Feb 10, 2017

Book Review: Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
By Jon Meacham

This video review compares Ron Chernow's Hamilton book to Meacham's Jefferson book, in style and content. My conclusion is that they're both good, but I prefer Alexander Hamilton. More entertaining, more fair, more information.
There are a few things I didn't mention in the video. When he finally got to the President's House (the White House), he very consciously opted against pomp and much of the kingly processions that Washington and Adams did. For example, he wore no sword to his inauguration.
He was exceptionally casual, even when hosting grand dinners. Some diplomats from Old Europe were offended that he would receive them in his slippers. He wasn't a bum, of course. He was making his point about republican government, that ours was for the People.
Jefferson also chose to have a blind spot for his own contradictions regarding slavery. (All the old Virginians did, including Washington.) Unprepared visitors were shocked when they'd look across the table and see Jefferson's servant standing in the ready, with the exact face of his master sitting at the table. It was just never mentioned, lest you offend the patriarch. When Jefferson died, all the Hemmings slaves were freed, but not the rest.
His tombstone mentions three items.
Here was buried Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia

The implication is he was more proud of his creations than his title.

Jan 13, 2017

No One Can Make You Do Anything

A Citizen's Appeal, or Op-Ed, for the post-Obama era. 

"No one can make you do anything." That's what my mom would say when I'd try to weasel out of something dumb I did.
"Reggie made me do it," I'd say.
"No he didn't; you made you do it."
What you do is still what you do.
The new ... head of state, by both words and actions, has already endangered national security and individuals' lives. But every leader needs followers. Without obedience, a leader's power is gone.
If the President gives an order that seems unconstitutional, illegal, or harmful, will you follow it? You have a choice. Will you follow your party or your conscience?
Disobeying a President is treasonous. Or is it? What if the President is acting against the interest of the people? Whom do you serve? Everyone in the White House, Congress, and every governmental -- and non-governmental -- organization in the world wrestles with these questions at some point.
Now is a good time to decide what you'll let pass, and when you will take a stand. We've already seen questionable behavior; soon there may be questionable orders. Democrats will resist, but will be portrayed as partisan. Members of both parties have a responsibility. Republican push-back will take more courage, but it must be done if you put nation first. What do you have to gain by siding with a fool who may embarrass -- if not shame, or ruin -- the country? Are you strong enough to do the right thing for the long run, while short-sighted hacks rail you?
History has its eyes on you; Republican resistors will be heroes.
Another thing my mom would say: "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?" No one can make you jump. They can push you, but only you can jump. As with all choices, it's on you. Only you.

Dec 24, 2016

Not exactly a Christmas song

In an attempt to revive an old tradition for myself, I opted to write and and record a song all at once over Christmas break. This I successfully accomplished. However, my goal was to write a proper Christmas song. I often jest that you can turn any song into a Christmas song if you just add sleigh bells, but gosh folks, we know that ain't true.
I was trying to give it some genuine Christmas spirit, yet keep it secular. I think I wrote a Christian song, but vague enough to be secular.

Below are the lyrics, which I've already changed since recording. That's my prerogative.

'Twas the Longest Darkest Night
© Bucktooth Music (ASCAP)

'Twas the longest darkest night 
Coldest oldest hopes seemed lost 
Wind blew through our bones 
Blackness of the sky was crystal clear 
Until a light beyond the din 
Became the light and all within 

I walk to you 
Life anew 

'Twas the brightest sight of grace 
Might and kindness light the likes unseen 
Heat of a breeze in shade 
Highest peaks to hearth warmed feet 
Yes, the light above the din 
Behold the light and all within. 

I never knew 
Now I do