Wednesday, February 19, 2014

E Pluribus Unum

"And with a straight face, you're going to tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we're the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. So, two hundred seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.
 "And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. Now none of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the worst-period-generation-period-ever-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the ---- you're talking about?! Yosemite?!!!
"We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured disease, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars; acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed...By great men, men who were revered.
 "The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
In case you didn't know, that was an excerpt from the opening scene of the pilot episode of HBO's The Newsroom.  The character, portrayed by Jeff Daniels, is a prime time news anchor named Will McAvoy.  Obviously, he doesn't care much about what others think of his opinion;  he simply calls it like he sees it.  (A full clip of that scene can be seen here.)

Last month, I sat down to watch the President of the United States speak to the people with his State of the Union address.  I was extremely intrigued....not only by his address, but also by the responses I've heard from some of my fellow Americans.

Here in my twenty-fifth year on this earth, I've come to find that a few things seem a bit out of control.  Maybe it's the economy?  Maybe it's the lack of world peace?  Perhaps the climate change? Or technology? The internet? Crime? Poverty? Hunger? Money? Greed? Sex? Anger? Misfortune?...

It's impossible to put the blame on one particular aspect, but I feel obligated to share my opinion on a few matters.

The United States of America has sadly, and unfortunately, transitioned from "The Land of Opportunity" to "The Land of 'Give Me-because I Deserve It'."

I truly believe that a thriving society only thrives when its citizens play their respective parts.  This applies to, but is not limited to, any society, community, town, city, state, and country.  No matter how big or how small, each society has an infinite number of moving parts and contributors.  Unfortunately, the society is only as strong as its weakest member.  (Cliche´, but true at the same time.)

Since when do we, as Americans, believe that we're owed a convenient, lavish, and worry-free lifestyle just because we were born within the borders of the U.S.?  Since when does our culture promote equality at the top of the mountain without any intention of making the climb?  Since when is it acceptable to take and take and take, without any effort or determination to give back?  I have absolutely no problem with a government & society that is determined to help its country's less-fortunate;  however, I do have a problem with a government & society that is determined to provide for citizens that are too lazy, too proud, too selfish, too disrespectful, and/or too self-entitled to take advantage of the opportunity to work and provide for themselves.  That is what made this country great in the past.  (Please note there is a difference between those who don't work vs. those who can't work.)

Our society once strove for the chance to live the American Dream.  Our country began with a society who refused to quit, and with leaders who never stopped striving for greatness within themselves. 

Here's the point:  We Americans are not born with anything owed to us.  Each of us must play the cards we're dealt, and make the best of our respective circumstances.  We are not entitled to decide that we're able, yet unwilling.  Too many Americans today jump at the chance to claim their "given" constitutional rights to avoid inconvenient circumstances, but gladly and knowingly disrespect and disregard the very values in which this country was founded.  Those values are hard work, determination, and striving to be the best together with a moral standard, among others;  NOT being content with surviving and being dependent on another person's fortunes and successes;  NOT placing blame on people because of their differences;  NOT bending at the knees of political correctness;  NOT seeking the easy way out;  NOT crying victim every chance we get;  NOT accepting failure.

When (and why) did it become the American culture to stand in the streets and scream about our rights?  When did doing something become interchangeable with saying something?  When did our culture become more defensive (anything and everything is taken as disrespectful by one group or another, which leads to civil dispute), rather than offensive (identifying a problem, discussing a solution, and collaborating its execution)?  Believe it or not folks, the United States is more socially, politically, and morally divided than any time in our history since the Civil War.  Look it up.  It disgusts me.

Listen:  America began with immigrants.  We're all immigrants through one blood line or the other.  We're all part of a huge melting pot of people from all walks of life.  Don't neglect that fact.  Don't disown fellow Americans because they're different; rather, respect it.  Embrace it.  Appreciate it.

Speaking of, one thing I don't appreciate: How does a society embrace, promote, and idolize people who serve as such horrific role models for our children?  Is it really necessary to project such uncivilized lifestyles to society?  No, it's not.  At the same time, doesn't this type of influence eventually transform the perspective and beliefs of our society?  Unfortunately, it does. And I'm left wondering what happened.

Here are some fun facts that everyone should know.  If you disagree, do some more research.  If you still disagree, you're unfortunately stubborn and/or naive.
  • President Obama has done absolutely nothing in attempt to take away your right to bear arms.
  • Homosexual marriage will not end the world.  They have rights like everyone else.  (How will that even affect you?)
  • Alcohol abuse causes more deaths in the U.S. each year than marijuana, cocaine, and heroine abuse combined.
  • Phil Robertson's freedom of speech and constitutional rights were never compromised in his now-famous interview with GQ Magazine.  When you're working for someone else, you should be prepared to face consequences of your actions and words.  Sorry Phil, that was too far.  (Do you think anyone else could get away with that while being paid by their employer?)
  • The definition of the "debt ceiling" is probably not what you think it is. 
  • The United States of America was not founded on the beliefs of Christianity.  Quite the opposite, actually. (For the record, I am a Christian.)
  • There are open jobs on the market for the taking, if you look for them.  (Even though your dream job might not be available immediately after high school or college.)
  • Guns don't kill people.  Really, they don't.
  • The wealthy pay more indirect income taxes than you think.  They certainly do not pay lower taxes than the middle class.  Learn your stuff.
  • Racism still exists as a part of our culture only because it's primarily used as an excuse and/or a cop-out, sadly. 
  • Roughly 60% of registered voters in the U.S. placed votes in the last Presidential election.
  • Women can do work.  African Americans can do work.  Homosexuals can do work.
  • A staggering percentage of unemployment applications are filled out by people who only work seasonal jobs.  (Amusement park employee for three months, unemployment benefits for the other nine, for example.)
  • The Republican Party is not run by Republicans anymore.
  • Change doesn't start in the White House;  change starts with you.

Put your efforts where your mouths are, America.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I have been humbled.

It seems like I’ve done a lot of things in my life.  However, lately….it doesn’t seem to really mean anything.  I mean, I was captain of all those sports teams, part-time job slave, friend, brother, son, co-worker, student extraordinaire, etc.

What does it all really mean?

It means I’ve done nothing.  I’ve been slapped in the face in the past year.  Hard.  Never in my life have I felt so helpless.  I know, now, that I can no longer do anything on my own.  I must have Christ in my life.  Nothing has meaning without Him.

I want to be able to serve.  Serve with love, honor, and praise.  Serve without judgment.  Serve without regret.  I’m not sure exactly how to do all of this yet.  I will find out.  I need to consume more.  More words, more faith, more love, more everything.  I want to learn more.  The more that I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, which makes me want to learn even more.  It’s kind of an oxymoron.

I want to speak to people.  I want people to listen to my story.  I’m not sure if anyone can benefit, but I sure hope so.  I think that people could hear my story and be inspired.  I feel like I see things from a different perspective.  I want people to be able to see my perspective.  I want to show people that there are other things in life besides money, jobs, sports, girls, drinking, smoking, etc.

I think that I need to speak more to all of my friends.  I actually know that, to be quite honest.  I know that I need to be more of an influence on my peers’ lives.  I need not be afraid of temptation, of trouble, of worry, of criticism, of crime, of disappointment, of failure. I need not to be afraid of judgment.

Every time that I give something, I want to give more.  I want to give and give and give and give.  And then, give more.  I want to have value in what I give.  The weird thing is, I don’t truly know that what I have to give is good enough.  That needs to change. But, giving something is better than giving nothing.

I’m a different person now.  I’m a new man.  I need to embrace my place on this planet, and start telling people about God’s word.  I need to witness every chance that I get.  I need to make a difference.  I claim to have made a difference in peoples’ lives before, but, I don’t know that to be true. Maybe I’ll never know.

I need to know that what comes out of my mouth is the truth.  And to me, there’s only one truth = God’s word.  That is the absolute truth.  He is the only way.  There’s no other option.  The sooner that I realize that, the sooner I’ll have an impact.  I now know that to be true.

That’s all I ask for: a chance.  Why? Because we don’t get many of them these days…opportunities that is.  I believe you must be able to take every advantage of every opportunity that you get in life.  I need to get better at that.

Jump with me, you won’t regret it.  If you jump, I’ll hold your hand.

Let us love, live like that.

You know what’s wrong with this world? Two words, one answer: I am. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Greatest Gift


It's such a simple word with a simple meaning; yet, somehow it's extremely hard to fully grasp and execute these days. In other words: easy to talk the talk, but difficult to walk the walk.

The holidays are always described as, "The Season of Giving."  Personally, I'd like to think that it's not only good, but necessary to give 365 days a year.

According to ABC News, there are 17 million hungry children in the U.S., and that number is rising. Thousands of charitable organizations are striving to stay afloat each day around the world. Millions of Americans.........wait. Hold the phone. I'm not here to preach about the money you should give, the people you should help, or the world problems you should solve.

I'm here to simply spark a light bulb over your head,  and hopefully put things into better perspective for you.

When it comes to giving, it's not all about money. It's not about what you have and don't have. It's not about what you can afford and can't afford.  It's not about the deserving and undeserving. It's not about the richer or the poorer. It's not about the hungry and the hungrier. It's not about giving the better gift at Christmas.

It's about selflessness: putting others before yourself.

I can't begin to count how many times other people have sacrificed for my greater good.  To them, I wasn't anyone special. I wasn't a saint. I wasn't mistreated. I wasn't disabled or hurt. I wasn't the nicest guy they'd ever met..........I was just someone who could use a little help, and they helped without judgement.

Like I said earlier, it's not all about giving your money. Give your time. Give your wisdom. Give your effort. Give your hand. Give your friendship. Give your appreciation. Give your gratitude. Give your talents. Give your heart. Give your love. Give your respect. Give your help, grace, treasures, hope, thoughts, prayers, motivation, spirit, hugs, kisses, generosity, and everything in between.

Selfless giving is the greatest gift. Give more, and you will receive. The people that gave to me changed my life forever, and for that I'm more appreciative than words can describe.

Change someone's life.