Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Single Dad and his Single Arrow. A father sends his daughter off to college...

           




                                 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 
                              4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 
                                     5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…”                                                                                  

                                     -  Psalm 127:3-5                                                           

Solomon wrote those words about 5000 years ago, or thereabout.

I have always loved the analogy of children being arrows. This makes their dad the archer of their souls. In Biblical times, an archer made his own arrows. He fashioned them from sometimes wild and unruly saplings. To get them to straighten and take shape, he soaked them in oil for weeks. Then he fastened them in a rack until they were as straight as pins. Then he carefully smoothed the surface, sanded it, shaped it and made it ready. He attached the fletching in the exact pattern he knew would be needed for the purpose he had in mind for those arrows. Some were for hunting. Some for warfare. Some for target practice. He knew the specific characteristics of each arrow and when he was finished with them, he marked them individually, so that anyone who came across one, would know it was his arrow.
This is rich with metaphor for parenting. I have only one child…only one arrow. I have spent seventeen years crafting her as best I could. I have shaped her, anointed her with the oil of my love, attention, wisdom and, especially, prayers. I have taken note to what her purpose is, and while I am not definitely, positively, certain yet, I know it will involve music and the arts. I know she will use those wondrous gifts of hers to communicate her heart, and the heart of Jesus to this world. Here's an example of her breathtaking talents: 

                               Morgan singing "Let it Die"

I have done my best to pick the right fletching (the feathers that keep an arrow flying straight) so that she would fly true and hit her targets. I did my best to leave my mark in her heart somewhere, so that when people see her, they know she is my daughter, that I spent these last seventeen years getting her ready, and that I am proud of her and she flies with my blessing.
It all came and went too quickly. Being divorced only made it go by faster and being homeless for most of the six years between 2008 and 2014 even more so. It was hard to do the job of being her dad while I was sleeping in a truck and going to college, and working, and trying to rebuild. But we made it together. It has been a joy to have her with me since May 2014 when we got to Lynchburg from Nashville and began this adventure.
Monday begins the hardest step for me yet.
Just as Morgan has been preparing as an arrow, so I have been preparing my skills as an archer. Throughout the years I have increasingly set her to flight toward ever more distant targets. I have given her a little more room to fly with each one, even as I blinked back tears while I drew back on my bow. I have prayed more for her than for anything in my life. I have studied my fatherly archery, I have begged God to make sure I aimed for the right target. I have held my shot when letting her go would have been easier.
Monday morning, I will send her off on the first really big flight, toward her first really big target. Monday she begins her life as a college freshman and I take another step back from her, and let her fly with more freedom.
She is beginning her studies here at Liberty University, my alma mater, and, for the next four years, her future.
Thursday afternoon I walked in the front door carrying her box of school books. I did not tell her I was bringing them home. I thought I’d surprise her. When she saw me come in, and saw the white “Barnes and Noble / College” logo, she broke into a big smile. I hadn’t seen this sort of smile from her in several years. She’s been through so much and she has lost faith in good things happening for her. She had been holding her breath on this college thing for months now. It took work, right up to the very end, getting all the paperwork done and all her records forwarded and especially paying for the portion of her education that I have to pay for. Working for Liberty, I get her tuition paid for, but I still pay fees, and buy her books etc. It adds up and we’ve been stretched since my car broke down and I’ve had to fix it.
Thursday night none of that was a factor. She was happy. She smiled and opened the box and carefully went through each book like it was sacred. She gets that from me. When I was homeless and finishing my degree through LU Online and studying in my car most nights, I would have my books shipped to a PO Box I was using in the Franklin Post Office. Each semester when my books arrived I would open them like I was opening the Ark of the Covenant itself. I still have every book from every class. I love to read, but I love books themselves. I love the shape and the feel. My daughter is like that as well.
She got her ID card on Friday and went to a freshman orientation, and ate in the dining hall, and walked around with the different perspective that comes from finally being here as a student, and not just as the daughter of a guy who works in the IT department.
This mountain is special. It’s almost sacred to me and to most of the alumni I went here with. Dr. Falwell used to tell us all the time that prayer moves mountains. But here at Liberty, the mountain does some moving of its own. You learn faith here. You learn heritage here. You leave a piece of your heart here and whenever you come back it reaches out to you and makes you feel complete somehow. This mountain was reshaped by the faith of a giant of a man, and somehow, the mountain does reshaping of its own on every student who comes here.
She is here for that now. It’s her turn.
My arrow is set against my bow once again. Monday, I’ll draw her back, bend that bow with all my might, try to see the target through tears, try to hold my hand steady while my heart breaks and races all at once.
And I’ll let her fly.
The targets get bigger from here on out. Farther away with every flight. One day, she’ll make the last flight from my bow. She’ll outgrow this archer. That day will be bittersweet, like this Monday will be.
I am so glad that the next target is Liberty. I am so glad I can set her to flight here, knowing that the other arrows she flies with come from the same careful archers, for the most part. I’m so thankful knowing that everyone here, from Jerry Falwell Jr. –our president- on down to my friend Vernon who is in janitorial, work here with one goal in mind: to help archers launch arrows, and help those precious arrows hit their targets.
A large part of my fatherhood is complete now. I did what I could, given the circumstances. I poured myself into her and held nothing back. In every storm, dark night or bright day, she knew beyond a doubt that her dad loved her. She knows she flies with my blessing, and with God’s.
…and now her flight begins.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Donald Trump and Bumper Sticker Politics...is THIS a leader?

                                        
It’s only August 2015. The Presidential Election is over a year away.
And we are in big trouble.
I suppose it’s best to re-visit a few basic facts before I get into this article. It’s necessary for context.
I am 51 years old. I am a single dad. I am the grandson of immigrants on both sides. Three of my four grandparents were born in Europe, two in Italy and one on the boat from the Ukraine. The only one born here was born not long after her family arrived. So I have the love for this country, and the pride in her history that comes from knowing how much she gave to my family.
The promise of freedom. The potential that being free –and only being free- offers. I love this country dearly, and as I get older, I see that this is a trait that a lot of people have lost. They think they love her, but they don’t want what is best for her. Not if it isn’t what they want.
What do I want? I want greatness. Greatness in our nation as an entity and greatness in our people. I want that greatness demonstrated from the top down. I want my president to be great.
Not good. Not better than most. Not clever and charismatic yet lacking depth. I want character. I want someone who doesn’t just love this country for what she offers him, and wants her to survive in order to keep his lifestyle…I want someone who loves her for what she is.
I want someone who feels as I do, that this country is part of my soul and I die just a little each day when she is anything less than she could be and should be.
Being president of the greatest country on earth, means that you represent each and every citizen of that country. It means that your heartbeat is theirs. It means that your words and deeds, every one of your words and deeds, are a shining example of the soul of the nation you lead. That’s what I believe. That’s what I want from a president. That’s why I absolutely despise Barack Obama. Because he so obviously hates this country and he demonstrates his loathing for it in everything he says and does.
And it’s why I cannot support Donald Trump.
I wasn’t in Trump’s camp to begin with, but he was getting my interest with his sound-bite driven statements. It was early in the process. He was saying the things I felt inside. Hearing him make a bombastic statement about border security, or economic policy, or Israel, pumped me up and made me feel rejuvenated. But then nothing else happened.
That’s essentially what a bumper sticker does. Donald Trump is a bumper sticker.
A bumper sticker says something in two lines and it engenders a reaction. You’ll either pull up beside the driver, honking wildly and giving the thumbs-up and flashing a big smile, or you’ll flip him the bird and mouth “#@!% YOU!” as you cut him off. But whatever the topic was that the bumper sticker addressed, that thing didn’t get resolved. The bumper sticker simply said what you feel –or what you hate about people who feel that way- and it got you riled up.
Just like Trump.
Trump speaks in 140 character Tweets. He says a lot of nothing. It’s early, and I was going to allow that seldom do candidates reveal their unique ideas for solving problems this early in the game, because they suddenly become not-so-unique.
So I was watching Trump with a distrustful, jaundiced eye, but I had not yet made up my mind.
Until the debates last week and his unspeakably boorish, narcissistic behavior afterwards.
I admit I didn’t support his candidacy to begin with. My opening paragraph explains why. I want a leader. I want someone who moves me to tears with patriotic pronouncement or with bold ideas.
I want someone I can look up to because he is a better man than I am. I want to look at my president and think to myself, “I’m a good man…but that is a leader!” I want to get tears in my eyes when I think of how he (or she) loves this land and I want someone who has taken the time, and exercised the care to have lived a life worthy of that office. Not just for the last few years but for his entire life.
Trump is not that man. I don’t respect Donald Trump. I don’t respect his accomplishments, because they came at the cost of four bankruptcies and three marriages. I try not to judge people solely on their mistakes. But when there is a pattern, only a fool ignores it. But that alone is not why I dislike him as a presidential candidate.
He is a game show host. You can call “The Apprentice” a reality show or something else, but ultimately it’s a game show. It’s entertaining but I don’t want entertainment.
I want statesmanship.
I want a man who instills fear in our enemies, not because he is a hot-head who spouts off if you cross him, because that can be played against him by a shrewd adversary. I want a man who instills fear because he commands respect. Because he knows the depth of his power and wields it effectively. I want a leader who can dismantle a despot with his mind or his fist, but who knows that the latter is a last resort. I want a President who keeps his commitments. All of them. Especially the most sacred.
I want a leader who embodies the best of America and inspires something even better down the road.
Right now we have a narcissistic, divisive, arrogant, hateful, entitled, pompous, smug, dismissive, vengeful, self-aggrandizing, emperor in the White House.
And we have one trying to take his place.
Donald Trump is Barack Obama.
The only difference is that Obama has yet to hold a job. And maybe a few policies.
Imagine what Trump’s ego could do with Executive Orders. Imagine “I have a cell phone and a pen” in the hands of a man who steamrolls through decisions and leaves rubble behind when his ideas fail and he has to pay the check. You can’t declare bankruptcy in the White House. You can’t get divorced from your responsibility. You can’t look at the Speaker of the House or the Majority leader of the opposing party and say “You’re fired!” with a smirk on your face.
And you shouldn’t take to Twitter and call people names and make menstruation comments when a news anchor / debate moderator gets under your skin.
Nobody owes you respect. You earn that. And if Megyn Kelly doesn’t respect Donald Trump, the man, then maybe he needs to look inside himself and ask why.
I don’t know if Kelly went too far. I do know that nobody else is going to be any easier on Trump, and if this is how he is going to react, he will be out of the race by Christmas. Nobody, not even the most ardent “I will vote for whoever can beat the Democrats” Everyman, will stomach that behavior for very long. It’s funny now (for some) it’s meat to the lions for the moment. But if Trump’s history tells us anything, it tells us that he will not drop this. He will be ranting against Fox and Megyn Kelly on Twitter this time next year, when he gets a mind to.
Ranting on Twitter.
Think about that. The potential future president of the United States, ranting on Twitter.
You’re okay with that? You admire that and look up to that? You’d teach that response to your children the next time someone in school doesn’t pick them for kickball, or makes the football team in their stead?
That’s a leader? That’s a statesman?
Sometimes the reaction is more important than the infraction. I played hockey up to and including college. I coached high school hockey for nine seasons. I told my boys over and over, “The ref will almost never see the cheap shot from the other player. He will see your reaction. You will get the penalty. So play smart, let it go, and make him pay by winning the game.
Donald Trump would spend his entire life in the penalty box. Not only can he not let go of a slight, he needs to…he needs to seek vengeance. He is a narcissist. A narcissist can never abide an offense. He has to get in the last word. He has to revenge his wounded pride. He has to pound you for daring to even look at him crossways. He can never be wrong and he can never accept responsibility. Trump did this all week. Endless Twitter rants and press statements crying foul and proclaiming his superiority and threatening Fox News and claiming the center of the political universe. He was the reason for the big ratings, he was the star, and he is the next anointed one. Don’t you dare question him, challenge him, or dim the glare of the light on him?
Is that Reaganesque? Would Reagan have responded to a debate commentator the way Trump did? Can you imagine Reagan making crude menstruation comments about a female moderator? Can you?
Sometimes the office of the President demands that the man who holds it swallow his pride and keep his mouth shut because it’s best for the country. George W. Bush demonstrated this during the Iraq war. They found those WMD’s. Long before the NYT admitted to it, they found them. But they hadn’t found them all yet and if Bush had come out and said so, every Islamic group in the world would have been combing the Syrian Desert looking for them. So he kept silent and bore the brunt of endless attacks, all of which were far more vicious and far more vile than anything Megyn Kelly said to Donald Trump on Thursday evening. He could have declared how he was right all along. But for the good of the country, he took the beating. Because sometimes that’s what presidents do.
Trump will never be able to do that. Not ever.
I have a daughter. She’s seventeen. How could I ever justify giving my vote to a man who can sink to the lowest common denominator and attack a woman for her womanhood, simply because she got under his skin in a debate. For my daughter’s sake, I won’t eat at a Hardees because they use women in seductive advertising to sell cheeseburgers, you think I’m voting for Trump? The first time Angela Merkel stands up to him, is he going to Tweet about how she “just needs to get some?”
We’ve been in a mess since 2008. We’re overrun by vermin in the White House. I don’t want to solve that problem by electing the best rat. I want an exterminator.
You know who I want? I want this: When I bore my daughter with stories about how great this land was when I was a kid, and when I tell her about what it was like when her great-grandparents got here, and when I tell her how Americans used to think, and behave, and believe, and conduct themselves, I want to point to the man in the White House and say “They were just like him.”

In my opinion…that can never be Donald Trump.