I am Not Returning My Diploma to Liberty University, Nor Did I Vote for Trump

Perhaps the truly most rebellious stance to have these days is to be neutral… about anything. We live in an undeniably polarized culture where being “outraged” by the behavior of other people is all the rage.

Meanwhile, my goal is to remove myself from a predictable system where I am forced to choose one side (and their ethnocentric agenda), then demonize the other side (along with their own ethnocentric agenda). I refuse to maintain a mindset in which I have to constantly have an emotional response ready for the half of the population…. who is perceptually wrong.

In case you are unaware, a growing number of Liberty University graduates are choosing to return their diplomas to Liberty University, on the basis that the current chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., has been openly supportive of controversial President Trump’s policies and responses.

The “Return Your Diploma to LU” movement, which currently contains more than 700 members, even has its own hashtag; which is #grandstander.

This is a buzzing story.

Journalists from secular publications have been quick to reach out to the members of the group. I know this because I’ve been keeping up with the comments on the closed group.

Meanwhile, I personally am proud to have graduated from Liberty University in 2005 with an English Degree. My attendance at Liberty University helped shape my views, my identity, and my future. I am proud, not ashamed, of my diploma from Liberty University.

Of all ironies though, the fact I did not vote for Donald Trump goes back to Dorm 15 at Liberty University back in 2003. It was during my years at LU that I secretly converted from a Republican to a Libertarian.

My friend Ryan, who lived in the dorm room next to mine, was able to convince me through his emotional intelligence, that America will only continue to be more divided and polarized if we continue to only choose one of two popular political sides (with its own non-negotiable agenda), opposed to the other side.

I do not condemn anyone participating in the “Return Your Diploma to LU”.

Nor did I actively support President Trump being elected; in fact, it was during my attendance at Liberty University that I retired my allegiance to the Republican Party.

But who knows, maybe had I not gone to Liberty University, I would still be a Republican today and would have voted for Trump?

Maybe the ultimately irony, though, is that in my attempt to remain neutral in a polarized society, I could still end up causing someone to be outraged.

 

 

Dear Jack: I May Have “Wasted My Vote” on a 3rd Party Candidate, but At Least I Actually Voted and Have Peace about It

5 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack: I May Have “Wasted My Vote” on a 3rd Party Candidate, but At Least I Actually Voted and Have Peace about It

Dear Jack,

Over these past couple of months, you have curiously been listening to Mommy and I occasionally discuss Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. You have definitely been interested in learning about how the upcoming election will determine our next President.

You’ve gone to sleep to the sound of all 3 of the Presidential Debates, as your bedroom is right around the corner from our TV.

I think it’s particularly interesting that you have witnessed Mommy and I sincerely try to figure out who to vote for. You are not being raised in a specifically Democrat nor a Republican household.

Instead, I feel that Mommy and I have legitimately been trying to make the right decision; not based on an allegiance to a certain political party, but instead, based on which candidate we truly believe will be the best leader for our country.

As the debates have been on, I’ve listened to some things Donald Trump has said, and I’ve turned to Mommy and said, “Okay, I totally agree with what he just said.”

But then just a few minutes later, I would say the same thing about what Hillary Clinton just said.

And the opposite is true as well: I just as much told Mommy how I disagreed with certain statements both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump made.

For me, I just couldn’t bring myself to make a decision on which major candidate was better, or worse, for the job.

So I decided not to vote for either.

When I came home Tuesday night after participating in “early voting”, Mommy asked with a curioius smile, “So who’d you end up voting for?”

She was surprised to hear me say, “Gary Johnson.”

Not Hillary Clinton. Not Donald Trump. But instead, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian.

He embraced the things that I liked about Clinton and Trump, without the things I didn’t like about them.

I know. The likelihood of him winning the election is not great.

I know. I ultimately took a vote away from either Clinton or Trump. But to me, that’s fine- because I didn’t favor one over the other anyway.

My conscience was not okay with me “voting for the lesser of two evils.”

Because that would still have meant I knowingly voted for someone I believed was evil.

In reality, I don’t think either Clinton or Trump are evil. I don’t see things so polarized. I see gray; not just red or blue.

That’s not to say that I believe everyone else should vote for the person I voted for. Instead, I just encourage people to actually vote- for whoever they believe is the right person.

Even Mommy. I have no idea who she will vote for, yet that has no emotional effect over me; nor does anyone else’s vote.

I have voted in every single election since I was old enough. Perhaps that has something to do with the example I saw with my own parents; your Nonna and Papa.

Clearly, I will be raising you the same way. You will see me lead by example, not by simply talking about my political beliefs, but instead, by me faithfully voting for who I personally believe is the best candidate.

It goes back to my letter to you last week about your homework assignment on your opinion whether we should still celebrate Columbus Day.

I found out from your teacher this week that you were the only student in your class who marked “no,” that we should not celebrate the holiday.

That makes me proud. Not necessarily because of the belief itself, but more so because you’re not at all afraid to be the only one to believe, in a society where mainstream society is set in their beliefs.

It’s more than okay to be different.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: 5 “Bad Words” You Use When You’re around People You’re Comfortable With

5 and a half years old.

Dear Jack: 5 “Bad Words” You Use When You’re around People You’re Comfortable With

Dear Jack,

This past weekend, as Mommy’s sister’s family was in town from Pennsylvania, they got to hear all about butts, buttheads, poop, Donald Trump, and eyeballs; all of which are “bad words” in your vocabulary.

With us having very special visitors with us for these 4 days, you got away with taking no naps. And when you take no naps, you are less discreet in your words and actions.

(That’s one of the many reasons I don’t spank you; I don’t believe in physically punishing children because of how they act when they are hungry, tired, lonely, bored or sick– which are the reasons you “act out” when you do.)

In our house, you are not exposed to actual “bad words”. The only time you hear those is when, as the cool dad, I take you out go to see superhero movies– though you obviously don’t recognize the cuss words when you hear them since you don’t know them to begin with.

However, you have your own rolodex of bad words; most of which involve potty humor. The main one is butts.

Dear Jack: 5 “Bad Words” You Use When You’re around People You’re Comfortable With

I remember one time at the dinner table, having not taken a nap that day, you just kept saying, “Bbbuttsss!” then immediately laughing.

You were in a loop. You broke me down after a few times. You had me laughing every time you said it, though I was supposed to be a responsible adult, like Mommy was being.

However, it was indeed Mommy who bought you the book My Dad is a Butthead for the Kindle for when we went on our last major family vacation in Destin, for your 5th birthday- which happened to be exactly 6 months ago today.

(I realize that butts and butthead both have the word “butt” in them, but I consider them separate words in that a butthead is a person.)

As for poop, I suppose it’s always been one of your favorite bad words. That one is simply a given.

But you took it upon yourself to adopt Donald Trump on your list, after hearing that “Donald Trump is a bad word” from watching an episode of Fuller House. Granted, I personally don’t have a probably with you making Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton into bad words, as far as I’m concerned.

Dear Jack: 5 “Bad Words” You Use When You’re around People You’re Comfortable With

Eyeball is my favorite bad word of yours. Like Donald Trump, you decided on your own that this is an inappropriate phrase to use.

I love how you think you’re getting away with saying something sneaky when you shout out the word “eyeball” in vain.

Granted, you don’t say any of these bad words at school; or at least you don’t get in trouble for it if you do.

It’s not just with family that you have no filter with when you are in need of a nap. I remember a few months ago, we were meeting our friend Jarrid Wilson (and his wife and young son). He is a Christian blogger and author.

I’m glad that in the midst of us all having brunch together at Whole Foods, he found it hilarious that the word “butts” kept coming up in conversation.

As long as your bad words consist of butts, buttheads, poop, Donald Trump, and eyeballs, I’m just not too worried about it.

Love,

Daddy

Reading (and Leading) People

 There’s a mighty power called “being able to read people” that can be used for good, to lead others… or for bad, to manipulate them.

A sign of a person’s self-confidence level, as well as their amount of natural leadership skills can both be measured, to a great degree, by how often (or seldom) they are in defense mode.  While there are most definitely times to stand up for ourselves, confident in our stance on whatever issue is at stake, if a person is constantly feeling they have to prove their worth by acting and speaking in a default of defense, then there is a problem.

In theory, a person should only have to be in “defense mode” when they truly need to stand up for themselves or for their just cause.

Therefore, I can’t help but have a respect for people who fight for what they believe in, who turn an apathetic cheek to things they don’t feel passionate about by staying out of it (meaning they don’t think they have to be right about everything), and who are savvy enough when it comes to “reading people” that they don’t have to second-guess what a person is thinking. 

Definitely ironic.  Reading people so well that there is no need to try to predict or figure out what someone is thinking.  Because good “people readers” already know what other people are thinking, yet they NEVER admit it or tell the person they are reading.  No one wants to feel that they are being manipulated because someone has figured them out- though their fear is often indeed true.

So I’d rather be the one in the driver’s seat instead of the sidecar when it comes to the issue.  I’d rather attempt to become a leader (when there’s not already an established one) than become a follower of a corrupt or weak leader; one I don’t respect. 

That’s the whole brilliance in reading other people- the way to manage other people is to steer them into the desired direction without having them realizing what’s happening.  A secret self-taught art that entertainers, politicians, CEO’s, teachers, managers, and pretty much anyone in any type of leadership position learn to master: Do unto others or they will do unto you.

A leader who is a good “people reader” knows the limits of others- what can be asked of them and what they are willing to do to accomplish the goal.  Leaders also know what motivates their team members- how to let them thrive in their skillsets, talents, and creativity. 

To make sure I speak in confidence, not in doubt, I am very specific in the phrases I chose not to say (and type).  In my own vocabulary, these are blacklisted:

“My point isn’t that…”

 “Wait, I know what you’re thinking…”

 “Let me explain, you see…”

 “Here’s what I meant…”

 “See, what I believe is…”

All of those phrases seem to preface the rest of sentence in a way that negates its own validity.  Often when I write, I am making a point based on my own opinion.  As I do this, I have to carefully address the exceptions and any naysayers’ concerns by building on them (You Missed a Spot).  In other words, by “reading people” to where they don’t even get a chance to heckle me with a “yeah, but what about?…”

For example, when I was writing the “sleeper hit” post Must Not Mustache (currently my 5th most popular, surprisingly), I was explaining that most men under the age of 40 can’t be taken seriously if they have a mustache.  Yet, there are exceptions and I needed to be the one to address them.  So I did.  And instead of the exceptions taking away from what I had to say, they complimented it instead.

I keep this original proverb in mind daily:

Speak with authority and direction.  And if you may be wrong about the issue or haven’t done your research, just shut up.  People often mistake silence for wisdom. 

My inspiration to write this post?  This past Sunday night’s episode of The Celebrity Apprentice.  I like learning from other people’s follies and successes- even if it comes from a reality TV show.

Celebrity Apprentice 2010 Recap: Burger Heaven

A big part of enjoying any new season of Celebrity Apprentice is to familiarize yourself with the “celebrities” in the cast.  Granted, there are always a few I have actually heard of, if for no other reasons, nostalgic purposes.  This year, though, there are only a few I had never heard of before; Wikipedia helped fill in the blanks for me.  Here there are, starting in the order of my own greatest familiarity with them to least:

Cyndi Lauper- the off-beat queen of 1983 with her hits “Time After Time” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”

Sinbad- seriously, how can you not like Sinbad?

Sharon Osbourne- now more famous and recognizable from her reality show appearances than being the wife of Ozzy Osbourne

Rod Blagojevich- the “corrupt politician” whom we’re supposed to hate

Darryl Strawberry- whom I still have a 1988 Post Cereal baseball card of in my parents’ garage

Bill Goldberg- the Jewish professional wrestler, athlete, and… “actor”

Holly Robinson Peete- whom I had a crush on in 6th grade from her role on Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper

Bret Michaels- reality show contestant transfer from VH1, oh yeah, and the lead singer of Poison

Curtis Stone- Australian TV chef

Michael Johnson- Olympic Gold Medal Sprinter

Carol Leifer- Jewish comedienne/writer for Seinfeld

Selita Ebanks- Victoria’s Secret model

Summer Sanders- Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer

Maria Kanellis- former professional wrestling actress

The episode started out with The Donald explaining he understands it’s even harder now than ever to get people to ask for money.  He confidently confirmed that the “celebrities” are putting their careers on hold (cough-cough-desperate-for-a-comeback-cough-cough) to be on the show.

As the script called for, he turned down his personal chauffuer’s ride, telling us the viewers, “Ya know what, I’m walking instead.”  After the camera was turned off, he then most undoubtedly took the ride he just turned down.

This premiere was packed with follicly challenged hosts and constestants, not because they are losing their hair, but because they choose some of the the most bizarre do’s for themselves.  The Donald, of course, has his own signature horribleness.  Blagojevich prefers more of a spin-off of The Donald,  but looking more like a 12 year-old boy’s haircut.  Donald Jr. (who proves bad hair runs in the family) feels most confident in his uneven “which way is it going today?” slick-back.  And Cindy Lauper, it really wouldn’t be fair to call her messy bird’s nest a hairstyle.

The men named their team Rock Solid and the women chose Tenacity (which  means “courage”).  Both teams had to take over a diner called Burger Heaven (two different locations, one for each team).  They only  had 3 hours to be open for business.  This caused a particular challenge for the contestants because any rich friends they had in New York City had to actually be there in person to make a financial contribution.

Rock Solid chose to target people with extra money to give to charity by making all their menu items $100.  But Tenacity chose to make their menu items more affordable for “street people”.  As a curve ball, The Donald had last season’s winner, Jewish comedienne Joan Rivers to visit both team’s restaurants to decide which one was better.  Her decision would cause The Donald to personally give an extra $10,000 to that team’s charity.

Favorite Moments:

When Goldberg compared his old school paper hat to a Yamaka.

When it was obvious that Cyndi Lauper was annoyed by the radio DJ saying naming her restaurant challenge “Girls Just Want to Eat Luh-unch”.

When Sharon Osbourne referred their restaurant as a “Star Wars Bar” because Cyndi Lauper started singing “True Colors” with the accompaniment of her accordion player.

When Joan Rivers referred to her Rock Solid Burger as an “Icelandic Sandwich” because it took Blagojevich nearly 9 minutes to deliver it to her after it was ready.

When Joan Rivers nonchalantly stole a menu from Tenacity’s restaurant as she was leaving.

When The Donald pointed out Cyndi Lauper’s hairdo, then she replied by telling him that her friend Edith thinks that Donald is very sexy, then Donald Jr. asked Cyndi how old her friend is.

When the Friskies commercial came on.  I refer to it “Cats on LSD”.  It’s pretty trippy, man.

The Bottom Line:

Joan Rivers liked Tenacity’s restaurant better, which gave them the $10K advantage, even so, Rock Solid came out way on top:

Tenacity: $29, 559 + $10,000 = $39, 559

Rock Solid: $57, 905

That was a combined total of $97K, then The Donald threw in an extra $3K, giving a total of $100,000 to the American Diabetes Foundation.

The men won, so that meant The Donald had to fire someone from the women’s team, Tenacity.  This episode was unique in that their were no clear stand-out lazy contestants.  But in the board room, a few of the women mumbled Carol Leifer’s name when The Donald asked them who the weakest member of the team was.  Even though Cyndi Lauper was the Project Manager, Carol Leifer was fired.

Then, as usual, the episode abruptly ended with a shot of the car driving away the recently fired contestant.

Thanks for reading, fellow Celebrity Apprentice fans.  If this post garners enough hits from Google searches, like my Bachelor recaps did, I’ll be back next week with another recap.

Bad Things, Man

There are a lot of “bad things” you can do and be, and for the most part, people will overlook it. Ironically, one of the few things I have found that our American society finds unforgivable and unacceptable is someone who is judgmental of others. Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker is a prime example. He had notable talent and a great career going for him. Then he opened his mouth.

In a 2000 interview with Sports Illustrated he revealed himself to be a racist, sexist, and “homophobe” by comments he made in just one paragraph. It cost him his career. Think of all the crimes that athletes have committed and walked away with just a slap on the wrist. But it was a judgmental mindset, regardless of his athletic ability, that cursed him.

Seinfeld star Michael Richards (“Kramer”) officially ruined his career in 2006 when he lost control of an audience at a comedy club while doing a stand-up routine, then began shouting racial slurs at the people he believed to be causing the disruption, in a desperate and pitiful attempt to gain control. This was captured on a cell phone, uploaded to YouTube, and the rest is history. His career will never survive this, despite his many public apologies.

John Rocker and Michael Richards are easy targets though. The annoying thing about it is every person alive today is judgmental of others, no matter how small the degree. There is a natural tendency to create somewhat of a list of degrees regarding “bad people”, or at least “people I’m better than”. Not that anyone wants to or means to consider ourselves better than other people, but the truth is, it happens everyday.

I realize there are several degrees of separation between gossiping about co-workers and being an open bigot, but where is the line drawn? Both examples involve a person publicly assessing either the private matters or character of another person. Both involve a person making an call that another person is somehow sub-par. At what point is it no longer innocent and harmless to judge another person?

The highly successful sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond had an episode in which the twin sons befriended a kid at school whose dad was a sanitation worker (a “garbage man”). The comedy of the episode was when Raymond’s wife acted uneasy when the “Garbage Man Dad” visited the household to pick up his son. The episode showed that secretly she looked down on garbage men, compared to other occupations like writers or high school teachers. Like the way people look at a truck driver differently than compared to a doctor, though both men work hard to support their families.

Many reality shows totally play on the concept of enticing its viewers to come back each week to watch how stupid a person is going to be. I think that’s why Dennis Rodman stayed as long as he did on The Apprentice: Donald Trump knew that viewers were annoyed by Dennis and would keep watching in hopes he would be fired on that episode. Maybe it’s the satisfaction in knowing that though we’re not perfect, or at least we’re not as messed up as “that person”.

I remember the pastor of my church, Mike Glenn, saying how when he meets a new person out on the golf course and Mike is asked what does for a living, the demeanor and vocabulary of the other person often changes instantly. Whereas the first 30 minutes of the game they revealed their true selves to Mike, anything after that was a different version.

To some degree, he must feel frustrated that he is seen as “the holy man”, the one others have to straighten up around. I’m sure to some degree he must be tired of being judged- so many people can’t see past his profession. But why do people react that way to the pastor of one of the biggest churches of the biggest city in Tennessee?

Maybe because they’re afraid they will be judged. What a paradox. In fear of being judged, they judge the pastor. They assume he looks down on them because they’re not “tight with Jesus”. The ultimate irony of it is that he doesn’t care that they just dropped the “f-bomb”. He genuinely just wants to be their friend.

People forget that Jesus was friends with prostitutes, beggars, and plenty of other people who had no future. From what I’ve heard, one of the biggest issues that atheists have with Christians is that at some point or many points in their lives, they had an experience where a Christian was judgmental towards them.

I think it’s weird that God leaves it up to faulty human beings that mess up everyday like everyone else (and also struggle with being judgmental) to show the rest of the world the love of God. If a person could be made perfect the moment they became a Christian, it would be much easier for non-believers to believe. But instead God chooses to use instruments that are often out of tune to play the music.

Sometimes when I’m driving home from work I get behind this car with a bumper sticker that says “Jesus, save me from your followers!” I’m always irritated at first when I see it. But I can relate. I wish Jesus would save me from myself sometimes.