Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011 and an uncertain New Year

This has been a great Christmas season for me...spent allot of time with family (all of them in one place), and renewed friendships that I have neglected for too long. This is actually the second Christmas in a row that I have been home after several years of missed family celebrations due to the Marine Corps having deployed me overseas.
This year gave me a new perspective of the importance of family and what they all mean to me. I was also able to view some other less fortunate families, through a family we sponsored for Christmas, and through Operation Others, where a couple of High Schools in Omaha get together to provide Holiday Dinners to several thousand needy families in the Omaha area.  A single mother with five kids, who struggles to keep food on her families table and pay her bills became the recipient of my families attention this year. We provided her with the wherewithal to make a few of her kids dreams come true. I saw a family come together to make the season better for another family that needed help..but it all went a few steps further. One of the sons will have his first several years of college taken care of and two others will have scholarships to two local high schools next year. I was proud of my family for making the sacrifice and proud of her family for knowing they will make the best of it.
I'm not trying to boast about what my family did.... I just want to illustrate how a loving family, that has been blessed with good fortune, can impact another family in a big way. We didn't purchase any gifts for each other, except for the kids, and devoted ourselves to this family that we had never known.
I'm pretty sure that we will be doing this in future years am looking forward to it.

After spending most of the last ten years away at Christmas and experiencing the holiday in Iraq or other interesting places...being home provided a sharp contrast. Most of the places I have been are areas of the world where poverty is a way of life, places where finding a daily meal can be a challenge. So when I say that I am proud of my family for helping a less fortunate family I mean it.
Last year was hard to take at Christmas....everyone was sharing gifts, and was shifting the bounty around people that had a great deal already.  A sister in law was thrilled to get an expensive necklace from her necklace while I was remembering the people I met in Iraq, that could barely find clothes for their kids. It all seemed a bit much to me and a bit overwhelming. Several members of my family noticed my "uncomfortablness" which led to a discussion of gifting at Christmas in general and the overall purpose of giving during the holidays. We decided last year to find a needy family and our church was more than forthcoming.
So we have a new tradition in my family, one that I am proud to be a part of.
I come form a family that has been blessed with allot and it's certainly easier for us to do this than most....but I would encourage all of you to look beyond your immediate families next year and do something for a family that could use the help...
This next year will impact all of us in many ways that may not be pleasant. It's been a hard year for many of us and for many will unfortunately get worse. Major economic challenges face us all, and political uncertainty looms from each continent and effects us all. Lets keep up the dialogue.... and maybe we can each create a better understanding of each other in OUR little corner of the world.
Semper Fi

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Gospel according to Doc

God was bored!!
Dark as hell, nothing to see, no sounds, no nothing.
He decided to create the one instant(and a rather Big Bang) it was there before him. Galaxys, solar systems, stars with planets. Looked cool, but still something was needed.
DRAMA!!! The universe needed drama.
So he created a few actors and placed them on the planet earth, where in no time...he had drama. And lots of it.  To make things interesting he made the whole thing run on auto-pilot so that it changed and evolved  and every time he looked at his creation it had changed...he liked this, always interesting. Then he wanted some intellectual qualities to these creatures, so he juiced the game and created human beings. NOW he really had drama.
He wanted them to know that he was the responsible party, that this was HIS production and that they should recognize him for creating them.
Evidently, God has a little ego issue.
They kept praying to the damn Sun or talking to the water and trees, thinking that they were the "all powerful" creators of this paradise. Didn't take him long to let them know that he and he alone was the guy that created this whole menagerie. Several times he spoke to some of these humans and let them in on his secret...told them to spread the word and they did. Took them awhile, but soon there was a bunch of them that believed the story and guys like Abraham and later Moses would lead these people and spread his story.
One day God looked over the situation and got pissed. People were worshiping idols, making offerings of his creatures to stone and human created statues, they were recognizing everything but him.
He called Moses up to a mountain and laid down the law.
Ten simple rules to live by.
Ten simple steps that wound make everyone's lives easier and of course recognize him as the one and only. Moses took these rules down to the masses and they were pleased. you tell us!!!!
Things were going well for awhile but once again....those damn humans were "going it alone" once again.
He was angry, but he was also curious. "What about these humans compels them to be so bad?" And "Why can't they follow ten simple rules?"
He decided that he needed to be one of them for awhile and figure out what happened. He needed to live among them and be one of them for awhile to understand what motivated them.
He was born in Bethlehem.
Good look'n kid. Smart too. Everyone knew that this guy was special.
He got to know what these bodies were all about. The damn things hurt from time to time and damn!!! once his reached puberty, all kinds of weird things started happening. Hormones raged through his body, making him have all kinds of interesting thoughts. He experienced anger, love, jealousy, and  pride in creating things from trees and stone . He tasted the sweetness of an apple or two, felt the exhilaration of winning a race, and the pain of a bruised ankle.   And wine, WOW!!! That was nice!!
He finally came to the conclusion that humans were doomed to sin. It was in us, part of the DNA (that he created by the way). He decided that there was no way he could demand of humans the perfection that he was.
A goal for sure, but no way would they ever achieve it.
He had asked his followers to sacrifice lambs at his alters.
He decided that HE would be the lamb and sacrifice his own body (his son) and in return grant humans forgiveness for all the nastiness they had done and were going to do.
He only asked one thing in return. One simple thing.
"That we love each other the same way he loves us".
That's all!!!
Simple. Give your fellow man a brake, help him when he falls, support him when he needs it.
Just care a little bit about the other guy instead of always putting yourself first.
WE have been trying to live up to that simple notion ever since.
Love one another.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Keep up the Fight

Today is the anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard.
His life was brutally brought to an end because Russell Arthur and James McKinney claimed temporary insanity due to "gay panic syndrome" while robbing him. Both were found guilty and are serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. His death ultimately led to the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act , which redefined hate crimes more broadly to include sexual orientation.
On September 18th,13 year old Jamie Rodemeyer committed suicide after relentless bullying from classmates.
On July 9, 2010 15 year old Justin Aaberg took his life for the same reasons.
These members of the LGBT community, OUR community, paid the ultimate price for just being gay.

They are just a few of many that have paid with their lives. Thousands of others, throughout  the years, have paid with broken bones, scars, and lifelong disability. Many more have endured being fired, losing their homes, or being denied their basic human rights because they are gay. Millions have spent their time and treasure supporting repeal of discriminatory anti-gay laws by marching, writing politicians,attending meetings, or writing a check.

What started at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 as a riot against police injustice swiftly grew into a Gay Liberation Movement. THAT WAS OVER 40 YEARS AGO!!!
In that time we have seen the repeal of Blue Laws, establishment of anti-discrimination laws that include provisions for LGBT people, recognition of gay marriage, in some states, the inclusion of "gays" in the definition of hate crimes, anti-discrimination laws in some states, the end of DADT, and many other victories.
These are all small battles in a WAR!!!

Jamie, Justin, and Matthew have still paid with their lives.
Many of us are still paying the price in so many lessor ways, but the cost is still great for just being the way we were born.

Matthew deserves YOU to keep the fight going.
Justin needs YOU to stand up and be involved.
Jamie's death demands that all of us to continue to push the liberation of our people and keep the fight going.

Let your voice be heard...
Stand up for justice and decency...
March in the streets, go to council meeting, write your representatives...
When someone makes a bigoted comment...let him and others know that THEY ARE WRONG!!!
DON'T let Matthew, Justin or Jamie's deaths be in vain....


Wednesday, September 28, 2011



Like many of you, I watched the Paws Up Forever Project video on You Tube.
Earlier in the week. I watched Jamie's blog and heard, in his own words, his thoughts and saw his torment first hand. Jamie's’ suicide shows us the result of bigotry and intolerance first hand. A result that never needed to occur.
From my own reaction to this tragedy, two questions come to mind:
What, if anything, can be done to stop bullying and displays of hatred?
Second, Why did this young boy choose suicide over life?

Neither one of these actions are acceptable.

Bullying, exists throughout our social fabric. It’s wrong and is usually displayed by individuals that either lack intellectual capacity or people whose ideas are without basis. When logic does not apply they resort to name calling and ridicule
Suicide is one of most misguided, desperate, and yes, selfish, acts an individual can perform.

Suicide seems to be the action of last resort when ones world is caving in around them. A last act of desperation when the “pain” is too great to endure and there is no solution in sight. How bad do things get before one seeks suicide as the only solution? The answers to this question might best be left to the “experts” in suicide prevention to address, but I think it’s a question we all have to ask ourselves.

Many of us have endured the ridicule, hatred, and intolerance shown by others towards our sexual orientation. Many of us have felt the isolation of dealing with our desires versus the perceived socially acceptable “way we should be”. I’m positive that many of you have looked at suicide as a solution. If we look at the whole issue honestly and dispassionately, we will find that sexuality is just one of many reasons people might choose suicide as a solution.

The question that we all have is: "what can we do to prevent this from happening...what can we do to help people in this ugly, sad place and lift them to a place of hope"? 
Many of us have worn Jamie’s shoes, all of us have survived and endured. We know what it’s like and we know that their is hope. I encourage all of us to contact our local suicide prevention organizations and offer our help. The fact that you are reading this has qualified you to be of aid to kids and others that have come to the point of choosing this option. 
Be there for there for Jamie. Contact The Trevor Project and ask what you can do.

People are bullied for being too fat, too skinny, the “wrong” skin color, too smart and too dumb. Wherever there is a group, their are those that don’t fit in and there are those in that group that will ridicule any “outsider”.  People that engage in bullying are usually those that have insecurities and questions about their own qualifications for being in the “in” group. For many straights that bully gays, it’s more a product of their own insecurities and questions about their own sexuality. School districts across the country are now recognizing that bullying has far reaching effects beyond the schoolyard. I will never believe that society will end bullying, but aggressive efforts in our schools will go along way towards convincing kids that bullying is socially unacceptable. Contact your school districts and check out their policy on bullying. Attend Board meetings and speak out as they work towards crafting a policy to deal with it. More importantly, be an example of tolerance in your own life. We have all seen comments on the web, ranging all topics, from politics to personal life choices, that are met with name calling, and ridicule rather than civil discourse. We can have discussions dealing with all facets of life that are civil and respectful. It’s the fool that resorts to calling others names and relying of verbal force rather than a thoughtful response.

I'm sure that all of you share my frustration when we hear of an incident like Jamie’s. It saddens us and angers many of us.
Let your grief and your anger motivate you to activism. I’m not talking about throwing a few bucks at the cause, or attending an event to show your support.. Contact the Trevor Project, be active in your community. Let this incident motivate you to action.

A little lesson in history.

The fact that you can openly go to gay bars, march in a celebration of your sexuality, marry in some states, serve in the armed forces openly, or in many states work as a openly gay person, is because people before you opened their mouths and stood up to injustice and bigotry. The people that stood up years ago at Stonewall, or marched in the Gay Liberation parades were also the people that went to Board meetings in their communities, questioned political candidates, and involved themselves in causing the change that you are the beneficiary of today.  

We ALL need to ACT in our communities if we are ever going to leave a world where kids like Jamie do not have to endure what we have endured or feel they have to choose as Jamie did.

Doc Spad

Friday, August 19, 2011

From a guy the sweats for a living

Talked to a friend of mine the other day about our economic challenges. I found his observations honestly refreshing. Thanks Dave. Here's what he said: 

"When I hear certain politicians banter about raising taxes on all those rich people (the ones they define as earning more than $250K a year) I sorta cringe. I'm in the remodeling business, much of the work I get is from those people. I wonder how many of them are going to be willing to spend $20-80K remodeling their bathrooms or kitchens when they have to send a bigger chunk of money back to Washington. I think that money could better be spent by those people here, in their communities, paying people like me to work for them. The people that work for me and the subcontractors and suppliers I support certainly would agree. They keep portraying these people as villains or greedy selfish people hording their precious bucks. I see these people as supporters of local businesses, theirs and mine. I see them as the turbo charger on our economic engine.
The real question is: Who could stimulate the economy better? Should we let the people that earned that money spend and invest it their communities (by paying people like me)? or should we tax them out of those dollars and send the bucks to Washington and let a bunch of bureaucrats spend it? Who the hell do think will do a better job?

Another thought: When I get payed to do a remodeling job, I pay my employees, subcontractors and suppliers. I pay taxes on the profits I earn, my employees pay taxes on the money they earn, as do the subcontractors and suppliers I help support. They intern pay their employees or spend it in local businesses, pay rent, buy food where others earn wages from that money. Those bucks keep churning through the economy being spent over and over again, where people pay taxes on them over and over. THAT is how you stimulate the economy and THAT is how you create jobs. The end result is a growing economy, more people working, and growing revenues into the US Treasury. The more people we have working, the more people we have paying taxes. The only way we are going to solve our economic mess is to grow the economy. Considering that 70% of jobs, good jobs, are created by small business (those nasty rich people that make over $250K a year)....this president, this congress should be falling all over themselves to help these people grow their businesses so that they can hire more people. Not regulating them to death, raising their taxes,(which they could use to expand their businesses and create jobs), and not portraying them as greedy tight wads.

On Warren Buffet: What a damn hypocrite! He owns billions of dollars of assets, which just keep growing, pays himself a measly 100K a year, and has the audacity to say that those rich people like him (those that make 250K or more a year), WHICH HE IS NOT ONE OF THEM, should pay more taxes. Go ahead Warren, pay more ones stopping you. Of course, you'd have to pay yourself more in the first place. This president and many like him like to use Warren as an example...lets get real...he's the exception. The guy is worth billions, the securities he owns pay NO dividends, his fortune just keeps growing and he pays himself next to nothing. He's made his fortune by buying pieces of companies of people that KNOW how to build a business, and he does it well. And I think he'd be the first to admit that he's not an entrepreneur in the true sense of the word. The people that built this country's economy, the people that created the wealth that is America, started with an idea and a few bucks, and made it happen on a shoestring. David Packard, Bill Gates, and the Steve Jobs of this world had good ideas and an unyielding desire to succeed. They are the creators of wealth. Warren is the guy that once they succeed, tags along for the ride. 

Keep in mind: when a "rich" guy makes alot of money, anything he does with it helps the economy. How?
-If he puts it in the bank then I or you can borrow it to buy a car, remodel the house, or send my kid to college. 
-If he buys bonds with it(lends it), then governments, local and national can build roads and bridges, or corporations can use it to expend their businesses. Both result in higher employment.
-If he buys equities(stocks), then companies will have the money to expand and create jobs. 
-If he spends it...then I or you can earn his dollars by suppling goods or services he desires. More jobs. And if he spends it on a yacht or a jet , I really don't think the people that build them would mind. 
-The worse thing he could do is bury it in his yard or stuff it in a mattress...and I don't think many millionares do that."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"I'm breathing...I have nothing to complain about"

I have an friend.
When asked "how you're doing", his response is always "I'm breathing, I have nothing to complain about".
It's his simple way of celebrating that he's here to see another sunrise, make someone smile, and enjoy the beauty that he seems to find in the day to day grind.
It's his positive attitude and his ability to see good in everything he experiences that inspires me to "make the most " out of every day that I'm alive.
I've known this guy for over 6 years. We met when he was a Corporal in Fallujah, Iraq. In the last few days of the battle, when we were just getting ready to pull out, he had the misfortune to locate an IED....the hard way.
He lost both legs and the lower part of his left arm.
I saw him again a year after his injuries, when he was just getting started in physical therapy and learning how to use his artificial limps. We've kept in touch via the net and an occasional phone call for several years. Every time when I asked him how he was doing, he would answer, "Well I'm nothing to complain about". Now that I live in Wash DC, close to his home, we've been in contact more often and have been trying to arrange a meeting.
He called me a few weeks ago and we set up a time and place to meet. I was prepared to drive to his place when he said he wanted to meet in town so that he could see my new place. We ended the conversation when I mentioned to him that I was getting ready to go to go on my morning run. He asked me what route I took and how many kilometers I ran a day. In the back of my mind I cringed that I brought up the topic. We said our goodbyes and ended our conversation.
Last night we met for dinner and drinks. Met him at a place a few blocks  from where I live. When I walked into the restaurant he stood up reached out and shook my hand and he hugged each other as only two comrades in arms could do. I was stunned that someone with no legs and a missing arm, looked and functioned so well.
The evening went on and on, reliving stories from our time together in Iraq.  We both drank more than we should have, and ended up walking back to my place. I showed him the guest room and we both crashed.
I woke up at 7:30 and started my routine, getting ready to go on my run. I went into the kitchen to start the coffee so it would be ready when I returned. I was standing there in my jockey shorts when he came around the corner dressed in running shorts and attached to his steel/titanium legs were a pair of running shoes.  I was speechless. I didn't know what to say. He just smiled and said, come on lets get going.
We finished a 10k run, that brought us around the tidal basin, along  the reflecting pool and around the Washington monument. As we sat down to some fruit and pastry and our cups of coffee...I asked him how he slept, his response was " I woke up, got nothing to complain about".

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wow!!! Back in the States Good to be home. Nice to come out into the sunshine

All settled in my new place in Washington DC and having a great time adjusting to being back in the states. For those of you that have followed my travels over the last few years, you already know that after I left Iraq ( for the third time) I was stationed in Singapore and spent allot of time in Indonesia and SEA. Spent a few months back in the Middle East and now I'm home....been along time. Glad to be home, glad to be closer to my family and friends, glad to be able to walk a block to the Starbucks.
What many of you may not know is that I am a strong supporter of the repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) and now that it has officially ended and the services are "adjusting" to the changes... the lives of thousands of service men and woman will change as well. No longer will they have to "hide" or worry about who might find out. No longer do they have to worry about having their careers ended because of bigotry and prejudice. All I know, is that this Marine will breathe a little easier.
No... I'm not going to be prancing into the office on Monday morning announcing to the world that I'm Bisexual. Frankly, it's no body's business who I have sex with and how. I suspect that is the way it's going to be for most of us. Most people will not even know that the guy or gal working next to them is gay or lesbian. The only difference you might notice is a more relaxed coworker, one that feels a bit freer and less threatened., one that can see his future at bit clearer and feel like he's an equal partner in serving his nation.
I'm sure that there are some of you that just can't figure out people like me. Believe me, sometimes I confuse myself. But what I do know is that I'm as much as a human being as you are and for some reason, God made me the way I am for his reasons...maybe someday we can all accept His will, and stop the hate.
All I know is that I feel allot more secure in being able to finish my 30 years serving my country and being a proud member of the United States Marine Corps.
Semper Fi

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year...Really??...Is it possible?

Happy New Year...Really??...Is it possible?

Over the last several days I have spent some time browsing over several of my favorite blogs, reading through my news feed on Facebook, and listening to News gurus offering up their opinions on the past year and the challenges of the new. The one common thread seems to be a message of gloom. “Hope this next year is better than the last”...I hope it goes by as fast as the last year....too painfull”, and my favorite, “It can’t get any worse”.  
Being a student and practitioner in the field of International Relations, my whole existence is looking at the world from various perspectives. Whether it be economic, cultural, or from a security viewpoint, I have to be able to stand in the other guys shoes to develop an honest opinion of world conditions.
Second life has been a great tool for being able to develop friendships with people from all around the world. I have discussions about cultural, economic, and political topics. It’s a great way to broaden ones perspective and develop viewpoints that are not limited to the myopic vision we all seen to have when looking at the world from our small corner of it.
My profession deals with creating a historical and intellectual framework with which we use to measure and determine the future direction of our global society.  We have to recognise that because of tools like the Internet,  Facebook, Second Life and many other networking options, that we can now expose ourselves to many, many new and different ideas. We can exchange ideas with mothers from Poland, a student at Cairo university, a shop owner in Singapore, and a kid living in the suburbs of Miami. What we can do here is a powerful.
For the first time is history, we don’t have to depend upon a National Geographic, or an authors’ perspective on the rest of the world. We are not limited to a newscasters prejudice, or a producers hidden agenda. We can each individually “go direct to the source” and learn for ourselves. I want to know what the Arab student in Cairo thinks about the US military and the future of the Middle East, I want to hear from a single mother in Poland and feel her concerns for her children, I want to listen to the concerns of a gay kid living in Miami who feels abandoned by his parents, ostracised, and alone, and I want to listen to the fundamentalist christian in Wisconsin who’s convinced the world is full of evil. And hopefully, soon, we will be able to chat with a mother or student in the middle of China, Iran, or North Korea.
What I’m saying is that we, those of us that “play” in this world of the net, are at the cutting edge of a global cultural revolution. We have the opportunity to develop relationships with people from all over the world and broaden our understanding of each other like never before in the history of man.
No  longer are our views of the world colored by the lenses of governments, religious belief, cultural limitations, distance, or wealth. People from all around the world have the opportunity to learn from one another, experience each other, and understand each other.
If you honestly think that last year was all that bad, try having a conversation with someone from Haiti, Sudan, or from Afghanistan. Things might look a little better.
The one huge truth that we all share globally, is that our world is getting smaller. As people experience each other in our Second Life, or any other social networking activity, we are getting closer, more understanding, and tolerant of each other. Try not limiting your activity in Second Life to the bars, malls, and bedrooms and leap into some of the other culturally diverse opportunities that OUR world offers.  Develop friendships with people you normally wouldn’t meet in your real life, and share with them ideas, goals, dreams, and convictions. Be willing to experience new things (at least once), and maybe you will be able to understand why that other person feels the way he/she does.
So when you hear someone lament of what a crappy year 2010 has been or is complaining about the state of the year that has just proud that you are part of a worldwide revolution of communication and understanding. Through your “ears and lips” you are changing the world.

Happy New Year....Happy New World
Doc Spad