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Why socialism is now “cool”

Several years ago at a political candidate’s announcement event, an older woman came up to the candidate after his speech while I was standing next to him, and asked him to do something about how liberal colleges have become. I was close enough to both people to see their feelings.

“My grandson became a socialist and has disavowed everything his family has worked hard for since we moved here from Italy three generations ago,” she said, almost crying.

The Republican candidate seemed unmoved. Fighting socialist indoctrination on college campuses is probably not a big potential money maker for most would-be elected officials.

And no question about what she said, American colleges are now Ground Zero for socialist indoctrination and brainwashing. You can take a good kid from a solid loving, working home, with law-abiding working parents, a good work ethic, good grades, and a positive outlook on life, and within two semesters at pretty much any college in America, lose them to chic leftist radicalism. That is, socialism aka Everything that America is Not.

Which begs the question of Why.

My observation is socialism is popular because the younger generations have had to fight for nothing. They are spoiled rotten.

Everything has been given to them. Cars, expensive phones, expensive clothes, trips, freedom to come and go, time off from chores and work, peer-to-peer equal relationships with their parents and grandparents. As a consequence, America’s younger people are the world’s most spoiled little brats in the history of our planet. At their sixteenth birthday they are convinced they already know everything, including how the latest car racing simulator on XBox is actually – I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP – more realistic than actually driving (Yes, I really did hear a 16-year-old say this to his family recently).

As a result of being so spoiled and having no real meaningful adversity in their lives, the younger generations are looking for, searching for, adversity. Even if it means dreaming it up, inventing it out of thin air or out of bits and pieces of reality stitched together with bubblegum and bailing wire. It gives them a sense of meaning and purpose. And when they find it, it gives them a cause. Teenagers are nothing if not moral purists, and when they discover from their fake teachers that all of the money their parents worked hard for is actually stolen from living American Indians and ex-slave Blacks, they have discovered some adversity worth fighting against.

And off on the socialist crusade they go, filled with rage at their parents’ callous disregard for the poor and the suffering, the dispossessed.

The fact that their own grandparents disembarked from a boat into New York Harbor in 1948 with a grand total of a suitcase half-filled with clothes and the name of a nephew to their name doesn’t register. Or if you are from coal country, with your own grandparents telling you stories about how they and their parents worked in and around the coal mines, you are coached by a professor in “sociology” (yes, this is a real college thing, even though it is real nothing) to see your grandparents not as hard workers, but as exploited labor who enriched a bunch of wealthy aristocrats.

The entertainment industry is now the primary source for role models, values, and social cues, and add in some Hollywood movie virtue signalling, and we have now two generations of American kids who are spoiled, nearly worthless, unappreciative, un-grounded, disconnected from reality, and uninterested in anything except behaviors that make them feel good for the moment.

Even though my wife and I come from dramatically different backgrounds, we shared one common experience growing up that forms the foundation for our relationship: We had to work hard from a young age.

My wife made her own nice clothes for school, because neither she nor her parents could afford to buy nice clothes at the stores. And while I grew up splitting firewood daily from the age of nine, I had to work for my dad starting at age 14. Working on construction sites as the boss’s kid, doing all the worst jobs, got me plenty of abuse and socked arms by workers who wanted to put me in my place. I learned then to drink buckets of shit and just do my job, to the satisfaction of the meanest, grumpiest old worker on the crew. So now that I have been paying federal taxes since I was 14, I think I have a work ethic, and my wife does, too.

Like all of our friends our age (fifties), my wife and I actually enjoy working and seeing the fruits of our labors. But like our friends, we are dinosaurs, kind of the last of the dying breed. The last of the Americans. The next couple of generations seem to think that everything is supposed to be handed to them, and it seems they will cheerfully give away their unique American freedoms to a gigantic all-powerful government apparatus if it promises them mediocre “free” income and healthcare.

Not that our own kids aren’t great. They are, and I love them absolutely. Like most parents, we have done our best to raise them right. But I am afraid that college can warp even them, leading them to believe that socialism is the answer for the mean, exploitative parents who made them mow the lawn, take out the trash, and hang up the clean laundry.

 

Twenty-five years of sitting by the warm fire

Our family burns a lot of firewood every cold season. Usually beginning in late October and going through February, sometimes into March, we burn split oak 24 hours a day.

Nothing heats up a room better and takes the chill out of the air than a fire in a modern wood or coal stove, and nothing provides a better centralized gathering place for people to read, doze, study, or talk than a fire place or stove. It is a real comfort, and if we think about it, humans sitting by a comforting fire goes back what, 100,000 years? Or six thousand? Either way, a long time.

We are back at it once again today, tending a fire, having now endured Winter’s recent biting return without a fire the past week or so.  Something about this late season chill just works its way into the bones. Maybe we kind of let down our guard, anticipating Spring, eager to shed the heavy coats and boots, and enjoy the warm air and freedom to lounge outside once again. Whatever  the reason, the harsh cold issues a strong call for the fire today, and so we lit one. We will run it constantly until we are fully out of Winter’s grip, and enjoying the comfort of the warm sunlight.

There is another sort of fire, however, and this one will never die out.

It is the fire of human passion, and love, and friendship.

It is that kind of fire which two people share after twenty five years of happy marriage together.

Sure, there are some tough times along that twenty-five years, some hard words, some bruised feelings in that period. Birthing and then raising three kids in that time means some disagreement and frustration are inevitable. But these things are part and parcel of living a committed life. And in a way, resolving the disputes makes the fire hotter, Polonius’ hoops of steel stronger. There is no walking out or walking away, quitting when the going gets tough. There is only commitment, fire. Ebbing, flowing, sometimes blazing hot, sometimes a bed of coals, but always a lit fire.

As a much missed now-deceased life advisor used to say to me, two married people are like two knives, constantly rubbing against one another, sharpening one another’s blade. The knives are working tools, cutting through life, getting work done, and by working together side by side, they also continually sharpen each other’s blades, their cutting edges, the working parts. Once in a while they nick one another. That is just the nature of the tool, the nature of married life. The little nick goes with the territory of work.

It is a good analogy, good enough for me. Because when I look back on twenty-five years of good marriage, as marked today, I feel like we are both still sharp, the Princess of Patience still looks sharp, and our cutting edges are holding up strong.

Said  the other way, I have been sitting by a particular fire now for twenty-five years. Once in a while, while tending it, it has singed me, or given me a minor blister, reminding me of its inherent powerful force. Given that I am klutzy, it is logical that I earned those little burns.

But usually this fire is my friend, my best friend, in fact. I am looking forward to another twenty-five years of her warmth and comfort.

 

Lazy summertime guidance here

It is a scientifically proven fact that humans can endlessly watch three things:

Fire. Not a building on fire, but a campfire or a bonfire can hold a gaze long into the night. The licking flames dance and mesmerize. So long as it is not a threat, fire is intriguing, even consoling. People sitting around a campfire can stargaze and stare silently into the coals for a very long time, no words necessary.

Running water. Tumbling streams, rivers broken by rocks indicating the flow, running water is equally as eye-gluing as fire, except that its sounds can tinkle and chime, often mimicking voices if you listen closely enough. A medium size free-stone stream is probably the most fascinating to watch of all water bodies, because it is a rich mix of intimate nooks and crannies, power, and music.

If you enjoy staring at mirror-still lakes, see a doctor.

Last but not least, people working. Yes, that is right, watching people work is one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable acts you can do. I do it all the time. Try it, you will definitely like it. It beats actually working, but oddly it makes you feel like you are achieving a lot. That right there is perfect summertime, my kind of summer time.

So, in terms of a lazy summer enjoyment, I am looking for a splashy back yard pool, with a dad barbecuing over a natural wood campfire grill nearby. If you are aware of of such a set-up, let me know.

I’ll be able to just sit there and quietly soak it up all day long. And yes, I will bring the beer.

Hope you are enjoying your summertime…

The power of Dad

Call me patriarchal, but the power of “Dad” still awes me, as it has so deeply shaped all human cultures from our beginning.

At his best, Dad is provider, protector, guardian, best friend, guide, advisor, partner….Someone a boy looks up to all his life, wants to emulate, and shares his intimate life struggles with.

Dad is that one person you can always count on, no matter what. It’s a pretty potent symbol and subject. Everyone loves “Dad.”

Fatherhood is so powerful that it can be used to hurt, too, and some father figures don’t seem to recognize their own strength. Or worse, they revel in their ability to punish, or hurt, though that seems to be a dying breed these days.

Today in America, we celebrate the happy and hard working Dads out there who have busted their butts, hoed tough rows, sacrificed and taken risks for their families.

Heck, we see these Hollywood superhero movies and it’s impossible not to laugh. Reality is a lot more compelling!

Just getting our kids off to school on time in clean clothes with all their books and pencils is a real feat. Paying the bills? Now THAT is true hero stuff. It’s not easy. Parents and dads who pull that off are the real heroes, because without them, the wheels come off.

Here’s to the dads- three cheers.

Chapped hands? Recondition your winter boots

My hands have been badly chapped for weeks now. Outdoor work and play, and cold weather have chewed up the thumbs and finger tips on both my hands.  You’d think I actually worked for a living to look at them.

This morning I was reminded about the best way to fix that chapped skin: Recondition leather work boots and hunting boots. Whether it’s Sno-Seal, Danner Boot Cream, or some other natural salve for dry leather, it also works healing wonders on the hands that apply it. And sitting by the warm fire helps, too.

OK, belay that last “let it snow”

Like you and most everyone I know around Pennsylvania, I feel done with the snow. Yes, did I say “let it snow” a bunch yesterday?  Well, that was then and this is now.  Now, we are expecting another eight to twelve inches of snow in the next day.  On top of the six to eight inches of hardened crust, ice, and snow already on the ground, another foot is going to keep spring from arriving for a long time.

This much snow puts a stranglehold on our business operations.  Shuts down machinery.  Trucks cannot pick up, guys cannot cut, or even drive their trucks, let alone get their machines moving.

What really is telling about this cold is that at home, we have burned a solid three-plus cords of seasoned oak firewood.  We may be closing in on four burned to date.  We have enough to take us into the end of the longest cold winter, but that just means more work felling, cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking. You know the old saw — “Firewood warms ya twice.”  You work hard making it, and then it warms you as a fire.  Indeed.

Hold on there, fellow Pennsylvanians.  Spring must be just around the corner.  Just a few weeks from now, the air should be in the mid-forties, smelling slightly earthy and damp, and a robin here and there will join the cardinal in the back yard.  Then you know relief is upon us.  Hold on.  You are in good company.

Central PA is a fantastic place to live, work, play

Today the Dauphin County Planning Commission held its second annual awards ceremony for outstanding development projects around the county.

Held at the historic Fort Hunter barn, and funded in large part by engineering firm HRG and other private donors, the spartan but hard-hitting event showcased how advanced central PA really is, and why it is that way.

At one point in my life, I lived in the Washington DC area. Few people there actually liked living there, and the few pockets of satisfied residents were limited to historic areas with parkland and small downtowns with attractive antique homes. Northern Virginia and some of the old, well-planned communities along the major roads into Washington come to mind. I myself hated the heck out of the area, because its dominant feature was suburban sprawl, a sterile hybrid of city and country.

Happy was the day when I returned to my beloved Central Pennsylvania, and for many good reasons: Little to no real traffic, nice people, beautiful landscapes, lots of protected open space to hunt, fish, camp and hike in, low-cost housing and low cost-of-living, and many other amenities.

At today’s award ceremony, the audience was reminded again and again by speakers just how great a place this area is to live in, raise a family, work, and play, as in camp, canoe, hunt, fish, picnic, hike, etc. That is true. Having traveled extensively, my heart and mind always return to central PA. It’s a great place to live.

On that note, a personal note to new Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse: Good luck. Our city has been in trouble. Signs are everywhere that a lot of hard work lies ahead to get it out of the rut it is stuck in. But early signs of Papenfuse’s administration are positive; not so much statements, but actions, like hiring competent staff to serve the citizens.

Harrisburg is PA’s capital city and the regional hub. Ten years ago, everyone wanted to move into the city. I hope that the awards handed out today for hard work, exciting vision, and high standards are an indication of Harrisburg’s new-found success.

Ode to bear camp

Not too long ago, just a few years, actually, a couple hundred thousand Pennsylvania hunters would gather together for the three days before Thanksgiving.

They’d meet under old tar paper shacks, new half-round log cabins, and “camps” both fancier and more rustic. Wherever they gathered was “bear camp,” the place from which they would sally forth in the state’s most rugged topography in search of a lifetime trophy, one of Pennsylvania’s big black bears.

This 100-year tradition that spawned many long Thanksgiving holidays and peaceful family gatherings among the quiet outer fringes of civilization was inadvertently destroyed by the introduction of a Saturday opener for bear hunting.

Now, pressed for time, bear hunters can get out on one day and say they tried. Lacking Sunday hunting for bears, these hunters might hang out, cut some firewood, and then return home to watch a football game Sunday evening. Fewer hunters make camp together for the remaining Monday through Wednesday season. Sure, hunters are out there, and some camps have tagged incredible numbers of bears in recent years, but the momentum of camp itself is gone, fragmented by the introduction of Saturday hunting and the absence of Sunday hunting.

To say that bear camp was a unique amalgamation of individuals is a gross understatement. Used to be that only the crazy die hard bear hunters would be so driven as to take off of work. Now, so many guys come and go on Saturday that the flavor and chemistry of bear camp is changed, and for the poorer.

I’m an advocate for Sunday hunting. Lots of reasons why, but the loss of that bear camp feeling is a good one by itself. If bear season opened Saturday and continued through Sunday, the old experience would be resurrected. I miss it, because I miss the guys who come up now to only hunt Saturday, and by the time I arrive Sunday, they’re packing up or already gone. Gone are the easy times catching up about our kids, families, and work.

Now, bear camp has evolved two “shifts,” the Saturday hunters, and the oddball crew made of guys who can think of no better way to spend time than out in steep, remote areas, hanging off cliffs, falling down steep ravines, and sitting around with buddies back at camp at night to laugh about it. Two shifts, same camp. Same roof, different people.

Sad. I want that old feeling back. Gimme Sunday hunting for bears, please, so I can reconnect with the old friends I hunted bears with for over a decade before the advent of a Saturday opener.

UPDATE: Well, plenty of people have weighed in on this essay. Seems that Saturday has opened up bear hunting to more kids than ever before, and more hunters in general. Concentrating most of the hunters on one day is a fact of lacking Sunday hunting. And no one disagreed that the momentum has now been lost on the week days.

When a family has a birthday

When a family’s oldest child arrives at the age of 18 years, it’s not just that young person’s birthday. Given how much effort, struggle, work, exasperation, growth, learning, mistakes, love, late night affection, cuddling, coaching, and sacrifices have been made and done with that one person alone, it is really a birthday for the whole family. We all arrived here together.
Happy Birthday, my love!

Was today’s MLK event in DC a sham and partisan pep rally?

How odd that none of the following black leaders were invited or present to speak at today’s MLK event on the DC Mall: Clarence Thomas (US Supreme Court), Condoleeza Rice (US NSA), Dr. Ben Carson, Professor Thomas Sowell, Congressman Allen West, Alan Keyes, or sitting US Senator Tim Scott, the only black US Senator…among many other candidates who might have had something to say about MLK and civil rights.

Partisan activist Donna Brazile coordinated the event, but exclaimed surprise that no Republicans spoke much less attended.

Wonder if today’s event was really just a partisan pep rally?

On the other hand, THIS was a genuine human rights rally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs