Why I still celebrate Independence Day

One observation I made this past weekend is how many people tweeted, posted or shared the sentiment that July 4th should not be celebrated. This is fairly common to see at least one or two people crap all over a holiday, but not in as many numbers I saw Saturday. There’s always a person I see ready to dump on Christianity on Easter or Christmas, for example, but it’s usually a one off from someone who had a bad experience with the church or just wants to be the guy screaming anchovies when a group tries to order a pizza (we get it, you’re sooooo cool…good job). I saw it so frequently, I felt I should write about it.

First off, one of the great things in America, is you are free to stick your lip out and not celebrate as much as you want to. You can go online and outside of death threats and the judgement of the people reading, you can trash any and every politician at any level – from the President down to your dogcatcher – and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You can even be wrong, but you can do it. You can protest, write, yell, or boycott just about any authority figure there is. That’s in the 1st Amendent. The very first one in the Bill of Rights.

Secondly, do you still give gifts on Christmas knowing poor children aren’t getting any? Do you still eat on Thanksgiving knowing there are homeless people? Of course you do, but a funny thing happens on these days, people tend to give more, reach out to others when they haven’t previously and are reminded to step back and be grateful for what they have. It’s very sad, but we have the highest economic standard of living on Earth and we still complain. I know I do, so I’m calling myself out also. People who go out drinking four nights a week whip out their $900 phones and trash how unfair life or the “system” is. I have seen people have Go Fund Me for their bills but go on vacation or buy a new video game system. My dad went on a mission trip to Guatemala a few years back and said he helped a family that picked fruit build a house. The father had accidentally drank fertilizer in the middle of the night instead of from the water bucket and went almost immediately to invalid status. An entire family lived off a few bucks a day in a one room house he described as “big enough to pull a car into, but you wouldn’t have been able to open the doors.” He said they were so appreciative, he had to reexamine how he looked at things. We can celebrate our national holiday without blind allegiance to our past or the government, yet step back and realize all humanity is flawed.

Lastly, I see a lot of people profiteering, either in money or status, off pushing agendas. Sadly, on both sides of issues. The news leads with stories that get ratings and the ones that do are the ones that make us angry. Reason is giving way to partisan politics, heightened by an election years, two incredibly flawed parties and a pandemic. Yet for me, whatever the climate of rage is around us, I can stop and realize that this country was the first to articulate equality as foundational principle. Was it equal then or now? No, but to write that off is to ignore the reality of humankind’s flaws and asses the past from a modern lens without adjusting for perspective. Also, watch what history is being touted. I see danger in ignoring the ugly, but there is also a looming threat from rewriting events with an agenda laced pen. Abraham Lincoln, during his Senate campaign, which he lost, but was able to parlay into a presidential run, defended the founding principles in the face of a tense country ready to explode over slavery. By putting the statement that all men were created equal, it became the shining light to achieve from that moment on. It wasn’t a reality under British rule and would not be when America became free, but it set the target that we are shooting for.

A great example is recently a push to replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday has arisen. We are constantly seeking higher ground, but don’t have to burn down the past that set the foundation for such lofty ideals that we still hold them up. Most countries were founded as a result of war, common ethnicity or geographical boundaries. America was not. It was founded on reason and hope. Compare it to its bastard cousin, the French Revolution, which was violent reverted back to authoritarianism as fast as the guillotines dropped. The revolutionaries, out for vengeance consumed themselves in rivers of blood and were brought into a Napoleonic rule to restore authoritarian order. America has had one violent struggle above all others, a Civil War, which corrected the mistake of continuing the slavery that had existed for 157 years when the Declaration was written. They tried to restrict it via the Northwest Ordinance and the slave trade restriction, but it would take 600,000 casualties to eradicate it as an official institution.

While not perfect then or now, America still has people desperately trying to become citizens. Our institutions are flawed, but ultimately subject to the people, not the other way around. The holiday of July 4th was the first step in rejecting rule without representation. We have written into the foundations of our government the protections of speech, religion, assembly and the separations of power and we are seeking improvement and justice constantly, even if we are not there yet. That’s why I celebrate Independence Day.

My wife’s cat is a dick

There are many roles a husband and father has to play: teacher, coach, protector, only person in the house who keeps things plugged in and charged. The one that no one told me about was pest control/Crocodile Hunter. That’s mostly thanks to the four legged menace my wife calls our cat, but I call her cat.

Our cat hates being cooped up, so we cat doors leading to the great wilderness that is our suburban neighborhood. The cat is an ice cold psycho and kills an animal about every seven days. Other times, the cat decides the vermin needs to see what we’ve done around the house, usually at about 3 am. The cat has brought us (alive) a rabbit, so many mice and chipmunks that I’ve lost count and even a bird. I thought it was dead…until I picked it up. Last Monday I tried to chase a mouse out of the door, but it decided to hide in the coat closet, which slants to a point, so I had to remove every single thing in there at 6 am as I tried to reach it with a broom. It escaped and we couldn’t find it until 9:30.

Oh and complicating the entire matter is that my wife is TERRIFIED of mice. So, every time this happens, I’m on call like a firefighter to help her and also protect my kids from seeing the cat maul the animal right in front of them. Yesterday, I got a call from my mother in law that a squirrel was flopping around the yard. It appeared the serial kitten had struck again, while my daughter was yelling “Why is the squirrel doing that?” I got home and it was gone. I quickly scooped it with a shovel and ran it over to the trash can. In my haste, with the lid trying to close back down, the squirrel’s arm got caught on the edge. Rigor mortis had set in, so it was propped up, staring at me with its black eyes, arm on the edge like it was posing for a senior picture. I almost took a picture, as it was too perfect, but whatever sense of morality and my daughter possibly coming around the corner at any second held me back. The problem? It was stuck now. I had to use the dog’s pooper scooper to pick it up and get the arm off the edge. My daughter ran up a minute later and asked where the squirrel was and if it bit me. I told her the vet picked it up to help it. Now to see if the vet will pick up the murder cat.

Not to worry, however, the cat made sure to demand three treats by meowing its high pitched call to Satan last night, so it’s not all death and torture. Sometimes just dark necromancy in feline wails at all hours of the night. I’m spending today looking for holy water and good stout crucifix so maybe I can drive this thing into the abyss it came from.

Back on the comedy saddle

Well, after three months off, I had my first two shows in the post-COVID/pre-normal world of 2020. Every rule was broken, but it’s where we are. The show was outside for safety (usually a big no no for comedy), the attendance was regulated (a big no no for making money) and the first show was at 2 pm (another consequence of COVID) so they could sanitize between shows. The best part? Not my set, but it worked!

It was 88 degrees when I hit the stage, the crowd was sober and there was no opener, but it went better than I thought. Here’s a tip for the comics about to hit the stage: you will screw up a joke or two. I honestly hit a dead spot in my brain that took me about 10 seconds to figure out what I was going to do next and I forgot a huge setup in one of my “bits.”

The second show was much more normal, it cooled off, the crowd was bigger and I had a 30 warm-up under my belt. It went better by a mile and I had the added bonus of a drunk heckler. The headliner was popular radio and YouTube personality Donnie Baker. Very nice guy, but his fan was not. She was a very drunk lady who conversation bombed us before the second show and yelled way too many woos during my set, then finally yelled, “Get Donnie Baker onstage!” Replaying hecklers in a blog doesn’t really capture the moment, but I at one point made the audience cheer very loudly by playing off a guy revving his motorcycle comparing it to her and may have also inquired if there were any serial killers in the crowd that could help me out. She finally shut up or passed out and all was good. I had such a long gap between shows that I mowed my mother in law’s grass 45 minutes from the venue, but it worked. Big thanks to the Smiling Goat and their staff for being very friendly and safe in a tough environment. Now to wait another season to tell these garbage jokes!

Statues, history and context

Since nothing is funny anymore ever, why not another serious topic sure to alienate people more? Here goes! Recently, my feed takes a short, occasional break from summer vacations and Trump related posts for other things and now it’s all about history. And about everyone is wrong. “WHAT MAKES YOU KNOW HISTORY, COMEDIAN BOY?” Well, reading helps! One thing I have observed recently with the internet, is that there is so much agenda driven information out there, you can find anything, whether correct or not. So here goes.

Statues. I like statues. Sculpture is my favorite form of art. No, I’m not counting stand-up as art, dummies. I’ve been to too many open mics. I generally don’t like statues being pulled down. That said, I have no issue getting rid of statues glorifying Confederate generals. Why? Well, let’s take the views of Robert E. Lee. Lee said after the war he was against monuments to the Confederacy as he thought it would further divide the country that needed healing after the Civil War. (He also thought gravestones should be left alone, which again, I agree with.) If the statue is of the war in general, related to a battlefield or honoring the common soldier, I can see an strong argument to keep it. If Lee and Meade are monuments at Gettysburg, makes perfect sense. A statue honoring an individual in a random town over the greater theme of reminding society about the high cost of the Civil War and importance of ending slavery? See ya, Nathan Bedford Forrest on a horse. Plus there’s the whole thing of statuing (I made up a word) up people that openly rebelled against the country the statue is in, but whatever, right?

Now for Christopher Columbus in my adopted town? Goodbye statue. First, he never even set foot in the continental US, let alone Ohio, let alone Franklin County. Second, while his achievement was monumental, he was not the first (Vikings) European to find America, just the first to cause people to write it down and seek to migrate here. Third, he was a real scumbag. YES EVEN IN THE CONTEXT OF HISTORY. Even Spain, which doesn’t exactly have a glorious track record of fairness to native populations, removed him from the governorship for cruelty. Smallpox and disease did the most damage, but he almost single-handedly wiped a race from history with forced labor, slavery and sex crimes. Should he be removed from books? No, we need to know these things. Should he have a big ol’ glorious art piece? Not in Ohio.

Changing the name of the city is another issue, to be honest, I don’t think of Columbus the man when someone says the city name, so I don’t think there’s a need, unless the city decides it should be Coenton. Seriously, the cost of changing the name and signs and municipalities would be much better sent on resources to help the citizens over taking the extra effort over the name. I’d rather see public park or a rec center go up than have the city spend millions redoing the name.

I believe we have to watch, however. Since the protests started, a memorial of the 54th Massachusetts, the first black regiment in the Civil War, was vandalized. People vandalized statues of Lincoln and even Revolutionary War hero and abolitionist Thaddeus Kocuiszcko. If you’re going to scream for the statues to come down, know what the hell the statue is. Kocuiszcko was a Polish fighter who fought against the British here and the Russians in his home country, then left his estate to be used as a home for freed slaves. The 54th Mass. is now known to most of us from the movie Glory, a stirring film showcasing the dedication and bravery of these heroic soldiers. Whomever spray painted that monument should be forced to watch the film then handed a bucket of soapy water. I also believe in context. Applying every modern sensibility to historical figures is absurd, but not knowing what you are vandalizing is even dumber when they agree with you or stood for something you stand for. Don’t be stupid, it tends to help in life.

To make sure I’m thinking of solutions, not just offering up removal, here’s who can replace Columbus in Columbus –

Captain America – punched Hitler, loves America.

Brutus Buckeye – representing brown and tan people, Ohio State probably has a extra 50 stored somewhere so it would be cheap.

A big can of Natural Light – bringing the rural and urban areas of Ohio together in one of the three things they agree on.

Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, but peeing on a Michigan football helmet – same as above, representing all of Ohio.

Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson – Columbus’s biggest upset since picking Christopher Columbus to represent a city he’d literally never been within a 1000 miles of.

A huge middle finger – representing everyone in a suburb that still has to pay Columbus taxes also.

An orange barrel – if you have to ask why you’re not from Columbus.

A drunk person screaming “O-H!” – so all the drunks can scream back “I-O!” I don’t endorse this, just know this is basically Columbus in a nutshell.

The good, the bad and the ugly in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd

I haven’t blogged in a while, quite frankly, I haven’t felt like it. I jump on my computer anymore and there’s not really a lot to hardy har har about. I’m pretty slow to jump on comments because there’s so much bad information on the internet and social media anymore, that by the time I feel like commenting, the topic has already shifted. That said, since absolutely no one needs another white opinion or diatribe, I finally felt motivated to talk about the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in a series of observations and summaries.

Let’s start with the positive, the “good” (if there can be) after George Floyd’s death. I’ve never seen a person killed by an authority figure with a more universal condemnation. My social media feed has a very wide straddle and I didn’t see ONE post, comment or sentence supporting the idea that this was not murder. Not one. Video is very powerful. I make the analogy that tons of athletes have been charged with domestic violence. Ray Rice was suspended from the league because his was brutally recorded by a casino elevator. It changed the conversation on domestic violence in sports; George Floyd’s death is changing a lot of things right now also. I’ve never seen a cop charged so quickly; in fact I thought he was charged so rapidly they may be jeopardizing the case or charging incorrectly (they changed to 2nd degree murder from 3rd days after the initial charge).

The bad? Please stop savaging your own side for a word or idea you don’t 100% agree with. Example: someone posts, “We need to stand against racism.” Next comment up is “You need to do more, be anti-racist.” Example 2: “I want to be an ally to persons of color.” Next comment: “Allyship is not enough, you need to be ______.” See how productive that is? Not at all. Intellectual pontificating in the negative. On the other side of the argument, the few that are dissecting Mr. Floyd’s past aren’t helping anything. Even if he had killed someone, you don’t strangle someone cuffed and subdued. For those advocating for change, it’s discouraging to see someone tell people to be silent and let other voices be heard, then two days later berate people as silence being complicity. If you can’t see that, I guess keep on rolling uphill.

The ugly? Nazis, frankly. They keep popping up (white supremacists, basically). Have you ever seen one that didn’t look like their mom worked near a toxic waste dump for the whole pregnancy?

More ugly – false information and the reinforcement of that bad info. I saw a post early in the protests that announced it was solid information that the military was going to start shooting protesters at 10 pm. One person asked for a source and was SAVAGED. Guess what happened at 10 pm? Nothing. False information not only is wrong on its own merit, it is actually counter productive. Jussie Smollet did more to set back the momentum on race issues than he could’ve hoped to help. Things such as that plant a seed of apathy and water it it with skepticism. By spreading falsehoods, people begin to get discouraged and you actually damage your point and cause hysteria.

More bad – the use of social media and human life as a political football. I don’t think this is intentional, but almost two dozen people from cops to protesters have been killed since the protests began. I find one side sharing the cops’ deaths and the other sharing every police abuse; not much crossover. I get it, both sides feel, probably correctly, a callousness to one side or the other, but the whole thing comes off cold to me. Human life is important, not just when it makes a bunch of likes on our social media post.

More bad, again – Stop dehumanizing people via talking points. One of my least favorite things about memes and catch phrases is they become thoughtless and discourage original thought. One example is telling cops “You signed up for this job, so you can’t complain!” OK, next time a teacher you know is upset a kid in their class is being abused, just scream “WELL YOU SIGNED UP FOR THIS!” That’ll show em. Next time someone working hard in a low paying job tells you they can’t make ends meet, give the ol’ “YOU KNEW THAT GOING IN!” It really builds bridges.

Good – Leave on something good, since there is much to complain about, even for me, a walking stick in the mud. We actually get along well. Don’t believe everything you see and hear. There is always something more everyone can do. The fact remains that overall, we have a very diverse country and despite the cesspool of social media and the bombardment of negativity from the 24 hour news cycle, people by and large wish no malice upon one another. Life is hard for all and harder for some than others, but if we can keep our eyes on the humanity within everyone instead of the inhumanity we perceive from places of anger, things can only get better. Now I’ll sit back and watch the ten people that read this tell me I’m a bootlicker for not saying ACAB or toss me an “all lives matter” for bringing up race and I’ll set this computer on fire. Don’t let me down people, I’m trying this alien thing called optimism.

Oh and always punch Nazis. Always.

Memorial Day numbers

During the Revolutionary War, more soldiers died from neglect on British prison ships than died in the battles in which they surrendered. Unlike modern wars, the prisoners were expected to be provided supplies by their own side and American army was on life support. Over 10,000 died from neglect, a large percentage of those soldiers were tossed into the ocean instead of being buried.

In the Civil War, rifles had improved faster than the tactics. During the battles, generals ordered men into the teeth of enemy lines, too ignorant or stubborn to realize the accuracy of the weapons was dramatically improved. There were documented stories of soldiers mowed down and ordered to retreat, but running backwards so their families back home wouldn’t be shamed finding out they were shot in the back. Other stories from that war tell of men dying on the battlefields, crying out at night for water or their wives or mothers, but unable to be retrieved for care. Over 600,000 casualties – 2% of the US population. That would be six million if fought today.

Not all casualties are immediate or overseas – poison gas, burns, IEDs, cancer causing chemicals like Agent Orange and the mental tolls of war have taken lives and destroyed families after the battle is over. Politicians get libraries and speaking engagements while the soldiers in the wake get a plaque or maybe a spot on a trailer at a parade. The estimates of soliders’ suicide rates over the last five years has been shown at 17-23 per day.

In all, it is estimated from the wars we celebrate and the ones we have forgotten, that over 1.1 to 1.3 million US soldiers have died from combat (depending on the source), with over 2.8 million casualties. The number of deaths at Argonne Forest in World War I, 26,000, is the size of my hometown. At Shiloh in the Civil War, there were more casualties than in the entire history of US wars combined up that point. Dan Bullock altered his birth certificate and was killed in Vietnam at the age of 15.

These are some of the numbers of Memorial Day.