A Thank You To My Father

It’s Father’s Day, so it is appropriate a day as any to do something I  don’t do often enough–to thank you, Dad.  Though saying “thank you” through a blog may seem like a little odd, I’m doing it for a reason. Almost every day, someone thanks me for helping them with something, and thank me for being who I am.  And I tell them that it is thanks to you and Mom that I am that person.  I want them to see what mean when I say that.  I want everyone to witness what an amazing man you are.  So here goes.

Dad. Father. Scoutmaster. Head Usher. Repairman. Teacher. Inspiration.  You’ve been a lot of things to me throughout my thirty years of life, and every single one of them has contributed to who I am today.  I say this from the bottom of my heart: Thank you.  And I have to throw an apology in here, because I don’t think I say that nearly often enough, so I’m sorry for that. That’s something I am working on changing.

I know we’ve not always gotten along, and sometimes we’re polar opposites, but as I’ve grown and matured (again, thanks to you and Mom), I’ve learned that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I think the fact that we have different perspectives is one of the many things that has allowed me to grow further.  You’ve always been there to push me just a little harder, to go just one step further, to try just one more time, and I know in the past I’ve acted like I didn’t appreciate it, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The truth is that your positive influence built me up into someone I like to think you can be proud of.

Let me give you an example.

When I was a young teenager, I was very active in Boy Scouts, and this was in no small part thanks to your encouragement.  Unfortunately, as I got a little older, being involved in Scouts became uncool; it took up too much of my precious time; it was a responsibility I had never asked for.  And I began to resent it.  I earned my Life Scout rank (for those unfamiliar with Boy Scouts, this is the step before becoming an Eagle Scout), and I decided that enough was enough.  I was out.  I wanted to focus on things I enjoyed doing instead of being the uncool kid in Scouts.

You didn’t let me.  And if we’re being totally honest, at that point, I did not like you one bit.  To my rebellious teen mind, you were the Man, forcing me to do something I didn’t want to do.  At that time, I couldn’t see your motivation–it wasn’t that you wanted me to be like you (as you are also an Eagle Scout).  I couldn’t see that you pushed me forward because of the love you bear for me.  You bargained and argued and threatened until you succeeded–at the age of sixteen, I became a third-generation Eagle Scout.  Soon after, both of my younger brothers followed suit.

Now, when I look back on those times, I can see something that took me a very long time to learn: You were right.

I’ll say that again, for the record: You were right to push me.

You saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at that time–a future.  I was too young to see that far forward, but you knew better, and you focused me.  And now I have a set of skills that are immeasurably useful in every aspect of my life.  And becoming an Eagle Scout is just one example of the wonderful ways you’ve helped me grow.

I think it’s amazingly ironic that one of your favourite things to do in life is gardening.  It’s something that I’ve always been a bit envious of, because I don’t have your natural talent for growing green things, but I’ve come to enjoy it as you’ve taught me.  You come home every day after work, and one of the first things you do is water your plants.  And when you spend hours in the garden, making sure your vegetables and flowers and trees are growing healthily.

And yet, your greatest crop was–is–the three amazing sons you’ve fed, watered, and cultivated.  You made sure that grew strong in the light, that we always had everything we needed, and you helped protect us from the weeds that life throws at us.  Most importantly, once we were able to grow on our own, you let us grow unaided.

But you are still there, ever the gardener, ready to help your sons’ growth in whatever what you can. As Ashley and I talk and plan our future, it is my greatest hope that I am able to channel everything you’ve taught me in teaching my own children.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, from a grateful son.  I love you.

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The Hypocrisy of the Trump Administration

Donald Trump is many things to many people. He’s a businessman or a bully; a father or a bigot; a president or a joke. But Trump is one thing above all others, and it’s hard to deny it–a hypocrite. Or a liar, whichever you prefer.

See, Donald has run a long con, and the American people (well, forty-six percent of them, anyway) were duped.  And while getting someone to admit they are wrong is a nigh-impossible task, here are a few reminders of policies that Trump ran on that don’t seem to matter now.

Presidential Disclosure

For years Trump raged on and on about President Obama’s birth certificates, backing the racist birther movement almost from the start. Here are a few tweets of his in case you’ve chosen to forget.

This was despite the fact that President Obama had, in fact, released his birth certificate not once, but twice–first via a short form in 2008 and again with the full, original certificate in 2011.

Fast forward to 2016, however, and the very moment Trump is asked to release a document that is vital to his campaign, he shuts right the hell up.  Trump, to this day, has not released his tax records, documents which could very possibly tie him to his varied and sundry conflicts of interest overseas. Even worse, he says that he’s not going to for the obviously-not-made-up reason that “people don’t care”. Mr. Trump, let me say this clearly–I care.  And I’m not alone.  If you’re so trustworthy, just release your tax records.

The Separation of Privacy

Many people will argue that one of the biggest downfalls of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was Trump’s insistence that she broke the law by keeping secure information on a private server. (Many others of us would tell you that it is her disconnect from the common American and the fact that she is representative of a status quo that we don’t support.) Time and time again he raised it as fact that Clinton had broken the law, despite the FBI clearing her name twice.

And now that the Donald sits in the Oval Office, it comes back around. Shortly after taking office, several of Trump’s most senior staff–including Bannon–were found to have private RNC accounts.  Now, this isn’t inherently illegal–as demonstrated by the FBI not finding fault in Clinton–but it causes us to raise our eyebrows in concern.  There is meant to be a clear separation between private and government e-mail accounts, as outlined in the “Disclosure Requirement for Official Business Conducted Using Electronic Messaging Accounts”.  And yet, immediately after being called to the carpet, e-mails belonging to Bannon, Kushner, and Conway were deleted.

One would think that, after slinging mud at Clinton for months over her use of a private server, Trump would have learned his lesson.  Instead, he comes off as a child, pushing Clinton’s face further into the mud.

Helping the Middle Class

One of Trump’s major running points was that he would help rebuild America’s middle class. He promised that he would do so by bringing jobs back into America, by cutting taxes on the middle class, and by focusing the economy on American jobs.

Sadly, this was little more than lip service from the Trumpster.

On literally his first day in office, Trump’s administration reversed a cut on mortgage insurance rates, which adds up to approximately $500 per year that America’s middle class is now looking at paying.

In addition to this, the proposed wall between Mexico and America that Trump has promised will cost between $15 billion and $20 billion USD.  Putting aside the fact that the majority of Americans oppose the wall, Trump has proclaimed time and time again that Mexico would pay for the wall.  After a failed conversation with Mexico’s President Nieto, it became clear that Mexico was, by no means, intending to pay for the wall.  And what was Donald’s brilliant solution? A 20% import tax on Mexican products. And guess who that import tax would most likely effect?

Give yourself a round of applause if you guessed “middle-class Americans”.

Finally–and probably most impactful on what is becoming rather like a war on the middle class–is Trump’s planned repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act.  The Act was a measure put into place in 2010 as a response to the financial collapse of 2008.  It regulated banks and made it more difficult for them to harm consumers.  Trump argues that it is an unfair law, as it disallows his friends from getting loans.  Don’t just take my word for it; here’s what Trump himself said: “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money.”

Bear in mind that most of Trump’s friends are A) multi-millionaires, and B) currently involved in American politics, either through backing of candidates, through lobbying, or by actually serving in office.  Which brings me to my next point…

Draining the Swamp

Aside from calls to “lock her up” or “build the wall”, Trump’s most famous call to action was to “drain the swamp”.  He argued (and rightly so, in this case) that Washington was filled to the brim with career politicians who were in it for the money, or those corrupted after working in a broken system.  Trump vowed that he would empty the mire and bring about a much-needed change in the heart of American politics.

Instead, he’s proven time and again that he’s looking out only for himself and those who have supported him–in most cases, these are fellow billionaires.

Take today’s big political news, for instance–Betsy DeVos was confirmed in her role as the Secretary of Education of the United States.  It is her job, now, to oversee the Department of Education in all that it handles, including setting policy for public schools, private schools, and post-secondary schools, as well as handling the trillions of dollars in student loans and grants.

And what experience does Ms. DeVos have to be the SecEd? Absolutely none.  So what does she have going for her? I’ll allow the following graphic to explain for me:

That’s right–she has money. Money is how she became involved with politics in the first place, and given her beliefs about the current education system, money is her goal moving forward.

And Betsy DeVos is just one example out of dozens of potentials.  Rex Tillerson is a fellow billionaire who is now the Secretary of State. Wilbur Ross, the Commerce nominee, is yet another billionaire.  Jeff Sessions, Steve Mnuchin, Tome Price, and Ben Carson are each worth multiple millions of dollars.

Does having money mean that these nominees are inherently bad choices for the positions? Not at all.  What I’m trying to point out is Trump’s hypocrisy at the insistence of draining a swamp which is only continuing to fill.

And yes, in DeVos’ case, having money makes her a bad choice.  Just saying.

Making America Great Again

Perhaps Trump’s greatest lie–his biggest con by far–is his campaign slogan: “Maker America Great Again”.

This is wrong on so many levels. Let me start with the simplest.

When did we suddenly stop being great? Seriously.  Can someone answer this?

I’m not saying we’ve been the greatest country in the world, but we were pretty fantastic in many cases.  We’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave.  And yes, we need to make a lot of changes, especially in regards to race, religion, and sexuality, but the fact that we can have an open discussion about the inequality is something that makes us great in the first place.

Do you know what else makes us great?

America has come to be a place of open tolerance, of acceptance of people simply for who they were.  If you don’t believe me, look at the sheer number of Super Bowl commercials that claimed “We accept you. Period.” And yes, this is pandering to the open mindset of modern America, but it works because of our open mindset.

And yet, the president of the United States is openly bullying immigrants coming to a country founded by immigrants.  That makes a lot of sense.

What makes it truly despicable is how downright unconstitutional Trump’s bullying is. It singles out seven Muslim-majority countries, and places higher allowances on Christian individuals. Fortunately, the ban has been blocked by a federal judge, and will be taken to court, where hopefully it will be smashed against the Constitution that it is doing nothing to uphold.

In Conclusion

I realise that what I’ve written may look like several pages’ worth of anti-Trump ranting, but it always comes back to one point: we the people have been lied to by the president.  Many of us have been conned, while some of us have been screaming “Liar!” all along.  Regardless of where you stood before, it’s time to open your eyes to the hypocrisy and lies that have come to define the forty-fifth president. Moving forward, I challenge you to find the truth behind the lies, to uncover fact and disbelieve fiction. Maybe then we can truly be great again–but not before.