Archive for September, 2016

A Bright Spot in the Election


“Hey, Dad!” my fourth grader announced one evening. “I heard a joke at school: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were on a boat. The boat sank. Who got saved?”


Without a doubt, this is a difficult election cycle. The party with which I’ve affiliated for years has nominated an unconventional candidate. I can’t decipher some of his positions and I can’t condone some of his behaviors.

There is a bright spot in the race, however. It’s Governor Mike Pence. For all his question marks, Donald Trump picked a bona fide conservative as his running mate. I might not easily vote for Trump, but I can certainly pull the lever for Pence.

A brief rundown of Pence’s fairly innocuous resume shows a regular Joe American. Growing up the son of a gas station operator and the grandson of immigrants, his is a common man story.

Pence took a stab at public service in the late 1980s, losing two bids for Congress to the same opponent. Recognizing it wasn’t his time, he returned to private law practice, staying involved in policy issues through conservative think tanks.

Describing himself as “Limbaugh on decaf,” Pence entered the conservative talk radio scene in the mid-90s. His show aired on about twenty stations across Indiana, giving Pence statewide name ID for a return to competitive politics in 2000.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Pence championed many conservative positions during his twelve years on the hill.

On limiting government, Pence opposed expanding Medicaid entitlements and federal encroachment on education (No Child Left Behind). He pushed legislation and a constitutional amendment to reduce government spending across the board.

On national defense, Pence supported President Bush’s efforts in the Middle East as a House subcommittee chairman on the region. After 9/11, he favored the passage of the Patriot Act and sponsored a bill in 2009 to extend several of its provisions.

On economic policy, Pence was a free market defender. He voted against the string of corporate bailouts during the last recession. He consistently advocated for less regulation, a flatter tax structure and sound money.

On social issues, Pence has strongly supported religious freedom as Indiana governor. He unapologetically attributes societal ills to the breakdown of the traditional family, taking stands in a calm and thoughtful way. He is more ration than emotion, even in highly charged debates.

This demeanor makes him most attractive. One gets the sense he’s interested in serving his country, not in political gain. He has no need for a private email server because he believes his official actions will survive scrutiny.

The biggest question of Pence’s judgment comes from his decision to forego re-election as Indiana governor to hitch his wagon to a reality TV star.

After mutedly supporting Senator Ted Cruz in the primary, Pence is fully behind Trump even though Trump’s web site still lacks a Pencebio.

The 2016 Republican primary field was full of Mike Pences – i.e., popular, conservative governors. For some reason, he wasn’t in the field as some thought he would be.

As it stands, Mike Pence could be a heartbeat away from the presidency in a few short months. That’s something to vote for.


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Two Questions in Remembrance of 9/11

“Where were you when the world stopped turning?” sang country music artist Alan Jackson in the weeks after 9/11.

I was at a Chik-fil-A in North Dallas. Then, in my cubicle. Then, in a co-worker’s apartment. We didn’t have a television at the office, and the news sites were jammed.

The perpetrators that day demonstrated certain foresight. They chose planes full enough of fuel to create maximum explosions but empty enough of people to limit resistance.

Their first hit got us all watching; their second terrified in real-time. All on 911, a universal number of distress. Though the terrorists were organized, their plans didn’t fall completely into place.

In Pennsylvania, the courageous passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 scuttled its kamikaze mission. Cell phone calls provide a record:

“We’re going to rush the hijackers.”

“Are you ready? Let’s roll.”

“I have to go. They’re breaking into the cockpit. I love you.”

In New York, the hijackers knew forty-thousand people worked in the World Trade Center. Thousands more visited daily. Remarkably, less than 2,700 people perished in the structures. The Dallas Morning News’ special edition on the afternoon of 9/11 had predicted “tens of thousands” dead.

In the days after the attacks, stories flooded in. Some told of narrow escapes, others of loved ones lost.

Two public address announcements within the towers had life and death effects. One message encouraged workers to return to their offices stating the damage had been contained.

Another Titanic-esque message said the buildings were incapable of collapsing, which actually helped evacuees stay calm during their stairwell descent.

The stories of rescuers going up as regulars came down still put a pit in my stomach. One hero, “the man in the red bandanna,” was an intern at an investment bank. Welles Crowther is credited with saving at least five lives before he fell that day.

As chronicled in a new book by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, Crowther had plans to join FDNY. The department made him an honorary member posthumously, only the second such bestowment in its 141-year history.

On a macro level, we were fortunate to have a principled Texas cowboy riding herd at that point in our nation’s history. It was not a time for gray. We needed black and white, good and evil, us and them – we needed George W. Bush’s resolve.

“Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution,” Bush told Congress in the days after the attacks. “Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”

Countering Secret Service opinion, Bush pushed to get back to Washington, D.C., by nightfall on September 11th. He knew the risks, but he did not fear the enemy.

In the years that followed, tens of thousands of his fellow Americans would take on similar risks, and they would not fear the enemy. Many would encounter Crowther’s fate.

At the end of the day, any day, especially that very long and somber day a decade and a half ago, the United States of America is still a nation of givers, sacrificers. We place service over self.

After the ash settles and the Psalms are read, we still ponder an age-old question: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?

State of Texas v. Yours Truly

“Do you want to play flag football with your coach from last year?” I asked my ten-year-old. “No,” he replied, much to my surprise. I thought he had fun last fall.

“I want to play tackle.”

His friends are playing tackle. A physician is letting his son play tackle. Mom is okay with tackle. Our 13-year-old is on his third season of tackle, after all. I’d still prefer flag.

It felt like me versus the State of Texas, where Friday Night Lights is as much religion as Sunday morning sermons.

I’m conflicted on football. I never played organized ball growing up. Dad got me into soccer early on to keep me distracted from it, I suppose. He never directly said I couldn’t play, but I somehow perceived his perspective.

I loved playing football in the neighborhood – even tackle, especially tackle. The physicality of tackling tickles something in a boy’s development.

For years I regretted never knocking heads and testing strength with pads on. I thought it would have done me some good to take on the next city state with a band of fifty-five brothers.

So which do I want for my sons?

The camaraderie of football is its greatest selling point. The sport is simulated battle, border-lying on barbarism. It is modern, somewhat socially acceptable gladiation.

For me, however, the attraction of football is not the violence. It’s the grace. The streaking, passing, route running and needle threading; not the smashing, bashing and crashing.

Naturally, I like the pad-less seven-on-seven summer passing leagues that teams play in the off-season. I wish there were similar competitive, non-contact options in the fall for high schoolers in lieu of traditional tackle.

Unlike some medical professionals and parents who restrict young boys from playing tackle, saying their brains and bodies aren’t developed enough, I prefer the opposite.

I’d rather them play early when they’re like marshmallows bumping into each other. It’s later on when testosterone starts doing damage.

Stronger muscles create speed, force, impact and contortion that the human body was never meant to absorb. At some point laws of physics take over. No matter how thick the muscles around it may become, the fibula is still less than an inch in diameter.

Today, grown men across the country walk around with disabilities, mostly minor, resulting from high school football. I have a friend who traveled to and from his senior year Cuero High School football games in an ambulance. He needed treatment before and after to rein in the pain.

Despite purported advances in padding and technique, injuries seem to be no less prevalent today. Just ask the Champion High School player who recently suffered a gruesome facial injury or the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo who went down, yet again, before the season even starts.

I don’t have nagging football maladies and I’m thankful. Others do and they’re thankful, too – for their experiences in the arena, for participating in something bigger than themselves. Football in Texas certainly fits that bill.

As for this fall, the State of Texas has won. My 10-year-old is playing tackle.

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