When the 2015 season came to a close in early September, you may recall that the Shorebirds embarked on a project that, it was hoped, would reduce the number of games lost to weather. By stripping the field down to bare earth and reworking the entire drainage system (along with redoing the sod) I have to say the field looked very good most of the season and perhaps that may have had a little to do with the Shorebirds finishing second in the league in fielding percentage. That set of renovations, along with improved lighting, was the second of three phases in a complete renovation of Arthur W. Perdue Stadium – the first phase, completed during the 2014-15 offseason, concentrated on player amenities.
With the field complete, Delmarva was closer to the league average when it came to openings. No SAL team went without at least one rainout (Columbia, Greenville, and Hickory came the closest by having just one) but the Shorebirds had 65 openings and the league averaged 66.3 per team. However, while attendance rebounded slightly this year to 209,120 patrons, the per-game average fell by 13 fans to 3,217. Given the performance around the league, however, holding virtually steady in attendance can be regarded as a victory: only three of the thirteen returning teams increased their gate average from 2015 to 2016 and the overall league average increased by just 62 per game despite the relocated Columbia Fireflies drawing nearly twice as well as the Savannah Sand Gnats they replaced. West Virginia, Rome, and (particularly) Kannapolis saw precipitous year-over-year declines in their average draw.
The program for this offseason, though, is an ambitious one, and it’s already underway.
(Photo credit: Delmarva Shorebirds)
One of the key changes will be all new seats, which includes the replacement of the bleachers that were the general admission seating with regular fold-up box seats. This can be a good thing – if the seats are the same size. While I am slowly losing pounds and inches, my concern is that the new seats may be a little bit smaller than the ones they are replacing since fewer seats fit into the original bleacher space because of armrests, so stadium capacity would decrease by some percentage. Of course, the sections can easily be rearranged to suit thanks to the way the seats were originally laid out (you just drill new bolt holes as needed.) I fit just fine into the seats that were there, thank you, so hopefully us bigger folks will have ample room on the new ones.
It’s my understanding that the other key construction project is the extension of the concourse to be a 360-degree concourse, presumably at the level of the top of the outfield fence (so a home run would likely bounce on the concourse.) When I discussed this idea last year, I used another SAL park I’ve visited as a comparison because I recalled it also had a similar setup.
Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park has most of the same amenities as Perdue Stadium but also uses their outfield concourse for a tiki bar, pizza restaurant, and a third picnic area. It’s nice but I think there are other food and drink possibilities that we could use as well, like moving one of the Dippin’ Dots carts out there or adding mini-hotdog stands. If some of the areas are made a little wider, such as the triangular area near the foul poles, they can use them to set up for postgame entertainment (such as the Thirsty Thursday postgame shows of a decade ago) or pregame activities like the player autograph sessions we also haven’t had in some time.
But the crowning achievement in all this will be the new videoboard. Over the last two to three years the stadium has lost use of the videoboard, the bottom section of the scoreboard (where the player information used to be) and, at times, the scoreboard itself would go on the blink. In truth, a videoboard could serve as a scoreboard with one panel reserved for that purpose. It would also be nice to have an alternate ribbon scoreboard located on the opposite end of the stadium – if the main scoreboard stays in left field, the ribbon would be placed along the first base side. Then you could linger in the outfield concourse but still be able to keep track of the score, inning, balls, strikes, and outs while watching the action.
If you look at the minor leagues from a promotional standpoint, over the last decade the trend has gone away from one-night novelty acts (like Myron Noodleman or Reggi) to a plethora of giveaways of everything from bobbleheads to hats to posters to beach towels to doormats. Fireworks continue to be a staple as well, although my perception is that the difference in attendance isn’t all that great anymore – then again, I don’t go to more than one or two fireworks nights a season. They’ve also become far more clever in figuring out ways to fill the sixteen half-innings that a normal game features with games and giveaways.
But something I think would be interesting (and it can be done with a new videoboard) is a game with no between-inning promotions, walkup music, or PA announcer. It would be sort of like those April midweek nights when there might be 300 people actually in the stands, which is neat because you can hear the players and umpires. It’s probably not in the cards because it would be a promotion aimed at traditionalists like me – the guy who thinks the designated hitter and interleague play should be eliminated – but put it in the hopper.
And lastly, the concern on everyone’s lips regarding the improvements to the stadium is: what’s it going to cost me? They raised the parking fee this year to $4 from $3, although I’ve been a fan long enough to remember when parking was free. (I think some selected ticket prices went up this season, too.) But I have been told that the idea is to hold these fees steady for several years if possible, so once they go up they should be constant for 3-5 seasons.
However, if they eliminate the general admission bleachers for what I would guess is ticketed individual seats, will that now be considered a box seat? Presently there is a $5 difference per seat from general admission to reserved box. My guess is that the new box seats will have their own tier priced somewhere between the current GA price and the reserved box cost (but kept under $10 so it’s still considered affordable.)
If you consider the league as a whole, it’s something of a wonder that Delmarva makes it to the middle of the pack in attendance because it’s among the smallest markets. (The most comparable SAL franchise in terms of population and metro area is Rome. Hagerstown and Hickory are in slightly larger cities and counties, while the city of Kannapolis is of similar size to Salisbury but lies on the edge of the much larger Charlotte metro area. The rest are significantly larger in population.) And once the thrill of getting a new team wore off after the first few years, in recent seasons the attendance has been remarkably consistent at around 3,200 per game – which translates to just over 200,000 per year.
These improvements probably won’t bring back the days of 300,000 or more attending Shorebird games over the course of a season, but I think 250,000 can be a realistic expectation if the product on and off the field is improved. For the millions of dollars spent on renovations, it bears noting that each person probably spends at least $20 at the ballpark so an extra 50,000 patrons brings in at least $1 million. If you add that much value to the experience, the dollars spent on renovation will be worth it.
I had no idea until I checked out the hotel the first night I stayed here (to interview for my old job the next morning) that Salisbury even had a minor league baseball team – I basically followed the Mud Hens so I knew a little about the other Tiger affiliates and the other teams in the International League where the Toledo nine plays. Since the Shorebirds were in neither category, I was pleasantly surprised to find that out about the city I would adopt as my hometown.
To be quite honest, though, having a brand new, critically acclaimed stadium (at the time, Fifth Third Field was 2 years old) in a much larger AAA market spoiled me for Delmarva, so I was left a little bit wanting for the first season or so. It took getting used to. But now that I am here and have probably attended a couple hundred games or more, I would like them to stick around so I’m pleased to see someone else wants to improve the Shorebirds’ nest and maybe make it like new again.
I can’t wait to see what the old place looks like come April. But it would look a lot better with the 2017 SAL pennant on the flagpole.
Since the inception of this website I have written a 9/11-themed piece almost every year (I skipped 2006, which was the first year monoblogue existed.) If you’re interested in my personal 9/11 story I wrote it back in 2007.
But now that we have made it to year 15, I think the more apt paragraph is that which I wrote a year ago for the Patriot Post. This was part of my original submission but edited out for length. It’s still the truth, though.
As time passes away from the 9/11 attack, we tend to forget that those who best recall the horrific day as working adults are becoming less and less a part of the prevailing culture. The fall of the World Trade Center occurred just before my 37th birthday; in a week I turn 51. On the other side, those entering college this year were toddlers at the time and may not recall the shock we felt as adults.
Add another year to those totals (since I’ll turn 52 in a couple weeks) and realize that a child born on that date is most likely a high school sophomore now. Those in our high schools and college now were probably too young to remember their experiences that day – maybe the college seniors will think about how it affected their nap time in kindergarten (if they still do that anymore.) For them, the link is now their history books or their parents, not personal experience.
And as that generation comes to adulthood, they have also been soured on the patriotism and purpose that accompanied our fight against radical Islam, to the point where neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump wishes to commit a great deal of resources to the effort; rather they would use surrogates to do the actual fighting. It’s a far cry from the thousands who signed up for the military to take the fight to Osama bin Laden in the weeks after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were targeted. Rather than patriotism, kids now emulate the custom of kneeling during the National Anthem as a form of protest.
While we haven’t had an attack equivalent to 9/11 recently, the threat from radical Islam is still there. Since our last observance of Patriot Day Americans were gunned down by Islamist radicals in San Bernardino and Orlando, with other major incidents abroad in Paris, Indonesia, and Istanbul, just to name a few. The world remains a dangerous place and we live in interesting times.
The fact that Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11 occurred almost sixty years apart provides the opportunity to make one direct parallel. While Islamic terrorism is still a campaign issue 15 years after 9/11, we expended a lot of blood and treasure over the following four years after Pearl Harbor, with one of those war heroes successfully being re-elected President in 1956. There was a finality to World War II because the opponent was a governmental entity – once the regimes in Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany surrendered, the war came to an end. But in this case there may not be an end for generations. A decisive military defeat could hasten the process, but subduing this threat isn’t solely a military process, just a piece of the puzzle. By definition, terrorist attacks aren’t conducted by military forces but by civilians who may use military-style tactics.
So we once again come to the anniversary and remembrance of 9/11, an occasion that almost 1/4 of our population (73.6 million) has little to no memory of because they are under the age of 18. Some of the timeless images will remain, but the actual memories of how Americans were affected will be lost as those who were of Social Security age back then are passing away – this was the generation that fought in Korea and World War II, and we are losing them by the hundreds daily. The rest of us are getting older too.
Let’s just hope that we aren’t simultaneously losing our collective identity as a liberty-loving nation thanks to the threat presented by the terrorists. In the end, that may be the legacy of 9/11 we have to reject.
Now that I have made my way onto the exit ramp, perhaps this is a good time to alert you about where I may wish to go.
I was told that leaving the Central Committee would be quite liberating, and I can see that being the case. Then again, I probably wasn’t your typical member anyway – early on, one of my cohorts was very concerned about my website and, honestly, he had some good points. Over the years I learned just how far I could take certain things and when it was right to keep things under my hat. I mentioned in my announcement post that I wouldn’t be covering certain meetings or the state convention anymore, and I have to admit there were a lot of readers for the state convention posts. But I suspect the next one will be more of a wake anyway, and I’ve already done my share of those.
It’s worth noting that my website predates my tenure on the WCRCC by about a year, since I was formally sworn in back in December 2006 at one of those wake conventions I noted - it was immediately after Bob Ehrlich lost and we found out the MDGOP was thousands and thousands of dollars in the hole. Among the things I wanted to do early on with my site was to speak about issues, which led to this comment about my site in 2006. (The original is lost, but the quote was placed here.) The author of the quote is Stephanie Dray, who was once a Maryland-based blogger (and part of the erstwhile Maryland Bloggers Alliance) but graduated to be a successful writer of historical fiction:
“This blog about Maryland politics is located in Salisbury, and that’s a good thing. In any discussion of Maryland politics, the Eastern Shore tends to be neglected. Monoblogue attempts to pick up the slack. Unusual for conservative commentary, the tone of this blog tends to be wonky. There’s a slew of useful links on the right-hand side, and it’s filled with content. A handy resource for those looking to learn more about Maryland politics.”
I know I have maintained a fair share of issue-oriented writing, mainly regarding manufacturing, the energy industry (which is how I became acquainted with Marita Noon), and other business-related items, but I think it’s time to focus more on that wonky tone in preparation for a post-Trump conservatism that will be infused with a heavy dose of libertarianism. One question I may need to ponder upon in these writings is the conflict and tension between the ideas of libertarianism and the authority placed on us by faith and religion. It’s argued that we cannot legislate morality, so how and what distance from the straight and narrow shall we place the guardrails?
So instead of doing so much reporting and interpretation of events - particularly on the horserace aspect of elections, which I know I concentrated a lot on in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign – I’m looking to shift focus and begin exploring the benefits of limited government. In addition, there are certain cultural influences I think need to be broadcast and expounded upon. (That’s one reason I miss having Cathy Keim’s commentary on my site, but I’m sure her hiatus is just temporary.)
That is the first lane of my road. In the other lane is a project I’ve started on, but progress has been somewhat slow. Once I clear some commitments out of the way, though, I’m hoping to have more time to write my second book. Instead of being based on a series of blog posts I did like So We May Breathe Free was, this will be all original writing.
As one who was a member of the TEA Party movement, I have experienced this political phenomenon firsthand. There are many who have written the obituary of the movement, but I think there’s a need to look at the entirety of the TEA Party era, explore its impact, and, if its death has already occurred, do the autopsy. It’s the basic premise of the book I’ve started to write, although as I do research I’ll be interested to see how my theories bear out. Perhaps it was really all a mirage.
Just as a Christian is called to be in this world, but not of this world, perhaps stepping away from active participation in the political process may be the best way to have a perspective on it. While I was bad at it anyway, now there’s no call to be an apologist for the actions and views of our candidates Donald Trump, Kathy Szeliga, and Andy Harris. Truth be told, I’m sure that even Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton aren’t completely bad people, but neither of them is a person of their word and we always need honest leadership.
When I was a child, we always looked up to those who would run for President. Richard Nixon resigned when he failed to uphold the honor of his office, but otherwise it was a situation where, while you may not agree with the people who ran for President on a political basis, you still found them trustworthy. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, George H.W. Bush: all fine men who differed in their political views but were men of character.
But when Bill Clinton ran for and won office, all that changed. The Democrats of the last 24 years (Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton) seem to be flawed individuals. Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were not perfect, either, but I thought them honorable and decent in character.
Unfortunately, 2016 is the election of the flawed individual. I’m actually saddened that my involvement in the political process has coincided with the coarsening of political culture, and I feel that maybe the better step is to proceed as a recovering (albeit very low-level) politician. It’s been said that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it, so my job now is to attempt to change history’s course in some small way by enlightening people about the advantages of liberty and, perhaps, the benefits of spiritual liberation.
That’s my road. I’ll surely be moving at a slower pace than I used to, but feel free to follow along nonetheless.
This is a hard post to write, but I think it’s necessary to be forthright to my readers and followers. So here goes.
I just looked up some numbers and since 2007, with the exception of a few months in 2009 when my world was turned upside down and inside out in a number of ways, I have posted on this site practically every day. In fact, there were a number of months around election time when I was manic and averaged almost two a day. Somewhere along the line I made the commitment to myself to post every day because I was told, in order for a blog to succeed, it needs fresh content on a regular basis.
The original intention in adding Cathy Keim and Marita Noon to the mix was to supplement the content and hopefully bring the average back to about 10 posts a week. Now I know why Cathy has been missing from these pages and I have no issue with this – she is definitely still valued and when the opportunity presents itself again on her end I look forward to a lot more content from her. By that same token, I enjoy being among the first to read and share Marita’s valuable opinion. It’s not going anywhere, either, and I will try and keep it on its normal Tuesday slot.
But there comes a time when you decide the effort isn’t being rewarded enough. It simply could be I’m not taking the time to promote and market my site properly, or it could have a lot to do with my overall disillusionment with all things political.
However, the solution could be as simple as realizing I’m overdoing it.
I don’t think my posts show the time of day they were put up, but quite often I have written something quickly over the last two hours of the day, between 10 p.m. and midnight. And the reason for this practice was that I didn’t want to miss days. I have had the attitude for the longest time that I owe it to my readers to have that calendar on my site filled each day, and whether the content is really that good or not started not to matter so long as the date was checked off.
But at long last I’ve come to the conclusion that this attitude isn’t fair to my readers and supporters. So with a simple relocation of a widget I don’t have a calendar on my site anymore, and I won’t be a slave to it. In fact it would have had a blank space for yesterday because I decided on the fly as I wrote this last night this was a better post for Sunday.
I guess this whole thought process started when I decided this would be the last year for Shorebird of the Week because I couldn’t do it as well as I thought it deserved to be by only going to about 15 to 20 games a season. (Looking at my folder that I put my photos in, I see that just past the halfway point I have been to only eight games so far this year.) But while SotW has become a little more of a chore than I wanted it to be, I still enjoy updating my Shorebird of the Week tracker and doing the Hall of Fame post each year. That will be enough to amuse me after I wrap up the week-to-week challenge of selecting a Shorebird of the Week when I go months without seeing certain players.
And then there’s the political reporting. I used to be at all of the events and meetings with my notebook and camera, but since the demise of the local TEA Party and several associated groups there’s not nearly as much to report. There’s also the fact that my work schedule is not as flexible as it once was, so I have to miss events - one example was the Kathy Szeliga announcement tour Cathy covered for me. (She also helped me out when a Second Amendment event coincided with my honeymoon.)
I have also realized, though, that I am much closer to the end of my active political career than I am to the beginning. With the prospect for certain changes on the homefront thanks to where Kim and I both work…well, let’s just say that I won’t be returning as the WCRC secretary after my current term is up and leave it at that for now. (They already knew this when I took the job this year, though.)
Once you take all these things in combination, I have come to the conclusion that less can be more and quality should outweigh quantity. So the idea going forward would be to do fewer items but ones that carry more weight, which hopefully will allow me the freedom to write the second book that’s been on my mind awhile and work on other issues like my health. Waking up in the middle of the night wondering if you are having a heart attack isn’t fun – luckily, it was symptoms more associated with walking pneumonia.
Will it affect readership? Maybe, but I figure I’m down to the most loyal fans anyway at this point. And they react the most and best to the pieces I take the time to write from the heart rather than just reaction to a press release or someone else’s work. So I don’t think they will go anywhere and will still stop by fairly often.
But if I come home from an event or meeting at 10:00 at night now I won’t feel obligated to write something that bores me just to fill the space by midnight. I think of it as addition by subtraction, and the change will do me good. I appreciate your support as I make the site better.
Truth be told, this may be the most depressing political season that I’ve encountered in my lifetime.
In most cases, government runs on a political cycle where one party is in for a few terms, then voters desire a change and go the other way. Red turns to blue and back again, but little of substance really changes except the actors.
But the one constant through my life has been that of government getting larger, more intrusive, more politically correct, and more deeply entrenched in the concept of a nanny state because only they know what is good for you. Then you take the people who you elect to try and change this and find that most of them either are okay with the status quo or don’t have the manhood to fight the system with every tool at their disposal.
So we come to yesterday, which was literally the day after we celebrated the 240th anniversary of the day we chose to be self-governing as a nation, no longer dependent of an arbitrary and capricious King George and the British army. On that day we found out that you can avoid your day in court if you are running for President as the presumptive nominee of the Democrat Party. (To use an example it would be like the judge in the Trump University case saying “never mind” and tossing the lawsuit out by determining the plaintiffs have no case. I don’t see that happening.)
Yet while that’s a complete travesty of justice, the fact that many on the Left are saying Hillary is in the clear now is perhaps more disappointing yet. When President Nixon was impeached, Republicans agreed that the charges were serious enough to merit a trial in the Senate. Millions on all portions of the political spectrum ought to be outraged but it will be off the news cycle by next week, replaced with a new Trump scandal or perhaps another sensational celebrity story. It’s bread and circuses now.
I know better than to equate a politician with a Savior – since there’s only one of those, and Christians await his return at some unspecified future date – but it’s more and more likely that we may have two of the most unpopular, unprofessional, and dishonest candidates representing our major parties that we have ever had. Simple common decency seems to be unattainable with this pair, let alone any Christ-like tendencies.
To say that the entire situation sickens me is to understate the issue. How can you vote for either major-party Presidential candidate? Instead, people seem to be resigned to voting against the other candidate, which is an important distinction. There were roughly 128 million votes cast in the 2012 Presidential election, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we have fewer than 120 million this time around. There is a perception that it doesn’t matter; perhaps they feel as one candidate is famous for saying, “what difference at this point does it make?” Unless there is an electoral miracle, there will be no letup in the increase in size and scope of the federal government regardless of who wins. Truly, things have gone much farther in the wrong direction than they were when I wrote my book four years ago.
Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off spending my time writing another book than to come here and dispense free advice and the occasional first-person news account. At least with the book I can make a few pennies.
I’m not in that conspiracy crowd that believes 2016 is the last American election if Hillary wins, but it may be the last election where the Republican Party has a chance at winning with a philosophy of limited government and personal responsibility – apparently these are quaint, obsolete ideals now. If their platform changes to stop reflecting this idea, that may be the exit ramp I’m going to take.
I saw this on RedState and thought it was worth sharing. Just because I didn’t create my kids, as long as they think I’m no less a dad for that fact then I am doing my job – even if I do screw up, a lot.
And I know Senator Ben Sasse is a conservative Republican elected official from a flyover state of Nebraska who’s probably reading this off a teleprompter in a staged setting. You can kill the messenger, but the message should still ring true.
Dads are really not disposable, regardless of what modern culture and big government policy may lead you to believe.
Thanks to social media, I found out my good friend and “partner in crime” Heather Olsen was leaving her post as the Chair of the Prince George’s County Republican Party. While she was not specific about her reasoning, it soon became apparent that she could not and would not support Donald Trump as the standard-bearer of the national Republican Party. So she did what she thought was the most honorable thing and resigned her post.
Seeing that news and my reaction – “I’m sorry to see my ‘partner in crime’ go, but it’s principle over party for some of us,” I had another political friend of mine ask me if I was leaving the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. I’m going to answer that question in due course, but in answer to the later query my friend had regarding how many people would resign from their respective Central Committees if our presumptive nominee becomes the guy on the ballot, I think it’s hard to say because there is a normal turnover of members from these bodies. Our county Central Committee was a rare exception to this as the nine who were elected in 2010 all served their full term. Already this time, though, we have had one personnel shift as I returned to replace a member who had to resign due to an employment change. So the #NeverTrump group wouldn’t be much of a dent considering the number who leave for various other reasons: change of employment, loss of interest, or inability to get along with their group.
Olsen and her solution of resignation is one end of the spectrum, and it’s certainly a valid reaction. On the other hand, you have Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland, who was ready to drop the GOP like a bad habit after the primary knowing they were nominating a “sh*t sandwich” but is now in the camp of staying for the others on the ballot. But Griffiths doesn’t hold a current position in the party, so he can easily enough be a bombthrower.
My position is different, but perhaps more similar to Brian’s. The simple reason for this is that I have no intention to run for office again so that aspect will not matter to me. (Besides, since this website predates my tenure on the Central Committee it’s hardly been a secret where I stand on any political issue.) So just let me say this: there may be candidates on the Maryland presidential ballot who will exemplify the traditional three-legged conservative stool of fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, and support for Judeo-Christian values more fully than the nominee of the party who is supposed to stand for these things. Will any of those candidates win? It’s doubtful, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Maryland politics it’s that Republicans who try to beat liberal Democrats at their own game don’t stand a chance because when the chips are down liberals will vote for the real thing. I’m not convinced there is a clear distinction between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with regard to the overall direction they will take this country.
So I stand as #NeverTrump.
But having said that it doesn’t mean I’m not for Kathy Szeliga or Andy Harris down the ballot. While Szeliga has had a disappointing voting record this year, I still see broad differences between her and her career politician opponent, Chris Van Hollen. As for Andy, I endorsed him in the primary and he won convincingly – enough said. They may be for Trump, and I’m okay with that. There’s also the local school board issue on our Wicomico County ballot where we need to achieve the desired result of a fully-elected board beginning in 2018.
And it was said at the convention that we should have tolerance for those with opposite views, so I tolerate Trump supporters as best I can. (It’s difficult sometimes.)
Naturally this leads to the question of how the Maryland GOP will react to this declaration. Well, it seems to me that a member of their Executive Committee was once a proud member of Republicans for Obama, and I’m certainly not supporting Hillary – if anything, I’m rooting for a repeat of the 1824 election that was decided by the House and praying sanity will reign therein. So it might be a touch hypocritical for them to speak out.
It’s worth repeating that I’m not standing for re-election and that my term runs through the 2018 general election. I also am quite aware that the state party bylaws spell out sanctions that “may include a vote of censure and/or a request for the resignation of that member,” but I’m not going to honor such a request unless I see fit to. I will leave the Central Committee at a time of my choosing, not theirs.
When I was sworn in as a member I took an oath to uphold both the United States and Maryland Constitutions as well as abide by the bylaws of the Maryland Republican Party “with diligence to the best of (my) skill, abilities, and judgment.” It is my judgment that supporting Donald Trump for President, despite the fact he is the presumptive Republican nominee, will be detrimental to the overall platform and positions that have generally been associated with the Republican Party since the era of President Reagan. Thus I cannot support him and will back a candidate who better exhibits these qualities.
And since I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this way, the Maryland GOP should tread carefully. One Presidential election is not worth risking your stock of committed conservatives over.
I have never been to a genealogical site like Ancestry.com to confirm this, but insofar as I know I have no relatives who have perished defending America in battle. I did not serve in the military as I came of age in a time of peace when the draft was unnecessary, while my father was drafted into the Army at the perfect time between Korea and Vietnam. He served his two-year hitch down in Georgia as I recall. Then he came home to Ohio, married my mom, and had three sons so it was lucky for me that he didn’t become someone we would remember on Memorial Day.
Unfortunately, those who were born in different eras may have been touched multiple times. Imagine a family where their boys were born in the late 1890s, making them just the right age to fight the Kaiser in the Great War (World War I.) The survivors come home and have kids in the early 1920s, making them a prime age to go fight Hitler and the Japs in World War II. Those who made it through that war would have had kids right afterward (the earliest Baby Boomers) and the oldest among them were drafted to go to Vietnam. It’s funny – just this evening we ran into an acquaintance whose husband is ill from Agent Orange. Both of them are around 70 years of age, and it reminds us the youngest Vietnam veterans are becoming eligible for Social Security. (They are also the last draftees, as we have featured an all-volunteer military for over 40 years.)
Without glossing over the sacrifices thousands have made in subsequent military operations such as Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Enduring Freedom, and so forth, being so far removed from a major war where everyone was involved and our very existence was at stake - such as World War II – along with the idea of always having the holiday on a Monday, has created a Memorial Day weekend that is more about having the extra day off than about remembering those who died fighting for our freedom. As I noted before, it’s a burden not equally shared among generations, let alone families. Nor is Memorial Day about the living veterans, as they have their own day in November – but those who served likely lost a brother by another mother in conflict, so they are due that measure of respect.
For many years I have attended two events during Memorial Day weekend – the Concert for a Random Soldier held in Long Neck, Delaware, and the local veterans memorial service at our Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. Unfortunately, there is a serious threat of rain and even thunderstorms during both events this year so I hope other arrangements are being made. (While it’s been sweltering and humid on many occasions, I don’t recall it ever raining on the Wicomico County ceremony since I started attending them 11 years ago.) Our family gathering may be forced inside as well.
But somewhere it will be sunny for Memorial Day, and wherever that place is should be reverent in spending the day. Our fallen heroes deserve no less.
Originally I began this post as an odds and ends piece, but when I selected an article on “Obama’s killer economy” as my first topic of discussion I made the executive decision that this subject needed more than a few words.
As it turns out, lately I have seen a few articles crop up about the hopelessness of a certain class of Americans, and whether it leads to a conscious suicide or the slow death of a thousand drinks, cigarettes, and pills doesn’t matter so much as the fact this is an issue. There are thousands of Americans who are right about my age (I’m 51) who somehow have decided to check out mentally, which often leads to their physical demise. To be perfectly blunt, if the Good Lord hadn’t brought Kim and I together there’s the chance I could be one of those statistics given the fact I needed to subsist for several years on a range of part-time work thanks to the utter destruction of the local building industry. If you look as possessions as “stuff,” I lost a lot of stuff over those years. Rather than focus on that, though, I thank God I was one of those who approached the edge of the abyss yet came back. (In the terms of our pastor at church, I am “the blessed man.”)
But somehow I have always had the optimism that there was something better on the horizon; indeed it panned out with Kim. I will grant it’s harder and harder to be optimistic about the world, but believers still persist.
Yet not everyone has that luxury of good fortune, or the faith that God is in control. And perhaps that’s part of the issue, as organized religion is slowly losing its influence on society – at least according to national surveys. (Of course, this is not to say that the devout have any fewer struggles than the unbeliever, nor is it fair to say that many of those who succumbed to the world didn’t believe in God and go to church. Church attendance or even leadership is, by itself, not a guarantee of doing good works either – there is no one who stands above temptation.)
However, there is the economic argument Kevin Williamson at National Review made (subscription required, so no link) that simply said “downscale communities deserve to die.” If you live in upstate New York, rural Oklahoma, or a place like the Eastern Shore (parts of which are slowly losing population) you need to go where the opportunities are. But NR‘s David French adds a key component I believe is missing from the argument:
For generations, conservatives have rightly railed against deterministic progressive notions that put human choices at the mercy of race, class, history, or economics. Those factors can create additional challenges, but they do not relieve any human being of the moral obligation to do their best. Yet millions of Americans aren’t doing their best. Indeed, they’re barely trying. As I’ve related before, my church in Kentucky made a determined attempt to reach kids and families that were falling between the cracks, and it was consistently astounding how little effort most parents and their teen children made to improve their lives. If they couldn’t find a job in a few days - or perhaps even as little as a few hours - they’d stop looking. If they got angry at teachers or coaches, they’d drop out of school. If they fought with their wife, they had sex with a neighbor. And always - always - there was a sense of entitlement.
If you look at it through the lens of those people “falling between the cracks” this may be what they define as “doing their best”:
And that’s where disability or other government programs kicked in. They were there, beckoning, giving men and women alternatives to gainful employment. You don’t have to do any work (your disability lawyer does all the heavy lifting), you make money, and you get drugs.
So let’s recap: we have an entire class of people in this country, counted in the tens of millions, whose very existence is defined as getting up in the morning, spending their day watching television or perusing the internet, eating courtesy of the taxpayers through their EBT card, lather, rinse, repeat, day after day. To break up the monotony they go out and buy their case of Bud Light, shop for the provider of their pills, and sleep with different people. It’s a community of strangers, of users.
Those who have known me for a time (and for the vast majority who do, it’s been a period of no more than 12 years since that’s when I moved here) know the sort of person I am, and alas I can be defined by my faults. Over the last couple years as I’ve become a regular church goer, though, I’ve found an extended family – granted, I couldn’t tell you the names of everyone who attends with me on Sundays, but they know me and if something were amiss they would ask about me and place me in their prayers. Sometimes that’s just the lift I need.
In the Book of Luke there is the tale of the prodigal son, who squandered the half of his father’s fortune he was entitled to on worldly things, yet grew despondent when the money ran out – so he returned feeling unworthy of being more than a lowly servant. Yet the father provided for him the best robe and the fatted calf, for as the father told the other brother, the one who was upset because had done as he was expected but received no reward:
“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32)
America has become a nation full of prodigal sons and daughters, but ones who are still in need of return. We have all the riches to which anyone could aspire, yet millions are squandering their share on lives of loneliness, misery, and envy for those who have more than they do. As I note above, Americans have also turned from God – perhaps there is a parallel there?
I can’t sit here and tell someone in the predicament of dire poverty that simply returning to God and getting back to church will solve their problems. But what I can say is that having the church family may give those who are trapped in this vicious cycle something to live for - if they want to put the work in. It’s not something that takes a Sunday and you’re done, nor is it an easy path. But if one can feel better without taking the drugs, drinking the alcohol, or abusing relationships, why not take the opportunity?
Book review: You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe by Erick Erickson and Bill Blankschaen
As I described a few weeks ago, I was one of a select group that was picked to read an advance manuscript of this book for reviewing purposes. Having read Erick Erickson’s work on a regular basis through RedState and his new website called The Resurgent, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in this book. Yet I was still intrigued by the direction that it went and by the emotions this book took me through as I read through it.
In its opening chapters, the book honestly made me quite angry. Knowing that Erickson is legally trained, it should not have been a surprise that he lays out the initial argument regarding the ongoing war on faith, family, and (particularly) freedom to believe by laying out case after case after trumped-up case where aggrieved members of the protected classes of today’s society work to rob those who proclaim their adherence of traditional, Biblical values of their livelihoods and reputations. While Erickson initially brings his main focus to the case of former Atlanta fire chief (and onetime Obama appointee) Kelvin Cochran, who was dismissed in early 2015 by the city of Atlanta based on a book he had written over a year earlier, he works briefly through dozens of other cases where believers have encountered unexpected consequences for running afoul of secular society.
Needless to say, my leftwing friends would read through this laundry list of incidents – which include the more famous examples of businesses like Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Ralph’s Thriftway, or Memories Pizza - and conclude that these entities were trampling on the “right” to, using these particular examples, seek to solicit a wedding cake created for their same-sex ceremony, purchase the “morning after” pill, or cater their same-sex wedding reception. To the activist plaintiffs in the former two cases it didn’t matter that each of these entitles were happy to suggest alternative arrangements or, in the case of Memories Pizza, was dealing with an entirely theoretical request: the plaintiffs believed these businesses were using the fig leaf of religious belief to deny “rights,” and sadly in most of these instances the heavy hand of government was putting a thumb on the scale against the business owners. These abuses of power, which appear throughout the first two-thirds of the book, should make anyone who reads this book angry.
Yet as Erickson explains, after going through several of these examples:
There is one key reason that those on the Left must force their beliefs on the rest of us. It’s really very simple. If they didn’t force their craziness on us, we would never embrace it. Deep down, they know that to be true. Progressive thinking doesn’t work in the real world.
They go on to try and figure out the progressive worldview, and at that point my anger turned more into a sense of pity. It’s really not all that hard to come to the realization that we are but sinners who fall short of the grace of God, but to do so means you actually have to admit to yourself that many of your acts are sinful and eventual repentance is necessary.
But Erickson makes the case in his book that pastors and churches are falling short in their calling as well, substituting symbolism for substance. For example:
There seems to a pattern here in Protestant circles: the more liberal a church becomes, the more it invests in all the trappings of the appearance of religion. The more it compromises the truth, the more it seems to try and compensate with impressive liturgies, pompous ceremony, and clerical garb. The compromisers seem to want you to get a feeling of spirituality from the way they conduct the service – not the words they use. It’s as if they want to be judged by the color of their robes and not the content of their sermons.
To Erickson, too many men of the cloth have come to avoid the discussion of sin as it relates to everyday life. Pastors, he argues, have become overly timid in their discussions so as not to scare away parishioners by appearing too judgmental or jeopardize the church’s tax-exempt status. While the modern church can be entertaining, he writes, it falls short on the enlightenment aspect. Through most of Christian history, he continues, we have been persecuted so why should we expect different today? In fact, Erick boldly states that our faith in America as a nation may be misplaced if it supersedes our faith in God. Ours may not be the Christian nation we grew up believing that it was.
Yet my anger at the outset turned to hope as I continued on. While it has the appearance of being a little bit self-serving – as Erickson’s recently-created website is dubbed The Resurgent – within the final chapters of You Will Be Made to Care he lays out ideas for a resurgence of the people: The Resurgent Community, The Resurgent Believer, The Resurgent Family, The Resurgent Church, and finally The Resurgent Citizen. I see these five chapters as the “how-to guide” of the book – like the erstwhile lawyer, local politician and campaigner he was, Erickson laid out the case for change, added the necessary backstory and history, then explained his platform and agenda for positive, worthwhile improvements to our state of being.
In introducing this segment of the book, Erickson writes that the nation is not about red vs. blue states or regions anymore. Instead:
I see us – the resistance to the suddenly dominant Spirit of the Age – as a group of conservatives and faith-filled people united against the forces of the Left. Sensing what is at stake in the conflict, many of us have found our voices and are willing to be bold, to become a resurgent people of free ideas, faith, and family.
The evolution of this book hit home for me because it reminded me of my own journey through faith and what it can lead us to believe. I’ve been pro-life for many years, but never really became as activist about it until I began regularly attending church. It’s also led me in the direction of bringing my cohort Cathy Keim on board as a relatively like-minded writer with many of the same goals in mind but a different and unique audience.
(This also affords me the opportunity to remind readers that Erickson has a co-author for this book – Bill Blankschaen seemed to be an excellent choice as a co-author given his history as a collaborator and pastor. While I write about Erick in the singular for the purposes of the review, I’m sure Erick would be the first to tell you the book is a joint effort.)
Yet the chapter on The Resurgent Community reminds me of something I wrote (to considerably less fanfare) a few years ago. After the introduction, I wrote about community in the respect that we should stop looking inward and do more to help our fellow man. While my perspective wasn’t overtly religious, the point Erickson made in this chapter made me think about that which I wrote a few years back but had contemplated long before that.
I also enjoyed the humanizing moment he shared in the book. Wrote Erickson:
If we know we need the fellowship of other believers, why do we seem to be so cloistered in our own homes? I don’t know about you, but one of the greatest barriers our family has to connecting with other believers is (a) very practical concern – a clean house. It sounds crazy when we think about it in the context of facing persecution for our faith, but the first thing people have to be willing to do to cultivate community is to stop worrying about how their home looks.
This light-hearted example aside, perhaps the thing I most took away from You Will Be Made to Care is Erickson’s conclusion that we are not alone. Despite these interesting times we live in, the advice to be a light in the darkness and be a happy warrior is timeless.
What I would encourage those who read my review to do is to (naturally) pre-order the book for yourself. (Like most new books, it already has a website and pre-ordering entitles you to some added perks.) Since it comes out next Monday (the 22nd) it will likely be in your hands next week. Read through it and then share it: loan it out to your friends, your pastors, your fellow worshipers and remind them they are not alone.
Even if they only read it and return it, I’m sure Erick and Bill won’t miss the dollar or two in their pockets if they know the information is being disseminated. There are a couple people on my personal list to share it with, so once I get my hard copy I’m doing the same.
It’s time for Christians to stop feeling sorry for ourselves or playing the victim. At my church we are reminded that the outside world is a missionary field, so if Erickson’s book helps you serve in that capacity there’s nothing wrong with enlisting his aid.
First of all, happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, including mine I spoke to earlier this afternoon.
For the last month I have been operating under a handicap; one which is now (mostly) resolved. My formerly trusty laptop ran into a number of issues which required professional intervention and there was a point where I was afraid I had lost all my monoblogue Accountability Project work. Fortunately, I got everything back and hope to get the mAP released this week; perhaps as soon as Tuesday.
It also means I can move forward on my next project – issue-based dossiers on the GOP presidential hopefuls. I’ve determined which platform planks are the most important on my docket so over the next few weeks I’ll share how I make my decision on who to back for 2016.
So consider this fair warning. It’s been a hectic week with a lot on my plate but now I’m thinking I’m ready to start looking forward to 2016 – not only in a Presidential sense but also the contested primary for First District Congress and the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barb Mikulski. Summer is usually a slack time for the political but the year before a presidential election can be an exception.
Oh, and look for more from my cohort Cathy Keim this week as well.
As I have traditionally done, for Christmas Day tomorrow my site will be dark in order to leave this post atop the queue. Besides, if you are reading my site on Christmas Day your time is better spent paying attention to your family and friends, for those are the lasting things.
While I wouldn’t consider myself a regular and devout churchgoer, last Sunday evening I was in attendance as our humble little church did its Christmas Cantata. Of course it spelled out the story of Christ’s birth in words and music, and as the pastor noted afterward good Christian music provides its own sermon and message. Sometimes that’s lost when I hear “Jingle Bell Rock” or “Sleigh Bells” for the thousandth time in one of the stores in which I do my outside job. Rarely does the rotation include “Silent Night” or this tune as done by my friends Jim and Michele Hogsett, “O Holy Night.”
Straight from their dining room, that was. It’s one small celebration of the real reason for the season.
In the runup from Thanksgiving to Christmas 2014, we’ve seen a lot of senseless tragedy. Unfortunately, much of it was brought about by hatred and evil – hatred over that last few layers of skin which determines its shade or of the belief system one follows, and the evil which justifies taking another’s life because of their chosen religion or profession. It’s very sad that in the time of season we celebrate life we should be advocating death. Once we stopped a world war to celebrate Christmas, but now…well, peace on earth seems but a quaint saying, and too many consider a successful Christmas as one where they got the biggest presents or threw the best party ever.
In my case, this Christmas will probably provide neither of those worldly goals, but as I grow older I feel that I understand more about what Christmas is supposed to be. I’m not one to be prodded by the force-fed commercialism we now endure into what most consider “Christmas spirit” – in fact, when I was living on my own before I met Kim I didn’t even put up a Christmas tree – but in these final days before the holiday I can pause and take stock of the miracle and blessing of Christ’s birth and the Earth receiving its King.
So from my rocking chair and laptop in Salisbury, Maryland, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. Let’s all take stock of what we received in the city of David.