Where Are Our Heroes?

Every generation has its heroes, and while they have looked different, they share one essential trait- they are, by definition, heroic. At the moment, our pop-culture is dominated by super-heroes. Captain America and Ironman along with the MCU have captured our collective imagination. Back in the 80’s it was ripped men like Arnold and Stallone. Before that it was John Wayne. Those fictional heroes were all willing to sacrifice themselves to protect others, or to protect the greater good.

What about real heroes?

Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier in World War Two, was wounded multiple times throughout the war, putting himself under direct fire to save his men. He received the Medal of Honor for mounting a burning tank-destroyer and laying down .50 caliber machine-gun fire on advancing German troops and tanks for over an hour. He was wounded and only ceased when he ran out of ammunition. He killed over fifty attackers in that one assault. If Stallone acted the scene in a movie, it would be hard to believe.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the hero of the civil rights movement, risking his life to march and speak out against codified racism and inequality, and he was ultimately killed for his stand.

John McCain, former prisoner of war, Presidential candidate, and Senator, became a hero in my own eyes, when he famously cast the deciding vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act. He bucked his own party, and chose to vote with his conscience for the good of the nation. He died shortly thereafter of brain cancer.

We desperately need real heroes now.

The United States of America is in the midst of a crisis. The executive branch is grossly over extending its power, largely unchecked by congress. From the war on science, the media, and the truth to the ongoing denial of Russian interference in our elections, the Trump administration is proving to be a real threat to our democracy.

Congress must begin the impeachment process, regardless of the political calculus, because it is Congress’s duty to be a check upon the executive branch. There are certain threats which transcend politics, and an administration which displays disregard for the rule of law is one.

It seems that Speaker Pelosi is intent upon running out the clock because she fears, understandably, that the Senate will not convict, no matter what. Where are the heroes and patriots in the Senate?

It’s time for our elected leaders to actually lead. There must be consequences for a President who obstructs justice and colludes with foreign powers to steal an election. History will remember.

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That 30%

A few weeks ago my wife and I watched a clip of a typical Trump rally on CNN, one in which he was surrounded by shiny-faced white people wearing red hats shouting “lock her up!” The brief clip included the kind of idiotic statements we’ve come to expect from our current commander-in-chief.

Kelli groaned and said for the thousandth time a thing we’ve both shouted over the last few years: “What are these people thinking? Why do they support Trump? How do they do life? The country is doomed.” Trump is the antithesis of progress, the embodiment of provincial foolishness, and enabler of misogyny and racism. Is this what we have become as a nation, that Trump actually represents us?

No. I’ve got a theory that is starting to make me feel better about our country. It’s about the 30% statistic that pops up over and over again for those who would follow Trump straight back to the hell he seems to have spawned from, that 30% of the population who would indeed continue to support him if he shot someone in the face on Park Avenue.

The 30% have always been with us, and they cannot thwart human progress, despite their best efforts. This knowledge helps me to sleep better at night.

Fire, Bad

Around 125,000 years ago, a hunter came upon a fire in a plain where a deer was cooked and burned. Being hungry, he decided to try the meat and was amazed to discover that it was better than either raw meat or roots. He got the idea to bring back some of that fire to their cave. The hunter arrived full of good cheer and optimism.

“I have brought fire,” he said proudly. “Food will taste better. We can use this to harden our spears, which will make us hunt better. And we can use the fire to ward off the lions, tigers, and bears, for they are stupid animals and fear fire.”

Many of the clan welcomed this new tool, perceiving the benefits. About a third of them, though, were angry. “It is forbidden,” they shouted. “Fire is dangerous.”

Eventually, the doubters died off, and the use of fire allowed early humans to take a giant leap forward. But there was a great gnashing of teeth at first.

From the Wheel to the Internet

A certain percentage of people (we know the number) is inherently opposed to forward thinking. The first guy to invent the wheel was scoffed at because somebody’s toe got crushed. Railroads were feared, cars were dangerous and terrible, coffee (yes, coffee) was deemed bad, refrigeration was foolish, and the internet was silly.

Politically Backwards

John Adams, in 1815 estimated that one third of the country had opposed the American Revolution, one third supported it, and one third were undecided.

Newsweek reported in 2017 that 32% of Californians supported seceding from the union.

A 2014 Reuters poll found that 28% of all Americans with incomes of $25k or less supported their state leaving the United States. Unsurprisingly, a majority of those identified with the Tea Party. There’s a trend.

Fear is the mind-killer

The insidious root of all of this backward thinking is fear. It’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of a loss of a way of life, and the fear of loss of identity. Some people want to keep the status quo, even if change will benefit them, and they tell the fairy-tale of a golden age when things were best and brightest to themselves over and over again until the lie is their personal truth. They want Mayberry.

Picture Governor George Wallace in his famous “stand at the schoolhouse door,” blocking the way for two African American students to enter the University of Alabama in 1962, proclaiming “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” There is a straight line from that thought process to putting immigrants in cages, building a ridiculous wall and calling white KKK supporters “good people.”

The die-hard Trump supporter is afraid of almost everything, it seems. He is terrified of brown people, and of losing the automatic weapons with extended magazines that he owns to protect himself from said brown people. He is afraid of gay people because clearly there is an army of LGTBQ folks with an agenda to turn everyone gay, thereby eradicating the human race. He is appalled by women in positions of strength and power, for his very manhood is threatened by them. He is afraid that his God will be taken from him, although if God is God that’s impossible on every level. He is afraid of the government, yet shows up at rallies to support a king.

The galvanized Trumpite is afraid of millennials because they are young and passionate about things he does not understand. Things like universal health care, higher minimum-wages, and of course, climate change.

Interestingly, the one thing he should be worried about, he scoffs at.

The 30% will remain, for they are a part of humanity and always have been, but we have proven throughout our history that their voices are silenced by time and progress, and their fear-driven protests will be forgotten as the years go on.

When universal healthcare is taken for granted in America, when we are truly judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin, when nobody gives a second thought about whom we choose to love, and when we are running on renewable energy, the ignorance of the past will be scoffed at.

They’ll find something else to fear then, but by that time, my children and grandchildren will be the ones howling into the void that fire is good.

The Stories We Carry

The older I get (I turn fifty this week, ugh!) the more I recognize the way we tell ourselves stories about our lives in order to explain, justify, and come to grips with our place in the world. Everyone does this to some degree, some more than others. When I’m writing about relationships in novels, I like to create characters in conflict who have differing views of a shared past.

As a writer, I like telling stories. But what if the story I’ve been telling myself is not true? What if, in fact, it is dangerous because of how far off the mark it is? I find myself questioning my own version of reality. When I recall the past, the further back I look, the more colored the memories become, distorted by the retelling of events in my own head, until the actual thing I remember may not even resemble what truly occurred. I can ask three different people who were there, and wind up with three widely differing accounts. It’s like that game where you have a circle of people, and the first person tells a short story to the next person, and they whisper the story around the circle until it comes back around to the first one. It’s never the same story.

Time does the same thing, along with our individual motives, our personality, and the way that we have allowed our past to shape our present. The reason this can be destructive is clear: our future can be altered, destroyed, by the lies we tell ourselves about our past.

Why do we persist? Because often we don’t know we are doing it, I suppose. And when there is a whisper in the back of our minds that we are wrong, it’s easier to stick to the lies we have always known. God forbid we confront something harmful we have done and take responsibility for it. It’s much easier to blame others, to rage at circumstance, and wrap ourselves in anger and resentment at those around us.

When someone else hurts me by doing this, I can see it clearly. I can recall what the truth was and point to facts and memories which contradict the other person’s narrative. I can stand and be strong and attempt to take the battery acid and vitriol sprayed on me for a while. Yet, I also question my own narrative, and wonder where the truth lies, for it surely must not be the one I recall so vividly…

With memories and emotion, there is no single truth. One person’s truth may contradict my own, yet perhaps neither of us is truly wrong.

Divorce Sucks

Endings and Beginnings

The best stories end with a new beginning. There is a resolution of conflict and the promise of tomorrow. Hollywood love stories often end with crowds cheering, whether it’s on a crowded street, at a church, or a dining room. We’ve seen it over and over again, but the typical romantic comedy doesn’t delve into what happens after that triumphant scene, because that’s when reality kicks in. Nobody wants to watch the doldrums, the long gray of disappointment and work and cold silence and that crushing feeling of loneliness when you share a home with someone who no longer loves you. When couples divorce, it is both an ending and a beginning, and it’s terrible and wonderful, even at its best.

People use the phrase “going through a divorce” because it’s like entering a dark tunnel where the walls crush in and the light on the other side appears eternally distant. But there is that hope of getting “through” to the other side, emerging into a new valley of hope where the sun is warm on your face and the air tastes like hope and the pain and regrets remain in the past where they belong. When you are still going through the darkness, it can feel like it’s forever. It’s not. That’s what my friends keep telling me, and I believe they’re right.

The end of us is the beginning of me

After more than a decade of waking up next to the same woman and kissing her good-morning and raising children, and laughing, fighting, crying, dreaming, destroying, and sharing everything important, I face the task of defining myself apart from her. It’s excruciating, for it is the unraveling of my life, the annihilation of a future I believed in. It is the death of the man I am and the birth of someone new.

I must learn to define myself apart from her, for I was always more than her husband, yet after all these years, it is difficult to recall what I was, because I changed to accommodate her wants and needs and I wanted to see her smile. I wanted to make her happy, I worked really hard to do it, but in the end I wasn’t enough.  I didn’t make her happy in the end, and she let me know it. It doesn’t matter anymore, and now I’ve got to see the truth of it, embrace the inherent freedom.

I haven’t been spear-fishing in years. I’m making plans now, with true friends I haven’t been friends to since she and I got together. “It takes a friend to be a friend,” is one of my mantras, and only shared history and the memory of the man I used to be keeps the door open now, and I intend to dive in. The best advice I’ve heard so far on how to deal with divorce is “do the stuff you love to do.” I’m going to reconnect with old friends, repair relationships with family, and become the best version of myself that I can possibly be.

I’m not ready to jump into a long-term relationship, and I know it. I still love scent of the ocean at dawn and the sun going down on the beach, long kisses beside the juke-box, the taste of salt on a women’s neck, and that whisper of hope in my ear.

Phoenix

From destruction comes rebirth. The fire burns along the mountain slopes of Yellowstone, and the forest emerges better and stronger and more vibrant. The undergrowth burns away, the stout trees remain, and the canopy emerges again.

Character and strength burst forth in the wake of destruction, and the things that try to kill us make us more resilient, even though it doesn’t feel that way when we are crushed. We are destroyed in divorce, and can either surrender to the past, or be reborn.

I yearn to share a sunrise with a woman who grins, sand between her toes and music in her soul and goodness in her heart who lights up when she sees me, and shares the feeling that everything is right when she is beside me. I want to drink red wine and joy with her long into the night until the sun comes up, and hear that song in my chest, for that is the glory, those moments of peace and promise where the air is sweet and the world is right and tomorrow is better because we are together.

When we find each other, we will know.

.

Great Expectations

My favorite opening line in literature is from David Copperfield: Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station shall be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

I love Dickens.

My reach has always exceeded my grasp. For artists, I think this is norm. It’s next to impossible to make a good living with words and rhyme, melody or canvas. Somehow, we keep striving, because we must. And part of that is the belief that somehow, some way, we will succeed, and hit something out of the park. I’ve clung to that belief all my adult life, perhaps foolishly. I’ve worked towards that goal, too, sacrificed time and memories and relationships at the altar of words. Sometimes I am plagued by doubt, brought to my knees by my innate selfishness and the thought of the tens of thousands of hours I’ve spent over a notebook, a guitar, a computer.

I remember the times I came so damn close, only to have things evaporate. The songs “on hold” by huge artists. The books that seemed poised to take off, only to wind up at the discount bin. I get my hopes up, and crash and burn, and it’s painful. At this point, I’m jaded. I still believe, though. I really do, deep down.

Yesterday, I got news that would have made my younger, less jaded self, dance naked in the streets. A major television network is very interested in my books. They want a meeting. Twenty years ago, I’d have lost my mind. Hell, twenty years ago, I’d never have believed I’d have books published, in stores. I was a songwriter, not an author. Life is funny.

I still have great expectations. This may fall through, and if so, it’s on to the next network, the next book, the next script, the next article. I can’t stop writing.

And if I never hit it out of the park, at least I can look myself in the mirror at the end, gray and worn out and full of regrets, but not that one.

So to my fellow creatives, keep writing, keep singing, painting and smiling. Keep believing.

Let’s be heroes.

Poetry

Words

I’m but a writer

A poor troubadour

Building castles in clouds

Dreams and nothing more
My love is fierce 

We’ll laugh and cry

The lows may be low

But the highs will be the highest
We’ll dance among the stars

I’ll make you believe

Till we break each other’s hearts

When we both see
I’m just a writer

For as long as I live

Words are the only thing

I’ll ever have to give

Are we living in the “End Times?” 

North Korea has a hydrogen bomb, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic is poised to strike Miami, Harvey drowned Houston, an earthquake rocked Mexico, Oregon and California are burning, a total eclipse of the sun crossed the US, a powerful solar flare exploded, and Donald Trump is the leader of the free world. I don’t believe that we’re living in the book of Revelation, but is the universe trying to tell us something? Is prophecy being played out around us, or are humans careening toward our own extinction because we are fools?


Biblical Prophecy

The Bible is rich with prophecy, much of it vague and terrifying. The prophets, men like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and John of Patmos had a direct connection to God, more visceral than others, and were often viewed with suspicion because they were erratic and strange. The visions God gave them may have fried their brains. Prophecy is open to interpretation, and even among fundamentalists, there are questions about the nature of scripture. Is the book of Revelation literal or figurative? There is a lot of wild stuff in that book, with creatures that sound like aliens, multi-headed beasts, plagues, famines, and an actual war between heaven and hell.

Revelation was written by John on the island of Patmos, where he recieved a series of visions from God. The book, the last in the Bible, predicts the end of the world in a series of cataclysmic events, laying out unthinkable losses throughout the world which intensify as they progress through the opening of seals, culminating in Christ’s triumphant return. Many Christians believe in the Rapture, an event where Christians are taken up to heaven prior to the tribulation, while the rest of the world is left behind to endure the coming wrath of God. Christians fall into two camps when debating this, the “pretribulative,” folks, who think they will be spared, and the “post-tribulative” believers who believe Christians will have to wait while the earth goes to hell.


The Antichrist

One constant, though, is the rise of the Antichrist. Throughout history, Christians have pointed to many leaders, believing that each one was the Antichrist. From Nero to Hitler and President Obama, there have always been candidates. Hitler certainly seemed to fit the bill, persecuting Jews and dragging the entire world into war. The Antichrist is said to be charismatic, a great deceiver who unifies the world, only to plunge it into darkness. He is a liar who professes Christianity, while serving Lucifer. President Donald Trump possesses something earlier leaders did not: nuclear weapons capable of ending the world. His hypocrisy, lies, and the way he dribbles scripture to pander to fundamentalists make Trump a pretty good candidate.

Global politics and war

Revelation states that there will be war and rumors of war as the earth hurtles toward the apocalypse. For the first time in human history, mankind has the ability to cause its own extinction in war. With instability in the Middle East, a resurgent and aggressive Russia, and someone with a questionable grasp on geopolitics in the White House, we are teetering on the abyss.

Opening the seven seals:

Revelation 6:12: I watched as he opened the Sixth Seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth…”. 

We just experienced a total eclipse, an earthquake, a blood-moon, and a meteor shower. Interesting.

Sounding the seven trumpets:

Rev 8:7: The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned down, and all the green grass was burned up.”

Sounds a whole lot like a nuclear war! With North Korea threatening to attack the US, the threat of nuclear war is at its most dangerous since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Rev 8:10: A great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of the water. The name of the star is wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter and many people died from waters that turned bitter.

Radiation poisoning would do this to global water supply, and huge portions of the population would die. This is followed by locusts and plagues, all of which could happen due to the war.

Pain continues to rain down upon the earth as the book continues, with the seven bowls of God’s wrath. The waters turn to blood and the sun scorches people with fire, and plagues spread as the Beast rules a world plunged into darkness. Nuclear winter, perhaps? Babylon falls, and then comes the rider on the white horse, Christ himself leading an army of angels, throwing the beast into a fiery lake.

Conclusion

We may be in a tribulation of our own making if we do not collectively make better decisions. As the climate changes and the oceans warm, our children and grandchildren will face the consequences of our utter disregard for science and lack of stewardship of our planet. Displaced populations will be on the move, competing for dwindling resources, causing war and famine. Prayer is a powerful thing, and so is action. We must not blindly follow leaders who would lead us to our own destruction.

The Rush to World War III


The hammer sees only the nail, the sword craves blood, and the bullet yearns for a target. The world is now at the greatest risk for nuclear war at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Certainly North Korea (DPRK) is a threat to stability in the region, but is it worth going to war over? Why is this happening now, and what are some solutions?

Why Now

The US goes to war when powerful interests align. Our country has a rich history of shedding blood for money, going all the way back to the American Revolution. It’s what nations do, placing the economic interests of the country ahead of human lives. It’s not pretty, but it’s a fact. From the Trail of Tears to the false flag “Remember the Maine” and on to the Gulf of Tonkin, the US has manipulated public opinion to justify wars for economic and political gains.

Remember the war in Iraq? After 9-11, the US craved (understandably) justice. When the bombs started falling in Baghdad, I’m ashamed to admit that I cheered. Intelligence supported the fact that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell, whom I trusted, came on television to state this. The US went to war, and after years and as many as a million deaths, Iraq remains a quagmire. The truth of that war may never come fully to light, but we know that Cheney and Rummy believed that democracy was the answer to Middle East instability, and that by smashing Saddam’s dictatorship, the US could prop up a new government favorable to our interests. Oh, and oil. In that instance both the military industrial complex and oil companies stood to profit enormously.


Fast forward to Korea, now.

Saber rattling on both sides is nothing new. DPRK loves to issue fiery threats against the US. Little Kim is a little unhinged, that is true. But is he truly a suicidal one? If North Korea attacks the US, that regime is finished. Dictators want to remain in power, so it’s unlikely that this particular despot would go out of his way to attack the US, bringing about his certain demise.

Trump needs a war to distract the country from the investigation into his finances and possible collusion with Russia. Furthermore, the military industrial complex wants to see more spending by the federal government so they can build tanks, bombs, planes, ships, and submarines. There are trillions of dollars at stake. Wars have begun for far less.

The suspicious timeline

How is it that suddenly DPRK has miniaturized warheads? This assessment, in a story from the Post a few days ago, is based on the Defense Intellegence Agency. It’s not a consensus from all of the agencies who review intelligence. The NSA and CIA have yet to weigh in. So that abrupt assessment is suspect. Furthermore, even if DPRK has managed to miniaturize the warheads, they likely have not developed a re-entry vehicle capable of delivering the warhead to its target without burning up. Upon re-entry, the temperatures soar. As of only a few weeks ago, it was believed that North Korea was five years away from achieving these milestones.


Fear is the mind killer

The mainstream media thrives upon bad news and fear. By playing to our fears of a nuclear holocost, the march to war becomes something which the American public is more likely to accept. After all, North Korea is an “evil empire” bent on killing innocent Americans, right? The fact that Lil Kim uses bombastic rhetoric only serves to bolster the case against him.

Solutions

China remains the key. China can apply enough economic pressure to convince Lil Kim to abandon his weapons programs, at least or a time. Long term, the best solution, as insane as it sounds, is another case of mutually assured destruction. DPRK is a protectorate of China, and war with them means war with China. War with South Korea means war with the US. This would ultimately de-escalate tensions because both sides would understand the rules. Eventually, China should initiate a regime change in North Korea, propping up a government easier to manage.

Perhaps a fully staffed State Department is in order? A president who understands geopolitics?

The US faces a similar dilemma with Iran and Russia. If diplomacy fails, the alternative is unthinkable. Because World War Three is a war with no winners.

Shameless self-promotion

Finally, if you’re interested in reading about the aftermath of the next world war, please check out the WRATH series!

WRATH goes to Hollywood 


I recall those early heady days when Permuted Press offered me a contract for Objects of Wrath . They signed me to a trilogy, and paid me for two books I hadn’t even written yet. I got the advance within three weeks of signing, just days before Christmas. And, let me tell you,  it saved Christmas for my family. I had visions of family vacations in Jackson Hole and delusions of movies made. That was before reality set in, and I realized that a) the books weren’t going to sell themselves and b) Hollywood sure as hell wasn’t going to be kicking down my door.

Since then, I’ve finished four novels. Tears of Abraham, a stand-alone novel about the next Civil War, went into bookstores all over the country last year. Once again, I thought, “okay this is it.” Alas, the book died on the vine, after zero promotion and being miscategorized as science fiction (despite my vehement objections). So, after getting my hopes crushed many times, I’m jaded.
Still…

I signed an agreement last week with Council Tree Productions, a Hollywood based film and television production company helmed by veteran producer Joel Eisenberg. It’s a new company, but Joel has some juice in Hollywood, and he’s also a writer. I really look forward to working with him. The other partner in the company (also a writer) is the founder of a successful private equity firm. They invested $180 million in Telemundo, and have conducted billions in transactions. These are serious people.
What now?

After my initial dance in the street, I’m looking at more waiting, hoping, and work. Just signing with a producer is a big deal, a tremendous opportunity, but it’s far from the end of the journey.  The producer will come up with marketing materials and shop the idea to various studios. We’re hoping for a televison series with one of the streaming services like Netflix, or with cable. I’m busy writing scripts for episodes, which may or may not ever see the light of day. Once the series has the attention of a studio, things start to get interesting. The producer will attach a director, and secure financing for the project. I’m hoping for a “direct to series” deal, which is the best possible scenario. That means the first season (13 episodes) gets picked up by the studio. What’s more likely, though still statistically improbable, is that we get signed to shoot a pilot. If the show gets green-lit, that’s when the real celebration begins.

I’m anticipating something of a roller-coaster ride. Highs and lows, some near misses and dashed expectations. Hopefully, by the end of the year the project will be in development, somewhere. Even then, I won’t know until the studio green lights the series.

I’m quietly optimistic, and very grateful for this chance. My work will be in front of people who can change the trajectory of my life with a phone call, and that’s exciting. The thing is to enjoy the journey, to embrace it. Even if things don’t play out the way I hope they will, it’ll be quite the ride. And other doors may open that I can’t foresee now. I’m learning how to write for film, and that’s a fun process, a very different beast from novels.