Sunday, June 26, 2011

Party Time


I'm a Republican.  Yes, I know: a lot of my views seem too "worldly", or worse, dare I use the "e" word... too euro-friendly.   To be fair, I did live in Europe many years, and in recent years I've been traveling there for work.  So it should not come as a surprise that I'm impressed with a lot of Europe's accomplishments over the centuries.

But enough about those eccentric Europeans.   If I had to point to that one thing that drives the fundamental genius of the United States, I would say it is the two-party system.  In a planet that had only known a my-way-or-the-highway party system for thousands of years, the two-party system has to be that paradigm shift that evolution was looking for.  Nice try Italy, by the way, for trying to come up with a 16-party system.  I love my home away from home, but seriously.  On the other extreme, you have to love Yacov Smirnoff’s famous quote: “America, what a country!  In America you can always find a party.  In Russia, party always finds you!

But back to my Republican ways.  My opening statement will certainly come as a surprise to my close friends, who have often heard me describe myself as an Independent when it comes to politics.  I can almost hear them exclaim: huh?

My reply is simple: did you really understand what I meant when I said I was an Independent?  When somebody proclaims to be an Independent, there’s a lot of eyeball rolling and “go away” arm gesturing in disappointment.  Apparently all that is heard is “I’m not going to tell you how I really feel, but you can file me under ‘waffler’”.  Or just as bad, they’ll simply “file” you under the other guys’ party.  Not that I’m willing to cater to the over-simplistic knee-jerk reactions, but I thought I would try something different: every time I talk about my political views, I will do so in context to what I feel is important at that precise moment.

But let me be even more precise:  I don’t believe that the drama of single-party convictions is what we need to continue to be a world leader.  I understand that to be a true two-party system some people actually have to have some type of single-party convictions.  And that may very well hold true indefinitely, IF we were talking about the same handful of values that were important 200 years ago.  Sure, most of them still apply today in one way or another, but some don’t.  Slavery comes to mind.  Women’s roles is another one.  And then there’s the newer realities that didn’t apply then at all (the environment, space exploration, abortion, health care, to name a few).    Well, this may come as a shocker to most of my bleeding-heart conservative AND liberal friends (you know I love you ALL :) but: we are not living in the world of 200 years ago.  And when it comes to values, I’m sorry, but one size does not fit all.

So I will borrow from the “Serenity Prayer” to make my final point here: “God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things that are best handled by Republicans; 
the courage to let Democrats change the things they can;
 and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad


I remember when I first met my dad.  I think I was about 5 or 6, and I remember acting a little like Nikolai, my Scooby Doo-like Husky, when there’s a strange man in the house.  What makes it even more noteworthy is the fact that I was almost 3,000 miles from where I was born, in a strange country where people spoke funny.  It turns out of course that it was I who spoke funny.  And thus begun the story of half my life.

It’s not that my dad was “absent” in the bad sense of the term.  It was just a classic case of a dad who didn’t have a lot of interaction with his own dad, and so on all the way back to Adam.  Yet my dad spoke highly of his own father:  it turns out I come from a long line of hard-working dads, who, emotionally speaking only, put work ahead of family.  My dad was the first one to go to college in his family, and he certainly challenged the old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  About 7,000 miles in his case.

Since I grew up feeling that my dad was emotionally distant, we got off to a fairly cold start.  Nothing dramatic, but it wasn’t Leave it To Beaver either.  Regardless of where my relationship with him fell in the big picture, I chose early on in life to do what every confused teenager does best: blame a parent.

Yes, I had children of my own soon enough, which is when I automatically entered the I will do better than my parents stage.  That’s all well and good, but I realized soon enough that trying to beat your parents at parenting is a sure way to set yourself up for a pyrrhic victory.

I had the good fortune to work alongside my father for a brief but very productive period of my life.  It was five years to be precise.  Five years that were to forever change the way I look at life.

My dad may have been different in some ways, but I‘ll let you be the judge of that.  For whatever it’s worth, here are some things he taught me: I learned that being right, by itself, is worthless.  If you cannot follow through what you believe in with actions, then your righteousness is empty.  He taught me that hard work is indeed its own reward, as long as you value and respect what you are doing.  He taught me that consistency will always be important, even while we are bombarded with change at an overwhelming pace.

These are just a few of the great things that my dad taught me.  Today, as he grows old, and I realize perfectly well that he and I are on borrowed time, he manages to still deal one more lesson for me… the last time I said goodbye during a visit, as he hugged me at the airport and then walked away, I couldn’t help but notice what was written on the back of his t-shirt:

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” (Aristotle)

Happy Father’s Day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hey Joe...

My name is Joe, and I'm an angerholic.Yes, I admit it.  I spent many years being angry at someone or something.  I could never go too long without saying something that was not critical or judgmental.  Even my sense of humor strayed in the direction of making fun of someone else, rather than of myself.

I discovered soon enough that I was not alone.  In fact, I now believe I was in the majority.  It all felt very safe, I must say.  You quickly become aware that a lot of people share your anger, and you get to be cuttingly negative all the time.  Who the hell is going to get near you and try to hurt you?  Not me: I'm a survivor.

Billy Joel wrote a song back in the 70's called "Angry Young Man".  I remember getting hooked on it for a while, always feeling sorry for whoever that angry guy was.  There is a line in the song that goes, "I found that just surviving was a noble fight", and I particularly liked that line.  I wasn't quite sure why, I guess it just sounded cool.  Hell, I was a teenager, "Cat Scratch Fever" sounded cool to me then.

But I digress: fast forward to today, and I can't help but think how ironic that line is now.  Sure, surviving may sometimes be a noble fight, but engage in it too long and you're right back where you started: an angry survivor.  With grey hair. 

Which, in my opinion, is what William Faulkner had in mind in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech when he said (paraphrasing), "I believe the human race will not merely endure: it will prevail."  Survival mode is certainly a noble fight, but if we don't figure a way out of that labyrinth, we cannot possibly prevail.  If the trailer to the final story of our planet began with, "In a world stuck in survival mode to the very end..." it would not give me the impression that we ever really made it as a species.  I guess on that stage, Mr. Faulkner would have to concede to James Cameron for his more accurate depiction of our destiny in "The Terminator".  Good times.

Unless we figure out a way to transcend anger, I believe it will be impossible for us to prevail.  But until we find a more powerful replacement for anger, it’s tough to let it go.  The sheer power of the universe itself seems too overwhelming at times for us not to have some type of crutch that we can swing around, hoping to knock some heads off and dodge a bullet or two.  It’s almost like there is a voice inside our heads whose sole purpose is to taunt us about the shame of being weak.  Anger promotes fear, and being feared is anything but weak, right??

Not quite.  But hey, I know what you're thinking: "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself.  But being as these are angry words, the most powerful weapon in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”

Well, do ya, punk??

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bueller?

Yes, I know.... a blog, especially one called "The Daily Presence" cannot become known for its absence.  The irony is way too much.  I have a long, boring story about why so much time went by before publishing something since my debut a couple of months ago, but as I value all nine of my followers, I will spare you all the details.  Let's just say it involves a stolen laptop, and moving from one house to another.  There, I spared you the details.

On the plus side, I have a new entry that I will post this weekend, I hope I will keep all nine of you entertained, maybe add a follower or two to the crowd.  As for publishing dates going forward, I'm not sure yet but I'm leaning towards semi-monthly (every two weeks).  Eventually I would like to make it a weekly blog, but I think I need the practice first.

Have a good one now.


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