Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Shit Happens Doctrine

Nearly two weeks after the Pulse nightclub massacre, I still don't know what to write.  I am unsure of exactly what I want to say or how to say it.  This attack stirs so many emotions within.  Probably because it hits three of the big ol' hot topics we like to argue about: Gays, Guns, and God.  As we mourn the forty-nine victims, most of us are seeking places to channel our outrage.  An act so heinous, so awful, sends us searching for understanding.  We want to know why, we want to know how, and we want to know how we stop it from happening again.  We lash out in frustration, looking for someone to hold responsible, looking for an easy solution.  We blame the NRA, homophobes, politicians, preachers, and Muslims.  Everyone has an angle.  Everyone wants his or her brand of justice.  We "like" memes, post links, and yell at the idiots on television.   Of course, there is no simple answer.  Not one we want to hear anyway.

Of the three big "G" issues involved, Gays is by far the easiest for me to reconcile.  I've written about my feelings on homosexuality before.  Love who you love. The real tragedy is that many homosexuals live in great fear every day, not just on mornings after events like Pulse.  Sadly, fearing ridicule and judgement seems on the low end of a spectrum that runs all the way to being afraid of being murdered because you were born differently.  Some want to celebrate America as this beautiful melting pot, but only if they can control the ingredients.

That brings me to Guns.  The big "G" with which I struggle the most.  I don't struggle with my personal feelings about guns; I abhor them.  I think most of our gun violence directly correlates to a fetishist attitude that guns are awesome and necessary.  An attitude that leads to casual behavior and an ambivalence towards the real repercussions guns carry.  Whether a country fella carries because it makes him tough or an inner city gang banger carries so he looks hard, the gun culture is a foolish exercise that is swallowing us up.  To the responsible gun owners who shoot only for hunting and sport, that keep your guns secured when not in use, that don't carry on your hip like some sort of Barney badass, I applaud and thank you.  Unfortunately, we don't hear enough about you.  Frankly, the dipshits who can't be trusted with their guns are becoming far too prominent.  Toddlers pulling unsecured pistols from purses, idiots brandishing weapons in church to de-escalate a dispute (good thinking!), Chicago men killing each other at a staggering rate - it's enough to make you go crazy.  I know, I know, I know-guns don't kill people, people kill people.  Really, though, it's people with guns that kill people.  Introducing a gun into a dispute can send it from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye.  Guns have one function: destroy the target.  That is why I hate them.  Too often the ramifications are only thought of after the trigger has been pulled.  My store stocks thirty-nine gun magazines on the newsstand.  Granted, that's fewer than the knitting/crocheting section, but Granny is unlikely to wield a half-finished scarf as a murder weapon.  The magazines glorify violence and stoke fear.  They make guns seem like the best solution.  When we celebrate guns, they become mainstream.  When guns become mainstream, we become less vigilant with their use.  When guns are normalized, when the destructive power is made casual, guns seem like the best solution.  So, yeah, I'm not a fan personally.

You know what, though?  I don't make the rules.  That is where I struggle with Guns with a capital "G".  My personal wish that guns would not be fetishized, celebrated and carried in grocery stores at some point intersects with my belief in the Second Amendment.  I don't pretend to have all the answers.  I'm not advocating taking guns away from most gun owners.  Just because I don't think you need an armory in your home, doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to have one.  However, something has to give.  If I have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to legally drive (operate a potentially dangerous death machine), you can jump through some bureaucratic hoops to purchase a gun (a potentially dangerous death machine).  Let's close the gun show loopholes.  Let's have mandatory background checks and waiting (cooling off) periods.  Let's require safety courses.  Let's strike a balance between restricting criminals/the mentally ill from purchasing guns and upholding the second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.  The tired argument that usually follows is that criminals will always find a way to get guns.  True.  Maybe, though, we can limit the criminals that do.  Maybe we can save a life by restricting someone with a history of domestic abuse from purchasing a gun.  Maybe we can use common sense to help.  Maybe, instead of clinging to divisive soundbites and old rhetoric, we can find the middle ground. 

I used my third "G", God, mostly because I like alliteration.  In relation to the Pulse massacre, I mostly mean the holy war between ISIS and the West.  While I am much more likely to die by handgun violence, I am more frightened of ISIS.  Domestic attacks done in their name really are terror inducing.  Terror has come to our shores in a fashion we are not accustomed to.  Our enemy is incredibly difficult to fight because he is incredibly difficult to find.  We have gone from fighting an army "over there" to fighting terrorists trained "over there" to the guy from "here", the guy walking next to you at Disney World, wanting you dead.   No longer is ISIS recruiting American jihadists to come train at their camps before going forth to destroy.  Now, with only an internet connection and a Twitter feed, they recruit American citizens to attack other American citizens.  ISIS seemingly says, "Go kill a bunch of your neighbors.  We don't really care how you do it, whatever works best for you,  just make sure you tag us in the Instagram so we can take credit!"  How in the heck are we supposed to combat that?

I don't have a good answer on what we should do, but I know a few things we shouldn't be doing.  We shouldn't be dropping indiscriminate bombs.  Unless we are willing to turn the desert into a sheet of glass, we are not going stop the ISIS that way.  We shouldn't use attacks like Pulse as cover to close our borders and be bigots towards all Muslims.  We shouldn't consent to unfounded, generalized wire taps, email searches, and other government overreach.  We shouldn't continue to play the World's policeman, alienating in the process.  We have neither the stomach, nor budget for perpetual war.  We can not continue to incite the very hate that fuels our enemies.  

We may be the lone superpower, but in the Middle East, the United States, just a kid at 200 plus years old, is meddling in affairs that have existed far longer.  It has taken me a long time to come to the realization that maybe the world is just the way it is.  Maybe only time can heal.  Maybe slow tectonic shifts beyond our control are the only forces of change.  Whether across the globe, or in our own backyard, we can not fix everything.  Maybe some things are not to be fixed.  Maybe to live in a free(ish) and open society we must realize that sometimes awful things will happen.  Call it the Shit Happens Doctrine.  I know it sounds callous on the surface.  I know it is of little consolation to the victims of the Pulse attack, or San Bernadino, or Oklahoma City.  It would be of no consolation to me were my family involved.  I don't like it one bit.  I simply fear that no amount of restriction, no amount of legislation, no amount of aggression will ever make us "safe" enough. 

There are, however, things we can do outside of government intervention on any of these three Gs.  We can show empathy.  Maybe we make an effort to know our neighbors whether they be white, black, gay, or Muslim.  We can further educate about the dangers of guns.  I will continue to rail against the fetishists, or, as my friend calls them, "ammosexuals", asking them to stop celebrating the gun culture that takes us on a road to nowhere.   We can demand our preachers and imams promote peace instead of division.  We can set aside the politics of fear.  We can maybe, just maybe, invest a little faith in each other.  Perhaps, together, we can highlight the humanity in Humanity.

  




Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Droning on and on...

I spent part of my Memorial Day taking my daughter, Grace, to War Memorial services honoring local servicemen killed in the line of duty.   Even though most of the ceremony was probably lost on the seven-year-old, I felt it was important to attempt teaching her respect for the sacrifices of men and women who serve.  As I watched our veterans, so many left crooked and bent by time and battle, I thought a great deal about the human toll of war.  Several other recent events- President Obama's trip to Hiroshima, the D-Day anniversary, even the passing of Muhammad Ali- leave me trying to somehow tabulate that cost.  Our war dead pay the steepest possible price; every veteran who once donned a uniform deserves our gratitude.  That is not debatable.  I wonder, however, if we think enough of the ravaging we do on foreign soil.  Specifically, I wonder if we pay enough attention to the Bushbama Drone Strike program.

I say Bushbama because the program initiated by President George W. Bush (approximately 50 strikes) has been seemingly "perfected" by President Barack Obama (approximately 500 strikes and counting).  For the record, I voted for each of these men once.  This isn't a Republican/Democrat beef; my only agenda is regard for civilian lives.  This won't even be an argument about nation building, regime change, meddling, or generally sticking Uncle Sam's nose where it may not belong.  No, this is simply a question of methodology.

When discussing things of global import such as these, I have sometimes been treated like I just don't get it, like I can't understand the magnitude.  If we are talking about women, what currently constitutes a reception in the NFL, or the enduring popularity of Kanye West then I would agree with you, I don't understand.  But I think I grasp this concept okay.  Using unmanned aircraft in place of pilots and ground troops to kill terrorists? Good.  Killing hundreds of civilians in the process?  Bad.   When I hear presidential candidates suggest "carpet bombing" or torturing and killing terrorists' families I pray those statements are more neglectful rhetoric than proposed doctrine.  I ask them, and the defenders of the Bushbama program, what is an acceptable number of civilian casualties?  What is acceptable collateral damage?  Remember, one man's collateral damage is another man's sweet child.  In this nation, so many fight to end abortion, to abolish the death penalty, to preserve life.  Shouldn't we voice equal outrage at the taking of innocent lives abroad? 

When signing the guestbook at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial President Obama wrote, "We have known the agony of war.  Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons."  I know our drones don't carry nuclear payloads, but President Obama's administration, his military, and his CIA continue to kill innocents alongside terrorists.  Perhaps, in his words, he could "find the courage" to reign in the drone program as currently constructed, because I assure you the collateral civilians below know full well the agony of war.  I suspect the whine of a neighborhood-destroying drone overhead is a perfect recruitment poster for ISIS, fomenting hatred and creating more of the very villains we seek (rightfully so) to destroy.

It is said that sometimes the ends justify the means.  But if the means are immoral, just what ends are we protecting?  What are we fighting to preserve?  America, lone superpower, global titan, should reach out with its giant hand outstretched, not with clenched fist raining indiscriminate fire from the sky. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

Vampire Weekend

It is usually not a good thing when your wife, very early in the morning, calls up to you from the kitchen asking you to, "Please come down here now."  Her tone suggested not alarm, but at least a sense of urgency.  I immediately scrolled through my memory bank for scenes from the night before.  Had I left the lid off the peanut butter?  Forgotten to flush in the guest bathroom?  Uh-oh, maybe it was the cat.

 Let me back up a step here.  Three days prior, on Memorial Day, our eighteen-year-old cat had some health issues.  Like maybe end-of-life health issues.  Vomiting, labored breathing, and lethargy led to a trip to the animal  hospital.*   There she was subjected to diagnostics and treatments more befitting Colonel Steve Austin.  Luckily, the bill came in at (barely) less than six million dollars  and Mama Cat returned home, perhaps not better/faster/stronger, but, to Amanda's and our daughter Grace's great relief, healthier than Monday morning.  Forgive me for thinking of our two cats in terms of $$$$$; I'm just a little jaded by years of eye surgeries, specially formulated senior cat food, and a visit to a kitty orthodontist. (Yes, that's a thing.  No, we did not go all in to get the kitty dentures.)   Our cats feel more like mail order brides - we pay a lot for companionship.  So when I heard Amanda calling from the first floor, I wondered if Mama had suffered an expensive setback.

Fortunately, Mama was okay.  Instead, upon entering the kitchen, I found three animals.  Our two cats and the dead bat they had apparently killed overnight.  Yes, a bat.  Winged demon of the night.  Purveyor of nightmares.  Flying rodent.   In other words, not a guest I want in our breakfast nook.  I guess the vets really were miracle workers.  Two days earlier, this cat could barely breathe on her own, now she is Mama Cat: Vampire Hunter.  I promptly scooped up the rug on which the bat was laid out placing it gently (alright, with a slight thud) in the outside garbage.  I am not squeamish, but I am, as I may have written about a time or two, a giant germophobe.  I panicked a little, wondering exactly what the dark beast hand landed on while in the house.  Did it play around in the fruit bowl?  With no air traffic controller awake to tell him, "Negative Ghostrider, the pattern is full", did he buzz the toaster and drop guano bombs in the bread slots?  With my mind racing, I ignored more important questions.  Amanda brought me back from the brink momentarily, then pushed me right over.  "I'm curious how he got in here," she wondered aloud, "and we need to think about rabies."  RABIES?!?!  Suddenly, I heard nothing but the insistent belch of a submarine dive horn.  Yes, indeed, we should think about rabies.  I don't want rabies.  I don't want our cats to be rabid.  Methinks that would make them more annoying than usual.  Of course, that would be about my luck to have the cat gingerly and expensively nursed back to health only to be felled by rabies days later. 

What's that you say? Shouldn't the cats be fine because they are up to date on their rabies vaccinations?  Not so fast, my friend.  Our cats our indoor cats only.  Assuming there was minimal risk, we gambled figured there was no rush to get their most recent shots.  The vaccinations have lapsed by a bit.  Only a problem when the outdoors comes inside like it did this week.  Genius.
 
To ward off the hypochondria, I set about figuring out what steps we needed to take to make sure our family is safe.  The health department told me we are not in an emergency situation; we can afford to get test results back on the bat before proceeding.  I fished the deceased bat out of the garbage so he could be shipped off to Baltimore for testing.  Then I made the terrible mistake of jumping on the Googles.  I read stories of humans contracting rabies because it is possible that you can be bitten without feeling it.  Seems suspect to me, yet if it's on the internet it must be true.  True enough, anyway, to plant the seeds of hypochondriac hysteria in my brain.   I managed to steer clear of reading about symptoms of rabies in humans, otherwise I would feel all of them within minutes.   The health department informed me we would have test results by today or possibly not until Monday.  If the bat is rabid, we learn the protocol of what happens next.  Thus begins our weekend of waiting.  If you need me, I'll be over here expecting my salivary glands to kick into overdrive, or my face to melt off, or whatever other horrible things I imagine happen as you grow rabid.  In the meantime, please pass the Count Chocula.  

*Holiday rates may apply.


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Enemy Among Us

Friends, we are in danger.  Dark forces assemble at the gates.  The enemy looms above, threatening to overshadow all that is good.  An enemy so sinister it can destroy what is most important to you.  This is a call to arms, a call to prepare yourself.  What foe lurks nearby?  An unchecked Obama making it unsafe to pee in public?  Hardly.  A Trump presidency? Nope.  I told you how to thwart that months ago.  No, it is a simpler menace, more insidious because it hides in plain sight.  A peril both universal and personal: Beware the "tyranny of the everyday grind."  I wish I had coined the phrase; I only heard it on the radio.  It was sort of a throwaway line from the host as he told a story, but it resonated with me.  This is a phrase I love and hate at the same time.  I love it for its sharp descriptiveness and hate it because I have felt the weight of its oppression. 

The "Everyday Grind", sadly, is not the name of my daily televised hip-hop dance program.  (Tell me  you wouldn't watch that!)  No, the Everyday Grind is the trap of the routines and patterns of living we fall into.  The Grind has many faces; it is different for everyone.  Maybe it is banging your head against the wall at a job you hate.  Maybe it is playing chauffeur for overscheduled children.  Maybe taking a spouse for granted.  It is not always something inherently negative that grinds us up.  Perhaps it is a career we enjoy, but to which we dedicate too much time.  Perhaps spending every waking moment with a new love until we feel smothered.  Perhaps the unfulfilled boredom of retirement.  If we are not careful, if we don't pay close enough attention, the monotony slowly builds, piling up until it topples us over and pins us down.  Being mired in the mundane, swept up by repetition, can leave us in poor health physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If you don't think the emotional part is a thing, then this post is for you.  To combat the Grind, to break out of the SAME THING day after day, you must find an outlet.  Go running.  Get shitfaced with old friends.  Crank the knob on your amp and blow away the neighbors with a jam session.  Find some way to turn the page, if only for a few hours.  Find an escape; your health depends on it.

For me, the escape is the beach.  Warmed by the sun and rocked to sleep by the lullaby of breaking waves, my troubles are carried away on a balmy ocean breeze.  What is it about the sea that calls to us?  Is it the unbroken horizon, abundant with possibility, stoking our adventurous spirit?  Is it the healing waters ready to wash us clean?  Is it the delicate balance of powerful beauty and complex mystery, at once life-giving and capable of destruction?  When we head to the coast  we are able to, literally and figuratively, shed our real world constraints.  I race to the ocean seeking renewal.  I never fail to be soothed by the steady, constant rhythm of surf meeting shoreline.

I beg you to find a way to avoid the stale muck of the mundane.  Remember life is to be lived, not endured, not tolerated, not muddled through.  Find your outlet, find a getaway.  And if you can't think of anything, come join me "down the ocean" for some sand, surf and sun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

PG-Parental Guidance Suggested

Internet, I am going to let you in on a secret.  Most of us working in retail management did not aspire to these great heights, it just sort of happens.  But now that I have reached this career pinnacle, my Olympus, if you will, I figure I have earned the right to lob a few Zeus-ian (or is it Gene Simmons-ian) thunderbolts of advice.

You see, retail managers burn out from equal parts customer shenanigans, corporate bunk rolling downhill, and having to babysit smarmy, lazy, know-it-all twentysomething shithams.  It is the last of these I would like to address directly:

           Hi guys.  I don't know what kind of leadership you have been given previously, and, truthfully, I can't promise what type you'll always receive here, but I have a few tips for you.  Dress up for an interview.  Shorts are not appropriate.  Look people in the eye.  Unless you set it up for Minute Maid, you may want to leave your lemonade stand off your resume.  Act like you care, even when you don't.  It takes more than showing up to earn a paycheck.  Speaking of showing up, you may want to do that (on time) every time you are scheduled.  You may (Gasp!) have to sacrifice something fun because you are scheduled to work.  Guess what?  I do it all the time.  Listen, remember, write it down; I am not teaching you how to do something for my health.  I actually expect you to retain and use this information.  Don't bullshit me; I have been lied to by better than you.  Don't tell another manager one thing and tell me the opposite.  Why yes, we are open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Yes, we do need to staff the store on Christmas Eve.  I also want to see my family, but we CHOSE to work in retail.  Praise is necessary, but don't expect me to hand you a cookie or do a touchdown dance every single time you complete a task that is a minimum expectation of your position.  If you don't know or remember how to do something, ask.  You may think you are saving face, but I assure you that you look twice as stupid trying to fake your way through something and doubling down by lying to me about it.  Don't be so stupid as to doodle, sit down,  ignore customers, text on your phone or steal(!) on camera.  Don't act offended when I correct your behavior.   And, PLEASE, for love of everything holy, please don't tell me how to do my job on your first day. 

I know this post will be dismissed by some as a "Get off my lawn/When I was your age/Kids these days" rant.  To me, it is more a call to action.  Kids unprepared and/or unwilling to work hard are not Bernie Sanders' fault.  They are not this way because "everybody gets a trophy."  That's too easy a narrative to slip into, too broad a brush with which to paint. I will not lay this at the feet of Millennials and Generation Z.  I know plenty of young people that are killing it. Frankly, killing it with passion, direction, and effort that I did not possess at age twenty-three.  I work with some young people who attack even the most mundane of tasks with enthusiasm, hard work, and a smile.  They do what is asked of them and more.  Sadly, in my experience, there is not enough of them.  

No, this is not bashing all young adults; it is a call to action for parents. The problems I described are not endemic to an entire generation; they are born in the home.  Mom and Dad must lay the foundations of responsibility, work ethic, and sense of right and wrong.  Our observant children learn from us their social cues and behavior modification.  Parental Guidance isn't just a label on a movie poster.  Only through our lead, will our children be receptive to criticism and lessons from teachers and coaches.  Parents, I beg you, let your children be disciplined in school, let them be coached on the field, reprimand them at home.  You are doing them a disservice if you don't. 

I hear, almost daily, complaints from parents about the roadblocks thrown in front of their kids by the "system."  Parroting critiques of Common Core and whining about summer reading assignments.  You would think the parents themselves were being asked to turn off Netflix and pick up Hemingway.  I witness incredulous mom after angry dad try to find the shortest books for their child.  God forbid we expect our child to work their way through 300 pages of  Austen or Faulkner.  Hell, we should be encouraging it.  What rankles me more, though, is that I am even speaking to the parent.  Why isn't the sixteen-year-old asking me for help instead of standing nearby rolling his eyes or scrolling through her phone with the bored countenance of a Kardashian?  Little pleases me more at work than when a young child, empowered and encouraged by their parent, asks for help locating a book.  I have to restrain myself from high-fiving that parent.  Such small steps can make a huge difference in preparing a child.  It is not that far a leap from confidently asking me for help as a kid to being able to look me in the eye during a job interview as a college student. 

Mom and Dad, you want your child to be good citizen?  Act like it.       

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dad Plaid

This may come as a shock to you, but I have never been considered stylish.  Mostly because I don't care to be considered stylish, especially by today's standards.  Man buns, skinny jeans, and fedoras?  No thanks, I'll pass.  More power to you if you can pull it off; I'll be over here dressing a little more pedestrian.  It is fair to say my style evolution has not progressed past Cro-magnon.  In elementary school I was the whitest kid to ever rock parachute pants, break laces, muscle shirts to reveal my twig-like arms, and, of course, Jams.  Junior high brought attempted preppy with some tight-rolled jeans thrown in.  High school dress code was acid-washed jeans, high tops, rugby shirts, college sweatshirts, puffy Starter jackets, and whatever semi-profane t-shirts we thought were clever (they weren't) at the time like "Big Johnson's" or "You can't beat the meat at Alan's Deli!"  Oh, early 90's you were so silly.  I skipped Grunge, never owning Doc Martens, baggy jeans, or a wallet chain.  No, I spent college in lacrosse shorts.  Never mind that I never played lacrosse or that the shorts were completely impractical with no pockets.  Since college, it has been a steady diet of long sleeve t-shirts and khakis with some ugly Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts mixed in for "variety."  Not exactly the makings of a GQ photo shoot.

Recently, I looked in my closet and realized I have unconsciously altered my wardrobe a bit.  I have developed a uniform.  I still have Converse and flip-flops, and plenty of khaki shorts.  I also saw an alarming number of plaid shirts.  I'm not complaining, I was just surprised at how many plaid shirts were populating my closet.  Long sleeve, short sleeve, lightweight cotton, heavier flannel, it is a rainbow smorgasbord of Dad Plaid.  Dad Plaid- the mid-sized sedan of men's attire.  Like a white picket fence you can take with you wherever you go.  Dad Plaid- timeless, efficient, dad-like.  Timeless?  Heck yeah.  Dads throughout history have sported the plaid, linking fathers across generations.  Efficient? You bet.  It allows dad to be comfortable, colorful, and boring simultaneously.  And, yes, a plaid shirt is dad-like in its versatility.  Tuck it in for instant Business Casual.  Untuck for Casual Casual.  Perfect for a picnic. (Sometimes you even match the tablecloth!)  It is lightweight enough to throw on at the beach.  Your plaid shirt is dressy enough for dinner somewhere nicer than Taco Bell, but is not formal or stuffy.  Its handy single front pocket is great for stashing a pen at the office or protecting whatever random piece of jewelry your daughter asks you to hold while she twirls/flips/barrel rolls across the playground.  Untucked, it hides (I hope) the flaws of my dad bod better than a clingy golf shirt.  Although, that is a lot to ask of a shirt.  There is only so much masking you can do when you are a man of larger carriage.  Plaid is, indeed, rad.

A closet full of Dad Plaid indicates you have settled into that sweet middle ground of somewhat giving a shit.  Your fraternity days are long passed.  You have places to be where you can't show up looking like a total slob.  Dance recitals, preschool graduations, homeowners association meetings.  But if you want to spend your day off binging on hot wings and ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries, well your plaid is quite the comfortable choice of garment.  Just pop an extra button and settle in.  Yes, a closet full of plaid shirts indicates I have landed where I want to be: a gentleman of leisure, a suburban stalwart, a DAD.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Indiana Votes and the End of the Republic!

Indiana Votes and the End of the Republic! No, unfortunately, this is not a Harrison Ford adventure movie; this truth is stranger than fiction.  Today's Indiana primary will likely lock up the Republican nomination for Donald Trump.  It doesn't have to be this way, America.  If we can prolong the contest until the convention, we can shake things up, getting your dream candidate. Ted Cruz? Heaven's no, he's more dangerous than Sarah Palin at a geography bee.  No, not Trump or Cruz.  It's me; I'm the man for the job.  I've previously told you why I am better than the current front runner.  Now allow me to explain why I am a better candidate than Mr. Cruz.  I suppose fireside chats are obsolete, so cozy up to your phone or laptop for the modern day equivalent.  Learn why I, Bryan Hailey, will move America #EverForward.

How do I differ from Senator Cruz?  Let me count the ways.  First, to my knowledge, I've never been referred to as "Lucifer in the flesh".  Fortunately for the world at large, most people, my self included, refrain from mentioning my flesh at all.  I don't even show off this doughy dad bod at the beach. You're welcome.  Secondly, I have yet to demonstrate enough hubris to select a running mate before being nominated.  Who does this guy think he is?  Maybe he has read The Secret one too many times.  Wishing hard that you are the nominee does not make you the nominee.  You have to be patient like me, attempting to steal the nomination at the convention.  Duh. (However, I will break a little news.  Currently on my VP short list: Peter Dinklage, Spud Webb, and Kevin Hart. Dad jokes!)  Thirdly, unless you are my seven-year-old, I have not lectured you in a pretentious, condescending, speaking-slow-so-you-can-keep-up manner.  Fourthly, have you ever seen Senator Cruz in red pants?  Look at the picture up there; they are magnificent!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I am not a fear-mongering, hate-fomenting scare tactician trying to drum up votes on the backs of people already bullied enough.  This transgender bathroom nonsense has to stop.  People choosing to use the public restroom assigned to the gender they identify with pose no more harm (probably less) to our children than a non-transgender person.  I have given this matter much consideration.  I have debated it with smart people.  I don't know what these smart people can't see about the situation.  The people I have debated are not bigots. Perhaps they are scared of what they don't know or understand?  I simply don't get it. 

My favorite part of this argument and these proposed laws is that many of the proponents, sponsors, and supporters of these bills identify as small government champions.  It is hypocritical on their part to propose unnecessary laws.  Laws which will be enforced how?  Oh, oh, I know!  We can expand government further by creating a Potty Police Force to perform cup checks in every public restroom nationwide.  Give me a break.

Of course, the biggest outcry from supporters is,"What about the children?!?!"  Yes, the world is a scary place.  We venture out into this frightening place every day and face much bigger obstacles than what may trans-pire (See what I did there?) in a public restroom.  Here's a few things about the fear Cruz and his ilk try to drum up. My daughter uses public restrooms A LOT.  In fact, Grace has never met one she didn't "need" to use.  I am frightened of public restrooms because they are fetid bastions of germs and piss-covered toilet seats.  I also think about who could be lurking inside.  I send my daughter into the ladies' room knowing full well someone in there could be shooting up, could be a homeless person setting up camp, could be a lesbian "allowed" to be in there waiting to prey upon a girl or another woman, or could be a lady filling a stink bucket with a nose-wrinkling load.  And, you know what?  There could even be a dude hanging out in there waiting to pounce.  Because if a dude has already made the deal with his moral code that he is going to rape or molest, do we really think he will be deterred by a symbol on a bathroom door?  I ease my fears by teaching my daughter to be aware of her surroundings.  I tell her to scream her head off if something goes South.  You can believe I will kick in the door of a ladies' room if I heard Grace scream out.

My point is, Grace is in no more danger than normal because a woman born in a man's body shares a bathroom with her.  She has probably already been in restrooms with ladies who were born dudes.  I have probably shared restrooms with dudes who were born ladies.  Why do we care?  Think about how scary the world might be if you were transgender.  Think about how scary life might be if you truly felt you were born in the wrong body.  How scary it might be if at every turn you were ridiculed (or worse) because of it.  If using a certain bathroom gives these folks a slice of peace and comfort, then I am all for it.  It doesn't harm me (Or you, America!) in the least.  I'd venture to say transgender people know themselves a whole lot better than the rest of us.  Maybe we should invest in a little more introspection.  Or better yet, maybe introduce yourself (preferably not in the restroom) to somebody who is "different" than you.  White, black, gay, straight, mentally ill, in a wheel chair, nerd, Republican, Democrat, introvert, Kanye, transgender...we're all "different".  All with more in common than what divides us.  All deserving of dignity and respect.

Now, come on, Empathy, Introspection, Red Pants...are these not the things you seek in a candidate?

#Hailey2016  #EverForward

It Ain't Easy Being Red.

Hi, my name is Bryan and I am a Cap-oholic.  The internet has likely tired of my Washington Capitals jabber, but I can't help myself.  Asking me to stay silent during a playoff showdown with the Pens is akin to expecting an alcoholic to stay sober on Nickel Draft Night.  I'd like to think, despite my Cap-oholism, that I give coherent, objective analysis and opinion.  Read on if you care to find out.

After Game 3, I feel there are, once again, mystical powers at work.  Forces that we can not explain with rationality, common sense, or logic.  There will be no dictating circumstances; we all, players, fans, announcers alike, are just along for the cosmic joyride.  Two specific areas of this series are currently up in the air, beholden only to the whims of the Universe.  One, is how the Capitals respond to the seemingly annual tradition of failing to win a playoff game they dominate.  The second is the impossible task of trying to deduce how the NHL will deal with Kris Letang's dirty hit on Marcus Johansson.

Longtime readers likely assume that on Point One I am feeling as dreary as this morning's downpour.  A safe bet, to be sure, but one they would lose.  Yes, virtually everything that transpired during last night's game would suggest that these are the same old Caps: plucky buggers who simply will not overcome the Hockey Gods that perpetually conspire against them.  Yes, the Caps peppered the latest "hot goalie", Matt Murray, with forty-nine (49!) shots only to come away with a paltry two goals.  Yes, presumed Vezina winner Braden Holtby gave up goals on two of the first three shots he faced, including a tip-in and a deflection off a forward's back.  Yes, our boys in red finally played the full sixty minute game we have been begging them to bring.  Yes, the Caps did everything correct EXCEPT WIN THE GAME.  These are all evidence that this series is another in a string of playoff misfortune that routinely befalls this franchise.  All omens, talisman, or signs that "here we go again."  Fellow fans, I can't blame you if you feel that way.  It makes sense.  Well, nothing about Washington's postseasons ever make sense.  I simply mean I understand why you would feel that way. 

It is also a line of thought of which I have grown tired.  Maybe I'm delusional.  Maybe I'm drunk on Red Rocker Kool-Aid.  Today, I choose to see the good.  To see the sparks of hope from Game 3.  I must admit, it feels weird, like when you drive someone else's car.  You know how, it's just not what you are used to.  I know the Pens, the League, or the Caps themselves could snuff out those sparks of hope quickly tomorrow night.  However, if you look objectively, not through "The Sky Is Falling" lenses, the omens of the tide turning were present.  First, Alex Ovechkin was everywhere last night.  He scored his first goal of the series, which was also his first against the Penguins all season.  He looked like he could have scored a half dozen more. (That would have been nice, eh?)  He was destroying people with huge, clean hits.  He skated, competed like a champion, and LED this team.  Secondly, Justin Williams hopped off the side of a milk carton and into the series.  His first goal was a big one.  If he can continue land on the score sheet for something beyond a penalty, our guys might be okay.  Thirdly,we have a coach that exudes confidence.  For all I  know it is an act, but Barry Trotz looked comfortable in the postgame press conference.  He knows his guys are good.  He knows they face only a one game deficit.  He knows it is a BEST OF SEVEN.   I trust Barry Trotz.  (Though, I do have one small piece of advice for him.  Unlike fans, coaches don't usually believe in superstitions. However, I have noticed, largely through no fault of his own, that the team is now 0-4 in the playoffs with Taylor Chorney in the lineup.  Just sayin...)  Maybe he hasn't yet been swallowed by the Caps Curse, but I will take Trotz's mindset over Bruce Boudreau's red-faced uncertainty any day.  Finally, and this will sound ridiculous on the surface, by losing Game 3, it is now mathematically impossible for the Caps to blow a 3-1 series lead.  Silly, right?  Who wouldn't want to be up 2-1 or 3-1?  Maybe these guys.  This team plays better when desperate.  Playing from ahead, listening to the whispers of playoffs past rarely works for them.  If they can escape Pittsburgh with the series tied 2-2, the Caps will be looking good. 

Winning Game 4 may be a task made easier if Pens defenseman Kris Letang doesn't play.  Whether or not he is suspended is the second great mystery coming out of Game 3.  In the first period he caught Marcus Johansson with a high, late hit to the head.  The shot was as dirty, as unnecessary, as punishable as Brooks Orpik's hit in Game 2.  As of the time I write this, the NHL has not levied a punishment for the hit.  I thought Orpik deserved a one game suspension.  He received three.  Because I think the hits are equitable, I would lobby for Letang to also receive three games.  Unfortunately, several factors lead me to believe the NHL will not drop the hammer on Letang.  One, he is a star player for the Pens.  It shouldn't matter, but it does.  Secondly, even though he has one prior suspension, Letang does not have the same headhunting reputation that Orpik carries.  Finally, from what I have read from hockey writers since the hit, the league's Office of Player Safety factors the extent of the injuries sustained into the equation.  The thinking goes that since Olli Maata has missed time from the Orpik hit, Orpik's suspension may be longer than Letang's because Marcus Johansson was able to stay in the game last night.  Personally, I feel this SHOULD NOT factor into the decision.  If the league truly wants to eradicate these head shots it must punish the act, not  the intent of the checker or the extent of the injury.  We will see how the NHL acts later this afternoon.  My prediction is a one game suspension.   Let's just say I have more faith in my Caps, even with their record of failure, than I do in the often inconsistent Office of Player Safety. 

Maybe Kris Letang will be suspended, maybe he won't.  Maybe the Caps will be swept up in another doomed postseason, maybe they won't.  The signs are there to be read however you'd like to see them.  Today, I look to the positive.  Today, I Rock the Red.  Let's Go Caps!