Christmas, Duck Dynasty and Gay Marriage

For a few weeks now, I’ve been seriously contemplating writing about today’s politically “correct” environment and how it has affected some of the most wonderful things in our culture, such as Christmas. As I’ve thought about it over the past few weeks, I just haven’t had, or taken the time to sit down at the computer and write it out.

Then the recent “controversy” with Phil Robertson, of the TV show Duck Dynasty, hit the news.

My original premise to the post I intended to write was about how thankful I am for those I consider friends, especially those who don’t agree with me in the areas that are lifestyle sensitive. Again, I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. Two days ago, just hours before I caught a flight to New England from California, I bumped into a good friend of mine. She happens to be a lesbian. We shared a hug and chatted for a few minutes. We each were up against the clock, so we couldn’t talk long. I was about to run into the Sam’s Club, from which she was just leaving. She mentioned to me that her partner was working inside the store. As I was going about my business in the store, I bumped into her, and we enjoyed a fun, brief conversation.

While my friends and I do not agree on the topic of gay marriage, each with our own reasons that are very personal and deep, we are still friends. In fact, we find there is much more we share in common than that one topic in which we differ. I’m thankful to have friends who can receive and give respect even when the topic is personal and a cultural lighting rod.

Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, recently conducted an interview for a magazine I will not dignify by identifying it in my blog. During the course of the conversation, they predictably baited him by bringing up the topic of homosexuality…as if they didn’t know his position on the topic. His response was to paraphrase the bible, as well as share his own personal preference. Upon doing so, the network on which Duck Dynasty is broadcast has put him on “indefinite hiatus”.

I’m all for spirited debate. But when did we become a society that punishes people for talking about the values by which they live?

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Again, I’m thankful for the maturity in the friendships I have. My friends understand that I am a Christian, and I consider the bible to be the inspired Word of God. My friends also believe in God and have good families. We are also Americans who believe that the Constitution is the law of the land. This includes the First Amendment, which applies to all of us. Well, at least it’s supposed to.

When did we become a culture that wishes to silence those for their religious beliefs? Even the atheist groups that are purposefully out to offend Christians, particularly at this time of the year, have the right to their opinions. Since when did Christianity, and those with opinions and values that echo biblical standards become anathema?

I wish our society was more like my friends.

Finding success in failure

I posted a lot of what you’re about to read and see on Facebook, but I understand not all of you use Facebook or are connected to my page to have seen it. I have enhanced my thoughts on this matter here, so even if you did read my Facebook rant, there is more to it here.

Here is a video I hope you’ll watch. It’s only 78 seconds long. But it is very revealing. This is a political issue, but the final takeaway is something that applies to all of us in life. Thus, I believe this is a teachable moment no matter your political leaning, or lack thereof.

In this video, the President is blaming Republicans for the disastrous results and the humiliation of it STILL being in a state of disrepair? This is shameful. Can you imagine the neverending victory lap he’d be on if things had worked out the way he sold it?

Let’s just say a friend of mine is thinking of buying a house in a terrible town and neighborhood. I advise him repeatedly that he is setting himself up for disaster. Even so, he does it anyway. When he runs into the inevitable and predicted results, am I somehow to blame for what he did on his own, against my protestation and without my involvement? Am I somehow responsible to get him out of the problem he brought on himself and those under his care? I’m not keeping him from fixing it. I’m not interfering. Was I “invested in failure”, or did I just have the wisdom of forethought? He got what he wanted, and is facing the consequences. How he responds to those consequences is revealing, and something we all can learn from.

The takeaway:  A real leader, a real man of character takes responsibility for his own character_humility_Snapseedactions. He doesn’t blame others. A real leader, a real man of character attributes success to all those who made it happen, yet takes full responsibility for failure. Real character can be thankless. It is humble. Real character may not be recognized as such immediately. True character doesn’t seek applause.

In life, we will make good decisions, while others will blow up in our faces. Most decisions allow us time to think things through. We can get advice. We can do research. We can weigh the pros and cons. Whether or not we have the luxury of time, we make decisions based on the best information we have at the moment. Sometimes thing will work out well, and other times, unforeseen things can happen that ruin everything. No matter what, we must stand by our decisions. Our character is revealed in how we respond to the successes and failures. When we maintain our integrity, we have ultimate success regardless of how the decisions turn out.

Results can vary. Good character is consistent, regardless.

Crying out for leadership

This week, something happened that I’ve been aching to see for some time. It was true leadership. It was someone with the courage of conviction, standing up, (literally), in the face of those who oppose him. But it turns out, he also stood up and called out those who are supposedly on his team.

Texas senator Ted Cruz did an extraordinary thing this week. According to Senate rules, a senator may control the floor for as long as he or she is able to stand and speak. Though it technically wasn’t a filibuster, the rules of one applied. That means he was required to stand the entire time, was not allowed to sit, lean, use a chair in any way, nor eat, drink or use the bathroom. They must basically speak continuously the entire time.

I’m not going to go into a civics lesson or anything. The point is, it is physically demanding. Senator Cruz held the floor of the senate for 21 hours, 19 minutes. The point of this extraordinary measure was to draw attention to his opposition of ObamaCare, or, the Affordable Care Act. Not only his opposition, but that of a majority of Americans. Certainly those he represents in Texas.

During and after Cruz’s extended floor speech, colleagues from both sides of the aisle criticized him. Those opposed to his views attempted to brush off his commentary by calling him an anarchist. Even some who supposedly share his views criticized him. They felt that his tactic was, “a waste of time”, that it wouldn’t change anything.

But here’s the thing. To those of us who are sick and tired of the status quo of political blowhards in both parties, this act of courage resonated with millions and millions of Americans. We are screaming out for leadership. We are crying out for someone to stand up and refuse to go down without a fight.

Passion and conviction. Dying commodities, it seems. Yes, maybe the outcome will not be affected by Ted Cruz’s speech. But what has happened is the status quo has been served notice. If those who have held positions in the Senate for decades got their feelings hurt by being called out for not fighting hard enough, GOOD! If “leaders” of the Senate Republicans were bent out of shape because a freshman dared to speak up without their blessing, GOOD! True leadership doesn’t create dependence. It enables and empowers INdependence!

America is crying out for leadership. We are aching for someone to stand up and fight the good fight. Rather than acquiesce and give in to defeat, we are desperate for someone to make their voice heard, even if it ruffles some feathers. We’re looking for someone who shares our views who will not fade silently into the night. That’s not who we are. We’re tired of being represented by people who are more interested in their own image, popularity, power and prestige.

I love the movie Braveheart. Though it’s based on a true story, it’s largely fiction, I know. But the movie still moves me. The passion of one man who is willing to die in order to achieve something for which he is passionate. He is confident he will not live long enough to see what he’s fighting for, but he fights anyway. That inspires me. I end this post with a scene from this movie. It completely summarizes the point I’m trying to make. America needs TRUE leadership!

Remembering 9/12

As we all reflect upon the events that changed the world forever, I find myself longing. Many long for the world we had on 9/10. We could go meet loved ones right at the airport gates. We weren’t worried about the government reading our phone records or our internet activity. We could go to sporting events and amusement parks without having our bags rifled through, or even banned.

For me, I long for 9/12. On that day, we were Americans. We weren’t divided by politicalbos_u_redsoxpre_576 ideology. We stood side-by-side, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, straight, homosexual. We were unified. The rest of the civilized world felt compassion and solidarity with the United States.The American flag flew everywhere. Freeway overpasses, cranes, fire department ladder trucks, sides of buildings.

How far we have drifted.

In our darkest days, I saw the best in us. Tragedy struck, and we responded beautifully. Just as one hand reaches to the the aid of a thumb accidentally struck by a hammer, we reached out to one another in an effort to comfort and aid the suffering. We found ourselves applauding and honoring the first responders in our communities when it dawned on us that they are the ones running into the very crisis the rest of us are running from.

Tragically, we are so far removed from our best days. I’m sickened by the divisive tones we take against one another. We are so disagreeable. We argue over things that, in the big picture of life, are so trivial. We have become so selfish. If one disagrees with another, it’s because they are a bigot or a racist. We level ad hominem attacks against our brothers124805794.jpg.CROP.article568-large and sisters without respect for their feelings, their life stories, or even any facts. The same people we stood with, shoulder to shoulder, waving the Stars and Stripes, singing God Bless America without worrying about the so-called separation of church and state.

What our enemies meant for evil, good came from it. But now, we are more divided than ever. I dread that it may take yet another catastrophic event to bring us back to a place of humility and unity.

Will we ever learn?

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Closed minds don’t get fed

I’m sure you’re probably a lot like me and a bit burned out on the Trayvon Martin news and debate. But it doesn’t take much, as I have learned, for the embers of Imageemotion to flare up to full fury even to this day.

Last night, a Facebook friend posted a link to a blog post his nephew posted on the issue. The blogger is black, and pointed his disdain to black Americans who have gotten swept up in the contrived racial firestorm. On Facebook, I entered into the discussion because I saw people perpetuating the misinformation that had been fed to them by those with agendas. During the debate, individuals took the stance that “we all know” that George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime. When I asked them to offer one true fact to support this, the “best” argument I got was;

“He shot an unarmed kid, I said this before on someone else’s status, if a cop shows up, and there’s a dead, unarmed kid, a smoking gun, and a dude holding it, and the cop asks “did you shoot this kid?” and the guy says “Yeah, but I was defending myself”, the correct answer is “okay, tell it to the judge.””

Thankfully, we don’t live in a country where this is the rule of law. Thankfully, despite the outside pressure of certain media outlets, (hello NBC), there hasn’t been a rush-to-judgment by law enforcement and prosecutors.

Three weeks ago, I had never heard of Trayvon Martin. When I was made aware of the incident, I was outraged. I heard about a young boy who was simply walking down the street carrying a bottle of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. I heard that Zimmerman, a white man, singled the boy out because he was black and wearing a hoodie. I heard about the 911 call in which the dispatcher ordered Mr. Zimmerman to stand down and not pursue the kid. I heard the other 911 call from a neighbor in which you could hear someone screaming for help. I was sure it was the young boy in fear for his life. I heard that the police showed up and essentially shook Zimmerman’s hand and let him go home.

I was outraged. How could this happen in MY America?

Then the facts began to trickle out. The facts began to add some texture to what I had heard initially. George Zimmerman is hispanic. He tutored African American children for free on weekends. Not exactly the profile of a racist.

This young boy was, in fact, was 17 years old and 6’3″. A far cry from the mental image that had been painted with the brush of uninformed outrage.

The incident occurred at 3 AM, not during the day, say right after school, as I had assumed. This caused me to call into question what my own judgment might be like were I to see an unfamiliar person walking through my neighborhood which has recently seen a spike in burglaries. I may have made different decisions, but I also may have been suspicious.

I listened to the original 911 calls. I was, and still am troubled by Mr. Zimmerman’s assumption that Trayvon was “up to no good,” and “on drugs or something.” I heard the 911 dispatcher’s response when he learned Zimmerman was following Martin. It wasn’t an “order”, as many have stated falsely. The exact words were, “we don’t need you to do that.” Obviously, as we all know, Zimmerman ignored this suggestion.

Poor judgment, but not a crime.

It turns out the the desperate screams for help heard in another 911 call came from George Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s statement, backed up by physical evidence and eyewitness accounts, were that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, pounding his head into the ground.

When the police processed the scene, Zimmerman was taken into custody and brought to the police station for questioning. After doing so and interviewing eyewitnesses, there was no probable cause to arrest and indefinitely detain Zimmerman for the death of Martin.

The bottom line is, my mind was and remains open to the facts. Many drew a conclusion upon hearing the first bits of information from that tragic night. There was a bounty put on the head of George Zimmerman by the New Black Panthers. Spike Lee tweeted what he thought was Zimmerman’s address, but turned out to belong to an innocent elderly couple. Whether or not the address was incorrect, Lee’s motives can only be described as facilitating a potentially horrible confrontation. Since then, Roseanne Barr tweeted Zimmerman’s father’s address.

The media, the “reverends” Jackson and Sharpton, the President of the United States and other public figures have not only rushed to judgment, but have inspired and perpetuated a racial firestorm that is unnecessary and completely contrived. These are entities with an agenda. The media is looking for ratings. There is a lot of competition with cable news outlets. But rather than report the news, they’re looking to manipulate it. Jackson, Sharpton and the President? Well, when your only tool is a hammer, you need your problems to be nails. So they call Zimmerman a white man, then a “white hispanic”, whatever that is. Then they jump on the hoodie thing. Mentioning that Martin was black and wearing a hoodie was simply a description to enable police to visually identify him at the scene. But making this a racial thing serves a political and social agenda for these individuals.

If the facts prove that George Zimmerman committed a crime, he should pay the price. But our minds must be open should the facts not prove that out. It just may be that it was a case of self defense.

Again, I believe George Zimmerman made some bad decisions. He showed some poor judgment. But from what we know, not to the point of a crime.

Thankfully, in MY America, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Not the other way around.