Thursday, September 17, 2009

Changed My Mind

You know how some days you "feel like a nut, sometimes you don't"? Or, in my case, sometimes you feel like a bowl of All Bran Yogurt Bites and 12 cups of coffee and sometimes you feel like bacon pancakes at the Pancake House, with a couple of the baby's cheesy poof snacks thrown in for good measure? Okay, maybe you don't, but the point is I had a change of heart in what to write today. I hope its a change that will not have you turning off your computer in favor of your copy of Cosmopolitan with the headline about 374 different positions and a cookie recipe to make after you complete each of the positions. You know, the one that got you dirty looks from the cashier at Kroger whose hair hasn't been cut since 1982 and is put up in a bun that's made some chiropractor filthy rich.

My original topic was about feeling as if I haven't accomplished much in my life. It's a feeling one gets quite frequently after they have been laid off, and it is difficult to shake when you start thinking about people passing on from this life who have accomplished much. The latest is Ernie Harwell, longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster, who in Monty Python parlance is not dead yet. But he is 91 and recently announced that he has terminal cancer. Last week, Harwell made a brief speech at a night in his honor during a Tigers game. Yes, it was a tearjerker and not because I'm a fan. Oh, I like Ernie well enough, but I did not grow up with his voice bringing ballgames into my life. However, the guy did what he loved to do for 55 years, almost as long as the entire lifespans of both my grandfathers, and he was beloved by thousands. How can you not shed a tear at that?

So, naturally, I sulked. I thought about all the great things Ernie did and how few I have done comparatively, just as I did when Paul Harvey died earlier this year and, especially, when my favorite baseball announcer, Skip Caray, died suddenly in the midst of last year's otherwise forgettable Braves season. I had once told someone who asked about my career ambitions that I wanted to replace Skip Caray in the Braves' broadcast booth whenever he moved on. Obviously, that isn't going to happen, and Braves' fandom is better for it. Still, it festers inside you, the question of whether your life will ever approach the greatness of a Skip or an Ernie or whether it will languish in mediocrity like a Member of the U.S. Senate or the New York Mets as long as Jeff Francoeur is their everyday right fielder.

Then, I have a 13th cup of coffee and a piece of bacon, think about my wonderful family, watch an episode of Tony Bourdain's "No Reservations", realize that some day I will have a better job with a company that isn't going bankrupt, and stop feeling like a putz. That brings me to what is not exactly the doldrums of Putzville, but at the same time pretty close to Putzville and that is the state of internal toughness in these United States of America. I have thought about this before, but it has been crystallized over the last several weeks during the inane debate over the future of health care and the size of the government's role in it (is that a government role in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?).

I am not about to debate the merits or demerits of anyone's health care plan...that is another topic for another post in which I will go "Name That Tune" on the arguments of everyone on every side with only four words. What got me is the latest claim from those who support the government becoming a health insurance company; that critics of the plan are racist because the plan is being put forth by a black president. Are there some racist nutjobs out there? Sure, just as there are many, many nutjobs on the left. But all criticism is racism? Is that the best defense you have? Did someone take your manhood and cryogenically freeze it?

If you think this will be a rail against Obama, think again. Remember when folks started criticizing President Bush about the war? Whether their arguments were good or bad, a lot of folks in this country had roughly the following response: "You should shut up and support the president." That whole First Amendment thing might as well have been the warning label cautioning us about the peanut content inside a jar of Planters Roasted Peanuts or the label warning us not to use our microwave oven to dry clean the pet ferret after he sneaks out of your trailer and makes his way across town to your (and his) former home (which actually happened to a college friend of mine, well, minus the microwave).

"Shut up and support the president" sounds similar to something Obama said in one of his hundreds of speeches on health care earlier this year, that critics should "get out of the way so we can clean up this mess." Again, regardless of what one thinks of Obama, Bush, or any of those jokers in Washington, the bottom line is they all, and we as a country, need to grow a dang spine and take our criticisms when they come, and not expect Oprah to let us go on her show and go through a three-pack of Kleenex everytime someone says something bad about us. We had a spine at one time, I think. Granted, duels were popular back then, something we probably shouldn't revert to unless we want to get serious about term limits for Members of Congress...and yes, that's a joke. We don't need duels at all! Maybe.

Sure, we aren't Britain, at least not yet. Over there, fun was declared illegal in order to keep everyone safe. But to keep from becoming Britain, to paraphrase one of the greatest philosophers of the last 20 years, Mick (Cactus Jack, Mankind, Dude Love) Foley, this country needs a serious injection of testicular fortitude. Come on, people. Have a debate without thinking the debator has a condition that ends in "ism." There are nutjobs out there on both the left and right who are full of "ism", but for the most part, we're just all regular folks, and the only time we should truly be offended is when someone makes the insane suggestion that the Big 12 is better than the SEC. Those are the people who should be waterboarded.

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