Independence Day for the rebels

I’ve had the opportunity to celebrate July 4th for 38 years and watch fireworks shows all over the country. In fact, tonight I’ll be watching one in Missouri of all places. I’ve been to a show or two in Nashville, a couple in Ohio, quite a few in Florida, and up and down the east coast as I was growing up. I’m hoping today is a day that everyone around the country can set their political differences aside and simply celebrate. Firworks. Grilled burgers. Sparklers. Red, white, and blue.
Without the rebellious lovers of freedom hundreds of years ago, our country wouldn’t be as amazing as it is today. Before we are Democrats or Republicans, before we are Americans or immigrants, we are people. We are people who love freedom. We are people who believe in love and equality. It’s why the rest of the world wants to move here, and why some of the rest of the world hates us. But by golly, what an amazing country! One man can grow up to become a professional baseball player. One woman can grow up to run for president. There are teachers, and maintenance people, taxi drivers and Uber drivers, pastors, lawn mowing professionals, inventors and entrepeneurs, horse caretakers and zoo keepers. There are so many possibilities for everyone that calls themself an American and it’s all thanks to Independence Day.

So as you hoist your flags this morning, as you watch the fireworks explode in the night sky, be thankful for the rebels. The dreamers. The fighters. God bless America and I pray that our country unites again under God for the purpose of pursuing happiness with loving our neighbor as ourselves as our montra.

-Out of the Wilderness

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Life: Laughing together like people in Japan probably do

Laughing.

We all do it. Babies. Old folks. Democrats. Republicans. AP English teachers. Criminals. People in the smallest town in the US to people in the largest city in Japan.

ms smilingWhen God created us, he included something that makes life so much more enjoyable. The sense of humor. And it’s pretty cool that there are different types. Something I find funny isn’t the same as what you think’s funny. Sense of humor can be seen in all areas of life; from TV ads like this one…
…to funerals where someone giving the most heartfelt eulogy can pepper in a bit of humor that works perfectly, even in the midst of heartbreaking loss.

I’ve been thinking some this week about this thing called humor. How it fits into my life. If you know me at all, it’s needless to say I value it very much. I absolutely love making someone laugh with a timely thought, an odd look, or a movie quote. And I equally love when someone can make me laugh. There’s more to it, though, and this is what I’ve been wrestling with the past few days.

When do I use humor to keep people from knowing the deeper things in my heart?

I think there are times I don’t like to admit that I’ve used humor as a way for you to like me. Sort of a social resume. It’s especially true when I first meet people. Humor is a way to say, “Hey, I’m a fun person!” I hand over a piece of paper with a few topical one-liners, a personal quip about my dogs, an impression of Jimmie Fallon doing an impression of Donal Trump.

“Let’s build a waalllllll.”

But hey, I’ve already built a wall! Yes, perfect segue. I can comfortably hide behind this wall to keep from revealing the other things I value. Deep conversations. Complete trust. Working hard and not cutting corners. No one wants to talk about those things in social scenarios, right? So a wall’s constructed, beautified, updated with the most current news or movie quotes, all in an attempt to:

  1. Get you to like me
  2. Keep me from being vulnerable which could lead to rejection

This weekend, though, I’ve longed for that vulnerability. I feel it most alive, or most exposed, when I have conversations with long-time friends, those handful of people that’ve climbed over the wall to experience the deeper parts of my personality. Beyond the humor I sometimes hide behind.

So to my long-time friends, thank you for letting me be vulnerable. To new friends, please like me! I hope one day soon we can let our guards down. To laugh together like people in Japan probably do, but also trust each other like long-time friends do.

-BW
ms smiling 2

 

 

Apathy in America: To respect our flag or not?

Disrespecting the American flag is a relatively new phenomenon. It was only in the late 60s/early 70s that burning the American flag became popular among Vietnam War protesters. This practice was illegal, but since then has been covered under the rights of the 1st Amendment. Even in 2011, the question remains whether it’s the people’s right to burn the flag. Do laws against flag desecration violate free speech? That’s the crucial issue at the heart of the battle which continues today. For the last few decades, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that flag desecration is covered under the 1st Amendment; free speech.

While I admire the passion, I cannot agree that burning the flag is, in any way, right or acceptable. What concerns me more, though, is that a lot of Americans are apathetic towards the flag. They don’t burn it, but they don’t fly it either. This has become more and more apparent to me in the mundane task of driving to and from work. It began one day when I saw a flag laying in the middle of a 4 lane road. It was trampled, run over, broken and torn. I wondered how it got there and why it was still there. Who was the lazy or disrespectful person careless enough to leave it laying there? Then I realized I was miles down the road, and had done nothing about it. I was careless and lazy. I blamed someone else for the very same character I showed. Since then, my life hasn’t dramatically changed. I didn’t have an awakening and join the military like a lot of people did after September 11, 2001. There was no big epiphany about how I should run for office or vote more. But I did make a heartfelt commitment to revolt against apathy and lazy disrespect. I won’t contribute to the decline of America, because it’s not the government’s fault. We can blame politicians, we can complain about the President, taxes, or war but change won’t happen until our apathy does. And I can tell you this, it won’t be the big things that change the country- a new President, going to war or not going to war, the Senate, the House, running for office, joining the military, protesting or burning a flag- it’ll be the little chances we have to reject our 1st Amendment rights and spend our energy on something bigger than ourselves. For me, it’s picking up an American flag whenever I see one on the ground. It’s my own way to respect the flag, honor those that fight under it, and perhaps contribute to a new American phenomenon.

click here for my post featuring highlights of Nashville, including the Tennessee state flag.

The Man Behind ‘The Dadabase’

If you log onto the internet and search for things like Jewish actors, the height of famous people, pickles, or marijuana, you’re sure to come across a website of blogs called Scenic Route Snapshots.

With little to no knowledge of any specific subject, the author of this site writes and encourages people to click on his pages, all for his silly enjoyment. Quite frankly, it’s disturbing. Who knew that this youngster had such a bright and successful future ahead? Somewhere along the way, though, things took a turn for the worse. The first sign of a decline surfaced from this theft security camera in a mall store. Forever 21.  Some suspect his life began the downward spiral when he started dating his first girlfriend… … while others doubt that theory because he was often seen at bingo night with his brother. Do either of these guys look like criminals? No. Just brothers. Most likely, his dark side flourished when his parents grounded him for a full year after discovering he joined the dangerous underground bingo gang “F.S.B.” Alone in his room with no access to other “Fourth Street Bingers” gang members, he inked his first tattoo. There were many more tattoos to come, mostly of small reptiles and one of a dolphin on his lower back. He embraced the bad boy lifestyle for the next few years, then an opportunity to escape and rebuild a life of happiness came in the form of male modeling. His signature look “Magnum” was a huge hit, and even spawned a hit movie starring Ben Stiller. His popularity, however, dropped sharply when his obssession admiration of Scott Stapp, lead singer of Creed, came to light.  He was forced to move out of the United States. Facts of his life overseas are fuzzy here, but this picture lends to the theory that he was involved in some kind of fight club. Supporting that theory is the fact that he recently was allowed back in the country, but under a new alias… Richard Shell, P.I.M.P. (and Richard was not what people called him, if you know what I mean).

Then he moved to the outskirts of a large city, fell in love, got married, and here’s the video to prove it. It’s possible he’s experienced enough to give him some sort of niche in the online world of writing, but the fella’s in F.S.B. disagree. They think his writing is elementary, only slightly enlightening, and his use of interesting details is grossly overestimated. 

Congrats, Dick! You’ve overcome so many obstacles.

Remembering 9/11

I was in the last semester of college at Florida State University, standing in the University Center (offices inside Doak Campbell Stadium) getting my parking pass for the Fall semester. It was a room like you’d find at the DMV, where there’s a long row of attendants ready to help with whoever was next in line. I was the only one in line. Four of the attendant windows were operational, yet no one was asking me to approach them. In fact, the employees behind the long counter were not even at their windows. They were all looking at the television mounted on the wall behind them. Me, being a passive 4th child, assumed they simply didn’t know I was there. Wondering what in the world was more important than their job, I became slightly frustrated. Then I noticed the content of what they were watching. I got my parking pass that day, but classes were cancelled so I went home and turned on the news. Where were you on that day?September 11 has become somewhat of a National holiday, a day of remembrance. Do you think we feel the same way Americans did when Memorial Day was officially recognized as a holiday? Because on Memorial Day, we take time to remember those who fought for America’s freedom and who fought wars in the 20th century, but it’s ancient history we read about in books. September 11 is a new memorial day that everyone over the age of nine is connected to directly. Instead of reading about stories, we can tell stories. From government, society, military, race relations, religion, music, television, movies, travel, so much of what America is about today is an extension of that day. The day the United States showed vulnerability. A strong and proud nation whose residents never thought we’d be attacked here inside our own borders. In countries we only hear about on the news, terrorism like that happens every day and after 2001, we became their equal. An ally engaging in the fight that’s been long going, but we never had the need or the reason to join in. I hate to think about losing, but on September 11, 2001 we lost. I think it was hard for us as a country to accept that, because we value winning. Whether it’s sports, the lottery, or speeding through a light before it turns red, we place a lot of importance on being ahead, being the best, finishing first, not slowing down. Bang! Two towers are hit, both fall down, and all of the sudden someone else has the upper hand. For a short time, we were not the best. We were vulnerable and the innocence of our young country was exposed. But we are no longer innocent. We are no longer naive. And unfortunately for our enemies, we are no longer uninvolved.

My dad served for 27 years and for that, I couldn’t be more proud. I’m not a soldier. I’m just a normal citizen with a house and a dog. But I love this country and will forever hold my hand over my heart during the pledge of allegiance, while thinking of the soldiers like my dad who defended, are defending, or will defend this country.

Boney M in Viet Nam

I was sitting in the front passenger seat of a green taxi cab in Hanoi, Vietnam.  I felt pretty good about this taxi for two reasons…

1. There was a plastic box over the meter tracking our distance and cost. This meant the driver was less likely to dishonestly tamper with the meter, deceiving us into paying more. My sister and her husband were in the back, holding their new daughter Ava (click here for her adoption video) who was born less than a year earlier in central Vietnam. The plastic guard put me at ease, but that wasn’t all that contributed to the happy good feeling.

2. The music playing on the car stereo. This particularly catchy song playing over the speakers had such a vintage, timeless feel. The lyrics were fantasticly odd, too, with lines about “a man in Russia long ago.” I couldn’t figure whether the song was a new hit by a band like the Scissor Sisters, or a 30-year-old classic. I later found out the song was called “Rasputin” and guess what, it was from the 1970s. I became the biggest fan of the group responsible for “Rasputin,” they’re name was Boney M. Who?

That’s right, I said it, Boney M. Click here to find their best songs, from Amazon: Greatest Hits

The more you say it the less you’ll feel weird saying it, I promise.

I researched Boney M (say it again!), Boney M, and discovered more of their famed history. Why hadn’t I heard them in the States? They must’ve been more popular in countries outside North America, however, they are closely linked to a well-known U.S. band from the late 1980s. They’re connection to this U.S. band is Frank Farian, Boney M’s creator and producer, who later produced the lip-sync kings we all know as Milli Vanilli. Some Milli Vanilli hits include, “Blame It on the Rain” and “Girl, You Know It’s True.”

[click here for parodies of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”]

Vietnam produced for me a niece and a new appreciation for the international superstars Boney M. Soon after returning to the U.S. from my two-week-long adventure in Vietnam, I found out a Christmas song is credited to Boney M, as well. The song called “Mary’s Boy Child/ Oh My Lord” continues to be a very popular holiday song to this day. Boney M’s hits include “Hooray! Hooray!,” “Rasputin,” “Rivers of Babylon,” “Ma Baker,” “Brown Girl in the Ring” and “Daddy Cool.”

Even in 2011, Boney M is a popular band around the world, these songs being introduced to younger generations through avenues like YouTube and iTunes. Just type in Boney M on YouTube and you’ll see they are just as popular as Celine Dion’s hit “My Heart Will Go On” (Ok, that’s another story for another posting!). It just goes to show that good music is good music, no matter what decade it is, what continent you’re on, or what color your taxi cab is.