I have to come out and admit something that has eaten away at me for many years.  I hope my friends and family will still accept me for who I am.  I know that a large part of society finds my orientation gross and appalling.  If they had their druthers, I would be wiped from this Earth along with all the others like me.  God, I can’t believe I’m making this declaration through my blog: I…..am………a Liberal!

There, I said it.  I know many of you already knew it but I feared coming out and being scrutinized for something that I cannot control.  Many will argue that being liberal is a choice, but I contend that I was born this way.  I have to admit that I feel like a new person admitting it publicly.  I mean, when I came out to my wife, she took it so well.  Of course, she admitted her Liberalism a long time ago.

Some hinted to me that they knew I was liberal because of the way I speak.  Others  know because of the people I associate with and how those people talk and act.  I just want to be accepted and to have my opinions heard and not have my character assassinated because I live a lifestyle that does not always reflect the core values that so many of my “normal” Conservative friends expect from me.  I know they want me to join their flock, to become like them, to be part of their congregation: a group of “sheeple” that know best.

According to Dictionary.com, a website that I am pretty sure is devoid of any Liberal or Conservative view points defines Conservative and Liberal as:

CONSERVATIVE: [kuh n-sur-vuh-ti] (adj):  disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.

LIBERAL:  [lib-er-uh l] (adj): favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.

Which one do I choose, which one do I choose?  Decisions, decisions.

I’ll go with Liberal!  I know it breaks the hearts of those minions toiling away in their bastions of self-righteousness, but if we take the definitions as they stand, liberal just sounds, I don’t know, progressive?

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PROGRESS vs. KEEPING IT THE SAME

If you, God or no-God (your choice) forbid, received a diagnosis of having cancer, would you rather see a conservative doctor or a liberal doctor?  (I’m not talking political affiliation.)  I literally mean would you see a doctor that started practicing medicine thirty years ago and believes the technology and medical knowledge of 1984 would best serve your health and recovery?  Would you feel comfortable with a doctor that pressed on your stomach and said, “Mrs. Jones, I don’t feel anything; you’re good to go!”  Of course not!  If you are such a contrarian that you would say yes, then I truly hope you never develop cancer.

I would prefer to see the doctor that runs a gauntlet of tests, calls upon the science and technology used to treat cancer so that I have a fighting chance.  I would rather associate with the doctor that is willing to accept new ideas in order to best take care of her patients.  I know, just a crazy liberal viewpoint prattling on and on about progress.

Imagine your favorite restaurant for a minute.  Let’s say they have the most amazing Shrimp Scampi.  Upon ordering your meal, the waiter notifies you that the new management is taking a conservative approach to how many shrimp they put into your most favorite meal.  Placed methodically upon a mound of pasta are four sad shrimp that look more like krill than say, a prawn.  Perfect if you have baleen teeth, but unfortunately, you’re a person, not a whale.

Now, imagine that same restaurant fell under liberal ownership.  The same waiter notifies you that instead of diminishing the size of the shrimp and the amount of the shrimp, they’ve opted to go with six prawns heaped onto a generous portion of pasta.  The price stays the same but we all know that means less profit for the restaurant, but at these prices and these portions, you are more likely to return to said restaurant and spend MORE of your money.  I guess that would never work, huh?  I mean, imagine if stores sold their products in bulk.  They would surely go out of business.  Except for Sam’s Club, BJ’s, Costco, PriceMart and City Club.

WHY LIBERAL?

I get it!  You work your ass for your money and it bothers you that some welfare leech is living off  your hard-earned money.  Even though I am liberal, I get it and it does piss me off that there are those that abuse the system.  Don’t you just hate it when people who survive on welfare and food stamps find ways to get over on the government?  Imagine if honest, tax paying corporations tried to do that.  Oh, wait.

I have a degree in English so please forgive my rudimentary attempt at math.  However, let’s use GE as an example in comparison to 740,000 welfare recipients IF they cleared $50,000 a year from the federal government.  Yes, I said $50,000 and 740,000 welfare recipients.  Find me one,  singular person that clears $50,000 a year from welfare and I’ll be in line with the rest of those people Conservatives despise.  Regardless, GE, if it paid taxes the way the rest of us had to pay taxes, would have owed the United States government $37 BILLION dollars in 2012.  I know, free market economy, capitalism, et cetera, et cetera.

I’m liberal because there is something wrong when individuals want to scream “liberal media” but get bent out of shape when good old-fashioned numbers do not lie.  Yes, the media lies.  Yes, the media propagates stories and covers sensational information.  As a matter of fact, I’ve got boxes full of plastic sheeting and duct tape if anyone wants them.  The box is about twelve years old but it is free to a good home.

 If you’ve ever sat in front of Fox NEWS and felt like the God’s honest truth was streaming right at you, you are more than likely acting upon your own self-preservation and adhering to a belief system that aligns with your own provincial views.  You cannot slam Liberals for NOT buying into Fox NEWS when Conservatives choose to discredit all other news sources because THEY have an agenda.

Moreover, I find it comical when people Tweet their outrage over the Liberal media’s coverage of events like Ferguson and then use completely unrelated stories to counter the Ferguson issue in order to highlight how the media only cares about “black” issues and issues when “black” people are murdered.  This is where I come right out and say, “Shut up!”  In NYC, there have been 225 murders  this year.  In Philadelphia, 191.  How many of those stories do you know about?  If any of those incidents were perpetrated by cops shooting unarmed people, we would all know about it.  Don’t argue hypocrisy when the “Not In My Backyard” mentality is alive and well in this country.

If you are more outraged by the Ray Rice incident and how it was handled, Liberal or Conservative, than you are about the REASONS and CONDITIONS behind why so many people are murdered in our inner cities each year, then you are no different from the very news outlets you love to bitch about.

Perhaps I am Liberal because I feel real Patriotism; not the feigned Patriotism that Conservatives put on display when someone even mentions the topic of the 2nd Amendment.  I am Patriotic when I see high school students and educators walking out of their schools in Colorado because a Conservative school boards pushed their agenda to eliminate curriculum that mentions civil disobedience because it is dangerous to America. READ THE FULL STORY:

Civil Disobedience is why America exists.  Any dip shit can shoot someone; George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, Ali Muhammad Brown and Adam Lanza proved that point well enough.

For the record, I believe the 2nd Amendment has its place in America.  I do not think the government has the right, nor should it ever try to repeal the second amendment.  However, if you are going to hold fast on a right established by the government nearly two and one half centuries ago, admit that there is a fundamental difference between a musket and a semi automatic rifle.  If you are not willing to accept that logical assertion then you don’t actually defend the 2nd Amendment, you defend your right to broaden its intention.Militia man

Sorry, Conservatives, but the real Patriots are those that stand up for their rights and use the Amendment that comes before the beloved 2nd Amendment.  Young men and women that stand up and say, “We have a right to know the history of the very country that we will one day inherit, warts and all.”

I am a Liberal because I have seen what stagnation does to a society.  I know what the same old tired arguments sounds like because I have heard it over and over again.  I am far from Politically Correct and I will nod my head in the direction of fiscal accountability, fixing the problems that leave this country beholden to those that hold our debt and collect interest from war and social programs that have become bastardized and twisted memories of sound programs.

I believe in America because I am raising three daughters that will one day have to navigate through the muck that OUR government has created.  If we heeded the brilliant wisdom of George Washington, the idea of a party system would have stalled and died before it ever became the exclusionary platforms that Americans cling to in order to become part of an accepting group.  However, since the lines in the sand look like they are here to stay, I will stand on the side of Liberalism because I still believe in progress.  Mock Obama’s slogan, “Yes, We Can” as much as you want, but in the end, I would rather look my children in the eyes and say, “Yes, We Can,” instead of folding my arms and saying, “No, We Won’t.”

By all means, please hurl insults and tell me that I am talking directly out of my arse.  This article is in response to people trying to discount my opinions and views because they “sound” liberal.  You will never, regardless whether you string together my 5,000 tweets and every Facebook post I’ve ever written, understand or know me until you attempt to understand and know me.  I never said I was right; I leave that to the fool hardy and the indignant.  All I did was defend my position.

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmith215

 

Women should cook, clean, make babies, raise babies, and ALWAYS vote Republican.  Let’s be honest, isn’t decision making really a man’s thing, anyway?  Sure, Hilary Clinton was Secretary of State, but let’s not forget, she didn’t know how to keep her husband happy or he would never have found himself playing phallic dentist with Monica Lewinsky or struggling to define the word “is.”  

Does America have the same disease as Benjamin Button? No, I’m being absolutely serious when I ask this question.  Did I go to bed September 30th and time travel?

A Diary Entry from 1790

Tis been a weary month for politics I must confess.  For I heard a large rumbling among the townsmen last eve as I traveled upon my trusted horse, General Washington.  As an aside, I must confess that the Stoltzfus barn is coming along mightily and tis my opinion he will be the envy of our small town quite soon.  Also, I happened upon a young Negro boy happily working in the fields  for no pay; my how happy he must be to have a place to sleep, food to eat and all for some hearty work in the field. I do believe I prattle on too much but I digress.  

Upon reaching the hallowed doors of the local pub, I met good friends to share an ale (or two) and to feast upon a great leg of mutton.  However, the most troubling and yet wildly entertaining news traveled through the crisp Autum air.  The town crier spoke of women wanting to vote.  My how I laughed at such a silly assertion; women, like children, should be seen and not heard.  I doth fear witchcraft is abound.

If I wake up one day and slide my feet into buckled shoes, throw on a powdered wig and adorn it with a tricorn hat, I’m going to be pissed.  Why the anger?

This is why the anger.

That’s right, ladies, according to the handful of young Republican women that developed and executed this ad campaign believe that they are smarter than you but obviously not as smart as any man.  Call this liberal whining or not being able to take a joke, but I assure you I can take a joke.  A joke is meant to elicit laughter and to entertain in some way.  A witty, yet terribly sad attempt to replicate a television show in order to convince young women that voting for Rick Scott and is like being on the television show “Say Yes to the Dress,” is, for a lack of a better word or phrase, a giant “F” you to women everywhere.  Wrap your feeble little girl brains around the insidiousness of that commercial if you can.  If you can’t, perfect!  The ad was meant for you.

I scoured the Internet searching for someone to debunk this ad in the vain hope that it was a ruse, a most brilliant commercial devised by the folks at the Onion.  It’s not.  It’s real!  (By the way, if you are a woman and found this article all by yourself, you should be proud.  Yes, that’s a good girl but what did we discuss about you leaving the kitchen?)

It appears that according to the College Republican National Committee and Rick Scott, young women are only as smart as the reality television they watch.  Also striking is the assertion that all young women get married.  The college debt piece made me chuckle because it softened the blow of the deliberate attempt to say, “you’re college educated but you’re jumping right into marriage because, well, you have a vagina.”

Why then, is this political ad equal parts genius and disturbing?  It is genius because it stirred up controversy, thus insuring hashtag notoriety on Twitter and bloggers writing endless articles in response to the outrageous and ignorant message perpetrated by this sixty-second preface for the arrival of the Anti-Christ and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Though only a minute, I see a spin off of advertisement campaigns appealing to the different  “minorities” out there.

The Redneck (Duck Dynasty)

The Robertson family is standing on their front porch. (Actually, the Robertson women are inside cooking because, well, duh, they’re women.)  Phil Robertson is reading the Bible to all of his grandchildren seated at his feet proclaiming why homosexuality is a sin.  Willie is there whittling a stick and spitting into a spittoon.  Si is running up trees while chasing squirrels or some other type of vermin.  Other than a few words of intolerance spoken by the patriarch of the family, no other lines are heard.  A deep, Appalachian type voice narrates the thirty second ad.  “America is under attack.  If you want to hate homosexuals, whittle whatever you want and chase four legged creatures up trees, then vote for Rick Scott!”

He’s the Governor of Florida.  I cannot imagine there is not some contingency of voters that fit this mold.

Obnoxiously Rich Drama Queens (The Real Housewives of Miami)

This ad would just have whoever is on the show holding thousand dollar shoes, handbags, belts and any other accessory that should cost forty bucks.  Over-sized price tags with giant red font would show off outrageous prices.  The women would begin to admire all of the accessories and they would begin to grab at each others merchandise, yanking it to and fro.  Perhaps for dramatic flair one of the women grabs the hair of another woman and begins to pull violently.  

Moments before the whole scenario blows up completely, Rick Scott shows up with fists full of money and declares, “Ladies, relax.  You’re rich and if you help me get elected, I’ll make sure your husbands pay very little tax.  <Insert upper class, Ted Knight from Caddyshack chuckle.>  All of the women quickly drop their respective accouterments and in a blatant display of flirting begin to seductively nibble their fingertips and play with their hair.

Actually, I am not sure this advertisement would fly because it sounds a little too much like honesty.  I cannot imagine Rick Scott would actually come right out and say, “I like the company I keep to be like the cheesecake I eat; rich and white.”

Lazy White Trash (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo)

Holding a gallon of ice cream each, Mama June and Honey Boo Boo share a couch as they look into the camera with a look of consternation.  After three giant spoonfuls of ice cream are labeled to their respective gullets, Honey Boo Boo speaks.  “I may not be Ol’ nuff to vote, but if I could, I’d vote for Scott Rick…I mean, Rick Scott.  He promises us more ice cream and if he promises me more ice cream he must be some good kind of person cause ice cream is delicious. <farts> Mama, I farted.  Anyways, if my Mama’s jazzy scooter is charged up on election day, you best believe my Mama and me’s gonna roll up dere and s’port Rick Scott.”

God, I really hope the political strategists for Rick Scott are paying attention.  I am literally offering up political gold here.  The 2016 presidential election will look more like the commercial break between A&E programming than the traditional mud slinging ads where one liar claims the other candidate is a liar while lying about lying.

The New Age Entrepreneur  (Storage Wars)

This is the coup de gras.  The cast of “Storage Wars” are sifting through the storage lockers they bid on and won.  Each of them is coming up empty handed.  Then the “yuuuuuuuuup” guy, Dave Hester, moves a dirty mattress and behind the mattress is Rick Scott sitting on a throne.  Rick Scott looks right into the camera and asks the following questions.

“Do you like going waist deep into other people’s crap? “Yuuuuuuuuuup!” 

Do you like gambling with your own money because you “think” there’s buried treasure in all of the muck of politics?  “Yuuuuuuuuuup!” 

Are you a self rigtheous <bleep>hole that thinks you’re smarter than everyone else in the room?  “Yuuuuuuuuuup!” 

Hi, I’m Governor Rick Scott reminding you that I think people are much dumber than they look.  If you vote for me, I promise to break my promises.  It’s simple; reelect me, Rick Scott, and I’ll do everything I can to prove that you are no better than ninety percent of the crap the cast of “Storage Wars” throws away after bidding on a storage unit filled with valueless garbage.

Sadly, the ad created by the College Republican National Committee is a character assassination on women.  The level of presumptuousness that the ad contains is enough to fill a storage locker from “Storage Wars.”  Women are under attack in the video and it plays to a demographic of presumed dummies and dopes that vote according to their television watching habits.

If that video is reflective of the opinion that Republicans have of the demographic they are targeting, why have they chosen to bypass a political advertisements that have football players and fans drinking beer.  “It’s fourth and one and we’re driving this campaign into the endzone.  Let’s just score already so we can go drink a beer or twelve and drive trucks with hemi engines and little lights on the side view mirrors that go blinky-blinky because women like shiny things and men like things that light up.”

Let us also get one thing clear.  I am not outraged because of the video.  I think it is actually quite genius.  They have an intended demographic, they targeted said demographic and in the meantime, harnessed a great deal of attention for their group and Rick Scott.  It will call to arms those that believe liberals are too “PC” (I tend to agree that we have taken political correctness to a nauseating level) and the liberals will whine about how the ad is outright offensive.

In reality, what will be offensive is if this ad actually works.  If any person, male or female, watches this video and feels an overwhelming urge to vote for Rick Scott, then things like the electoral college start to make sense.  America has to be better than this, right?

As a father of daughters, I am angry because of this political ad’s disregard for a woman’s ability to discern between credible and incredible.   When America needs to be smarter, more demanding, and more informed, people are spoon fed deception through mediums that people believe are actually real.  It is one thing for my daughters to start hinting at wanting certain toys or cereals because the commercials do a tremendous job of convincing children that they not only want Reese’s Puffs or the newest line of Barbie, they need these things.

Women are not children.  Children are children.  The moment when those people that these types of ads target decide that enough is enough, change may very well occur.  Until then, politicians like Rick Scott will avoid any culpability in matters of disingenuous and egregious political advertising that basically says, “Get Back in the Kitchen, B!&%*”

**It should be noted that not only has this video surfaced on behalf of Rick Scott, a version for Tom Corbett, Rick Snyder, Bruce Rauner, Bob Beauprez, and Asa Hutchinson is also available.  That’s right folks, we recycle excrement by replacing names.  Not only does the College Republican National Committee now speak on the behalf of multiple candidates, it proves that they busted their secular little brains making one video and simply made this video universal for all Republican candidates.

“I’m color blind, I don’t see race.”

I’ve heard it and read it many times before.  It is, whether anyone wants to deny or argue the point, a completely illogical and impossible feat.  Surely, the extreme witticisms of the every day contrarian would say, “What if someone is color blind?”

Technically, individuals should state, “I am race blind.”  That would make more sense but would still be an outright lie.  People, even the most tolerant and righteous individuals, still see race.  It is not shameful to categorize, it is shameful to add conditions to categories.

I have many friends and acquaintances.  I do not know off-hand the number for the different races and ethnicities that I have befriended and have befriended me, but I would imagine the number is relatively high.  I am closer to some of those individuals than I am others.  How then did I get to this place?

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When my Dad was on a meth bender, incarcerated, or in rehab, it was his black friends stopping by and asking my Mom if she need anything.  Money for laundry, gas, or food, my Dad’s black friends were there.  However, that is part of my recollection for this article, not for some specific file system in my mind where I feel the need to categorize.  It is merely a qualifying statement to create perspective.

The key to “race blindness” is whether our parents, our family and our friends are willing to act as our own personal Oedipus and blind us for the sake of being able to actually see.  I would rather be the empathic learner, the individual that will assess others based on what they present to the world from within.  It is hard for those that are not raised to appreciate the value of the individual when it is much easier to formulate opinions and label individuals based on something as generic as race.

Imagine if science took the same archaic, lazy approach to labels.

In Chemistry, O=Oxygen, K=Potassium, H=Hydrogen, U=Uranium.  Without H mixing with two O’s, life would cease to exists, pool parties would just be parties, and Adam Sandler would have one less movie to his credits.  According to doctors, K is pretty important and without it, I would not have an excuse to eat bananas, a fruit rich with potassium.  Now, put in me in a room with U and, well, all the H2O and K in the world will not help me.  At best I grow a tail, at worst I develop cancer and possibly die.

I listed a few examples from the periodic table of elements.  Uranium is not a good element when exposed to it directly.  However, when further studied, scientists figured out that uranium can become a solution for energy concerns.  It can also be harnessed and used for weapons of mass destruction.  I can’t just say Uranium is bad because it kills.  Too much of, or in mixture with other elements, all the examples listed can be fatal.  If I subscribe to bigoted views and used that “logic” for hating a specific race, I would also have to use that same line of narrow thinking when it comes to chemistry.  Down with the elements.  (Shortly after that statement, all things composed of elements would be taken from me and I would suffocate because of that pesky combination of two O particles making oxygen.)

Too loose of an argument?PeriodicTableWallpaper

Remember the cute acronym our teachers taught us growing up in order to remember the taxonomy of organisms?  My sixth grade science teacher taught me: King Phillip Came Over For Great Spaghetti.  (Kingdom – Phylum – Class – Order – Family – Genus – Species).  The taxonomy stops after species.  You can’t get away from it.  When labeling animals, unfortunately for some, there’s no R in the acronym for narrow-minded people to squeeze in race.  I know, it’s heart breaking, but sometimes truth and science, two constants that many people ignore because it flies in the face of their own views, cannot be ignored.

I am also aware that many groups have used illogical science to argue matters of race and the biggest example I recall were the Nazis.  If that’s your argument, then there’s really no room at the table for your type of discourse.  (It may sound exclusionary but if we are talking race, we must discount illogical and self-serving science that argues only on behalf of an exclusionary debate.)

If it is history that we must turn to in order to argue the need for race blindness, then our examples are endless.  Olaudah Equiano, a slave that bought his own freedom and became a prominent abolitionist in England, serves as a tremendous example of the equality of man.  Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a prime example of the commitment and sacrifice one must endure to overcome inequality and hatred. (Yes, he was also a known womanizer but Thomas Jefferson, a revered forefather of America and the author of the Declaration of Independence whose hypocritical words that professed all men are created equal not only owned slaves, he fathered children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.)  Great people are not beyond reproach; after all, they are still, according to King Phillip and the rest of his acronym, all part of the same species.

Sadly, race blindness may never be a universally accepted and practiced ideal. Though this Utopian idea may never be the standard for people, I always wonder if somewhere in the Garden of Eden there wasn’t a spotting of crab grass or intrusive ivy.  We can labor endlessly trying to root out that which we do not want or we can admire the beauty in that which is already beautiful.

I will never know what it means to be black.  I do know what it means to be discriminated against.  I’ve walked through GAP and, poetically, had a black employee follow me around because I am tattooed and look more comfortable shopping at Hot Topic than at a store known for its khakis and collared shirts.  This does not put me in the same echelon of race discrimination but it is just as maddening.  I know what poverty looks, feels, sounds, smells, and tastes like.  As an educator, I’ve attended funerals of young black men shot and killed and sat bedside at the hospital of those students caught in the crossfire of violence.  Pundits will argue my experiences are simply more examples of black on black crime.  What a convenient argument for a much larger issue.

Poverty is not just a black issue in America.  There are droves of white people who are dirty faced, under-educated and neglected that exist only because of welfare.  There are those that cheat the system and I say shame on our government for ever getting so big that it would rather let itself spiral into an existence of institutionalized racism than to work towards taking care of its people so those people can work to take care of themselves.

It is impossible to get a straight answer from a racist or a bigot.  They know the answer to our questions.  They recognize that if they respond honestly, that their provincial views become vessels of intolerable ignorance and hypocrisy.  Yes, America has a race problem.  No, it will not go away overnight.

I know individuals that are racist and bigoted because of singular events that led them down the path of intolerance.  Unfortunately, I too have an experience that I will never shake.  At twelve years old, five older teens jumped out of a mini van and beat me with boards, stomped on my face, kicked me, spit on me and laughed.  I will never forget those five white faces.  Yes, I know it seems unbelievable and wholly impossible, but I was part of white on white crime.  Even more outlandish is the fact that not only do I still love white people,  I married a white woman.  (For the sake of full disclosure, I actually married two white women.)

Before we, as a Nation, continue to debate the issue of race, remember that we respond to the opinions of individuals while lumping them into a much larger group.  We want answers and solutions while dismissing the tremendous work that must go into the great shift so many people idly hope and pray for one day.  Ignorance is pandemic and though many argue it is a case of histrionics at its worst, we cannot change the past.  We must be willing to live proudly in the present and work ferociously to change the future.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisSmith215

After my latest article, a person whom I considered to be a good friend did exactly what I asked anyone that disagreed with my article to do; he reached out.  He spoke honestly and candidly and for that, he stayed as true to the character that I always expected from him.  However, a small fractal of light blinded me as I read his assertion about my character as he postulated about his own.

Friendship is such an ethereal concept.  We have friends and then we have true friends.  The concept of a true friend is really based on the individual.  What are you willing to accept and what are you not willing to accept?  Is an acquaintance a friend?  Is a coworker a friend or just someone who by design you are around a great deal more than most and make the best of that situation?  Does a friend have to take every phone call you make, respond immediately to every text or email you send?

A friend, in my estimation, is someone you can lean on when you need support of any kind.  A friend may give you a hard time about a decision, but they do so out of true concern for you.  If you lean too long, they can kick your legs out from under you and say, “it’s time to stand on your own two feet.”

A friend does not always agree with you.  They should have the kind of relationship based on trust and admiration that is open to scrutiny and can say the hard thing to you even if it hurts both involved parties.  Being a friend means hurting when your friend hurts.

However, friends can sometimes say things out of anger or disappointment.  They can use your past to vilify, scold, dismantle or condemn.  When an individual feels compelled to use what they have done for you to indemnify you, then they are acting purely out of anger or your assessment of that person is actually much different from what you suspected.

When I went through a bitter divorce, fell into a life draining depression and attempted suicide, my friends, even the truest of my friends, disappeared.  They did not do it out of spite, they did it out of fear.  I understood and I still understand.  Those I worked with that were essentially “work” friends, knew about my situation and while I respected a great many of them, it turns out that being there for me comes with a price.

I spoke out about something that is unequivocally the truth.  However, my words, according to this person threatened the livelihoods of many people who, according to him, supported my academic and comedic aspirations.  I have a commitment to these individuals because, as he made abundantly clear, “were there for me during my divorce and my suicide attempt.”

Yeah, true friend indeed.

I don’t remember his face, standing over me screaming the way I remember my Mom doing just that.  When I was hospitalized, I don’t remember a phone call or a visit.  I do remember my chops busted for being the loose cannon and crazy.  A true friend, for the record, can hold onto memories but never feels compelled to hurt a person through an experience that is as raw today as it was the day I tried to end my life.

Friends forgive and I forgive him.  I am sure he does not think there’s anything to forgive, but for someone who cared so much for me, his response was in reaction to how much he cares for himself.  Self preservation; the essence of survival.

Friendship is, after all, an ethereal concept.  We want it to be rich and fruitful, a metaphorical tree from which we can sustain.  We envision it as something so deeply rooted in the ground that no matter the force of the storm, it will stand long after the winds have dissipated.  Friendship is the bedrock for our existence, an immovable force that provides the support for all things that we do and become in our lives.

I would accept the argument that I acted selfishly, but the person reporting on who I am uses a veiled argument that is righteous for one group, and ignorant towards another.

Regardless, this was never about friendship, this was about business.

 

 

After my first two weeks as a freshman English teacher (I was brand new to teaching and my students were brand new to high school), I witnessed a disturbing trend by my students.  Homework, tests, quizzes and projects, as it turned out, were gay.  Any time my students wanted to share their complete disdain for any type of work, they would immediately proclaim or mumble, “this is gay.”

I took offense to the statement and not because I had a special place in my heart for gay rights.  I have a special place in my heart for the rights of people and when young kids on the precipice of adulthood used gay as the term to describe something displeasing or unfavorable, the visceral reaction I had to students surprised me.  “Find another way of saying you don’t like something, people!  If you want to be viewed as adults, it is time to start acting like educated adults.”

After a few weeks of working on the abolition of “that’s gay” in my classroom, the turning point came once I put it into perspective.  I only had a few black students but in one particular class, I used race to put “that’s gay” into perspective.  I remember asking my students, “would you say, “that’s black,” if you didn’t like something?”  Immediately the lone black student in my class turned his head quickly and violently around the room to see if anyone would agree to that particular usage.  All of the students avoided eye contact and either looked down at their desks or as if they had never heard the question.

Thankfully or coincidentally, the quick lesson worked and when students would use the term in class, they would often correct themselves and even ask for a pardon from the universe as they would say, “sorry, I meant to say…”

Ignorant speech and views starts when we are all pretty ignorant to the world around us.  Kids, especially, are rooting through this world trying to understand how life works and where and how they fit in.  Hell, a great many adults are still searching for themselves; I know I am.  All of this is anecdotal  and germane to one incredible experience that came to full fruition this past Saturday.

A friend of mine a few months back came to me, after finding out that I was ordained and could perform wedding ceremonies, and asked if I would officiate her wedding.  Her fiancee is a wonderful person too.  Together, they exude the kind of love and passion for each other that so many people pine for in their lives.  The way they look at each other and how in a crowded room, you can see them searching for each other in order to just share a smile.  They are sentimental, emotional, dedicated people that love each other in a profoundly inspiring way.  Oh, right, I almost forgot, they’re gay.10624776_879633068251_279711591266471520_n

Regretfully, when I was twelve years old, my friends and I would prank call a gay bar where I lived.  We would ask, “Is Phil there?  Phil MyButtUp!”  Things that, even though I was only twelve, still bother me that I ever existed in a place where that seemed comical.  Luckily, I had the kind of relationship with my Mom where I would tell her about all of the things I did: good, bad, sensitive, insensitive, and even outright ignorant.

In one of her many sage like moments, my Mom turned to me and asked, “would you want to be something where people would be ignorant towards you?  Would you choose to be something where others would make fun of you, act differently towards you, or discriminate you?”  She looked at me and immediately I understood her point.  “No, I wouldn’t,” I replied. “Then think about what you think is funny and then really think if it is funny or you’re trying to be funny at someone else’s expense.”  Damn, I thought.  Moms always have a way of putting things into perspective.

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to act as the officiant in my first wedding ever.  I did not lament over what I was going to say, though I did fret over the words because I wanted my friends, Sarah and Katie, to have a ceremony that they would never forget.  Standing before her friends and family, I felt that lump begin to swell in my throat.  I was far from nervous; I was moved.

10685485_10100698714348029_3080044461057064068_nWhen Katie and Sarah finally made their way to where I was standing, I could see their eyes filled with palpable passion, love, and of course, tears.  They could finally do the one thing that this country, a country that prides itself on individual freedoms and liberties, fought so long and hard to keep from happening.  Passion beat policy and over a hundred people bore witness to the power of love and resilience.  As a heterosexual male, I do not and cannot imagine what it would be like to be told I could not love someone because others had an issue with whom I directed my affection and adoration.

We all play a part in how effective love and kindness can be in this world.  Ultimately, there’s a lesson to be learned in how we treat those that do not follow the scripts that we follow in life.  Homophobia is not bred through one particular sect of thought.  Its genesis is in ignorance begetting ignorance.  It manifests when the company a person keeps continues to drive home a point of intolerance and the inability to differentiate between their life and someone else’s life.  When people decide that love provides not only a safe place for individuals to lay their hearts but a place where people can simply be themselves, we take steps in battling the provincial thoughts of those that appear to need more love in their life.

I will never change anyone’s views by saying what I believe.  I will change minds by living out my views.  Sarah and Katie asked me to be part of a moment that, as I said to those in attendance, could not be justified by any words that I spoke that day.  We needed only look at Sarah and Katie together and to witness the truth in what we believe.  While I often wish the world would stop long enough to admire each moment as unique and authentic, it may play a little part in what made Saturday so magical.  Outside of the Autumn oasis that Sarah and Katie created for their family and friends, was a world waiting to remind us of the long road so many people must travel.

However, tucked away in the Germantown section of Philadelphia are fifty five acres of endless memories.  We need only return there in our thoughts to have all of our senses brought back to life and to remind us of what perfect looks and feels like.  I will never forget my two friends; surrounded by bales of hay, loving family and friends, and an infinite supply of hope and victory to fuel us for a lifetime.  I may never change someone’s mind by what I’ve said or written, but if I lead through my experiences in life, September 20th, 2014 marks the day when I witnessed hope evolve into reality!

Far from “Just” a Pizza Shop

Posted: September 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Gabriel’s II in Washington Crossing, PA (215) 493-2226

We’ve all heard the term “comfort food.”  It’s that one meal or snack that while we eat it, we say, “I don’t care about carbs, fat, calories, or anything else.”  That is, unless carrots are your comfort food and I am not quite sure whether I want to make your acquaintance.  That does not necessarily mean that the food has to be “bad” for you, it is simply the food that makes you feel better.  This is where Gabriel’s II in Washington Crossing, PA comes in.  However, it’s not just the food that provides comfort, it is the restaurant as a whole.

Understand that I’m a nostalgic kind of guy.  My buddies give me a hard time because I admit to crying during certain romantic comedies, have dabbled in some poetry here and there and the truth is, I’m somewhat of a softie.  However, being somewhat of a softie is what allowed me to connect with my students and what allows me to be a committed Dad to my daughters.  In my grand respect for nostalgia, Gabriel’s harkens back to my days of growing up in Bridgeport, PA and the fond memories I had of visiting a very similar pizza place called Franzone’s.

First, the shop is intimate.  Hosting only a few stools and a counter for patrons to eat a slice or enjoy a sandwich, Gabriel’s gives off a very, “I feel like I’ve been here before” type of vibe.  That is just the physical layout that gives me that feeling.  Like any great corporation, sports team, body shop, garage, cleaners or coffee house, the staff is what gives any group its character.  The owner, Gabriel (Chris) Mascio, is to Gabriel’s what Ted Danson was to the character Sam Malone in Cheers.  It is his place, he clearly runs it, but he’s far from typical.

“Hello, my dear,” Chris will say smiling as a silver haired patron glides in.  “Yo, Boss, how ya’ been” is the greeting for the oily mechanic that only moments ago slid out from under a car he was working on so he could grab a slice of two.  The difference between a salutation and a warm greeting is the smile a person has on their face when they say it.  Like his restaurant and food, Mascio is truly authentic.10561537_823013741044126_3465975541440444386_n

The guys that work for Gabriel’s are a cast of characters in their own right.  They feed off the boss’ positivity, greet customers like their family, and even when it gets busy in the shop, people are still laughing and still smiling.  The family owned pizza shop still exists and never does a customer have to settle.

You know exactly what I mean.

You go into a place and the food is, “ehhhhhh” but everyone that works there is great.  Or, the food is fantastic but the service leaves a great deal to be desired.  It seems to be the American way; settle for what we give you because we just don’t care.  However, that’s why Gabriel’s is in a class of its own.

Leaning over an employee making a pizza, Mascio watches and says, “not enough cheese, babe.”  Not ENOUGH cheese?  In an age where cutting corners and costs are the norm, Chris’ sentiment echoes louder than he could ever understand.  It turns out that there are still places that care about quality.

Are you asking yourself, “what about the food?”  I could rattle off a dozen adjectives to describe the unrelenting options but each palate is different.  The beautiful part of Gabriel’s is you may walk in with a hankering for a cheese steak and walk out with twenty wings and a slice to go.  I just want something small becomes ordering a full meal.  If you’re Italian, it’s the kind of place you’d have to do a great deal of lying about to your Mom or your Grandmother.  “Oh, Gabriel’s, no worries, Nona, the eggplant lasagna is definitely not as good as yours.”  Meanwhile, you just lied to your poor, old Mom or Nona.

Whether you remember Cheers or not is irrelevant.  If you like the idea of ordering fantastic food at a place that not only wants your business but truly values it, Gabriel’s II is a wonderfully unique restaurant that caters to the individual, not the masses.  Business may ultimately be about making money, but Mascio and his staff understand that it’s about making meals that people love!

“Holy S#!%, we WON,” I screamed while running around my apartment, nearly knocking over a lamp and coming dangerously close to crushing a bookcase.

That was the scene in my house this past Monday night when the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Indianapolis Colts.  My excitement and love for my football team knows no bounds and Monday night provided another example of the lunacy that many Philadelphia Eagles fans experience on any given Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night.  Though some may call it cliched, football is my escape and has been for many years.

Just about a month ago, I lost my job as an Academic Coordinator due to budget cuts.  Like a recycled Hollywood movie plot, the scenario of losing a job and feeling petrified over making ends meet is a story that many people experience.  While I wish I could string together some flowery prose or develop a poignant metaphor to capture my feelings, the best way to sum it up is to come right out and say, “It Sucks!

Each morning I take to the computer and scour the classified websites, hoping that I will find a job that I love and will love me back.  Resume after resume, custom cover letter after custom cover letter, I continue to push forward.  I have to; failure is not an option because I have a family that depends on me and I refuse to fail.  I will, no matter what, do whatever it takes to take care of my family.  I cannot quit because my family depends on me.

That’s when it happened.  Literally moments before the second half kickoff, there I was saying, “I don’t know if I can handle this,” I had one of those epiphanies that I know will stay with me for a long time to come.

I’m not just a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I am the Philadelphia Eagles.  I am in my own proverbial halftime and yes, I am without a doubt, down.  The score does not look pretty and while others may think I do not have a chance in hell of coming back, I still have another half of football to play.  I have to be my own Chip Kelly and adjust during the half.  I cannot be deterred because a play I drew up did not get me the results I wanted.  After all, I still have another half of my life to play.

That is precisely what bleeding green means.  It is the complete and total embodiment of throwing yourself into something that you live for each week.  We all know the labels associated with being a Philadelphia Eagles fan.  If the description of who we are as a fan base was left to outsiders, the painted picture would be eerily similar to the Germanic tribes fighting the Romans in the opening scene of “Gladiator.”

We may beat our chests and scream until we are hoarse, boo players that do not play to their fullest potential, and we are guilty of grandiloquent speech and theory, but damn it, we bleed green.  Our wounds are deep but the devotion to our team runs deeper.  We are football maniacs in the moment and football scholars-in-training after the game.  We clamber to our televisions and radios in order to hear the profound words of Ray Didinger, the Socrates of Philadelphia Football.  The presets on our car radios are set for sports talk radio.  The jerseys of players in our closets run like a timeline found in history books.  The stories we tell our children about that one game, that one play or that one season is a bond that should not, will not and cannot be taken lightly.

I bleed green because the Philadelphia Eagles are my family.  While I certainly did not cry the same way I did when my Dad passed away, I felt equally as empty and directionless when Brian Dawkins left the Eagles and signed with the Denver Broncos.  I’ve given family second chances after they’ve done truly terrible things; reminiscent of accepting Michael Vick into our football family regardless of the strong opinions I had for him and his actions.  Family, unless they choose to walk away, are your family for life.

Undeniable are the collective wounds we wear on the very sleeves we wear our hearts; however, the Philadelphia Eagles are the wellspring of this city’s passion.  Passion is paramount to being a fan.  Some may question how being a Philadelphia Eagles fan is different than being a fan of any other team.  The answer is quite simple: ferocity.  If we fall behind, we will fight to reclaim what is rightfully ours.

I learned through my love for the Philadelphia Eagles that although I may be down at the half, I still have another half to come back and claim my victory.  Thank you, Philadelphia Eagles; not only have you given me something to cheer about, you’ve taught me that hope is a series of unrelenting pursuits driven by the idea that we can never give up.