How Dumb and Silent Are We?

Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.

~George Bernard Shaw~

My God, the world is a terrible place, abounding with idiots, the profane, the angry, the foul-mouthed, and tyrants who should just shut the hell up. If we could just put a gag in the mouths of those who prattle on with their nonsensical, offensive ideas, or take their keyboards, paper and pens away we would all be better off for it. Our heads would not be filled with unwanted images and temptations. The terrible strain of having to filter and reject or accept ideas and thoughts would be lifted from us. We could live in blissful peace…or stupidity.

I’m sorry. Is stupidity too strong a word? Then let’s call it ignorance. Oh, what the hell. You know, and I know that I’m not sorry. Call it what you will, stupidity, ignorance, witlessness, senselessness, dumbness…as Shakespeare’s Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”…or as foul.

You may have surmised that the opening paragraph above is my poor attempt at facetious wittiness. No, I emphatically do not believe in silencing others, even the profoundly stupid and offensive.

Let me begin again, with what I truly believe. The world is a glorious place filled with diverse and competing ideas, opinions, ideologies, humor, sadness, anger, hatred, love, peace, strife, tragedy, hope and my personal favorite…sarcasm. Make no mistake about it, the earth we have hitched a ride upon as it orbits through the universe, and the diverse cultures and thoughts that cover it are the result of diversity of opinion and ideas. The world is what we have made of it, and without humanity’s constant thought and expression of opinions and ideas, it and we would be mere shadows…fleas riding along on the back of a large planetary dog.

Now I am not saying that all ideas and opinions are good or beneficial. In my opinion, The Third Reich and National Socialism were bad ideas. So were, Communism, the genocides that have, and are, occurring around the world, child pornography, slavery of any kind, the political aristocracy that has evolved in most western style democracies (including the one here in the United States), the loss of freedoms, government intervention in personal lives, soap operas, parents who are afraid to teach or discipline their children, and so on and so forth.

Of course, I do like and think a lot of things that many of you may not. I think beer was a fantastic idea. Guitars are works of art, and I stand humbled before them. I am also quite fond of good cigars, although my wife made me stop smoking them. That reminds me, meeting and marrying my wife was one of the best ideas I ever had, although some (the jealous ones) may disagree. I think that I have the right to say and write whatever I want and to protect my family and myself with all of the weapons I wish to own, including firearms if I choose, and I do. (I can just see the heads spinning off of some of my readers, achieving escape velocity and disappearing into space.)

All right, I think I have made my point. Like you, I find many things, ideas, and thoughts to be good and uplifting, beneficial to life on the planet and to us as human beings. There are many others that are just plain wrong, evil, offensive and stupid.

You may not agree with some or any of my thoughts or ideas. Here’s the really cool thing about life. You don’t have to agree, and I don’t have to care, as long as I cause you no harm, I can think and do and believe what I will.

Conversely, I afford you the right to be different, to think great thoughts, or profoundly stupid ones. It’s okay…really. As long as you abide by the same rule of causing me no harm then I am perfectly content for you to think, say, write, sing, draw, paint, sculpt and express whatever you wish. In fact, I may well be interested in what you say or think. I might even find myself agreeing with you. That’s what happens when people freely exchange ideas.

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.

~Tommy Smothers~

 Now, some of you may say that since I have couched my rejection of censorship of thought and ideas within the concept of “cause no harm”, that we may actually be justified in denying freedom of speech to those with hurtful ideas and which promote violence. To that, I say simply, Hogwash. (You thought I was going to say Bullshit, didn’t you?)

As soon as you and I start deciding what is hurtful and harmful, we begin to erode the rights of others. We also open the door for others to start deciding whether what we say is hurtful or harmful. As Tommy Smothers pointed out, the only valid way to censor others is not to listen, ignore them. Try it; it works.

I do not require the assistance of Big Brother to look over my shoulder and keep me from hearing bad thoughts, ideas, pictures, songs, etc. I can simply choose not to listen. It’s amazing, the power we have when we choose to exercise it.

But, you may ask, what about the children? We must protect them from the terrible ideas and thoughts in the world. My answer is…be a parent. Do your job. You brought them into the world. Stop thinking that it is someone else’s responsibility to see to the well-being of children. As parents, it is ours. If children need protecting, and I agree that they do, protect them. But not at the expense of others’ liberties. Teach them. Control the influences, ideas and media input that they soak into their sponge-like brains. Be a parent. It is not the state’s job to teach your children; it is yours.

 If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

~George Washington~

 There is a reason the founders of the American nation placed freedom of speech in the United States Constitution as the first of the Bill of Rights. All other rights flow from the ability to express oneself freely. Write what you will; say what you will; think what you will. Without that freedom all others are in peril, and as Washington said we may then truly “…be led like sheep to the slaughter.”

A final thought, when the words or thoughts transform into actions that threaten or endanger me, my family, my community, you, I reserve the right to protect us, and I will. Remember. I am armed.

Until then, let’s argue it out. Don’t be “dumb and silent”. Debate me, hate me, agree with me or think I’m the stupidest son of a bitch in the world. It’s okay. Along the way, we might actually exchange a good idea. Bad ideas come and go. The good ideas are what has made our world…and beer, don’t forget beer.

Best – Glenn

Freedom of Speech - Washington

Hell No, We Ain’t Equal!

Ever heard the following?

“Abraham Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.” Post Civil War Slogan for Colt Revolving Pistols

“All animals are equal. Some animals are more equal than others.” George Orwell, ‘Animal Farm’

It is an interesting concept…equality. The belief that it is true, that all persons are equal, or should be, has been the cause of great turmoil, political posturing and pandering for votes. But here’s an indisputable truth.

Hell no, we ain’t equal! And we, you and I, never will be.

Before you pull out the torches and pitchforks and start knotting the noose to string me up, allow me to explain my position on the matter.

Freedom and equality are not the same thing. All people should be free, completely and unequivocally. We all have natural rights that are a result of being living, breathing human beings. These rights are ours because of our humanity and are not granted to us by the state or some political entity. Whether you believe that God created us and bestowed those rights upon us or that we evolved in some other way to this point, it is undeniable that each person on this earth yearns and claims for themselves these natural rights.

The founders of the American Revolution under the pen of Thomas Jefferson summarized these as “…certain unalienable rights, That among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. They went on to frame a Constitution that protected these natural rights. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, the right to protect yourself and your family, the right to engage in commerce and provide for yourself and your family, and so on.

When you consider these rights, you realize that they are “Natural”. You don’t have to be from the United States or a western democracy to want them…to claim them. You only have to be alive. All persons want these rights, these freedoms…and in a perfect world, they would have them. (For more on the topic of natural rights see the writings of  Andrew Napolitano, John Locke, Voltaire and Friedrich Hayek)

But back to the point of this post. Equality.

Having or yearning for the natural rights that are ours because of our humanity does not make us equal. The American founders also said, “All men are created equal.” They were wrong.

A case in point…

When I was young, there was a boy living across the street with whom my brother and I had an occasional altercation. We’ll call him Billy (not his real name). We were the same age, but Billy was big, and strong. In fact, he was much stronger than my brother and I combined. We found this out one evening when I heard my brother calling my name in the front yard. When I came around the corner of the house, I saw my brother on the ground under Billy who was pounding on him with great enthusiasm.

My first thought was…Shit! It was very likely that my brother deserved the pounding, but he was, after all, my brother. I was bound by the brotherly code to help him and fighting Billy was not high on my list of preferred activities. In fact, I would have walked ten miles out of my way to avoid a confrontation with him. My brother, on the other hand, was a much more adventurous soul and never backed down from anything or anyone.

So, I thought, shit…and then dove on top of Billy. What happened next was a blur. When the dust settled Billy had me in a headlock, my brother in a scissors hold and was pounding on us both. Billy was big, strong, a better fighter and…we were definitely not his equal in that regard.

Get the point? We were all equally free to fight or not fight, but if we chose to engage in fisticuffs with Billy, the result was certain. He would beat our ass. We were not equal.

This holds true in a myriad of ways in life. The lists of talents and things in which I am not the equal of others is formidable. I love painting, but the only thing I can draw and paint are stick figures. I can’t sculpt worth a damn. Wood carving is a skill I have always desired, and will never have. Golf…I suck. Tennis…I suck worse. Hiking…pretty good at that. Photography…average. Singing…I think I’m great, but I am assured by my closest friends and relations that I am only so, so. Guitar…I’m okay. Writing…I work hard but I’ll never be Hemingway or Steinbeck or Faulkner, or Dr. Seuss.

I say it again…Hell no, we ain’t equal. Not even close. Each of us has abilities and talents that others do not possess.

So what’s the point, Glenn, you ask. The point is there are, in fact, some equalizers in life that help us rise above our innate abilities and by rising above them, achieve our own small measure of greatness.

Hard work. I learned years ago that I wasn’t ever going to be the smartest person in the room. I also learned that through a willingness to work harder than others I could overcome that deficiency.

Perseverance. Life is not a sprint. Good thing, because I am not a very good runner. But I’m a hell of a walker. Another life lesson for me was to start walking towards my goal, even if it was just a distant speck on the horizon. If I moved steadily towards it, doing the things that would bring it closer, eventually I would reach it. I know that in a world of instant gratification the idea of walking slowly and steadily towards your goal is not always appealing, but trust an old man when he says that achieving your goal over time is much more satisfying than never trying. In fact, never trying is one of the truly saddest conditions I see in some people. Try!

Technology. Do you realize that because of modern technology I…little old me…boy from Georgia…can be a writer? I can write books and people can read them. Forget literary quality for a moment and consider that in the sense of publishing books in some small way I and my independent author friends are the equal of the Hemingways of the world. How cool is that?

Knowledge. Pay attention. This is important. I love books. Always have. I love the truths that can be discovered, the ability to understand things that were mysteries to me before. And here’s a really cool thing about living in the twenty-first century. If you are book-adverse in your philosophy, you can find as much knowledge as you want through that magical wizardry known as the internet. God I love modern technology.

I repeat…Knowledge is one of the great equalizers. In my mind, the greatest. Learn and never stop learning. Don’t accept what others say because they seem smarter than you. They probably aren’t, but even if they are, you can be as smart as they, or nearly so, if you never stop learning.

We should all be free. That is something for which everyone should be willing to fight.

However, unequal people and things will never be equal. You and I will never be equal in every sense. Nevertheless, we can make use of equal opportunity and work to become equal in some things and more equal in most…if we are willing to put forth the effort.

Best – Glenn

Equality - Aristotle

Get your “New and Improved” Bullshit – It Must Be True, Someone Said So…Really

No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority. ~Robert A. Heinlein~

 Someone important said it, so it must be true. Well, maybe they weren’t so important but they were someone, so it just has to be true. At least they were breathing and they moved their mouths and the words came out with authority, so they must be true. Right?

Sound silly? How about these ‘true statements’ from authoritative sources:

  • Red wine is good for you…red wine is bad for you…oh, wait, red wine is good for you again.
  • Or…the Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Reform) will lower insurance premiums for everyone
  • The Chicago fire of 1871 was caused Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lantern
  • The earth is flat…the earth is the center of the universe
  • Whales are fish, not mammals as Herman Melville and a number of other nineteenth century authorities believed
  • Sales of existing homes will rise substantially in 2008, so said the National Association of Realtors
  • Obesity is caused by too many carbs in your diet…obesity is caused by too much fat in your diet
  • Vitamin supplements enhance your health…vitamin supplements are a waste of time
  • God is dead
  • God is a Jew…Christian…Muslim…Hindu…Buddhist…Zoroastrian…none of the above
  • Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Cambodians, Slavs, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Native Americans (pick the ethnicity or group of your choosing) are evil and must be eradicated from the face of the earth.
  • Masturbation will make you go insane, or blind, or both…

Well, let’s leave that last one alone. I think a hundred thousand years of humans trying it out, usually more than once, and most likely way more than they are willing to admit, has proven that pleasuring oneself is a harmless activity that doesn’t make you any crazier than you already were nor does it initiate trips to the optometrist. Don’t ask me how I know.

My point is not that any or all of these statements are true or untrue. The point is that each, at some time, was or is purported by voices of authority to be completely and unquestionably true, the gospel, written in stone. And having been proclaimed as truth by the authorities, they were often, even usually, accepted by people without question.

Now, I am not arguing that any one or all of the above listed purported truths are right or wrong. Some I accept, others I absolutely do not.

No, my question is more basic. Why the hell do we do that? Why do we stand so willing and ready to buy into the latest, greatest, new and improved line of bullshit, as long as it is presented by someone with a soothing voice, charming personality, passion for the topic, list of letters after their name?

Maybe we human beings are still governed by some internal herd instinct that requires us to go along with the leader, the one with the voice, the loudest cowbell around the neck? Maybe.

I choose to believe that we are more than that. We have brains and the ability to reason. We dream, are self-aware, plan for the future, conceive great and marvelous ideas, some very abstract, and then see them through to realization. We write beautiful music, create magnificent works of art, write moving and powerful words that touch the hearts of others. Knowing that we are capable of such individual greatness, I fear there is something more dangerous that infects humanity and saps its, our, moral strength.

We know that throughout history, masses of people have unreasonably been motivated to do the most unspeakable evils and commit the most terrible atrocities against others because they unthinkingly, robotically accepted the words of some authority as truth, and then acted on their accepted truth. Masses have raised their arms screaming “Sic Heil!” before they sent other human beings to gas chambers and crematoriums, or proclaimed that the “Only good Indian is a dead Indian” before bashing in the heads of men, women and children in the name of their “truth”, or screamed “Hang the witch! Burn the witch!” before tightening the noose or lighting the torch.

These are the obvious examples of the evil effects of acceptance of “truth” simply because it has been spoken by some authority. They were evil and obscenely wrong. Most all of us know this. But there is a more insidious effect of the acceptance of the statements of the supposed persons in authority.

Each day, we unquestioningly watch newscasts, listen to pundits and politicians, preachers and teachers who make statements that many of us accept at face value, without question because they were spoken by some person who has been given a platform, who speaks louder than others, who is respected because of position, not because of character.

Here’s a truth for you to consider. The people making those statements are generally no smarter than you, or I. Truth be told, some of them are exceedingly dumb. Scary, huh?

Think wrongly if you please, but in all cases, think for yourself. ~Charles Seymour~

 And so, when I have a discussion with someone whose sole reason for believing something is because so-and so said, I worry. I don’t want to be as dumb as the next person, or the commentator, pundit or politician. It worries me that much of humanity seems perfectly at ease in accepting the truth, as proposed by the “experts” without ever considering, examining and dissecting that truth to determine its validity or falsehood for themselves.

Whether you believe that we were created by some higher intelligence, God, or through the natural process of evolution, it seems to me that there is one thing upon which we may all agree. Humankind has an immense capacity for reason, logic, loving, dreaming, conceiving great ideas and reaching beyond the world we know.

The point that I am trying to make, however awkwardly, is that blind, unreasoning acceptance of anything diminishes our capacity for greatness and compassion. Blind acceptance makes us less human.

I contend that humanity has not thought great thoughts, created great art, loved greatly, or reached for the stars because of blind acceptance. They are the result of individual thought.

I would equally suggest that most, if not all, of the evils of our world are the result of blind acceptance of ideas from those whom we accept as authorities.

The insidious danger I mentioned above? Laziness. Choosing the easy path. Fatigue. Wanting to be part of the crowd. Call it what you will, we are gradually losing the ability to think for ourselves. We are losing our humanity.

As a believer, first and foremost, in freedom and liberty, I want to shake people by the shoulders, look into their eyes, and shout into their faces – “You have a Natural Right to think for yourselves. USE IT!” If we do not, we may all lose it.

Best – Glenn

Thought - Aristotle

A Thought About Creativity – Don’t Think

Short and simple today. A thought from one of the all-time great American authors and a literary hero of mine. I probably learned more about writing from reading Ray Bradbury than from almost any other source.

Writing - Bradbury

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Almost Yoda-esque. Remember his words to Luke Skywalker? “There is no try. Only do.”

Mr. Bradbury was saying it…and doing it…long before Star Wars, and not in a galaxy far, far away. He did it right here. So can you. I know it to be true.

The next time you sit down to create and your brain goes into overdrive considering all of the possibilities, and then self consciously wonders what everyone is going to think about those creative possibilities…STOP THINKING. Start DOING.

Best – Glenn

You’re Freaking Killing Me

I generally don’t read reviews…anymore. I’ll tell you why in another post. However, my wife does, and she occasionally calls my attention to one reviewer’s comments or another. A couple of times she has pointed out very complimentary reviews who have mentioned that they managed to get one of my books for free in a promotion and were very surprised at the quality of the writing and that the book was offered at no cost.

Believe it or not, I don’t say that to pat myself on the back. Nope, if I were patting myself on the back I would say that they raved about the book and paid full price.

So, what’s the point? In a word…FREE.

It seems we are obsessed with FREE STUFF. There are websites and businesses completely dedicated to the proposition that anything we want in our lives should be free, or at least as discounted as possible. And there are customers and members of those websites who wait for the latest products offered for free and seem obsessively adverse to the idea of paying for anything.

Now we all like a good deal, and if we can get something for free occasionally…cool. I like free stuff too, so I get it. I understand.

But here’s a brief lesson in economics. If everything for sale is free all, or some of the time, and we only acquire those items when they are offered for free, well, soon there won’t be anything for sale…not anything you want at least.

So getting back to books for free and the point of this post. If you only acquire books from authors you enjoy reading when they are free, YOU’RE FREAKING KILLING ME…and many of my author friends.

Here’s why. Writers like to eat, and drink, and live in a house and put gas in the car, and go on vacation and do all the things everyone else enjoys. They spend months working on a book or other material for publication. I know for me, one of The Hunters series novels that average about a hundred thousand words takes about a thousand hours, six months, to write edit and get ready for publication.

Let’s say you offer the book for the small price of $4.99. Do the math. 1000 hours of work at $4.99 a book = .00499 per hour. So a thousand books sold means 1,000 X .00499 = 4.99. In other words, the author is paid .00499 per hour for every thousand books sold. By the way, the author actually isn’t paid $4.99 per book. The royalty percentage runs from 35% to 70% of the sales price, depending on your deal with the publisher, in this case Amazon.

So, despite, the minimal return, you spend months writing your book. Why? Because you are called to it…it is your passion…you are a writer. Who the hell knows why we do it? I have no better answers.

But your book is ready and on the market. You wait patiently for sales to start coming in, while you begin your next project. Your faithful readers, who have been waiting for your next work, go out and buy it. Sales are still slow, so you do what you have to in order to boost sales…you give it away for free.

Suppose you had spent a thousand grueling hours in writing, rewriting, editing and reediting your work, or in creating something else…a new car or airplane design, a custom built piece of furniture, a guitar, a better widget, anything you put your heart and soul into…and then realized that many of the people who want to use or enjoy your product will only do so if it is free. A bit demoralizing? Damn right it is…at least for people like me who like to eat, drink, put gas in the car, live under a roof and go on an occasional vacation.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for each and every person who has taken time from their day to read one of my books, no matter how they acquired the book. I merely suggest that “Free” doesn’t always make a product better.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” ~Warren Buffett~

Mr. Buffet’s words are true. I, and all of the authors I know, work hard to provide a good product. We try to price our works accordingly. In some cases, we underprice, in my opinion, the products we offer, mostly because we all struggle for that elusive element…recognition by the public. We even give books away for free to become visible to more readers. We will continue to do this I am sure.

But in addition to being a writer, I am a reader, and I have a reader’s concern. If, as a reader, we only acquire free books we will miss out on some gems from some extraordinarily talented writers. Worse, the economics of the market place will take hold and over time the quality, the value, of the product, the books, will diminish. Great authors, out of necessity may have to find something else to do with the thousand hours they invest in writing a book.

If we were in the market for a fine automobile, or a house, or an evening’s entertainment at the movies, would we only wait until what we desired was offered for free. I doubt it. If we did then we would have nothing to drive, no shelter and a very dull life.

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.” ~Thomas Paine~

I know Mr. Paine was speaking about the cost of liberty and freedom, but his words have been simplified in another way. “You get what you pay for.”

So it is with authors and their books. I know there are varying levels of quality in writing. We are not all equally talented. I’m not Grisham or Patterson, Hemingway or Steinbeck. I know that. If readers find no value in my work, then by all means, do not purchase it, or wait until it is offered at no cost.

If, however, you have shared your time with me and my fellow independent authors and have enjoyed the thrill, cherished a tender passage, smiled or laughed with us, then consider the value of that moment the next time you decide whether or not to spend the minimal price charged for one of our books. Trust me, more than you will ever know, we cherish and value your recognition of our work and your willingness to give it value.

Best – Glenn

Value - Paine

The Day Mama Beat My Ass

I know what you’re thinking. He only got his ass beat once? In truth, no. I was a slow learner.

Nevertheless, this particular occurrence of motherly discipline stands out. My brother and I have laughed about it over the years, Mama not so much. So, here’s the story.

It was about 1960, which means I was about nine years old and my brother a year and a half younger. On a hot summer day in Petersburg, Virginia, we had been playing in the field behind our house and found a snake. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just an old black snake. Definitely non-poisonous, and definitely not alive. There had been some construction equipment clearing the field and old Mr. Snake had got himself run over, squashed dead.

Now being young, fun-loving and extremely inventive youths we decided it would be exciting, and funny to share our discovery with our mother. So, we took old Mr. Snake and draped his three-foot length over the handle of a rake, went to the back door of the house, and knocked. Standing to the side, we waited, stifling our laughs with our hands, letting the dead, non-poisonous snake hang from the rake at about Mama’s eye height.

The door opened. The shriek that pierced into the hazy summer sky scared the piss out of us, so we did the only rational thing we could. We dropped the rake, leaving the dead squashed snake on the doorstep and ran like hell. I swear we must have been a half a mile down the road before we stopped hearing the shrieks.

Did I forget to mention that Mama was deathly afraid of snakes. I don’t just mean, ‘oh, there’s a creepy, crawly snake, let’s go the other way’, afraid. I mean, ‘there’s a vile, evil, slithering monstrosity of a snake, let’s burn the field, and for good measure the house down and move to another state, afraid. Mama didn’t like snakes. We knew this.

And yet, we decided that it would be good fun to have a laugh at her expense. Needless to say, we stayed away from the house for as long as we could despite, her shouts that we should return home immediately. We knew she was serious because she used our full names. “Glenn Stephen Trust, you come home right now!” When there was no response, she would add an expletive or two. “Glenn Stephen Trust, you get your ass home right now!” Yes, that’s right she would shout curse words down the street, in public, in the middle of the day. I learned some of my best ones from Mama.

As an aside, the neighbors were used to it. It wasn’t the first time we had been vocally instructed to get our asses home. For you younger readers, you should remember that this was decades before cell phones and text messaging. When you were out, you were out.

We decided that staying out that day was the wisest course of action. So we did, at least until we began to get hungry, and thirsty. Eventually, we decided we might as well go take our ass whuppin’, before we died of starvation or dehydration.

Back at the house, we found Mama calmly sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, a frying pan on the table ready for our return. You should know that Mama was a little lady, maybe five foot three and skinny as a rail. She always used some household implement when she administered punishment. Broom handles, frying pans, spatulas were among the many instruments she used on my backside over the years. You should also know that we never fought back. Mama was Mama. You didn’t fight your mama. We bent over and took our punishment like men…or at least like boys who weren’t going to run away from it…at least not when we were hungry and thirsty.

Now some of you may be saying to yourselves, “Oh, my God. You were struck, even beaten as a child. How awful.”

Bullshit. I deserved every one of the whuppins’ I received over the years and probably a few more for things Mama never found out about. Amazingly, I turned out just fine, just like most of the other members of humankind for a hundred thousand years who have received similar discipline during their developmental age.

But this is not about the pros and cons of corporal punishment. We can talk about that some other time. This is about lessons learned, in particular, one specific lesson learned by two boys who scared the crap out of their mother on a hot summer day in 1960.

Respect. We knew Mama was terrified of snakes, but we failed to respect her feelings on the matter. To this day, I hear those piercing, terror-filled shrieks in my mind and I feel guilty as hell about tormenting my mother that day. I should have respected her. I certainly did every day for the rest of her life after that.

I am not saying that I learned respect because I got whupped across the backside with a frying pan. I am saying that my mother was not afraid to teach the lesson that we should respect others and their feelings. And she was not afraid to make the point in a way that we would remember. It is not okay to hurt someone for your own pleasure, or to be discourteous rude or disrespectful.

In a world full of narcissistic self-interest, I worry that the simple idea of respecting others is vanishing from our society. And it is not just a problem among young people. The young learn from their parents.

I don’t mean to sound preachy, but what the hell, here’s the point. Take the time to teach your children and grandchildren to respect others. The world would be a much different place if we did.

Best – Glenn

Respect - Robinson

Scared to Death – Live or Die, Your Choice

Fears, we all have them. No one that I know is exempt from that visceral reaction that can at times be thrillingly enjoyable. Whatever your particular fear craving…horror movies, thriller novels, roller coasters, cliff climbing, sky diving or some other pursuit that forces you over the ledge of terror…there is nothing quite like the scrotum-shrinking, asshole puckering, dry-mouthed tingling of throwing yourself into the place or thing you fear the most. It can be exhilarating beyond words.

In fact, we embrace our fears, sometimes passionately. Most everyone I know likes to be scared now and then. A good horror movie or thriller that makes your spine tingle can be just the thing on a stormy winter night, although the whole zombie and vampire thing escapes me. I guess my taste in fear and horror runs to stories based in reality with real people. The movie, Cape Fear, fits the bill for me – I prefer the Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum version. Or Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the author in The Shining which is a sort of ghost story, but is really about a writer who goes completely mad. Makes my spine tingle just to write about it here.

There is another kind of fear, the kind that paralyzes, the kind that sucks the life out of you, and you out of life. I find it to be one of the saddest states of humanity, to live a life so full of fear that you spend it huddled in your metaphorical cave afraid of what might be outside.

I have friends who live in fear of…everything. Well, that may be an overstatement, but some of them certainly seem to be afraid of a lot of things. Fear of what other people might think about them, fear of failing, fear of criticism…fear of fear.

There is no space here to list the fears that we all face. Fear is part of being human, being alive. In many ways it is healthy. Fear evolved as a defense mechanism, a surge of adrenalin pumping through us preparing us to fight or flee for our lives at a very high rate of speed.

But the other kind of fear is debilitating. It can turn life into a burden that crushes the human spirit and takes away even the simplest of joys. What if you were afraid to go outside, to speak in public, to fly in an airplane, of what everyone might think if you sang a song or wrote a book?

In all likelihood you would miss a majority of the thrill and excitement and joy of life. I know. I have faced some of those fears. I still do.

Fear of public speaking. I have had a number of responsibilities over the years that required me to face large groups of people. My voice quivered. My hands shook. I hated it, but I did it.

Fear of heights and flying. I spent many years flying several times a week for the company I worked for. I still get nervous every time I fly, and I avoid ledges and balconies in tall buildings, but I do fly and I do go in tall buildings and I hike in the mountains.

Fear of what others might think, probably the most debilitating fear I have faced. It is a terrible curse and kept me from doing what I truly wanted to do decades ago – write. The day I published my first novel I didn’t sleep, hell the first month after I published it I barely slept, wondering obsessively what others thought of it and by extension of me. That was five novels ago. I have come to accept since then that opinions are like assholes – everyone has one. I now refuse to allow the opinion of others to prevent me from doing what I love.

Rosa Parks, who might be fairly described as the mother of the American Civil Rights movement in the twentieth century said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

Mrs. Parks faced a culture, a society steeped in a tradition of racial prejudice. A single solitary woman she faced that societal bigotry, made up her mind about what had to be done and said, no. No, I won’t move to the back of the bus to give the white man a seat. She made up her mind, faced her fear, and helped change a country.

I wonder sometimes, how much great literature is missing from the world because of fear. What music do we lack because of fear? Where are the paintings and sculptures that might have been created if it were not for fear? Then there are simpler more personal things that are missed by millions…walks on a beach, talks with friends and family, shared moments with those we care about, fulfillment at work, sunsets, so many beauties of life that are missed by some, perhaps by many, because of fear.

Are you afraid? You are not alone. We are all afraid of something.

Ferdinand Foch, leader of the French Army during World War I said, “None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear.” We have all known fears, great and small. The measure of our lives is whether we face them, or not.

So, my friends, face your fears. Except for snakes…you see a snake, run like hell. Just kidding, get a rake and beat its creepy, slithering ass, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Seriously, you have the choice. Face your fears and live this wonderful, and all too short life we have, or allow fear to kill the years you have. Live or die, it is your choice.

Best – Glenn

Fear - Foch

On Memorial Day – The Precious Blood

Just a few brief words on Memorial Day. The observance in honor of those who have sacrificed for their country through military service began during the American Civil War. It was known as Decoration Day. People would decorate the graves of the fallen to remember them. There are accounts of Decoration Days from 1862 on, in both the South and the North. The first nationally recognized Decoration Day was in Charleston, South Carolina in May 1865 when a group of African American former slaves discovered the unmarked mass grave of 257 Union soldiers who had died during imprisonment in the south. They created a proper burial ground, landscaped it and held a memorial service for the soldiers who had fallen to free them from slavery. It was covered nationally in the newspapers and evolved into what we know today as Memorial Day, honoring those who serve in the military.

There are no words that I can write here that adequately honor those who serve willingly and go into harm’s way for others…for you and me. In its own way, their service brings them more honor than you or I could ever bestow.

I give you the words of some others who express, much better than I, the meaning and reason for the service of those we honor today.

The business of America is not business. Neither is it war. The business of America is justice and securing the blessings of liberty. ~George F. Will~

We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in. ~Thomas Paine~

I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism. ~Bob Riley~

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ~Thomas Paine~

As we cookout, celebrate, take time off from work and spend time with family and friends today, I hope that we will actually take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice of those who serve, and are serving. Remember them. Teach that remembrance to your children.

A final word and warning to those leaders we have put in office. The blood of our youth is precious. Not one drop is to be squandered for base political purposes. We owe that to those who stand ready to give all for us and the cause of liberty.

Do not betray them. There would be no greater sin and the consequences will surely be severe. You may take that as a warning from a lover of freedom and those who stand ready to guarantee it.

Best – Glenn

Freedom for Honest Men - Paine

What an Idiot – Did He Really Say That?

The world abounds with stupid people. I know; I am one.

To some it seems to be a very unfortunate circumstance, this abundance of stupidity. Add to that the profane, misguided, hateful, mean, nasty, ugly, clownish, uneducated, ignorant and just plain wrong and the number of people that I disagree with on any given day is huge, monumental even.

But I’m not complaining. I find that the overabundance of people to disagree with brightens my days. I know…sick huh? But it’s true. I welcome the debate, the argument. I suppose it comes from my upbringing. My father and I disagreed on pretty much everything, and he loved it. Nothing seemed to please him more than to have my brothers and me sitting across from him, arguing some point or another. Some kids had little league, we had arguing.

Dad’s been gone for more than two decades, but his legacy lives on. I still embrace a good, thought provoking debate, argument if you will. It drives my wife nuts. What I consider an energizing and robust discussion, she finds to be an annoying disagreement. Go figure.

For me, a good dialogue over a point of disagreement is a stimulating mental workout in the same way a good run or pumping iron strengthens the body. I firmly believe that debate, discussion, argument even, are good for the brain and will keep this old man’s thought processes younger, longer than most other mental activities. I don’t have any particular evidence for that belief, but that’s what I believe. Want to argue about it?

The point of all this, is actually a very serious topic – Free Speech. In truth, it may be the most important topic. There is a reason that freedom of speech is the First Amendment to the Constitution. From it, flow all of the other ‘unalienable rights’ of which Jefferson spoke.

Freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, freedom to conduct commerce, to defend yourself, to be secure in your own persons, to do whatever it is you do on a daily basis without interference from government or others, is based on the freedom of speech. It would be pointless to have freedom of assembly if we could only stand mutely together and not express an opinion different from others, or could only express the opinion, speak the words, that were accepted by the government or other people as being politically or socially ‘correct’. Every right we have flows from the freedom to speak and say what we will, however stupid or misguided we are.

In her biography of Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall attributes these words to the French writer, philosopher and advocate of free speech and expression. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I first learned those words from my father. They guide my life.

I don’t have to agree with you to grant you the right to your opinion and the right to express it. In fact, I may think you are a complete idiot; I may choose not to associate with you, avoid your company, but I will never try to silence you.

I have said it before and I say it again, I find it troubling that people in a supposedly free society are concerned about the words and thoughts of others. Some may say, “I believe in freedom of speech, but some people spew hate and venom. They have no right to hurt the feelings of others. We have every right to silence that type of speech.” I say – Bullshit.

Who gets to be the decider of what harmful speech is and what is not? It is a very dangerous road to travel that leads to silencing the thoughts and words of others. Eventually, someone will want to silence yours.

Freedom of speech is broader than any one individual or opinion. For it to be free, it must be so. Yes, I know there are despicable people with ideas that you or I might find loathsome. So what? As much as I enjoy a well-reasoned debate, I don’t engage with the hateful, ignorant or bigoted. That’s my choice. They may say what they will, I will ignore them for the idiots they are, but the right for them to demonstrate their idiocy through their speech is sacred to me. Loose that right and we take a giant step away from freedom and slither towards despotism and tyranny, and tyranny is an awful master whether it be governmental, political or social.

Neal Boortz, American journalist and commentator has said. “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.” It is an excellent point. No one tries to silence those who agree with them, only those who disagree. Ever disagree with someone and want to shut them up? Want to shut me up? You would not be alone. What if they wanted to shut you up, for disagreeing? What if they did shut you up? Silencing others is a dangerous, two-edged sword.

I leave you with the words of Frederick Douglas, the great African American abolitionist and leader during the period of the American Civil War. “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

Best – Glenn

Free Speech - Hall

You’re So Lucky – I Hate You

Ever had this happen? Bust your ass, work as hard as you can to achieve your goal, and you begin to see a bit of success. Then, someone, sometimes a person close to you, friend or family member, attributes the fruits of your labor to luck. Smiling, slapping you on the back they congratulate your good fortune.

“Way to go, Glenn! You lucky dog, you. Man, must be nice to sit in that big office, or be able to play guitar or to write books. Boy, some people have all the luck.”

Behind the plastered on smile, sometimes I detect an unspoken thought. “You’re so lucky, I hate you.”

Now I’m not saying that it worries me in particular when I sense such an undercurrent in their congratulations. I only note it here to make a point. What they really hate is their own inability to commit to the work necessary to achieve their own dreams.

People seem willing to forget the long days and sleepless nights, the hours of study, work, and effort. It seems easier for them to believe that the gods decided to smile on you for some unknown reason. In fact, I would go so far as to say that for some the idea of being lucky in life is much more fulfilling than working for accomplishments.

Perhaps it is some sort of defense mechanism, a way of preserving their sense of being good people and hard workers themselves, or just human nature I suppose. Jean Cocteau said, “We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like.”

I would broaden that observation to include those whose hard work and passion we are not willing to match in order to achieve our own dreams. It’s much easier to sit back and accept the “luck” of others than the lack of desire or willingness to work in ourselves. It has been my observation, unfortunately, that honest self-assessment is not a common human trait. For the record, I am not exempting myself from that opinion. I am human, although some would question that, and in the end I too sometimes feel the pangs of envy enter my heart when I see someone else’s good fortune. I’m not proud of that fact. But when I manage to push aside the jealousy and envy and actually examine what that person did to achieve their goal, their dream, I find an interesting commonality.

In virtually every story of success, there is enormous unseen effort driven by passion, desire, and belief in yourself. It does not matter what the field of endeavor is, great success cannot be achieved without an equal amount of hard work. We have all heard Newton’s third law of motion – ‘Every force (‘action’) on one object is accompanied by a ‘reaction’ on another, of equal magnitude but opposite direction’, or as we commonly say, ‘For every action there is an equal, but opposite, reaction’. I know, all you physicists stop cringing, Newton was speaking of physical forces acting on physical objects, not human nature, but I maintain that the analogy holds true.

The great New York Yankees baseball pitcher, Lefty Gomez, is credited as saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” I’ve heard that statement quoted on construction sites, in police squad rooms and corporate board rooms. It has always annoyed me. It violates the laws of human nature and accomplishment.

For me, the idea of turning my life over to luck, fate, fortune, kismet, karma, destiny or whatever other supernatural name you want to give it is the same as crawling in a hole and covering my head, waiting hoping and praying for something good to happen, afraid that something bad may happen. I much prefer to face life and take it on. I am in control of me and my destiny, not you and not some unseen mystic force.

Effort can never be replaced by luck. Whether our passion is music, mathematics, engineering, science, carpentry or writing…if we are serious about success, we will learn the lesson that hard work and constant effort towards your goal will bring success. Work is the action and the achievement the equal reaction or result.

I know that work is not a word we love to hear, but I would submit to you that work in itself is fulfilling and rewarding and when success finally comes you can take satisfaction from the secret you hold and that others envy…hard work and dedication brought you success…not luck.

A word about luck. Do I believe in luck at all? If by that you mean, do I believe in the gods of fate, or some entity that looks down upon us and determines who will benefit today from the thing called “luck”? The answer is an absolute – No.

If there is such a god or fate that brings luck, it is not a very discriminating one. It has brought its luck to saints and monsters alike. Some might say that Edison, Einstein, Mother Teresa, Van Gogh, Washington, Gandhi and scores of others were great because they partially achieved their success through chance, or luck. It was their destiny…being in the right place at the right time or benefitting from fortuitous circumstances, good parents, birth into the right family, having money, education, and so on. But if you do, then you also have to accept that an Austrian painter rose to become the Chancellor of Germany and one of the most horrific mass murders in the history of the world and did so through this same chance, luck or destiny. I speak of Adolf Hitler. Add to him, the many others who have risen to infamy and the list of the “lucky” who were able to achieve their dark and bloody dreams is a long one, indeed.

No, I don’t believe in some fickle god of luck. Edison invented the incandescent light bulb through ingenuity and hard work, testing thousands of substances until he found the one that would work as a filament and would glow brightly in a vacuum when an electric current passed through it. Mother Teresa became one of the most beloved persons in the world because of her devotion to others and to her God, not because of luck. Adolf Hitler became the monster he was because of his devotion to his dark and terrible dreams. To believe otherwise is to say that ‘luck’ is under the control of some mystic force that rewards the good and the evil randomly and equally. Therefore, if you believe that luck is a blessing from God, that we have no control over it, then by default you also believe that God rewards the wicked with this thing called luck as often as he does the good.

For me, belief in luck is not rational. Certainly, there is random probability in the universe and sometimes, good fortune will fall upon us. Where I come from, we say that ‘Even a blind squirrel will find an acorn now and then’. But note that even the sightless squirrel must get out and forage for the acorns it cannot see. The laws of probability may bring you good fortune occasionally…or never. But what will bring you success every time is hard work.

So whatever your passion, your dream, commit to it. Work for it. If you are a writer, write. Stop talking about writing, waiting for the agent or publisher who sees your great talent. Keep writing. Make it happen.

I leave you with words that have been attributed to Thomas Jefferson. “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Best – Glenn

 Luck - Emerson