re damaging their kids. We all do it in one way or another, but some of us are trying really hard to avoid causing damage while others only see themselves.

I thought about all of these things as I walked past the playground that was barricaded to enforce social distancing recommendations, the people at the park and a nearby house who were having a party or family gathering of some type in spite of the social distancing recommendations, and the people who I met on my walk who, like me, aren’t completely sure what to do when they encounter another person in public at this point. It’s complicated. I walked past people walking, running, biking, and driving with and without masks on. Should I have one on? The answer depends on who you listen to or who you believe or trust.

Things like grocery shopping and putting gas in your car have gotten complicated also. What is the etiquette? Nobody really knows. Each person, store, and situation is different and has different expectations and beliefs. The CDC and WHO and different politicians and doctors all have their recommendations which seem to change weekly or even daily. There is a lot of judgement, complaining, and criticizing going on also and plenty of social media platforms to do it with. This goes for opinions and advice too. Again, it’s very confusing and a little stressful even for someone who does’t get overly anxious about things. I can only imagine what the poor folks with actual anxiety issues or hypochondria are going through right now.

I feel fortunate, blessed, lucky, or happy (however you want to say it) to be healthy and to still have a job that I can go to even if it is in the makeshift home office that I hastily put together a few weeks ago. Many people do not have their health or a job to be thankful for. I have two old computer monitors sitting on a Nike shoe box and a Quaker oatmeal box hooked up to my laptop and I’m okay with that. My back and hands hurt a little from the bad chair and desk along with my bad posture habits, but I’m okay with that too. An old herbalist that I listened to years ago said that we should be thankful for pain because it reminds us that we’re alive and trying to heal.

I thought about all of these things on my walk and as I finished the loop and walked back to my house past the elementary school I thought about the little girl on the stone again. Mileka the third grader. I never met her or even heard of her until she died. I didn’t know she existed until I read her obituary in the local paper. I had another Ecclesiastes-like moment as I thought about the vanity of life and how arbitrary it seems at times.

Why did their girl die while my girls got to play basketball in her school? My oldest daughter is about to get her doctorate, my son is about to get his bachelor’s degree, and my two younger girls are working hard and advancing in school too. Why did I get to watch them play basketball, stack rocks on the shore of Lake Superior with them, listen to their fears about what the Corona virus outbreak means for their futures, drink coffee and eat pancakes with them, make homemade pizzas with them, play badminton and go for walks with them, argue about differing opinions with them, clean up after them, get annoyed by them, and show them love every day, and her Dad doesn’t get to do any of that with her?

Why is anyone alive or dead? I don’t know. You don’t either. It’s unknowable. My kids’ degrees and careers and schooling are being disrupted and delayed which is causing some pain and upset, but the pain means they’re alive and struggling. I’m thankful that with all of the chaos and uncertainty across the globe presently, I am alive and struggling. I’m thankful that you are alive and hopefully struggling to some extent too. Whatever pain and anxiety your are experiencing right now proves that you are alive and that you care and those are good things. Be grateful for the struggle, my friends.

And, on this Easter Sunday of 2020, be thankful, also, for the one historical figure who beat death like a rented mule. He’s the guy who our calendar is still numbered for 20 centuries later. He’s the guy who, as C.S. Lewis said, is either a liar, lunatic, or Lord because He claimed to be God. He didn’t just claim to be a generic god, either, He claimed to be God with a capital G. He claimed to be YHVH, YHWH, Yehweh, Jehovah, the great I AM who talked to Moses and the Prophets, or however you want to represent it. Jesus claimed to be the God of the Old Testament, the Creator, in the flesh, so either He was lying, He was insane, or He really was. There are a lot of opinions about this topic too, but this one is worth your time to objectively and honestly look into for yourself. Memes and jokes and one liners aren’t the best way to form your views of this topic. It’s quite a bit more important than who “wins” The Bachelor or the Superbowl. This is another great opportunity that you have because you are alive, so take advantage of that and struggle with it like I do.

Freak Upgrades to What, Mr. Monk?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about being a freak, being a freak magnet, and also the word Freak itself and I think that it probably has too negative of a connotation for my purposes of passing along stories of eccentric individuals who have crossed my path. So, I’ve decided to attempt to upgrade my description of these people to another word. Any suggestions?

I think “eccentric individuals” is probably the best description of the interesting people that I attract and write about, but “Eccentric Individual Magnet” doesn’t flow, does it?

Unusual is too banal and is just not enough of a word to encompass my beloved companions in these narratives.. Anomaly is too scientific sounding. “I’m an anomaly magnet” makes me sound like I may draw black holes, alien armadas, or pulsars toward Earth to kill us all. Aberration is also slightly negative as if the plan was going one way and then YOU showed up, you aberration. Rogue is taken by one of the X-Men who I’ve always felt sorry for. Rarity should probably be taken to The Antiques Roadshow to have its value and provenance established.

Quirk sounds like quark which, as someone who appreciates Physics, bothers me, but it also reminds me of people like Mr. Monk who was one of my middle school teachers and quite the quirky fellow. Mr. Monk would also fall into the dark side of the freak category if the truth were told. For example, he was extremely proud of his perfect attendance record. I believe you could safely say that he was fanatical about it. The proof that I offer to back up this strong assertion is an incident that happened when I was in seventh grade and Mr. Monk came down with influenza. He was as pale as an Irish shut-in and as shaky and sweaty as any hardcore junkie trying to kick his heroin habit cold turkey. His breathing was labored. His eyes were red, glassy, and watery. And, he leaned against his desk or the built-in cabinets for support. But, he was present and his perfect attendance record was intact. I’m sure he infected numerous students and faculty members and ruined THEIR perfect attendance records, but that’s another matter entirely. Attendance was like survival of the fittest for this man and he was naturally selecting the heck out of himself. Some people have terrible diarrhea when they get the flu, but Mr. Monk was firmly in the vomiting camp. He obviously knew this fact before making the arduous journey to North Branch Middle School because he had prepared for this eventuality by bringing a number of empty half gallon paper milk containers with him. This was 1983 or 1984 and the life of a North Branch adolescent was quite a bit different from today in many ways. One way is that we were allowed to play violent games at lunchtime like Trench, which most folks refer to as Dodge Ball, and work out our pubescent angst by blasting each other in the face with a small rubber ball. Another way is that 12 year old David had to sit quietly in class working on his worksheet with a #2 pencil as his teacher, Mr. Monk, loudly puked into a re-purposed milk jug. This, of course, would not happen today. We all felt sick right along with the tormented Mr. Monk and a few students put their heads down on their desks and a few others just got up and left the room. At one point, it seemed like Mr. Monk briefly regained his strength for a moment as he launched into some point that he was passionate about. This second wind did not last long. With his finger still up in the air from his oration, his eyes suddenly grew wide and he turned and rushed back to the nearest milk jug for another horrific expulsion. It got to the point in that extremely long hour that I was wondering if the jugs he had supplied would be sufficient for his needs. Thankfully, they were and we didn’t have to endure something even worse. So, whether he was quirky or a freak I will leave to your good judgement, my patient reader. There were many other things that made Mr. Monk quirky like his 1970’s wardrobe, his habit of throwing his chalk blindly at the wall as he glared at us when he was upset, or the way the he would take a little run and slide up to your desk on his wingtip shoes when you asked him for help. But, I believe I have made my point and also demonstrated why the word quirky is definitely out of the running in this discussion.

Oddity should only be used to refer to items in archaic freak shows or cabinets of curiosities from the olden days. It could also bring to mind David Bowie’s song Space Oddity which is amazing, but the word simply doesn’t work in this context, Major Tom. Peculiar is stuffy and judgmental sounding and has no place here either. Hazard may be true of some of these people, but most are not inherently dangerous. They are definitely not monsters, malformations, mutants (like the X-Men, again), or cranks either. Lunatic is too crazy for most and it makes me think of the moon and nefarious nighttime shenanigans. The word queer has been pretty much taken over by the homosexuals and lost its traditional definition. There are many other words like misfit, oddball, maverick, fiend, nut, maniac, geek, and dweeb that all bring to mind specific character types that don’t really adequately explain my meaning. The Misfits are a famous punk band that my nephew Doug performed with once, oddball is a word that oddballs use to describe other oddballs, maverick reminds me of a horse or Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and fiend, nut, and maniac live in the horror genre for me and have no place in this discussion. Geek describes a medieval circus or court performer like a jester who would bite of the head off a live chicken and dweeb, along with geek, are strongly associated with the 1980’s in my mind and don’t have enough historical breadth to be considered worthy of replacing freak. Neither does weirdo, crackpot, pill, flake, screwball, or strange bird. I’d like to know more crackpots and strange birds, personally, but I’m reminded of the Unabomber (Theodore Kaczynski) or maybe a mad genius in some corny old movie when I hear the term crackpot.

What does that leave? Well, honestly, it brings me back to Freak. If most people are the same and mostly ordinary or even boring, then these people are freaks in the best way. If your whole nation is filled with cannibals and you’re a vegetarian, you’re a freak and the fact that you’re not “normal” is a very good thing, right? (Did you hear what one cannibal said to the other one while they were eating a clown? “Does this taste funny to you?”) And, Freak Magnet sounds pretty good to me too. My friend Jesse aptly described me as a freak magnet many years ago and it stuck in my head because it was so true. Let’s go with that and if you have a word that I should upgrade to, let me know you rapscallion.

Addendum:  After posting this, a classmate contacted me with some further stories about Mr. Monk and also some wonderful updates.  He is doing well and hasn’t missed saying happy birthday to her every year since we were kids.  This includes the pre-social media days of mail and corded telephones where a little more effort and a little more organization, or at least a sharp memory, were required.  I thought that was very impressive and kind.  I also wanted to point out that I meant no disrespect toward him in relating my story.  I believe he is a good and eccentric man who I’m happy to have had as a teacher.  Teaching is often a thankless profession and when someone does it well, they should be remembered and applauded.  Thanks for the comments, Jenny!

Emergency Room -vs- David

I’ve made MANY references to being a freak magnet, but I also have several other magnetic abilities. One involves my eyes and another possibly involves my aura or soul or personality or demeanor or maybe my pheromones. What do you attract and why? It’s interesting to think about. Why do you attract certain types of people sexually, in relationships, on teams, as friend, or in other ways? Have you noticed patterns in your life as far as who you end up with in these ways? I’d be willing to bet that there are patterns whether you’ve thought about them or not.

Side note:  I use the term ‘freak’ in the kindest possible sense.  Weirdness and freakiness can be a good thing and the use of these words in my writing is always  a term of endearment rather than an insult.  If I write about you or allude to you, it most likely means that I love you.  Those that I dislike, I will not waste my time or your time with.   So, there, that has been said.  I’ve been meaning to say that for a while, but there never seemed like a good time.  This, also, is a bad time, but it needed to be said. 

My eyes are magnets for debris of all sorts. I seem to get stuff in them constantly. To add to the annoyance, they’re extremely sensitive and I have a hard time getting anywhere near them. I’ve had friends that can just look in a mirror and wipe their eyeball off with their finger. That’s not going to happen for me while I’m conscious without extensive professional training and/or Soviet brainwashing in a gulag somewhere in Siberia.

In the early 1990’s, I was working construction for a guy that did kitchen and bath remodels and we were redoing a bathroom in a town-home in the Twin Cities. My job that day was to etch the old ceramic tile shower surround so that we could spray it with a new coating to change the color. I had a bottle of muriatic acid that I was about to sponge onto the tile to etch it so that the coating would stick to it. Like I had done before, I shook the bottle to make sure that it was all mixed up. I shook it up and down a few times and then I started rotating it back and forth as the top popped open and shot a line of liquid acid across the room. Unfortunately, my face and, more specifically, my right eye were in its path as well. A line of liquid ran from my jawline, up my cheek, through my eye, and onto my forehead and hair. As you can imagine, it didn’t require FBI profiler-level observational skills to notice that the status of my eye had just changed dramatically.  In short, ouch.

I ran to the sink to get some water, but the water had been turned off for the renovations. So, I ran to the neighbor’s house and knocked on the door. I said something like “Hi, I have…” and then the ladies eyes widened as she gasped and said “Come in! The bathroom is right there! Let me get you towel.” It seems that the bright red streak of raised skin above and below my eye had alerted her that there was an issue. My blood red zombie-style eye white probably helped convey the message also. I rinsed and wiped and splashed as much as I could tolerate and made quite a mess of her bathroom, but still the eyeball burned so I decided to head for the ER. Driving myself was probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but a leisurely stroll, a Forest Gump-like sprint, or calling a cab hadn’t crossed my mind possibly due to the fire on my face that was slowly burning away every other thought.

Folks were staring as I walked in. They were giving me that “I wonder what the heck happened to that dude” look. As I walked briskly up to the reception desk, I politely but urgently said “Hi, I have acid in my eye.” The receptionist, without looking up, slid a clipboard across the desk to me and said “I’m going to need you to fill out this form and take a seat and we’ll have someone talk to you as soon as we can.” I had not expected this and my normal politeness slapped my inner pro-wrestler on the back and handed him the microphone. I said, much louder, “Maybe you didn’t hear me. I HAVE ACID IN MY EYE AND I NEED TO SEE SOMEBODY RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY EYE!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!!” Instantly, a doctor and a few nurses peeked around the corner to check me out and I was on a table in the back in about ten seconds. Amazingly, the receptionist followed us and tried to make it clear to the staff that she needed me to fill that form out. A nurse put her hand on the lady’s arm and said “Later” in a tone that left zero room for opposition.

The doctor touched a paper pH strip to my eye to test the acidity and concluded that I was going to lose my eye if they didn’t get it flushed in the very near future. She then turned and walked over to a drawer and pulled out a long, clear, coiled-up tube that was very thin. I was getting pretty nervous at this point, but the real terror set in when she got the hose uncurled and I saw that there was an eyeball-shaped pad or cup at the end of the hose. The doctor walked over to the sink and attached one end of the hose to a special faucet and then came toward me with the suction cup, eyeball shaped, torture instrument of certain death. I was panicking pretty hardcore and I asked something really stupid like “Are you going to put that on my eyeball?” The doctor said that she was and that if I wanted to keep my eye and have it continue to function, I needed to go along with this plan. I told her that she was probably going to need help putting the suction cup on my eyeball because my eyes were VERY sensitive. She said “Oh, I think you’ll be fine” as she made her first attempt. She was unsuccessful as I clawed at her arm and twisted and groaned involuntarily. She said “Just hold still! You don’t want to lose your eye, do you?” I said “NO! But I can’t help it.” She sighed heavily and said that she’d be right back. A very short time later she reentered the room with two rather large male nurses whose looks were somewhere between disappointment and wanting to beat the crap out of me. I think the ER was pretty busy and they probably didn’t have time to hold down a ninny like me.  They grabbed my arms and leaned against my legs while the doctor pulled my eyelid up and shoved the hellish cup literally onto my squirming eyeball.

I grunted and said “AH! AH! AH!” over and over again. The nurses continued to hold me and the doctor disgustedly said “Calm down! I haven’t even turned the water on yet!” The pain of the burning acid multiplied by the weird sensation of having a piece of plastic stuck to my flaming eyeball had me making involuntary animal-like noises already. But, somehow the doctor’s words made it even worse because just by the way she said that phrase I knew the water was really going to hurt. I heard her turn it on and a few moments later I felt the hose that was coiled on my chest stretching out as the water moved through it. Then the water hit my eyeball and I felt like an ice cold fork had stabbed me right in the eye. More noises, more squirming, and a little hyperventilation for good measure must have made the other ER customers feel a little better about themselves and their conditions. I’ve always wondered what was going through their minds in the waiting room as they sat there in uncomfortable and outdated chairs and couches reading articles in wrinkled magazines that they probably didn’t really care about anyway. My grunts and groans and shrieks and guttural utterances must have been unsettling. Any poor hypochondriacs within hearing range were probably thinking that Ebola had struck and I was sloughing my gut through my anus.

Well, to end the suspense, I didn’t lose my eye or slough my gut, but it took a few weeks for the skin on my face to settle down and act normal again.  Also, I never did fill out the form. A nurse asked me most of the questions and recorded the answers for me. Nurses are amazing people.  I hope one of them gave that receptionist a lesson in compassion and situational awareness.

About five years later, my magnetic eyeball powers surfaced again and I pulled a chunk of metal into my eye as I was building my own house in Dassel. After about an hour of trying to get it out, I agreed to let the plumber drive me to the ER in Hutchinson. I went to the desk and the receptionist asked me to sign in. I asked her to hold the clipboard and through my tearing eyes I gave it my best shot and then took a seat. As I sat down, I misjudged the location of the chair a bit and I ended up sitting down kind of hard and the impact jarred my whole body. I involuntarily blinked my eye with the metal chunk in it a few times and there was a sudden and slight pressure and then the metal chunk popped out. I actually saw it shoot out of my eye.  Most of the pain went away almost instantly and I reached down and picked up the little chunk. The plumber had looked over at me and he said “Is that it?” I said that it was and I said I was fine and that we should go.

I went up to tell the receptionist that everything was good and that I was heading out and she told me that I couldn’t leave. I said that I was fine and that I was leaving and she said that she’d have to call security if I tried to leave because I had signed in and now I had to be seen “by law”. I wasn’t sure about this law or the hocus pocus of being instantly transformed into a criminal by walking out of the hospital, so I told her that was ridiculous and that she should have a good day and I started walking out. She called security and came out from behind her desk to call for me to come back. It was a bit of a scene.  As I was just about to the door, a doctor ran up and grabbed my arm. Her name was Heather according to her name badge and she was stunningly beautiful. Calmly, as though she had heard the whole exchange with the desk lady, she said “I know you feel fine, but it’s an insurance and liability thing that we have to at least look at you. Please just come and sit in my room for a few minutes and let me look at the eye. It won’t take long.” I looked over at the plumber and said “OK”. We walked back to her room as the plumber reclaimed his seat and she scoped the eye and said that it had a nasty scratch and that I would need antibiotics, but other than the risk of infection I should be fine. “I’ll write you a prescription for the antibiotic drops”, stunning Heather said.

This is where I made the first of my three mistakes that day. I said “Thanks for checking it out, but you don’t have to write the prescription. I won’t use it anyway.” This was the wrong thing to say. Dr. Heather was not pleased and began to lecture me on the dangers of eye infections, the risk of blindness, her education and expertise, the safety of the drops, the many myths surrounding drugs and modern medicine, etc. When my hair stopped blowing back, I said “OK, I’ll take the drops. I apologize for offending you.” This was number two. SDH was triggered by my suggestion that I had personally offended her and, I believe, she became personally offended and made it clear that this was her job and not personal. She made it VERY clear. Again, I apologized. She turned away and wrote the prescription while telling me that the pharmacy was directly across the lobby from the door at the end of the hallway. As she turned back and handed it to me, I thanked her for her time and headed off down the hallway to the lobby and the plumber. This was where I made my third mistake involving the fetching Dr. Heather. I had no intention of filling the prescription, but I took it from her to stop the lecture. I should have just folded it up and put it in my pocket, but as I was walking toward the lobby door I saw a trash can near a water fountain mounted on the wall ahead of me. I crumpled up the prescription and tossed it into the can. Either the crumpling noise or sheer bad luck brought the comely physician out of her room just as I tossed the paper.

She yelled at me down the hallway “Did you throw that prescription away?!” I turned to see her rushing toward me and I knew that I was doomed. I just stood there looking guilty as she strode up and reached into the can, in a very unsanitary gesture I might add, to withdraw the paper while glaring at me. “Why would you do that?”, she said forcefully. I maybe shouldn’t have said anything or faked a stroke or heart episode, but I foolishly said “I told you that I didn’t want the prescription.” SDH just stared at me like she was trying to think of something to say to that would percolate through the thick sludge inside my skull. I think she concluded that the time for words was over and the time for actions had arrived. She simply said “Come with me” in a voice that made it clear that she meant “Come with me if you want to live!” and started walking toward the lobby with the prescription. She energetically strode across the lobby and to the pharmacy while leaving a number of visually stimulated men with neck injuries in her wake. She handed the prescription to the pharmacist and said, while looking directly at me, “He needs this prescription filled right away.” Then she stepped aside, folded her arms, and waited. After retrieving the drops and reviewing my insurance card, the pharmacist charged me $15 and sent me on my way with my unwanted drug drops in a crisp white paper bag.

Doctor Heather had done all that she could for me and said “Take care of that eye” as she walked away from me. I said “Thank you” to her back as I turned and saw the plumber who was out of his seat and confused. She didn’t turn around. On the drive home, I bought a bulb of garlic which is my favorite antibiotic and threw the drops in the trash can at the grocery store. To end the suspense, again, I didn’t get an eye infection or lose my eye that time either.

I know a guy who got shot in the eye with an arrow as a boy.  He’s one of the best ministers and public speakers as well as one of the best men that I’ve ever known.  I know another guy who lifted up his visor in the middle of a snowmobile race and got hit in the eye with a rock.  He got knocked off the snowmobile and ended up being blind for a few weeks, but thankfully he eventually got his vision back. My eye issues are minor compared to what those guys suffered and I’m thankful that mine turned out as well as they did. 

My Dad, who had a saying for pretty much every situation (“This steak is so tender I don’t know how the cow ever walked.”), probably would have said, as he sometimes did, “From the day you’re born ’til you ride in a hearse, things are never so bad that they couldn’t get worse.”  In other words, be thankful for what you have because there is always someone who is worse off than you.  Be thankful for what you have, my friends.

Aliens, God, and all of us hypocrites.

Are you a believer? The answer is yes. You are. Everyone believes in something. Atheists have faith in their belief that there is no God just like Christians have faith that there is. They don’t call it faith, but it is. If you’re a humanist, you have faith in people or science. It’s our faith that shapes who we are and what kind of life we lead. It highly influences our family and friends too. Ultimately, we each make our own choice about what to have faith in, but we’re all believers and everyone pushes their religion and beliefs.

I wrote in another post about Victor, the Satanic organic gardener who I worked with at one time. He claimed to be a Devil worshiper and I was thinking about that at work one day when I said “I think it’s cool that you have so much faith in the Bible.” He was confused and asked me what I was talking about. I said “You worship Satan, right?” He said that he did, so I said “If it wasn’t for the Bible, you wouldn’t know anything about Satan, so if you’re a strong believer in Satan you have to have a lot of faith in the Bible.” Victor was not pleased and I was called a few names during the mini-rant that followed.

I’ve always been fascinated and amused by the many similarities between churches and bars. People go to them for mostly the same reasons. They both have rituals and they both are places for fellowship. There is courtship and dating. There are usually games for younger people to participate in, food, drinks, friends, and often acceptance. Guidance and advice are dispensed. Connections are made. There are videos shown and music is played. Both places fill needs that humans have and there is nothing inherently wrong with either place. The people who go to them determine what type of place they are. Some bars are judgmental just like some churches. Some churches feel like a family gathering just like some bars. Some are dangerous and can lead you down a bad path. Some are supportive and helpful to keep you going in the right direction.

When I became a Christian, I went and talked to my Dad about it and he said that he wasn’t interested. I felt like I was selling something crappy that he didn’t want to buy. He said that he believed in God and that a person could believe in God without going to a church or getting “all religious”. The more I talked to him about it, the more angry he got and he ended up telling me to keep my “F#$!%ng Bible” out of his house. He also said that churches were full of hypocrites and he wasn’t interested in being around those types of people. I always seem to say that one extra sentence or word that I should have kept to myself, so I said “Well, you go to the bar with hypocrites, why wouldn’t you go to church with them?” As you can imagine, this logic was not appreciated.

I’ve always been fascinated by the similarities between people who believe in aliens and people who believe in God too. There is a whole spectrum of believers that starts on the factual and scientific side and ends on the emotional and feelings-based side. Christians have heaven and alien believers have Area 51. Alien believers have faith in beings they’ve never seen as Christians do. There are mountains of books written about both belief systems. There is compelling evidence and there are testimonies. There are TV shows and movies. And, there are critics on both sides who seek to prove or disprove their stances or their opponent’s stances as well. Interestingly, God would be an alien by definition also, right? He doesn’t originate from Earth. Maybe we should have church at the bar too and really confuse some people.

Christians sometimes judge people who go to bars. Bar patrons, like my Dad, sometimes judge churchgoers. In truth, they’re all hypocrites and imperfect just like the rest of us. Some bar patrons are churchgoers and some churchgoers also believe in aliens and science too. It’s an interesting world out there.

My Dad occasionally said “There’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.” The insinuation there is that when a person’s life is hanging in the balance, they instinctively believe in God or at least pray with the hope that He is listening.

You could say that I come from a military family on the Thomas side. My Grandpa Thomas was in the army during WWI. My Dad was in the army twice and served in the Korean war, one of my uncles was in the Korean war also, another served with General Patton’s group during WWII, another was in the navy, my brother served during the Cold War, and my nephew was an army combat medic in Afghanistan. Numerous cousins were in the service as well.

My Dad was a military man in more than one way. He loved the military. Being in the army was his dream. You could say that it was his religion. He went to the VFW when he was younger like some people go to church. Sometimes he talked about how jealous he was of his cousins that “got to be in WWII”. He enlisted as soon as he was old enough and did one hitch in the Army. He decided to leave for a number of reasons, but when the Korean War started he enlisted again and went to Korea because he wanted to be involved in the war. He and his brother Ray were both damaged by the war and they were both disabled because of the war. His time in the military had a huge effect on his life and our family.

When I was a teenager, my Dad asked me if I had ever considered enlisting. “No.” The thought hadn’t crossed my mind since I was about five when I wanted to be just like my Dad like nearly every other boy in the world. I don’t think he liked my answer. I didn’t follow his religion. When I was college aged, I would tell him about my classes and things I was learning and I think he was upset by my exuberance for education. He occasionally answered my questions with phrases like “Why don’t you ask those professors that you think so much of?” He did that when I was in High School too, but not as angrily. Years later, I asked him if he was upset that I hadn’t joined the military. After a pause, he said “No, you’re not the type.” I knew it wasn’t a compliment, even though I secretly took it as one, and what he was really saying was “You and I are very different.” One time, I referred back to the “…not the type.” comment and asked him what he meant by that. He told me that when you’re in the military you’re trained to do what you’re told. “When they tell you to jump, you say ‘how high?’. If they told YOU to jump, you would say ‘Why?’. That doesn’t work. It would just get you or other people killed.” I always felt bad that my Dad didn’t think well of me in this way. He saw my extreme individualism and non-conformity as a weakness or a deviance. Everyone wants their parents’ approval whether they admit it, or even know it, or not. Many times he told me that I was more like my Mom and he and my brother were more alike. He was right in most respects, but it always made me feel bad that he didn’t seem proud of the things that I chose to do and that we never really connected on any deep level.

I spent a lot of years hating him and avoiding him, but I’m happy that I was able to reconcile with him before he died. I prayed for him. I gave him a haircut. We talked comfortably and it was nice. I got to sit with him as he died too. I didn’t think that he would ever stop breathing, but he eventually did. He was a good man and a strong man in many ways while being troubled in many ways too. In that way, I’m like him and like most other men too, I think.

Whether you believe in aliens, climate change, the big bang, America, the Illuminati, nothing at all, or if you believe in YHVH God who is my favorite alien, I hope that you’re honest in your faith and that you put some effort into figuring out what is truth and what is garbage. Your faith in whatever you believe in sets the course of your life and pushes the people you love. It’s worth some effort to figure it out for yourself. Don’t base your beliefs on sound bites and memes. Put some effort into it. If you know more about Star Wars than you do about the Bible or science, you’re missing out on some amazing truths. We’re drowning in a sea of information at this point in history, but truths seem to be scarce and some misguided folks don’t even believe in the concept of truth anymore. Please embrace logic, truth, and reality and let’s get this train back on the tracks.