I went to a Donald Trump rally so you don’t have to

I went to a Donald Trump rally so you don’t have to

IMG_20190314I’ve never been so scared for a case of mistaken identity in my life. As the Donald Trump campaign has shifted from humorous slideshow to legitimate contender to horrifying prospects, I haven’t been able to shake the simple thought of, “who exactly are these people who are supporting the things he says?” and I had to see for myself.

So with the Donald making a stop in my home town of Kansas City this evening, I decided to take the chance to see. Not to protest, as so many did, but instead to experience the rally, observe what happens, and relay it to others who might share my bewilderment. So I headed downtown, and found myself in a line wrapping around the block from the entrance to the theater. I clearly wasn’t the only non-supporter in the line, but I was determined to stay quiet, and, unlike most of the others, leave the rally without the help of the police.

We do that to one of their rallies and it’s front page news.

IMG_20160312_181223There couldn’t have been a more apt comparison for the divide in American politics today than the barricades separating the protesters on the East side of Main Street from the line of (mostly) supporters on the West. A few protesters had made it over to the side of the rally, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t expected more violence than I saw. At times I saw protesters outside the theater meeting with those who were waiting in line to get in that were face to face in screaming matches. Every one of these near altercations revolved around race, though the ones that looked most likely to come to blows were consistently white men arguing on each side.  For the most part, people in line looked across at their rivals as though they were smarter and better than the others, while those on the left side of the street assumed that every person in line was a hate filled individual.

We’re going to take our country back from these people. These are bad, bad people.  

Once inside, the rally began, about 30 minutes late, and the first 25 minutes were almost exclusively dedicated to groups of protesters taking their turn to yell something, start a chant, or otherwise be heard. While I wouldn’t be the first to make a comparison between Donald Trump’s campaign to the rise of Hitler, and I would certainly say that comparison is extreme, I can’t think of another way to describe watching secret service agents and police officers systematically hunt down and remove anyone who showed even the slightest measure of dissent.1

One by one members of the crowd would point at anyone who they thought wasn’t supporting Trump, primarily younger audience members, particularly black or less conservative looking people, and cheer as a member of the Secret Service or Kansas City’s finest would unquestioningly pull them from their seats and escort them to the exits.

…And I say it in front of these lying, thieving reporters…

I saw no violence, and Trump, seemingly having learned his lesson from the beating he’s taken in the media the past 48 hours never encouraged violence. Instead, in a sing-song voice, clearly meant to mock anyone who believes that the protesters shouldn’t be harmed, repeated the refrain of “Get ’em outta here! Be gentle… don’t hurt anyone. Be very, very gentle.” Then, as though a light-bulb went off in his head, he announced, as though a direct order to the police, that he would be pressing charges against anyone protesting his campaign… even going so far as to say that they deserve to have their lives ruined by having an arrest on their record. And, as lambs being led to the slaughter, the roar of the crowd only grew at the idea that anyone who disagrees with their leader should be punished, even though any person with common sense could see that no laws had been broken.

We have a first amendment right to free speech and we’re not allowed to do it because of this garbage right here.

As Trump continued the rant against anyone who dared speak against him, he alternated mocking them for being single, being small, being female, or anything else he could characterize as a weakness, with taking the role as the victim – even as he clearly relished in every moment he got to spar with the dissenter. He consistently called out their “weak, small voices” that couldn’t possibly keep up with the boom of his microphone.

The second half of the appearance continued to draw the occasional stoppage for a protester, but most had been weeded out, and Trump was able to get through more of his rambling stream of consciousness. He bragged about not reading speeches. He just stood up and said whatever came to his mind, interrupting himself as often as the protesters did.

He’s ISIS related. You can tell by his name he’s ISIS or ISIS related.

I didn’t hear the outright racism that I come to expect from a Trump speech. There was no talk of banning Muslims or Mexicans being rapists. But the only slightly more subtle racism seemed almost tame in comparison. The crowd, made up largely of white males, roared with approval when Trump said that his attempted attacker from this morning was “ISIS or ISIS related” with only what he considered an ethnic sounding name2. He also compared black protesters, whom he referred to as “Bernie supporters” to people who are just looking to sit at home and be taken care of.

The entire event led to a crescendo in much the same way that Springsteen builds until he can tear the roof off, but instead of a chorus of “Born to Run” the crowd was treated to a chorus of “Build the wall!” and all the reasons that Mexicans need to stay out of America.

At one point in the evening, Trump read a poem about a woman who saw a snake who needed help. The woman in the poem brought the snake in, and was immediately bitten. When she questioned the snake as to why this was the case, the snake replied, “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.” Trump provided no context for the story, but the crowd gave it a standing ovation – clearly missing the irony that we know damn well that there’s a snake in our midst.

 

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Notes:
  1. I’m not saying that a political speech should be a free-for-all. Clearly that’s not the case. But the tension here was thicker than anything I’ve ever experienced on this big of a level. Under different circumstances, seeing this devolve into a riot wouldn’t have been shocking.
  2. the actual name, doesn’t sound that way at all. I’m intrigued to know if Trump was knowing lying about it, or was given incorrect information.
The Path

The Path

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Things aren’t always as you plan.

The NCAA Baseball Tournament’s Manhattan regional has given me the welcome excuse to spend a weekend in the promised land. Complete with crashing in the dorm’s guest housing, as though it was the late 90s all over again.

Today I took a walk through campus. Not a quick walk with a specific destination, but instead a meandering journey, visiting places on campus that I hadn’t seen for well over a decade. I walked from my old dorm along the paths I normally took to many of my classes. I turned and walked back towards the Union, through the oldest parts of campus, around Anderson Hall, and back by the spork, and to the dorm I’m staying in. It doesn’t sound like much. If you went to K-State you likely have a great idea of the path that I walked.

And it really wasn’t much. Some things have changed immensely, and other things will never change. There were no big revelations. There wasn’t a flood of memories that came back. At this point in my life I barely remember who I was during my time here. But I still have no doubts just how formative it was. See, when you choose where to go to school, you think you’re choosing a destination, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You’re choosing the journey.

I didn’t become who I am now at K-State. I became who I was then. I’m no more the same person at 36 as I was at 24 than I was from 23 to 18. I not even sure I’m the same person I was two weeks ago, let alone 13 years ago. Our story isn’t one of a destination. It’s not about who we have become, but instead it’s the ongoing process of who we are becoming, and every choice we make… every path we venture down… changes what that becoming is. Choosing K-State wasn’t my destination, it was the first major choice in my journey.

And so here I am. Returning to that spot that I love full well, 13 years after finishing my work here. Life couldn’t be further from what I expected it to be. I’ve either forgotten or taken for granted everything that I learned here. I don’t use the degree that I earned, instead working in a career field that didn’t even exist when I was in school. I love that I’ve channeled my love of K-State sports into a hobby, and yet I’m sad that I’ll never get to take my child on a campus visit and pass on that passion. If I trace my steps back I see hundreds of places where I had a path to choose, each having led me to this moment.

Of course it’s not all just my choices. I can’t even begin to understand the consequences that opened and closed the paths from which I chose. I don’t know why, with serendipitous luck, some paths presented themselves, and why others were ripped out from under me in the most cruel of ways. I suppose it’s just the way life works. And we can respond to each path we take by choosing each individual tiny fork that presents itself just a few steps later. And while some, when presented with difficulty may choose to shrink back to adolescence, others forge ahead, never looking back from what is right. For better or worse, those are the choices that truly make us who we are.

And here’s where that journey began. The place where I took control of my own path. And ever it holds me with magic spell. I think of thee, alma mater.

A Theologically Accurate Post-Game Speech

A Theologically Accurate Post-Game Speech

“Because if God is for us, no one can be against us.” -Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis is the subject of plenty of jokes.  And I made a few of my own throughout the game as well.  But after the game we got yet another form of the traditional post-game “we did this because God wanted us to win” speech.  And of course the natural next step to that is that if God wanted Ray Lewis and the Ravens to win the Superbowl that would also mean that He has something against Collin Kaepernick and the 49ers.  God sure is cruel, isn’t He?

So it got me thinking about what would happen if someone were to give a more theologically accurate post-game speech:

“I’d like to thank my teammates for working hard and accomplishing this goal.  We won because we didn’t get called for a holding call in the end zone that may have given San Francisco a chance at the end, and overall we just outplayed the 49ers.

“I’d like to thank God for being my guide.  He sent his Son, Jesus, to shows us the way.  He taught us to love our enemies (which based on the fights we saw on the field today, we could still learn from).  He taught us to stay humble and learn to put others ahead of ourselves.  He taught us that blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, and those who thirst for hunger and righteousness.  He said blessed are the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted.  He may not care much about who wins a football game, but He cares what we do with our lives off the field. Let’s make the world a better place.”

It’s just so much harder to say that before Jim Nantz pulls the microphone away.

Reflections on Aurora: It’s just that simple

Reflections on Aurora: It’s just that simple

I learned a lot yesterday watching the world try to make sense of tragedy.

I learned that it’s completely ok to take children to movie theaters to see movies that they probably are too young to see.  That it’s wrong for people to be in movie theaters if they’re making too much noise and disturbing others and that personal rights to enjoy a movie preempt the rights of everyone else in the theater to see the movie. I learned that this isn’t a discussion anyone can have because it’s rude to kill people in a theater. And it’s just that simple.

I learned that it could have been me because I’m a fan of Batman.  I learned it could have been you because you go to midnight movies. I learned that it was almost your friend because they were in Colorado.  I learned it was someone just like us because they were on Twitter, too. I learned that it could have been any of us, and it had to be all of us.   And it’s just that simple.

I learned that community is locally global. I learned that if you don’t think globally, you can ruin your local and global perception. I learned that right here at home can mean across the street or a thousand miles away. It’s just that simple.

I learned that in times of tragedy no one wants anything to be politicized, theologized, or philosophized. I learned that no one can speak without doing one or all of those. I learned that the loudest voices aren’t the ones that want to be political, but the ones that are worried it will become political. I learned that nothing can be separated from politics, theology, and philosophy. And it’s just that simple.

I learned that if we had stricter gun laws things like this wouldn’t happen. I learned that if only someone in the theater had a gun the madman would have been stopped. I learned that guns don’t kill people, people do, and if they didn’t have guns they couldn’t kill people. And it’s just that simple.

I learned that all things happen for a reason and that there’s no reason for any of it.  That there’s a demonic stronghold on the Denver area and that God had everything and nothing to do with this. I learned that God allows evil. And it’s just that simple.

I learned that we need someone to blame. The inability to discern mental health. The parents who bring a child to the theater. The industries that glorify violence. The society that makes it so easy to get and use guns. The right. The left. The center. The gunman. And it’s just that simple.

I learned that when we can’t understand we look for answers. We look for solutions. We all mourn together, and we just need something. Anything. We know we can’t go back, so we just need to move forward.  And so it’s all right. And it’s all wrong. And still we mourn.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
-Matthew 5:4

And still, it’s just that simple.

The Ambiguity of Heroism and Villany

The Ambiguity of Heroism and Villany

Two years ago LeBron James was a hero to everyone1. He seemed like the ultimate good guy and everyone wanted him on their team. The problem, of course was that 29 teams couldn’t have him. Only one could, and as all know, he took his talents to South Beach.  And just like that, he became the villain2.

The next two seasons have seen millions root against the Heat. Why root for the team of superstars that realized they couldn’t handle leading a team on their own, and had to all come together with the expectation of dominating the league for years.  But that didn’t happen the first year, and while they finished with the championship in year two, it was anything but dominant.  They didn’t even finish with the top seed in their conference, instead losing out to the injury plagued Bulls3.

But now LeBron has a ring, and suddenly the media wants to throw the “Now is he the next Michael Jordan?” question at us again. Anyone who understands sports knows that there can’t be a comparison between the two. Comparing players from different eras is next to impossible.

But is it really a question of the best player, or is it a question of the biggest hero? We live in a world where if you’re good, people inevitably root against you.  It’s why the Yankees and Duke basketball are the most hated teams in sports. If you’re good for that long, everyone will hate you4.  But no one hated Michael Jordan. Even his biggest rivals could only marvel at what he did. He was a hero.
But Jordan was far from perfect5. There were stories of gambling problems, affairs, treating those around him pretty terribly, and some of the things villains are made of.  And Lebron’s biggest crime? Taking a job in another town6. The line between hero and villain is certainly a thin one.  And which is which?
But that’s where we just can’t make a call anymore. The game has changed to the point where it’s nearly impossible to compare Jordan and James. They do different things under a different set of rules. Lebron just isn’t the hero that Jordan was. But is it because of who Lebron is, or is it because the world doesn’t look at heroes the same way anymore.  We can n0 longer define good and evil. You don’t have to look past the movie we’re all waiting for this summer. There was a time when Batman was pure good, and now we want our heroes to have a balance between good and evil.  We have no time for the purely good.
So will Lebron be the next Michael Jordan?  No, we’ll never let him be. But is he really a hero or a villain?
Yes.

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Notes:
  1. We almost forget how much everyone totally loved for him and rooted for the Cavs
  2. I don’t know if he would have been that much of a villain had he gone to Chicago or somewhere else, but running off to be with Wade and Bosh to create their own super power certainly did it
  3. Had Rose & Noah not been hurt in the playoffs, I feel pretty confident we’d still be talking about how they couldn’t get it done
  4. I fully endorse hating the Yankees. They are pure evil. But I gave up on hating Duke a long time ago. They run a class program and Coach K is pretty freaking awesome
  5. Please note, this is coming from a life long Bulls fan who can’t stand the Heat. So don’t accuse me of trying to paint a pretty picture of LeBron. I say keep hating him
  6. Albeit in a completely arrogant and ridiculous manner
I Know a Spot that I Love Full Well…

I Know a Spot that I Love Full Well…

…’Tis not in forest, nor yet in dell.

There is a political climate in this nation that is currently broken and divided, and seemingly beyond repair.1  To what degree we can get away from it depends on where we can go to be unified. Throughout my life there has been one place where that seems possible…

Ever it holds me with magic spell…

There’s something about the love that comes from a place where you spend four of the best years of your life. Walking on campus always brings back memories of a time where things couldn’t have seemed more difficult, but couldn’t have been more simple.  You walk by the dorms,2 apartments, and houses you once lived in and remember the fun. The wild. The disappointment. The hope. The promise. The friends.  You remember everything that could have been, and everything that was.3

If you’re a sports fan that only becomes intensified as you remember the wins,4 the losses,5 the tailgates, and different versions of every emotion that you’ve spent in your life. Every football, basketball, baseball, and volleyball game gives you the chance to transport back to that time, even if it’s just for a few hours.

I think of thee, alma mater.

And that’s what brings us together. For 3 hours we may disagree on what play should be run,6 whether we should be in a man or a zone, or how long the pitcher should stay in.  Some want the traditional football uniforms7 and others love the grey new style of basketball uniforms.8 And you can’t do it without carrying a passion for everything that a place like Kansas State University means to you. And while we may passionately disagree, we’re all wearing purple.

K! S! U! We’ll carry the banner high.

And we wear purple through a dark time. We wear purple as a coach we loved, and who we thought loved us, leaves us. When you love someone and they hurt you, you don’t want to believe they could possibly have hurt you.  There has to be someone to blame, and it can’t be them. So we blame the athletic director. We blame the president. We blame the NCAA.  We blame everyone we can except the person who was the one who actually made the decision to pack up and walk away, and leave us staring into an unknown future.9

But we still wear purple.

K! S! U! Long, long may the colors fly.

Like our divided nation, the fan base is divided as well.  No one wanted Frank to leave, but how we react to it makes up who we are. Most fans understand the flaws and the problems. It’s not difficult to see things from all sides of what has happened at K-State as a boss and an employee couldn’t come together, and the relationship couldn’t be salvaged.  And here we are.10

There’s a small, but extremely vocal minority of fans who have chosen to take a very dark side. They want to win at all costs. They want to thumb their nose at the rules, invent crazy conspiracy theories, and harass anyone who thinks any different. They believe they’re the only true fans, and they’re determined to make sure that everyone knows.  Rationality and ethics mean nothing. Only the conclusions that they’ve arrived at long before any information could be addressed.

But they’re small. As small in size as in decency.

Loyal to thee thy children will swell the cry…

It’s a dark time, indeed. But it doesn’t have to be. The rest of K-State can move forward. The rest of us can see that K-State doesn’t revolve around one man, but instead everyone that wears purple from the freshman in the dorms to the players on the field. From the professors in the classrooms to the coaches on the sidelines.  From the administration in Anderson Hall to the alumni around the world.

We are K-State.

And we go on.

And we all wear purple.

Hail! Hail! Hail! Alma mater.

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Notes:
  1. The good news is that nothing is beyond repair, it’s certainly not as broken as it was during the Civil War
  2. 4 Years in Goodnow Hall for me. Loved every second of it. I’ll never forget walking into that tiny cell of a room the first day, or sneaking on the roof to smoke cigars on my last night… and a million things in between.
  3. and maybe even a few things that weren’t
  4. Nebraska. November 14, 1998. Best day of my life.
  5. A&M. Big XII Championship. Worst day of my life.
  6. I still don’t get why Klein didn’t run it in at Oklahoma State.
  7. Thank you, Bill, never change
  8. My least favorite. Love the white ones and the purple ones. The black ones are ok… but I can do without the grey.
  9. Let’s face it… Frank is at least 50% of the blame here. You can’t rationalize with someone who can’t possibly believe they could be wrong… and you can’t placate them forever either.
  10. Better than we were post Wooldridge. K-State is a good job, and it’s now about continuing something, not building something from scratch.

Buck-A-Board

If you’re reading this you probably know that I’m the co-host of The Salute, a fan podcast1 about K-State sports2 on CollegeSportsVision.com.  We don’t do it for money, or really any other reason than to amuse ourselves, but Cory and I thought we could try and do it for something just a bit more, at least this once… so we’ve decided to try to organize some support for The Global Orphan Project.

What we’d like to do is ask you to come along side us in pledging $1 per rebound3 during the K-State vs. KU game on this Monday, February 13th.  As of today K-State is averaging 38.7 rebounds a game, so a buck a board would come out to about $40. If that’s too much to do, then consider pledging $1 per offensive rebound.  That’ll likely be about $15.  But if you’re a KU fan, we want you to be able to join in as well. When you pledge you’ll be able to select to go by KU’s rebounds as well. The point isn’t who you’re rooting for, but the difference it can make.   If you have some other amount that you want to pledge, there’s a spot for “other” and you can fill in whatever you want.  Everything will help.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Make your pledge now by clicking here.
  2. The day after the game you’ll get an email reminding you of your pledge amount and a link to TheGlobalOrphanProject.org .
  3. Head to The Global Orphan Project’s website to make your payment by credit or debit card, or mail the donation to their organization. Mike & Cory will never touch your money.

That’s it. Oh… and one more thing: Our sponsor, Tallgrass Brewing Company,4  has agreed to donate a prize pack for one lucky winner. We’ll randomly5 draw the name of one person who pledges and they’ll send you some awesome Tallgrass swag6. As if helping change the world wasn’t awesome enough.

So thanks for taking part, and K-State fans7… we salute you!

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Notes:
  1. Which of course you can always listen to at http://kan.st/6a or subscribe to at http://kan.st/6b. You can even find it on Stitcher.
  2. Also well known as the longest running podcast in the history of K-State sports
  3. Don’t worry, we won’t touch your money, we’ll just trust you to donate it directly to them
  4. The official beer of The Salute podcast
  5. Trust me, I’m a giant nerd. I’ll use a random number generator and everything
  6. Sorry, no beer, though. That probably gets into some crazy legal issue that none of us want to deal with
  7. And I guess, KU fans, too… in this one instance, but only if you’re pledging

On Joe Paterno

When Joe Paterno was fired it was one of the biggest stories of 2011. Everyone was talking about it whether they were fans of college football or not. The Sandusky cover up, the scandal… it was too much to believe. Paterno took the fall for his failure to act.  At the time at which he was fired I said on multiple occasions that I thought he would be dead within a year. I’m very sad that prediction has come to pass.

I don’t know what to believe about the scandal. There’s no question that the power Paterno wielded, that he could have done more. But I’m so far from the situation that I can’t understand or know what he knew, or what he thought he had accomplished with any action he had taken.  Maybe I’m a sucker, but I tend to assume the best in people, and I want to believe that he did what he thought was right, and thought the problem had been taken care of. For years it had been said that he was too old and was somewhat of a figurehead in the program and didn’t know what was going on. That was applied to his coaching, but that view was never given in this situation. I don’t know what he knew, or what he tried to accomplish to stop it. But I do know one thing… he wasn’t the one who did it.

There is never a time to celebrate one’s death. And yet right now I see a split between those who want to celebrate, and the people who want to tribute a coach who spent 46 years roaming the sidelines of Penn State University’s football field and collecting a record 409 wins. He was a man that by all other accounts was seen as a good and honorable man. The mistake we learned of in the last few months of his life was a big one, by all accounts. And perhaps we all have moments that define a lifetime. No one can pretend that these past few months aren’t a major part of the story, but should it be the story? I just pray that my worst moments don’t end up defining my lifetime.

Passion vs. Bias

Last week I was asked a question. It was a fair question about an issue that had come up in conversation. I was in a room full of people, but it was certainly possible that only one person really cared what my answer was.

The topic happened to be something that I am very passionate about, and one that I don’t tend to pull punches on when I talk about. It also happens to be a topic that I developed my strong thoughts on by questioning, debating, and researching an issue that was I knew I needed to establish a position on.  Several years ago I embarked on a journey to discover.  Over the course of that time I found that there seemed to be a clear right and wrong on the issue, and I strongly felt that I needed to stand for and defend the side that I believe is right.

So back to last week. When asked my opinion I opened strong, before I was given the opportunity to state why I held the position I did someone jumped to conclusions about me, and stopped the conversation by saying they only wanted to hear input from someone who was not biased. Based on most rhetoric on the issue it’s hard to blame someone for assuming that to be passionate about an issue is to be biased.  Our political, spiritual, and ethical landscapes are clouded by people who take a position because their group, clan, or “god” has told them that is the position that is accepted. Rather than exploring what is right they defend what they are told is right. The end result is not movement towards what is right, but instead the defense of a position.  Why be right when you can win?

It’s possible to be passionately biased.  It’s possible to e passionately wrong. But it’s also possible to be passionate about something as the result of an unbiased journey as well. If you want to dialog, end the rhetoric that defends a position, and embrace the passionate search… and consider that the person you’re talking to may have done the same.

Never forget this…

Has it really been 10 years?

Social networks are covered today with “Never Forget” and “Where were you when…?”  On a day like today we can’t help but look back. Our ongoing process of healing demands that we focus on a tragedy that for a brief moment, which felt like an eternity, united these States in such a way that only tragedy can do.  Every one of us stopped what we were doing as our lives became one collective being struggling through the inevitable emotions of anger, doubt, confusion, and, most powerfully, sorrow.  Some of us had direct connections to someone who was lost or affected by a loss.  Some of us were connected only through a world wide swell of emotion.  But each one of us felt it.  And that is why each one of us remembers today.  Each one of us will not forget.  Each one of us knows exactly where we were…

There is plenty of flag waving, and patriotic tributes.  In a secularized world there seems to be no greater symbol to rally behind than the flag of a nation.  Our nation.  We draw in praise for our military which, in short order, was drawn to war.  But remember, today, that we don’t pledge to “Never forget” out of a decree for a justice that can never be achieved, but instead we never forget the unspeakable tragedy that accompanies the absence of peace.

We knew there was conflict in the world.  We knew of wars.  We knew of hatred.  But we didn’t know we were a part of it until that day 10 years ago.  And now we’ll never forget that we live in a world that is characterized by the absence of peace.  We know because that day each one of us felt it.  We were united by it.  So as we mourn those losses still felt 10 years later, and wrestle with that collective emotion once more, may we no longer be united by the absence of peace, but instead be united for it.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the children of God.1

 

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Notes:
  1. Matthew 5:9 from the NET version

Everything Sucks.

Let’s get this straight right now… I can’t stand Harry Potter.  So what? It’s not my thing.  I don’t care that people love it.  I don’t care that some people love it to the extent that ignore reality and begin to attempt to use spells in real life1.   Even that’s fine as long as they don’t expect me to play along with it.

Even being someone who has no interest in those movies, the reaction I’ve seen from them bothers me.  There are plenty of people who think they’re the greatest things ever and their lives are over now that the movies are done2, but there have also been people who absolutely hated it.  Huge Harry Potter nerds, that hate it.  Why?  Because everything sucks.

There’s a trend now that no matter what you go to, or what you see, read, or hear, it can’t live up to anything positive. No matter what it is, it sucks.   Just within the last week I’ve read complaints about the final episode of LOST3, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, old WCW pro-wrestling story lines, U2, Cars 2, and Mockingjay, the 3rd book of the Hunger Games trilogy.  It’s like we can’t see things without seeing them in the negative.  Nothing can ever possibly live up to the hype, and under no circumstances will anything ever be good.

It hasn’t always been this way.  There was a time when we assumed that sequels would never be as good as their originals, movies would never be as good as the books, and that follow up albums didn’t have to stand on the qualifications of the one before it.  We just took these things for what they were and let them entertain us.  There was the rare jewel, like Terminator 2, that somehow managed to outdo the original, but there were a lot more Rocky II’s4 out there than T2’s.

But then came Star Wars Episode I:  The Phantom Menace.  A little background here.  I’m as big of a Star Wars nerd as they come5, and I, like everyone else, was insanely excited about 3 more Star Wars movies.  I’m not a George Lucas apologist.  I’m never going to claim that Jar-Jar Binks was a good character6 but the prequels aren’t that terrible.  There.  I said it.  String me up.  Sure, The Phantom Menace isn’t the most interesting movie in the world, but it’s a fun Star Wars movie.  Attack of the Clones and then Revenge of the Sith improve on it drastically.  Are they what IV-VI would be?  Not at all.  How could they be?  We had a 30 year head start on making them so much bigger than any contemporary movie could possibly be.  Nothing would ever stand up to that hype.

And then that became the norm.  Hating everything became cool.  Liking anything without at least qualifying it with an exhaustive  list of bad things about it became a way to lose all credibility on the subject.  It’s fully possible, at this point, that we’ve lost our ability to see things in color, and instead can only focus on the oddly colored negative that can’t live up to the hype in our own minds7.

I’m not sure how far it goes, or how long this trend continues.  If it only applies to entertainment, then maybe we’re able to simply accept how unentertaining entertainment can be to us now.  But my fear is that it’s more.  What if we’ve changed the lens so that nothing in our lives can be seen in true color?  What if even the people around us that we interact with on a daily basis can’t live up to who we believe they should be?

What if we can’t even see ourselves anymore?

 

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Notes:
  1. This actually happened yesterday.  I posted this status on Facebook:  “Come on everybody, don’t hold back… I want to hear all about the midnight show last night… was Winnie the Pooh everything I think it will be?!?!?”  After a friend re-posted it one of his friends, unknown to me, replied with a Harry Potter contrived death spell. Why are these people so easy to make fun of again?
  2. Despite J.K. Rowlings Pottermore stuff… since she hasn’t become rich enough yet… there’s still money to take from these people!
  3. I love this episode… I thought it tied up the series really well, and did so in a way that could have left us all continuing to discuss it for years in much the same way that us Star Wars nerds have done with episodes IV-VI instead of just whining about how bad the ending is.
  4. Ok, Rocky II isn’t terrible. It sort of keeps the formula of the first, but by III and IV they’re just cartoon characters… and yet we love them for completely different reasons than we did the Best Picture quality Rocky.
  5. Ok, maybe not.  I’ve never dressed up for a movie, been to a convention, or attempted to kidnap George Lucas.
  6. Though at the time it came out I took two of my then very young cousins to see it, and they loved the character… he did have to draw in the kids somehow.  But perhaps having a kid as the main character would have accomplished that on its own.
  7. If you can get past the wrestling part of this story, and the fact that you, like me, may not know anything about the WWE at this point, this is a great piece about how we create things in our mind that the reality of entertainment couldn’t possibly live up to

I ♥ KC

We all know who Chris Sullentrop is, right?  Oh, no?  Well, he’s just some jackass that grew up in KC but moved to NYC for “a bigger stage and a bigger paycheck.”  And that’s fine.  Kansas City isn’t New York City or Chicago or LA.  It doesn’t give the same opportunities, and it doesn’t have all the same sports teams (Though it does have an NFL team, I’m looking at you LA).  But Chris decided the best topic for his column at Grantland today would be to trash Kansas City and declare that “we” (he still says we despite his apparent hatred of his hometown) are a horrible sports town clinging to insecurities and an inferiority complex.

I may not be the most qualifed to write about Kansas City.  I didn’t grow up here.  I moved to Johnson County (on the Kansas side for those of you who aren’t Kansas Citians) when I was 16.  My pro sports allegiances are all about Chicago.   I spent time in some other places in Kansas, but 2 1/2 years ago I moved back to KC, this time on the Missouri side and couldn’t be happier to be home.

That’s what Kansas City is to me.  It’s home.  Home is when I walk into Gates and hear “Hi! May I help you!”  Home is driving by the stadium at Blue Valley Northwest High School where I participated in the first football game played there (if my participated we mean, I was there, in uniform, and got in for a play or two).  Home is walking from my place in Westport to some of my favorite hang outs, or taking in the collection bigger than a city this size should be blessed to have at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  It’s Arthur Bryant’s, Winstead’s, Town Topic, Blanc, Waldo Pizza, Garozzo’s, and a hundred other local loves we all could add to the list.  It’s First Fridays in the Crossroads, Christmas lights on the Plaza, food and drinks in Westport, and even events downtown in and around Power & Light.  It’s the city of fountains, jazz, and great barbecue, and no one does it better.

But you’re just talking about sports, right, Chris?  As a Chicago fan I’m pretty unbiased.  I don’t dislike the Royals or the Chiefs.  I can’t count myself as a fan, but I wish them well.  And here’s a secret:  I admire their fans.  I really do. The greatest quality that a fan can have is loyalty.  And while the Royals may not draw the numbers that many other teams do, their fans are loyal.  Many of the Royals fans I know really are some of the greatest fans around.  Losing, but still loving your team can do that for you.

And we certainly have no shortage of college sports.   The city is taken over every year for the Big 12 (minus 2) tournament.  It belongs here.  It needs to be here.  Like me, and so many others, it has a home here.  And even outside the tournament, it’s home to college sports.  Where else can you find a legitimate home away from home for 3 separate college programs?

We don’t have an NBA team.  I’m not sure we could support one if we did. I’d love to go to the Sprint Center and see NBA and NHL games, but that’s not a part of our reality.  While your quotes about the Sprint Center were deliberately taken out of context and to deride the arena (which, by the way is one of the best I’ve been to, and I consider myself a pretty well traveled sports fan) and our city, it is an arena that has become profitable more quickly than expected, and has done so without an NBA or NHL tenant.

I grew up in Iowa.  My family moved away from Kansas City while I was in college.  I have plenty of excuses to not call Kansas City home if I don’t want to, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything.  When people ask me if I’m visiting my family in Indianapolis for holidays they always say “are you going home?” and I am quick to correct them.

So Chris, I’m glad you’re big time in New York now.  You can keep it.

I am home.  And I love being home.

I ♥ NY!

It’s well known that when it comes to sports I’m a Chicago guy.  I never thought I’d start a post with “I Love New York,” but for tonight I do.  New York has passed a law and now will become the 6th state to recognize equality in marriage for everyone.

I’ve spent most of my life living in a dark red state, and in my past I’ve spent portions of my career working places that are pretty darn conservative, so I have friends and acquaintances who probably aren’t sharing my joy right now, but I’m excited.  The right thing is being done.

And I’m excited on a somewhat personal level as well… A few years ago, while a seminarian, I was starting to feel my views on homosexuality changing.  I took a social justice class and ended up writing my paper on the coexistence of Christianity and homosexuality.  In the process I had a phone interview with Jay Vanasco.  She wasn’t the first gay person I had known, but she was the first that I spoke openly with about the inequality issues that she and others face.

Since that time Jay has moved to New York.  We haven’t kept in touch, but we are friends on Facebook, and I keep an eye on her tweets, so I’ve gotten to follow a bit of her life since then… and because of this decision today she’ll know be able to marry the woman she loves and  is engaged to.  She deserves it.  As do so many others… male or female, gay or straight.

6 down, 44+ to go.

I love NewYork.

I Just Like Saying Weiner

Wiener.

In just two weeks Anthony Weiner has gone from being a congressman with a funny last name to being a congressman with an hilarious last name.  Add in a few pics of Weiner’s weiner and it can’t get much funnier than that.  But in the biggest overreaction of the 2010’s (twenty-tweens?) he’s now being told to resign behind more controversy than Joey Chestnutt’s near regurgitation in the 2009 Nathan’s hot dog eating contest.

Let’s take a look at the facts here… @RepWeiner tweeted a pic of his undies.  It was supposed to go to an adult female.  We don’t know if she wanted to see his pants tent or not, but she didn’t actually see the weinermobile.  She just saw the garage it was being kept in.  This may more may not have been the pattern for other women.  3? 5? 10? 60? 144?  Who knows?    What I do know is that not one woman has come forward to state that the pictures were unwanted.  Not one has come forward to say there was any sort of physical relationship.  Not one has come forward an alluded to any inappropriate activity with a minor.

So let’s recap:

  • Wiener has a weiner
  • Weiner likes to prove he has a weiner
  • Weiner probably likes to use evidence to see evidence of the lack of weiners on females
  • Weiner is married… a married man doing some of the above  is scummy and dirty
  • Weiner lied about being scummy and dirty for a week before he told the truth about being summy and dirty

So here’s the issue:  being scummy and dirty and lying is not illegal.  In fact, it’s a core part of being a politician, is it not?  Our country as founded on scummy, dirty liars.  It could be worse, in fact… he could be shooting for the highest office in the United States government while being 100% incompetent.

This is a scummy dirty thing.  Don’t get me wrong. But let’s not forget he hasn’t broken any laws that we are aware of.  While his actions don’t make him a victim, but any means, he is now becoming the victim of an overreaction by a generation that doesn’t understand how common his form of cheating is, as well as how a media that has consistently insinuated things without any evidence of them.

Did you watch the full press conference?  Someone asked if he had any inappropriate contact with a minor to which he correctly replied, “not to my knowledge.”  The media has since taken this as an opportunity to assume he has, when he was correctly stating that it was never his intention to do so, but being on the internet he has no way of knowing if anyone has lied about their age.

Weiner’s weiner is a private thing.  And it should have been left that way.  He accidentally made it private, but the rest of us can now as well.  He’s a congressman, which doesn’t take away his rights to a private life.  He doesn’t need to be forced to resign because of legal activities in his private life.  The voters will decide if he’s worthy of keeping his job.

Besides, forcing him to resign will deprive the rest of us from continuing to see the word “Weiner” in the headlines.  This is America.  We want our weiners!