Did I Cause This Nightmare?



Newtown, Connecticut.

We’re all searching desperately for answers that don’t really exist.  In the wake of over two dozen murders, most of them young children, we want to know why.  We must stop it from ever happening again.  Everything will be questioned.  Too many guns.  Not enough guns.  Asperger’s.  Homeschooling.  Metal detectors.  Police in schools.  Mental Health.  Bullying.  Prayer in school.

The truth is, none of these are the answer.  Because these are all ideas and things and laws.  And it’s people who maim and people who died.  The closest answers are those who call for society to change.  But who is society?  When we talk about it, it’s always the other guy, the other parents, the other kids.

Society starts with me.  And you.  Together we make the change.  Not them changing.  Me changing.

How?  Is it new laws or rules?  No.  It starts in your own life and in your own family.  You love others.  Show kindness.  To everyone.  Especially the forgotten and the rejected.  And those who don’t deserve it.  Just as Christ did.

Candle

When my oldest was in kindergarten, a classmate would crawl under the table and bite her ankles.  I spoke with her teachers about it, since it was a recurring problem.  They must have expected the typical kindergarten mom response, because they were a bit surprised at my suggestion.  I asked the teachers to move them so that they sat next to each other.  I knew the boy was having a rough time.  His parents were stationed overseas.  He cried a lot.  And for some reason he wanted my daughter’s attention.  So put them together.  Help him learn how to interact in an acceptable way.  Don’t isolate or punish him.  He’s five and he’s trying to figure out life.  She never had problems with him again, and they became friends.

We have an unspoken rule at our house.  Bullies get invited over for playdates and birthday parties.  Not so I can torment them for making my child miserable.  But to love on them.  To treat them the way I want my child treated, the way they should be treated.  My older children have forged unexpected friendships by simply reaching out.  Maybe we made a difference.  I’m not saying we changed the path of a future Adam Lanza.  I just know my children have turned miserable situations into friendships just by reaching out.  It’s how we change our own world, our own town where this could never happen.

Don’t be fooled, though.  Both my older kids have bullied others.  They’ve pointed out someone’s unusual height, participated in not including someone, bad-mouthed or whined about an unfair situation.  As a parent, it’s my job to step in and set it straight.  It doesn’t matter how bad someone smells, you don’t say anything.  In fact, the unspoken rule comes into play.  I have been known to insist that my rude child sit with his/her victim at lunch or play with them at recess to practice the appropriate behavior.  Being nice isn’t easy.  It’s unnatural.  In times of great tragedy, we step up and our goodness shows through.  Everyday life is so very different.  We have to make ourselves be kind.  Love our neighbors and our enemies.

And then I realize that teaching them kindness and love is much different from showing them how to love others as I love myself.  What do they learn when I comment on someone’s attire or driving skills?  What do they learn when I break the unspoken rule and don’t invite someone over?  How do I handle those who have wronged me?  What have I taught?  Because really, they learn more from what they see, not just what I say or make them do.

I believe the best way to prevent the next massacre is through love and kindness on the individual level.  For me, that love comes from the grace and mercy I received through Christ.  Maybe that love will heal someone’s wounded soul.

Today, I will love more.  I will be kinder.  Will you join me?  We probably won’t know the difference we made, but we must have faith that we can make a difference.

I Went to Planned Parenthood Because I had No Other Choice

I went to Planned Parenthood in Bryan, TX.  And I had no other choice.

Many people I know have protested or waved signs, myself included.  Red Light Cameras.  End the Fed.  Abortion.  Ron Paul. War.  Free Speech.  End the Drug War.  Police Brutality.  Obama Care.  The reasons to protest are endless.  But how many of us have faced protesters?  How many of you have been the focus of their dislike, disapproval, and maybe even anger?   This was the first time for me.  I know people who are activists in the greatest sense of the word and face down protesters and police in riot gear with fortitude I probably don’t possess.  I haven’t been there.  And I’m not sure I’d ever want to be.  That’s not really my calling at this point in my life.  I truly admire those courageous people who challenge the status quo and shed light on our corruptness and asinine laws.

I digress.  I share my story not to condemn or praise the protesters I met, but to share my impressions and reactions as a target of the protest in the hopes of helping future protesters be more effective.

Some Background.  My mom has Stage IV Breast Cancer that has metastasized, meaning it has spread.  She has it in her lungs, spine, liver, stomach, bones, and lymph.  She had radiation to relive the pain in her spine, as the cancer had eaten away half of one of her vertebrae.  It fractured due to weakness.  She is currently on a cancer drug to block the growth of her cancer, chemo to shrink the existing cancer, anti-nausea meds, pain medicine (I can’t even imagine the pain), and medicine to regulate her blood pressure.  She gets a shot to make her body produce white blood cells.  She’s been hospitalized 3 times in the last 5 months and has had a blood transfusion.  What little hair she has left is white; she walks with a cane on good days and a walker on the other days.  Her stature is hunched; the bone cancer is in her shoulders and pelvis, among other places, making it painful to stand and walk.

Because my mom is not old enough for Social Security, but has paid into a system for her whole working life that promised her benefits, she is trying to get those benefits under disability.  She might not live to the specified age to get Social Security and Medicare.  We hope she does.  This month she needs a new form to fill out.  The previous 162 forms aren’t enough, of course.  Since it is merely 2010, practically the Dark Ages, this form is not available online in pdf.  Furthermore, it cannot be emailed, snail mailed, or faxed.  You must pick it up at your county’s clinic that handles that particular form.  In Brazos County, that clinic is none other than Planned Parenthood.  I went to Planned Parenthood because I had no other choice.

Mom and I get in the car and drive to Planned Parenthood.  As we approach it, I see three protesters.  Sinking feeling.  The first one is a portly man holding a sign that says 4500 Babies.  I have no idea what this means.  Seriously.  I assume it’s the number of babies aborted, but where, and over what time period?  There are two women out there as well.  I pull in the gated parking lot and a Planned Parenthood Volunteer approaches my Xterra.  I hop out, smile, say hi, and run around to help my mom out of the car.  At this point, one of the female protesters begins yelling at me through the fence.  “You have options.  I have information for you.  You have a choice.  You don’t have to do this.”  Now my mom emerges from the car and the woman stops, but only for a moment.  Recall the description of my mom.  It’s obvious she’s not there for an abortion.  I help her out of the car and we begin the slow trek across the small parking lot.  The whole time we are shuffling along, this woman is yelling at us that she has information for us.  I reply, “Do you have info on breast cancer?”  She says yes, and I tell her I’ll pick it up on the way out.  During this particular exchange the male volunteer is pulling my mom up the curb while I’m pushing.  Does she really have to yell at us during this?  It’s almost humiliating.  My mother cannot climb a curb without the assistance of 2 people, and all the while she’s being yelled at by a protester.  The protester continued yelling until we got in the building.  We were only there a few minutes.   How can a clinic be so quick when you need a longer respite?  Murphy’s Law.  When we emerged from the clinic, the protester began jumping up and down, waving pamphlets, and yelling, “I have that information you SAID you’d take.  I have it HERE for you.”  I kid you not.  Her tone was demanding as if I owed it to her to get her information.  She continued this the entire time we inched across the parking lot.  Seriously, did she think I would leave my mom to fall in the parking lot to come get her pamphlet? Was she so absorbed in her cause that she couldn’t see another human being suffering, weak, and vulnerable?

After I got my mom settled in the car, I approached the woman.  I explained to her why I was there.  I told her that I had been on the other side of the fence.  I had handed out literature at an abortion clinic.  This was the last place I wanted to be.  I didn’t take her pamphlet.  I really wanted to tell her what a rotten person she was, but I’m nice and my mom was waiting in the car.

Authors, speakers, and teachers plan ahead.  They identify their audience and determine the desired outcome.  Then they develop a plan.  Protesting is no different.  You are there to reach a target audience, to deliver a message, and to educate.  You may even be there to stop an activity.  What are you protesting?  Why?  Who will be watching?  What is your goal?  I don’t think the woman who engaged us had ever thought it through.  I’m sure her goal was to save babies, but she didn’t have any sort of plan.  Define a purpose.  Set a goal.  Make a plan.  And truly understand your audience.

Some other pointers based on this experience:

  • Signs should make sense.  Remember that most people aren’t in your inner circle.  They don’t know all the facts and figures and they don’t speak the inner circle lingo.  Spell it out for people.  Most people don’t wake up one day and say, “Gee, there’s a group protesting something I believe in.  I think I’ll go over and get all the facts from the opposition and make an informed decision on the issue.”  Most people run into a protest by chance.  It’s on their way to work or along their route through their daily activities.  It is NOT part of their schedule and your cause is NOT on their mind.  Your message should be simple, direct, and clear.
  • Targeting the weak and vulnerable makes you look like an asshole.  There’s no way around it.  Even if you can justify it, perception is reality.  Ever seen a cop closing in on a homeless man?  Our human nature kicks in.  No matter what the vagrant has done (usually), our instincts say, “Leave him alone.  He lives in a cardboard box.  Cut him some slack.”  Don’t kick a man when he’s down.
  • Yelling is confrontational.  If you are trying to change hearts and minds, don’t yell.  If you’re expressing anger…YELL!  When you feel attacked, you won’t respond positively.  Our natures tells us to put up defenses when we’re attacked.  Fight or flight.
  • Don’t expect people to side with you if you’re belligerent.  Respect others’ viewpoint.  Respect their intelligence.  Changing someone’s mind takes time and patience.  If you’re aggressive, they’ll shut you out.  Rudeness isn’t effective.  People come to their conclusions for different reasons.  Perhaps they have never really thought it through.  Calm, respectful, rational discussions are far more effective than attacking people.  Again, what is your goal?  If you want to harass someone, be belligerent.  Driving your Congress Critter batty may cause him to reconsider running for his 14th term.  When it comes to educating people, try not to annoy them or make them hate you.
  • Be prepared for multiple audiences.  Not everyone goes to Planned Parenthood for abortions and birth control.  Not everyone who walks past the Federal Reserve is Bernanke’s best friend.  How will you approach them?  Can you answer their questions?  Where can they find answers that you don’t have?  You might get an unexpected convert if you’re prepared.
  • Know that people are always watching and your actions reflect the cause or the movement.  Do you really want to be the person on the news who is yelling at a little old lady?  How much sympathy and credibility will you have after that?  The media loves drama and will jump at the opportunity to paint protesters as volatile.  An effective protest will gain media attention, but not for the wrong reasons.  Verbally assaulting the “weak” is never good PR.

A well planned protest can raise awareness to your cause.  Positive or even neutral media attention can give you a good boost.  Like-minded people who were formerly unaware of your cause may join you or donate to you.  Successful protests build camaraderie and excite your volunteers.  A well attended protest shows off your strength and numbers.  Well-prepared protesters can inform and educate.  Spend some time planning before you grab your sign and take to the streets.  That extra effort could make a big difference in the outcome.

On a different note…My advice to those who are passionate about ending abortion: Create competition for Planned Parenthood.  Build clinics in communities that offer free and discounted birth control, cancer screenings, gynecological care, and social services for women.  A one stop shop that Planned Parenthood already is.  Reach out to women in need before they come to that vulnerable point in life where they return to the place that has been there for them for years…for an abortion.  I know how angry and assaulted I felt walking into that clinic.  I can’t imagine if were facing an unplanned pregnancy and had to deal with a protester yelling at me.  I certainly wouldn’t have wanted anything she had to offer.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even…

Campaign For Liberty — Don’t Get Mad, Get Even….

via Gary North.

A musician named Dave Carroll recently had difficulty with United Airlines.United apparently damaged his treasured Taylor guitar ($3500) during a flight. Dave spent over nine months trying to get United to pay for damages caused by baggage handlers to his custom Taylor guitar. During his final exchange with the United Customer Relations Manager, he stated that he was left with no choice other than to create a music video for You Tube, exposing their lack of cooperation. The manager responded, “Good luck with that one, pal.” He posted the following retaliatory video on You Tube. The video has since received over 5.5 million hits. United Airlines contacted Carroll and attempted settlement in exchange for pulling the video. Naturally, his response was, “Good luck with that one, pal.”

Taylor Guitars sent Carroll two new custom guitars in appreciation for product recognition resulting from the video that has led to a sharp increase in orders.

The video now has more than 6.5 million views.

 

http://www.garynorth.com/public/5823.cfm

History or Death

On February 24, 1836, during Santa Anna’s siege of the Alamo, Travis wrote a letter addressed “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World”:

Fellow citizens and compatriots;
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. Victory or Death.

William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.
P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.

Travis

He gave this letter to courier Albert Martin to deliver. The envelope that contained the letter was labeled “Victory or Death”.  The letter, while unable to bring aid to the garrison at the Alamo, did much to motivate the Texan army and helped to rally support in America for the cause of Texan independence. It also cemented Travis’s status as a hero of the Texas Revolution.

As I travel these United States, I’ve met many patriots who are in awe at Texans’ knowledge of their own history.  Texas children learn Texas history starting in kindergarten.  A full year is devoted to it in middle school.  The knowledge and understanding of our rich and self-determining past contributes to the character of our people today.  Texans have an independent streak.  We’ll take of ourselves, thank you.  We don’t need someone in a far away state to tell us how to take care of the vast lands that sustain the good people of Texas.  From rivers and lakes, to forests and prairies, to the coastal beaches, Texas is natural and beautiful.  We have industry, technology, and a massive economy.  We make our own rules, ones that work for us.  Texas is like this because we understand that no one can take care of you better than you.

Teach your children history.  If they don’t get it in school, then teach it at home.  Volunteer at your local school to read books on history or teach a lesson.  Donate videos to your local schools.  Help sponsor a reenactment or a trip to a museum.  The drive to have every child pass standardized tests crowds out frivolous topics like history.  Help your local schools bring history back to the classroom.

I grew up in the shadow of the San Jacinto Monument.  Countless time during my childhood I toured the grounds, climbed the trees, and picnicked by the murky reflection pool.  I may not have fully understood the history of that place, but I knew that when the people who are in charge of you are bad and awful, and there is no hope of remedy, you leave.  Even if you have to fight to the death to do it.  Am I saying Texas should secede?  No.  However, we must realize that freedom always involves sacrifice.  Sacrifice of your time, your money, your reputation.  What are you willing to give to ensure liberty continues?  In the words of the United States Declaration of Independence, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Brazos County Republican Party Convention

On March 20, 2010 the Brazos County Republican Party had its county convention.  The two main goals of this convention are to develop a platform to send to the Republican Party of Texas and to nominate delegates and alternate delegates to represent the county at the State Convention.  The general mood of the convention was good.  The hostility that many felt in 2008 had dissipated, as had the number of people in attendance.  The convention was as quick as it could be and orderly.

My first concern was the attendance.  All the county and SD conventions were held on the same day, so I will assume this was dictated at the state level.  Perhaps, the state should realize that Spring Break occurs in March.  Of course, there are still plenty in state and county leadership that are scared to death of those young people (ie anyone under 40).  I hope that the choice of a Spring Break weekend was not an intentional ploy to exclude young people.  If it was, it backfired.  Yes, college students travel on Spring Break.  So do parents and grandparents.  Attendance was pitiful in our county.  Spring Break certainly contributed to the low turnout.  What I wonder is where are all these people who claim to be the grassroots?  They get offended when they are called Astroturf, but they don’t bother to show up for the grassroots process of developing the platform for the Republican Party of Texas.  The convention process isn’t entertaining or glamorous, but it is a necessary evil.  Even if you’re against the two-party system, we still have it.  If we ever do move out of the two-party system, it won’t be anytime soon.  Those who are working within the party system best put some effort into fixing the system.  It will never be perfect, but it could be better.  To all these people complaining about Obama, the Democrats, or even the Republican Party: Show up or Shut up.

The resolutions that formed our county platform were very good for the most part.  The Resolutions Committee seemed open to adding resolutions at the convention as well as making corrections.  Many of our resolutions aimed at steering the Party back to its true conservative roots.  The truth is the Republican Party was far more libertarian than it is today.  The sad thing is that most Republicans today think libertarian means liberal.  They don’t understand that libertarians simply want the government out of their lives, something most Republicans long for.  As author and blogger Jason Mattera said in his speech to the CPAC convention, “Hey jackass, get your government off my freedom!”  That sentiment is held by both Libertarians and Republicans.  Many of our resolutions sought to remove the government from our daily lives, and I applaud that.  The main complaint was that the precinct resolutions were not carefully read.  The Committee steered the resolutions in the direction of their choosing instead of forming the platform based solely on the resolutions from the Precinct Conventions.  I was not on the Resolutions Committee, so I cannot confirm this claim.  If you don’t like the way the resolutions were selected or the resulting platform, now is the time to ask to be on the Resolutions Committee in 2012.

The Nominations Committee was the worst creature by far.  The tradition of giving candidates, elected officials, and judges delegate spots as an honor defeats the purpose of the grassroots process.  They already make decisions in their elected positions.  Why let them co-opt the grassroots process as well?  Many of our top delegates and alternates did not bother to show up to their Precinct Conventions or the County Convention.  They will likely not attend the State Convention either.  The convention process should be reserved for the grassroots to make their voices heard.  Hardworking grassroots activists were pushed out due to these honorary positions.  Brazos County has less of a voice in the RPT now because these “honored” people will likely not show up.  If a candidate or elected official participates in the process and works hard for the Party, then give him the slot.  But if they only show up when it’s time to campaign, they do not deserve the honor of being a delegate or alternate.  The same goes for their spouses.  A percentage of slots should be reserved for those new to the Party.  There will always be people joining in who are eager to get to work.  We need to plug them in immediately.  Don’t tell them to go to luncheons and work their way up.  If they’re ready to work now, put them to work.  We need the energy, and we need the workers!  The application process to be a delegate to the State Convention needs to change as well.  Many people never received an application,  and most received their applications after the slate of delegates and alternates were chosen.  This lack of organization contributes to the belief that our Party is just another Good Ol’ Boy network.  Nothing will change until the existing Party dies out (which will happen sooner than later considering how few young people are allowed to participate).  Candidates should encourage their campaign teams to participate in their Precinct Conventions and hold election watch parties after the Conventions.  Poll workers should be assigned to their own Precincts if possible, to allow their participation in the Precinct Conventions.  Our Precinct Convention did not begin until all the poll workers were finished.  Efforts must be made to allow these faithful volunteers to have a voice in the grassroots process.  If we truly want change in our Party and our nation, we must work diligently to ensure maximum participation.

Show Tunes and Politics

Believe it or not, I’ve been working on several posts, but I can’t seem to get any of them right to my satisfaction.  My thoughts are all over the place lately.  Maybe too much is happening.  Maybe I’m not focussed.  So today I’m trying yet another post. It’s short, an easy read.

This morning I’ve had songs from The Lion King in my head.  Count yourself privileged that you don’t have to watch me dance to the songs in my head!  This one sticks out.  It’s “Be Prepared,” sung by Scar as he plots to take over the flourishing kingdom by killing the king and his son.

[Scar:]
I know that your powers of retention
Are as wet as a warthog’s backside
But thick as you are, pay attention
My words are a matter of pride
It’s clear from your vacant expressions
The lights are not all on upstairs
But we’re talking kings and successions
Even you can’t be caught unawares
So prepare for a chance of a lifetime
Be prepared for sensational news
A shining new era
Is tiptoeing nearer

I know it sounds sordid
But you’ll be rewarded
When at last I am given my dues
And injustice deliciously squared
Be prepared!

[Scar:] I will be king! …Stick with me, and
you’ll never go hungry again!

[Hyenas: {In tight, crisp phrasing and diction}]
It’s great that we’ll soon be connected.
With a king who’ll be all-time adored.
[Scar:] Of course, quid pro quo, you’re expected
To take certain duties on board
The future is littered with prizes
And though I’m the main addressee
The point that I must emphasize is
You won’t get a sniff without me!
So prepare for the coup of the century
Be prepared for the murkiest scam
Meticulous planning
Tenacity spanning…

Ah, the beauty of politics.  The lyrics of this song concisely say what is going on today in so many corners of politics.  Our leaders recognize that the bulk of the populace is thick.  They see the vacant expressions and recognize the lack of retention.  So they promise the world.  They only deliver the bad, but we quickly forget.  We are so easily manipulated.

Will you continue to be thick?  Will you continue to forgive and forget?  Will you continue to vote for the horrid representatives because they have money?

What Happens When You Don’t Win?

I’ve never met a person who enjoys losing.  Winning is in our nature.  We desire to be superior, to prove ourselves.  Recently, when speaking to a group of College Republican leaders, I reminded them of something that is contrary to our nature.  It is okay to lose.

Work for your passion, be steadfast to your beliefs. Do not sell your soul for a win. Hold your head high, though you may lose, you walk away with your integrity and your soul.

Obviously, winning is optimal, but what do we gain from losing?

Never choose your candidate, campaign, or side of an issue based on the probability of winning.  Character matters.  Integrity and reputation are easy to destroy and nearly impossible to rebuild.  Find your passion.  I learned this lesson the hard way when I volunteered on a campaign that I wasn’t passionate about.  Explaining my support was laborious.  It sucked the life out of me.  I constantly had to convince myself that I really was doing the right thing.  I began to come up with abstract reasons as to why this campaign was important, though it was a difficult train of thought to follow.  In the end, I finally admitted to myself I wasn’t at all behind the campaign.  Was it all bad that I spent my time and energy on a campaign that I didn’t believe in wholeheartedly?  Absolutely not.  It helped me better define my political philosophy.  I was able to have conversations with others regarding fundamental freedoms, hopefully helping them better understand liberty.  Perhaps I shed some light in an otherwise dark political realm and made a difference in a few lives.  I saw people begin to wake up to the truth. In the end, however, I was glad to separate from that campaign, ending the internal conflict that plagued me.  Working for your passion is always personally rewarding, no matter the outcome.

Regardless of a loss, your campaign reminds the public that you and your ideas exist.  Even if your candidate was simply a placeholder on the ballot, voters had a choice.  If we follow the logic of only running winnable candidates, voters’ choices will be severely limited and ideas stifled.  Many voters will vote for a third-party or unknown candidate simply to send a message to the political establishment.  We’re tired of the corruption.  We’re tired of the puppet candidates.  You’re guy may have name recognition, but he stands for nothing good and everything bad, and his Party affiliation doesn’t change who he is.

Campaigns of all outcomes have the power to educate the public and raise awareness of issues.  The human nature of a grassroots campaign lends itself to person to person conversations that can change hearts and minds far better than yard signs or billboards.  Awakening people to the ideas of lower or no taxes, self-government, personal sovereignty, and following the rule of law are positive steps toward growing the movement and the voter base.  With each election, liberty becomes more popular because more people have heard of it, thought about it, and talked about it.  They start understand it and crave it.

Naturally, every campaign makes mistakes.  Were volunteers plugged in quickly?  Was the legal paperwork filed accurately and on time?  Did the grassroots stay motivated and on task?  Which media worked best?  What ideas were entertained too long?  What platform issues gained the most support?  What scared voters away?  What motivated them to go to the polls and drag their neighbors with them?  What was the most effective fundraising methods?  What created the best image of the candidate?  What voter base did you expect to vote that didn’t and why?  Take the time to seriously analyze your campaign and you’ll make fewer mistakes the next time.  Don’t forget to look at the campaigns that had the unexpected win.  What did they do that pushed them over the top?

Losing never feels good, but there is much to still gain from it.  Take the time to analyze your work.  Next time, let’s win it!