Voting the lesser of two evils

I never wanted to write anything about politics in this blog. I didn’t want to be that guy. I still don’t. I’ve always been a political junkie, though, so the temptation is always there. It’s been tempered lately by the fact that this presidential election season has sucked out of me any joy, interest, or fervor that might have prompted me to write. The second presidential debate changed that.

I was, and still am, embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that Trump and Hillary are the best that this country’s main political parties can come up with. I’m embarrassed by their behavior, their snippy asides and ad hominem attacks. I’m embarrassed by the continual drudging up of dirt by both sides that substitutes for substantive policy debate. I’m embarrassed by the fact that, for both of them, there IS so much dirt to be dug. Finally, I’m embarrassed that, in order to do my civic duty as a citizen of this great country, I’ll have to push a button and vote for one of these two.

Of course, there are other options, but I want to circle around to that. I think a little personal disclosure is in order. I lean more fiscally conservative and socially liberal, which, most of time, aligns me most closely with the Libertarian Party. I’ve never voted for them, though. I’m much more conservative than liberal, so I end up voting for the Republican ticket every election, because they represent the candidate(s) that more closely align with my beliefs and have a chance of winning. But that’s settling. I vote so the Democratic candidate doesn’t win, because I almost never agree with them, and less because I want the Republican candidate to win. I vote strategically, as opposed to voting my beliefs or my conscience. I vote for the lesser of two evils every election.

To be honest, I did consider voting for a Democrat once. During the 2006 Senate race here in Tennessee, I really did want to vote for Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN). He was part of the “Blue Dog Coalition”, a group of conservative Democrats. I liked his stances and his voting record. I liked him, personally, more than I did his opponent. However, it appeared leading up the election that the Democrats were going to take the Senate, and I didn’t want to contribute to giving them more of a majority, as Harry Reid (D-NV), who I very much disliked, would be taking over as Majority Leader. So, I ended up voting for Bob Corker (R-TN), who won the seat and has mostly been a disappointment ever since. In this case, I didn’t vote how I wanted because I didn’t want to give additional power to the more liberal Democrat Senators from states in which I can’t vote.

So, after years of compromising away my vote, I was excited about this year’s presidential election. The Republican primary field was full of promise. Some were lackluster, but there were a few that raised my hopes. I honed in on Ted Cruz, although I would have been happy with a couple of the others. I initially regarded Trump as something of a sideshow, a loudmouth out to get some attention. What I liked about Cruz was that he was transparent. You knew what you were going to get with him. His record and stances were mostly consistent. To me, he seemed the obvious choice if you were a conservative.

Likewise, for liberals, there was Bernie Sanders. You knew what you were going to get from him. Sure, he’s a Socialist, but it’s been my contention for awhile that most modern-day Democrats are simply Socialists that can’t come out and say it. Bernie says it. His stances and his record were mostly consistent. I don’t agree with anything he says, but I can at least respect him. Meanwhile, Hillary was…well, Hillary. A shrill, pant-suit wearing carrier of scandal -ridden baggage. Whitewater, Benghazi, Deleted emails, trashing of Bill’s rape victims, flip-flops galore…all out there, available for public knowledge.

And yet here we are, less than one month from the election, and the Sideshow and the Baggage Lady are our presidential candidates. There were very clear, consistent primary candidates to choose from on both sides, in terms of voting records, stances, and ideology,  but the country went the other way and we ended up having a Jerry Springer episode as a presidential debate. I really don’t think a Cruz/Sanders debate would look like that. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that with those two there would have been much less mud-slinging and much more substantive debate.

Which brings me back around to the Libertarian Party.

In studying Gary Johnson’s stances and record as Governor of New Mexico, as well as taking the test at I Side With, I’m right there with him on almost every issue. He’s a proven governmental administrator with a solid track record. Too bad that he wasn’t allowed to be in the debates. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is who I’d actually like to vote for. But the consensus is that voting for Johnson is throwing my vote away. It’s voting for Hillary by not voting for Trump.

I wonder, how many other people would rather vote for Johnson but are voting Trump? What if all of us voted Johnson anyway? Are there enough to take Trump? Probably not, but what a shake-up it would be for the next election, provided that there is a next election after four years of President Hillary and First Lady Bill.

So, I’m going to go into the voting booth with a choice to make. I don’t want Donald Trump to be President. I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be President even more. I have to once again decide who’s the lesser of two evils – the evil we know or the evil we don’t. I feel like there’s the thinnest margin between the two of any election in my lifetime. If I choose to vote my conscience, well, then I’m voting for the evil we know by proxy. It’s a tight corner into which I, and many others, I’m sure, have been forced.

And I resent the living hell out of it.

POST SCRIPT 1/17/17: So, I feel like I should probably add a post-election comment and maybe even eat a little crow. As I noted above, Donald Trump did not impress me at all pre-election. I paid rapt attention and kept waiting for something he did or said to win me over, but it never happened. I never heard anything that I could think of as more than a platitude, something of real substance to reassure me that he was the right pick. That said, I’ve been turned around in the interim between election and inauguration. His cabinet picks have been impressive, his organization tight and streamlined, and his conduct presidential (even with the tweets). I’m finally optimistic.
That said, I still think that credible third-party candidates should have easier access to the electorate than they do in current elections.



photo credit: billy3001 <a href=”″>Adversaries</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;



Don’t be still, my beating heart

I was born with a heart defect. The medicalese is bicuspid aortic valve with aortic stenosis. My aortic valve, which controls the flow of blood out of the heart into the aorta, has two flaps instead on the normal three. This causes it to open less wide than it should. The average diameter should be at least  3 cm, and I’ve held steady for most of my life at 2.7. My pediatric cardiologist once referred to it as “trivial,” but of course something I needed to monitor.

I’ve never been restrained or limited in anything I’ve wanted to do. Growing up, I went on countless hiking, caving, climbing, rappelling, and other high adventure activities in the Boy Scouts. I marched across football fields with 40 lbs. of sousaphone on my shoulder, while blowing every bit of air I had through it. I’ve done consistent 5-10 mile runs. I’ve bicycled 100 miles on numerous occasions. Most recently, this past Feb., I earned a 4th degree black belt.

So, when I tried to take a run a couple of months ago and almost blacked out on the side of the road, I just knew it wasn’t my heart. I shortly afterward noticed that I constantly had this weird, out-of-breath feeling. It had to be my lungs. I waited it out a month, giving it time to clear, but it didn’t. So I went to my primary care physician and he started checking out my lungs, eventually finding that they work great.

At the same time I did that, I also checked in with my cardiologist. I hadn’t been in a couple of years due to another medical issue that had popped up and since resolved. I did what I’ve always done – got an Echo with doppler, and then went to my cardiologist a few days later for my visit. So I could check it off my list and figure what was really going on with me, I just needed him to say what he always said…”Looks great, keep watching it, and come back next year.”

Except, that’s not what he said.

The “trivial” 2.7 cm valve is now at 0.7. It has to be replaced, which means, for me, open-heart surgery. I’ve known all my life that there was a possibility upon hitting early middle-age that the valve could go. It’s been this surreal, out-on-the-horizon idea that I’ve never fully appreciated. That’s probably why now, at age 41 when the timing was right and the symptoms were all there, it still took me by surprise.

Maybe I knew and just didn’t want to admit it. Having worked for years in healthcare, I know that it’s everyone’s natural tendency to immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion, so I equivocated and rationalized everything away:

  • Shortness of breath – “Well, I had asthma as a child. It must be coming back.”
  • Left shoulder pain – “I’ve pulled it out of socket three times. It’s always hurt.”
  • Left arm pain – “I must have hurt it in karate.”
  • Chest pain – “Indigestion.”
  • Fatigue – “I work long hours, and I’m not sleeping enough.”
  • Heart skipping beats – “It runs in my family.”

Of course, reading this list, it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback and ask, “How did he not put it together?” The short answer is that it’s very easy to do when it’s yourself. I’m sure some women reading this are thinking, “That’s just a man for you,” and maybe there’s some validity to that. A hot button issue of mine is that way heart disease in men vs. women is treated, but that’s a separate issue that maybe I’ll get to later, once I’m able to do so. I’ll have about 14 weeks of recovery, so I don’t know what I’ll be able to do, and when. My entire sternum is going to be opened up, as my aorta has to be repaired in addition to the valve. The pressure of the blood coming through the narrowed valve dilated the ascending aorta.

It’s going to be an ordeal, but I’m ready for it. Maybe not so strangely, I’m far more calm and positive about all this than many of my family and friends. There’s a certain serenity that comes with having no other options. Either I do this or I die. Although I haven’t been told expressly, I gather I have probably less than a year, untreated. That doesn’t work for me. I need to be around to assist my son on all those adventures he dreams up, and help him become the man I know he’ll be. I need to be there to support my daughter, scare boys away from her, and eventually walk her down the aisle should one of the little punks actually be worthy of her. I need to grow old with my wife, and to finish out everything we put in motion when I asked her out to my senior Homecoming 24 years ago.

And while I intone that dying is not an option, and it is a very slim possibility, I’m prepared for it nevertheless, and with that also, I am fine. As the hymn goes, “It is well with my soul.” I accept that everything goes according the Lord’s will, and if it’s in His plan that my time here is over, then I know it’s going to be alright. I am not afraid, regardless of the outcome.

I’m timing the release of this blog to coincide with my surgery. As this blog hits, I can’t communicate.  If I need to say anything at this moment, it’s that I’ve been so touched at the outpouring of love and support for me and my family. Sometimes it takes a dark moment for you to see the light all around you. I have complete faith and confidence in my surgeon and the medical staff. I can tell you that I’m doing fine, and there’s nothing to worry about.  Everything’s going according to plan.


photo credit: <a href=”″>Heart</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;





Sympathy for the Devil

I was a little shocked to see a promo on Fox recently for its new show “Lucifer“. The premise of this new series is that Satan decides he’s tired of ruling hell, so he retires to Los Angeles to run a nightclub full-time, and helps a police detective solve crimes on the side. The tagline on the promo spot: “He gives bad a good name.”

I promise I’m not making that up. Check the link.

Of course, the devil has been portrayed numerous times in television and film. Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino have both played him (“Angel Heart” and “The Devil’s Advocate”, respectively). He’s been a reoccurring character on the CW’s Supernatural for some time now. And while sometimes he’s represented as something else initially – a lawyer, an antique store owner, a carnival leader, Jar Jar Binks – he’s usually just the devil, evil personified.

Except now, he’s not, and that’s what bothers me about Fox’s new show. The devil now has his own TV program in which, while labeled as an “antihero” in reviews, he’s still a good guy out punishing crime for the purposes of this show. I’m all about creative license, but in this case it’s gone too far.

There’s an obvious biblical misrepresentation here that goes far beyond just muddying the religious waters. That goes without saying. Satan surely delights in being repackaged, relabeled, and presented to the masses in his new, user-friendly representation.

However, if don’t believe in God, you’re likely to think, “Hey, it’s no big deal, it’s not real anyway.” OK, so let’s take religion out of it. Even if you don’t believe he’s real, Satan is still the personification of evil in popular culture. Think of all the cultural references to the devil and hell – they’re universally bad. Except, now with this show, the symbol for ultimate evil is, well, not really that evil.

We are living increasingly in an age of moral relativism, where there is no objective right or wrong, and disagreements over beliefs can be summarily dismissed with, “That’s your truth. My truth is different.” So, if there’s no right or wrong, only relative truths, then anything goes, and no one has the moral authority on any given subject.

– Abortion is killing babies and is therefore wrong.
It’s not really a baby. Abortion protestors kill people, too.

– People should not be allowed to enter the country illegally.
No human is illegal. Everyone was once an immigrant.

– Muslims should be monitored for potential terrorism.
Christians can be terrorists, too. And remember the Crusades!

– Hiding classified emails on a secret, unsecured server is wrong.
Depends on what the meaning of “is” is. And a woman should be president.

And so on. The point is, if we’ve reached the point where we can’t even say that Satan is evil, where do we go from here? Is anything evil? Are we willing to overlook the wholesale persecution and slaughter being committed by ISIS because, hey, that’s their religion. That’s their truth, it’s just different from our truth. How about the human trafficking of young girls and women all over the world for the sex trade? Sure, it’s horrible, but that’s a different culture. We don’t know where they’re coming from.

I’m sure someone reading this is thinking, “Hey, man, calm down. It’s just a TV show.”  In and of itself, sure, it’s just a show. But it’s also a big slide down a slippery slope. There has to be a point at which we say, “This, right here. This is absolute evil.” It used to be the devil. Apparently not anymore.

For the record, here’s my truth. Evil exists, and we should call it out. We should not excuse it away or sugar-coat it to make it more palatable. And we certainly shouldn’t reimagine it in order to deny its reality.


photo credit: <a href=”″>Fuentes del angel caido – Fountain of the fallen angel</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;


What I want to be

I know it’s a bit behind to be discussing resolutions halfway through January, but, hey, life happens. Besides, I wanted a little bit of time to flesh these out. Introspection is hard, and I thought it important to thoroughly self-examine.

The impulse to change one’s self with the new year seems easy to explain. New year, new you. Nowadays, it’s easy to stumble out of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s period thinking, “Once things get back to normal, I’m going to make some changes.” Of course, the problem with that is that once things get back to normal, so do we, most of the time, year after year. As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Making a new year’s resolution goes back as far as the ancient Babylonians, yet history is a series of repetitions.

Maybe we shoot too high. With that in mind, I’ve come up with three resolutions that I can work upon on a daily basis, meaning every moment of every day is a blank slate. Since I was told recently that writing them down increases your likelihood of achieving them, they are:

Get healthier – I list this first only because it’s such a gimmee. Everyone wants to be slimmer and in better shape. I come into 2016 having been previously told that I had an incurable progressive movement disorder. It turned out to be an incorrect diagnosis (understandably), but it’s obviously changed my perspective. While I’m now mostly back to normal, at its worst, I was incapable of standing still without my legs shaking violently. You really don’t realize how many things you do standing until it’s taken away from you.

Now I’m exercising every day, whether I feel like it or not, and thinking about everything I swallow. I feel like I got a reprieve, and I’m going to make the most of it. Our bodies march forward through time into inevitable decline. I intend to go down swinging.

Emulate Jesus
–  Really, this should also be a gimmee, but it’s not, not even for most people that profess faith in him. I’ve been listening to a series of sermons on the apostle Paul, and one thing that’s stuck with me about Paul’s ministry was his refusal to denigrate. Surrounded by pagans and hostile Jews, Paul never sought to convert by tearing others down and telling them how they were wrong, but by patiently explaining the truth of Jesus. Emulating Jesus, he persuaded rather than argued, and showed understanding and compassion for his persecutors.

Lately there seems to a massive lack of patience or understanding for anyone that doesn’t share a similar worldview. Democrat vs. Republican,  Christian vs. Atheist, Conservative vs. Liberal, Muslims vs. everyone else, etc. Maybe it’s always been this way, but I believe it’s worse now than it’s been in my lifetime. We’re all polarized, fed by internet and cable news chosen to reflect and reinforce our beliefs, with little tolerance of anyone who believes differently.

I don’t want to be like that. I can hold firm to my beliefs and still have understanding and compassion for those who don’t believe the same or have the same standards, rather than go for the easy knee-jerk reaction of denigration or derision. I can seek to persuade and build up, rather than argue and tear down.

I believe this is especially important for Christians, some of whom have a habit of ruining Christianity for everyone else. Anyone ever know that “good church person” who looked down their nose at others because they drank, or were divorced, or had non-Christian friends? Jesus met with lepers and tax collectors while the “good church people” of the day rebuked him for it. Would that aforementioned “good church person” have shown kindness to the woman at the well, who had five prior husbands and a live-in lover, as Jesus did, or gossiped about her from afar?

Of course I’m going to fall short. As Paul wrote, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19 ESV). But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to be better every day.

Make time now – I know every parent hears the constant, “Daddy, come look at this!”, or , “Mommy, come play with me!” just as we’re getting into something that needs to be done. I reply with “In just a minute!” most often. However, sometimes that minute stretches into an hour, and sometimes it never comes.

My kids were babies last week, and today they’re six and nine. Soon they won’t care if I see what they’re doing, or want to play games, or ask me to cuddle and watch TV. Soon they won’t even be here.

Surely whatever I’m doing can wait until later, because a moment with my child today, at this age, will not.


photo credit: <a href=”″>Last Light of 2014 on America, driving into the clouds from above</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;





I groupthink, therefore I am a college student.

If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I probably would have told you that “Mizzou” was a character from Harry Potter. For better or worse, I, and anyone else paying attention, now know that it’s the shortened appellation for University of Missouri, where they’ve had weeks of protests, administrative resignations, and poop swastikas (okay, just one)(allegedly). There’ve been hunger strikes, boycotts, football player walk-outs, and allegations of the now-former president hitting a student with his car. In the words of Sci Martin, a top high-school football recruit who announced that he was removing Mizzou from his short list: “Their campus is out of control.”

The spark for all this is reported racial injustice on campus. I have no intention of wading into those waters; instead, my interest is in the stifling of campus free speech in lieu of politically-correct groupthink. Mizzou is just one out of several recent disturbing examples.

My interest in this goes back to my own college days, where I started out at what was ostensibly a Christian college that instead bowed at the alter of political correctness. I transferred, found more of the same, and decided to start railing on it at every opportunity.

I once gave a speech about political correctness on college campuses that had half the class fuming at me. I wrote an op-ed in the campus newspaper regarding the university’s reaction to anti-homosexual graffiti. As a Journalism major, ethics debates were usually me (the lone conservative) vs. everyone else, eventually withering down to just me and another guy: my polar, liberal opposite.

Here’s the thing, though. After my speech, I had several students come up to me, interested, and ask more about its content. After my op-ed (which condemned the graffiti artists and criticized the administration for giving them what they wanted in the form of a blown-out-of-proportion response), I had a journalism classmate approach me and tell me she was a lesbian and that my views on the matter weren’t too far off from hers, which she never would have guessed, and we ended up being friends. And my polar, liberal opposite? We used to eat lunch together, where we’d have very cordial back-and-forth discussions. We never agreed, but we respected each other’s opinions.

The point is that I found that there was always common ground between differing viewpoints with a little discussion, tolerance, and open-mindedness. From what I’m reading, though, any open-mindedness I found in my college days is gone on today’s college campuses, in favor of goose-stepping to a mob-driven PC drumbeat that drowns out any dissention in the ranks.

Take, for example, the case of George Lawlor at Warwick University in Coventry, England. Lawlor posted a blog arguing that anti-rape “consent workshops” were demeaning and unnecessary, as the majority of people “don’t have to be taught not to be a rapist” and that those men who were inclined to rape would not attend the workshop anyway. For this, he’s been physically threated and verbally assaulted by both female and male students (called “rapist”, “misogynist”, “racist”, “classist”) to the point where he is afraid to attend classes, and is worried that his name online will be forever associated with “rapist”.

Of course, that’s the UK. It can’t be that bad in the US, where the 1st amendment instills an inherent tolerance of free speech, right? If only…

– Students at Amherst College in Amherst, MA, recently called for “re-education” for a group that put up posters decrying, ironically, the death of free speech on college campuses in the wake of the Mizzou protests. Stalin would be proud.

– Yale professor Nicholas Christakis was surrounded and berated by a large group of students upset with his wife (also Yale faculty), who sent out an email suggesting that the university need not censor the students’ Halloween costumes. Seriously. For this, the Christakis’s were accused of “not creating a safe place” for students. (The videos of this incident are unreal. At one point, Christakis has to preface his reply to a student with “I’m raising my voice so that others can hear me. I’m not yelling at you.” And the now-infamous “shrieking girl” teeters between shocking and hilarious.)

– Students at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA, threatened and demanded the expulsion of Emily Faz, a senior who criticized the Black Lives Matter group at the Mizzou protests. The furor reached the point that she was asked not to return to work until it died down.

Which brings me back to Mizzou. Again, I’m not aiming to discuss the validity of the claims of racial injustice, primarily because I’m not sure that they actually matter. Assuming that the protesters have 100% verifiably accurate and provable claims, they still lose credibility when they a issue a lengthy list of demands, punch out preachers, and chase away student press. It’s hard to feel sympathetic towards people whose immediate response to the Paris attacks is to complain that it takes attention away from them, or to see a guy doing a hunger strike as a victim when his parents are millionaires.

Instead, they look like petulant bullies.  No debate. No negotiations. Do what we say, or else. And that’s pretty much what the Mizzou administration did…they caved, cut, and ran. As Cal Thomas noted, “To put a twist on a cliche, it isn’t about the inmates taking over the asylum; rather it is about the children taking over the daycare center.”

Where’s this coming from?

Wikipedia’s definition of groupthink starts with “a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking.”

That could have been written with the college protestors as a template.

I doubt that there’s any single root cause for all this; rather, it’s probably a conglomeration of factors. Maybe it’s an entire generation raised on “participation awards,” from which they’ve come to feel entitled to reward without putting in meaningful effort.

I hate to bash on social media again (not really), but I’m sure there’s something to a constant real-time flood of information chosen mostly to reflect your world-view, especially in an environment like college campuses today where individual thought is rapidly discouraged. Need today’s marching orders? Whip out the iPhone and check Twitter!

It looks like I broke out my tin-foil hat for the previous paragraph, but students at Yale actually yell at Nicholas Christakis that “it’s not about creating an intellectual space,” but rather scream that he should be creating a “safe space”, as you hear someone in the crowd yelling “Re-Tweet!”

They’re afraid of anything that challenges them to think outside their pre-conceived notions, and react with hysteria when faced with uncomfortable ideas. Copycat protestors at Smith College in Northhampton, MA actually tried to ban media not sympathetic to their cause. What has caused college students to be unable to mentally process and argue with opposing viewpoints? Public education? Years of liberal college indoctrination coming home to roost? I believe there’s no easy answer.

As copycat protests continue to spread, I wonder how colleges – and the country – will reason with this outbreak of unreasonableness. I take comfort in knowing that not all college students think like this, and that the pendulum will surely swing back as this craze dies out. Maybe it will even open dialogues as students start to discuss this madness. Homogeneity, especially of thought, is boring, and it appears that if there’s one thing millennials hate being, it’s bored.

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photo credit: <a href=”″>here we go again…</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;