Where I Stand

Declaration

I’m a multi-generation Southerner and I’m me. One of those things may cause you to make assumptions about the other. But if you’re interested in knowing how I really see things, please read on.

My great, great, great grandfather died as a confederate officer in the 6th Florida Infantry. However I have never owned nor flown a rebel flag. That’s because my grandfather, father, uncles, cousins and brother all fought under the flag of the United States of America – the one we pledge allegiance to frequently.

This is where it belongs: Proudly retired.

I don’t put patriotic slogans and sayings all over the bumper of my truck or post them on social media. If you do, that’s fine. Just don’t suggest that I’m un-American for not sharing them. I demonstrated my patriotism and love of country by actually joining the military and serving honorably in both the enlisted and officer ranks.

If you want to do something meaningful for a veteran, go spend some time with a friend or family member who served, especially one who fought in World War II or Korea. There are fewer of them around every day.

Ditto for the religious messages. I believe in separation of church and state. Period. I believe salvation is an intensely personal matter, not an issue that can or should be addressed by my government. If you choose to worship differently than I do or not at all, that’s fine – and it’s why that separation is necessary.

Likewise, I believe pushing prayer in public schools is nothing more than a way to divide people into camps of us versus them. It distracts teachers and students from the already difficult job of education. I prayed a lot in school and I didn’t need nor want a teacher’s permission to do so. If I accept your permission, then I’m admitting your right to withdraw it. And I’m tacitly admitting your ability to control how and when I pray. Sorry, but that’s not happening.

Another thing I believe in is freedom – for everyone. I have a right to own my guns, to say what’s on my mind and to be, in the words of Justice Brandeis, “let alone.” That’s one reason I also believe people ought to have a right to marry whoever they want. And, no, I don’t like the idea of abortion. But I still think that’s an issue best left to a woman, her doctor and her conscience. (If men could get pregnant, I doubt there would be any question about that.)

They are free to be unrepentant assholes. I’m free to tell them so — or cause them real pain by ignoring them.

The thing about freedom is that sometimes we don’t like when other folks exercise theirs. But freedom isn’t a gift from government. Freedom belongs to us originally, and we agree – on a very limited basis – to relinquish some of that freedom in exchange for civilization.

Speaking of civilization, working in the public policy arena has made me value pragmatism over ideology. Political labels are as useless as car names for judging performance. (Ever seen a Ford Falcon fly?) Creating sound public policy takes focus, patience and hard work. Those willing to do that work and make a logical case for their positions are the ones who get my vote consistently, regardless of party or label.

Too often, labels and symbols are just ways to keep us from having to think too much about someone as an individual.

For example, I don’t wear a cowboy hat and boots, but I have vaccinated cattle, repaired fences and cut steers.

I don’t wear camouflage everywhere I go, but I have killed more game and caught more fish than many folks I know who do.

My truck isn’t a “monster” because I was taught to use four-wheel drive to get out of a hole, not get deeper in one. And if the road is all that bad, I’ll walk or take a boat to the woods.

That reminds me: I believe that effective conservation, habitat preservation and good environmental stewardship are essential if I want to continue hunting, fishing and spending time in the woods. I’m willing to pay more and sacrifice in other ways because those are the things that make life worth living to me.  And they make life possible for all of us.

This is worth protecting.

But I don’t subscribe to any new age beliefs, worship wild animals or treat the outdoors like a museum. Being in the woods is like being at home to me, and that’s good enough to make me work to protect our natural heritage.

At the same time, I consider PETA to be nothing more than a PR machine for celebrities. PS — Bambi wasn’t a documentary. And changing speed limits in some shipping lanes can save more animals than the drama queens on Whale Wars ever will.

I don’t celebrate ignorance. Someone said it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. Intelligence can be a matter of birth, but ignorance is a matter of choice. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, study and learn. If you lose a debate, study the issue more or consider revising your position.

Being ill-mannered and low-class aren’t virtues, and being poor isn’t an excuse for either.  Nor is being rich.

I believe a lot of things like courtesy, respect, integrity and decency can’t and don’t need to be legislated. But I also reserve the right to call a jackass a jackass. Public shame is underrated in my view.

On the other hand, I never go out of my way to offend anyone and I certainly don’t go out of my way to find offense. I freely and frequently exercise my right to not think about something at all.

I can have absolutely no opinion sometimes and be perfectly content with that. There are many people and groups who thrive on any attention, even negative attention. I’d rather just ignore them and let them starve.

Finally, I believe we find what we look for the hardest. If we look for problems in the world or in other people, there are plenty to be found. But if we look for blessings, joy and goodness, there are even more of those out there.

All of us have a limited number of days, hours and minutes on this planet. The happiest people I know are the ones who spend as much of that time as possible being grateful.

Personally, I’m very grateful to live in the South and in the United States – and I won’t apologize for my unbridled optimism about the future of both.

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