[PART TWO] “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America

My Fellow Americans (see what I did there?),

I get a lot of views on this blog from people around the world. I just want to clarify that I don’t have a problem with people from other places. We are all God’s children. I admire aspects of other cultures. But I am proud to be an American, and I want to do my part to make it the best it can be. I think that that greatness will in turn make the world a better place. That being said, here are some recommendations for things that Americans can do for their country.

1. Buy American

From what I’ve heard, the most common reasoning for not buying American is the cost. If you buy things made in China or wherever, it may be cheaper, yes, but it still comes at a price. Commerce with other countries opens up the potential for reliance on other countries. I’m all about self-reliance, so I would think it would be better to be able to be more dependent on our own manufacturers, our own workforce as a whole, to generate the goods we need to get buy. Sure, it might cost a little more in the short term, but the nature of supply and demand and the capitalist system in general will drive prices down once we’ve make the investment in and the commitment to American Enterprise.

Also, you get what you pay for. In the triangle of cost, quality and time, you lose quality when you get it fast and cheap. If you’re willing to pay and wait, you can get something that will last longer. I don’t know why, but ballpoint pens stick out in my mind. If you buy a hundred cheapo stick pens, before long you’re going to wind up with a hundred cheapo stick pens that don’t work. If you spend the extra money on a pen and you keep track of it, you’ll spend less in the long run and you won’t have a pile of worthless pens laying around. I don’t know about you, but I hate when I pick up a pen thinking it’ll work and it doesn’t. It’s infuriating. Moving on.

The same goes for just about anything. Meat, produce, clothes. Support American Ranchers and Farmers. A word of caution on the clothes, though. I used to be a Levi’s man. They were the only pants I ever wore. At 6’5″ and 250 lbs. it’s hard to find pants that work, but for a while they were doing the trick. Somewhere in there, they stopped making them in America, or I began to realize that they weren’t being made in America. It was right around the time that the starting splitting in the crotch area after not having them for very long. Like I said, I used to be a Levi’s man. Now I wear Dickies. Born in Texas, made in Texas by Texans. Damn straight. 

Overall, just know what you’re buying, demand more from the producer, and buy American. I understand that you may not be able to buy everything and that nothing happens overnight. I also understand that there are many high quality items that come from other countries (Japanese knives come to mind), but just be more conscientious and explore an American alternative. You may be surprised what you can find. 

2. Complain Less

Nobody’s perfect. European countries aren’t perfect and they’ve been doing this a lot longer than we have. Our country isn’t even 250 years old and we’re still doing a damn good job of making it happen.

I know you probably don’t have everything you want in life. I know that things are hard sometimes and it seems like you can’t get a leg up. Trust me. I know this. But it’s not America’s fault and chances are it’s nobody else’s. Things happen. Choices are made and they don’t always work out. What are you going to do about it? Play the blame game or get back to work? If you get a flat tire, you fix it and get back on the road. Complaining about it won’t take the nail out or put the spare on. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

I saw some statistic recently about the amount of time the average person spends complaining each day. Like nine minutes. Imagine how much more you could get done if you spend that hour a week doing something productive. You could start a blog. You could do any of the Five Minute Betterment exercises on this blog. Or, if you’re really that unhappy about the way the government is doing something, you could 

3. Become More Active in Your Community

Get out there and vote.  Or if you don’t think the candidate can do the job well, run for office yourself. Get involved in a charity at your church or with a non-profit that services a cause you care about. Or just go meet your neighbors. Build relationships and get to know the people around you. Make a change on a small-scale. The little things add up and you could wind up a part of something even larger. 

The internet (invented right here in America) has redefined what the word community means.  It has enabled us to connect to people great distances away without having to leave out homes or our hometowns. There is information and communication at our fingertips that was unimaginable fifty years ago.

Used correctly and responsibly, the internet can be a valuable tool in helping us to find out more about the people and things and businesses and places around us.  You can use it to find people who feel the same way you do or find out more about something. 

4. Learn More About The United States

The history books aren’t always accurate, but a lot of times the truth is much more interesting. We’ve done so much in our short time as a country, you could literally look up the History of American Anything and spend hours learning about how and why it started, changed, grew, or even failed on this soil.

Find out more about the people that have done the things that interest you.  Connect with others with the same interests in your town, state, or other parts of the country. Take a trip to a local historical site or plan a vacation to somewhere you’ve never been. Learn about the good and the bad. Find out what Americans have done wrong and what Americans have done or can do to fix it.  Most of us wouldn’t completely write someone without knowing the whole story. So learn the whole story. 

If you learn all you can and you’ve done all you can and you still don’t like it here, 

5. Move away

That may sound harsh, but it’s true.  If you truly think you’d be happier somewhere else, then go there.  You’re an American and you still have the freedom to leave. Maybe you’d prefer somewhere where they have Universal Everything. Maybe you’d like a different climate, or Communism, or another language or culture. That’s fine. Go ahead and go. You have that freedom here and it’s a beautiful thing. 

– –

In the end, you deserve to be happy. You deserve to pursue your happiness, but no one’s going to give it to you.  So get out there and do something that’ll make your life better and make our country and most likely the world better if only a little bit.

Use your freedom but take it for granted. Work hard and reap rewards.

God Bless America.

Patriotically

Glass

“The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung

I’ve been avoiding this post.  I’ve been avoiding this whole blog to be honest, save for the occasional stats-check here and there.  I haven’t written anything in about five weeks, which is along time, even for me.  I’m going to tell you now that this post is not going to be a very pleasant one, at least in the beginning.  It is going to be very dark and then probably darker and very emotional and then it should end on a positive note, if all goes well.

You see, my dad died on March 8th.  I typed and retyped that sentence a few different ways to maybe soften the blow (I hear I can be overly blunt sometimes), but the truth is that my father is dead.  He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last summer, it was 95% gone by November, then came back with a vengeance and took his life.

My wife and I consulted Betsy Braun’s book Just Tell Me What to Say when we were trying to figure out how to break the news to our four year-old daughter.  We didn’t tell her much during the first round of chemo because the outlook was good and we really didn’t know what all was going to happen.  Then the cancer came back and we felt like we should prepare her for the worst, especially once my dad decided that he would rather stay at home than suffer through another round of chemo.  So Betsy Braun says to be honest and use the medical terminology and avoid euphemisms.  During the first round:  Papa has lumps inside his body called cancer that makes him sick but the doctors have a very strong medicine called chemotherapy that they think will help and they know a lot about cancer so they’ll know the best ways to help Papa get better.  Later, during hospice:  The medicine didn’t work and cancer is making it harder and harder for Papa’s body to work.  Papa’s body is going to stop working soon and he is going to die.  Then:  Papa died today.

This is difficult.  I can remember her reaction to each conversation.  I can remember the works coming out of my mouth feeling like barbed wire but sounding much smoother.  Trying to stay strong for everyone around me.  I think it might be harder now in some ways though, now that the shock is gone, and the memorial service and internment have passed.  I feel like a  lot of other people have moved on and maybe don’t think about him as much as I do.  I know they don’t.  But I think about it everyday.

You see, I’m the one that found my dad.  My wife spilled her heart out to him, we left the room, and when I returned less than five minutes later, he was gone.  I still think about his face.  His eyes.  His hands.  I think about the Medical Examiner coming to the house and the funeral home workers coming to get him in the hearse and how terribly sad it all was and my  through all of it.  I kept/keep thinking it’s a joke and that he’ll call or come around the corner and we’ll all be pissed that he played such a mean joke but so happy that he’s still alive.  I think about all the things he’s going to miss and how I should’ve called more and how I miss him so much that it physically hurts.

My dad is dead and I was not, am not ready for it and each second, hour, dayweekmonth that goes by is that much further from the last time I’ll ever see him alive or otherwise.  I held his hand as the warmth left it and my heart filled with pain and sadness and I sat and played guitar for him while we waited for the official people to come and officially say he was dead and take him away.  I helped the guy take the hospice equipment out of my parents’ bedroom and out of the house so that my mother could sleep in the room again without the glaring reminder that her husband had just died there.

Her husband, my dad, my hero is dead and I keep hoping that I’ll feel better about it if I tell myself a hundred, thousand, hundred thousand times a day, but it doesn’t.  I was not, am not ready for him to not be here.  I was not, am not ready to be an adult without him in my life to provide me with the paragon of what it means to be a husband, a dad, a hero.  There are so many big things coming up that I want his advice on, that I want him to see and be a part of.  I want my daughter to have two grandpas because I didn’t.  I want her to have strong, decent men (and women) in her life so that she grows up with high expectations and standards for interpersonal relationships.  I want my dad around because he was, is the best man I know and I miss him so much it hurts.

It’s almost exactly one day later and I’m glad I stopped where I did.  That train of thought tends to dip into some even heavier stuff that I probably shouldn’t ever put in writing or say out loud.  I talked to my wife last night.  I talked to my mom, too.   I slept better; I feel better.

[My dad’s death is like a semi-colon; a break in the sentence that unifies the pre&post the before&after in all of this.]

One of the biggest thoughts I have about all of this, something that I wrestle with almost every single day, concern the Why’s.  Why him?  Why us? Why now? Why not that guy? Why did the cancer go away in the first place?  Why did it come back?

The truth, The Truth is that our world in its entirety, life  Life as a Whole is beyond our understanding.  I believe in God and Jesus.  My God is not a white-haired old man, but an energy that permeates everything and creates a balance within all of existence.  This thought, this idea of a balance is what keeps me going when the going gets tough.  Faith is a powerful tool in situations like this and situations that aren’t like this at all.  Faith is the current in the river, the warmth in sunlight.  I feel better today, but I don’t feel great everyday.  I have to wrap my head around this and have faith that my dad is in a better state.  That his energy lives on and that his soul is balanced and cleansed and where God intends it to be.

I miss my dad.  I know that it is going to continue to be hard without him around.  But I also know, because he told me, that it’s important to keep living my life.  It’s funny but I appreciate the days like this, the ones where I feel good and energetic and happy? more, mainly because of how sad I’ve been recently.

So, in closing.  I would like to proudly announce that Mrs. Glass and I are expecting Baby Number Two!  We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl yet, but the due date just so happens to be on my dad’s birthday!  We are so very happy and thankfully my dad got the opportunity to see the first sonogram while he was alive.  I now that wherever he is, he’s looking out for us, all of us, and that he lives on in our hearts and our blood and our name and our memories.

I love you, Dad.

 

 

Half-full, half-empty,

Glass