Today has been one of those which has me wondering a lot about my life. It’s a dreary, overcast Georgia day, and it reminds me a lot of days living on campus at Georgia Southwestern. Yes, some of you will think “there he goes again,” but please indulge me this one stroll down memory lane. You may be surprised to learn this has nothing at all to do with my campus newspaper.
I don’t speak much about my final few months living on campus because it was, quite frankly, one of the darkest, loneliest times of my life. While not being Editor of my college paper was part of the reason was suffered a severe depression, there were a great many factors in play. I felt like a fish out of water, and my lake had become a parched, barren lakebed. The details of what happened are irrelevant now, but today’s weather evoked feelings which I can’t describe as nostalgic or wistful, but rather as reminiscent of that time, despite my best efforts to avoid the memory.
Sometimes, one must face the memory in order to heal.
That period of my life was depressing and painful. I felt abandoned and heartbroken on almost every level. Other words to describe it include hungry (both spiritually and physically), abandoned, betrayed and deceived. There were people I had grown to count on who I felt left me in the dust, and others who had simply forgotten about me and moved on the greener pastures. It was a time in my life I also felt profound anger, resentment and even a bit of rage. I chose to flip off the world and rebel like never before. I chose to stop paying my bills, stop socializing, and stop taking care of responsibilities. The anger had me feeling “everyone else could play by these rules, so why do I have to suffer and nobody else does?”
Odd how the truth of a situation is revealed over time. When we peel back the layers of the story, we find the flaws in our behaviors, the foolish arrogance of absolutist thinking, and how our preconceptions and delusions can create a whirlpool of misunderstanding. We learn those around us didn’t abandon us, but were instead dealing with their own personal hell. The people we perceived as having betrayed our own loyalty to them were suffering from losses we couldn’t possibly imagine. Spurned advances were the result not of something personal, but instead the fact certain lines were never meant to be crossed. Other lines which had been crossed became minefields which often blew up in the faces of those we believed to be living perfect or fun lives. We mask our pain and anger in a veneer of hubris, and act out in accordance with how our personality was molded by our environment and associations.
Looking back, I was an arrogant goddamned fool who believed I was entitled to certain things for no other reason than a meager collection of achievement, none of which now matter in the grand scheme of things.
I could say I forgive those who I feel then hurt me, but that’s an exercise in self congratulatory artifice, and an insufferable one at that. I figure we all make a ton of mistakes in our lives. Forgiveness of this sort is an internal matter, certainly not one to be made public. Atonement on a grand scale is equally arrogant and little more than a grand display of emotional theatrics which only serves to assuage a guilty conscience. No, today is a day which I look at, accept the feelings which exist, and just observe what happens next. No amount of pining, whining, or promising this or that can undo what is done. The deeds have been done, the words have been spoken, and all I can do is manage my reaction and healing process as best I can. Deluding myself serves nothing – acceptance of my errors and misperceptions is the only hope I have for growth now.
That was, indeed, a dark time in my life. I’m impressed I survived it. I’m more impressed I’m able to accept just how much of an ass I’ve been about it all these years.
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, protests and riots have swept across the nation. The new President has signed executive order after executive order, and the country is more polarized than ever. The more I look at things, the more I can see the origins of a lot of these issues and it comes down to a saying by the late pro football coach Vince Lombardi:
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Somewhere along the way, both the left and the right decided that their way was the not only the right way, but the only way to run things. Instead of being open to new ideas and practicing moderation, extremism took root, aided by the absolutism made fertile by talk radio hosts, many of whom have turned out to be, themselves, outright hypocrites. Both left and right pointed the finger at each other, decrying the other’s way as “evil” and “corrupt,” tossing about buzzwords like “income redistribution,” “globalism,” “market freedom” and “indoctrination.”
In the end, both sides are guilty of fomenting national discord for the sake of their own ambitions and avarice. Both extremes are akin to fans of opposing teams in the Super Bowl who use the exact same offensive and defensive strategies. The only differences are the cities represented, team colors and the one massive variable: personalities.
This year’s Super Bowl is a great example. New England’s Tom Brady is a person who draws absolute reactions. You either love him or you hate him. You either admire his guile for exploiting lax rules enforcement with “deflategate,” or he is a cheater. For Atlanta, you either love Matt Ryan for his stoicness in games and his ability to heave the ball downfield with stunning accuracy, or you hate him for his occasional post game showboating and arrogance or the demands of owner Arthur Blank. Long story short, team affiliation and cults of personalities determine the fan base.
America’s political landscape is much the same way anymore. It’s no longer about “what’s right for America.” Rather, many citizens have become so fed up with the demands of either side, their rhetoric, and the approach to life their supporters take, the “win at all costs” attitude has permeated American politics. You either love Donald Trump and what he espouses, or you loved Hillary Clinton. Anyone who isn’t on the side of an extreme allegiance is a gutless moderate, or an independent who is immediately picked apart for which side of the ideological aisle they most identify with, regardless of if their heart is good.
We are no longer a nation which compromises for the good of all; we are a country obsessed with winning and being “right,” even if being right means may the good of the nation be damned, so long as our side prevails. We no longer see shades of gray, or the empty spaces in between the argument where facts get lost in the name of victory. It is now black and white terms: good and evil, order and chaos, life and death, left and right….and zero in between allowed.
Both sides are guilty on this one. The far right has pushed gun rights, the far left gun restriction. The far right pushes free market and free will as the answer to everything, while the far left pushes government as the solution. Both sides point the finger at each other when something goes wrong. A great idea is only a great idea of our side came up with it. If one side comes up with a truly great idea, the other side will do everything they can to stop it, and vice versa. Why? Because it wasn’t their idea. They can’t take credit, so they want no part of it.
This is where our nation has been taken. Compromise is death. Bipartisanship is evil. The left will destroy the rights of all. The right will destroy the rights of all. They are both the same, but they are different. The left wants people to be lifted up, but so does the right. The only difference is the means it happens and who at the very top benefits. It’s old money family rivalries on a global scale. The same monster with two heads and the same master manipulating both heads, in this case the people are the brains inside the heads, to fight each other.
Did it not occur to anyone here that if a world leader with access to nuclear weapons gets into a pissing match with another world leader with nuclear weapons in this age of “pride before prudence,” things could end VERY VERY BADLY? This is not the old Cold War era where world leaders understood the concept of mutual assured destruction. In this era where all that matters is winning, regardless of the cost, MAD isn’t really so crazy anymore. It’s considered “acceptable risk.”
That said, here’s something think about: all the protests and guns on earth won’t mean shit if there’s nothing left to protest or no one to kill. Yes, people are angry at each other and there are powerful people making a ton of money off pitting us against each other, but do you really think any of them give a damn about YOU when the mushroom clouds start rising? They already planned for this years ago. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, anyone who thinks those in position of true power haven’t found some way to gain from a world atomic holocaust are sadly mistaken. They get to rebuild the world, only the way they see fit.
We can stop all this madness, but we need to focus on what we see happening, not the rhetoric being said or the memes being posted. Focus on what’s real instead of what is imagined. We still have a judicial system and civilian control of our military. I know people are saying we need to strike “just in case.” What is that going to accomplish? To all of you wanting a civil war to settle it all, do you really think that dying for SOMEONE ELSE’S CHECKBOOK is more important than the ideals espoused in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, because I guarantee you that most of your radio and television pundits and commentators, liberal or conservative, couldn’t remember the Bill of Rights, much less which state first ratified the constitution. They CAN, however, remember their bank account number and safe combination, easily.
Those want to die, or are okay with friends and loved ones dying, to impose their worldview of America on everyone else, are EXACTLY the sort of danger George Washington spoke of in his farewell address. We need to take a long hard look in the mirror as a nation, stop worrying about who is offended by who said what and what injustice was committed by people long dead, and instead focus on the injustices being committed right now, against us by each other. We need to look at our current immigrants who may not have gotten here legally, but are law abiding otherwise and a great source of tax revenue. We need to look at our homeless and see how much of it is true laziness and how much of it is actually mental illness which, once treated effectively, can unlock the minds of potential geniuses. We need to feed our hungry children so they can feel compassion and grow into compassionate adult instead of bitter children in adult bodies vying for the power they never knew in youth. We need to help our veterans who our leaders have come to view as similar to sanitary napkins; something to absorb political blood in photo ops and rituals, but disposed of once they’ve outlived their usefulness. We need to address the reality that racial tensions exist not so much as the result of what happened over a century ago, but the mistrust formed between races because of old fears turned into old wives tales, which have in turn become cultural norms.
Finally we need to remember and accept that assimilation does not mean elimination. A people can become law abiding productive citizens without being forced to abandon their cultures and customs. Immigrants should have to learn our language, history and abide by our laws but should not be required to abandon their heritage and culture in their own homes.
Yes, there will always be those who wish to harm us, but we should never do the work for them, and our current political climate is doing just that. We are truly doing our enemies’ dirty work. We can, we must, learn to listen to the better angels of our nature. That is what a “more perfect union” is about, after all.
As a Buccaneers fans living in the Atlanta area, I would like to congratulate Falcons fans for their team reaching the Super Bowl. Now this is not the first time the Dirty Birds made it to the big game, but it is, by far, the best Falcons team to get to this point. Having said that, there are some thoughts which a fan of a one-time Super Bowl champion and division rival would like to share.
Be classy in victory or defeat. Regardless of the outcome, show good sportmanship. Don’t assault Patriots fans or be belligerent towards non-Falcon fans because they don’t care. Show America Atlanta is a classy town no matter the outcome.
Don’t be like “chowds.” New England fans are called “Chowderheads” but “chowds” are the arrogant, obnoxious, insufferable jerks who make Cowboy Nation and Raiderfan look like teddy bears. Some Boston fans wear this monicker as a badge of honor…it isn’t. Whatever you do, make sure you treat other fans with respect if you win. Don’t become the entitled spoiled brats who think the Patriots and Red Sox are the unbeatable monsters and deserve to win the titles every year.
Remember it’s just a game. This is not a life and death struggle. No matter what happens, a Super Bowl win would do wonders for civic pride but it will do little to help poverty and homelessness. Be kind to your fellow man even in victory because, after all, it is just a game.
Enjoy the moment. Making the Super Bowl is a privilege earned by only two teams every year, and most teams don’t return to win it. Enjoy this moment because, win or lose, it may not come again.
Be responsible. For the love of God, make sure you get a cab or a bus if you overindulge, and don’t go home angry if they lose. Be sure to show you are an adult so others aren’t hurt.
Finally, have fun and cheer on your team regardless. When they get back to Atlanta, no matter the outcome, be proud because they did something only one other team has accomplished this year: compete for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
With that said, congrats to the Atlanta Falcons for making it this far. You deserve it.
It would appear this year’s theme, Rachel Platten’s Fight Song, was all too true. We all appeared to be in the fight of our lives, with many of us, and those we loved so much, not making it to the end. For me, it was a year of transformation on a fundamental level. I had long said the “old John” was gone, but never knew just how of who I used to be was still left. This year ended that with swift, decisive blows. My dark side came out in grand fashion in so many ways, but it was all part of a release and acknowledgement that who I had been for so long was someone never wanted to be again.
This year’s theme song is a little late in the selection, only because it was hard to decide one which matches how 2017 is shaping up to be. It is about both completion and renewal. Many things in my life are now looking to bloom anew, and many of those I once counted as close friends have parted ways with me. What was in the past must be left there, and there are so few songs which combine the themes of loneliness and sadness with healing and profound hope. Fortunately I found one.
I have to hand it to the Goo Goo Dolls, they really do know how to hit a home run with their music. My theme song for this year is their hit Over and Over, which really does hit on all cylinders.
The music is loud and rocking, the lyrics are meaningful. Here is just a taste…
Love is all you want, but you never gonna feel the same.
It’s hard to be yourself when everyone around you’s changin’
Open up your eyes and you’ll lose yourself again.
And we go over and over and over again
Are you lost in the past thinking what might have been?
You’re here and you’re now, start it over and then,
Take it over and over and over again.
TURN IT UP!
So damned true about 2016 for me. I was stuck in the past thinking “what might have been.” Those days are over. I’m done being stuck in the past. Now I can focus on a new, bright future. I’m taking risks the likes of which I have never taken before. I’m done being safe. I fought and scrapped in 2016. This year was the fight for my life, and I was so right about it. Rather than just a superficial fight for freedom, this turned into a fight to change myself into someone I was meant to be. The battle was between myself and I, and many people were hurt in the process. I am sorry for this, but now I have a chance to start over and start again, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
This song will be the theme playing in my mind whenever I need inspiration. When I need to remind myself why I left certain occupations, choices, and people in the past, this song will be played. I’m dedicating myself to being happier, more alive, more mindful and more “in the moment.” This year will be devoted to finishing what I started, as well as working to the best person I can be, whether through helping others, fighting for worthy causes, or memorializing the sacrifices of others. This year is about completion and new beginnings, and this song will help drive me in that direction.
So, as the Goo Goo Dolls would say, TURN IT UP! Happy 2017 – as my fellow author and dear friend Jessa Harris would say, let’s “make it amazing!”
UPDATE: the YouCare fund is at $7000 of a $10000 goal! Please donate what you can!
The killing of Officer Nick Smarr and shooting of Officer Jody Smith has rocked the city of Americus and the state of Georgia. Both officers were shot in the head. This sort of thing simply doesn’t happen in Americus. For so many of us who either have direct ties to the city, Georgia Southwestern, or are simply wishing to help out, it may feel like there’s nothing we can do.
Finally some good news: we can help!
Below is a link to a YouCaring page set up to accept donations for the families of these the heroes. Please, give what you can. Both of these families need our help.
The holiday season brings out the charitable spirit, and many folks want to give. There are some very effective ways to give and help out the less fortunate in ways most people would never think of.
It may sound strange, but one of the most basic needs for many less fortunate are essential toiletries such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, razors and feminine hygiene products. Many times charities rely on sponsors for these items, and they tend to run out. Bear in mind one other thing; hygiene products help those in need keep from being sick and, especially for men, provide a sense of dignity when looking for work.
This is a hot button issue for a lot of people. Many who give to charities believe candy is a luxury, not a necessity, but here is a practical counter argument: for those in need who are diabetic, candy can provide a vital sugar boost in the event of injury or illness. For children, it allows them to feel a sense of joy and compassion in harsh world during the holidays.
Laundry and cleaning supplies
Believe it or not, thanks to stores such as Dollar Tree, these are items which can get the absolute maximum bang for your donation buck. Ten dollars can literally buy enough cleaning supplies and detergent to help a small family do a months worth of washing and cleaning to keep their residence free of germs, which can reduce the chances of a trip to the emergency room for such things as viruses and the flu.
Socks and hosiery
These are easily the most sought-after non food items on a charity’s list, and here’s why: they wear out quickly but also provide comfort to those in need. While many people think blankets are important to staying warm, warm feet are just as important. Clean, dry cotton socks are highly prized by charities for warmth, and dress socks and hosiery are sought after by career placement arms of charities to help job seekers who can’t afford work clothes.
The common misconception is that needy families and individuals don’t have pets or don’t feed them properly. That is absolutely false. For most in need who have homes and are low income, the family dog or cat are the most beloved family members and, along with feeding children, often eat before the adults do. Pet food, cat litter, and dog treats are essentials on donation need lists.
Contrary to popular belief, most charities do not have shelves lined with all sorts of coats, hats, gloves, scarves and mittens. In warmer regions, it is rare they have sunscreen on the shelves. Many folks assume charities can just go out and buy this with cash donations, but money is limited and is often earmarked for mandated programs such as job training and utility assistance. For this reason, outerwear is also a very welcome donation, especially adult sizes as many adult tend to donate children’s sizes.
I welcome feedback and testimonials on what my readers see as needs for charities and I encourage input on reputable charities in your area. In the coming weeks I post charities which are reputable and ensure those in need get the help they need.
Thanks for entering my head…walk around at your own risk