X Marks the Spot

It is the stuff that lends magic and mystique to pirate stories, treasure hunts and fairy tales. People are in search of the answer to a great mystery…whether it be buried treasure, a piece of a puzzle, or a long lost answer to a question. An X on a map denotes you have arrived. During Spring Break we encountered an X in the middle of the Elm Street in Dallas. And while it did not hide any treasures, it certainly marks the spot of an historic American tragedy: the assignation of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

We’ve heard the story and seen the images all our lives. Jackie, dressed in pink adorned with her iconic pillbox hat, with the president by her side proceeded by motorcade through Dallas en route to the convention center for Mr. Kennedy’s speech. The mysterious Lee Harvey Oswald observed from the corner 6th floor window of the Texas Book Depository on the right side of Dealey Plaza (heading out of town). As my friend Dane would say “the short of it is” the Warren Commission Report declared a single shooter (Oswald) acting alone carried out this assassination. Whoa there….not so fast! A visit to this place rapidly opens the possibilities for the numerable other scenarios people have contemplated for more than 5 decades.

Let me be the first person to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know. Conspiracy theories fill articles, books and millions of history lovers’ minds. Admittedly, I’ve never been more on board convinced something additional happened…more than Lee Harvey Oswald could have done alone. There is simply too much evidence about ample opportunity. My family became so intrigued that we returned to visit a second time in as many days to take in possibilities.

Interestingly, up until the time of JFK’s assassination it was NOT a federal crime to kill a President or Vice President. It seems so archaic doesn’t it? This created an interesting dynamic between local police and federal security detail…but that’s a story for another day. For disclosure purposes the information here is based on what curators and tour guides reveal at the Sixth Floor Museum and in Dealey Plaza.

Keep in mind the motorcade was only going 11 miles per hour. It turned right onto Houston Street heading directly toward the building corner where Oswald stationed himself. From the sixth floor window this perspective gave a would be assassin unobstructed firing access.

The Oswald Story: Today the corner room is recreated exactly as Mr. Oswald would have found it and left it on that Dallas Friday. While I am no marksman at all (in fact, if I have a rifle ya’ll better haul and hope that I don’t drop it or get startled and turn around) it seems quite strange looking out the window. At one point in the procession the limo faces squarely in line with the line of sight. However, it is not until the car turns left onto Elm Street and is heading out of Oswald’s sight that the ‘fatal shot’ is fired. For a gunman to aim toward Elm from the angle of the building’s window required more skill and the ability to focus more clearly.

(These are some of the cameras on site that captured images. The one below is the renowned video camera bystander Abraham Zapruder used; it captured the assassination in a segment of extremely grainy footage.)

We’ll not ever know how Oswald’s story would have unfolded. Recall Dallas nightclub owner of mafia lore, Jack Ruby, fatally shot Mr. Oswald only one day after JFD died.

The Grassy Knoll: It is surreal to stand on the famed grassy knoll. I’ve never really stood on a grassy knoll let alone see one except maybe on an old episode of Little House on the Prairie. But there we were facing the road. Behind us stood a wooden slat privacy fence. As evidenced by photos there has been a fence on this site since at least 1963. Witnesses from November 22, 1963 claim they saw a puff of smoke from behind the fence. Is it possible that an assassin could have aimed from this vantage point? The site line was and still is wide open, gave direct view of JFK and would have easily hidden someone in a crowd. (Note: a worker in a nearby train switching station tower could easily have spotted a shooter in this position).

The Drain Theory: My dad has long believed, and he may be on to something here, the fatal shot discharged from a storm drain on Elm. Evidence including direction of the bullet, the fact that JFK was thrown back (as opposed to being pushed forward had Oswald shot him from behind), clearer line of site, and complete concealment from view lends high credibility to this theory. The problem is it would be difficult for a shot to fire from this low angle to hit the top of person’s head (particularly when a firearm barrel would be restricted by the presence of a concrete drain’s top giving the gunman only inches to maneuver).

The Great Escape: Interestingly, the railroad worker from that nearby switching station tower witnessed a man climbing from a drain grate. What had he seen? Only a guy coming through a drain or did his vantage point let him see someone shooting from behind the fence on the grassy knoll.

We simply do not know what the train yard worker saw. The next day the railroad worker was found murdered. Coincidence? (This photo shows the vantage point of the supposed murdered witness).

I take pictures of everything. However, my teenaged son threatened me not to take photos of our family at this location. What he called disrespectful I call research….yep…that’s it….research. Nonetheless, I heeded his prompt…threat! He is correct, however, it would be really nerdy and over the line to “say cheese” at the sight of a murder.

Concerning what our government knows you may recall early in President Trump’s presidential tenure he had the privilege to release the previously classified information withheld from public knowledge. He chose not to make information public. Why? What do we not know; what do they not want us to know?

Nearby from atop the Geosphere Observatory on Reunion Street visitors enjoy views of every Dallas block . Each view is accompanied by a photo board, text and a story monitor. The one over Dealey Plaza features Mrs. Kennedy’s Secret Service Agent, Clint Hill. He is the last surviving passenger from the limo detail from that November, 1963 day. On video Mr. Hill clearly reads what sounds like a highly scripted line…the same one they’ve fed us since the Warren Commission released its report (and we’re all so trusting in government reports). He says in stoic, monotone script something to effect that “there was one shooter, the shot came from the 6th floor of the Texas Book Depository, the shot was fatal, it was fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. That is all.” It is as if Mr. Hill was told what to read and how to read it….quite matter of factish, with zero emotion, with no facial expression or vocal personality whatsoever.

Thaedra, Pierce and I walked away convinced we’d heard the words of an old man afraid he would lose his government benefits and retirement if he shared anything other than the same old same old. Alternatively, maybe the Warren Commission’s “company line” about what happened provides a unified coping mechanism for a Secret Service detail that failed to protect a president’s life. Interestingly, the motorcade’s security detail urged the president to make use of the limousine’s glass protective top. JFK refused it wanting to be closer to the people as he worked his way through the 5 city campaign tour.

There remain so many facts, theories and possibilities that people will likely not ever know the full story. I wrote this blog not to jump in with conspiracy theorists, but to reinforce observations and to keep alive the search for truth…especially to a younger generation not as in touch with American history.

The second time we visited was a spectacular day. I spent quite a bit of time walking and looking at what could have been the case. As I turned and walked away from Dealey Plaza it occurred to me that if the whisper of the winds rustling the trees leaves could talk, then maybe they could reveal the truth. But the truth is we may never know what actually happened in Dealey Plaza where X marks the spot.

Ten Pieces of My Heart – Sex for Sale

Chicago 1995: My wife and I took the first trip of our relationship to a wedding over Independence Day weekend. The venue was a massive revival style Greco Romanesque mansion originally constructed by J. Ogden Armour. You may remember “Armour hotdogs, the dogs kids love to bite.” The Armour company’s potted meat and other products were precursors to Spam….the canned pork…fat…sodium…gelatin…whatever it is….not computer spam. During the reception the groom’s band took the stage and played one of their original songs. While I don’t remember the title, I vividly recall repeating lyrics: “Ten Pieces of My Heart.” It was a fantastic, upbeat song about broken dreams and living a life you do not choose.

(Thaedra & me at the Armour Mansion outside of Chicago: July, 1995)

Fast forward to more recent years. Gayle Smith entered our lives.

Trafficking, Sex, & Slavery

She is the girl in line behind you at Wal-Greens. Maybe she is the customer service representative behind the teller line at the bank. Possibly she is a he…not a transgendered person, but rather the desperate, hopeless and roughed up looking teenage boy we see roadside holding up a sign “Will work for food.” We easily overlook victims (and survivors) of sex & human trafficking. They’re mostly passersby to people who disguise one of the darkest secrets of modern slavery and the world’s oldest profession.

Not by choice, but by forced circumstances they are too afraid to leave. Fearful of threats of their families being killed, themselves being killed, ending up homeless or hungry or sick with nowhere to go they remain. Blank faces, real life girls, they’re Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, OR Julia’s Robert’s “Pretty Woman” (good gosh I’m so old that I remember this stuff). They sell themselves, their bodies, their souls for a buck…and it’s a buck they don’t even get to keep.

It’s easier to believe life is lollipops and rainbows. It’s easier to tune in to specialty network television and focus on other seemingly unrealistic circumstances. Think about what I call the TLC effect. It’s that Jim Bob Duggar thing requiring his children to “side hug” until they are married. All that pent up….um…let’s call it energy. It’s why they have 67 Kids and Counting (TLC insider joke for those of you who watch). Have you ever seen one of their weddings? These young newlyweds literally run down the aisle immediately after nuptials, lock the door to the nearest room and get their freak on while the guests are still in the pews. Awkward on so many levels that you have to see to believe, but a great comparison about naivety in modern times.

Once Was & Maybe Not Always Will Be

A world away, in a land never known to or forgotten to most lies the ancient excavated city: Bet She’an, Israel. It’s the place where King Saul and his sons were stripped, staked to the City wall and burned. (Honestly, until my trips there I’d never heard of the place…and I grew up Baptist…I must have missed that day). During the City’s hay-day Roman Bathhouse culture abounded. Beside one of the excavated public bath houses guides tell you they found the remains of hundreds of young male bodies. Young boys who, for whatever reason, were raised to work in the bath houses as prostitutes…disposable lives…for the fleeting sexual pleasure of society. The practice widely infiltrated ancient Roman culture.

(I shot the following at Bet She’an about a year ago).

To stand there gazing over the excavated ruins, one cannot help but wonder what horrors these boys must have faced. The sobering fact is that the boys’ reality makes modern day banter and locker room talk about massage parlor happy ending jokes become offensive and disrespectful to the generations of males who sacrificed body, heart, & spirit in this place.

Fortunately modern culture does not afford this oppressive abuse and behavior to manifest. Or, does it?

Not in my Backyard

It exists…prolifically! My hometown, Charlotte, is at the cross roads of two major interstate highways. Except for Atlanta, it is the largest Southern city between Miami and New York. We’re accessible by Greyhound, AmTrack; we’re home to the sixth busiest airport in the United States. We have NFL Football, NBA Basketball, and a massive NASCAR presence. Simple demand creating a market for “sex” trade workers is met by a supply of people, whom against their will, complete the economic model.

Indentured to a life of sexual slavery, these women live lives a lot like the boys of the Roman culture bathhouses.

Key Statistics from Polarisproject.org

Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline, operated by Polaris, has received reports of 34,700 sex trafficking cases inside the United States.

In 2017, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims (hopefully, survivors).

Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.8 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally.

From CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY), 11/7/18:

Charlotte is the number one spot in North Carolina for human trafficking, and on any given day, the state of North Carolina ranks in the top ten in the nation for human trafficking. “80 percent of all trafficking victims in our country of all ages were born in this country so this is the girl next door,” said Bo Quickel, the founder of Vigilante Truth. An international airport, conventions, sporting events, concerts and highways make Charlotte the perfect breeding ground for the dark industry.

“It’s easier to sell women than it is to sell drugs,” Quickel said, “than it is to commit internet fraud,” he continued. “Selling a woman is pretty easy business, sadly enough, but it is true.”

In fact, Quickel says it’s over a $10 billion industry.

“I’ve met murderers, I’ve met thieves, I’ve met people who destroy peoples’ lives with drugs,” Quickel listed. “Sex trafficking is a place where all three of those people are the same person, and doing all three of those things to one person. They destroy these girls lives.”

(Image from Google)

Desperate beyond any desperation we can imagine, these people need a champion. There is a grove of Dahlias and a place of escape for them.

Beacon of Hope

I believe everyday unsung heroes are the brightest spot of any generation. You don’t find these heroes in a sport arena, hear them on an iPod and see them on movie screens. Colin Capernick didn’t give up anything with the possible exception of good taste (not that he ever had it…and pleeez, don’t let him become a Carolina Panther). Want to know a real hero? I’ve discovered one in Gayle Smith . This charming, well educated, Christian hearted lady has her heart and mind set on charting a course….making a difference for women who are trapped in the jaws of trafficking. Set on a journey to establish a mission, she sold her home, quit her job and has worked TIRELESSLY for this cause

Gayle sees people as ALL of us should see people. She sees struggle, heartache, desperation to move beyond the entrapped servitude of a pimp or a sugar daddy.

At the expense of sounding like the old Jeff Foxworthy & Larry the Cable guy comedy “I believe” skit:

I believe Gayle lives into her dreams, mission and purpose. Following the example of Christ, she has “picked up her cross to follow (Jesus).” Talk about commitment? Gayle sold her home and has begun investing her asset base in her vision.

I believe Gayle is God’s shining, angelic beacon of hope among a population of women who would, otherwise, remain captive to a life relegated to either sex or human trafficking.

I believe Gayle’s focus to provide a safe house complete with vocational training and redirection getting these girls out of tragedy’s trajectory is a God inspired and a tangible way she makes a difference. We can help, too!

I believe trafficked & pimped people walk away from a “session” or an “encounter” feeling like that song I heard in 1995 – not living a life they choose – with their hearts shattered into pieces and souls compromised from an oppressive reality they cannot singularly escape.

For the last few years my crew and I have attended the annual Dahlia Grove fundraising event. It rocks! Great company, the best of friends, fun auctions, food, drinks and the promise to help someone.

Save a Single Starfish

You might ask: What difference does it make if we help a few girls? The answer is simple. Have you ever cast a stone into a placid pond and seen the ripple effect? Have you ever heard the story of the star fish (poem by Loren Eiseley)?

(Starfish Point in Grand Cayman, 2017)

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

Our help can make a difference for just “that one.” Join the cause, be part of the ripple of positive change. Soon others will join; and we’ll see how many starfish…how many pieces of a heart we can save.

Please check out http://www.dahliagrove.com. The fundraiser is Friday, 4/5, and is a blast. Your support will make a difference to someone.

If These Walls Could Talks

Becoming a Part of History

It could have been just about any day during 1833. The imposing and majestic Trinity United Methodist Church graced the landscape representing a local landmark on Meeting Street in bustling low country Charleston SC. In fact, the church predates the creation of The United Methodist Church…and the Civil War…and even electricity.

Meeting Street was a bed of encrusted dirt and stone hosting the clip-clopping of horse and carriage commuters going to and fro about their business. With white Corinthian columns and richly detailed interior the Church building was only a year old and had begun what has become an incredibly rich history of witnessing the ages and progress through the generations.

Fast forward to the evening of Friday January 18, 2019. Horses & carriages a distant memory, with street lights glaring and impatient traffic making it’s entry exceptionally difficult our Boy Scout troop’s state of the art bus tightly squeezed into the back parking lot. To be there meant to realize we became part of this building’s history…what it had observed through the decades and almost two centuries.

A combination of Antebellum architecture verging on the beauty of a Gilded Age worship place the building remains stunning.

We’ve all heard it: the saying “If these walls could talk.” As Pastor Mike Wood led David, Willis, Dave, Scott, Mike, Andrew and me on the “nickel tour” all I could imagine is what this building has endured: the life celebrations, the heartache and the history of our country this place has seen.

What’s Been Going On Since 1832?

Trinity saw the first shot of Civil war fired in its midst, witnessed Lovenia Fisher become South Carolina’s first female to be executed for murder, and endured through the Women’s Movement. It was there as the sexual revolution unfolded and provided refuge for prayerful congregants through Jonestown, Woodstock, and Neil Armstrong stepping foot on the moon.

Trinity stood majestically serving worshippers through the

  • Mexican – American War (1846-1848)
  • American Civil War (1861–1865)
  • Spanish-American War (1898)
  • World War I (1914-1918)
  • World War II (1939-1945)
  • Korean War (1950-1953)
  • The Vietnam War (1955-1973)
  • The Gulf War (1990-1991)

That Time Boy Scouts Happened

From across the pond Trinity stood when Lord Badin Powell established a scouting program for young men. The church also knew the time an American business man, William Boyce, brought the Lone Scout program to the States (this eventually became Boy Scouts of America; c. 1924).

Trinity was there as a start up church 180 miles northwest in Charlotte chartered a Boy Scouts Troop (December, 1969). Over the past fifty years hundreds of boys & their families have learned to serve through Boy Scouting’s Duty to God, Duty to Country & Duty to others. They say…whomever “they are” only 4 – 7% of young men who are scouts to earn the Eagle rank. Troop 118’s heritage evidences a much higher rate. In the last few weeks we’ve seen Eagle numbers 200 & 201 achieve rank. We’ve collected more than 22,000 pounds of non-perishable food for Charlotte’s Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, protected the environment by Adopting-A-Stream in Mecklenburg County, and left it better than we found it by putting our outdoor code to work. This year marks Charlotte’s BSA Troop 118’s 50th anniversary.

(A few images from our celebration banquet on February 9th)

All of this reflection might beg the question: What additional history will the old walls at Trinity in Charleston observe? The first female U.S. President, colonization in space, flyer cars (Boeing has recently tested driverless air taxis); a cure for cancer, for dementia or a drug to combat alcoholism? All promise to materialize.

The possibilities remain endless. It’s something to think about the next time you are in an old building: “If these walls could talk,” what would they reveal to us?

This month Boy Scouts of America becomes Scouts BSA & I’ve Accepted the Change.

(Before I Open Pandora’s Box: these are my expressed thoughts and do not represent a collective opinion of either our Troop’s leadership or Charter Organization)

While I am 100% in opposition to discrimination and sexism I honestly admit I have personally struggled with recent Boy Scout organizational decisions. I believe God, our Creator, created males & females to be unique divine creations reflecting His will and to fulfill His desire for our lives. Sexual identities aside, the sexes as different genders share particular commonalities the opposite sex is not created to either experience or understand. Simply stated, boys will be boys & girls will be girls…at least that’s what naturally occurring testosterone or estrogen levels in our bodies dictate. Nothing we can do changes the precise moment in time when, at fertilization, our gender is determined (albeit people make decisions to change their gender, “identify” with the opposite sex, and influence everyone else’s right to his, her or its opinion. I threw the “its” in there for the people who would call me out for not being sensitive to the gender neutral. I can’t say I understand your neutrality…you either are or you aren’t).

It is ludicrous to expect that young men and young women could experience the exact same Scouting life. It is not plausible for any two people experience the same thing the same way at all…ever. This fact is a gift that characterizes life’s uniqueness.

My thoughts regarding young ladies joining the Scouting program began to change when one of my prolific, genuinely Christian and fellow Troop leaders whom I deeply respect made a statement about his daughter. In short he said “quite frankly I have no problem with a program that would accept my daughter if she wanted to become an Eagle.” Why should the fun and rigors of Boy Scouting be limited to boys?

I want to be clear: Although girls can now create and join a Scout Troop, there will not be coed scouting under the new current structure. The girls who join will experience scouting with their sex; the boys will continue to meet with young men. The National Scouting organization has done a poor job clarifying the new organization for the media amidst a highly misinformed court of public opinion.

Girl Scouting, while it provides a definitive curriculum and experience, does not offer the depth of endeavor and life long prestige of rank becoming an Eagle Scout brings. We live in a world where people segregated in any way ALWAYS find a path to penetrate barriers. This is especially true when one group has something other groups want. This time it is females having the ability to join Boy Scouting’s traditional brotherhood. This will happen whether we acknowledge it or not.

Back to Church on Meeting Street

It won’t be too many years before the Trinity congregation celebrates the building’s 200th anniversary (in 2032). In addition to all the events mentioned the beautiful church on Meeting Street will see the envelopment of young ladies into Scouting. Like every other social movement this change will become the commonly accepted norm. 50 years from now this change will not matter to the involved families. I understand this and shall, somewhat reluctantly, embrace the change. However, today as my sons’ Boy Scout Troop turns 50, I proudly and happily celebrate Boy Scouts of America – Troop 118’s heritage and the dimension it has added to an entire brotherhood for five decades. This milestone is a gift to be celebrated.

Yours in Scouting.

Scooby Dooby Dad—Confessions of a Cartoon Wuss.

I ‘m dedicating this blog to Monica Schroeder: you are a survivor (see dedication notes at the end).

The Truth Isn’t Always Pretty and Neither is a Scared Little Kid

It’s all true. Very early Saturday mornings in the early 1970’s I was the first to wake up at our house. Quietly, with sun not even up, I would make my way to our Packard-Bell TV-Stereo console TV in the den. It was an imposing all fruitwood encased TV with a huge stacked piece on the top housing the turn table, stereo and 8-track player. Looking back, it was an OBNOXIOUS combination piece of technology and furniture. It was cartoon time and Scooby Doo, the American classic, always promised excitement.

(The TV console behind us in the den at our childhood home).

I must be an emotional wreck. If you’ve read any of my prior blogs (Mean People Suck…and So Does Cancer), then you know I’m the kind of guy who cries when things get sentimental on the Waltons or when I watch incredibly corny Christmas movies on Hallmark. A note of personal growth: I’m getting over the Hallmark emotional roller coaster. Seriously, I sat through “A Crown for Christmas” and “Christmas at the Palace.” How upset can you get about an incognito prince who sweeps some American chick away breaking royal tradition and lays a big one on her in the Throne Room? I think it’s the Meagan Markle effect. To my single friends, I’m pretty sure Meagan is an outlier. Yeah, probably not going to happen again; Prince George is a wee tike.

And about those story line sequences…nobody in real life exists like Hallmark Christmas movie characters. If you could take Aunt Bea out of Mayberry combine her with Martha Stewart and give her Cindy Crawford’s looks, then you’ve got your girl. The dudes are always ruggedly handsome, they’re in gym body condition with incredibly thick hair over styled to make it look not so coiffed. They’ve all been hurt by either corporate greed or some oppressive long gone love relationship and still not able to find what they’re looking for. I think the reason people get so sucked into these things is the build up of sexual tension on the tube. In real life people would put it out there, be definitive with their intents, and….let’s be honest, they’d get a room! Even though I’m addicted to these movies like a sick crack addiction, I’m excited to have a 9-10 month break from these stupid, stupid story lines. Guess that means Candace Cameron Buree on some studio lot filming for our 2019 Christmas viewing stress….I mean pleasure.

Sorry for the two paragraph long rabbit trail. Back to Saturdays and Scooby in the 70’s. But just for the record I’m seriously thinking about hosting a Hallmark Movie Drinking Game Party this coming December. Yep, Uber & Lyft will be slammed that night!

(This is Avery my sister’s dog…I think he’s Scooby).

Scooby Happens

This scene repeated many times. Invariably, Shaggy, Fred, Thelma, Daphne and Scooby jumped the that awesome Mystery Machine to chase down “The Creeper,” “The Miner Forty-Niner (yeah Niner Nation Family—not about our UNCC heritage);” or the “Phantom Shadow.” It freaked me out. Our house was still dark, my little sister was still asleep, and I always got completely wigged out at age 4 over this goofy Hanna Barbera ghost chasing crew. I was convinced if I got up and left the room some creep…or my little sister…would be there with a bedsheet, chains, and an agenda to scare the bejesus out of me. I look back at these cartoons now and laugh heartily at myself, but the memories warm my heart.

(This is my son’s friends van…busted gas gauge and all)

They warmed my heart, that is, until the first Saturday of this month when at 11:45pm my youngest son called. The Scooby set materialized. His buddy’s “Mystery Machine” was broken down on the side of the road and they needed help. When your panicked teenager calls from the roadside while he is depending on a restored classic VW bus for a ride, his friends’ phones are dead, and he’s only got 5% left, you’d better be efficient and learn to communicate his way.

Being the awesome mechanic I am I grabbed a 3 gallon can of gas, a glove….a single glove (like I’m the Michael Jackson of roadside assistance), and my Leatherman multi-purpose tool. Yep, I was out to save the day. The irony is they called me at all. I have the mechanical skill of a roach…an idiot roach to be clear. If it’s more complex than changing a light bulb or tightening a screw I have to call in relief. Nonetheless, Thaedra and I took off into the night.

Upon arrival on Brackenberry Road in South Charlotte we approached our son and his two teenage friends. They’d played their first paid gig with their extremely evolvingly (sort of made that word up) talented and creative band, 7-Minutes in a Microwave. My son’s share of the admission ticket sales was a whopping $6. The problem was that none of the boys remembered to either charge their phones or fill the tank with gas. In their defense, the gas gauge was broken.

Now I’m Just Old & Scared

As I stood there checking out this bus I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was a 100% completely restored (except for the gas gauge) 1967 Volkswagen Van. Painted white with blue trim and gleaming chrome accents, the van is saaaaweeeeet! It occurred to me that a 1967 VW is really old…51 years old. Then it occurred to me that I am personally a 1968 model…damn I’m old too!

If you know Brackenberry Road, then you know it is a simply beautiful through street lines with estate size very large lots. Many of the original homes are being torn down and imposing mansions are under construction. Imagine it: massively huge, empty homes in the dark of night with a lite breeze rustling the last leaves clinging to branches making just enough noise to be eery. These circumstances took me back to a Scooby Doo scene…except this time I was there complete with a Mystery Machine that would not crank. Ruh Roh Raggy!

As it turns out the van was simply out of gas. The boys filled it up, almost flooded it trying to get to to turnover, and finally drove off into the night. I stood there and watched them head out realizing that this was a life turning point.

The Back and Forth of It

The experience offered me pause to think about how cool life is. (Side note: I also wondered how much weed had been smoked inside that bus throughout it’s 51 year history…but I digress). We all encounter times that take us back to remember the past. We all think forward about the future. In this case…as a parent…it was affirming to know that my 18 year old still needs his dad. It won’t be long before he’s off to college and Thaedra and I will be empty nesters. So so so many of my friends talk about it like it’s a great thing. Honestly, I’m going to be distraught when he’s gone. He’s my sidekick and little partner in crime. I guess I’ll have to pop some Wellbutrin, tune into the latest Hallmark Christmas movie or old an Scooby-Doo episode and count my blessings.

A Note of Dedication

Even though this blog has nothing to do with Breast Cancer, I’m dedicating it to my friend and my son’s former and extraordinary Cub Scout & Boy Scout Leader, Monica Schroeder. MoSchro, Viola Davis’ character from The Help said it best: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important. You is….are also a confident, defiant, no-nonsense survivor. The …(So) Does Cancer) blog about Kevin and Jennifer last year could just as easily have been about you and Skip. With chemo recently behind you and the hope of complete healing and restoration I believe 2019 will be your year!

For anyone interested on how cancer impacted people I know, go to:

https://big-blog-theory.com/2018/06/07/mean-people-suck-and-so-does-cancer/

My childhood friend, Dr. Chris Dula (mentioned in the blog) passed away a few weeks ago. Prayers to his wife and family.

Monica, Jennifer, and friends Bertha, Pam & Karen and many other ladies in my life inspire all who know them. Here’s to the ladies; here’s to finding a cure.

What’s Boeing On? See Ya 2018-

This was going to begin like “Seinfeld”: a blog about nothing, Turns out, there’s a story from our “Sleepy in Seattle” trip.

The Year that Flew By & the Jetliners that Made it Happen

Robert Plant recorded a song with Alison Krauss a few years ago by the title “Gone, Gone, Gone.” That’s exactly how I feel about 2018. Do you recall as a child or younger person hoping for Christmas, Halloween, Summers & birthdays to get here? I can still hear my grandmothers, both of them, saying “Don’t wish your life away.” The statement’s irony manifests at some point along the journey. We go from wishing we were older to wishing we could be a little younger. While I have no desire to be any younger, it would be awesome for time to slow down….just a little bit.

With all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas and New Year’s season, it’s been like being in a time warp. I have felt like Marty McFly speeding through time. On December 26th reality hit at 6:45 am when my youngest son and I boarded the 5 hour & 55 minute flight to Seattle-Tacoma and realized there were not seat back screens. Yes, the reality that it’s just another crappy American Airlines flight stung. These people should never have used the term “Something special in the air.” I’m remained prayerful they would keep us in the air and not drop us plummeting toward the earth.

As if it were not horror enough that they eliminated SkyMall, now passengers are left with the AA magazine filled with things like: Top 10 Steakhouses, Nation’s 10 Best Plastic Surgeons, dating service ads for busy professionals, and $ 3.5 million and up condo high rise ads on Miami Beach. As long as they keep the Biscoff cookies I think I can cope….right Daniela Spearman?

My jet setting friends Michael, Noel & Eileen will empathize with me. Angela may laugh remembering the June ‘18 article I posted to her social media about AA shrinking bathroom size on new planes to accommodate 12 additional seats on certain models. Before long you will have to be a Taebo, Beach Body, or PX90 aficionado to be able to pee on a plane….in a plane I should say? To quote Angela’s social media response: “Why do they hate us???”

While I realize these are first world problems, having a teenager as a travel partner with neither earbuds nor visual entertainment…..let’s just say the pain is real!

Here’ What Been Boing On

(Full scale mock up of an International Space Station capsule. They used this one to train astronauts and to get used to zero gravity. I, of course, took my son’s challenge to pose like a dork).

As part of my youngest son’s 18th birthday, we’ve been hanging out in Seattle & Vancouver. While it may not sound like a bucket list thing, he and I did one of mine this trip and headed to Everett, Wa. to the Boeing plant. Despite what American Airlines does to frustrate passengers, Boeing’s premier approach to aviation technology sets standards among its industry competitors.

Consider some of the fun stuff we learned:

  • Bill Boeing founded his company in 1916…just thirteen years after the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk.
  • The Everett, Wa. Campus features the world’s largest building. At 98.3 acres under a single roof you could encompass all of Disneyland and still have 12 acres left over for parking. The expanse of this place is simply indescribable.
  • Boeing is the United States’ largest producer of exported goods. On the day we toured we viewed $ 8.0 billion of aircraft under construction.
  • Boeing began only 63 years prior to man walking on the moon. From any perspective it’s safe to call that a quantum technological leap. Today’s generation is born into knowing the ease of getting onto an airliner and being on the other side of the globe within 24 hours. Boeing engineers believe that we’ll be able to travel the same distance in two (2)….yes that is TWO hours in the foreseeable future. Please note: security will still take seven hours.
  • A cool $403 mil gets you a new 747. Boeing produces only 6 per year…that fact truly surprised me. This price….also the sticker price…is not what anyone or any company pays.
  • A coat of paint adds 1000 lbs to finished weight.

(These next four images are from Google. Boeing will not let people take phones into the production & tour area. It’s not because of security. It’s because if a device gets dropped on the aircraft, then it can compromise the safety of the finished product. A tourist dropped an iPhone a couple of years back and it was $307,000 mistake).

From Airplanes to Space (Needles)

It’s a cool thing to have visited the top of the Seattle Space Needle originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The first time I did this was in 2003 with my bride when we were visiting friends, Pam & Ron, when he was there (the Fred Hutchinson Center) for a bone marrow transplant. As we were waiting to board the monorail to get to the needle, our friend Bertha called to tell us that our friends, Katie & Brandon Dirks had welcomed their son, Baxter, into the world the night before. This also happened be the day the U.S. invaded Iraq.

I didn’t think about it when we saw the space needle, but in 1962 humans had not even been to the moon. For all you conspiracy theorists…it happened…it was not a Stanley Kubrick cinematic stunt. For skeptical North Carolinians; get a clue: Steph Curry is an NBA player, not an astrophysicist. Let’s keep perspective (reference to Curry’s recent media proclamation that the lunar landing never actually occurred).

Being at the Space Needles reminds one of Epcot or The Jetsons. My son said it looked like something from Star Wars inside (noting the very recently upgraded and installed glass floor making 30 minute revolutions at the top 520′ in the air).

Honestly, I could blah…blah…blog on. Therefore, let me conclude this abruptly and leave you with a thought:

Here’s to the New Year. 2019 with its promises, its lessons, its blessings and its challenges are upon us. Here’s to the blessing of family, of friends, of memories to be made. And finally…happy birthday to you, Pierce Gregory “Baboon” Withrow. As your granddaddy would say: “I love you and I’m on your side.”

Angels Hark About the Place Year After Year…..Bothersome Bethlehem.

On a cold winter’s evening, on a bus bound for nowhere, I met up with a bishop, we were both too tired to eat. So we took turns a starin’ out the window at the darkness… That’s what happened when I drank an eggnog, felt the Christmas spirit, and decided to pen a country song. Apologies to Kenny Rogers, but my satirical lyrics really do describe how last February’s adventure to dinner began. Thaedra and I found ourselves with the United Methodist Kentucky bishop, his son and two exchange students in the private home of a Bethlehem family.

This particular bus happened to be heading south from our hotel near Old City Jerusalem toward the West Bank town of Bethlehem in Palestinian controlled territory. The areas are under completely separate governments: Jerusalem by the State of Israel; Bethlehem by the military force of Palestine. They are also separated by a $14 billion dollar wall. Liken it to the one between North & South Korea or the former Berlin Wall.

Our hostess, Therese, a veritable, Martha Stewart minus “Snoop,” grows lemons, dates and olives in the family garden on their property just outside the home’s lower level entry. I’m rather certain none of us had ever enjoyed truly homemade homegrown lemonade; genuine virgin olive oil (I’m talking first press of the olives) and eaten dates plucked from just out the window. My wife threatened to slap me under the table when I started to ask where they got the chicken (for the record, we didn’t see any running around outside). The lady even sent home with us an emptied wine bottle she’d filled with her freshly pressed olive oil…some of it still sits on our counter. This amazing family extended gracious hospitality to us. It was warm, sincere and they wanted to share their culture and Christian experience as a Greek Orthodox family living in a Muslim world.

Before dinner we stood on their terrace overlooking the landscape of the town; it was beautiful. In fact, almost like you’d expect the modern evolution of Christ’s birthplace to look: seemingly tranquil and peaceful.

Somewhere in the midst of the buildings rose the belfry of the Church of the Nativity…the venerated site of Christ’s birth. It’s grotto beneath the main church protects the place heralded to be the very spot God entered the world as a baby boy on a night, in a cave, among the stench of animal dung, to an unmarried mama who’s fiancé was planning to high-tail it out of there after the drama unfolded. But God had another plan. He usually does…and fortunately, for us, we usually don’t see it.

Who am I to question Christ’s birthplace and what it has become? Honestly, if He knew then His home country would be in an area suffering contentious fighting, then why didn’t He chose somewhere else? Many other “little towns” evolved into awesome places: like somewhere in Manhattan on 5th Avenue ….just down the street from Bergdorf-Goodman’s or something with a nice water view like Sausalito? Seriously, talk about a place just a few miles from Sonoma where Jesus could turn something into wine (wrong millennium…and how selfishly American of me).

The Bethlehem skyline is accentuated with these worshipful, architectural spires all over the place. Extremely bright green LED strength lights illuminate the tops. They’re impossible to miss. As a matter of fact, if you happened to be Captain Sully piloting a 737 over the area, you’d think: “Hey, I better hike this bad bird up a little or I’m going to hit something.” Then it hits you…literally shocks you when this shrill, piercing sound fills the air calling the Muslim citizenship to pray toward Mecca. It’s at this point we realized these green spires weren’t there for pretty, rather the spires reach toward heaven honoring Allah. We were, although in Bethlehem, in predominately Muslim Palestine.

Near the cradle of civilization, in the land of Ramadan, faiths intermix. Ram’s horns beckon Jews to worship not far from where Ramses the Great ruled. Bethlehem is not the fabled place we believe it to be. It hasn’t been still, peaceful and has not afforded much dreamless sleep since that Roman census saw a pregnant virgin girl arrive on donkey with her humiliated fiancé. Yet, back to his ancestral home, the place we sing of and the angels harked about in nearby Shepherd’s Field, they navigated.

To be a modern citizen in the Little Town of Bethlehem here means many things. To our host family it means:

  • Applying for government passes to go through the wall to Jerusalem just a few miles away once per year to shop: for furniture, for clothing, for “the better shops.” I equated what they shared with being able to go to Costco once a year.
  • Living with the CONSTANT threat of having the water supply cut off. It happens with extreme regularity. Jerusalem controls the water Bethlehem gets. Citizens make practice of collecting water; rain and municipal water, in cisterns so that when the supply is cut, people can continue to function until it is restored.
  • Working on the Israeli side of the separation wall means going to stand in line early… so early that they can literally “immigrate” legally to their places of employment daily. Returning home, I got the impression, is not as arduous a process.
  • Waiting until government authorities say you can go see the doctors on the Israeli side of the wall. The Jewish medical system is highly advanced and offers some of the best care available anywhere.

Thaedra asked Therese what it’s like to live blocks from where Jesus was born. She responded that it is an honor—almost unbelievable for a faithful Christian. I have to think Muslim passersby see Church of the Nativity as inconsequential, possibly unnoticed. The story from Bethlehem, 3A.D. is a lot like the story of Bethlehem 2018 A.D. (all you politically correct people can keep your c.e.). People not looking for a savior weren’t going to find Him; they still do not.

The gift and the question of Christmas is: “somewhere not far from here” in this holiest of lands Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say I am?” As His followers we still have the ability to answer this question everyday. To imitate someone is to pay the highest compliment especially if imitating Christ is the focus.

This Christmas I propose an answer by action: Not to live as Victorian age prudes, not to be pious scripture spewing ne’er do wells and hypocrites, but to live reflecting a genuine light of love. Modern Christians are called to produce peaceful-quantifiable action motivated by concern for people and to exist as charitable servants among our fellow brothers using our gifts & resources within our respective spheres of influence to bless the people around us.

He selected this birthplace because over the millennia not much has really changed here. From Roman persecution of Biblical history to the modern tensions this region faces, God’s message resonates through the ages: Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men. Here in the heart of Bethlehem we are reminded “(E)ven the Son of man came not the be served, but to serve, to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).”

Christmas….it all started here.

(Therese has a master’s degree in nursing and works full time in a neonatal intensive care unit at the local hospital, her husband is a local tradesman and is learning English. Their twin high school age children were quite like American age teenagers. We were blessed to spend an evening in their home).

I Have a Dog & a Trailer Park Named Dixie – I’m Not Changing the Names of Either One: The Midterms.

It’s the perfect backdrop for a Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy joke: a small, old “trailer park” on the outskirts of town in Cleveland Co. North Carolina. Driving away from town center in Kings Mountain heading toward the old Armory on West Gold Street you see it on the left side of the road. Unlike the punch lines and stereotypes about such places it is somewhere families call home, couples begin their lives together, retired people struggle to make ends meet, babies are brought home from the hospital, and unemployed people stress over not being able to reclaim a “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle. It is, as a humorist & playwrite titled such places: “The Great American Trailer Park.” Dixie Mobile Home Park has endured and witnessed nearly 60 years of American cultural and political change. I’ve had people ask me if the residents fly Confederate flags. To be honest, I’m rather certain I’ve never seen one flying there.

Political season is upon us. We live in a time when it seems acceptable to destroy public property, to mail bombs to political opponents, to vandalize and remove Silent Sam from UNC-Chapel Hill, and to attempt to erase history. And although the existence of slavery holds it’s place in history and was a horrific, regrettable system of social oppression, it is only one of about a half dozen reasons the Civil war ever transpired. One of the most intelligent and accomplished people of our age, Condeleeza Rice, said: “You cannot erase history.”

I cannot help but revert to 3rd grade bantar: “it’s a free country.” At least it used to be. Most people I know honor other people’s right to freedom of choice. Even when I don’t either respect or understand people’s reasoning, I know we must live together in peace. I’m dedicating this blog to what used to be the American Political & Election process. There’s only one hitch in my plan; it’s tough to honor a process that has become characteristically filthy and divisive.

Immigrants coming toward Lady Liberty once flocked here because of the hope she instilled: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Today the reality they hear resonates “Give me your government subsidies, give me your free healthcare, give me a free college degree.” Nothing, absolutely nothing, is ever free. It is pure economics and although costs are not always necessarily denominated in currency, the cost to be something, to follow someone, to accomplish anything ALWAYS carry opportunity costs. Simply stated an opportunity cost is what you forego in order to gain something else. The theory applies to EVERYTHING! (For my fellow faith friends, even living the Christian life requires “Giving up your former self…” Ephesians 4. For parents, loving a child is predicated on the pieces of our hearts, souls and sacrifice we pour into and invest in our children.)

Conflicted Identity

Know as you read forward know that I am not proud of the person our president is. I am often embarrassed by what he says…or worse yet…tweets. Melania—please take that electronic device away from him. I am, however, intrigued by changes in American economic growth and resurgence of our nation since the 2016 election.

I always believed citizens on the left side of the spectrum represented a party of love, peace, and change for people’s rights. Now, however, no American generation has ever seen a more divisive, defiling, mud slinging, protesting and violence inciting social and political environment. The left’s guise of peace and progress has, like the Roman Empire, imploded.

Our political process is no longer an open forum to view candidates and for Americans to be able to fairly and justly compare and contrast individuals before casting votes. Alternatively, it has become a process through which character assassination, untruth, violent protests, and complete disregard for order have become the norm.

Our United States is presently the most populated it has ever been. Along with the explosive growth comes proliferation of special interest groups…and as we see…every group has an agenda. Each groups insists on broadcasting it’s voice.

Media is the AntiChrist

We have decayed into a cess pool of bias toward anyone who doesn’t agree with a vociferously, obnoxiously featured group of voters who have nothing to show except a resistance strategy. If you’ve ever read my blog(s), then you know I wholeheartedly blame news media for fueling this fire. Media would rather sensationalize anger than to channel its powerful resources toward doing the real work needed to undergird our country with things like: employment, national security, education policy and preserving the right to pursue “life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.”

What Media Doesn’t Want You to Know Stated in one Run On Sentence.

They are committed to (1) the all out removal of a duly elected president through the process determine by the Electoral College; (2) the complete obliteration of our our personal liberties and the American capitalist economy.

On Employment

Unemployment among African Americans is at the lowest point it has ever been….ever….since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this metric in 1972. With aggregate U.S. unemployment hovering around 3.7% we presently enjoy what economists call: Full Employment. On an elementary level this means essentially every person who wants to work can find employment. A comedian joked recently that things are so good that even Colin Kaepernick found a job (with Nike). How can anyone pretend to be about helping people while denying the importance of job growth & retention among any demographic? For emphasis: total American unemployment is the lowest is has been since 1949!

While wage gaps, poor working conditions, etc. exist, there must be a first step for any group of formerly highly unemployed people. Have you ever noticed the people who gripe the most about such issues are the ones who have been continually employed? If you’ve either been without a job or been close to people who have, then you know having a way to earn a living supersedes many other extraneous job (or lack thereof) issues.

On Manufacturing

Manufacturing activity is at a near all time high. Blue collar jobs have grown at 3.3% (that’s a positive growth rate). During prior administrations the growth number was….well…not a growth rate at all…the negative number it used to be was a DECLINE. It was a negative decline manifesting over two terms (8 years) of a prior administration.

On Denuclearization

Other than Dennis Rodman, Mr. President has been the one and only prolific American recognized to have a face-to-face summit with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un to work toward a peace deal. On a side note: I wonder what Rodman’s appeal is…I cannot help but visualize him in that stupid wedding dress photo from years ago. Maybe that’s a side effect of having dated Madonna, but I digress.

Why does nobody want to talk about the sell of enriched uranium to foreign and hostile governments under the watch of a prior administration? People, if you want something to protest: here it is and it should scare the living hell out of all of us! Former leadership either turned the other cheek on OR covertly helped ensure terrorist states could procure the raw materials to develop nuclear weapons.

On Trade

In addition to a sweeping win on trade with China, October 1st saw the announcement of a trilateral trade agreement among the U.S., Mexico & Canada. Global auto maker, Ford Motor Company, supported this agreement. At Ford’s admission, it will have to pay workers more money depending on where in North America vehicles originate. Higher wages for American workers…that’s a bad thing…right?

On Maxine Waters

Maxine Waters admitted (quite publically and on television) on September 8th at a young democrats gathering that she often threatens Trump supporters. She went so far as to encourage citizens to civil unrest to the point of confronting people in restaurants, gas stations and other places.

I live only about 90 minutes from Greensboro, NC where a highly noted lunch counter sit in took place on July 25, 1960. Ms Waters: rather than rouse the rebels and perpetuate racial tension, try preaching the message of a great American: “I have a dream that one day my four little children will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). MLK’s message is remembered and honored. I can only hope that your words, and you for that matter, will not be!

Truth: Ms Waters is calling on people to treat fellow citizens poorly. Her call is to be anti-Christ’s example. Is this not the same kind of discrimination civil rights activists fought in the 60’s & 70’s? Ms. Waters remains part of the problem; she offers ZERO solutions.

Nuclearization & Not Calling out Sexism

Our former Secretary of State, John Kerry, announced on Wednesday, 9/12/18, he’d met with Iranian leadership to try to save the nuclear deal. Kerry is actively undermining our global and U.S. security by continuing to engage with and enable Iran, the largest state sponsored Terrorist government in history, to continue nuclearization.

Mr. Kerry said Trump has the demeanor of a teenage girl. Where is Hilary, where is Elizabeth Warren, where is … you name somebody. Shouldn’t they be calling Secretary Kerry a sexist for equating our domineering male president with a female?

Kavanaugh Hearings

After all is said and done: Diane Feinstein is a failure. Rather than serve country and process honestly she waited until 5 days prior to the originally scheduled Kavanaugh confirmation to announce she had a singular report of the nominee’s unsubstantiated (and still unproved by anyone) behavior in high school….almost 36 years….repeat: almost 36 years ago.

Protocol, decency and compassion for Dr. Ford would have had Senator Feinstein, as the senior ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, raise this issue to His Honor when she had a face-to-face personal meeting with him. What does it say about the motives and character of the Senator that she waited for almost 2 months to turn this information over to the FBI? The truth is the accusations remain completely unsubstantiated. Otherwise the first 6 FBI investigations and the plethora of potential witnesses would have evidenced otherwise.

Feinstein opted to politicize the alleged sexual assault and victimization of Dr. Ford for the furtherance of the Democratic Party. Feinstein did not care about the fall out of sexual violence in this particular woman’s life except she thought it would help defeat this SCOTUS nominee. Conservatives are saying the Democrats should be ashamed. It’s truly worse than this: if Feinstein truly believed Dr. Ford, then Feinstein should be seen as a traitor to her gender. The bigger truth is she, like many entrenched in swamp Washington insiders, used what she could as a political ploy. This time the strategy did not work. It reeked and smelled like something straight from the bowels of Hell.

Nobody won…not the Judge, not the Doctor, not the American voting public. It was revealed to us, however, simply how low our elected officials can slither. The eve of the eventual and final vote found Feinstein on the Senate floor stating her worries about a “hostile Kavanaugh.” I imagine he might be hostile…and rightfully so. Our elected officials should conduct their public service business with integrity; Senator Feinstein failed (admittedly, Mr. President fails to conduct himself without poise and class often as well).

These might be the most important lines in this blog:

  • Simply because someone makes an accusation DOES NOT make it true.
  • Congressional Democrats want us to live under a de facto system of guilty until proven innocent.
  • Accused and Accusers alike should be treated with dignity and respect throughout investigative processes.
  • When the presumption of innocence is lost in favor of guilty until proven innocent, prepare for the decivilization of our country.
  • People should be aware there are Slander & Liable laws. They should be enforced and false accusers should pay criminally and civilly.

On Poking that Pornstar – She’s a $130K Prostitute

Other than our lovely FLOTUS, who honestly gives a flying flip if Mr. President slept with a porn star prior to his term? How did it impact your life? Honestly, how did President Clinton’s affair with Miss Lewinsky and subsequent his impeachment affect your life? What about the fact that JFK allegedly had affairs with who knows whom? Nobody other than political pundits and news producers care. For centuries we’ve seen you cannot legislate morality on either side of the aisle. No politician is squeaky clean regarding at least one issue or another. Move on people!

On Socialism

I am deeply concerned that we’re moving toward a time when Americans will be under a more socialist form of government. Younger generations have become so entitled that they believe the money will endlessly keep flowing. It won’t. Just like the natural laws of physics determine end results , economic principles are always in play. Believe socialism works? Check with the Venezuelan population. Reuters reported this past July the South American country’s inflation rate would hit 1,000,000 %….that’s ONE MILLION PERCENT.

A move to more government imposed tax should scare employed, productive and thinking people. Prepare to give 70+% of your income to the government. It’s no joking matter. Over the course of my six visits to France I’ve engaged conversation with fine working people (tour guides, docents, hospitality workers, and even in a police captain at a station when my passport was stolen).

Just a month ago Kevin, Tim and I sat on a sidewalk late into the evening with a man who is a French economist and writer debating the merits of U.S. versus the French systems. To talk with the French about things including the socialized medicine, labor unions, state sponsored education…..and all the things the liberals want….sounds like a great plan until you realize these people pay a 70%+ effective rate of tax.

It was further and clearly explained to us by Francois, our driver for the day. When he earns $ 1000 euro, then his company must pay an additional $ 500 euro to the federal government on his behalf. Francois pays an additional 250 euro tax . Although Francois seemingly nets $ 750; it costs 75% of the original earnings for him to take home $ 750 (That’s 50% paid immediately by the employer + another 25% by the citizen). Additionally, there is a sales tax there: Value Added Tax (V.A.T.) as high as 13% on all goods. On vehicles it can run as high as 25%. Property taxes are significantly higher than U.S. rates…even a tax for the right to rent an apartment is charged.

EXAMPLE: Let’s assume, for fun, an effective 70% tax. In the USA a Wal-Mart cashier earning $10 per hour keeps $3 of the wage. TRANSLATION: try to buy lunch at McDonald’s with $3…you won’t even get a Big Mac combo….and heaven forbid you wanted to SuperSize it for $1 more.

(I played devil’s advocate with him briefly rebutting he receives government sponsored healthcare. Francois quickly pointed out it is not a quality program and most people who can afford it still attempt to purchase private insurance.)

Sick & tired of being sick and tired

I am sick and tired of people who have no regard for the truth, for justice and the American way. The only way they can divert attention from progress is by “protesting, by lying and by waiting until the 11th hour to assert pathetic, unsubstantiated points.

If our founding fathers and the leaders who fought and died to establish liberty saw the current state of the union, then I’m convinced they’d point out how far out of line we have stepped.

On November 6th….assuming you are alive, assuming you are citizen, assuming you only do it once: please exercise your right to vote. My hope for the future is that we’ll vote for:

  • National security
  • Job growth
  • American continued economic expansion
  • Personal accountability
  • Increasing respect and recouping respect on the world stage.

To the Protestors

Sit down and shut up. Practice some decorum. Get a job. Quit looking to entertainment and sport millionaires to be role models. These people would not necessarily give you any of us the time of day.

The best way to effect change is to take positive action: adopt a stream, teach adult literacy & job retraining, work with a youth program: scouting or Big Brothers-Big Sisters, invest in your family, concentrate on friendships, give blood to the Red Cross, serve at a soup kitchen, walk for Cancer or Alzheimer’s or Juvenille Diabetes, and model restrained behavior for your children. Teach them that there is a loving God who is much larger than any of us….and definitely bigger than any of this.

Back to my little mobile home park in Kings Mountain

Most of the people within the demographic comprising the little King’s Mountain Gold Street community believe they don’t have a voice when it comes to the future. These are the people who couldn’t afford and didn’t purchase ACA healthcare (opting to pay the penalty tax). These are people who worry more about the price of gas, why energy prices continue to rise, and if social security will afford them a survivable retirement. The back and forth mudslinging and banter does not interest them.

We named our dog Dixie. The name fits her perfectly! And although in light of societal trends denying history because it is “offensive” to an entire generation who were neither there nor understand the full ramifications of the past, I’m not changing my dog’s name. I’m also not abandoning the sound principles of growth, security, and prosperity we have enjoyed for the past two years. I don’t know where we’re going as a country; none of us truly do. I do know it’s painful to see the “swamp drain.”

This is a long blog and I could continue. But I have to go to prepare for work to keep people employed, to make major business capital goods purchases, to insure my organization remains corporately responsible, and to make sure we can make payroll for my 17 employees’ families who depend on American small business. Therefore, I’ll close be quoting the title of a song by great American entertainer, Lee Greenwood:

“God bless the USA.” It looks like we’re going to need it.

Final note: I won’t engage in online debates concerning my beliefs…they are what they are. Life is too short to waste engaging in online arguments. Feel free to fact check me. Sources include online (Google algorithms and all) Reuters, CNN, Fox News & http://www.thebalance.com

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