For the second installment in "Playlist Apocalypse", my playlist to end all playlists, we will discuss "Alive" by P.O.D. When this single exploded onto the scene, I was 17 years old and working in a long-term care facility as a nurses aide. I worked my regular shifts, then I picked up extra hours sitting with an elderly man with dementia who lived in the same facility.
This guy was pretty wealthy and his family paid me in cash. They would often give me an extra $20 for lunch, so I ate well during that year (like I needed that...). It was great to have a little extra tax-free spending money. I really hope the IRS isn't reading this...
Anyway, his dementia stemmed from an inoperable brain tumor. I was the only one who could talk him down when he got freaked out and I was the only one who could restrain him when he couldn't be talked down. He was on steroids and he would have intermittent violent episodes which could get pretty scary. One of the few things that calmed his nerves was watching MTV. I soon found out that it wasn't for the music, but so he could watch Britney Spears, J. Lo, and Christina Aguilera dance...
Every so often, I would have a reprieve from the onslaught of pop torture when the "Alive" video would come on TRL amidst P. Diddy's "Bad Boy for Life", Mandy Moore's "Crush", Britney Spears' "I'm a Slave 4 U", and Sum 41's "Fat Lip" (ok, I didn't mind "Fat Lip", they just played it to death).
This wasn't a bad gig, even with all the throw-away pop music I had to endure. I got to sit in a room and watch music videos all day. Occasionally I would have to carry on an extended conversation with a guy who was no longer verbal. He didn't seem to mind if we just grunted back and forth for 20 minutes. Honestly, I think he just needed some human interaction.
This song was released just prior to September 11th and when tragedy struck that morning, this song instantly took on a whole new meaning for any American who had been watching TRL or listening to alt-rock radio. The positive message of "Alive" was just what America needed. It was just what I needed. You can read more about P.O.D.'s lasting influence in my life, here.
The video for "Alive" was #2 on TVU's “50 Best Music Videos of All Time” list and was one of the most played videos of 2001 on MTV and MTV2, despite being released late in the year. The song was nominated for a Grammy in 2002 for "Best Hard Rock Performance", but was beat out by "Crawling" by Linkin Park", another important band to me during those times. You can read my thoughts on Chester Bennington's tragic suicide, here.
"Alive" was nominated for several other awards. The album, "Satellite" was released on September 11th, 2001 to overwhelmingly positive critical reviews. First week album sales were 133,000 and it stayed in the top 10 for several weeks. It went on to sell over 3 million copies (triple platinum) in the US.
This song delivered a positive, uplifting message that America desperately needed at the time and it had a long lasting effect on me. This is one of the few "nu-metal" (if you want to call it that...) albums that I still listen to on a regular basis. It's great front to back.
To this day, every time I play "Alive", that opening riff hits me like a bus hitting a '66 Dodge Dart (watch the video). When that opening riff is followed by Sonny belting out the first verse, "Every day is a new day. I'm thankful for every breath I take", I can't help but be hit with a tidal wave of emotions. For a millisecond, there's the overwhelming anger, sadness, fear, and helplessness that I felt on 9/11. It’s amazing how a song, even just the opening riff, can instantly take you to another place and time. That momentary rush of emotion is quickly followed by a realization of the all encompassing, redeeming hope of God's love. All is right in the world. Everything is in perspective. I belt out the chorus, whether it comes on in the car or in an Applebee’s. My wife shakes her head and I sing...
I feel so alive
Have you ever stood outside on a starless night? Not in the amber glow of the city, but in the country? The desert? Far from civilization. Far from the light pollution of the city. No houses with porch lights glowing. No highway with its river of headlights streaming past. Just you and your thoughts and the darkness.
Somehow, in the peaceful nothingness, I feel closer to God, although I cannot see His face or even hear His voice. He is silent, but He is near.
This is the season of life in which I now find myself. I'm standing in a field. The air is perfectly still. The sky is perfectly black. The only sound is silence.
But am I really in a field? How can I know? I have no point of reference. I can't see my hand in front of my face. I could just as easily be in a cave or on the edge of a cliff or on a stepping stone in the midst of a swamp.
Even in the uncertainty, I feel the closeness of God. I feel His direction. I feel an impending shift in the atmosphere. There is a change coming. I can sense that much, but just what or where or when? I have no idea.
I have tried to figure out the answer on my own. I've prayed about it. I've made pros and cons lists. Here's the problem: Even if I were to make a decision based solely on selfish ambition, I would be clueless.
The problem isn't that I'm stuck with no hope of finding an exit. The problem is that I have TOO MANY possibilities. I have what you might call "analysis paralysis".
I have too many possibilities, but most of those are totally out of my control. They are only viable if someone else makes decision "A" and not "B". I am at the mercy of the whims of others. I have all my plans worked out, "A" through "Z". Still no answer...
My "if, then" chart is mind-boggling. Depending largely on circumstances that are out of my control, this time next year could find me in one of several different states or still in Indiana. I could be promoted at my current company, I could be in a new position at a different company, I could start my own company, or I could be in full time ministry. (I guess I should add the possibility of losing my mind and living under a bridge, but I think I have enough other options that I can avoid that one...)
I truly have no idea what to do. Maybe I'll get lucky and fate will choose for me...
I may not know what to do, but I do know that God is up to something. At this moment, I'm pretty sure He's teaching me to trust Him. Trusting Him when you DON'T know what's going on is a lot different than "trusting Him" when you have a firm grasp on the wheel, a steady wind in the sail, and a course clearly set.
It's easy to keep going forward when you know where you're going. It's a different story when you don't know where you are or what lies ahead and your instruments are on the fritz. It's not easy to keep moving when you can't see what lies ahead, but I've learned that it's easier to steer a ship when it's moving. So, I'll just have to move by faith.
I don't know if I'm at the edge of a cliff or in a field or a cave or a swamp, but I know that whether I dive, walk, crawl, swim, or trudge ahead, God will be right there with me.
In a previous blog post, How to Conquer Your Greatest Fear, I discussed overcoming fears that hold us back and reasons to not be afraid of failure. When God is on our side, there is literally nothing to fear.
This reminds me of the words of a simple, but powerful song:
"We bear the mark of the uncreated God so what should we fear?
We bear the scars of the holy risen Son so tell me what should we fear?
Every threat is hollow because our victory is already set in stone
We are the fearless
We will not, we will not, we will not be afraid
We will not, we will not, we will not be afraid
Though we stand in this dark valley (we will not be afraid)
For we know that You are near
For we know that You are near"
~ "Fearless" by For Today
Why do so many Christians hate Muslims?
Maybe hate is too strong of a word...
You know how the saying goes: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... It's probably a flag waving, fundamentalist, Muslim-hating Christian.
Don't get me wrong, I understand why Americans are angry. I understand why Christians are angry.
It was a group of Muslim terrorists that carried out the horrific, cowardly attacks of 9/11.
It is a conglomerate of Muslim terrorist groups who are marching across the Middle East under the black flag of ISIS (ISIL); raping, murdering, pillaging, kidnapping, and torturing countless people of any faith who do not completely bow to their will.
I get it. We're angry.
We have every right to be angry.
But I'm afraid we are allowing our anger to turn to hate.
I'm seeing a lot of angry, even hateful rhetoric from a lot of my friends regarding people of Middle Eastern descent and especially those of the Muslim faith.
Every time something else happens, whether a bombing in Manchester, a knife attack in London, a shooting in Orlando or Paris, or a driver running people down with a truck in Barcelona , we look for someone to blame.
Liberals are are blaming cops, guns, and conservatives. Conservatives are blaming Muslims, Mexicans, and liberals.
Either way it's us vs. them. Someone different than us is the problem and we don't hesitate to point a self-righteous finger. We freely spew our hateful rhetoric.
Yes, even the Christians.
Whatever happened to, "Love your enemy..."?
Whatever happened to, "Be angry and sin not..."?
This doesn't look like love to me...
I see the Facebook posts every day. My "Christian" friends sharing articles about the evils of Islam or congratulating a group of bikers for threatening or beating a Muslim protester.
The content of these posts is disturbing enough, but the tone... The tone is pure hate.
"Love it or leave it!" (In reference to America)
"Muhammed was a pedophile!"
"Islam isn't a religion of peace!"
"Send the Muslim dogs back where they came from!"
"Infidel and proud of it!"
"I'll see your jihad and raise you a crusade!"
"The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim!"
I'm not a Muslim apologist, so I won't spend much time defending against these claims. (Many of these statements may be based on truth.) As a Christian, though, I will defend against this type of rhetoric and the anti-Christ spirit behind it!
This type of inflammatory speech is counterproductive to the cause of Christianity. It undermines the mission of the church.
As an American, you have every right to speak your mind. As a Christian, however, we hold ourselves to a standard that is higher than, "Is it legal?"
Once again, I won't get into arguments over the truthfulness or validity of such posts. I just don't understand how we can justify our actions and attitudes while still claiming to be Christians.
It's easy to see why SOME Muslims hate Christians. Islam is a religion with absolute, unquestioning obedience to God as its central theme. Radical forms of Islam have promoted and advocated violence against infidels (those who are not obedient to Islam). These radical Muslims hate disobedience to Allah and by the principle of transference, hate Christians, westerners, gays, etc.
Even at that, there are over a billion Muslims in the world. Don't you think if they were ALL terrorists, we'd ALL be dead by now?!
Yes, there have been well over 3,000 deaths (including one uncharacteristically "successful" attack on 9/11) in the US during the past 40 years that were the direct result of Islamic terrorism.
I will absolutely condemn this and any other violent attack by Islamic extremists or anyone else!
Still, that amounts to about one half of one percent of all homicides. Where is the daily outrage at the other criminals who are responsible for a combined 99.5% of lives claimed by violence in this country?
Is it possible that our extreme bias against Muslims is due to the fact that they look, talk, dress, and worship differently than us?
How can we fix our broken Christianity?
What should we do to counteract this trend?
First of all, we must admit that we have a problem. Isn't that the first step to recovery, after all?
How should we, as Christians, really respond to radical Islam? This is not even the friendly guy at the neighborhood falafel joint who serves your lunch... We're talking about actual terrorists... Here are 5 responses that might actually do some good:
When we put these things into practice, we will see our empathy muscles begin to grow and our anger subside. We will be more effective in our conversation. We will look more like the Church that Christ envisioned. We will stop tarnishing His good name. Remember, we are "ambassadors for Christ" after all (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Pro tip: You can use the same principles to temper your words and actions when addressing a wide array of social issues. Football? The flag? The anthem? Black Lives Matter? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
A poor excuse for an Apocalypse...
So, here we are... September 24th, 2017... the day after the end of the world.
Here I thought I had these great front row seats to the apocalypse, but it's Sunday morning and we're still here... I want my money back!
Yesterday came and went and nothing happened. Well, not exactly nothing... I had breakfast with the family at the Townhouse Cafe, a local eating establishment. (I recommend the chicken fried steak and eggs.) Heavy on the cholesterol, but light on the death and destruction.
In the afternoon, I officiated a wedding for an old friend of mine. It was great to reconnect with a lot of people I hadn't seen in years. Eric, a friend from our high school days, showed up in a Pac-Man suit. No joke. Pants. Tie. Jacket. The whole nine yards. It was like a giant screen shot of a Pac-Man level and it was EPIC! Unfortunately, still no opening of the sky. No trumpets. No pale horse. Wait! Was that a slight neighing I just heard in the distance? Never mind, it's just the old mare in the pasture across from the old, country church...
The gallows of time
Do you want to know why I never feel any relief OR disappointment when one of these end-of-the-world dates passes us by? Because I have yet to actually believe one. No, not even for a fleeting moment. I believe that we will not know the "day, nor the hour". I don't believe we are supposed to know and I don't believe we should even want to know.
The entire purpose of any signs of the end is to urge us to be prepared. Here's a news flash for you: The end is near for all of us. No one from the time of the prophecies of John the Revelator (or even Daniel) till now has been able to escape the slow and steady creep of death that stalks us all. The warnings all ring true for everyone, then. THE end may be near, but MY end is certain and nearer still. I could die at any moment. I am at the mercy of God and chance. We all stand in the shadow of the gallows of time.
Is that depressing enough for you? I hope so. It's a wakeup call. No charge. If you get nothing else from the study of prophecy (or this blog post), get that tidbit. Time doesn't stop for any of us and death doesn't take a day off. Be ready.
Snake oil and books for sale
Whenever I hear another prediction about the end of the world, I can't help but laugh at the misguided attempts to pin down the apocalypse to a convenient date and time. I was only four years old in 1988, so I doubt I remember the predictions, but I remember everyone laughing for years after the fact about the less-than-accurate predictions of Edgar Whisenant in his book, "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988". I'll bet he had a hard time unloading copies after January 1st, 1989...
There are always false prophets, misguided religious zealots, charlatans, snake oil salesmen, and downright hacks who are trying their best to pinpoint a date for things to fall apart, usually for profit.
This time around, it was a self-proclaimed "Christian Numerology Expert". I find this type of character to be particularly laughable. Christian mystics who dabble in astrology and magic always confound me, especially when they are hardline fundamentalists. Yes, there are some numerical patterns in scripture and some of those were intentionally included and have significance. None of these numbers have any mystical properties or contain the key to some elusive Biblical "code", however.
Evidently, in the alternate reality these people live in, God is a closeted pagan who feels compelled to schedule His grand (re)entrance to coincide with some celestial event, such as a blood moon or eclipse. In 1 Corinthians 1:22, Paul complains of superstitious Jews who look for a sign and educated Greeks who look to human knowledge. The problem with both is a lack of faith. Jesus also spoke of this problem when He said, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." (John 4:48)
Jesus spoke of sign-seeking again when He said, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign". (Matthew 12:39) He knew that they were simply testing Him. They had no faith. The prophecy hacks who try to predict the rapture, the tribulation, or armageddon are in the same boat. If they had a little more faith and a little less fear, they wouldn't need to obsess over such trivial things as dates and signs.
I just hope they can figure out what do with all those copies of "92,317 Reasons the Rapture Will Be on 9/23/17"...
A Brief and Pathetic Confession
I am not a drug addict. I don't spend my waking moments looking for my next fix. I'm terrified of needles. I'm definitely not snorting anything up my nose! Thanks to a cleft lip, I have what you might call an "asymmetrical" nose. It's not like a Picasso painting or anything, but it's not something you'll see in GQ, either. Regardless, it's my nose and I want to keep it!
There's literally nothing appealing to me about the prospect of using drugs. In fact, I don't even drink!
Well, not alcohol, anyway...
Monster, Rockstar, NOS, Venom, and Red Bull on the other hand... Well, I've drank enough energy drinks to fill a tanker truck... or five or six.
Let's Get Real
Let me just preface this by saying that I'm not a scientist, so I can't say conclusively what these drinks do to your body. You're not a scientist either (OK, maybe someone reading this is, but most of you aren't), so stop being so self-righteous about your drink choices. Don't lecture me about my health and how my heart is going to explode or I'll lose my duodenum in the toilet or whatever the prevailing myth is these days. In fact, even if you ARE a scientist, you don't have any conclusive evidence linking these drinks to any real negative effects (not a causal relationship, anyway), so get off your self-righteous, health-conscious high-horse.
Also, I'm pretty sure the Monster "M" isn't a secret, Hebrew code for "666". It's just an "M" that's shaped like a claw mark... I really doubt that Satan has the energy or disposable income to expend on inventing and marketing energy drinks in a subversive plot to control the youth of America. I think he has his grubby little hands full with all the heroin, meth, and prescription pills that are wreaking havoc on society. If you want to wag a finger, take a look at pharmaceutical companies that are peddling real poison for profit.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'm pretty sure these drinks aren't harmless. Yes, they have 17 different B vitamins, but I really doubt that I need 240mg of caffeine, or taurine, or l-carnitine, or whatever other innocuous sounding poisons they are pumping into energy drinks these days. Most likely, I just need more than 4 hours of sleep... Then there is the issue of the sugar. That's the real killer. Once again, I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but common sense (and Michelle Obama for the last 8 years) tells us that we just don't need the sugar.
So, sometime in July 2016, I decided that I was going to stop drinking energy drinks for good on August 1st. That date came and went and I was still drinking an energy drink every day... two on some particularly rough days...
The months past and I kept trying to quit. I kept setting new deadlines and I kept missing them. I just couldn't make myself stop. I began to think there was something wrong with me. Was I really this physically addicted to the sugar, caffeine, and taurine? Was it a psychological addiction? Was I just weak?
The answer was yes. Yes to all.
Once I came to that realization, I could really grapple with the issues and put this addiction behind me. That and I found my why.
Getting to the Roots
Let me talk about the addiction first. For those of you who have dealt with an addiction to narcotics or alcohol, an addiction to energy drinks may seem like a small thing. It may pale in comparison, but to me it was no small thing. I was physically addicted to the substances in these drinks. Perhaps even more powerful was the psychological addiction. Every time I went into a gas station, every time I was behind the wheel (I drive thousands of miles for work), every time I was working on an intense project, I had this impulse to grab an energy drink. I just needed one in my hand. The final issue was the fact that I had no impulse control. This really bothered me.
It wasn't just the addiction itself that presented a problem for me, but what it represented. I was teaching and preaching to teens in a juvenile detention center on a weekly basis. Sometimes it was church. Sometimes it was a drug and alcohol class. Sometimes it was personal mentoring. Nearly always the subject of discipline and self-control would come up. I believed in what I was saying, but who would believe me if I couldn't practice what I preach?
The bottom line is this: when it comes to addiction it's never a "small problem". The causes and mechanics of addiction are the same for everything from caffeine to cocaine and PCP to pornography. If I could be an energy drink addict, I could become a heroin addict. On the surface it may look harmless, but the roots run deep. I had to get to the root and cut it out.
Finding my "why".
When I finally had my breakthrough, it was because I found my "why": I don't want to be bound by any substance, no matter how innocuous. Whether women or whiskey; cigarettes or soda; coffee or cocaine, I don't want to be a slave to anything.
I cannot reach my calling or my best and highest purpose without first being free of the "weight" of an addiction, no matter how small. It's the "little foxes" that spoil the vine after all...
Charlottesville is a tragedy. I couldn't care less about your opinion on who is to blame. Some want to blame Trump or the neo-Nazis or BLM or other anti-Nazi protesters. I get it. I'm frustrated that it took so much time and pressure for Trump to speak up. I am sick and tired of the racial discord. I wish we lived in a world where the word "Nazi" only existed in history books. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. The bottom line is this: the man who drove his car into a crowd, killed 32 year old Heather Heyer, and injured 19 others is responsible for this tragedy. The entire weight of the blame should be squarely on his shoulders.
He is to blame, but that isn't the end of the conversation.
If we are being honest with ourselves, it is obvious that the hate speech, racism, and ultra-nationalism touted by so many on the far right are only fanning the flames of division in this country. It breaks my heart to see so many of my conservative friends and family take up the refrain.
Conservatives cannot let hate become the new platform of the right. To my conservative friends: It's time to start taking the high road again and take back your movement from the clutches of hate, racism, and ultra-nationalism.
Please stop the name calling. If you want to talk politics, read up on policy. Calling someone names because they vote, dress, worship, look, or think different than you is not politics. It's ignorance and it needs to stop. Especially in the church.
Stop defending racists just because you disagree with the person they are fighting against. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. He is my neighbor and so is my enemy. Get where I'm going with this? Jesus said that it isn't good enough to just love your "neighbor", but that we must also love our enemy (Matthew 5:43-44). What he is telling us is that even our enemy is our neighbor. That means someone with a different political opinion is our neighbor. Someone with a different race, religion, or ethnicity is also our neighbor.
There are few things more frustrating than discussing politics with someone who cannot tell you what they believe on an issue, only how wrong the other side is. Don't be that guy. Don't let your disagreement over political issues turn to hate. Don't become a racist because you hate what the BLM guy on TV is saying about the police. Judging an entire group by the words or actions of one member always leads to hatred. I have "Christian" friends who are cheering on the guy who runs into the crowd with murder in his heart with the reasoning that "it's their own fault for not getting out of the street". What exactly is Christlike about that?!
The hateful rhetoric in public discourse is causing tensions to boil over. The world is full of darkness. I understand that, but the church should be a beacon of hope and light. There is no room for racism or any anti-anyone rhetoric in the church. Never in my life have I heard so much ignorant, racist, anti-everybody-different speech from my "Christian" friends and family as I have in the past year.
This is not to say that everyone in my friends and family circle is a racist. I generally try not to surround myself with those types of people. There are several, however, who are so adamantly against the liberal movement that they become de facto white nationalists. It really has little to do with ideals of white supremacy, but a feeling that they are being silenced by political correctness.
Speaking of political correctness... Liberals cannot continue to bully conservatives into silence. We should ALL have the right and freedom to express our opinions, even when we are wrong. Also, we should not be surprised, offended, or angry when someone else does. Freedom for all or freedom for none.
We are all part of the human race. We need to love one another, regardless of any other variable.
This is why I am taking a stand against the rising tide of an anti-Christ spirit that I see in my conservative AND liberal friends. I do not find my identity in my race, ethnicity, nationality, denomination, political affiliation, or even my flag. I find my identity in Christ and I hope to show a Christlike love to everyone I meet.
I believe and live by the words of Paul in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
My race is human. My identity is in Christ. My kingdom is not of this world. My allegiance is to God & my fellow man.
#stopthehate #lovewins #charlottesville #myraceishuman
Yesterday was easily one of the best days of my life.
There are a few moments in life that I will never forget. Moments that changed me as a person. Among those moments are my wedding day, the day my son was born, the day I was baptized (and about a year later when I received the Holy Ghost), playing my first gig with my band, recording in a "real" studio, and getting the news that I had been approved for my ministers license with the UPCI.
Those were definitely milestones in my life. Some were personal, some were related to ministry, but this one may top the list. Yesterday, August 6th, 2017, I baptized my son, Aiden, in Jesus name.
It's very much like that moment when you first hold your new baby in your arms - you just can't describe it. It's beyond words. It's something you have to experience to understand. Suffice it to say that I am happy, proud, and forever changed once again.
Kneeling at the altar with him as he repented and gave his heart to Jesus was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever been blessed to experience. Then, not only witnessing his baptism, but being able to do it myself was an unrivaled joy and privilege.
Later in the evening when we told him that we were proud of his decision, he said, "It wasn't really me that decided." I asked him what he meant and he said, "I prayed last night and asked God if I should get baptized and I felt strongly that He said yes."
Like I said...
Best. Day. Ever.
I am truly heart-broken over the news of Chester Bennington's suicide. Not just because he was a famous rockstar, but for many other reasons. I want to share a few of those with you. These are in no particular order, so don't read too far into it.
1. I was a huge fan of Linkin Park during the Hybrid Theory/Meteora era. Their music helped me get through some rough times. I could relate at the time and it was cathartic for me. And yes, I am sad that a creative person won't be able to create his art anymore.
2. Chester was a fellow human being with a soul and hopes & dreams who felt so hopeless and alone that he took his own life. From what I've read, Chester was the victim of child abuse, struggled with drugs and alcohol, and was mourning the loss of his friend, Chris Cornell who also committed suicide just a few weeks ago. Today would have been his friend's 53rd birthday. Linkin Park also took a lot of flak recently from fans and trolls alike on social media due to a drastic departure from the "Linkin Park sound" on the band's latest album, One More Light. I'm not saying that I know why he took his own life, but I know these things couldn't have helped. This has nothing to do with his rockstar status. I have had friends and family take their own lives. Suicide is always a tragedy.
3. This is particularly sad because of Chester's six children who are now facing the future without their father.
This is not the time for jokes or harshness or self-righteousness. This is the time to show our love. I know we all process these things differently, but there are a few things I think we can agree on. Suicide is a preventable tragedy. As Christians, it is our responsibility to love others with a love that is obvious. I hope I never speak with judgement or condescension toward anyone. I don't know the spiritual, psychological, and emotional battles that any other person is facing. I can only love them and show them that love in a Christ-like manner. I can do that regardless of all other factors, so let me take this opportunity to tell you all that it doesn't matter what our differences are, know that I love you and you are not alone. Keep your head up. It does get better. My thoughts and prayers are with the guys in Linkin Park, as well as all of Chester's friends and family.
Share the love. Pass it along.
This post is the first installment of an ongoing series entitled, "Playlist Apocalypse". My playlist to end all playlists. This series will consist of short posts, each highlighting a song that had an impact on me for one reason or another. Some of these may have personal stories attached and some, like this one, simply spoke to me in a moment or reflected a snapshot in my own life.
Caveat: You may not like some of these and that's OK. Also, my discussion of a song or band/artist is not necessarily an endorsement, it's just a reflection on that single song and its impact on me. Your mileage may vary...
Please comment with your own songs that have had an impact on you or hold a special meaning for you. Hope you enjoy.
Every Day Is Exactly the Same
Have you ever felt that you are stuck on repeat, just a pawn in someone else's game? A hamster on a wheel? That no matter how much you try to make a change, you are doomed to repeat the same routine with the same result?
In "Everyday is Exactly the Same", Trent Reznor sings, "There is no love here and there is no pain. Everyday is exactly the same..."
Sometimes it's the simplest songs that resonate with us the most. This one cuts deep to the core of some of the emotions I have wrestled with during the more difficult moments in my life when it seemed like I was going nowhere and had no real sense of direction anyway. I don't find this song depressing. In fact, it was (and still is) very cathartic for me. Haunting, yet hopeful.
America at the Crossroads
America is at a crossroads. We have to choose what kind of nation we are going to be. I think we can all agree on that.
The problem is that we have been fed a lie. We are told that we have two choices. Hillary or Trump. This is a lie. The choice is not between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump or Democrat and Republican or liberal and conservative.
The choice is much more important than that.
This choice is far more important than who will be president for the next four years. It's even more important than the appointment of supreme court justices during the next presidential term.
The choice is between liberty and tyranny. Freedom and totalitarianism.
You think I'm being overly dramatic... I'm not.
I am absolutely serious.
The freedoms that you and I enjoy are on the line and most of us don't even realize it. Most voters are so focused on our hatred for Clinton or Trump that we are blind to the fact that, on a real foundational level, they are the same.
"But, Jaredith...", you say, "one is conservative and the other is liberal. One is a Democrat and one is a Republican. One is a career politician and one is a successful businessman. They are nothing alike."
To that I say, "You are missing the point."
Sure, Trump may claim to be conservative (for the time being) and Hillary may be a career politician. Sure, their politics may be different. One may be pushing for one vision of America and the other for something entirely different, but in reality they believe in the same thing.
Trump and Hillary. Republicans and Democrats. Conservatives and liberals. They all have one thing in common. They believe the solution to America's problems is found in government. More government. More laws. More control.
All of the rhetoric is just that... Words that stir up emotion in people and incite them against their perceived rival. The end goal in either case is the same. Power.
This is where Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party come in. Libertarianism isn't just the third choice, it's the American choice.
This country was founded on the ideals of personal and economic liberty. These also happen to be the foundational principles of the Libertarian Party. The other parties pay lip service to ideals of liberty and inclusivity, but they don't practice what they preach. Their policy tells a very different story.
We are only free as long as we keep the government in check. The government will only continue to grow and take more power. We have seen this happen under the Bush and Obama administrations, with the executive branch seizing more power at every opportunity. The same thing has happened in the Supreme Court. We have reached the point that the executive and judicial branches are, for all practical purposes, the legislative branch 2.0 and 3.0.
"Let's write a new law! All the kids are doing it!" - Random Elected Official
We are in danger of losing more freedoms every day. This trend is only being perpetuated by both "major" parties.
I get why some Libertarian views are hard for conservatives to stomach. Gay marriage, abortion, legalization of drugs, etc...
(Not all Libertarians are pro-choice, by the way. Gary Johnson is, which is why I can't really get behind him fully and give him my support as a candidate. An unborn baby's right to life is a human rights issue that I believe will eventually trump the civil rights issue of a woman's. Conservatives should check out Austin Petersen, a strong, pro-life Libertarian.)
Liberals are concerned that Libertarians support the right to bear arms.
(What part of "...shall not be infringed" do you not understand? Anyway...)
Here is the reality.
I'm a Libertarian. I don't want to get high. I don't want to get gay-married. I just don't want the government to tell me that I can't.
This gets a little hard for some people to follow...
Here's how it works: Just because I believe/do/don't do something doesn't mean I want the government to force everyone else to believe/do/not do it.
That's hard to comprehend when we are so used to the Republicrat method of taking a hard right or left stance and forcing the losing side to acquiesce to your will.
Liberals want to ban guns, sugar, and freedom of speech (only for conservatives). Conservatives want to ban Muslims, Mexicans, and freedom of speech (only for liberals). I know I'm painting with broad strokes here, but this is what I'm seeing and hearing! What's wrong with good, old-fashioned freedom?!
We need to stop banning things and get back to what this country was founded on, the principle of individual liberty!
The problem is that we forget that if we want freedom, we have to give it to those who are different than us. Our freedoms are inextricably bound up in the freedom of others. We need to stop living in fear, rise up in defiance of tyranny, and take our country back.
The Presidential Debates
If you've read this far and I haven't convinced you that Libertarianism is as American as apple pie and baseball, that's fine... That wasn't really my point anyway.
My point is this: The two party system is destroying America, just as the Founders feared it would. The strange thing about the two party system is that it is a myth. There are many political parties in America. The only reason we have a "two party system" is because we think we have a two party system.
Perception is reality.
People THINK there are only two choices, therefore there ARE only two choices.
Did you know that there are most people dislike (and distrust) both Trump AND Clinton, but many voters are prepared to vote for what they perceive to be the "lesser of two evils"? What kind of choice is that?! I have something called personal ethics. I can't allow myself to cast a vote for someone simply because they are "the lesser evil".
The one thing that could change the course of the election is if a third party candidate would be allowed to participate in the televised presidential debates. Gary Johnson is not polling high enough to be included in the debates, but the numbers show that the American public thinks he should be on the stage. Far more people support Governor Johnson's right to debate than would actually vote for him. Taking the debate stage would be the only thing that would give Johnson a real chance at winning. Unfortunately that won't happen.
The candidate access to televised debates is controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a "non-profit" (cartel) run exclusively by Democrats and Republicans. This gives them a monopoly on TV time, which keeps them in the front of voters minds when they visit the polls. They aren't about to give up any valuable attention to a third-party candidate. The Commission, through the collusion of the party leaders, always ensures that political power is kept within the two "major parties".
Americans of every political persuasion should support the right of third party candidates to be included in the debate. If you want your party to win and you don't care about issues, then the system is fine the way it is. If you care about issue, however, you should support as many candidates as possible getting their views across to the American voters via the most effective platform available, the televised presidential debates.
Gary Johnson likely won't get on the debate stage. If he doesn't, he will lose his only chance at winning in November. Governor Johnson, combined with the much-maligned "major" party candidates' likability issues, have drawn more attention to the third party option than at any time in recent memory. This is good for the country and I really believe it is the beginning of a trend that will give America REAL choices in future elections and I have the numbers to prove it.
The Libertarian Future
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, 47% of American voters said they would consider a third party candidate. This number has steadily increased, up from 38% in 2008 and 40% in 2012. The same poll showed that 91% of voters under the age of 29 would like to see a serious effort from someone outside the establishment of the "major" parties.
This tells me that we are on the precipice of change in American politics. The younger generation is looking for an alternative that offers personal and economic liberty, as well as social inclusivity. The Libertarian Party is the only party that offers all of those things that are so important to millennials and upcoming generations.
If we can't agree on that, at least we can agree that America deserves the freedom to choose. That starts with the freedom to know your choices and for most American voters, that means putting third-party candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein on the stage for the presidential debates.