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Vegetables

I hesitate to write about the most controversial but important topic of our national moral conversation. An article recently compared the issue to a common childhood melodrama known as "getting your child to eat their vegetables." Growing up it is something we know we should do, but we don’t want to do. Down the line we thank our parents for being hard on us, because we know it made us better people. They were just doing what was best for us. If civil rights came down to a popular vote, we'd still be drinking out of different water fountains. Like gay marriage and stem cell research before it "gun control" laws scare people. We don’t want it and will protest to our last breath that we don’t need it, but deep down inside we know we do.  

As a kid your parents always tell you not to do something and it made us so angry. It made us want to do it more. It's because we don’t like being told what to do. Imagine if we didn’t listen to them, we’d still be picking our noses or playing with ourselves in public. A politician on the news the other day said we need to let people mourn the tragedy in Colorado, and I agreed, then he said now is not the time to discuss gun laws, and I disagreed. July 20th was a dark day for America, but there was a shining light in all of that darkness though; acts of true bravery. Three men died protecting their girlfriends and their example should serve as a lesson to us all; we have an obligation to protect each other. If you saw a kid getting beat up in high school did you wait until the beatings and humiliation fully sink in before you step up?

Now is the time. It's the only time we have. Compassion and empathy are not dirty words. All those liberals and peaceniks out there are soft and will never stand up for what they believe in, but will we let ourselves be bullied into taking a light approach. The majority of our population faces a startling dichotomy every single day of their lives. What we want to believe, and what we do believe. We pride ourselves on being Americans, land of the free and home of the brave, but like Janet Jackson said, “what have you done for me lately.” I watched a show on HBO the other day called the Newsroom. It opened with a dramatic monologue about the disparity that exists in America over what we are, and what we want to be. I heard people at work talking the next day that it was a revolutionary scene, but to me it was a mediocre impersonation of Peter Finch. Ironically, given the current number of incarcerated Americans, it lacked what most of us lack in our society; conviction.

We could care less about gun control, what we care about is gun violence. History has shown us time and time again that violence begets violence. Period. Terrorism creates more terrorism. War does not stop. I read recently about a child killed in a drone strike and it saddened me deeply. Beyond the horror that is the murder of an innocent child. It's the Butterfly Effect on a universal scale. If stepping on a butterfly changes the course of history; what would ripping off its wings and dousing it in gasoline do? What we do in life echoes in eternity.
Growing up in rural town on movies, games, and TV shows I viewed guns as tools for overcoming oppression and triumphing over evil. Swords of modern knights used to slay evil dragons threatening villages and endangering fair maidens. Cops and robbers. Cowboys and Indians. Even as a child I knew my obsession with guns was almost perverse, but man were they cool like cigarettes or cowboy hats.
My immaturity led me to see war for what it isn’t, just, honorable, and heroic, instead of what it is, violent, deadly, and wrong. Romanticizing combat spans eons in our world. My whole life all I wanted to do was be in the US military and serve my country, but there were billboards along my road that made me question my path, made me turn the wheel, and go in the other direction. Columbine. Virginia Tech, Aurora. Vegas. We will never be able to solve what’s wrong with America until we solve whats wrong with Americans. The Second Amendment was written hundreds of years ago when there was a need for states to bear arms because they were being threatened by an external force. Bear arms, protect our homes. Fast forward to today and I say protect our homeland from who? The days of militias are over and our childish reluctance to give up our toys must stop. If you beat your little brother or sister over the head with a stick; that stick would then be taken away. The old affirmation "guns don't kill people, people kill people," seems naive when a Mac 11 fires 1200 rounds a minute. I think it’s about time we ate our vegetables.

Fishers of Men

I was driving through the country the other day and I had a flash of nostalgia when I crossed a small wooden bridge. I flashed back to a time when my dad used to take me fishing when I was young. While we cast our lines and waited for something to take hold our minds would wonder and the shower effect would kick in. We would discuss all kinds of issues from school to the universe to baseball. But there was one discussion that I would never forget. One topic changed everything, forever. 


There you are swimming along the endlessly expansive, constantly changing,  free open ocean, without a care in the world, and you spot it. The bait. Something shiny. Something sparkling. Something wiggling. It looks different from what you’re used to having. You are tired of plankton and the monotony of algae,  so you go after it. You take and risk and put yourself on the line. The absolute second you chomp down you know something is very wrong. You fight and pull but sooner or later you come to grips with the reality of the inevitable and you just let go. You're caught hook line and sinker. Everything you thought about that morsel of food was wrong when you find out the real person at the end of the line. 


There are now two options. One, she can rescue you from that hook, kiss you, jump and cheer, pose with you in pictures, weigh, skin, gut and eat you. Or she can throw you back. No big deal right, there are other fish in the sea. But the reality is that once you’re back in that water the chances of you biting down on some fake squiggly bait is slim to none. You learned you lesson once and have a inch wide hole in your cheek to prove it. 


But, there is another option. One so remote in possibility that it isn't included in feasible scenarios. Miracles do happen, where the stars align and all your work, all your risk, and all your courage pays off. A hand reaches into that cold dark water and you are plucked out by an unknown force and the course of your previously swimming existence has changed. The hand thrust onto the stage, behind the glass, or in the aquarium, where you are presented to the world. They judge you based on your worth and size, and pick a destiny for you that you cannot control. Will you play shows at Sea World for the next twenty years for a few grouper or will you be sent to the pet store, or worse, the carnival. 


And in that one in a million case, where you are disregarded, underestimated, misunderstood or glanced over, you are saved. You are introduced to a cozy bowl in the loving embrace of a kind soul, who feeds you, talks to you, makes funny faces at you, and loves you completely. You are hers, and she is yours. Sure she may flush you down the toilet someday, but at least you had your time together. And if you’re lucky you will spend the rest of our days sleeping soundly and snug inside a tea box in her backyard.

Into the Lions' Den

First and foremost, glad to be back, but let's not waste time dwelling on the past; the jam of the week will speak for itself. The activities keeping me away from the computer are trivial and irrelevant, except for one. One activity actually is important. I want to formally announce that I am running for Congress. And I feel a little bit like Daniel entering the lions' den. Do you know the story of Daniel? You should, it’s a good one. Daniel was a great seer in the Kingdom of Babylon. He was chosen to be a counselor to the King and was given the name Belteshazzar, also known as "The Prince of Bel Air." 
Fresh
In West Babylonia, born and raised. Prophesying is how he spent most of his days. Daniel as well as the kingdom of Babylon went through many leaders in his lifetime. When Babylon was conquered by Persia, the new King, Darius, ordered that he be worshiped as a God. When the people refused they were cast into a furnace or worse. Lucky for Daniel he was in good favor with the King. Daniel too came under scrutiny of Darius’ officials for his loyalty to YHWH, the Chaldea Tetragrammaton for God or Yahweh. They wanted Daniel gone. Darius relented and Daniel was cast into a lion’s den. That night an angel descended upon Daniel and protected him. He was delivered unscathed
cry baby
He was glorified and used his new found fame to help Jewish people out of their incessant captivity. Following his brush with death, Daniel began to have visions. He would lay awake in his bed stirred by dreams that roused him from his sleep. He wrote down the dream not knowing it was a prophecy. There he began to decipher it’s meaning. “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven broke forth upon the great sea. Four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first he said was like a lion, but it had great eagle’s wings, “I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon two feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.” The second beast was a bear. It had three ribs between its teeth and said to him, “'Arise, devour much flesh.'” The third beast was a leopard. It had four wings and four heads, each more diverse and horrifying than the one before. 


Then came the fourth beast, the most frightening and terrible of all. It had iron teeth and ten horns. The beast destroyed and consumed everything before it at will. It stamped the residue with its feet. It devoured and broke the world into pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet, but one of the horns was different. It seemed small and unimposing, but it grew out of the beast. Then, miraculously, the horn was plucked out! “In this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. His raiment was as white snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” 

Daniel was petrified by the voice. The fear of God was in him. It spoke with thundering verbosity, “I beheld at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke, I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. Daniel’s spirit was pained in the midst of the voice, and the visions of his head affrighted him. He approached the fiery being and asked him the reason behind all these theatrics. 

“These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.'” What the fuck does that mean? He thought. He wanted to know the truth the about fourth beast, whose teeth were metal, and its nails of brass. Was it a metaphor? Or would this monster materialize and Godzilla it's way through Israel?

The voice said: “The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. But the judgment shall sit, and his dominions shall be taken away, to be consumed and to be destroyed unto the end. And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people.” 

The people. All six billion eight hundred million five hundred and seven thousand of them. 


Nationalistically speaking, there are upwards of two million Jamaicans, thirty-two million Iraqis, forty-eight million Koreans, fifty million South Africans, sixty million Italians, sixty two million English, sixty three million French, eighty one million Germans, a hundred and twelve million Mexicans, and well over three hundred million Americans. There are also more than a billion Indians, and close to two billion Chinese and counting. These are all irrelevant associations based on a randomly assigned geographic location. Where you were born does not decide where you will die. It might have something to do with how though.The same arbitrariness can be applied religiously. There are around a billion Buddhists and an equal number of Hindus, over one point five billion Muslims, and close to two billion Christians. But there is only one voice. And there’s only one of you. 


Of the six billion people on this world you only have a one in twenty shot at being born an American. A measly four and a half percent. It’s harder than winning the lottery. You have better chances at being born a chicken, who out number us three to one. If chickens and men were the last two creatures on Earth, there would only be a twenty four percent chance you were a man. That means you would have a seventy six percent chance of being a chicken. Don't be a chicken.

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