The Saturday Morning Memo

October 14, 2017 | Posted in General

“Dear Every Single American..”

What follows are not my words, but rather those of my veteran brother-in-arms Nate Boyer, decorated Green Beret soldier and former NFL long snapper with the Seattle Seahawks.

Nate was a guest on my “Life Matters” podcast in 2016 and dropped the term “Earned Americanism” into my ear, a challenge that hasn’t left me since he said it. We are a nation that loves to claim our greatness without really having to actually “earn it” in our own lives each day, content more with opinion that action, diversion rather than inclusion and separation rather than unity.

Nate’s words hold great weight with me, I only ask you take a few minutes to digest what he is offering. JSA

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear Every Single American,

Every. Single. American. Including President Trump, Colin Kaepernick, and my brothers in arms overseas who are wondering, “what in the hell is going on back there?” I’m sitting in the same chair, in the same apartment that I sat in almost a year ago when I wrote an open letter to Colin Kaepernick. I was hurt when I saw him sitting on the bench during the national anthem, but I’m much more hurt now. Not by him, not by where we’re at now with the protests, but by us.

Simply put, it seems like we just hate each other; and that is far more painful to me than any protest, or demonstration, or rally, or tweet. We’re told to pick a side, there’s a line drawn in the sand “are you with us or against us?” It’s just not who we are, or at least who we’re supposed to be; we’re supposed to be better than that, we’re Americans. This doesn’t even seem to be about right or wrong, but more about right or left.

Today it feels like this national divide isn’t even really about the anthem, or the flag, or kneeling, or sitting, or fists in the air. It’s not about President Donald Trump, it’s not about Colin Kaepernick, it’s not about the military, or even police brutality. It feels like it’s about winning. That’s what makes America so great, our sheer competitiveness. We’re winners, and we won’t quit until victory is ours.

We see it in sports everyday, we “live and die” by the outcomes of our teams. That desire to win at all cost is costing us greatly now among our neighbors. This winning mentality seems to have spilled over into an obsession with being right and not willing to admit that maybe, just maybe we were wrong. We repeat mantras to ourselves like, “no matter what I will never ever surrender.”

“To deploy overseas, train, live with, fight alongside, and ultimately defend foreigners that you have little in common with is truly a challenging task. But returning home to a country that is so divided, so judgmental, and so hateful of one another is almost as difficult to deal with as burying a fallen comrade.”

Earlier this week I sat down with a group of five Combat Arms and Special Operations Veterans. The round table discussed our individual feelings on the flag, the anthem, and the players who knelt when it was played. We all had very different takes, but what surprised me most at the end of the discussion was that we all agreed on one thing. Colin Kaepernick and President Trump should be the ones uniting our country together. Wait…what? I know it sounds crazy, but maybe that’s exactly what we need to see. Maybe that’s how we start to heal. Two men sit in a room and talk, simple as that.

That’s how it all started with Colin and I, neither of us knew that kneeling would be the result of our conversation. Colin wanted to sit, I wanted him to stand, and so we found a common ground on a knee alongside his teammates. I believe that progress and real change happens in this world when you reach across the divide, you build a bridge, you swallow your pride, you open your mind, you embrace what you don’t understand, and ultimately you surrender.

Now I don’t pretend to speak for everyone who fought overseas, many veterans rightfully disagree with my position. But I do feel that I echo the sentiments of most war fighters when I say that what we hope for more than anything right now in America is unity. To deploy overseas, train, live with, fight alongside, and ultimately defend foreigners that you have little in common with is truly a challenging task. But returning home to a country that is so divided, so judgmental, and so hateful of one another is almost as difficult to deal with as burying a fallen comrade. In fact we’re still losing our brothers in arms overseas right now and it’s hardly mentioned it in the media; but that’s OK, we don’t risk our lives and sacrifice so much for fanfare or recognition. It’s not at all why we do what we do. We do what we do because you are worth it, because we love you.

I would love for those two leaders to have that conversation, but more than anything I just want us to love one another again. One great thing about freedom is that you get to choose everyday how you treat your neighbor. This IS the best country in the world, but we can always do better. I’m laying it all out there because I have to, I swore to defend this land and its people, and I will die trying. I know some people will hate this (we love to hate things these days), and I’ll get called a disgrace to the Green Beret once again. But I don’t care, the United States means more to me than any of that.

Over the past year I’ve come across veterans from various walks of life. We may actually be the most diverse sub-culture in the America. Since I myself am a Green Beret, I want to share with you a couple of messages that were sent to me from men in my former unit. One of them is white, and one of them is black:

“Hey brother. At first I was with you on the Kaepernick issue. However, I just stood in formation while one of our brothers was pulled off a plane with our nation’s flag draped over the coffin. I had to fight back tears as I saw the pain in the eyes of Staff Sergeant T’s wife and family. While I would like to sit here and tell you that I rose above it all, I have to be honest. My heart filled with rage. Rage for anyone who takes for granted the ideals and symbols that we fight and die for.”

“Hey Brother, this is J. I spent nearly 18 years in 10th Special Forces Group and wish I had an opportunity to meet a brother like yourself. I just want to say I appreciate your views on this national anthem and flag issue. I love our country, but at the same time I have to take the time to tell my sons to act a certain way out of fear for their lives when dealing with police officers. Most of my neighbors and friends here in MD are law enforcement personnel and will tell you they also have to act a certain way to avoid confrontation and situations that normally don’t occur for those that are not of color. Not all officers are bad, the majority I believe are good and poor training is attributed to some of these issues we hear of. I really just want to thank you for your taking the time out to understand and convincing him to take a knee and not sit out on what we have fought for. God Bless You Bro!”

Different backgrounds, different experiences, different colors, but at the end of the day they just want the same basic things for their families.

So please, no more lines in the sand, not at home, not among our people. No more choosing sides, no more “for or against.” I believe our Veterans will be called upon to lead the way in healing the world and solving its problems; right now our country needs that more than I can remember. So I’ll be here, standing in the radical middle, doing what I can to continue fighting for those that can’t fight for themselves. Let’s get this thing fixed together, you and me. I love you all with all my heart.

De Oppresso Liber

– Nate Boyer

 

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Pandora’s Box.

October 11, 2017 | Posted in General

I haven’t posted “The Wednesday Rant” in three weeks.

Really been working to pull back on the reins a bit, being as Zen like as I can in the wake of all that is going in the world. As California burns, I am reminded that once again, we are merely another species on the list, when it comes to “Mother Nature”. Hurricanes, flooding, fires, sinkholes, record heat and “abnormal” temperatures have humans fleeing their homes, losing their homes and waiting to rebuild their homes…and their lives.

But of course, there is human induced disaster as well.

On October 1st, 58 people were gunned down in Las Vegas at a concert, the responses to the event that has now become part of the normal course of things in America is predictable as both sides go into their corner, lace up their gloves, coming out swinging like an ongoing game of “Rock Em’ Sock Em’ Robots” that allows us the opportunity to “knock their block off” and then our foe resets their head on their shoulders and we resume battle, usually on unsocial media.

But so often the dead are forgotten in favor of opinion.

So, I posted their pictures last week on my Facebook page, a little bit about each one of them and now their faces live in a file on my desktop marked “58.” But while the rest of us moved on to other things, families were burying their children, their husbands, wives, sisters, mothers, fathers and brothers. They were sealing off their rooms, not touching a thing, consoling the children they taught and the loved ones they left behind.

So, while the predictable responses to the latest slaughter rolled in, none of the 58 who could ever have imagined they would all die at a concert, are here to be witness to our collective inability to make any attempt to find solutions.

In a country that put a man on the moon, boasts of incredible technological advances, and claims to be the greatest nation on earth, we somehow cannot figure out how to stop someone from using military grade weapons on civilians, at concerts, at movie theaters, in grade schools on a front porch or backyard.

As its been pointed out many times…apparently there is no answer to our self-induced problem.

The “carrot and stick” news-cycle moves on, begging us to follow the latest White House twitter antics, NFL controversy and Hollywood scandal, and we do, predictable species that we are, in constant “fight or flight” mode as our central nervous systems are drenched with constant downloads that we cannot possibly assimilate, sort and store in any rational manner…that makes sense of the senseless.

As we try to grapple with the steady stream of “end of the world” scenarios I am often reminded that we are at fault for all that goes on, there isn’t any alien species on another planet pulling our strings and that for all our greatness at times, our Achilles Heel is our seeming inability to see each other as equals.

That blindness creates a lot of hell on earth.

Over the past few weeks I have kept thinking about the profound truth of “that which we allow we become” be it in a personal relationship or on societal level. We allow for all that goes on in the world in some way shape or form, that which is no longer allowed, no longer exists as it once did. But true to form, the cycle of life has us dealing with the same concepts over and over again, simply in different form and messenger, deciding what to allow or not.

We allow it all.

In classical Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create her. So, he did, using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many gifts: Athena clothed her, Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo gave her musical ability, and Hermes gave her speech.

According to Hesiod, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Pandora opens a jar containing death and many other evils which were released into the world. She hastens to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom – Elpis (usually translated “Hope“, though it could also mean “Expectation.”)

The bottom line is that Zeus was pissed, takes his revenge through Pandora who couldn’t contain her curiosity and opened a box unleashing horrible things into the world, and trapping hope at the bottom, making it the last thing humans reach for, and are so often unable to hold onto.

Once Pandora opened that box, there was no way to ever put any of what spilled out back in.

Greed, shame, hate, pain, jealousy, fear and want became part of the human condition.

Hope became “expectation” an open ended yearning that somehow life could be different than it is, but until it we transform it from a noun to a verb, taking some sort of action in the direction of the change we seek, nothing…changes.

So, we endure what we allow.

I have come to the conclusion that body count has become one of the ways we keep score in America, it is a byproduct of our collective allowing and I have no doubt whatsoever that there is some off the rails human waiting in the weeds, loading up on ammo and weapons, ready to unleash horror on even more people, putting the Las Vegas Massacre in second place and once again making sure that we spend more time on being “right “in our beliefs than finding any solutions.

The gap between “expectation” and “reality” is where suffering resides.

We hope things get better…we hope that things will change…we hope for the best…and yet the reality of what we allow is in direction opposition to our deepest longing.

The pain of hope is only lessened by the acceptance of reality and the willingness to take action…not be in constant reaction.

Nothing in life changes until we do.

And so, it goes, that we become what we allow…for better or for worse.

Be well
JSA

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The Monday Morning Memo.

September 25, 2017 | Posted in General

I am only posting this in an attempt to interject some sense into this senseless anthem debate. I don’t have any expectations that it will make a difference but at least my brain bucket is clear before I attempt to put my mind on other things.

First, I have raised the flag in the morning and lowered it at sunset on color guard detail beginning in USCG boot camp back in 1980 and the following four years until 1984. I have been on funeral detail numerous times and folded the red, white and blue after draping it on a coffin of a veteran. I have been part of a 21 gun salute and stood in silence as that flag was handed to families who had to say farewell.

I have nothing…and I mean nothing but respect for Old Glory and all who have served and those who have given their last full measure.

Gotta call it the way I see it, always have…always will.

1) There is no rule in the NFL that players have to stand. None- its just another fake BS posting that is making the rounds. Stop posting it, drop it in the recycle bin and roll into some fact checking before posting a totally useless bit of non-information. I read all 120 pages of the 2017 NFL Rules- there is no ” specific rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league rulebook.”
2) Prior to 2010 NFL teams almost never stood during the national anthem. Once however the NFL figured out they could make some coin off of “Paid Patriotism ” as NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed the practice began in 2009, adding, ‘As you know, the NFL has a long tradition of patriotism. Players are encouraged but not required to stand for the anthem.’ Add in the fact that the NFL received millions of taxpayer dollars from the Department of Defense and the National Guard for patriotic displays, all those fly overs and veterans are paid for. The players were moved to the field during the national anthem because it was seen as a marketing strategy to make the athletes look more patriotic. The United States Department of Defense paid the National Football League $5.4 million between 2011 and 2014, and the National Guard [paid] $6.7 million between 2013 and 2015 to stage on-field patriotic ceremonies as part of military recruitment budget-line items. The money was given to the teams in return for honoring soldiers and their families on the Jumbotron before games and at halftime, as well as box tickets for soldiers and their family and friends.
“Those of us go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes. You get a good feeling in your heart,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Flake. “Then to find out they’re doing it because they’re compensated for it, it leaves you underwhelmed. It seems a little unseemly.”
No shit.
Roger Goodell announced in May 2016 that they would refund $723,724 to taxpayers which they said “may have been mistakenly applied to appreciation activities rather than recruitment efforts” during the years in question.
3) As a veteran I am always moved by the national anthem, often to tears. But I don’t stand when I am at home in front of the television and considering how involved football has become over the years, am I less patriotic as I sit drinking a beer while I watch 80,000 people standing at attention and I’m not? I can yell and curse at the game just like I was in the stands, so then should I get my ass up during the anthem or does sitting on the Lazy Boy give me an exemption? Do we remove our hats and caps at a bar when the anthem is played on 48 television sets and remain silent or sing along?
Do all the “Fantasy Football Owners” stand in their fantasy skyboxes in their fantasy land at attention and play the national anthem before their fantasy football teams do battle?
4) Imagine being as worked up, incensed and outraged at the high incidence of CTE in pro football as we are about who is or isn’t standing during the anthem, that has had some of our disposable heroes committing suicide because years of bone jarring concussions that knocked their gray matter loose and had them become even more of a beast off the field than on? Add Aaron Hernandez to the post-mortem list of players who’s behavior led them to the dark side of life, while entertaining us on Sundays. Where is the cry for truth to the NFL as they decide to “vigorously deny the lawsuit” on behalf his daughter for $20 million dollars. A recent study of 113 former NFL players brains revealed 112 of them had behavior altering CTE.
$20 million? That’s about 10 Super Bowl ads worth of revenue.
5) You think we are divided now? Then you aren’t watching The Vietnam War by Ken Burns on PBS. A few pro athletes are taking a knee and it becomes an all out assault on who is or isn’t patriotic. But there are no body bags being filled on foreign soil and splayed out on the evening news, the cities are not burning as they did in protest in ’68 and twenty-nine Ohio State National Guardsmen didn’t fire approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students that were protesting the war and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis as they did in 1970 on our own soil. So in summation…NFL players are not required to be part of the national anthem by league rules. The NFL took in millions of taxpayer dollars to create “Salute to Service” that is on display at NFL games and the players were encouraged to participate as a way of enhancing the marketing tool and finally…
6) Tug of war only works if both sides keep pullingand that red flag in the middle is where the truth is found. If you are of the opinion that a pro athlete is an asshat for not standing-great. If you think an athlete is a hero for standing-great. Then please consider the facts not just the fiction.
#truthmatters or at least it should.
Be well.
JSA
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The Wednesday Rant

September 20, 2017 | Posted in General

Opting out of The Wednesday Rant in favor of “Hump Day Happy Birthday!” to my daughter Amanda Lee. I suppose I could just leave it at that but so much runs through my mind every September 20th since 1988 that I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and share some of the lessons my daughter has taught me.

Joy.

She laughs in a way that I have forgotten to at times. Still wide-eyed and open to the magic of life, she has taught me to keep that kid inside me alive and protected at all costs.

Balance.

Her drive is ferocious, her tenacity is formidable, and yet she still maintains an eye for beautify, form and space in her professional world that is so very fast paced. We can talk for an hour about work ethic, business moves and the great challenge of relationships, and then she’ll go sit near the water to let it all soak in. There is a balance there, an understanding and need to keep the bubble in the middle of the level of life.
The Ripple Effect.
Her passion for life, all the ups and downs, nuances and “roads less traveled” become more and more evident as time goes on. At some point the teacher becomes the student again and while she has told me many times that “I got tired of all that inspirational stuff you said growing up” the seeds were planted anyway, and continue to grow. Now at least once a week she reminds me of something I said ten years ago, and needed to hear again.
Bravery.
She has been fearless in the face of major healthy challenges as we just celebrated her “second birthday” on July 18 as she is now 15 years post kidney transplant. We have discovered and agree that I didn’t “donate” a kidney to her…we simply fulfilled a spiritual contract on some unseen level. I was speaking in Michigan yesterday and after the event a man came up to me in tears and shared that it had been 16 years to the day when his daughter who is Amanda’s age gave him one of her kidneys that saved his life. Book signing had to wait while we hugged in understanding of what that is really all about…the true gift of life.
Love.
The greatest lesson my daughter has taught me about is love. The many forms of love, the unconditional love that is essential to taking the edges of life, and most importantly self-love, the acceptance of both our faults and greatness, the willingness to improve and move forward all in the name of the energy of love. No matter what the cost.
The tradition on a birthday is to give gifts, but I am on the receiving end, even while celebrating her day. Love you to the moon and back girl.
Happy Birthday.
Dad
Bub

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The Monday Memo

September 11, 2017 | Posted in General

I will be traveling this week so The Wednesday Rant is on hold but had a few thoughts dripping out of my brain bucket, thought I would take care of it today.

Wrapped up in the memories from this day sixteen years ago, those horrifying moments of planes filled with people slamming into buildings, the fireballs shooting out the sides of the Twin Towers, those who jumped to their death rather than be burned alive, the blanket of smoke and ash that covered New York, the gaping wound in The Pentagon that belched out fire and more carnage and that deep furrow in the ground near Shanksville, PA where the fourth plane that was headed to Washington was rolled into the earth as passengers overtook the cowards and made sure the White House was not hit.

It was shortly after 9am eastern time, I was on the phone with Ginny Weissman when she told me get off and go watch the news. It was of course, scenes that will never be forgotten.

Before I left for the radio station, I made another call.

September 11th, 2001 was my dad’s 66th birthday.

I was living in Upper Michigan, he was 300 miles away in Chicago and when the phone rang he quickly answered. We sat in silence, except for the sound of him crying on the other end.

Finally, he said… “ I will never think of this date as my birthday again, only the date that everything changed.”

I think about the last year of his life, a lot. We spent a great deal of time together, closing old wounds that often come when the son thinks he knows more than the old man, until such a time that everything comes full circle. I took him up north to see the cousins that remained, Uncle Dick didn’t even recognize him when we pulled up at his house, the deep bruises on his arms from dialysis, shaggy beard and mat of hair sticking out from under his floppy hat was a far cry from the slicked back, downtown banker he once was.

But after a couple of minutes all was well, they sat on the driveway in the sunshine drinking Chief Oshkosh beers and reliving old times when both their Carol and Ruthie were still alive.

We continued north, to my adopted home of The UP, parked him at the Hillcrest Motel owned by friends and as if connected to some unseen power source, he rallied. For the better part of a week he hung out with new people, sat out in under the glorious night sky filled with diamonds, smoked his cigars.

He even agreed to a haircut and my friend Robin treated him like a king, full shampoo, beard trim and he walked out looking a bit like his old self.

He slept most of the way back to Chicago, had to wake him up at our favorite stop- Cracker Barrel- ” roast beef, two sides of green beans and that spiced apple stuff” was always the order and as we sat eating, I watched him close and knew he was slipping away.

He passed on May 24th, 2004 at the age of 69.

His death, while heartbreaking, was eased by the knowing that he and I had “taken care of our business” before he made his transition.

Those who left for work on September 11th, 2001 and their families had no such grace period.

I knew my father was dying, and the time was growing short. The conversations were difficult, hard edged and brimming with tears at times, but also filled with moments of his hand on the back of my neck, a broad smile and laughter.

The memories of this day are many for me.

Driving home after hosting a most difficult five hours plus broadcast, with my producer AnnMarie handling the phones, as the national shows were replaced by news, and seeing the churches jammed full. Stopping to lower our flag to half-mast at a small business that had become empty as the employees had rushed home to be with their families.

After hugging my family as never before, I needed to do something that had a sense of normalcy, so I grabbed my son Andy and we went out front to have a catch until it got dark. The cold air was nothing compared to the shiver that had been going up and down my spine all day.

It was the first day in my entire life I felt afraid…and the last.

Fear was replaced by anger.

Later that evening I called my dad again, we talked a bit more and I told him how much I loved him. We both agreed that the worst thing to do is to wait until our world gets turned upside down to set things right side up.

Here we are 5,840 days later from congress on the steps of the capitol, singing “God Bless America” forgetting who was on what side of the aisle. The honeymoon lasted a few weeks as we vowed unity and retribution.

2,996 Americans never heard them.

We said that we’d never forget, and yet our actions so often do not line up with our words that we spoke on that terrible day, still bent on tearing each other apart, from the inside out…as A. Lincoln predicted was the only way we could eradicate the republic.

Sad but also predictable.

However… today I also celebrate my dad, his picture from DePaul College Prep always greets me in the morning, back when his biggest concern was his bowling average and putting gas in his car. We have coffee together and every now and then I can still feel his hand on the back of my neck.

Today he would have been 82.

It’s 9/11…his birthday… and the day we said we would remember what was most important in life…life itself.

Take care of your business today, as tomorrow is promised to none of us.

Lest we forget.

Be well.
JSA

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