Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Adult In The Room

I grew up as the middle brother of three while my mom worked ungodly 12-hour shifts as an ER and pediatric nurse.  That meant me and my brothers, one older and one younger, spent a lot of time by ourselves.  And you can imagine that we found ways to entertain each other.  For the most part, we were able to stay out of trouble .  I think I was the one between the three of us that got in trouble the most which isn't saying much.  We all had a healthy fear of mom because she demonstrated on a few occasions that "crazy" was just one idiotic decision away from showing itself...and let's just say "crazy" wasn't pretty. To be clear, mom=pretty;  crazy=not pretty

I know Mom spent many nights on her knees praying for her boys.  That, and my older brother, kept us out of a lot of trouble.  Kalvin was the constant male influence/older brother/imagined antagonist that looked out for us when we didn't know better.  I gave him a lot of grief and made things hard on him at times because I resented what I perceived to be his status.  He got to do things and go places which made me envious.  What I didn't realize until later was the pressure and responsibility he had to bear by virtue of our home situation.  He couldn't just be a kid...he had to be the responsible one most of the time because of Mom's work schedule. He was the de facto adult in the room.

As I watch the debt ceiling fight unfold, it's remarkable to see the gamesmanship going on both sides of the political aisle.  There's a lot of posturing, positioning and demagoguery taking place while the rest of us try to press on with our lives knowing a boulder is hanging overhead, much like the one in the Nationwide Insurance commercial.  That proverbial boulder would be the $14 trillion debt monster that's been amassed through reckless, irresponsible spending.  And instead of treating this with the gravity it deserves, we get this kabuki theater of sorts.  Being someone who thoroughly enjoys both games and theater, this is a time for neither. 

Congressional Republicans resemble the keystone cops by presenting plans that compete with each other.  Democrats have produced a lot of hot air.  They've controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the Presidency and managed to not pass a budget in over 800 days.  Leading by example is President Obama who seems to add even more dimension to the term "weakness" with each television appearance.  While taking a condescendingly professorial tone, he blamed Congress for running up the "credit card", offered no plan of his own AND threatened to veto any budget plan that came to his desk which contained a short-term raising of the debt limit.  If there was ever a time to exhibit leadership, it's now.  But ever the class-warmonger, he's been spending considerable time making the case that if we would just pin higher taxes on corporate jet owners and hedge fund managers, we could pull out of this financial mess we're in.  He manages to say all of this with a straight face while NEVER addressing the fact that almost 50% of Americans don't pay taxes. It's odd because I remember him saying something about shared sacrifice. Hmm.

If there was ever an example that showed the desperate need for principled leadership, this is it.  We have a lot of unserious wannabe adults playing games during a time that requires someone with a steady hand and the ability to lead the discussion in a way that builds consensus.  The answer to our debt problem isn't safely locked away in the brain of some ivory tower elite or entrenched career politician, neither of which has much to do with the real world that the rest of us inhabit.  Answers to problems like this are meted out in very common places...like the kitchen table.  Whatever resolution is hashed out between the President and Congress will have less to do with what's truly good for the American people and more to do with political calculus.  Given the nature of the very people in charge of coming up with the solution to a problem of this magnitude, how could we reasonably expect otherwise?

I believe Americans are hungry for someone from the outside who can truly effect change that's rooted in the world most of us live in, the REAL one.  We don't need someone who passes blame elsewhere and uses it as an excuse to continue pushing policies that have their basis in liberal academia.  Instead we need someone who leads the effort of creating policy that really works, yes even the exhaustive work of vetting it from every possible angle to ensure it achieves the desired result.  We need someone that truly understands the importance of transparency when it comes to crafting legislation that affects all of us.  We need someone who knows that there has to be a clear line of division between business interests and governance.  We need someone who actually has done the work of balancing a substantial budget and knows what it means to make cuts based on priorities even if they are unpopular.  We need someone who understands the gravity of spending other people's hard-earned money and takes the veto pen to paper to cut programs that aren't worthy to be supported.  In short, we need someone who knows the difference between sleeping well and eating well and chooses the former consciously. 

The pre-pubescents occupying the halls of government are dreading August and September.  They know that it is going to signal the ending of their schoolyard reign because a certain adult outsider will announce her intentions to run for the Presidency of the United States.  Of course the "kids" won't like it...they'll resent her for her adult ways and thoughts.  Should they be fortunate enough to have the scales fall from their eyes, they'll grow to admire and appreciate her for being the adult that gave them the direction they needed. 

Time and perspective have given me a lot of admiration for my older brother.  His adult influence was a lifeboat for me.  Sarah Palin will be the same for this country.   

"A ship in harbor is safe but that's not why the ship is built."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Undefeated Thoughts

I had the honor and privilege of attending the 9:50 showing of "The Undefeated" in Grapevine last Friday night and I can tell you that I was warmed on the inside by the folks that were in attendance to see the film. And that was just the beginning of my insides being warm.

Before the film started, I had the opportunity to meet several people who were there as part of different chapters of O4P which was inspiring to see. They were there handing out bumper stickers, informal questionnaires, buttons and other items of which I took several copies of each. After getting seated, I heard someone call my name and it was someone who recognized me from the article I wrote just a couple of days earlier. We talked a bit and it opened up the opportunity to meet more people who were sitting in the row behind me which was great fun. One of them suggested that I stand up, announce that I was going to be live-tweeting during the movie as well as announce my Twitter handle so people could follow along.

I was overwhelmed by how many people decided to follow me and the response I engendered during the showing of the film. Everything went by in a blur - but I can tell you as a first time live-tweeter, it couldn't have been a better event to capture in real time.

I've thought a lot about the film since Friday night just processing it to try to put it in its proper context. In full disclosure, I haven't seen Steve Bannon's other films so I can't really compare it to those. I've seen my fair share of films - I've seen really good films, really bad films and one film - The Passion of the Christ - that moved me beyond mere words. Seeing that wasn't like seeing a movie, it was like seeing something else wholly different, like seeing something that "lived" or resonated in a way that other films I've seen don't. For me, The Undefeated was more like The Passion because of the way it resonated with me and others who were in attendance as well.

This is a film that moves you. It doesn't give you the out of just letting you sit there. Moving through the first section, which gives you but a glimpse of the hate that has been directed at Gov. Palin, there was not a sound from the audience. It was eerily quiet...it seemed as though people were shocked by the level of hate and brutality shown her. I have to say that it was shocking to me. I had seen some of it but there were a lot of things I hadn't seen. It made me consider how I would react if I were her having to deal with that. And then being a parent, it led to me think about how I would try to explain that to my kids as she has no doubt had to do to hers.

What makes this section so effective is that immediately after it's over, you see home movies and pictures of her growing up in the natural beauty that is Alaska. It drives home two things - the evil nature of the things that have been said and written about Gov. Palin as well as the extraordinarily ordinary nature of her upbringing. Sans the otherworldly beauty of Alaska, her home footage was something akin to Wonder Years with Fred Savage. Normal has many faces and interpretations nowadays but if you were to assign a set of moving images to it, you'd probably choose that footage.

From there it moves into the seeds that were planted in her that blossomed into full-blown activism during the Exxon Valdez disaster back in 1989. She wasn't trying to get rich or see her name in lights. Very simply, she wanted to make a difference to benefit not only her family but those who would come after her. What can't be overstated enough is that she was rooted by her faith in God, her family and her community from the very beginning and those things were what kept her focused and immensely effective from her time as mayor of Wasilla to her days as Governor of Alaska. Ironically, it was the time spent at the kitchen table with her family that drove so much of the innovation inherent in the policies crafted during her political tenures at the local and state level. What was plain to see was that her time as Governor was benefited by her time as Mayor. She was able to take what she learned as a two-term mayor and translate that into effective governance over the entire state. Simply put, she was a very good mayor and an even BETTER governor.

It was also interesting to see the political environment in which she had to operate and how it's a mirror image to the one that's operating in Washington. The Corrupt Bastards Club, or CBC, is not something that pertains only to the all-boys club that was Alaska politics pre-Palin. It is an accurate depiction of Washington politics today. The elephant in the room wasn't the GOP establishment corruption but the grittiness Gov. Palin displayed in the midst of the firestorm surrounding her as she took it on. It's important to note that she had people around her, a small group of warriors every bit as gritty as she. They're called the Magnificent Seven and they reminded me of an elite special ops unit. They were small in number but each of them had a unique skill set and each was as fearless as their leader. They were tireless in their efforts to right the system that had wronged the people they were called to serve and when the dust settled, they ousted a 26-year GOP godfather as well as the Democratic incumbent to win the governor's seat. That by itself is a remarkable story, one made for the movies - a mom of 5 kids, born of two schoolteachers, launches a bid for public office from her kitchen table that reaches beyond the desk of mayor and chairman of the most powerful state-wide commission to the Governorship of Alaska while defeating entrenched, seemingly unbeatable political special interests along the way. But as we all know, there's much more to the story.

The film did a great job of pointing out the fact of how much momentum Gov. Palin's addition gave to the GOP presidential ticket. Her RNC speech fired the imaginations of many millions of people and that began to build upon itself as she traveled the country and spoke to sold out crowds. She invigorated the McCain campaign and propelled it past the Obama/Biden campaign by a significant margin in the polls which I forgot about (I'm sure I'm not the only one) and which the media never mentions. It could be argued that had it not been for the economic meltdown that occurred shortly before the election that we'd be talking about President McCain and Vice President Palin instead of the current occupiers in the White House.

What is also shown plainly is what Gov. Palin had to face when she returned to Alaska and how her administration was ground to a halt due to frivolous ethics charges, all of which were thrown out. I think anyone who watches this film comes to a better understanding of why Gov. Palin decided to step down to allow Lt. Gov. Parnell to continue the work they had begun. She had become the focus of left-wing hate and as such knew the only way the people of Alaska would be served is if she stepped down. She did it knowing what it could potentially cost - but as she said earlier in the film "in politics, you either sleep well or eat well". Stepping down was by all intents and purposes the end of her political career but it turned out to be one of the best things she could ever do. No one has had more of an influence in the political landscape than Sarah Palin has and she's done it using of all things, Facebook, Twitter and well-timed public speeches.

The moment in the film that seemed to encapsulate what she's all about is the footage of her giving the "Game On!" speech up in Madison, WI back in April. There she was, speaking from her heart, shouting over the artificial noise of wingnuts protesting the Tea Partiers gathered, in the frozen rain, focused eyes peering through glasses covered in frozen mist. Despite the hostile conditions around her, there she stood, on the side of the people delivering a fire from her belly that rang in the ears of those in attendance. History was repeating itself all over again because with every political office she's campaigned for, she's battled adverse conditions and hostilities from all sides only to come out of it all stronger for it because her cause was the right one - her cause was and is the people's cause.

The light from her star casts a shadow that extends all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and they cannot even escape it. Her cause is true. Her record is unmatched and unmistakable. Her spirit, like the spirit of so many Americans, is Undefeated. That cold drizzly day in Madison was a shot across the bow of the current Corrupt Bastards Club in Washington, D.C. that a reformer was on her way to reclaim the White House and this country back on behalf of the people.

She's done it before...and she's going to do it again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

History

From the time I was a little boy, I was enamored by Michael Jackson’s music. I remember racing home in anticipation of watching the world premiere of Thriller on MTV. I had butterflies, anxiety, nervousness – all of it, bubbling just below the surface as I plopped down on the floor in front of the TV to watch something unlike anything I had ever seen.

As it turned out, that video forever changed the way music videos were produced, financed and created. It was the first video on MTV featuring a Black artist. In case you were wondering, the year was 1983. It still is the longest music video in duration ever to air on the network, now infamous for many things among others not playing much music. The fact that music videos now have taken on, artistically, a life all on their own is related directly to the bigness of Thriller – the scope, the budget and choreography of it was beyond what had been done before.

Fast forward twenty-six years and the Thrilla from Wasilla entered the room of the country’s collective conscience. It was a seminal moment in American politics and pop culture. Her announcement as Sen. McCain’s running mate generated a lot of skepticism and curiosity. Who was she and why did he pick her seemed to be the $25,000 questions on everyone’s minds. And then she gave the speech at the RNC that ignited the campaign and the imaginations of so many people, me included.

I felt myself transfixed to the screen as she spoke; much like that night so many years ago that Thriller debuted. I was too young then to fully appreciate what it was I was watching at the time. Thankfully watching Gov. Palin that night, I was old enough to realize that I was party to another piece of history, watching her star being born as she spoke with clarity, conviction and contagious passion. As I took in her speech, it made me think about what it was that made me the conservative I had become. There wasn’t a moment that stands out to me but rather resembled more of an evolution over time.

It all started in high school. I went to a small private school on the Southeast side of Houston that taught Biblical principles and for me I had to start with the fundamental question of life and its origins. I had come to believe as a young person that Christ was above and over all and that He was the Creator of all living things. If that was the case, then I imagined that it must move Him to sadness to see our treatment of the millions and millions of unborn babies who were never given a chance at life. What about them and what did it say about us that our policy towards abortion was a signal of the kind of progressive, secular society we had become?

Perhaps it was too simplistic but I noticed that many who belonged to the Democratic Party supported women having abortions and I didn’t agree with that stance. On the flip side, it seemed that many who believed that abortion was wrong associated themselves with the Republican Party. Something else I had to consider was that Dr. King quoted Abraham Lincoln – the Emancipation President - in his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Those factors were plenty enough for me to fall on the side of the pachyderms. Then as time went on and I learned more about conservative principles – limited government, low taxes, free markets, fiscal discipline, strong defense, and individual responsibility – it seemed sensible to me. It. Just. Made. Sense.

Back to Gov. Palin – it was her plainspokenness that stood out to me beyond her striking looks and exuberance. She didn’t speak like a normal politician much like another unconventional political figure who came before her and revolutionized the Republican Party with his aura and substance. Like him, she didn’t talk around you. She talked TO you. She made sense. There are a lot of things that have happened to her and her family since that night that haven’t made sense…the attacks, the cruelty, the threats. But with EVERYTHING she’s endured, here she stands on the ready to inject herself into the 2012 Presidential race and make it as compelling as any monumental long-form genre-bending music video.

Speaking again of the King of Pop, there was another song he penned in the mid ‘80s. It was a song he and his brothers performed during the infamous Victory Tour of 1984 called “Can You Feel It”. It’s actually my seven-year old daughter’s favorite song. She’s got good musical taste, what can I say?

Should Gov. Palin throw her 50-gallon hat in the ring, November 2012 won’t begin an ill-fated victory tour. It will mark another revolution in the Republican Party, fitting of her luminary GOP predecessors. She will usher in a new era that will bring back America’s vitality, restore our hope in the future of our country and unleash the greatness of the people she’s been called to serve.

THAT will be something to see.