America the Beauti-FULL OF IDIOTS

coke-a-cola-super-bowl-commercial-2014-america-the-beautifulThe outrage over the Coca-Cola commercial during the Super Bowl has left me dumbfounded. I am fascinated by the public reaction over (gasp!) any language other than English singing America the Beautiful. Completely and utterly besotted with this topic. I can’t help it. It confuses me, angers me, perplexes me ….

I am sorry, but if you honestly and wholeheartedly believe that the only language that should be spoken in America is English, then you have deep issues that should be dealt with. Immediately. There is absolutely no way one country will EVER speak one language. Ever. How in the world is that possible? I spoke English in the Czech Republic. I spoke English in Croatia. I spoke English in Italy..and Germany…and Poland. I heard so many languages overseas that sometimes I forgot what I spoke. I made more grammar mistakes than ever and found myself questioning basic spelling and sentence structures.

Americans like to pride themselves on being a superpower, the BEST country in the world, the ONLY country in the world. I am American. Sure, I’m proud of where I live and where I come from. But, for the love of God, I am completely aware that America is not the only country that exists. And because I realize other countries are out there, I also realize that some people who come from those “other” countries make their way over to our streets of gold to set up shop and live the life they want. How dare them! I mean, this is obviously MY country, not theirs. How arrogant of them. They think they can just move to another country instead of forcing themselves to stay put in a country that doesn’t provide the happiness they desire? If they don’t want to live in their native land, then they shouldn’t have CHOSEN to be born there. The nerve these people have….

I am so glad that I chose to be an American. I am so grateful that I made such a practical decision to live in a country that outsources work, hires foreign workers so that I may save a penny or two, a country with a welfare system that disables rather than enables…a country that imports goods from those “other” countries, a country only a few short feet behind more technologically advanced countries.

How dare anyone else in the world ever agree with me that America is indeed Beautiful.

Imagine what a confining life you’d lead if you weren’t able to change your circumstances. One day you decide you don’t want to be a school teacher anymore. You now want to be a lawyer. Lawyers make better incomes and you would probably feel a bit more accomplished because your real passion lies within the law. The other side of the tracks looks much more appealing to you and by golly you’re going to do it! Just as you’re registering for your first class of law school, a big scary man on a red, white and blue horse comes traipsing in to tell you, “You’re a teacher. Not a lawyer.  You don’t belong here. Who do you think you are? You can’t just change your life like that. Go back to the school yard!”

Instead, imagine you’re a female living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All you want is to move out of that country to a land of peace, rights for women and safety from daily rape.

Not on my American watch! You weren’t born here. You can’t come here. You just have to suffer through the pain and lack of freedom because you weren’t granted the right of an American birth.

It’s extremely hard for me to organize my thoughts on this subject. Especially when all I really want to say  to those “offended” by America the Beautiful being sung in a language other than English: “SHUT THE FU#$ UP!” I have no respect for anyone who disrespects people they’ve never even met. Disrespect towards a people who speak or look differently is the sign of a true coward. I do remember one famous person who disrespected anyone who was different than him, Hitler. (just a thought…)

America the Beautiful is a song. Not a right. It’s a symbolic gesture towards the history and the past and future success of our nation. It’s not a right of passage offered only to those lucky enough to be born here. Denying anyone the right to proudly sing the song would be the same as denying a newly converted Christian the right to read the Bible.

An Open Letter to Hitler

The idea for this letter came to me as I was riding the train from Prague to Warsaw, Poland. It was a crowded overnight train which meant a very long night with no sleep and lots of thinking. As I sat in my train car, I recalled the book I read earlier this year, Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. He mentioned a train route through Prague into Auschwitz and I realized, in that moment, I was living alongside the path that led to the location where the greatest devastation on humanity took place.

Once I realized I was possibly taking a similar route (metaphorically) that night into Poland as several thousand Jews did many years before, the history I’ve learned, the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve seen all came rushing into my head. Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, “Schindler’s List.” Suddenly, the fact that I was slightly annoyed by how uncomfortable the train was completely transformed into one of the most enlightening and shocking experiences of my life.

I chose to become something different on the train that night. I chose to close my eyes and insert myself into one of the trains headed for Auschwitz. I remember Levi explaining the conditions of the trains, the darkness he saw, the treatment he and the others were shown. I’ll never understand what he wrote. I’ll never know what it was like being transported to Auschwitz like lambs to the slaughter. But once I remembered what I had read, my seat rapidly became as comfortable as a feather-bed, my eyes and body were so full of energy that I forgot it was 2am and I hadn’t slept. I was free to walk around the train, use the bathroom, drink water – a luxurious journey compared to all the trains that went before me.

Once I placed myself into the experiences I had read from those that actually lived them, my perspective on the discomfort of my journey, my perspective on life, people and humanity shifted into something I can only hope to express through this letter.

Mr. Adolf Hitler,

We’ve never met, but you’ve seen my face. In thousands of strangers. The faces you and your army saw on children, men (fathers, sons, grandfathers) and women (sisters, mothers, aunts). The very expressions on their faces while they tried to understand what was happening have been displayed on my face as well. The sadness that was shown on their faces as you ripped their families from their arms and sent one to the left and one to the right, my face has shown that sadness as well. The looks in their eyes that your army ignored while executing them or beating them has also been in my eyes. You’ve seen my face, you just don’t remember.

We’ve never met, but I know you. I’ve learned all about you. I’m familiar with your vision and goals for your world. I understand your beliefs. When I say I understand them, I mean I am aware of them. I could never understand your side of the story. There will never come a time when I say, “I see your point.” What’s perplexing to me is that you managed to hear that very response from so many others. So many other people who believed as you, followed your leadership, looked to you for inspiration and guidance and followed your orders. Followed the orders to ignore the pain and desperation from millions of innocent people. How were you so successful at convincing this army to disregard human emotion?

It is clear that you and I are nothing alike. You are nothing like anyone I know. I imagine someone like you is filled with darkness and sadness. I wonder what would have come of you had you lived during my time. How would your life turn out had you not been such a powerful figure?

I often wonder what words would come to mind if I could ever speak to you. Would I yell and scream at you for causing such devastation and destruction? Would I cry when I saw your face? Would I spit on you and walk away? There is no way for me to know what I would do or say and for that I am thankful. However, I do know that a soul like yours served a purpose. Instead of causing hatred and fear, you ended up creating a more loving and compassionate audience. If you were around today, you’d see the memorials, monuments and outpouring of love that were caused by your actions.

You did not leave behind a legacy to remember and honor. Your efforts were wasted. Instead of burying and forgetting a race of people out of pure hatred, you’ve managed to lift them up for all future generations to learn and grow in the exact opposite direction of your teachings. You’ve made famous people like Anne Frank, who managed to remain positive and hopeful despite your evil planning. You assisted her in delivering her message of love and her belief that people are still good. You provided the stage for a young Jewish girl to become famous, loved and respected. 

While you may look back on your journey with satisfaction and believe progress was made, I can testify the progress you created was no way in your favor. 

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.” – Anne Frank

Knock, Knock…Are You Listening?

Having been home from Europe for almost 2 months and unemployed, the pensive moments have been prevalent. I’ve taken advantage of the time given to reflect on the past year and a half and really notice what I learned, or in other words, take in what God has shown me.

First and foremost, God demonstrated to me that I can live with much less than I previously thought. When I sold all my belongings and my car, I admit there was a bit of anxiety and apprehension towards the future. Of course there was a ton of liberation and a sense of being cleansed, but I had been living my life believing my possessions embodied who I was and all I had. Even the kind of couch I had in my house, I felt, accurately displayed my personality and being to other people. Now I realize I was depending on what people could see for them to understand who I was. I left for Europe with 3 suitcases filled with the rest of what I had owned. I rarely worried about my “things” while I lived in Prague. I rented furnished apartments, relied on public transportation and worked with what I had. It didn’t take long to realize that what I did have was plenty and at times, too much.

I started learning this lesson back in 2009 when my stepdad died. Seeing his things after he died really proved how unimportant and irrelevant tangible things are. Once I took the plunge and decided my things were just as irrelevant and unimportant, I fully understood what God was telling me.

A second major realization was realizing God was with me wherever I went. I traveled halfway across the globe and He was right next

to me. The whole time. Perhaps a small part of me thought He’d be waiting for me in Texas. And perhaps I was being completely irrational. I wasn’t a seasoned traveler and never had to rely on God while living in a foreign country. But, I was blessed and cared for everywhere I went … I was living out the plan He had for me. I can be in my house in Texas or on a subway in Prague and God is still listening to my prayer and still guiding my life. Because of this lesson, I know that no matter where I go I am never alone. Lonely at times, but never alone.

Although God removed many of my fears when I traveled to Honduras, He had a bit more work left to do in me. He knew there was a small fearful part of me that was still alive and needed to be removed. He did just that when I was shown, over and over, that the world is filled with good, caring and kindhearted people. The fear that was left in me was of the people I would meet during my journey. I was convinced the world is filled with evil, wrongdoers who are just waiting to cross me. However, God placed so many kind people on my path while I was traveling and swayed my beliefs. Yes, the world houses plenty of evil, but God made sure I knew that goodness was everywhere and I could travel in peace.

cross

I believe God shows us what He wants us to see everyday. It’s up to us to take notice and listen to Him. I’m anxiously awaiting the next message He has for me – although I would get it much quicker if He’d just text it!

Book Preview

As I work on my upcoming and untitled book, I wanted to share a short preview of the beginning.

This is where stuff gets serious. I don’t like when stuff gets serious. The only time I ever support a serious conversation is when I’m pretending I’m being interviewed by Oprah and she wants to know about my traumatic childhood or how I felt when I won a Pulitzer Prize, which never happened. Even though that interview always ends in tears, Oprah seems to know exactly what to say to make me feel better and show me there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. In other words, I like to pretend serious stuff has happened because I would rather not take anything too seriously. Most everything that ever happens in my life is always followed by me saying, “It could be worse.” I also like to ignore a lot of the less tasteful situations and focus on other things, like watching Oprah or Ellen. I love them both. Unfortunately, the first part of this book is serious and did in fact actually happen. Although I’d rather be discussing this over a live studio audience with one Miss Oprah Winfrey or dancing with Ellen in front of her studio audience, my only medium in which to communicate the next chapter of my life is this book. However, I may or may not be dancing while I write this, but I encourage you to dance while reading it.

At the ripe age of 15, I experienced my first panic attack. I remember the night it happened so vividly. Little did I know, that night would shape the next 11 years of my life. That’s right, 11 years. Looking back now, I can’t believe the way I used to live my life. I lived in fear of absolutely everything. When I say everything, I mean everything! For a brief time, I was afraid to take baths for fear of drowning. As if I wasn’t in control of my own bathing capabilities, I was confined to a stand-up shower which later led to a fear of slipping and breaking my neck. While a pretty severe case of agoraphobia isn’t a laughing matter, once you come to the other side and out of the tunnel of fear, it becomes clear how ridiculous some phobias and fears really are. 

Perhaps you could help me by answering one question:

Would you want to read more?

Jim Morrison said it best…

The recent Supreme Court hearing on gay marriage has sparked more controversy than I’d care to see. People support gay marriage, don’t “believe” in gay marriage, prefer Jesus over homosexuality and a million other excuses…it’s exhausting! What confuses me is why people care so much about what other people can or can’t do. I’ve heard people say that gay marriage will pervert and ruin the union that should be between a man and a woman. I’m sorry, but man and woman are the ones that have perverted marriage. Marriage today is not what God intended. The infidelity, the lying, the children out of wedlock, the Jerry Springer guests who are in love with their mother’s boyfriend, and on and on and on…

I rarely witness an uproar about a cheating husband or wife on Facebook or the Supreme Court. The truth is there are a billion things wrong with marriage now. And we are the ones to blame. People do not take marriage seriously, couples escape the union when times get hard, husbands cheat with their secretary, wives cheat with the pool boy, and any other kinky porn scenario you can think of. They’re common. They’re real. They’re happening in legal marriages.

The main argument I hear in opposition of gay marriage is religion. Which, let’s face it, was also the reason for the 9/11 attacks. Why does religion cause so much destruction? I am guilty of once being an extreme close-minded, straight Republican, Jesus follower that would not even consider hearing another side to an argument. But, being the human that I am and not the robot, I’ve changed over time. I am still a believer and follower of Jesus. I am still a Christian. Sometimes I’m still Republican. According to my beliefs, Jesus loves me and all the creepy, offensive, perverted homosexuals of the world. Have you ever actually met a gay person?? Man, are they wicked! It’s like that time in history when everyone believed black people were created by God to be less than white people. Well, the Bible says slaves should obey their masters! I wonder how many “massa’s” framed Ephesians 6:5 in their homes! Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ. It probably didn’t even have a subtext or apocalyptic meaning either.

Humans are on the right track with this oppression bullshit. It’s gotten us a heck of a long way!

My beliefs are probably different from yours. Maybe they’re similar. Maybe you think I’m going to Hell. Maybe you agree wholeheartedly with everything I believe. Either way, it’s fine with me. There are so many things I used to not “believe” in as a younger version of myself. But, as time marches on and I experience more and more from this life, I realize and learn that everything is ok. The people that fight so hard against the rights of others are the ones that need more time.

I don’t think gay people are doomed to the Lake of Fire to spend eternity in Hell. I don’t think the straight husband that beats his wife will enter the Pearly Gates of Heaven simply for being heterosexual. Everything is relative. If you believe in God, I’m referring to my God…Jesus Christ in the dying-on-the-cross-and-rising-again sense…then you understand and are familiar with the fact that God loves everyone. How do I know? “For the Bible tells me so.” Do you believe God even loves the terrorists that attacked in 2001? He does. There are no exceptions. So, why do you have so many?

I feel like I’m “witnessing” and attempting to spread the word of God here (which is ok, too), but really I’m trying to spread the word of me. Which in fact, comes from God. Because that’s just who I am. Is it weird to claim to be a Christian and support gay marriage? Not to me. Maybe it is to you. But, the point is you don’t have to agree with me. Or anyone else for that matter. God gave everyone free-will. We have the choice to do whatever we like. Is it so hard to just allow people that right? Live and let live? Coexist?

It bothers me when I read stories about a gay teenager being killed. It makes me so sad to realize that one person was thoroughly demolished for simply being who he/she was. (Is anyone else channeling the Holocaust?) There are things I don’t understand or even try to understand because I know I probably won’t be able to. But, that doesn’t mean I rule it out as someone else’s option. For example, I don’t know what it’s like to feel as if I’m in the wrong body. I have no idea what a transgender person goes through. I don’t even understand the path to get to those feelings. My ignorance of the situation doesn’t abolish its existence.

I’m concluding this (probably hypoglycemic) rant with just one thing:
“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.” – Jim Morrison

I’m not even going to edit this blog. I’m just publishing before I chicken out and delete the entire thing. Good luck, world. Love each other. Respect the differences.

Me and Paul on the Adriatic

There is something emotional about the ocean. At first, I thought it was only the ocean I’ve seen in the United States. The waves, the loud noise, the water meeting the horizon. Having spent some time on the Mediterranean, I realize it’s not about the magnitude of the waves or the tides. The Adriatic Sea is calm. There are no 10-foot waves, no surfers, not even sand. The sounds of the Adriatic are more like a rushing river or a quiet lake. Surrounded by islands, I am not able to see the ocean meet the horizon. Although I can’t see the magnitude of the sea here in Croatia, I am aware how this quieter body of water is connected to the massive oceans I’ve seen in the past. A certain sense of peace comes with being near the ocean. Something far stronger than a river, lake or pond. It isn’t the presence of a body of water that brings this tranquility. It’s the scale in which the ocean is measured. The way it makes humans feel. The way it makes us feel so small and helpless. It is something we truly cannot control…even if we tried.

Humans have no way of understanding just how large the world beneath us is. And I think because of that, our minds are eased and we simply accept, for one short moment, how small we really are. Water is soothing. Water brings an ironic complexity that stills the spirit and allows us to enjoy the greatness of nature. For me, here in the Adriatic Sea, perhaps it’s the ancient presence of Paul heading for Italy. (Acts 27:27)

As I write this, I’m sitting on a rock underneath a full moon in Croatia. It is truly one of the most calming moments of my life. The air has a slight chill, but the sound of the water rolling over the pebbles distracts me from my cold skin. The moon allows just enough light to see the mountains surrounding me. I can see the headlights of cars driving around the mountains. Like small lightning bugs. The light reflections on the water have become one of my favorite sights. The sparkle, the black and white ripples. To my left is a marina.

Today I saw fishermen releasing their massive collection of crabs from their boat’s nets. I’ve seen things like this before, but never in another country by myself. I’m able to witness life without the distractions of conversing with fellow travelers. There is no pressure to entertain, to compromise. It’s just me. Most of the time it’s quiet, which is something that has made me uncomfortable throughout my life. But, here I’m ok with it. I’m ok with being silent and just listening. Just watching. I know these things will occur whether I’m here or not. But, being here for now, even for a short time, allows me to take a small part of this country with me forever.

The clouds have engulfed the moon. There are no more long lines of white alone the water. For me, that means it’s bedtime. Goodnight ocean. Goodnight moon.