[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

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“There is no subsitute for hard work.” – Thomas Edison

Or: Why you should buy an American car and learn how to fix it yourself.

I drive a 1997 Chevy Blazer.  It is made out of American steel and wears a bowtie for every occasion.  When I got the Blue Blazer (as Baby Glass calls it) a few years ago, it only had 37000 miles on it.  The previous (original) owners had bought it, driven it to Canada, and used it there during their vacations.  It is still in amazing condition for how old it is and I really enjoy having it.

That being said, the Blazer drives me crazy sometimes.  Since I bought it, I have replaced the brake booster [which I didn’t even know existed until it went out], ABS pump, water pump, AC compressor, belts, and pulleys.  I have also fixed a couple of wiring issues.  And, of course, I change the oil and oil filter.

I say “of course” because not only is it probably the easiest thing that I’ve done on that car, but it is much easier to do than you might imagine.  So easy and cost-effective, in fact, that I would encourage you to try and do it yourself.

Here’s what you need:

Oil – Make sure you get the right viscosity and make sure you get high mileage oil if your car is around 100K miles or more.  It should be noted on either your oil cap or in the owner’s manual.

Filter – There are handy books right by the filters at the auto parts store where you can look up your car by the make/model/year and see which one you need.

Receptacle for old oil – I have a plastic storage container that collects the oil until I can put it into an empty jug which I can then take back to the auto parts store for recycling.  Or, if you want to commit, you can buy an receptacle like this one that is designed for oil changes and has both a spot to put your old filter to drain and a place for the oil pain plug.  Make sure it has at least about a 6-quart capacity and is maybe about 18 inches long.


Funnel – not 100% necessary but definitely helpful in both pouring the new oil into the engine and pouring the old oil into the empty oil jug, if that’s the way you’re going to do it.

 Wrench/socket wrench – This is necessary to remove the plug and drain the oil.  A quick Google will most likely tell you what size you’ll need, but you can always do trial and error.  I would go with the metric set.  Somewhere around the 15mm mark.

Screwdriver – There is a little door that I have to open to get to my oil filter.  Locate your filter beforehand to determine what you’ll need to access it.  Also, I’ve needed to puncture the old oil filter with a screwdriver before so that I could get it out without buying an..

Oil Filter wrench – Sometimes you need a little extra oomph to get the filter out, especially if you’re overdue.  These wrenches can cost anywhere from $5 upwards and are pretty handy if you get in a bind.

A rag – chances are, you’re going to drop your plug into your oil receptacle.  Or get some on your hand.  No matter what, it’s good to have one available.  Make sure it’s something you’re willing to get rid of.3 10631

How to change your oil:

If you can, let your car cool down for a few hours or change your oil first thing in the morning before you go anywhere.  Oil gets hot, and hot oil is not something you want splashing around on you while you’re underneath your car.

If you have a low-riding vehicle, you’re going to want to jack your car up on one side to make it easier to get to everything.  I don’t need to jack up the Blazer, but it’s helps.  Make sure to block off your wheels if you’re on an incline to make sure your car doesn’t rock off of the jack.  Then remove your oil cap (under the hood).


Next, you’re going to want to locate your drain plug.  It’s usually located towards the center of the undercarriage at the back of the engine block.  It looks like a bolt (because it is one) and shouldn’t be too hard to find.  Place your receptacle under the plug, placing is so that there is some space for the oil to shoot out.


Loosen the drain plug slowly.  Oil should start to flow after the few full turn or two.  Continue to loosen the plug until it is full removed, adjusting your receptacle as necessary to catch all of the oil.

At this point, you can take a break and allow the oil to drain as much as you’d like.  This is one of the benefits of changing your own oil because a mechanic won’t wait as long as you can.

When you feel comfortable with how much oil has drained, replace the drain plug and tighten it all the way.  Carefully grab your receptacle and move it to the front of your vehicle.  Place it under your filter’s location and loosen the filter.  There will be oil coming out of the nozzle that the filter attaches to, as well as from the filter itself.



Allow both to drain.

Before you attached your new filter, take some of your oil (a dipped finger works well) and lubricate the rubber gasket on the filter.  Install the filter per the manufacturer’s instructions and close the access compartment if applicable.  Now you’re ready to add your new oil.

Put your funnel in the oil fill tube and pour the oil in.  Then replace the oil cap, lower your car and unblock your wheels.

You should be good to go!

I shared this with you because I think it’s important to be able to fix things yourself because it saves you money and encourages pride of ownership and reduces waste.  It’s also good to support American manufacturers and thereby the American economy. That allows us as individuals and the nation as a whole to be more self-sufficient.
Good luck and safe travels,

Glass