Can you forgive yourself and start another day?

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“Tomorrow’s another day” is the famous comment from Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.”  This was perhaps one of the most powerful and dramatic endings to any story ever told.  Most of us were touched by these words and few who have heard them will ever forget them.  Have you ever wondered why these words were so powerful?  Why do they touch us all somewhere deep in our soul?  I believe it is because they blend an element of self-forgiveness with recognition that each new day is the possibility of a new beginning.  Self-forgiveness is evident, because Scarlett is not going to spend a great deal of time in self-recriminations.  She is simply going to start over again.

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The new day “tomorrow” represents for Scarlet is a new start to life.  It is her resurrection and her birth. Each day we can choose our life, our goals and our behavior.  The simple but powerful phase “tomorrow’s another day” allows us to be reborn.  It allows us to become free of the past and to start a new beginning. Each day of our lives offers us this possibility, if like Scarlet we are willing to grasp it.  We can have a new life or we can have an old life.  We can continue on the old path that we have chosen or we can find a new path.  Each new day can be a risk but life is a risk.  Without risk there is no change and no chance to live more fully.  We wake up each morning to a new set of choices.  Each choice offers opportunities and each opportunity has its own set of risks.

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How many of us do not realize the inherent possibility that tomorrow brings for us?  Do you see each tomorrow as a new beginning or as more of the same?  What will it take to help you realize the hidden possibilities in each new tomorrow?  Do you start each day with a sense of joy at the opportunities it presents?  Why not?

The Beauty of Diversity

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Diversity is the most beautiful thing in the world.  If you can suspend your judgements and look at the world through the perspective of diversity, you will be treated to a kaleidoscope of colors, patterns, habits, traditions, ideas, beliefs, and stories.  You will see a world that is complex beyond belief.  A world that no artist or musician or writer could even begin to describe.  Take away diversity and the world is a grey amalgam of people who look alike, think alike, and act alike.  Diversity makes the world interesting and challenging.

For some, diversity conjures up the idea of race.  Many people think of diversity only in terms of race or gender.  I remember when I used to facilitate leadership teams and project teams.  I would use the Myer Briggs Personality Inventory to balance out specific psychological characteristics for my teams.  My primary thought was that we needed a balance of viewpoints and ways of looking at problems.  The Myer Briggs rated people on 4 scales that included:  introversion versus extraversion, thinking versus feeling, perceiving versus judging and concrete orientation versus sensing orientation.  I wanted to ensure that I had a diversity of thinking styles and not just gender or ethnic diversity.

There are many kinds of diversity.  Scientists have shown that the concept of race is not very scientific.  I shall call the various skin colors in the human race as pigmentation diversity.  We can also have cultural or ethnic diversity, intellectual diversity, gender diversity and religious diversity.  Each of the aforementioned types of diversity can add flavor and spice to life, IF and that is the big issue IF.  IF, you are open minded to the differences in the human race, diversity can be a blessing.  However, diversity can be a two-edged sword.  By its very nature, diversity tends to be exclusive rather than inclusive.  Many people think that they are superior to others because of some attribute that they possess. 

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Some types of diversity are more exclusionary than others.  Income diversity, political diversity, education diversity and pigmentation diversity have led many people to unsubstantiated feelings of superiority.  Rich people may feel that they are superior to poor people.  Light skinned people may feel superior to darker skinned people.  More educated people may feel superior to less educated people.  The beauty of diversity gets twisted around like a pretzel until it is no longer recognizable.  It is hard to grasp the fact that some people are opposed to diversity and prefer to live among people who are exactly like them.  For these humans, diversity is something that they would eliminate from their lives.  The concept that “variety is the spice of life” fails to inspire those who think that they may have to share the world with people who are different. 

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There are too many people who do not understand the distinction between the concepts of difference and deficit.  Diversity is always a difference.  A deficit is something that is inferior to something else.  Only fools make the claim that diversity and deficits are the same.  Rich people are not better than poor people.  Educated people are not more intelligent than less educated people.  Lighter skinned people are not superior to darker skinned people. 

The words better, intelligent and superior have no causal relationship to groups of people.  People have a wide range of knowledge, skills, and abilities but none of these have been inextricably linked to color, gender, education, income, culture, religion, or numerous other aspects of diversity.  Of course there are some characteristics (particularly age) that can be linked to physical abilities but to assume that all younger people are better than all older people when it comes to physical abilities would be meaningless.  It would certainly not be a bias that anyone would choose to use for excluding older people from the human race.  I am thinking of the movie “Soylent Green” where older people were turned into food for the younger people when they were deemed too old to be useful to society. 

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When it comes to diversity, only the Vulcans had it right.  Their IDIC principle stood for “Infinite Diversity through Infinite Combination.”  The history of humanity exhibits a love hate affair with diversity.  The world is divided up by culture, ethnicity, religion, tribes, clans, and castes.  “Mine is better than yours” could be the motto for the human race.  My god, my religion, my skin color, my beliefs.  Small wonder that so many tragedies are brought on by our small-minded beliefs. 

Never before in history have we seen such stupidity and narrow mindedness circling the globe.  Stupidity and intelligence are two very different things.  In the past four years, I have witnessed stupidity among many highly intelligent and accomplished individuals.  Stupidity is a lack of breadth and depth when looking at the world.  When one only sees the benefits of their own tribe and sees the differences of other tribes as a deficit that is stupidity.  Two major factors account for much of the misery facing humanity today.

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The first factor that is driving volatility and unrest in many parts of the world is the availability of low cost and relatively high-speed transportation.  We are now capable of mixing the world with one big stirring spoon.  People have been warned in the USA that in so many years, white people will no longer be the majority.  This is perceived as a threat.  Elsewhere in the world, countries are facing a dilution of their traditional populations due to both forced and chosen migrations.  People who have lived with the “same” neighbors for years are now threatened by people of different backgrounds.  In the US, we have seen a huge increase in “gated” communities.  “Let’s keep out anyone who is different!”  Data from one survey in 2015 showed nearly 11 million Americans living in gated communities.  This number has surely increased dramatically in the past seven years.  Borders may serve the same purpose.  A large number of American citizens supported Trump’s building a border wall with Mexico.

One pundit asked and answered the question: “Why does America have so many gated communities?”

“Gated Communities are mainly successful because millions of Americans tend to seek happiness in their way of life.  Many of them are willing to pay a high price to live their own American dream while isolating themselves into artificial perfection with people and rules they chose.”

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The second factor driving much of the unrest in the world has been the availability of low-cost communication systems that are capable of both uniting and dividing cultures the world over.  The Internet and the cellphone are tools that can be used to improve the world.  They can be used to help people understand and appreciate the differences that exist in the world.  However, they can also be used to create greater animosity and divisiveness throughout the world.  People who are afraid of change and fear differences are much more likely to resort to media that allows them to join tribes of like-minded people.  Instead of becoming tools to improve civilization, the Internet and cellphones are used to destroy civilization.  By spreading misinformation, disinformation, and distortions, modern media has encouraged a negative rather than a positive view of diversity.   

Much of what I am saying is not new.  These characteristics of bigoty, ethnocentricity, xenophobia and racism have always been part of humanity.  When we mix fear and greed in the “melting pot”, and give pathways to these attributes, the result is violence and devastation. 

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On a minor scale think of a sporting event where people adopt an “identify” based on some misguided loyalty or egoistic need to a particular team.  The Packer fans sit on one side of the football stadium while the Viking fans sit on the other side.  The Japanese sit on one side of the soccer stadium and the South Koreans sit on the other side.  The Indians sit on one side of the cricket stadium and the Pakistanis sit on the other side.  Each side cheers the scoring and plays of “their” team while booing the plays of the other team.  When things don’t go well for one side, the result may be violence off the field as well as on it.  Soccer has a well-deserved record of riots and hooliganism.  I tried to count the number of soccer riots and lost count.  Hardly any sport in the world has been immune from instances of violence and mayhem.  People don’t enjoy having their “identity” defiled by being part of a losing team. 

I mentioned that “sports” is a minor scale event compared to events concerning religion, culture, politics, or economics.  Just imagine the potential for violence when Muslims versus Christians or Communists versus Capitalists or Democrats versus Republicans.  The amazing thing is that the world is not less civilized than it currently is.  People in the USA today bemoan the divisiveness in politics as something seemingly new.  I submit it is not new but that it has become more evident with the Internet and media.  The media love to hype every event to the nth degree in hopes of selling more advertisement.  Due to the numerous channels of communication that distort and bias events according to the prejudices of the perceiver, we now have chasms of truth, glaciers of lies and mountains of deceitfulness.  Stupidity and intolerance are beyond the pandemic stage and have become endemic the world over.  We have more to fear from bigotry than we do from the Corona virus. 

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How can we learn to see beauty in diversity?  How do we hope to overcome the ugliness that some people see in the differences that exist in the human race?  Can we convince people that a difference is not a deficit?  I think of words like tolerance, respect, understanding, open-mindedness, progressive, merciful, kindhearted, loving, and compassionate.  Is it too much to expect that we can show these later attributes to people who are different?  If we could only extend these thoughts to people who do not belong to our tribe, we could change the world.

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“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior, and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war.  And until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes and until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war.  And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.”  ― Haile Selassie I, Selected Speeches

The Man Who Wanted to Die Last

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Most men I know when you start talking about death and dying usually say that they hope they die before their partner.  The motive is quite obvious.  Who wants to be alone.  There is almost nothing worse than loneliness for human beings.

Now imagine spending forty or fifty years living with someone.  You eat together, sleep together, travel together, make love together, raise children together, work together, talk together, and laugh together.  This goes on for year after year.  In a happy marriage or partnership, the relationship is one of joy and delight.

269318614.galleryNow suddenly your partner for one reason or another is gone.  She or he passes away.  You come back to your home after the funeral and well-wishers have left, and you are now alone.  You are more alone than you have ever been in your entire life.  You go from room to room and no one else is there.  The bedroom is empty.  The kitchen is empty.  The living room is empty.  You notice the picture of you and your spouse at your anniversary party hanging on the wall.  It brings back memories and tears.  Every day for many days, objects, thoughts, and reflections will bring back good times and bad times that you shared with your lover.  You will reflect over and over again about these past times.  No doubt you will feel remorse about some things that you did and wish you could undo.  You will also miss the fun things that you enjoyed together and the many good times that you had together.

The above scenario is very sad.  But there is one way you can avoid it.  You can pray that you pass away before your spouse or partner or loved one does.  Leave the planet earth sooner than they do and avoid the pain and heartache that comes with the death of your beloved.  This is the solution that I have hoped for many times.  I have always planned to leave my wife financially well off so that when I do go to the vast beyond, she can continue to live a happy life.  I thought this sounded like a grand plan until the following incident occurred.  It left me feeling selfish and self-centered.

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It all began with a mission retreat that Karen and I started going on several years ago.   A good friend organizes the trip twice a year to bring food and needed items to an orphanage in Sonoita, Mexico and a Saint Vincent de Paul center in Puerto Penasco, Mexico.  We have as many as 15 cars in an auto caravan bringing items down.  Volunteers from Casa Grande, Eloy, and Arizona City (many from local churches as well as friends of Evelia) will join the caravan each year.  We typically leave on a Friday and come back on a Monday.  While down in Mexico, we stay at Puerto Penasco and enjoy the beach, ocean, and seafood for a few days before coming back across the border.

IMG_5379Each evening after dinner, we enjoy food, dancing, and music at the Playa Bonita restaurant.  It is right on the beach and while enjoying shrimp cocktails, we watch the most beautiful sunsets I have seen anywhere.  As night falls, a band or singer will begin entertaining our group.  Evalia loves to dance and will make sure that we all have a spin with her on the dance floor.  The dance floor is outside where we eat.  Almost always the weather is balmy and comfortable.  Infrequently one might need a shawl or a sweater but an active time on the dance floor will mitigate any night chills.

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One night after dinner and drinks, three of us, Steve, Alexandro, and myself decided to go sip some tequila and smoke some cigars where it would not impose on anyone’s sense of smell.  We typically go out to the back of the restaurant.  There are a few round tables there and it is quite secluded.

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Steve is Evelia’s son, and he often comes on the mission tours.  He is a real nice guy who was studying to be a deacon in the Catholic Church.  He married an Italian woman who is a medical doctor but after several years of trying she has been unable to acquire a permanent work visa for the USA.  Steve and Julia now reside in two countries.  Steve in the USA and Julia in Italy.  They reunite frequently in either Italy or the USA.  I think it is Steve’s plan to eventually join Julia in Italy.  Steve owns a management consultant firm and does not want to retire yet.

I had never met Alexandro before.  This was his first time on a mission retreat, and I never saw him again after this night.  We did some brief introductions, shared the bottle of tequila, and lit our cigars.  We chatted about the usual subjects, politics, wives, sports etc.   As the conversation became deeper and more serious, we started talking about aging and the impacts it was having on each of our lives.

Alexandro told us that his wife was an invalid and severely disabled.  She required considerable medical care.  He was the primary caregiver as they had no provision for medical assistance in the home.  It was evident form our conversation that Alexandro spent a large amount of time and effort in providing compassionate care for his wife.

I began thinking about how much love we all seemed to have for our spouses.  I started thinking about what I would do without Karen who provides so much compassion for me when I am sick or when I need support.  I could not imagine a life without her.  I stated emphatically that I hoped I did not ever have to deal with a life alone.  It was my desire to die first to avoid the pain of heartache and loneliness.

Alexandro spoke up and his words surprised me.  He said, “I hope my wife dies first.”  I could not believe what I had just heard.  My immediate thought was “What a selfish bastard!  He wants his wife to die before he dies so that he will not have to take care of her anymore or deal with her problems.”  I remained silent for a minute or so while I wondered how any person could be so heartless.  My curiosity finally got the better of me and I asked Alexandro “Why do you want your wife to die first?”  He replied “My wife needs so much care and there is no one else around who could provide enough care for her.  I do not want to think of her alone and without me to provide the care.”

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I heard Alexandro’s explanation and suddenly I was inundated by a tsunami of guilt and an earthquake of self-reproach.  How could I have thought so miserably of a man with so much character that he would sacrifice himself for his spouse?  On the other hand, how could I be so selfish that all I could think of was that I wanted to die first to avoid the feelings of loneliness and heartache that accompany the death of a loved one.

I sat speechless for quite a while as I reflected on my thoughts about what I had just heard.  Never before had I heard anyone say anything like Alexandro did.  It never occurred to me that my life and my feelings are not the hub of the universe.  The sun does not rise and set by how I feel or how I should feel.  “Compassion literally means “to suffer together.”  When we are confronted with the suffering of another, it means that we will take steps to help relieve that suffering.  Perhaps suffering for another person may not mean dying for them, perhaps it means living for them.

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The Legitimization of Greed

 

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Let me start off with some major caveats.  First, greed has always been with us.  Second, among certain people, there has always been excessive greed.  Third, we will never eradicate greed in the human species.  Why then you may well ask, another screed against the excesses of greed? The answer is that we have entered a new era of greed.  Never before has greed been so widely accepted and so widely admired. 

Throughout history, prophets and religious leaders have warned us about the pursuit of wants that never satisfy the soul nor do anything to enrich humanity.  In the past, greed was the mindless pursuit of more.  Jesus said that “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” – 1 Timothy 6:10.  The Bible says more about the dangers of money and possessions than any other subject.

Ignatius of Loyola gave this message to his followers:

Lord, teach me to be generous;

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

To give and not to count the cost”

Gautama Buddha made the following comment concerning greed:

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief.”

Islam has many comments about the evil of greed and the pursuit of more and more:

“Three Habits Destroy

a Man Or Woman:

Greed, Envy

and Pride.”  ― Hamid al Ghazali

“Greed is permanent slavery.”  — Ali ibn Abi Talib

If greed has always been with us, then what is different today?  The difference is that in the past, greed was recognized as evil and as an element that would distort human nature.  Today greed has become legitimate.   

The definition of legitimate is: 

To give legal force or status to; make lawful.

To sanction formally or officially; authorize.

To demonstrate or declare to be justified.

5451174-1020-PXWe shop till we drop.  We invoke our privilege to use our money as we want to.  We make holidays out of holy days where we spend our time hunting for bargains and sales.  Greed has now become a sacrament.  Greed is no longer evil.  Greed is holy.  Greed is the American Way of Life.  Millions of Americans adore the wealthy.  The story of Lazarus holds no credibility – Luke 16:19-21.  Nor does the story of the Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21.  Money is sacred and those who have more are worshipped by Americans and exalted as better people and better leaders.  We elect millionaires and billionaires to Congress and even the Presidency on the sole basis of their acumen at having stored up wealth.

Wealth Trumps compassion.  Money Trumps kindness.  Possessions Trump love.  No one would argue today that leaders should have compassion, kindness, and love for others.  These are sentiments that hold no currency.  The values that Americans believe in today are bitcoins, stocks, bonds, gold, and credit ratings.  Wise people are not listened to.  Instead, rich people are sought out and worshipped because they are smart enough to game the system and attain more than the rest of us.  A 3,400-foot home with four bathrooms for people with no children is a sign of success and not wretched excess.  A Porsche, BMW or Mercedes is proof that you are an important person.  Living in a neighborhood with walls and private security guards helps you to feel safe because wealth is envied by those who do not have it and they might take it away from you. 

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Living the good life today means having more than your neighbors, friends, or relatives.  According to Merriam-Webster, success is “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”  Success is not measured in America by kindness, compassion, or love for others.  Millions of people watch reality shows where fame equals success.  A new breed of celebrities exists solely on the basis of being famous and not for any achievements. 

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Movie stars are the aristocracy of America and are adored because of the illusions that they present and not because of reality.  John Wayne is the Icon of American Manhood.  He was a man that personified heroism and masculinity.  In reality, he was a racist who denigrated Black people, Gay people, and Native Americans.  He received a 3-A (family deferment) after Pearl Harbor and never had to fight except in his many heroic movie roles where he extolled American militarism.  Movie stars are idolized because they are rich and famous and have more of these attributes than the general population. 

So where do we go from here?  There are many good people in America.  There are many generous people who give freely and share their wealth with others.  Attributes such as generosity and empathy for the needy still exist in America.  However, what I have called the “legitimization” of greed has infected too many of our people.  It has become acceptable.  Americans have failed to grasp the insidious nature of greed.  It is not something that takes over your life suddenly.   Greed creeps up slowly and silently until one day, you are consumed by it.  Our nation has made greed an attribute to be admired.  No school in American dares to mention the perils of greediness. 

Can we reverse the trend that has led us down this path to self-centeredness and narcissism?  What can be done to turn the trend back towards valuing compassion and kindness?  Not just compassion and kindness for those who look like us but compassion and kindness for all people.

I will try to answer these questions in my next blog.  We will need a change of mindset that will lead to a new Zeitgeist.  The present paradigm we are living in is destroying humanity.  Trump and his supporters are not an aberration but a reflection of how far we have gone down the wrong road.   If we keep going down this road, we will have a world where there is no humanity left in people.  We will continue to destroy our environment as greed dictates taking all that we can get and not leaving anything for others.     

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A Tale of Two Men

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It is a time of overwhelming greed.  It is a time of underwhelming altruism.  The hoards of poor and destitute and abused are still at the gates but the gates have been replaced by a wall.  The few that have managed to get over the wall or under the wall have found that their dreams of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been replaced by barbed wire fences and security police intent on finding and locking them up in cages.  In truth, there are no streets paved with gold.  The gold has long since been stripped by billionaires and the American dream has been supplanted by a Trickle-Down theory which the billionaires are cynically prophesizing.

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Through the country stride two men.  One man driven by money laden with stocks, bonds, and coupons for a cheap cup of coffee.  The other man driven by compassion with a calendar always full of dates to help someone else out.  One man has plenty of gold, the other man has plenty of time.  No two men could be more different.  One man represents the America that was.  The other man represents the America that could be.  The two men frequently cross paths and to some extent even like each other.  There is no hatred between the two but a mutual inability to understand the other’s motives has always existed.  Each thinks that the other is of unsound mind or to put it another way is “out to lunch.”  This is their story then.  I tell it from a neutral objective.  Strangely, I like both men.

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Tom is a white middle class male in his mid-seventies.  Tom is driven by the almighty dollar.  Hardly a day goes by that Tom is not trading or looking at his stock portfolio.  Tom (everyone agrees) is “all about the money.”  Tom is a Trump supporter.  In many respects, he does not fit the typical demographic for a Trumpist.  Tom has gone to college.  He worked at a white-collar job and he has one of the largest houses in the town.  Tom always dresses well, speaks well and never utters a vernacular word.  Tom has never owned a motorcycle and I doubt he has ever shot anything in his life.  He is the epitome of decorum and propriety.  He has kept himself in good shape and looks physically fit.  Indeed, he looks several years younger than his age.  Tom is soft-spoken and is the last person you could think of who would ever get in an actual fight with anyone.  

Tom prides himself on his frugalness, some would say cheapness.  He will buy a coffee at the local coffee shop and when it is time to pay, he will search the internet with his smart phone to find a coupon that will allow him to get 50 percent or so off the cost of an already low-priced cup of coffee.  But greed cannot be measured by cheap cups of coffee.  In some respects, it is difficult to separate greed from fear.  Many a conversation with Tom, I walked away thinking that it is not so much greed that drives Tom as fear.  Fear that the immigrants might take his house away.  Fear that women will take his job.  Fear that minorities will get his share of the America pie.  Fear that LGBTQ people will gain access to his bathroom.

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If it is true that Trump supporters are driven by fear and greed, then Tom (regardless of demographics) is the quintessential Trump supporter.  Tom defies the category of “Trump Deplorable.”  You can have an intelligent and civil conversation with Tom on many a subject.  Nevertheless, he defends Trump no matter what the issue.  Trump is his God and can do no wrong.  Despite Tom’s penny pinching, he is proud enough of his Trump affiliation that he has spent the money to purchase some Trump paraphernalia.  He proudly wears both a Trump hat and a Trump t-shirt.  This always puzzles me. 

Tom has never suffered poverty.  He lives well and has a beautiful lake front home with a mortgage long paid off.  He drives a luxury car with a brand image.  I am sure that neither NAFTA nor Globalism has ever been of undue stress to his finances.   Quite to the contrary, Tom has undoubtedly benefitted from the good that has come out of these policies.  Unlike the white rural blue-collar worker who saw his job and company go overseas, Tom has prospered in the 21st Century economy. 

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Ron is also a white male in his mid-seventies.  Ron did not go to college.  Ron was a blue-collar electrician until his retirement.  Ron grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.  Ron rides a Harley Davidson and when he was younger went on many a deer and elk hunting trip.  He still proudly has an array of rifles that he seldom now uses.  Ron has even won some rifles and given them away.  Ron can be difficult to talk to.  He is passionate about his position and not always willing to listen to others.  You cannot always describe his discussions with others as civil and polite.  Some people would describe Ron as uncouth.  He cares little about fashion or image.  He usually looks like he needs a good haircut.  If you did not know Ron, you would have no difficulty in putting him down as a Trump supporter.  You would be dead wrong.

Ron is a generous man.  He is one of the most generous persons I know.  Ron is not rich.  He has never purchased a brand-new car and he does not live on a lake.  Ron does not have a great deal of money, but he will often pay for my coffee and the coffee of others at our table.  Ron is most generous with his time.  Never a day goes by that he is not doing a favor for someone.  His generosity extends well beyond his immediate family.  Three years ago. Ron and his wife were given an award as Volunteers of the Year.  If anyone needs something or help with anything, they will call Ron.  I do not think of myself as “ungenerous”, but I am loath to admit that I sometimes think Ron is too generous with his time. 

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Politically, I would describe Ron as an independent thinker.  Ron gets a good pension from his former IBEW union and if there is anything he is proud of and will defend to the nth degree, it is unions.  He despises Trump and the Republican politics of greed and Trickle Down.  However, he does not defend the Democratic party either.  He has said that the Democrats sold too many Americans down the drain with NAFTA and Globalism.  It would have been one thing to pursue these policies if there had been some type of life jacket or safety net for the American workers displaced but the Democrats as well as the Republicans simply ignored the side effects of these policies. 

Ron is no racist, no sexist, no hater of immigrants.  If you talk to Ron about these subjects, you will find a man that is not fearful or belligerent towards others.  Whereas Tom would lock America down, Ron would tear the walls down.  Tom will deplore violent protestors.  Ron will deplore the violence that lead to the protests in the first place.  Ron loves to travel and meet new people.  Tom spends most of his days in the same town that he has always been and traveling the same safe pathways that he has always traveled.  Ron has taken several foreign students into his home on an exchange program and is always eager to hear stories about other people and other places.  Tom has a child who is developmentally disabled that he is a loving and kind father to. 

A tale of two men.  Both men married.  Both with families and children.  Neither man a criminal or drug addict or law breaker.  Both men admired by others in the community.  Both men loved by their families.  Both men with friends who speak and think well of them.  Men who are on opposite sides of any imaginable political spectrum. 

A time in America when the divisions seen to outweigh any points of commonality.  When the divisiveness and polemics drive everyone either right or left.  When disagreement is called evil and rudeness and bullying substitute for politeness and civility.  When you are my enemy if your politics disagree with mine.  When truth is now called a lie and facts are now called fake. 

old men drinking coffee

Ron and Tom still sit down mornings at the coffee shop and talk to each other.  There is often passionate disagreement.  Ron will storm and foam at the mouth.  Tom will quietly state his position and seem somewhat amused at Ron’s vehemence.  I am not sure who has the most difficulty understanding the other but watching Tom and Ron interact is something like watching a TV sitcom.  Are Tom and Ron following a script that the rest of us do not know about?  Perhaps there is a script written somewhere that we are all following.  

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.” ― Ted Koppel

Why Vote for Biden and Harris?

Yes, I know, the Democrats will take our guns away.  They will let the starving hordes of immigrants ravage our country and steal our jobs.  The Democrats will support the killing of unborn children.  They will raise our taxes and prevent us from becoming rich like Trump.  The Democrats will allow unions to take control of our businesses and destroy free enterprise. 

Last week, my wife and I drove to Tomahawk Wisconsin to visit some friends.  We drove via Hwy 8 and returned via Hwy 64.  Just for fun, we decided to count political signs going and coming.  Going we limited our sign counts to 1 sign per home passed.  Most if not all Trump supporters have more than one sign in their yards.  Some have flags and gigantic Trump signs.  We even passed two guys on a street corner waving Trump signs.  When we arrived at Tomahawk the score was Trump signs 41 and Biden signs 21.  On the way back, we counted all signs regardless of how many were on one property.  The score was 219 Trump signs to 25 Biden signs.  Nearly a 10-1 advantage.  Clearly a lot of people in rural Wisconsin like and maybe even love Trump.  Non-Trumpers are confused, perplexed, and bewildered.  What is there to like about Trump they ponder just as many people ponder the heavens and stars?

I have always been an independent.  I vote the person, not the party.  I sometimes call the Dems, the party of Wimps and the Republicans, the party of Greed.  I think of both parties as the Democans and the Republicrats or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  What did the Democrats do for the rural white non-college working class older voter?  Support for diversity, Gay marriage, NAFTA, Immigration, climate change and social welfare programs do not hit the mark with people in the hinterlands like Northern Wisconsin. 

So along comes a Savior riding a Mercedes golf cart, living in a Florida mansion befit for a king and supporting a trophy wife, the envy of every male or at least straight male in America.  He will bring jobs back, keep out the ravaging hordes of rapist immigrants, stick it to the Chinese, lower taxes, make everyone rich again, protect our unborn children, keep at least one gun in every house and perhaps most of all “drain the swamp.”  The swamp as we know it is full of college educated brainwashed left-wing pedophiles and socialist bureaucrats.  People who do not really work for a living but are blood suckers thriving on your tax money.  None of your friends, relatives or neighbors live in the swamp.    

So, given all the great things that Donald Trump will do, why will I vote for Biden and Harris?  Simply because character matters.  The ends can never justify the means.  I have no illusions that Biden will drain the swamp or that he does not have his warts and blemishes.  He is no hero to me, nor do I foolishly believe that he will make America great again.  The only thing that will make America great or keep America great is when 100 percent of Americans get off their butts and get involved in the political process.  In the last presidential election, only about 61 percent of Americans took the time and effort to pull themselves away from their TV screens and vote.  We need to make changes in government, but it will only happen when we take the political process out of the hands of the lobbyists and career politicians.

 So why will I vote for Biden and Harris?  Because character does matter.  Morality matters.  Compassion matters.  Concern for people more than money matters.  Appealing to my humanity and not my fears or greed matters.  I loath bureaucracies.  I too want a safe place to live.  I want to see jobs for people that want jobs and I don’t want to see freeloaders given a handout.  But I also believe that Jesus said to feed the hungry and help the poor:  “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”  1 John 3:17. I do not think this means only your neighbors or your friends or relatives.  I think it means strangers, foreigners and people who may not be the same color or religion as we are.  I do not think Jesus wanted us to discriminate between Black people, Red people, Brown people or any other people on the face of the earth. 

So why will I vote for Biden and Harris.  I think we made a big mistake four years ago.  The swamp is even bigger now than it was then.  The greed in Washington is ever worse.  The political infighting ensures that nothing gets done.  The lawyers seem to control everything, and corporations have grown richer on the backs of the working people that live in both rural and urban areas.  These fat cat corporations have no loyalty to America but are “International” in scope.  “America First” sounds great to many of us but it is a selfish policy that appeals to our sense of fear and greed.  We need a leader with a vision that embraces humanity and does not demonize people or pit one group against another no matter where they live.  We need a leader that respects all people and not just his base of supporters and the sycophants that in my day were called brownnosers for good reason. 

I have been as disappointed by the Democrats as many of you have over the years.  However, I will vote for Biden and Harris because I get a sense of character and integrity from both of these two candidates.  They are not heroes.  People get the government they deserve.  If you want heroes or heroines, watch the Avengers, or read Marvel comic books.  But character, morality, compassion, and humanity are the only things that have ever made America great.  Vote for who you believe has the right stuff but vote my friend. 

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