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HEARTBROKEN – A Short Story

I still remember it like it was yesterday. The day my dad sat me on his lap and told me that he and mom were getting divorced. I was five, my brother was three, so he doesn’t remember, but I still feel the pain. I still don’t know why they divorced, but it still hurts and I would like to know why it happened.

Angelo blinked away the tears that welled in his eyes. He cleared his throat as he finished reading his daughter’s narrative. The assignment called for a personal expression, and for a parent to read it.

“Well done, baby girl,” Angelo handed her the laptop after he signed the form. “Your sentences are tight. Your message was conveyed effectively, and punctuation was perfect.”

He always reviewed her homework on visitation days, and monitored her grades through the school’s Home Access Center. It was a co-parenting effort he and his ex-wife had agreed to for the sake of the children. They maintained a unified front and worked as a team despite their differences.

As for the reasons behind the failed marriage, Angelo knew he would have to own up to his decision. He knew he would someday have to elaborate on the reasons he left. What he didn’t expect was for his decision to have impacted his little girl so profoundly.

     I can’t believe she still remembers that day so clearly, he thought to himself. But she raised the issue and deserved a response. He wasn’t going to hide from his decision, and he wasn’t going to dismiss her feelings.

She re-entered the room after placing her school-issued laptop in her backpack.

“Come sit with me,” he patted the couch cushion next to his.

She plopped herself down and rested her head on his shoulders.

“I suppose it’s been long enough,” he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.

“Long enough?” She turned to him perplexed.

“It’s been seven years since that day you wrote about in your narrative. As you recall, I had originally told you that mommy and I needed some time apart.”

“That’s when you moved out,” she added. “You moved in with aunt Cecilia.

“Yes,” he nodded.

“And you never moved back in,” she muttered, the sadness evident in her eyes. “A few months later, mommy said you two got divorced, but that you would visit every week.”

“We’ve had some great times over the years, haven’t we?” Angelo reflected.

“Yes we have,” she smiled.

“Fishing and swimming in the summer, pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating on Halloween, Easter Egg hunts, movie nights, hide-and-seek,” Angelo added.

“Don’t forget the scavenger hunts on our birthdays,” she reminded him.

“Those are fun too, aren’t they?” Angelo thought of the riddles he wrote for them about the myriad of topics he taught them: mythology, history, and astronomy to name a few. The answer to each riddle contained a clue to the location of the next gift.

“I can’t wait for my birthday next year!” Her eyes lit up.

“I can,” Angelo teased.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She turned to him incredulously.

“Oh, Anjali, you’re my baby girl, and you’re growing up too fast!” Angelo pulled her in close. “I need you to slow down, so I can keep up.”

“Well, now that I’m all grown up, why don’t you tell me about why you got divorced?”

“I wouldn’t say you’re all grown up, but you’re old enough to hear what I’m about to tell you.” Angelo shifted in his seat, and she in hers, so they faced each other. “There are three things that make a marriage: friendship, trust, and love.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t say love first,” her head tilted.

“That’s because love isn’t the first aspect of what leads to marriage. First, you need friendship. When you become friends, best friends, you formulate a bond stronger and more important than all others. That’s because it’s a lifelong connection. Through that friendship you develop trust. Trust is key, because it’s the one thing you must have before love, and the one thing you need in the years after passion fades. Without it, however, you have nothing.”

“Why is that?” She wondered.

“Do you remember the legend of Cupid and Psyche?”

“Yeah, I think so,” she nodded.

“Do you recall the moral of that story?”

She stared absently at her feet, which she had crossed before her on the couch. Realization dawned on her face. “Isn’t that where Cupid told her that without trust there can be no love?”

“Indeed, it is,” Angelo smiled. She’s retaining the things I’m teaching her.

“Is that what happened between you and mommy?”

“Between your mother and me, we had friendship and we had trust, but the love she deserved, the kind of love every woman deserves: passionate, patient, faithful and unconditional is something I could not give her. So, I decided it was best to set your mother free to find happiness rather than to keep her in an unhappy marriage.”

“She wasn’t happy about that, at first,” Anjali muttered.

“I bet she wasn’t, and that’s because heartbreak hurts. It’s not just emotional pain. The pain is physical too. It shows in the sound of your voice and the look in your eyes.”

“Is that what you’re feeling now?” Her eyes met his and she stared at him intently.

He didn’t avert his gaze, but he did not answer at first. He hadn’t talked with anyone about his current dilemma. He didn’t have anyone to confide in, because his confidant had been his girlfriend, Jocelyn. They had parted ways several weeks ago, and though he hadn’t said anything to anyone, he hoped his pain wouldn’t show.

“An astute observation, baby girl. Clearly you’re a writer.”

“And you’re avoiding the question,” she crossed her arms.

Angelo sighed. I suppose I couldn’t avoid this conversation either, he rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Why hasn’t Jocelyn been here the past few weeks?” Anjali finally asked.

“Jocelyn and I have decided to go our separate ways.”

“Why? Don’t you love her?”

Angelo pursed his lips. “Well, baby girl, it comes down to matters of trust. When two people are building a life together, it’s imperative that they’re on the same page about the important things like: finances, home life, raising children, and they must be able to trust each other about these matters.”

“Because without trust…” she began to say, but her words trailed off.

“It runs deeper than that, too,” Angelo continued, “because you can have trust and love, which we did, but secrets and lies—regardless of how harmless we believe them to be—lead to arguments. Those arguments cause resentment and breaks the trust. Eventually, it chips away at the love, and distance grows between two people who were once inseparable. God, we were inseparable at one point, too.”

“Can you fix it? Do you want to fix it and become inseparable again?” Anjali removed her hair-tie and twirled it around her fingers.

“You can fix it, yes,” Angelo nodded. I’d want more than anything to do so again, but how often must we fight about the same thing? “Think of trust as a vase. If you break it repeatedly and glue it back together, can you ever trust it to hold water again?”

“Not likely,” she lowered her eyes.

“Perhaps it is possible to repair it one more time and like a broken bone it heals stronger than ever, but it takes work. Marriage requires equal effort on both sides to make it work. It’s never easy, but both parties have to be willing to be on the same page about the important things, and willing to do what is necessary to make it work. Without that commitment, what have you got?”

“Yeah, I understand what you mean,” Anjali nodded without lifting her gaze.

“I’m sorry about this, baby girl,” Angelo whispered.

She stood and went to her room. The door slammed shut upstairs with a clap like thunder.

Angelo sat in silence as he stared through the large living room windows. Damn it! In the early years of his relationship with Jocelyn, they refrained from public displays of affection, so that in the eyes of his children she was just a friend. He was unsure how they would adjust to the new paradigm, but first and foremost he wanted to protect them.

Perhaps divorce had made him cynical, but the potentiality of her leaving, and the children being affected by another break up is something he wanted to spare them. After their third year together, and everything they had endured as a couple, he gradually opened up to the idea of being affectionate in front of the kids.

She’d spoil them on their birthdays and Christmas, despite Angelo’s insistence that they didn’t need an abundance of gifts. She read them bedtime stories in his absence, took them to school so he could sleep in, and kissed their cuts and scrapes when childhood injuries were sustained.

Angelo’s ex-wife had even told him she appreciated Jocelyn’s presence in their lives. “She loves the kids and they love her. Besides, she’s the right girl for you,” she had once told him. “Her gentle nature is the perfect balance to your lion’s temperament.”

He agreed that Jocelyn completed him in ways he didn’t know were possible. The way she snuck the kids treats, or snatched away their vegetables when he wasn’t looking, but he saw it happen anyway provided them with a sense of security all children need.

But the discord between them had taken its toll. The constant secrecy behind where she was and who she was with, even if she was with her sister and mother at the movies, why lie about it? They’d discussed plans for marriage and buying a home together, but their efforts for saving to that end had been undermined when she hid money to pay bills for her parents and siblings, or lending them money that they never paid back.

Month after month, Angelo had to adjust their budget for the unexpected expenses. Be it for gifts for friends and family, or additional bank fee’s for over-drafting her personal account. Angelo managed to maneuver money to cover the costs, but their savings were eventually depleted.

“When are we going to get married?” Jocelyn would insist.

“With what money?” Angelo would counter. “Weddings cost money. A honeymoon will cost money. A princess cut diamond costs money. How can I afford that when you keep spending money we don’t have?”

She’d sigh, but wouldn’t respond other than to say that her parents would pay for their honeymoon.

“With what money? They never paid us back the thousands they borrowed for their house and vacation.”

“Well, I told them they didn’t have to pay us back.”

“Why the hell would you do that?” Angelo had shouted. “How are we going to be able to buy a house and make a home with all this debt? We need to pay off what we owe, and improve our credit to qualify for a house.”

In the years that followed, Angelo had noticed that Jocelyn mirrored her mother’s behavior. She’d spend in secret, because she didn’t want her husband to get upset. And when the banks came calling, she’d lean on Jocelyn to pay off her debt. Jocelyn kept it from Angelo to avoid upsetting him, but that philosophy did not sit well with him.

“If you’re lying to me about the little things, how will I be able to trust you about the big things?” Angelo had asked often. “Here’s the thing, let’s say you’re in the habit of hiding something as trivial as spending, because you’re concerned about how I’ll react. The secrecy escalates. Next thing you know, you’ll hide certain friendships or interactions from me, because you’ll be concerned about how I’ll react. What happens when those friendships and interactions become flirtatious? Will you hide them from me, because you’ll be concerned about how I’ll react? Call me paranoid, but flirtatious tend to escalate into affairs. Will you hide an affair from me, because you’ll be concerned about how I’ll react? That’s usually what happens when people engage in that pattern of behavior.”

Jocelyn promised she’d never hide anything of that nature from him. He believed her, until he didn’t, because in the heat of an argument she let it slip that she’d been in touch with an ex-lover, whom she had referred to as “love.”

Angelo’s heart dropped.

His jealousy got the best of him, and with a lump in his throat he stormed out of the house. I need some air, he blinked away tears in the still of a cold winter night. The tightness in his chest made it difficult to breathe. The lump in his throat nearly choked him as the swell of emotions surged like lava in a volcano. He clenched his jaw as he fought the urge to cry.

     Why did she feel the need to have her ex in her life? The question circled in his thoughts. It was the same ex who had betrayed her on more than one occasion . The same ex who had left the state to be with someone else. The same ex whom she had chased after only to be left disappointed. There were times when Jocelyn’s flirtatious behavior made him feel as though his admiration was never enough. They’d fought about it often, but he still held on. This time she had gone too far.

The more he thought about it, the clearer things became. The emotional distance. The lack of affection, both physical and emotional. The daily jumping out of bed to take her sister to work, and the morning jog afterwards. Though she never returned before getting ready for work, because she claimed she simply went to her mom’s to shower and change. Suddenly, it all came together. Except he couldn’t understand why she had often said she wanted to get married to him, if she felt the need to have her ex in her life. Then to keep it from him only made things worse.

     Trust, he thought to himself, without itthere can be no love.

“Dad!” Angelo heard his son call from the office to bring him back from his contemplation. “I’m finished with my homework.”

“Bring it here, so I can check it.”

Angelo reviewed the three pages of word-problems with diagrams. After having his son re-do two equations, and re-write a sentence to be more legible, he instructed him to grab a book from the shelf for reading time.

His ten year old son, Leo, returned minutes later with a book in hand and curled up beside his dad to read. “Where’s Anjali?” He glanced around the room.

“She’s in her bedroom,” Angelo replied.

“Oh, okay,” Leo shrugged and proceeded to read. The twenty minutes of reading time passed in the blink of an eye. After his son closed the book, and set it aside, he turned to Angelo and asked about Jocelyn.

Angelo rubbed his forehead and sighed. I can’t keep using the same excusesshe’s working overtime, or she’s visiting her mother. He’d already used those same reasons to deceive himself. He couldn’t go on continuing to live a lie.

“Well, champ, the thing is,” Angelo paused, “sometimes people have different philosophies about what makes a relationship work, and they decide to go their separate ways.”

“Oh,” was all that Leo said before he buried his face in Angelo’s chest and began to cry.

“I’m sorry, kiddo,” Angelo whispered.

“Can’t you work it out? Why can’t you work it out, daddy?” Leo continued to sob.

“Aw man, baby, I wish I had an answer for you,” Angelo shook his head as his throat tightened.

They sat together on the couch. Only Leo’s sobbing broke the silence.

“It’s okay to cry, buddy, it just means your emotions have overwhelmed your body and they escape in the form of tears.”

It took several long minutes before Leo calmed down. He wiped his tears with the back of his hand and sat upright. He turned to his father and asked, “What happens now?”

“Now, we take things one day at a time,” Angelo said.

“Can I go play?” Leo asked.

“Yes you may,” Angelo smiled at him and kissed him on the forehead.

He debated with himself whether or not to share the experience with Jocelyn, but figured it would be unfair to keep it from her. She deserved to know how much Leo loved her, since she often thought he didn’t adore her as much as Anjali did.

When he relayed the details of what had transpired via text, she merely replied: OMG. She said nothing more and nothing less. He didn’t seek to pressure her for anything else.

The evening passed with an air melancholy. The children showered while Angelo prepared dinner. They ate together and discussed school, moving, and the snow that was expected to fall the following week. The children occupied themselves while Angelo washed the dishes. Each coped with their sadness in silence.

When it was time for bed, they brushed their teeth and each child went into their separate rooms. Angelo prepared the night lights, turned on the fans, and tucked Anjali into her bed first. They exchanged a hug and a kiss before Angelo turned off the main light.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you too,” she said.

“Sweet dreams, baby girl.”

“Sweet dreams to you too.”

He pulled the door closed behind him and walked into Leo’s room. He found Leo playing with his toys on the floor.

“Hey, you, up in bed, chop-chop,” he clapped.

Leo climbed into bed, grabbed his stuffed animals and pulled them in close. Angelo spread the blankets across the bed and asked Leo if he wanted a bedtime story. Leo nodded. Angelo grabbed the book off the nightstand and sat on the bed beside his son.

“Scoot over, bud,” he adjusted a pillow.

Leo started crying again. Angelo placed the book back on the nightstand and turned to his son.

“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” he asked gently.

“I miss Jocelyn. I’m going to miss her forever.”

“Oh, baby boy,” Angelo leaned in.

“I’m probably going to cry for weeks. Can’t she come back? Tell her to come back.”

“Come here,” Angelo embraced his son.

“She makes half of being here fun, and you make the other half of being here fun. You can’t let her leave, daddy. Tell her to come back.”

     I don’t think she wants to, Angelo reflected on the silence that echoed between him and Jocelyn in the days after the argument. They hadn’t said much to each other, but when they did they only argued about that one detail that changed their lives. He made the mistake of crying in front of her, and without saying a word she turned and left to never return.

“Nothing is ever going to be the same now, daddy,” Leo continued sobbing.

“I know baby, I know. It’s okay to cry. Just go ahead and let it all out.”

“Can I talk to her?”

“What?” Angelo cast his son a curious glance in the blue glow of the nightlight.

“Can I talk to her?”

“I don’t think she’s awake right now, buddy,” he lied. He didn’t want to burden her with their pain.

“Can we please try?” Leo begged.

Angelo sighed. “Okay,” he relented, and sent her a text that he was going to call her because Leo wanted to speak with her. Angelo dialed her number when she acknowledged his message. Her face appeared on the screen.

“Hey, sorry, but here he is,” Angelo said before he turned the screen and camera to face Leo. “Okay baby boy, go ahead and tell her what you wanted to say.”

“Please come back. Can you please come back?” His eyes flooded with tears.

Angelo broke down, dropped his phone on the bed and embraced his son. They cried together for several long minutes. The call disconnected. Angelo fished for the phone among the twist of blankets when it vibrated.

Jocelyn had replied with: You’re killing me. I wish I was holding him right now.

     He needs that right now, Angelo replied before he set his phone down on the nightstand and embraced his son.

“Is she coming over?” Leo looked up with reddened eyes.

“I don’t think so, baby boy,” Angelo shook his head.

Leo continued to cry in his father’s arms. He wrapped his arms around Angelo’s neck and squeezed tight. Leo heard his father sob, and pulled away to look his father in the eyes. “We’re going to be okay, right daddy? We’re going to be okay?”

“Yes, baby boy, we’re going to be just fine,” Angelo reassured him.

Leo curled up against his father, pulled the blankets close with his stuffed animals and cried himself to sleep. He hadn’t cried himself to sleep in his father’s arms since he was an infant. Angelo lied there with him, listening to him breathe for close to an hour. A million thoughts ran across his mind. Her silence and unwillingness to apologize were nothing knew, but her unwillingness to do so in this instance sent a pretty clear message to him. Jocelyn had chosen to cut Angelo and his children out of her life in order to maintain her friendship with her ex, but would not cut her ex out of her life to have Angelo and his children as her family. Then it dawned on him that his son’s first heartbreak came as a result of his father’s last.

 

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HEARTBREAK

Love And Death Quotes Photo

Though heartbreak is as predictable as death, providing symptoms and hints of the inevitable, the difference is that the pain ends with the finality of death, and heartbreak echoes through our lives.

Heartbreak kills you in a way that perpetuates the pain. It haunts you with the ghosts of passions that faded into the shadows of memory. Whereas death only haunts the living for a brief period, heartbreak haunts you with tears amid the echo of silence for as long as you long for the magic of what once was, and may never be again.

Some loses come at the behest of distance, a chasm filled with the things that were never said. Others are the result of infidelities, omissions, secrets and lies. Measuring the pain is futile, for it is merely a fool’s endeavor akin to describing color to a blind man.

Though the shades of love come in many colors, heartbreak exists in only one hue. Sadly, it doesn’t matter how you paint the picture, because your tears will cause the colors on the canvas of your heart to run like a painting left out in the rain.

What is it about heartbreak that stays with us longer than the jubilation of love? What causes the violation of betrayal to loom over us longer than the light of affection? What causes the echo of lies to resonate longer than the whispers of love?

We believe the former and forget the latter, and as a consequence we believe no one who promises happiness, while we cling to the cynicism that anticipates the pain.

Regardless of how much we brace ourselves for the impact, we are never truly ready for love, and even less adequately prepared for the inevitability of heartbreak. This is why life is full of surprises, and why we must live life for the moment!

There is no rhyme or reason to it, but even though life and death, or love and heartbreak will not be part of your plan, there is bound to be someone who will drive you made with love and make you feel alive. And that makes it all worth the memories.

LEADERSHIP V FOLLOWSHIP – Knowing the Difference Makes a Difference (3 in a 5-part series)

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“It is for the elder man to rule and the younger to submit.” ~Plato

Though the ancient Greeks were not the first and last to adhere to that mindset we must ask ourselves if it is time for a paradigm shift.

Have we arrived at a juncture in our evolution where Old-World opinions must be substituted with ideas more appropriate for the modern mind?

For if we are to raise our children to be adequately prepared to make the world better than we will leave it, then it is incumbent upon us to divert from the philosophies of our elders that have hindered progress.

The Cold War is over.

The animosity we collectively had against Russia dissipated in the public consciousness for the better part of the past two and a half decades after the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union.

Referring to Communist Russia, prior to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. would be beneficial for us to review because there are parallels with Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule, which remind us of the dangers of Socialism.

Not for the purposes of fueling the flames of propaganda, but because history is a great teacher.

Saddam, a Socialist, patterned his form of governing after Joseph Stalin, the Russian leader who ruled under the concept of “Socialism in One Country.”

Let’s assume, for a moment, any criticisms of Capitalism are predicated on greed, and hunger for power.

I will concede that is a harsh reality.

Greed and hunger for power though are not exclusive to monetary gain, and the moment we compromise the protection provided under the Constitution by foregoing a Republic in favor of a Socialist form of government, we are in danger of being powerless against any leader who assumes that role.

Is Britain an ideal country to migrate to?

They tax their people through the nose.

Should we choose to move to Germany?

There’s a limit to personal freedoms like choosing your vocation and educational path and being stuck with it, which also limits employment options beyond your educational training if you get laid-off, or fired.

France?

The Socialists are currently falling out of favor with the public. The Socialist government has failed to prevent French automakers from outsourcing factories, and now thousands of workers are not only left unemployed, but there now exists a rift between the staunch left-wing Socialists and the pro-business Socialists.

This on the heels of a controversial move to loosen France’s labor laws…

Yet, some claim these countries have far better systems than the United States?

Not to mention that all of the aforementioned countries are members of the European Union, which is on the brink of collapse.

Where do we go from here?

Honestly?

With all the ranting from celebrities who stand on their soap boxes and claim they are leaving the U.S. what choice do the rest of us have?

As much as celebrities claim they relate to us, we do not possess the means to simply move our families to another country, and truth is, despite their demands that wealthy Republicans part with their fortunes for the poor they themselves wouldn’t spend a dime of their own fortunes to help us move.

Do we truly expect to find a solution elsewhere?

Why would we even consider it when we frequently share memes about “working through difficulties?”

Or do we merely post such statements to appear committed to our cause?

What do we hope to teach our children by fleeing when we must lead by example?

For several hours a day we trust our children to an educational system that has scarcely evolved in over half a century.

Before I proceed, let me make it clear that I do not fault teachers for the following facts, because in truth it is the government’s mishandling of the educational system that crippled progress.

In 2015, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of its global rankings on student performance in mathematics, reading, and science, on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA.

The PISA is a worldwide exam administered every three years that measures 15-year-olds in 72 countries. About 540,000 students took the exam in 2015.

The U.S. ranked 35th in Math (well below the OECD average), 22nd in Reading, 25th in Science…it serves to note that in all three categories the U.S. dropped from its previous rankings in 2012 (the last time the test was administered).

Do we continue to allow the government to interfere given the most recent failed experiment, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2001? (Both Democrats and Republicans are at fault for that disaster).

It emerged out of concern that the American education system was no longer internationally competitive­­—significantly increased the federal role in holding schools responsible for the academic progress of all students, and placed a special focus on ensuring that states and schools boost the performance of certain groups of students, such as English-language learners, students in special education, and poor and minority children, whose achievement, on average, trailed their peers.

A noble cause, to be sure, but how did our elected officials determine they were going to make this a successful campaign?

Among the myriad of blunders, the Federal government did not force States to comply with the new requirements, but later threatened them with the loss of federal Title I money if they didn’t.

How was this even logical?

Though States were required to bring all students to the “proficient level” on state tests, each state was permitted to divergently determine their own definition of “proficiency,” and which tests to use.

After a series of waivers, such as no longer being required to meet prior mandates, and no longer being required to meet the deadline for proficiency standards…

…the government instituted teacher evaluation systems, while failing to raise and allocate the funds necessary for schools to improve their ability to provide students with the necessary tools and resources to succeed.

The goal, as I understand it, was to bridge the gap between high performing students/schools and low performing students/schools.

Though when it became evident that this endeavor would not be achieved, one solution presented was to lower the bar of proficiency by hindering the progress of high performing schools/students to minimize that gap.

How does this adequately prepare our children to be competitive in an ever-globalizing marketplace?

Which brings us to our current conundrum, the Bill to Abolish the Department of Education.

Let’s be honest, that is not going to happen.

I repeat.

That. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.

In truth, the presentation of this Bill is merely political posturing by politicians on both side of the line. Yet, once again we are afforded an opportunity to learn from the past.

History is a great teacher.

The Cold War is over, but the mentality instilled in us during that time has permeated the collective consciousness of the American people of the new millennium. It was during the era of the Cold War when we were indoctrinated with the notion that freedom was exclusive to America. We were raised to believe in our own superiority, perpetuated our condescension, consumed this potion of pride that has us intoxicated on narcissism, and it is these misconceptions that have skewed our perception of reality.

This, I daresay, is a consequence of an educational system guided by the manipulative hand of politicians who are more concerned with preserving our memory of the past rather than learning from it.

Akin to Socialism, the power of individual teachers—who are committed to our children—is limited by government officials who prefer a system that perpetuates false notions and perceptions of the world rather than to adequately prepare us for competing in it and changing it for the better.

As long as our educational system remains under the yoke of the federal government it will remain an archaic institution limited by the powers bestowed on it by politicians who would prefer to divert funds into the pockets of lobbyists in lieu of investing in our children’s future.

Could we—like the Communist Russia—have entered an Era of Stagnation without having realized it?

REPUBLICANISM V SOCIALISM – Knowing the Difference Makes a Difference (2 in a 5-part series)

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“Until rulers have the nature of philosophers or philosophers become the rulers, there can be no civic peace or happiness.

In a recent debate with someone who suggested that certain public services were Socialist programs: fire departments, law enforcement, public schools, and Medicare…I felt inclined to clarify that such services are designed to perform a basic function in society. Regardless of employment prosperity, or lack thereof, and even if no one was in danger of being homeless or starved; there would always remain a need for these services for the sake of maintaining order and safety.

Socialism, as history has determined, has been more about consolidating resources and redistributing them to certain groups of people for the sake of quality of life.

For example: In Ancient Mesopotamia… Lagash, a metropolis with a rich history was the first to enact the idea of redistribution of goods by way of taxing the wealthy to give to the poor.
Urukagina was the Patesi (elected king, if you will), who came from a wealthy family, but renounced his wealth for the sake of helping the poor is recognized as the first reformer and who enacted policies similar to modern day Liberal-thinking.

Some called him the first Jimmy Carter.

It won him great favor among the masses, at first.

Most of the wealthy class, and even the priests, however, despised him for this because it took money out of their pockets.

Mind you, he did this during a time when Lagash was still frequently at war with the rival city-state of Umma over water rights and land.

Eventually, Urukagina’s push to tax the wealthy more than the poor, and then to redistribute that wealth among the poor led the wealthy to leave to surrounding city-states, and some even found refuge in Umma.

The thing historians discovered was that without a wealthy class to contribute to the “bank” for the redistribution of funds there remained no one to provide the poor with a means to buy food or pay for services/goods.

It proved to be an early study, in retrospect, of human behavior, because without the incentive to earn more income the ambition of the poor was basically extinguished by the good intentions of their leader.

(Human nature has repeatedly shown us that when you take away a person’s incentive to earn their own keep…they won’t bother to find a way to earn on their own. This isn’t the case with everyone, but consider how Illinois’ system has hindered progress compared to welfare systems in other states, like Wisconsin that require a tier system of progress to essentially ease someone off of the assistance program.)

Back to history:

Eventually the merchants fled the city too, because again…there was no one to PAY for services and goods.

Who is left to tax, if the poor aren’t paying enough in taxes to contribute to military for defenses? After-all, the military (soldiers) were the guard and the police of the city-state during that time.
Eventually, Lagash had no fiscal means to defend itself and Umma FINALLY… after hundreds of years being defeated by their nemesis, overtook Lagash.

They destroyed the city…and it was basically lost to the sands of time.

This led to the emergence of Lugal-Zagesi, king of Umma who sought to build the world’s first empire, but who eventually fell to Sargon the Great.

Socialism was not seen again until after the Middle Ages.

In more recent times, Socialist Russia proved how dangerous a Socialist government can be to the poor.

Another individual criticized my reference to Russia, and suggested that countries like Sweden, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and France “have far better systems” established in lieu of the corruption, lobbying and wage income gap that perpetuates a separation of Classes in the United States.

Understandable.

And though I am aware of how other nations have utilized Socialism, I contended that it’s not always as cut-and-dry as one might think. There’s a myriad of intricacies to how it functions…and in many cases other factors of governing must be compromised, which American’s are seldom willing to do.

With regard to Russia…

I referenced Russia as an example of how dangerous a Socialist government can be because there is documentation of how resources were pooled from the vast farmland throughout the countryside to provide food for the masses in the more densely populated cities/regions of the country.

The consequence led many farmers’ families to starve. To the point where mothers had to kill off an infant in order to have enough food to feed her older children who helped out on the farm.

That’s not propaganda…that’s history.

Though this individual takes umbrage with overlooking the thriving Democratic countries where Capitalism does not exist, he proposed a conversation about what works for those free and Democratic countries.

I had to remind him that the United States is a Republic, a Republic that has thrived on Capitalism.

For a successful paradigm shift from one form of government to another, there must be a change in the core philosophy of governing; otherwise the conflict will merely be exacerbated.

He argued that “Capitalism is not in the constitution,” and I was glad he did, because I asked him to elaborate on where it states in the Constitution that Socialism not only equates to a better way of life, but also substantiates it as a necessary form of government to that end.

He was unable, or unwilling to do so, but to be fair I argued that one couldn’t postulate, “Capitalism is not in the Constitution without substantiating said claim.”

I made that statement because such a supposition seemed to be predicated more on merely making a reference to the Constitution (given that it seems to be the “word of the day,”) than actually having an understanding of how the Constitution correlates to government.

Case in point: the Guarantee Clause of the US Constitution Article 4, Section 4, Clause 1:
“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

Not to be confused with the Republican Party.

The Republicanism as written by our Founding Fathers in the Federalist Papers, and a myriad of other writings, refers to a political philosophy and not merely an unsubstantiated notion.

For, in truth, a Republic requires strong and healthy private and civil sectors in which citizens pursue their own ambitions backed by a public sphere limited to enumerated powers.
Enumerated powers, as listed in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to exercise powers granted by the Constitution.

Whereas a Socialist government, akin to monarchism, relies on a strong and healthy sovereign public sphere that oversees a small portion of the private and civil sectors in which the PEOPLE have LIMITED scope of action.

In short, consider this…

In a Republic, education should be what the people make it. Perhaps that means we should let professionals who best understand how to teach and how to create curriculums to maximize a student’s potential do their job without government interference.

Does this remind anyone of how vehemently we have argued against the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education?

Instead, however we turned education into a state indoctrination in the public sector with disastrous results, in that children aren’t free to practice their civil liberties and freedoms. Think of the controversial decision to cease the daily practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the school day. Primarily because a group of Individuals expressed discontent with the words, “one nation, under God…”

This is a simple form of how the public’s freedom and power is shifted away from the citizens and into the hands of government. Basically, this is reflective of how things unfold when the paradigm shift goes from Republicanism to Socialism.

The Constitution clearly supports the former, not the ladder.

REPUBLIC V DEMOCRACY – Knowing the Difference Makes a Difference (1 in a 5-part series)

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“Anyone who holds a true opinion without understanding is like a blind man on the right road.” ~Socrates

Though he left no writings of his own, his legacy reaches us across centuries through his student, Plato, teacher of Aristotle, and the Academy of Athens. Legend holds that within the confines of the Academy there stood a sacred grove of olive trees that even the ruthless Spartans would not ravage when they invaded Attica.

If only the Romans had displayed that sense of respect and restraint, perhaps the trees might reach us across the grove and across time.

Which begs the question, “How will history remember us?”

What will history remember us for accomplishing, creating, and destroying?

We remember our Founding Fathers for daring to not only abscond from the yoke of an oppressive monarchy, but to venture across oceans to establish a new form of government in an unfamiliar land.

This was not an undertaking for us to presume, in hindsight, as achieved expediently and without obstacle, for in truth it was anything but either.

Though most of us clearly recall history lessons that recounted specific moments of that era: Plymouth Rock, the Boston Tea Party, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary war…we remain mostly ignorant of the intricacies of building a nation.

Republic or Democracy.

Which did we choose, and why?

Let’s recall a few words from the daily ritual most of us remember as the Pledge of Allegiance, “and to the Republic for which it stands.”

REPUBLIC! REPUBLIC!

Among the most significant events in the history of the United States was the Constitutional Convention, where records prove that framers of the Constitution denounced the “excesses of democracy.”

What does that mean, exactly?

First, let us review the true definition of a Democracy. A rule by Omnipotent Majority. To be more precise, in a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

Consider the consequences of such a form of government. The power of the Majority remains absolute and unlimited; where the decisions cannot be appealed under the established legal system, which creates the conundrum of Tyranny by Majority and permits abuses under any Democracy of the unalienable rights of The Individual.

The importance of these truths was not lost on our Founding Fathers given the royal tyranny they were familiar with of previous generations.

The Constitution provided early Americans with a fundamental law under the Republic which it created to protect, for the first time, the security of their liberties against abuse by all possible violators, including The Majority momentarily in control of government.

They chose a Republic as the proper form of government because they knew, in light of history, that nothing but a Republic can provide the most efficient defense—for the long term—when perpetuated in practice for the liberties of the people, which are inescapably victimized by Democracy’s form and system of unlimited Government-over-Man.

It serves to note that in any form of Democracy, be it a Direct or a Representative form of government, there can be no legal system which protects The Individual or The Minority (any or all minorities) against unlimited tyranny by The Majority.

Though we may be inclined to hope that men are capable of exercising a sense of self-restraint when unlimited power is placed in their hands, human nature has proven this to be untenable in the light of governmental realities.

Thus, we arrive at the conclusion that Democracy, as a form of government, is counter-intuitive to the preservation and protection of an Individual—and all groups of Individuals—unalienable rights. Whereas the underlying philosophy of America’s traditional system of government, a Republic, grants us only limited powers to make and keep secure our rights.

Yet, here we are a society, a generation, a collective aware of our county’s woes…expressing our discontent via social media about the idiocy of our leaders, but what are we really saying? More importantly, what are we doing about it?

We regurgitate quotes from men and women who provided us insight into the human condition with their works and deeds, but have we bothered to formulate ideas of our own?

We have criticized the missteps of public figures, but have we dared to step out of the shadows of the masses to contribute to the greater good?

Seems to me the majority likes to sit back and watch others pioneer a path, and then re-tweet and/or re-post an article, or clip about the mistakes made during said endeavor.

Freedom of speech?

Perhaps.

What about the freedom of action?

Or do we prefer to talk the talk, but not actually walk the walk?

We are fortunate to live in a Republic where our Individual rights are protected, where the Individual may speak out against the tide of mass destruction. Given the recent string of events that threaten to undermine social justice and equality, it is imperative that we recognize the call to action.

We must know where we stand, and understand our position, for if we are to remedy a wrong then we must take that first step in the right direction. Otherwise, the march to freedom our Founding Fathers embarked on with their ideas and understanding of the intricacies of governing people will have been in vain.

We will be nothing in the end, but mindless sheep being led by wolves.

Live. Love. Always

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In my line of work, even from behind a desk, I’ve seen the reality that life is short.

I’ve seen a 21-year-old die in a car accident that knew people I knew.

I’ve seen children die at the hands of their parents.

I’ve seen a man, my age; take his own life for reasons only known to him and his God.

I’ve learned of Police Officers, who in the routine of their daily duties, suffered a gunshot to the face, unable to kiss their children, or spouse again…unable to say, “goodbye.”

I’ve taken a call about a woman found lifeless just before Christmas, and another who awakened a day later to find her husband had died in his sleep beside her.

I’m exposed to such circumstances on the heels of facing my own mortality, and I am fortunate to be able to live my life to the fullest.

I realize, in a way I did not prior to doing what I do for a living, that at any moment, our existence could be snatched from us.

These truths grant me perspective. I dare say we should all take a moment to recognize the reality that at any moment it could all end. A reminder that “living life to the fullest” is more than just a punch line.

So rejoice in the blessings that linger into your life, remember to say: “I love you,” “I need you,” “I thank you,” “I apologize,” and mean it!

Don’t harbor anger or resentment for too long, because it eats away at you … believe me, I know.

Allow yourself to heal and to move on from the past that caused you pain. Don’t dwell on your mistakes and don’t fret over what you “should have done in the first place,” because every decision you made has shaped the person you have become.

I am here now, vulnerable, exposed, hopeful, and imperfect…but I’m also aware that life is too short to wait for my life to happen the way others believe it should, because truth is, none of us has any control over the potential outcome of finality.

I may sit behind a desk, as a 9-1-1 Dispatcher and as a writer; with ambitions and determination to be as great a father as Dad was for us, as great a brother as my sister has been to me, as complete a man as any man should seek to be… and yes, even as legendary as immortal names of authors-past. Though I confess I haven’t accomplished anything worthy of praise, there are others who hold that distinction, because they have earned it (Soldiers, Officers, Firemen, fathers, mothers…lovers).

In any case, I have resolved to be happy, to accept what life and God have offered me. To make the most of these blessings (my family, my children, my true friends), because they didn’t have to be mine, and I didn’t have to be permitted to live long enough to know them.

So make the most of each day. Wake up early and watch the Love of your life sleep beside you—or listen to them snore, if you must—and kiss her or him as they dream of you.

They’re dreaming of you. Trust me.

Stay up late—even if you must be up early—to make the most of your time with true friends, loved ones, or even yourself.

Reflect.

Be open to change, to expanding your inner circle. Handle your responsibilities, because “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough,” ~Mae West. You’ll find that time passes too quickly, and life is too short to be anything but happy.

Fall in love.

If you’ve already done so, then do it all over again!

Yes, even with the same person you have already devoted your life to because there’s no rule that forbids it.

Dance in each other’s eyes, swim in each other’s smile, drown in each other’s tears. Isn’t that what love is supposed to be? You know, the highest peak and the deepest valley.

Think about that momentarily.

The. Deepest. Valley.

The realm in someone’s soul where few have dared venture into for fear of what they may, or may not find. But if you’re the only one who’s been there then you experience something no one else has, and that is truly special.

After all, the purest treasures of the world are always hidden. Diamonds, pearls and gold must be found in the depths of the earth, because nothing worth having is easily accessed, or obtained.

Experience each other in tiny droplets of time. Be it through a lingering glance, a gentle caress, a moment of silence, a stolen moment, or meaningful kiss. Treat each instance as if it is the first, and as if it shall be your last. The only thing you have to lose is the moment. Better to live long enough to lose the memory of it than to spend eternity regretting never having lived it.

“Never waste a moment, it may be the last with someone you love.” ~Unknown

Time, Life, and Death

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Forgive my discursive proclivities, I’m a bit peculiar like that but I felt inclined to share a thought about the timing of life and death.

Before I continue, allow me to apologize for my extended absence as I have endured a rather tumultuous year that has included life-changing circumstances, writing a new novel, fielding rejections for other novels, releasing 3 more novels independently, continued revisions on another project…all while juggling a new job after being laid-off, a plethora of overtime hours to meet my financial obligations…made more difficult by a substantial pay cut, and maximizing visitation time with my children.

For the most part, I’m grateful for the love and support of my family, the presence of my children, and friendships that offer more than I could have ever hoped for as I re-emerge from the shadows of change and take another step towards realizing my dream.

Having said that, let us proceed.

I’m traveling back in time for a moment…you know, in Middle-Earth.

After successfully defending Helm’s Deep, while the company sleeps prior to our journey to Isengard, I’m taking a step back in time to where it all began for Mr Baggins.

Mr. Bilbo Baggins, to be precise… when Gandalf and a group of Dwarfs arrived at his door to sweep him away on the adventure that ultimately intertwined his fate with The Ring.

I should confess that I originally began reading The Hobbit several years ago, but for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it, and each time I lingered into Middle-Earth, I set it aside to focus on my responsibilities and on my own writing. Yet now, I’m starting all over again and am thoroughly enjoying it!

Which brings me to my reason for this post.

Sometimes, when it comes to books, or movies, or food or beverage or friendships/relationships or even faith… there are instances when we’re just not feeling it, and in most cases, we never do.

But on a few rare occasions, we re-visit that book, that movie, that meal, that drink, that friendship or potential relationship or even that religion that we originally felt drawn to, but weren’t inclined to be open to the possibilities it offered us.

We cross paths again with these things and suddenly see them in a whole new light. We feel something that helps us understand why we were drawn to them in the first place.

In a universe filled with ambiguity, tis’ rare when an imagination, a book, a meal/beverage, palette, a man and a woman find that harmony, that happiness that they fall into naturally.

Nine years ago, I wasn’t much of a reader of fiction. Then I read one book…Harry Potter, and that changed everything for me because now it is rare to see a book escape my grasp, lest it escapes my wallet!!! 🙂

In conclusion…in life…the laws of physics, as we understand them, do not permit us to leap back and forth along the space/time continuum, to go back and do things differently. I dare say that’s for the best, because we might never learn anything if we could undo our past decisions.

So take life one-day-@-a-time, but make the most of each day, because: KAL HO NAA HO…Tomorrow is NOT promised!!!

Be open and receptive of what life brings you, and appreciate each moment, because it could have gone to someone else. Open a book, if you feel like it, and be okay with going back to it when tomorrow arrives. Be open to a new delicacy or beverage-so long as it’s prepared adequately for consumption-and entertain an interesting conversation with someone whom you feel a connection or chemistry with.

Make the most of your time, remember to say “I love you,” or “I am sorry,” and mean it!

Trust that what has been brought to you was done so because someone, somewhere, felt you were ready for it!!!

It’s never to late to fall into a novel, and go “back in time” to enjoy an adventure. It’s never too late to fall in Love and be happy. Experience life, because it’s the one thing that gives death any real meaning.

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” ~Isaac Asimov

Dream A Little Dream

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To find clarity, sometimes, you must close your eyes, cease from looking outward and instead search through the valleys of your soul.

That’s what I did.

I stepped off my virtual soapbox to reflect. It wasn’t something that I told myself I wanted to do or needed to do, I just did it because it felt right. You know, kind of like when you’ve had a long hard day you know there are projects that remain incomplete and need to be finished, but you can’t help lying down for a moment to close your eyes. You don’t tell yourself you want to sleep; you don’t acknowledge that you need to sleep but lying there on that comforter, your face against the coolness of your pillow simply feels right and you wander into the realm of dreams.

That’s what I did.

After hundreds of rejection letters, after countless revisions to my manuscripts, after reading and reading and reading and reading… I realized that I needed to get back to basics. I needed to do what felt right…I needed to lose myself in a dream.

That’s what I did.

Poetic is what I’ve always been, romantic is how I’ve often loved… creatively is how I conjured up the perfect storm of myth and imagination, but instead of waiting for the storm to pass, I danced in the rain.

I wrote. I wrote from the heart. I imagined the most beautiful tragedy and wandered through it with words…my emotions and my creativity as my guides. I was enchanted by the idea of the perfect passion, enraptured by the emotional high that is ignited by an infatuation, and then I wallowed in the misery where I often found comfort as a writer, as a poet.

They say that the heart has reasons for which reason cannot understand, and I did this for no reason, other than it simply felt right! These past few years felt like the best moments in my life to write the stories I have written.

Why?

Perhaps I was shedding the skin of my former self to undergo my own out-of-body experience and reconnect with the side of myself that initially inspired my writing twenty-seven years ago. Perhaps I needed to get back to what I know as a man in order to push beyond the boundaries of what I know as a writer, to elevate myself to another level.

I allowed my blood to boil then felt it rush into my heart, heated passion overwhelming my ability to love in order to break my own heart and bleed out my intensely romantic feelings. I thought not of style, or format…I didn’t concern myself with prose or punctuation. I simply indulged in the moment of sentimental fiction where my dreams came true and I found clarity.

As you may recall in my blog post titled: Inner Voice, I wrote: “The universe talks to you and you’ll hear what it’s saying if you’re willing to listen.” I mention this because here I am today, sharing with you my thoughts as I prepare to get back on the horse and pursue my dream. I stopped momentarily to read, and once again it feels as though the universe is talking to me!

Was it a coincidence that I went to the library and checked out the book, The Process of Writing Fiction: From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler, edited and with an introduction by Janet Burroway?

What are the odds that I find the following passage only minutes after I typed that “I found clarity”…?

Jane Burroway wrote the following words in the introduction to the book:

“…it is the imagination that must be a strong and supple instrument, ready to lead the reader through moment-by-moment sensual experience. And it is in the realm of the unconscious rather than that of technique or intellect that the writer seeks fictional truth.”

Here I am now, as the pages of winter turn towards spring. I am awake from that little nap, that beautiful dream and preparing to step through the threshold of another portal. One that will send me several centuries into the past where I will once again journey through another adventure, chasing destiny while fleeing from demons. Flying on a magic carpet from Mesopotamia to Ancient India traversing through wormholes into the outer regions of space.

I will write another story. I will live another life. I will invite you to fall in love with my imaginary friends and ask of you, only one thing. Dream a little dream with me.

“The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.” ~Unknown Author