Wichmer the attorney, Pokin the journalist, and the old game Telephone

When I decided to write this particular post, I wanted to make sure enough time had passed from what happened to discussing what happened. I did this in hopes that the reader would be able to see the main point I’m making with my story, not seeing the example that sets up the main point.

What is the example? The example used involved Springfield’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Ordinance and restrooms.

What is the main point I want to make with the example? That point is how the media can lose track of the truth through their trust of previous reports. Further, in doing so it can make them look like they are playing “loosey goosey” with the facts.

But let’s start by going back a long time to get started off on a good note.

When I was a kid, I lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I went to some of my elementary school years there in the southern New Mexico city. When I wasn’t in school, I would be at Little Playmates. It was a daycare that provided my parents with summer care for me and my brother.

While there we would play many games, inside and out, and it was a pretty good time.

There was one game I really liked. It was called “Telephone”. This was a game where all the kids would get in a circle. At one end of the circle a kid would start by whispering in the ear of the child beside him. He would whisper anything. For instance, he could say, “The goat wore a blue coat to the store.” The second child would whisper the same to the third, and this would happen until all the kids whispered what they heard to the next kid.

By the end, “The goat wore a blue coat to the store,” may have become, “I wore a blue coat to school.”

I loved it! How the initial statement made 20 children ago could get distorted little by little, and by the end you had something being said that was little, sometimes nothing, like what was initially stated.

Now, let’s fast forward to 2015. In Springfield, Missouri, we had a vote on April 7th to decide whether or not to keep a law in place that was very controversial – in part – because of the “restroom issue”. This issue was one brought up by opponents. Their concern was that by passing this law, along with other concerns, the city government would now leave the business owner unable to ask a male to leave a female’s restroom, or a female to leave a male’s restroom.

This was such a contentious topic that the city council even had whispers of amending the bill before it was initially passed to prevent this from happening. However, in the end they didn’t amend anything – just passed the law.

So, as it stood, the public was with the impression that when the law passed any male could go in to any female restroom, and vice versa. Because of the law being passed, business owners would be “discriminating” if they asked the person to remove theirself from the “wrong” restroom. In my mind, this is one of the reasons the law was repealed through the petition and voting process by the citizens of Springfield.

With this being the understanding, you can imagine my shock when I read a Springfield News-Leader editorial board article stating the following: “And the use of bathrooms? It’s already legal to enter a men’s or women’s restroom, regardless of gender, according to City Attorney Dan Wichmer in a previous News-Leader story.”

The position the board was taking was no shock. They had, for months, been very vocal and bias in their reporting on the issue. They made no effort to refute the fact that, for this particular issue, they had become commentators and not journalists.

But this particular comment caught my eye. It’s already legal to use the opposite gender’s restroom in Springfield? My first thought was that the comment made no sense. If that was the case, why was it such a big deal and why – in the course of the debate – did not one person say, “Hey, this is already legal.”

So, the first thing I did was look for the article they were referencing. I found it. Steve Pokin, a journalist who does “Pokin Around”, a regular report he does after investigating a particular issue, did a piece on the SOGI Law: Gender Identity and the Bathroom Debate.

In the article, Pokin states the following: “Is it currently against Springfield law to use a public restroom designated for the opposite sex? City Attorney Dan Wichmer says no. It’s already legal in Springfield for men to use women’s public restrooms, and vice versa.”

Now this is where I was completely confused. Again, if this is the case, why was this not brought up for years during the debate about this law. Not until his article comes out right before the vote does this concept even make an appearance.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. So I wrote Dan Wichmer. I asked, “Dan, Is it correct when the News-Leader asserts I can walk in to and use a women’s public restroom in Springfield and it’s not illegal? (Or at least that’s what they said you said.)”

His response reminded me of the Dan Wichmer I knew when on City Council. Very detailed in response, and if you’re not paying attention or even “want” to hear a certain thing, you can misunderstand his closely chosen words. His response: “Well, they are not correct.”

Wow! Hold the phone! What did he just say?? They are not correct?!

He went on to say that Springfield has an ordinance that allows “a business or public place to designate a facility as single sex.” In that same email, he went as far as to say that he interprets the law based on behavior because, if strictly enforced, my wife taking my newborn son in to a ladies restroom violates the letter of the law.

Where did this game of Telephone go so very wrong as to say that something that is illegal be reported as being legal?

Well, first we have to understand the law. From what I can gather, if a business owner owns a place with a restroom, until he marks the restroom as gender specific, either gender can use any of the restrooms. As soon as he marks it for a specific gender, it is only lawful for that gender to use that restroom… so far as to go that Dan Wichmer himself recognizes that Susy can’t take her one-year-old in the ladies room without violating the letter of the law.

That should lead us to recognize that the response from Wichmer said the law “allows”, but doesn’t force a business to create gender specific restrooms.

So, in the course of reporting, what in the world happened?!

Here is what I can come up with.

To begin, I don’t think Pokin or the News-Leader editorial board did anything nefarious. I do, however, believe they wanted to put something to rest that was a valid argument, thought they heard an answer they wanted to hear, and ran with it. Pokin in particular; the editorial board simply followed his lead without checking his facts.

The point to be made is this: even the media can get it wrong.

We are supposed to be able to trust the news sources we read, watch, and hear. However, the media are made up of people and just like the rest of us and they are imperfect.

Suffice to say that when we read, read with an open mind, recalling previous knowledge, and always being willing to trust but verify.

Blacks, bigots, gays and gals!

When I first met Lyle Foster in 2008, I knew right away I would like the guy. A small business owner, very intelligent, and funny in his approach – three pros right off the bat. Plus, when we met we were sitting along side each other as candidates for a city council election. We weren’t running for the same seat, so that made it all the easier to like him.

Since that time, I have grown more and more respect for the man. He was one of the few who wrote me when I was incarcerated; he has believed in me when others didn’t; he has brought a lot of development on the north side of Springfield with little government help. Above all that, he is a good man.

One of the things he regularly does these days (aside from running two businesses, tending to tenants of his rental lofts, and being involved in several community organizations) is contribute to the News-Leader on a regular basis (I don’t think the guy sleeps… no, really).

His articles are ones I read with dedication, and rarely miss. Not because I always agree with him; I do not. Regardless of my position or his, he makes me think. A few times we have gone back and forth with our thoughts. In short, I enjoy the guy.

The reason I bring him up is this: he recently wrote an article in the News-Leader, Talking about race issues should not be taboo. In it, he asserts an overall belief that because race is a taboo issue to discuss, our best, brightest, and most educated young adults are making choices in life that are – well, in my words – ignorant. Whether its a college frat chanting racist songs about lynchings, or the “splash” made by Starbucks wanting to discuss the race issue over the counter, we seem to think the topic of race is either a joke or one that should be discussed in passing.

Why is this? Well, this is where I agree with Lyle Foster 100%: the issue of race is taboo – one we are almost afraid to talk about – and in not talking about it we leave our nation in a world of ignorance, especially the younger generations. We don’t talk about race, history, and things we as a nation have overcome. We don’t talk about things we could be doing to improve society. We don’t act like a civilized, enlightened and capable nation.

Now, here is where Lyle and I may disagree – and that’s the “why”.

Why is it we don’t talk about it? The same reason we can’t talk about gender or sexuality: yes, it’s taboo. Why is it taboo? Because it has become nothing more than a political issue, and the issue is completely monopolized by a group of people who, if you have any sort of difference of opinion, you are racist, sexist, or a bigot.

If you disagreed with Obama, it wasn’t because he is so far out in left field that Cubans find him more palatable than they do their own Socialist leaders. It can’t be because his policies on economics, foreign relations, and social issues are not in keeping with what your positions are. Nope – it’s solely because you are racist. That’s all.

Same thing goes with Ferguson: forget the forensics, forget the investigation, forget the truth – if you aren’t on the black guy’s side, you’re racist.

But this is not only limited to race. There are other taboo topics.

For instance, did you know that if you use terms like “polarizing, calculating, disingenuous, insincere, ambitious, inevitable, entitled, over confident, out of touch, secretive, will do anything to win”, you are sexist… well, if it’s in reference to Hillary Clinton. You read that right, all the terms used daily in today’s political arena are now code words for “I’m sexist” when used in unison with Hillary. There is a group dedicated to telling you just that, and spending their time finding these references against the Democrat Presidential Candidate.

Let’s do one more category (yes, category – because we can’t be individuals, we have to be in groups). The LGBT community – well, not the community as a whole. The activists. The LGBT activists will tell you they want to promote tolerance, yet the blogs and social media posts by the same crowd are filled with terms like evil, ignorant, intolerant, backwoods, bigot, anti-Christ. That’s just the few I found in one article’s comments section, looking only at the first nine comments out of the 247 made. I personally know a MSU college professor – a doctor in Sociology – who uses very similar terms on his Facebook page.

That, in lowly Springfield, MO.

So, where Lyle and I agree is that when the issue of pretty much anything that creates groups or sub-categories of Americans comes up(race, gender, sexual orientation), we can’t talk about it. It is taboo.

I don’t know why he personally thinks that is, but it is pretty clear that the same group that has a monopoly on those groups as a voting bloc will destroy you socially if you disagree.

Talk bad about female democrats, you are sexist.

Disagree with Gay Right’s Activists, you will be threatened.

Disagree with forensic evidence and side with a white police officer, your town will burn.

From a conservative who sorely wishes to discuss race, gender, and sexuality in a rational manner, I am here to tell you it seems impossible. It seems that if I personally want to talk about these topics, my opinion (regardless of how grounded, educated, and well thought out) will lead me to be called a racist and misogynistic homophobe.

How do you “talk” when you are cornered? How do you have a rational discussion with somebody who promotes tolerance and hypocritically happens to be the most intolerant person you know? How do you say “I disagree” when you know that as soon as you say that you are a backwoods, ignorant bigot?

Maybe it’s not impossible. However, until those very same people who are saying they want unity stop dividing the debate in to “good and bad” or “right and wrong”, we will get nowhere.

So, in conclusion, when the other side is ready to stop being the adjectives they are using against me, I don’t really know how to talk to them. Not that I’m better than any other human being, but I am better than to act like a fifth grader crying on the playground because not everybody agrees with my point of view. And I’m not for sure, but I would venture to say I’m not alone in my position.

When the individuals who are acting like children are ready to put their big boy (or girl (watch it now!!) britches on, maybe race and other said topics will stop being so “taboo”.

Maybe when we can do all that, we can give a little more hope to American posterity and how their society will interact and behave.

Eating bullets in dark closets

I came across a commercial recently. I don’t remember what the commercial was for, but I do remember the premise was along the lines of trying to portray the idea that what we do and say, and how we treat others affects those around us, including people that we don’t necessarily mean to affect.

There was a husband and wife standing in the hallway fighting. The husband was raising his voice and the wife was doing the same. The wife stated something to about the husband being worthless and that he didn’t care about the family. As the argument continued, the camera pans down the hallway, into a child’s bedroom, and into the closet of the bedroom. In that closet a little blonde-hair girl sat quietly, obviously feeling trapped, saddened, and distraught.

It made me think of a time in my life when I felt trapped, saddened, and distraught. That time in my life came to its climax on New Years’ Day of 2012. In that moment of climax I was yelling at the top of my lungs right before I placed a Glock 9mm in my mouth with a round in the chamber. As I released the trigger safety and started to feel the trigger fall back as I squeezed, a fleeting thought crossed my erratic, illogical, and frantic mind.

I didn’t pull the trigger that day not because I wanted to live, but because I didn’t want my children to be without a father and for my mother to live with both of her children gone (my only brother passed away in 1993).

I share this in full vulnerability to make a greater point. I was scared, lost, sad, and didn’t think there was a way out of the anger, hate, depression… the darkness that I felt.

When I saw the commercial of the little girl hiding in her closet, I thought of that day. That is what I felt like. A sad child hiding in a closet, but in my closet the lights were off. Just darkness and sadness.

Why do I bring this up now? Because in the past month the Springfield news cycle has been plagued with two high profile situations of somebody committing suicide. Both times, my heart weighed heavy and I was horribly saddened.

The first involved the Missouri State Auditor, Tom Schweich. In a moment of what I can only imagine was horrible angst, he took his own life. It was a surprise to many, as it’s not often that a state office holder and also gubernatorial candidate takes his own life in what seems to be a spur of the moment decision.

Just weeks later, a father of two withstood an extended stand off with police before taking his own life at a South Side Springfield apartment complex. Inside, along with his body, authorities found the bodies of his two children, both younger than five years old.

When the two stories ran I recalled that dark and lonely feeling. It hurt to know that there are people here and now – today – that are in that situation. It’s a horrible feeling and I don’t wish it on anybody.

However, along with the hurt I had for those people there are some things that make me upset – angry even.

Sure, I can tell you about how I am upset with the news for running, day after day, the story of a father taking the life of his two children before ending his own. But that would go without saying. I think most of us are disgusted with the way the media operates in today’s world – making money off the horrible experiences people go through.

But I am more upset about the Schweich situation. Immediately following the suicide of the State Auditor, a blame game started. Apparently a Republican Official was “whispering” that Schweich was Jewish. Well, I’m here to tell you that I don’t buy this being the reason Tom took his own life regardless of what anyone says. It’s too simple, to begin with, and it’s also too illogical. You can’t tell me you buy that a guy who has run for state office and several other elected positions has that thin of skin, do you? I don’t.

Second, to have the media feed in to this frenzee, and to have members of the Republican party politicize Tom’s death with speeches against bullying, holding official votes of blame, and treating this like a game is – quite frankly – sickening. Until I hear from his wife that some name calling was his only problem, until I hear that he was not on depression medication or had depression, and until I am convinced that he had the full support of his fellow party members in calling out the name caller (which there is plenty of reason to believe he didn’t), I don’t want to hear a single word about who is to blame.

Dear media and politicians: Let the dead rest. Let their families mourn. Have some sympathy.

And in all reality, Tom is the only one to blame. So is the father at the apartment. They are the only ones to blame in their situations.

But, I don’t want to leave that blame statement unqualified. There is a qualification.

Everybody has a breaking point. Everybody. You do. I do. Some of us have come to it; some of us have survived. Some of us will never even come close to it.

But here is the thing: When we are facing the people we face every day, we need to realize that we have no idea what is going on in their head. This about how you treat the people you pass every day. A simple hello or smile or other friendly gesture might make somebody see a light in life they haven’t seen in a long time.

When you are mad and wish to point it at an individual, have empathy.

When you know of somebody who is having a hard time (divorce, death, etc.), be kind and be soft.

If we have a family member who is distant, instead of waiting for them to do something then blaming what they’ve done on “this or that”, be a friend and act how a loved one should act. Say something. Offer to help. LISTEN.

Be that person. Be good and do good to your fellow man.

If you are the one who is in that dark room, the room that is lonely and sad… talk. Talk to somebody. Say something. There is nothing good that can come out of staying in that dark room. You can leave, and you can change what is going on inside and be a better person for it. A stronger person. But you have to talk.

You can leave the dark closet, and it doesn’t have to be by eating a bullet.

(I know this is not my normal political pontificating, but I’m saddened to remember where I have been knowing that people are there right now. This has been heavy on my heart and I needed to get it out. Thanks for your attention.)

Just ask Al Sharpton.

When I was on City Council in Springfield from 2009 to 2012, I consistently had a recurring thought about the workings of the local government: It seemed to me that in order to keep their jobs, much of the city’s staff were bent on being busy bodies. No other department was as transparent in their efforts (through actions, not words) as Building Development Services. They seemed to always find something that “needed” to be done, a new regulation implemented, or they would find an old regulation that wasn’t being enforced but should be.

What it comes down to is the need to justify their existence, hence funding.

I find the same thing going on with those entities that take federal monies in order to fund their research projects. For instance, let’s assume a scientist was given a grant to explore the causes of “global warming” (aka, climate change). When he returns to the government that funded him with his results, he has two options: to claim there is global warming and discuss causes/effects and what people can do to fix it; or, he can say there isn’t warming.

(Before we go further, this discussion isn’t about global warming, and we can use a plethora of examples the same. What it comes down to is the result of each claim, and how it affects the giver of the claim.)

If our scientist states there is nothing wrong, why would the government give him more money to explore anything further – there is nothing to explore. If he states there is x, y, and z wrong, he can return for more money claiming more research needs to be done. Regardless of your opinion on climate change/global warming, I hope that you will be rational enough to agree that the scientist has something to gain by stating there is a problem. He also has something to lose if there isn’t anything wrong… that potential loss is funding.

The same goes with many, many other situations in life. And the funding doesn’t have to necessarily be from the government – it can be from anywhere. All money is green, right?

The one I want to discuss today is political.

It has to do with Gay Rights Activists, and some of the psychology behind this movement… and how it plays in to the above example. (And to be clear, this is not about gay people, but the activist movement.)

I have always been of the opinion the government should not – in any way – be involved in my marriage, your marriage, Chris and Christina’s marriage, Chris and Chris’s marriage, or Christina and Christina’s marriage. Take your marriage tax credit and go home, Mr. IRS Man. Abolish my SSA account, Mr. Government Bureaucrat. If it means the government gets out of the picture with regards to what should be a private choice, take everything you have to persuade me the government “needs” to be involved and send it packing.

It should be up to me, my partner, my religious leader, and the God I understand to be true. Same goes for everybody else.

You would think the LGBT/Gay Rights movement would feel the same. “Get out and stay out of my room,” they chant.

Well, that’s until the government actually gets out of the room.

You see, in Oklahoma, the state legislature has done exactly that (here, here, and here).

They have said, “Hey, it’s up to the clergy – peace out.” Albeit because the legislature believes the federal government overstepped their boundaries by undoing the ban on gay marriage in the state, the fact remains. The government removed itself from the process of marriage.

In my mind, it’s a win win. Those opposed to gay marriage don’t have to pay taxes to a government that supports it, and those who support it only need to find someone to perform the ceremony. If you don’t like how your clergy operates, tithe somewhere else.

Government out, liberty in!

But noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Apparently, that is just not good enough for the activist. That you can get married as a gay couple in Oklahoma is just not good enough (here and here).

You see, they don’t want negative action in the definitive sense (here and here). They want positive affirmation. It’s not only about their ability to do it, it is also about you saying it’s okay.

Further, and referring back to the scientist example, what ever would the Oklahoma Activist do if they win (and I understand it’s by default to an extent) their biggest fight. They don’t have anything to fight over. If they don’t have anything to fight over, they have nothing to fund raise for. If they don’t have anything to fund raise for, they have no funding.

And if you don’t think the Gay Rights movement is a cash cow, you are sorely mistaken. Just this past December, in Fayetteville, AR, population less than 80,000 (here), the Human Rights Council spent $200,000 to fight against the repeal of the SOGI Ordinance (here and here). A small town and a small issue when comparing SOGI to the marriage issue.

Not only are the activists out in full force, but Democrat law makers in the state are worried this could bring up issues regarding polygamy (linked above). This made me laugh – another liberal logic moment. “I want my way, but you can’t have your way.” If gay marriage is okay, and straight marriage is okay, why is not plural marriage okay? I’m sooooooo confused.

It’s kind of like the NAACP being upset over the preferential treatment of Hispanics (here, here, and here)! “Colored” people seeking to advance “colored” people… unless your color is brown? Again, confused.

Sorry for getting off topic.

Here’s the point: unless we do exactly what we are told and in the manner we are told to do it, we lose. There is no compromising. There is no tolerance. There is only extremism.

Even when that extremism gets what they want, they are going to find a new way to keep the fight going, to take more ground.

And when money is involved, you can bet your bottom dollar they will find a way to make climate change/gay rights/race and issue.

Just ask Al Sharpton.

City Council, politically correct hypocricy, and the truth about who we are

I recently had the opportunity to learn a pretty interesting lesson on the history of Springfield. In a News-Leader article published of late, there was an in depth look at the industrial history of Springfield. In it, there were many facets of our economy and its past the article covered. At the same time, there were a few things missing that I’m sure the News-Leader simply “forgot” to include, and because of that omission I was left bewildered and confused.

Around the same time the article was printed for the Springfield community, Springfield City Councilman Jeff Seifried tendered his resignation as the public voice for Northwest Springfield. Now, how do these two events go together? Here’s how….

In the News-Leader article, we learned how competition, low costs for doing business, and a generally appealing economic climate was attributed to much of the economy that built contemporary Springfield. What was missing you ask? I didn’t note anything about the businesses that came here to allow Springfield to flourish do so because of diversity, SOGI ordinances, race relations, or any other politically correct legislation or “feeling” in the community. To this day, when I talk to business owners (which is often), their primary concern isn’t whether or not there are enough minorities on the police force or whether the LGBT community “feels” good about how they are treated. They seem to still be concerned about their bottom line; after all, isn’t that why people go in to business… money? And to be clear, I don’t blame them – good for them.

But back to my bewilderment… and thank goodness for Ozarks First! You see, they got it right (well, almost) with their article Courageous Conversation: Race Relations in Springfield. After this article, I lost all confusion. I was reassured that in order to be enlightened Springfieldians, we have to realize “how white we are” and only see the community through the color of skin.

You ask, “What do you mean by reassured?” If you listened to our City Council and several other leaders in the past several years, you would think that we are racist and intolerant, and if we ever want to grow our economy we need more taxes, diversity legislation, and the citizens in general need to quit being racist and bigoted.

It’s funny to even write that – because from my view the very people preaching this are ones who, from what I can see, are doing the very same thing they preach against.

You see, in the past 15 years there have been four City Council elections for Northwest Springfield. Of those four elections, and in this one particular district, there has only been one in which there was a candidate running without opposition. Of those same four elections, the only time this particular district has chose to elect a white person was in that same election where there was no other choice. Every time there was a choice, a minority was elected (a black man two times and a Mexican once) over a white man.

Further, when there was the opportunity for city council to show their own ability to be “diverse” and appoint a minority to council (due to the resignation of various councilmen), they went ahead with a Caucasian.

To be clear in what I’m going to say next, I want to ensure you know I’m using their logic.

I bring this topic up now because yet another councilman has resigned… that one white guy for that one district who has a tendency to elect minorities when given the option.

This leaves Springfield City Council the duty of vetting applicants and appointing one of them to fill the council vacancy.

From what I understand, there is a black man that is going to submit his application (as he has previously done) for the position. Never mind that he is a retired Army veteran; never mind that he is an educator whose biggest concern is our children; never mind the fact that he has a fairly good grasp on local politics. He’s black, so I encourage the same council that preaches diversity to show how diverse they are. Appoint the black man!

(On a side note, I may know they guy, but I’m not a fan of his politics… just wanting to be clear this is not me advocating his policies.)

In all seriousness, it is this type of distorted reality that I can’t seem to grasp in order to bring myself to understand liberal logic. In the end, will they appoint the minority? Who knows. Do I think if they don’t it’s because they are racist? No. It’s going to be because they decide he probably isn’t the best for the job. However, if a small or big business owner or a voting citizen hires or elects somebody for the “content of their character”, they are racist, or sexist, or xenophobes if it’s not the minority. Funny how liberal elected officials get a pass… and the media won’t blink – promise.

I suppose I just don’t get it. Maybe one day I’ll be informed and enlightened enough that I do. Until then, I’ll continue to believe that as a whole, Springfield is a community that is loving and embracing of all “groups” regardless of what I’m told by a vocal minority who happens to have a microphone by way of a podium or news outlet.

Heroes, villains and the wussification of America

I’ll be honest: I have come a long way in life in the past three years – spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. I believe I am more mild mannered and cool tempered than I used to be by a long shot. However, there are some things that I still believe are worth fighting and being willing to die for – namely freedom and the idea of America. I do believe that if somebody hits you, you hit them back; I believe you hit them as many times as you need to in order to secure your safety. I believe if your family is in danger you must be willing to fight by any means necessary in order to prevent their harm.

Maybe that’s the Marine in me, maybe it’s the guy who was passive to a fault in high school and figured out the hard way that passivity doesn’t equal safety. Whatever it is, that’s who I am.

That being my disclaimer, I will say what I’m going to write is not for the faint of heart or the weak kneed. If you taught your kids to never hit back, this post isn’t going to sit well. If you believe that “talking things out” with people who only know communication through violence and force will work, you are probably going to be steaming mad if you even make it to the end of this post.

Now that I’ve let you know where I’m coming from, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

War is a nasty thing; no doubt about it. However, throughout time it has existed and, I believe, will always exist until Our Heavenly Father places paradise on earth. With that, there are warriors. Some of those warriors are ones who do their job and are grouped with others who do the same. There are also those warriors that stand out for their exceptional expertise and ability to perform their job. One of those people was Chris Kyle, of whom the blockbuster release “American Sniper” has proved that America still believes in recognizing exceptional individuals.

Those type of men go forth and provide examples of phenomenal abilities; there is a cost, though – their reputations come from decisions made that will forever be under the microscope. Decisions semi-similar to the one President Bush made to place our men and women in the military under harms way. Decisions that are still being made by leaders to send their military in to a fight that will cost some lives and change other lives forever. It’s all a field-day for Monday morning quarterbacks.

However, as a former Marine and Iraq Veteran who was part of 47 convoy missions in Iraq in 2005, I recognize the need for these actions to be taken when the fabric of human dignity and respect is under fire.

That dignity and respect for America was threatened on September 11, 2001. That same dignity and respect for life was threatened by Saddam Hussein when he gassed his own people, when he paid families of “martyrs” (of which I have seen the checks he wrote), and when he refused almost two dozen times to abide by a UN resolution he agreed to 10 years earlier that would allow the world to know he wasn’t fabricating nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

I also recognize the need to show and use force against a people who behead, burn, cage and torture innocent individuals who are defenseless. People who do this, in the name of religion or otherwise, do not understand diplomacy. They are not interested in reconciliation. And they are not “on the run” anywhere except toward the front gates of bases manned by American Marines.

Because they don’t understand anything but force, I am forever relieved that the country of Jordan has entered the stage in the capacity it has.

After one of their soldiers was burned alive and that burning was placed on the web for the world to see, they have chosen to respond with force. Good. At least somebody is.

You see, when there is a bully on the block, that bully will continue to punk everyone he can until somebody stands up to him, is ready to fight back, and is ready to “hit him back as many times as you need to in order to secure your safety.” Will Jordan do this? I don’t know. But what I do know is they have symbolically done more with the little they have than America has with all her might.

Now, given, it hasn’t been all that long since America was something to be feared. When I left Iraq, America was in a good gun fight. When Bush left Washington, DC, we were winning that fight. So while I believe that we are weak kneed, and are viewed as such around the world in 2015, all is not lost.

But the way to gain that back isn’t by praising Michael Moore and Seth Rogan for badmouthing one of America’s modern-day heroes. It isn’t regained by electing passive leaders who can’t seem to mutter the words “Radical Islam.” It isn’t by creating bully legislation and legislation protecting everybody from everything including their own shadows.

It’s done by being willing, as a nation and as individual citizens, to realize that war is sometimes necessary – and when we get in it, we do so with the resolve to accept nothing short of victory. It’s done by teaching our children there are some things worth fighting for. We do it by not letting those who would have us wear elbow pads and helmets to leave our home continue to wussify our nation through media and Hollywood, public schools and universities.

Man up, America, and quit letting pacifists ruin the honor we give our heroes, and villains continue to run amok without response or repercussion.

Lincoln, determination, and the truth about Walmart

I know, I know: it has been quite some time since I jotted down some thoughts for your reading and entertainment. However, I hope you will find the reasoning adequate… and we’ll get to that. First, though, I want to talk to you about Honest Abe.

To be frank, I am much more fascinated with the political mind of Madison, the rabble rousing of Sam Adams, and the dignity that makes Washington larger than life. They, along with several other of our Founding Fathers, are the most fascinating characters – to me – in our nation’s history. However, there is a little something about Abraham Lincoln that sticks out and brings a deep sense of admiration for the man he was.

While we may see the tall, bearded man as the 16th President and the man who led the Union to victory, abolishing slavery, and honoring us with the Gettysburg Address, I see a man with a deep sense of determination. It is that determination that leaves me in awe more so than all of his political accomplishments. For me, political accomplishments (and accomplishments in general) are simply a product of a man’s character. If Abe Lincoln has a philosophy and governs by it, that is one thing. But if that philosophy is one that puts him in the column of defeated for numerous elections, that is a different beast.

Considering his several losses in bids for elected office, and several other personal obstacles he faced, to know that this man ended up being the leader of the United States of America is and should be an inspiration to all of us. Here is a guy who faced loss after loss, who had personal problems that at times overwhelmed him, and who faced adversity for much of his life; yet, he pushed forward. He didn’t quit. He never folded.

That is the epitome of what this country was founded on. Discipline and determination. Perseverance and pursuit. To continue towards goals and success regardless of the dim light that seems to only flicker in brevity and distance.

For me, and for what has happened in the past three months, I see being those things – disciplined, determined, persevering, and keeping sight of what I pursue – hasn’t lost their reward in this life.

One year ago today I was about 35 days in to a 120 day stint of incarceration for some pretty serious mistakes. Before that sentence, I had resigned from elected office and been through several years of personal troubles and hardships (to say the least).

When I was released in May I was without direction regarding how my life was to proceed professionally. Personally, things were rough, but manageable.

But personally isn’t what this post is about.

For a period of about six months I filled out job application after job application. I came to a point of feeling that unless I wanted high-pressure telemarketing, prep-cooking for minimum wage, or temp employment, I was going to be at a loss. But I didn’t quit; not after the failed McDonald’s interview and not after the 75 or so job applications that I put in – one after another.

At one point, my loving wife looked over at me one evening and said, “Nick, I don’t know how you do it. You don’t quit. You just keep on trying.” I told her it was the stubborn Marine in me… and in reality part of it is. But another part is that I don’t believe in quitting. It’s really not an option.

Enter Walmart, and enter my temporary absence from The Missouri Thinker. It was a hectic several months to say the least.

While some of my liberal friends appreciate the protests against Walmart on Thanksgiving, and while they believe Walmart is evil and greedy and take local jobs away, I must dissent. But for those liberal friends and readers who think that, bear with me and give me a moment of your time to listen.

Sure, I can tell you all about the hundreds of millions of dollars in donations they contribute per year. I could tell you about the college programs they help their employees with. I could tell you about how they are simply the result of Sam Walton’s American Dream manifesting itself into something unimaginable.

But I’m not going to tell you things you can find easily on the internet. What I am going to tell you is about my personal experience.

After those 75+ applications, after defeat followed defeat in interviews, after cringing every time I signed a waiver to have my background checked, Walmart called me back. Not only did they call me back, but they called me back with an offer, and not only did they offer me a job, but what I heard was, “Nick, we are going to give you a chance. No worries about what came back on the background check. We see potential.”

I was soon able to share with my wife what I saw as an irony: for years in the political spectrum I defended, without hesitation, Walmart and what it stands for (the success of the American Dream). After years of doing so, they give me – a guy who had defeat after defeat everywhere in his home town – a chance.

Soon after the offer, I found myself at orientation. Now I know – Walmart takes jobs from small businesses and they are horrible, right? Well, I was in orientation with two retirees, another unemployed person, and a guy who decided to stop being a stay-at-home husband because his kids were graduating high school. No jobs taken – just jobs given.

Oh – on a side note – my favorite part of orientation was the video that talked about how bad unions are. Again, another fine aspect of Walmart philosophy. Ha!

Again, after that I found myself in break rooms with my fellow employees. I will qualify my next statement by saying I doubt there is a job in the country where there is not a disgruntled employee. The same is for Walmart. However, and generally speaking, there weren’t a bunch of employees sitting around talking about how bad their employer was. The general tone of discussions about work was that it was work – nothing horrible. Amazingly, most employees had smart phones and cars, too (crazy, right?!). They had plans on the weekends, there were many couples who worked together, and many employees talked about family life as if they were… satisfied with life.

Further, in the short time I was there, I watched three new employees be promoted. What was amazing is they were the employees who showed up on time and worked hard. I mean, whoooda thunk it!

I say all that to say that now more than ever, whenever I see the protesters during holidays “hating” on Walmart, I will chuckle and shake my head.

I bring Walmart up now because I am no longer with them – as with many others before me, Walmart was temporary and a stepping stone; and what they weren’t was evil and of the devil!

Now that I have talked about Lincoln and Walmart in full, I want to go back to that interesting concept of determination.

My wife isn’t the first person who discussed my determination with me. Several years ago another friend told me that I was “different”, and that was the explanation as to why I could overcome many personal obstacles in life and succeed… that most people weren’t “like me.” I would get frustrated when he would say that because to me it’s simply about doing your best at all times – even when the situation is grim; even when you have fallen; even when the cards are stacked against you.

That is what I have done all my life; that is what I hope to continue to do for the rest of it as well.

And that is why after I had been at Walmart for just a couple of months I was given a call by a potential employer who offered a much more appealing “package” than Walmart. I was offered the position and I took it.

I’m there now.

With all that said, here is the point I wish to convey: the idea of success still exists. If a broken man with a record and past like me can pick himself up and get to a place he would consider success in the America of 2015, then anybody can. It’s still there. Will it always be there? I know not.

However, after what I have been through in the past year, after what I have fought for, and after what I have been able to achieve – what some may have thought impossible – I have become more firm in my belief that success and failure is an option… you can have either one. However, an underlying fact that was present with Madison and Washington in the Revolution still existed when Lincoln lived, and still exists now: the concept of “the pursuit of happiness”… pursuit is a hard word because it is not only the operative word, but also defined in this model by work, discipline, determination, and perseverance.

In sum: Never Quit. Success Exists. Failure is an Option.

PS: I’m back and will work hard on writing more often… (that’s to the person who slapped my hand in Walmart for not writing more). 🙂