Constitutionalist No. 1: The Introduction

Let me just come out with a question recently on the front of my tongue here lately, uncensored and blunt: Could it be that America is destined to prove democracy can’t in fact work?

Could it be that in 100 years, other countries will be look back on our nation not in the present tense but in the past, as the frayed memory of what was once the world’s foremost military and economic power before it collapsed upon itself? Could we be the one other countries then point to and say “See, our form of government is superior because clearly republican democracy and capitalism can’t work!”

History is rife with examples of governments failing, regardless of the form they took. It teaches that every form of government is at least equally frail as such a hypothetical democracy might have proven in the future to be, but by then that concern would have passed. Self-rule: The idea of a government operated by representatives chosen by and for the people, would have proven unfeasible in the eyes of the larger world, and thus so would the idea of a government based on so many important concepts fundamental to our unique empire, specifically one founded on what the Founding Fathers envisioned as universal equality.

The idea of freedom of speech, an independent-of-state community of journalists, the right to bear arms, the concept of a government both powerful yet limited in power by a written, established order of checks and balances; all those things would be gone, and would serve simply as evidence in a case study against the failed prospect of self-governance within humanity. The idea of a nation by the people and for the people, would have irrevocably proven impossible.

Will we allow ourselves to be the generation historically remembered for allowing this to happen?

Do not mistake my words as hyperbolic. With the election of 2016, the people of the United States chose a president who now leaves the rest of the world concerned about the state of American leadership. Our nation, once a proud light in a dark world, now threatens to depart from the very wax that allowed that candlelight to grow. Our standing as a “melting pot,” a place where the oppressed could find refuge, where the tired, weak, broken and ignored could find safety and shelter, has all been brought into question by the leadership we as a nation have chosen.

In Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton wrote “The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.”

Hamilton published those words regarding the ratification of the U.S. Constitution back in 1787, yet they are equally pertinent today.

Despite the 2016 election, and perhaps because of it, the U.S. is at least as politically divided now as it was back in the 1700’s, as the nation debated whether to become a nation at all. Margaret Sullivan, a media columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote about the plight of the national opinion on politics. She quoted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer as saying “Most Americans absorb Washington news with an approach of ‘wake me up when you stop fighting.'”

Yet we as a nation do not have the luxury of sleeping in until 11 a.m. on this issue. This is not an issue we can take a vacation from, not one which we can set aside like a vegetable we don’t want to eat, like a budget we can wait until September to pass.

This is an issue we must face now. We must, as a public, wake up and discuss our nation’s ideological future as vitally as we confront our individual budgets each day or week or month.

Other issues at hand include questions such as “Is it still noble to be a refuge for immigrants from around the world?” and “Should we commit the necessary resources to welcoming those immigrants?”

The answer to those questions is “yes.”

We as a nation must, I reiterate: must, now look inward and renew our resolve toward being the greatest nation on the planet again, evidenced by our stance toward the oppressed, forgotten, and in need. It IS still noble to be a safe-haven for the tired, and the abandoned of this world. We as a country are built upon the principle of every person’s freedom to pursue Life, Liberty, Happiness, and depending upon your perspective of history, property. It is vital we recommit to preserving these ideals, and evolving the ideal that all men and women are created equal. These are the concepts we are now called upon to recommit to exemplifying. The eyes of eternity will judge us for our next efforts.

The choice we should make is not an easily-executed one. The American citizen, as evidenced by the quote above, is more distrusting of the current government than perhaps ever before in our history.

People don’t vote now because they don’t see the point in voting between two bad options (as evidenced by voter turnout between the 2008 election, when America had  seemingly two good presidential candidates and 2016’s, when many citizens would argue the country had none). People don’t vote now because as the last election demonstrated, the popular vote in America does not necessarily determine the winner of the election because of the whole “electoral college” thing.

People don’t vote anymore because we don’t believe our little vote matters in the national election.

Yet the individual vote’s perceived insignificance is a reason to become MORE involved in the electoral process, not less. With the current results of the recent election, the question lurking below the surface in the people’s subconsciousness might boil down to “Why does what we have matter? With all this political corruption, how can a person say our government is really the best model, or even that the founding concepts were right?”

I believe they are, and henceforth aspire to argue on their behalf.

I have no illusions about the flaws in our government or in the system, I’m not naive. But I am a patriot, one who believes in the ideas of self-rule by and for the people. Above all, I believe our nation is great, not because of the flawed and mortal men and women who may administer our government, but because of the overwhelming principles and the flexible nature of the document all public officials swear to uphold and defend: The United States Constitution. I believe in our overwhelming ability as a citizenry to, when called upon as we are now, to affect change upon even the system itself so it becomes increasingly better with age.

I believe in the justness of the sacrifices so many men have made defending others from oppression on that very Constitution’s behalf, many of whom the Americans will honor tomorrow as part of Memorial Day.

In the coming essays in this series, I seek to make a solid, educated argument to this effect. I seek to answer the questions above, to create an open forum in which we as a public can have a grounded, educated discussion about what the United States does and should stand for, and how best to ensure the unity of the two. I also present consideration as to how we might best alter certain governmental procedures to accommodate the pursuit of living by our ideals; namely discussing the electoral college and if/why it should either continue to exist procedurally or be altered in a way that allows the popular vote to matter more.

Above all, I seek to convince the reader that the American cause is a noble one, and the United States government, despite the occasional failings and flaws of the men and women who operate it, is worth not only preserving, but improving, and that now more than ever, we must elect to do promptly do so.

Turning A Page Through High School Sports

I wake up this morning feeling like I’ve turned a new page.

I spent just under five years working at the Kansas State Collegian, the student newspaper at Kansas State University. I served in a lot of different positions, not always well and certainly never perfectly, but always intently.

Today though, when you turn the pages to the middle of the Manhattan Mercury, you’ll be able to find what is in many ways a turned page for me as well. Perhaps fittingly, that page is turned to the Sports section.

Last night I wrote my first article post-Collegian work, you can read it here. I covered Rock Creek High School’s first game in the 4A Division II high school baseball tournament here in Kansas.

It was a series of firsts for me. It was my first baseball game covered at any level. I’ve been a fan of baseball since elementary school, my love of the game predates my love for every other major sport except hockey, but I’d never covered a game. I’d never been to a high school game, let alone been in a press box for one. I’d also never covered a sporting event for any publication other than the Collegian, where I was blessed enough to cover K-State Soccer, Women’s Basketball, and to help cover Football in 2016-2017. And while last night’s coverage was far from perfect, it was a start I’m hopeful about.

I’m hopeful for the way I was able to write it and get it submitted fairly rapidly and with little instruction. I’m hopeful about the way I was able to travel and handle the multiple logistics that come with traveling to a game alone to cover something. I’m hopeful about the way I was able to get it right without a better journalist looking over my shoulder, and the way I was able to basically blend in among the other press-box media members and game officials.

None of these things of course is the least bit remarkable. Any journalist of any mediocre ability should be able to master them without err 100% of the time. Yet left alone independently I was able to not screw up. I didn’t lose the proverbial game for my proverbial team. I didn’t win it for them either, but human history is rife with examples of people who started their careers simply by not screwing up big opportunities they were given. In doing so, they left the door open to receive bigger ones later on. History is also rife with examples of people who tried too hard to make the most of their initial opportunities and who ultimately failed because of it.

I’d like to think I’ll prove to be in the former group, but even if I am to fail, I don’t think (having not gotten any feedback yet from my new bosses) that it’ll have been because of yesterday. I don’t intend to throw away my shot, but even if I throw one away, I don’t believe it was yesterday’s.

And that, friends, pumps me the heck up.

The Foreign Pleasure of Adrenaline

Ominuous clouds over Kansas State University’s Anderson Hall

I noticed the clouds change as I wrote, and went to the local stadium to get a few photos of them.

I look through a rectangular window facing north outside my basement level apartment and see the green leaves rustle in the wind outside. Instinctively I check my phone for tornado watches and warnings, noting the cloudy skies outside which don’t presently look like the type to birth tornados. Here in Kansas, I’ve seen these types of cloud before, been disarmed by the light appearance of them, only to watch them change throughout the evening into the types of thick clouds people here watch for.

The conclusion of my undergraduate studies and the end of the lease on my apartment this summer bring forth the prospect that this may be my last summer in northeast Kansas. if so, it may also be my last tornado season here.

I admit I’ve come to actually like it.

Obviously not the destruction, nobody likes that and I’m not so insensitive as to ignore the anguish affecting those who have lost property and family members to tornados.

But I admit there is a certain rush to them. There’s a certain adrenaline rush that comes from hearing the tornado siren go off and knowing you need to get inside somewhere. There’s a certain adrenaline rush from gathering up a few of your closest belongings, your emergency water and first aid kit, then taking shelter in whatever window-free room you can find.

There’s also few things more terrifying, and oddly, I think that’s why I’ll miss this part of the country if I ever move away from it, even if I end up moving somewhere like Texas where there are technically more tornados any given year than here in Kansas.

I’ve never been one to enjoy the effect of pumping adrenaline. I avoid scary movies (though that’s as much because I have a hauntingly-good memory and fear is a physically painful emotion), I don’t generally drive fast, even shooting firearms doesn’t excessively get me going.

There’s something about what tornados bring that I find I like. The prospect of helping others, as I was able to do in 2008 when a small city I had lived in was essentially destroyed (including one fatality), the prospect of surviving a close call with a beautifully powerful force of nature and maybe helping others learn more about them; these things excite me far more than most things I’ve done ever could.

As I contemplate what “home” means to me, and where I look to establish it next, I’m suddenly quite conscious that even the most dangerous things in life can sometimes be enjoyable. Like watching fire.

What scares you that you also enjoy?

Lichet’s Eulogy.

My Final Photo of Lichet

My final photo of Lichet, taken on Christmas Day, 2016.

I’ve heard it said people become a lot like their dogs.

I’d be very blessed if I’ve become anything like Lichet was.

What do you say about a dog like Lichet? What do you say about one who you watched, starting as a junior in High-School, grow from a fresh-out-of-the-womb puppy into a mature, dominate dog who basically ran the home she lived in? About a dog you once held for an evening and prayed over as she, still an infant, fought Parvo?

What do you say about a dog who lived, and taught you how to?

That’s where I’m at this morning as I remember Lichet.

In recent years I only saw her a couple of weeks each annum, but like a typical dog, her love never wavered. She lived on my parents’ goat farm, surrounded by dogs and cats and animals. She was a beautiful criminal with the coat of a Labrador (her father was part Lab, part Beagle) and the brain of a Jack Russell Terrier, a breed the American Kennel Club calls “Intelligent beyond measure.” She was an escape artist who on multiple occasions, usually while in heat, got arrested by animal control after getting out, running down the street, and biting someone. She would lead the dogs as they barked at any poor soul who turned onto their driveway, God forbid they actually enter through the gate and onto the property.

Except me. She never barked when my truck pulled in. On multiple occasions I surprised my mom by entering the yard and walking in without setting the dogs off. She may have come from brilliant stock, but my mom and I were ever-amazed at how Lichet could recognize my truck’s specific sound even from inside the house and often underneath multiple blankets, which she was fond of burrowing into, versus even my step-dad’s car, which she barked at without restraint. She loved me like a good dog always loves the boy who raises them. I wish I’d been there more for her.

She also loved walks. When she was first born, I would take her on mile-long walks around Burnside Loop on Fort Riley. She resisted the leash at first, as I believe most dogs do, but within a couple of weeks had learned to love it. From that point on nobody, stranger or family member, could ever grab a leash in her presence or say the word “walk” to her without her getting excited, even after I moved out and my parents moved onto a road with no sidewalks on which you could take a dog.

This ultimately led to her demise. I’m told that one day in April she got out and ran down the road as she so often did despite my parents’ best efforts to curtail her, and was hit by a passing car.

Lichet was the best of what I aspire to be. Nearly 14 years old at her passing, she came into my life as a puppy when I was in my late teenage years and grew parallel to me into a confident, powerful animal, a protective mom then grandma who never backed down and was never intimidated. Not by bigger animals, not by other dogs, and certainly not by people. She spent her final days looking after my decade-younger brother through some of his toughest times, but her legacy is the way she looked after me through some of mine.

I learned of her death on Mother’s Day 2017.

It’s with great sadness that I write about her today.

(Possibly High School) Poetry: Pine Needles

Editor’s note: This poem was originally found untitled but has been supplementarily named “Pine Needles.” Also, due to my desire to be fully transparent when publishing my earliest work (more on when I might have written this poem here), I have preserved original typos, including misuse of “it’s for “its” and “loose” for “lose” in stanza one to name just a couple. The linked post above details why I’ve done this. Enjoy.

Pine Needles

The pine needles fall one by one.
This is not a painless process,
The little tree flinches each time,
because the age of its core,
the age of it’s soul,
reveals that it doesn’t have many left to loose.

Each one is prickly on the end,
for many, the fallen forms a nuisance,
the type that pierce shoes,
cause delay and annoy people.

Yet in full bloom, these little needles smell good,
They fill the air around the tree
with infectious hope and enthusiasm,
Until they fall, when they suck for pedestrian and tree alike.

The bark is strong
But it’s weakened by holes
Written in it by the rains of
Former lovers comments.

Misc Musings: A Close Reading of Pine Needles?

Until yesterday, I thought I’d publish my high school poems on here. They I looked at them, and realized something: they’re all terrible.

At least, the 2006 ones are.

I found the 2006 poems which consisted of four “books”, as I labeled them, in a stack with miscellaneous others probably written about the same time. This dates their creation back to my junior year of high school, making them the first poems I ever wrote.

The collections are interesting to me because the poems reveals I had already established  certain tendencies. Seemingly from the first poem, I adopted the policy of dating and signing my work, apparently aware I’d enjoy reading it later.

One poem, however, I did decide to publish. I found it, which you can read here, handwritten among the stack, just below a poem dated February 2007. It was neither dated nor signed, so I’ll likely never know when I actually wrote it. Further intriguing is the fact that compared to my other work, especially 2006, this writing as significantly more sophisticated in nearly every way. By the time I wrote this and the 2007 poem found near it, I had already strayed from strictly-rhyming quatrains into the realm of open form. I had also started to stray a bit deeper intellectually, incorporating simple elements of symbolism.

In a way, “Pine Needles” is thus an interesting study for me because compared with what I found it around, it was a nice step forward for me as a writer. I hope you enjoy it.

Misc Musings: The Right To Growth

Growth sometimes means changing your mind about something you were once certain of.

It can mean doing things you once swore you wouldn’t, because sometimes you don’t know everything, and sometimes, even and perhaps especially in adulthood, you learn things. This is both Biblical: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me,” (1st Corinthians 13:11), and common sense. Yet I was caught completely off-guard not long ago by someone’s apparent disagreement with me on this, so much so that I had to take a few weeks and digest what she said and make sure I was confident in what I believed.

In this conversation, I told the person about something I was learning about Love, and how it was causing me to reconsider some of my previous beliefs and/or approaches to it. I received haunting criticism for it. She felt I was “going back” or “backpedaling.” She apparently saw it as a sign of immaturity.
But today I write to make a definite statement in my own defense, to aggresively and forcefully make a proclamation I’m willing to vigorously debate with anyone:

We must preserve our right as individuals to change our minds.

We must preserve the right to adapt our thinking and if necessary change our circumstances or our course. Failing to protect our right to change our mind also in effect yields our right to continue to grow, even as adults. Obviously I mean within the limits of the law, I.E. if you sign a contract of some kind you’re giving up your right to change your mind per the wording of that particular contract. What I am speaking of today is simply in circumstances regarding relationships and things of that nature, where only the laws of ethical conduct apply.

In my suspicion, adulthood is when we do most of our mental growing, making it all the more vital we preserve our rights to change our minds into and through the later portion of our lives.

We must never stop growing, reconsidering things, reanalyzing. It dishonors our existence if we allow ourselves and our ideas to stagnate. We must never, ever be so confident in our beliefs that we never are willing to reconsider them. We must, under all circumstances, continue to seek wisdom, continue to strive for perfection, and aspire to excellence.

I refuse to see changing one’s mind as a sign of immaturity. But if it is, I should think it better to be considered “immature” anyway.