What Race Are You?

How do you identify yourself?  In the aftermath of the recent racial tensions (which were mostly created ad fueled by media spewing inaccurate information), I began to reflect on how many people identify themselves by the color of their skin or the lineage of their ancestors.

Crowd

The thought occurred to me that if we truly want a society free from racial prejudice then we must realize that we are all members of the same race…the human race.  If you were to change the color of your skin would you be a different person?  No, you would not…and if you would be different, you are not being honest with yourself about who you really are.  If you are afforded special privileges because of ethnicity (or gender) is that not also a form of bias?  Absolutely!  In addition, it is demeaning in the implication that someone is not able to compete on their own simply because their skin is somehow pigmented differently than another persons or they lack certain anatomical features.

In addition to this, we are often conditioned to live up to or down to common expectations.  We can’t help it, as a rule, because our society teaches us to conform, fit in, blend in.  We are often afraid to forge our own path and ignore those who say it can’t work that way.  But this is the recipe for mediocrity at best and inhibits the prospect of any real change or advancement.

When you look at yourself and others, do you see the person or the shell that holds that individual?  I am asking you all to look past the shell at the character.  I am not saying don’t judge people…that talent is essential to survival.  What I am saying is don’t judge the book by the cover but by the content.  Learn to see people as part of the human race, not divided by some arbitrary sub-category.

The Christmas Present

I was watching TV about a year ago, just before Christmas.  There was a commercial for some hot new toy.  Usually I tune out the ads, but this particular time it caught my attention when the announcer said, “Hurry down and buy this blah, blah, blah toy before they are sold out!  You don’t want to be the worst parent on your block!”  Now I am not opposed to commerce and believe in the elusive free market system, but this just rubbed me WRONG!  I swore right then that I would not be caught up in the hype.  I did not give piles of presents for Christmas last year, or this.  Instead I turned my focus to my family and friends, making sure that I appreciated them all year long.

There are some who say that Jesus was not actually born on Christmas and so it is not a celebration of his birth, but I disagree.  The name says it all…CHRISTmas is a celebration of the birth and life of the Christ child.  He brought to this world many special gifts.  Even those who don’t practice Christianity can appreciate the teachings of the Man from Galilee.  It is a universal message of love and a way of living with respect for both yourself and those around you.

The best Christmas present I ever had or ever will have is just enjoying being together with my family and friends.  And the coming year I will remind myself how lucky I am to have wonderful people in my life.  Every day I count the blessings that I have experienced and try, in some small way, to share that good fortune with others.  May your Holiday be blessed with gifts that cannot be purchased for any price.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or some other holiday, may peace and joy be yours today and all through the coming year.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Va

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Va

Shooting stars...wishes anyone?

Shooting stars…wishes anyone?

What Is Your Interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution?

A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.Bill Of Rights

This phrase seems simple.  Yet it may be one of the most controversial and misinterpreted statements ever made!  Some people think that the first part, the mention of the well regulated militia, has no real bearing on the clause itself.  Others think that the phrase does not apply to the individual, but is a “collective” right.  Let’s take a look at the entire sentence and at the reason it was added to our Bill of Rights.

First, it is important to look at the intent of the Bill of Rights.  It was argued that we should not add these amendments to our Constitution because they were considered to be rights that were endowed by our Creator to all living things.  It was feared that if these things were stated by a government on a document such as the Constitution the implication would be that these liberties had been granted by said government and therefore could also be rescinded.  The proponents of the Bill of Rights contended that the design was to limit the power of the government over the people.  The Bill of Rights was to state the very basic laws of God and nature that no man or government could ever deny the individual.

Why was this so important to our Founding Fathers?  Consider that most of the settlers to this new land made the long and dangerous journey because they had been persecuted in some way.  Many were not allowed to worship as they pleased or were in danger of being jailed for their ideas or values. Imagine living in a place where you can be put in jail or sentenced to death for simply speaking out against an unfair act by your government.  The brave souls who made that trip understood the concept of true freedom and felt it important enough to risk their lives and livelihoods to achieve.

Next let’s explore the Second Amendment and its place in the Bill of Rights.  The drafters of this document realized that if the populace was to be self governing then the only way to maintain that balance of power was for the citizens to be armed and able to defend the Republic.  A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state confirms that every able bodied man and woman has a responsibility to become proficient with arms to defend our nation against any tyrannical government.  Therefore, the true intent of the Second Amendment is that the government shall never have arms that the law abiding citizen does not also have access to!  You may argue that we have our national Armed Forces and don’t NEED the citizens to be armed in a modern world, but that is exactly the OPPOSITE of the mandate defined by the Second Amendment.  If we allow or military to have arms that can easily overpower the general public then we are creating a situation where the Constitution has no force and the Republic is in grave danger.

Here are facts that history has proven time and again.

  • Power corrupts. Even those who have good intentions often become intoxicated by it.
  • Many crimes are committed under the pretext of following the law or following orders.
  • Governments commit genocide repeatedly and it still goes on today. OUR government is no exception.  Simply look at the Native Americans!

These are just some of the reasons that the Bill of Rights was drafted, and the Second Amendment is key to the security of our free state.  Without the UNINFRINGED right of the people to keep and bear arms we have no freedom.  So the next time your legislature wants to pass a “common sense” law to restrict private gun ownership it is your duty as a citizen, as a part of the self-governing Republic called the United States of America, to prevent passage.  It is also your duty to work to get the current restrictions on private ownership repealed!

Hopefully this article will give many some insight into the true meaning of the Second Amendment.  Ideally it will give us all a way to communicate to our lawmakers that they must repeal the unconstitutional laws that have been erroneously passed.

Trial By Media

There has been a lot of press about some high profile cases lately.  One of the most recent is the Ferguson, Missouri Grand Jury hearing of the officer who shot Michael Brown.  I will not go into the details of this case…that is not the point of the post.  What I will say is that there is much more misinformation floating around than actual fact.

Let me go on to say that I am not one to blatantly trust the police or the government…that would be in contrast to what history and current events demonstrate.  But…and it is a huge BUT…I trust the press even less.  Some will get mad at me for saying this, and some will be downright insulted, but I have personally been involved in incidents that made the press and have seen first hand that the “facts” as portrayed by the media leave much to be desired.  Often they are just plain wrong, and other times they report selective details in an effort to sway public opinion.  The Grand Jury had hard evidence to look at.  Their task was to investigate whether or not that evidence was sufficient to bring charges against the officer involved.  The Press, on the other hand, did not have access to much of this information, yet they reported the partial truth religiously and in some ways played a part in fueling the tensions that led to the demonstrations and riots.

The press is a very powerful tool and there was perhaps a time when the journalistic code of ethics was held sacred.  Sadly, that does not happen today and some venues don’t even bother to try to give the appearance of impartiality.  Woe to the man who is the victim of this travesty.

Think about this…how many lives have been ruined because the media has been quick to print allegations of a crime?  The police want to give the public some reassurance so they leak a name of a suspect to the press.  This person’s photo is promptly in every living room.  His place of employment is under siege from news hounds attempting to get a scoop.  His home is ground zero for satellite dishes, lights and remote broadcasts.  And then some evidence is uncovered that exonerates the poor guy, but the damage is done.  His boss has fired him so that the rest of the employees can get some work accomplished.  His neighbors won’t speak to him or let their kids play with his.  The Little League tells him that he can’t coach a team anymore because, well, what would people think?  His search for a job is futile because he is now “that guy” who was accused of whatever, so he MUST have done SOMETHING to arouse suspicion, right?  So the only recourse is to uproot his family and move to someplace where hopefully he can become normal again.

We have all seen this, and we all play a part in it.  We watch the news and eagerly look for “closure” when there is a crime in our neighborhood.  We may even call the police and demand that they do more to solve these crimes and keep us safe.  But our thirst for these things we call news is driving a culture that decides the fate of people before they get a fair trial…and may even prevent that trial from having any chance of being impartial.

So I ask you to not be so quick to form your opinions based on what the media feeds you.  Don’t let public sentiment influence you.   Do your best to research all sources and make up your own mind in an educated, informed way.  These are the actions of a free person.  Blindly accepting what the press says (or what the popular opinion is) is the act of a controlled person…a slave.  You have a choice.

Thanksgiving

The first wave of Europeans to settle in the United States had a very tough go of things. They endured a long and dangerous voyage across an ocean to a land where they had no family, no stores, no support system. They did this to find freedom from an oppressive government and/or church (which were often one and the same).

After much hardship they reaped a bountiful harvest and laid their stores for the upcoming winter. When the harvest was in and the supplies were stashed they gave thanks.

As we celebrate this uniquely American holiday, lets reflect on the reason these colonists were grateful…they had achieved a new kind of freedom, if only for a short while. They were free to keep the fruit of their labor. They were masters of their own destiny. They could worship as they chose without fear of persecution or execution. They had realized a dream that most of us will never fully understand and many of us are all too willing to surrender.

I sincerely wish a happy Thanksgiving to you and your families. May the true meaning of this day be preserved for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

Are We Cheating Our Children?

It is natural for parents to want to protect their children, keep them from harm.  But in

Are you accidentally robbing your child's chances for success?

Are you accidentally robbing your child’s chances for success?

doing so are we depriving them of essential skills they will need as adults?

Consider this…in life you must face adversity.  There are confrontations, negotiations, people who would attempt to deceive or defraud you and those who would physically harm you.  If you have been sheltered as a child and adolescent, you will be unable to recognize and effectively deal with these inevitable situations.  So I suggest to you, as parents, don’t insulate your child from these learning experiences.  Instead, stand beside them and offer support and guidance where appropriate, but let them figure out how to deal with challenges.  You will be guiding them toward success instead of cheating them out of valuable life lessons.

Being Judgemental

There is a common saying, albeit an older and somewhat dated saying, “Don’t judge me.”  I speak with many people who claim to be non-judgmental…but why?  Making assessments, assigning risk and making decisions based on that judgement is essential to survival.  But more importantly, we must make those same assessments of ourselves or we will not effectively direct our personal growth.

I actually WANT to be judged.  I welcome feedback even if it is contrary to my outlook…often especially if it disagrees with my views!  This is how we learn (unless we already know everything and therefore are not open to learning).

By the same token, I make decisions daily based on calculations tempered by my observations of the world around me.  This include things like which route to take when traveling, who to trust with my children or my bank accounts, whether the guy walking toward me on the sidewalk looks like a threat, etc.  All of these things are important and all are necessary to my well being.

But there are more personal assessments that we make in life.  Do you know someone who has a lot of friends?  There are people who call everyone they meet a friend and then there are those who realize that true friendship is earned over time.  In order to determine who is worthy of that exclusive title we must make judgments of the person’s character and use that information to determine if they are worth investing the time it takes to maintain a close relationship.  If so, the rewards are immeasurable.  If not, the risk is greater than the potential.

So the next time someone says that they don’t judge people, ask them why they don’t.  Teach your children to be discriminating and to know the difference between an acquaintance and a true friend.  And by all means, be your own worst critic!  It is your best tool to enhance your station in life.

Free Election System

knowledge is power

Do you have all the knowledge you need to make an informed decision?

We think we have a free country here in the United States, but do we really? We vote for people to represent us, but is the deck stacked?

Consider this…how many people are running for a given seat in your district? Are there debates between the candidates? Are ALL the candidates allowed to participate? I know of one race where the incumbent was defeated in a primary election. This left the seat very much in contention. There is a debate scheduled and the Democrat and Republican candidates are participating. But there is a third, Libertarian candidate who is not allowed to participate. Strangely, the two candidates for the “accepted” parties both have affiliation with the college that is hosting the debate…but the college says that THEY didn’t make the decision, a private firm they hired to coordinate things set the ground rules that excluded the third party.

I ask you, if we are supposed to be a free society, how can we ignore the blatant bias so thinly veiled? This type of thing happens all over our country and people just blindly accept it. Perhaps it is too much trouble to maintain our freedom. I hope that the general public wakes up before we surrender what little liberty we have left.

Preparedness – Everyone’s Responsibility

A few years ago we had a strong line of thunderstorms roll trough our region.  There were wide spread

Do you know what these symbols mean?

Do you know what these symbols mean?

power outages that lasted for days in some areas.  To some this may be only a minor inconvenience, but for others it can be a real challenge.  Aside from the obvious food spoilage issues, if you live in a rural area and are dependent on well water you will not have any water without electricity. This also means you can’t flush!  Gas stations can’t dispense fuel, ATMs won’t work, credit transactions may not be able to be processed, and cordless phones are reduced to paper weights. What can you do to prepare for unexpected interruptions of our daily conveniences?  There are a lot of things.

1. Keep your car from falling below a half tank of gas.  If the power goes out for extended periods you may need it!  And once the power is back on be prepared for long lines and shortages.

2. Keep some basic supplies in your vehicle.  They are:

  • Water (at least a gallon)
  • Food; something with dense nutrition and long shelf life that is not affected by heat or cold
  • Flashlights…and remember to replace the batteries annually
  • Blanket/shelter.  You could be stranded for extended periods in cold weather.
  • Basic tools; you should have a hammer, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, a knife, plyers and/or adjustable wrench and a lug wrench at the bare minimum.  Consider adding a small hatchet and/or bow saw to that.  Also a small or folding shovel is a good thing to have.
  • If you live in a colder climate carry some cat litter or sand with you to help with traction if you get stuck.
  • Matches (waterproof is best) and/or flares
  • A backpack is advisable to keep these things together and useful if you need to hike to safety.  A change of clothes is not a bad idea either.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Some form of personal protection
  • A first-aid kit

3. Keep some basic things in your home:

  • Water – you can use empty milk jugs (cleaned of course) or other things to store several gallons of water.  If there is flooding in your area there may not be potable water for a while.
  • Candles/oil lamps/battery powered light sources
  • A generator if you can
  • Canned food and dried food that is not dependent on refrigeration.  Also consider if you will be able to cook…is your stove electric?  Do you have a grill?  Do you have plenty of charcoal or gas for that grill?
  • A heater that is not dependent on electricity
  • A corded phone if you have a land line
  • Extra batteries for your cell phone…that are fully charged!!
  • A manual can opener
  • Fire extinguishers in the kitchen, garage and bedrooms
  • Chain saw/bow saw if you live somewhere where there are trees around your house
  • Emergency battery powered radio with weather radio function.  A two way radio is also not a bad idea.
  • Some form of personal protection
  • Medical supplies and if you take prescription medications don’t let them reach critically low levels.

These are not an all inclusive list, by any stretch, but they are some of the bare necessities to ensure you will get through an emergency with minimal problems. The one other thing you need is a plan.  Especially if you have family, you should have a meeting place, an alternate meeting place, and some planned escape routes.  If your family lives elsewhere you may designate a meeting place or a way to let each other know you are okay.  Communications may be interrupted or jammed.

One other thing to consider is protection.  I choose to carry a pistol with me wherever I go and I take the time to stay proficient with it.  It is not the right choice for each individual and there are other options available including knives, pepper spray, tasers, collapsible batons and more.  Some of these may or may not be legal in your area.  This is a personal choice, one to be decided by each individual.  But be aware that in a catastrophe, like Katrina or Sandy, law enforcement may be days away, not just minutes.  Criminals will take advantage of this and looters may not hesitate to take a life.  Again, your safety is ultimately your own responsibility.  Have a plan to defend yourself and your life-giving stash of supplies!  This includes getting proper training, practice and safeguarding your defensive tools from unauthorized access.

There are many web sites, classes and books on the subject of emergency preparedness.  I suggest doing some research, educating yourselves and taking positive steps to prepare for what could happen.  Think of it as a “self insurance” policy against potential disaster.  If you think it couldn’t happen to you, think again!  It can happen to anyone.

If you want to know what could happen in a real life situation, one book you can read is Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.  It is a true story about a man who rode out Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I offer this information because I have been through both summer and winter storms that disrupted power and caused potentially life threatening situations.  We were prepared and came through fine, but had we not been ready thing could have been very different.  Sharing this with others can perhaps help them be ready in the event a disaster hits their region.

Guns Kill?

This gun never killed anything.

This gun never killed anything.

I read a post this morning under “Freshly Pressed” (even though the original post was from July?) titled Planes Don’t Fly and Guns Don’t Kill.  Being a proponent of freedom, including the right to defend ones self on equal terms with the attacker, I read the post.  It was a story of a man who has killed for the sake of killing on more than one occasion.  Granted they were animals and not humans, but this man took three lives, two of which were deliberate.

What struck me about the post was that the author blamed his actions on the tool used to carry them out.  He made a choice to kill a living thing.  He followed through on that choice.  While having the gun may have made the action easier, it was the man behind the gun that ultimately caused the death of the creature.  He says he feels remorse, but he repeats his actions, so how much regret is there really?

I suppose we should be glad that the person who made these choices selected birds as his prey and not humans…or will he take that step in the future?  I respect the man’s decision to devoid himself of firearms.  It appears to be a wise choice for him.  Perhaps he is one of the reasons that others should be armed!

This blog is about freedom.  Along with that freedom comes the responsibility for ones actions.  You cannot have one without the other.  Every living thing has an inherent right to self preservation.  Even plants develop defense mechanisms to level the playing field and insure their survival.  Man, being the inventive creature that he is, has created tools to make life easier.  One of those tools is the firearm.  It has been a tool used for both good and bad actions by humans.  The object is inanimate and will never do anything without human interaction.  Much like an automobile, medications, bathtubs, swimming pools and a host of other objects and substances that can cause death or injury to humans or other living things, a person must manipulate the tool to cause a reaction…that reaction can be good or bad based on the actions of the person.

So while the title of the blogger’s post was true, the premise of the body is a poor excuse for the author’s bad behavior.  I don’t buy into the theory that having a gun in your hand will cause your primal instinct to kill to surge forward uncontrollably.  If it does, perhaps you should seek professional assistance.

p.s.  I was going to comment directly on the post referred to above, but it appears that comments were disabled.