So are we purple, or…

We’ve reached the end of election week, and basically everyone is disappointed. Republicans lost the house. Democrats failed to get the Senate. Here in Georgia, Republicans lost seats in both the State House and the State Senate, but maintained control. Meanwhile, there are two statewide seats going to a runoff and the not so simple matter of the governorship.

Yes, THAT race. The one where the Brian Kemp (R) has declared victory and that Stacy Abrams (D) is vowing to take to court to make sure every vote is counted. The one that is less than 13,000 votes from needing a runoff. That’s 0.33% of the vote total. It doesn’t get much closer than that. I’m having flashbacks to Bush v. Gore in 2000.

But the question remains, “Where do we go from here?” I had friends working on both sides. I have concurrently been mocked for being both conservative and liberal. In an era where people are more divided than ever, how do we function in a divided government?

To any elected official who may be reading this… Remember that you were elected to govern. Don’t let good ideas die because they came from the other side of the aisle. Represent your district, not your party. Work together on areas where there is common ground to get needed changes made. Immigration is more than just building a wall. Healthcare is more than the Affordable Care Act. We have rural areas of this state without basic infrastructure like high speed internet which is the key to education, technology, and being able to start a small business. Not to mention hospitals closing throughout the rural areas. I’m lucky to live near a hospital now. But people in the surrounding counties aren’t so lucky. Work to address these issues in a practical, achievable way.  And don’t forget about south Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico, and everywhere else IN THIS COUNTRY that are struggling to rebuild after major natural disasters.

To my friends who were fired up and working for this election: do not despair if your candidate lost. To the victors, don’t gloat. Your victory means nothing if your candidate makes a fool of themselves in office, or if the government is in worse condition at the end of their term than when they took office. Be an activist. Lobby for your views. Make sure your elected officials (and their staff) know your name. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can still let them know your views in a rational and professional manner.

But even more importantly, do YOUR part to make your community a better place. Volunteer for different projects. Locally, I’ll be happy to put you in touch with different non-profits who would love some extra help. You drove people to the polls? How about driving cancer patients to treatment? Instead of asking people to vote, get a group together and clean up a park on weekend. Don’t leave it to the elected officials. Do your part to make your community better.

We have at least two years of divided government. During that time, let’s start identifying as Georgians and Americans again instead of Republicans and Democrats.

Thoughts on Charlottesville

It has taken me a while to write this. My heart hurts with what has happened, and it is difficult for me to find words. However, I know I cannot be silent.

I am a Christian. I am male. I am southern. I am descended from ancestors who were primarily Anglican and Celtic. I am proud to be each of these, and I should be. They are who I am. They are what made me.

But, I am also angry. No, I am outraged. How DARE these perversions of everything I hold dear openly proclaim the direct antithesis of these values while claiming to operate under their banner?

My faith tells me God created all things, and all of humankind is in his likeness. We are all descended from one man and one woman. Scripture never mentions race. It talks about tribes and nations, but those are political and cultural differences.

More than being a man, I strive to be a gentleman. This means I treat everyone with civility and respect regardless of background, social standing, and or potential benefit to me. Even more than that, I am a southern gentleman. I say y’all, sir, and ma’am. I can brew the best sweet tea you have ever tasted and put away fried chicken with the best of them.

As I research my ancestors, I find men who fought with honor. Unfortunately, through the lens of history we see that their causes all had blemishes. Slavery during the Civil War is at the forefront, but the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, treatment of the Native-Americans during the westward expansion, and the allowance of slavery in the first place are all dark blemishes on our collective past. But, as painful as reminders of these can be, it is important to keep them at the forefront of our memory.

The memory of this nation is short. We need the reminders. We need to be shocked. We need to experience the pain of what we have done. Only through that will be always be on our guard to never let it happen again.

We cannot rewrite history. We must celebrate the accomplishments of the past while recognizing the failures of the same men we herald. There is no historical figure who was perfect, and neither are we. It is up to us to do the very best we can to strive towards the ideal of liberty and equality espoused in our founding documents. We will never be perfect, but we can be better. We must be better. We will be better.

That being said, there is no place in the political conversation for those who wish to eliminate or segregate all those who disagree with them. The foundation of our political system is discourse, not violence. Until we return to civility with each other, the nature of our republic itself is in jeopardy.

Violence has no place in the discussion, from either side. If you feel the need to resort to violence, you should re-evaluate your argument. White supremacists who defend your arguments with scripture, try reading it for yourself for a change. Don’t call yourself Christian until you start behaving like a follower of Christ. Don’t claim your racism represents southern heritage until you embrace how many aspects of southern culture came from Africa.

We are one nation. This nation was built on the idea that ALL men (and women) are created equal. They share the same rights, responsibilities, and struggles. We are all in it together. Let’s act like it.

Thoughts on the Inauguration

“The terms of the President and the Vice-President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”
~ United States Constitution, 20th Amendment, Paragraph 1

January 20th. Every four years, the executive branch of government in United States changes. It is a time of celebration for the victors, and of mourning for the defeated. Today, Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States. He has been called both a great liberator and the next Hitler. A hero and a sexual predator. But today, for both his supporters and opposition, he will be President. But even more importantly, he is just a man. A man who holds the highest office in the land, but still a man.

President Obama has served this country for eight years. While I disagree with many of his policies and actions, I am grateful for his service. It is no small task to bear that responsibility and spend that amount of time in the spotlight. While I am all for opposition to policies, he and his family were attacked for things well outside the sphere of things which are up for public discussion. These attacks were despicable.

President Trump will likewise have many detractors. Some opposition will be legitimate; some will be attacks on matters not involving the public interest. As always, this country is sharply divided. Some say this division is the worst it has ever been, but I don’t believe that assertion. It is simply more highlighted than it has been in the past. Social media, despite its positive attributes, reinforces the divisions by highlighting stories which with the viewer agrees, and hiding those in opposition. So, to everyone reading this, I encourage you to be a critical consumer of information. Don’t fall for the click bait, alarmist headlines, and other marketing tricks so prevalent in these times. Check stories from multiple sources, including international when possible.

To my liberal friends, both you and the country will survive this. Our Constitution has survived great presidents, horrible presidents, times of great tragedy, and times of great prosperity. And it was designed to do so.

Federalist 10 makes it clear The Constitution was developed to allow for these changes:

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

Even in my lifetime, the country has swung from Reagan and Bush to Clinton, to Bush, to Obama, and now to Trump. That is why we have a system of checks and balances. And that system is what makes this country great. The presidency, while the most visible, is still just one office under our system of government.

To my conservative and libertarian friends, do not fail to hold Trump accountable because he has an R after his name. Everyone is taught about the systems of checks and balances. But most of the discussion is focused on the three branches of the national government. But in reality, it is so much more than that. The media must perform their role of letting the citizenry know what is going on. Focus on true journalism, not sensationalism. The national government is accountable to the states. The states are accountable to the national government. The branches are accountable to each other. And most importantly, all of government is accountable to its people. If the Trump administration pursues a policy which is in violation of conservative principles, let your outrage be heard. The other side surely will, and it does no one any good by our silence we get our consent.

We do not know what type of President he will be. But I do pray that he will be given wisdom and understanding. I pray that the country will prosper, be safe and secure, and be worthy of the patriotism of its citizens. Let us unite as one nation and let us all be Americans.

Farewell to Another Mentor

In September of 2004, I walked into a classroom of a man who quite frankly scared me to death. I hated math, but was still faced with a college algebra course my first term in college. To say I was terrified does not begin to describe my emotion. I would like to say that Dr. John S. Robertson was quick to alleviate my fears, but this is not the case. The more he lectured, the more terrified I became. This was a man whose brilliance was as intimidating as his bold red suspenders were distracting.

I still hate math. But, over the course of the next two years, and with the benefit of retrospect, I learned so much more from him than I ever imagined. He demonstrated to me how to manage a classroom. He showed me how to reward students who make an effort. He strove to reassure me that it was possible to be both a man of science and logic while being a man of faith. He introduced me to the world of Biblical apologetics. While we did not share the same denomination, we did share the same faith and he taught me the importance of being able to defend and describe what I believe.

He was also the faculty advisor for the GMC Amateur Radio Club, of which I was the only member. On the occasions where we would have meetings, we would sit together long after formal adjournment and discuss things related to radio, to science, to faith, and to life. Without realizing it was happening, I was being given a model of the liberal arts experience.

Dr. Robertson and I fell out of touch after his retirement, which is something I hate. But, I can still see his influences each time I stand before a classroom, each time I engage in a theological discussion, and each time I am trying to make sense of a math problem. He had a tremendous impact on my life, as I am sure he has on countless others during his years of teaching at the United States Military Academy, Georgia College, and Georgia Military College. He passed away last week; I didn’t find out until the funeral was in progress. Since I was not able to pay my respects in person, on behalf of all of his former students, I say thank you. You will be missed.

Obituary

I don’t have a picture of us together, but this is pretty close. If I remember correctly, he took this picture while we were operating a Special Event Station at the GMC Business Office.