Monday, June 25, 2007

The Ideals of America

"When in the course of Human Events…"

So begins the Declaration of Independence, the document which declared the creation of the United States of America, the signing of which on July 4th, 1776, is the date we celebrate as our national holiday of patriotism.

It’s no accident, I think, that our national day of celebration commemorates a document, rather than the end or beginning of any battle or war, or any military victory, or any national incident. To be sure, there are many other dates which will, indeed, live in infamy or be cause for perpetual celebration. But the single day we have chosen to celebrate Americanism is the day the ideas on which our nation was created were signed into effect with a single declaration.

We celebrate words -- not battles, not royal bloodlines, not military might -- because words convey ideas... and America is a nation founded on a set of ideas: freedom, liberty, justice, equality, and opportunity. These ideas, represented by written words, created the foundation on which our way of life has been built.

Because our American Way of Life is built on a set of ideas/ideals, and because I’m pretty sure we ALL take these ideals pretty much for granted on a daily basis – and it would probably be a good thing if we reminded ourselves of them from time to time -- I thought I would commemorate this July 4th by offering a bit of a quiz on some of the Words of Patriotism we have come to cherish.

Below, I’ve listed twelve patriotic phrases. Your job is to identify where each phrase comes from. These correct answers are at the end.

Here we go…

Patriotic Phrase #1: “We the people of the United States….”

Patriotic Phrase #2: “The land of the free, and the home of the brave”.

Patriotic Phrase #3: “WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

Patriotic Phrase #4: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”

Patriotic Phrase #5: “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

Patriotic Phrase #6: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

Patriotic Phrase #7: “Crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea”.

Patriotic Phrase #8: “ … no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.

Patriotic Phrase #9: “Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.”

Patriotic Phrase #10: “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”.

Patriotic Phrase #11: “A new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.

Patriotic Phrase #12: “Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.

How did you do?

Here are the answers: 1. Preamble of the Constitution; 2. The National Anthem (The Star Spangled Banner); 3. The Declaration of Independence; 4. Inscription of the Statue of Liberty; 5. The Pledge of Allegiance; 6. Inscription of the Liberty Bell (we would also accept Leviticus 25:10); 7. America, the Beautiful; 8. The First Amendment (or The Bill of Rights); 9. God Bless America; 10. The Declaration of Independence, again! 11. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; 12. Preamble of the Constitution, again.

Hope you have a safe and happy Independence Day. And as we all celebrate freedom, let’s please keep our fighting men and women in our thoughts and prayers. God Bless America.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Big Season Finale

Some weeks, it seems, I simply don’t have enough time to write my little column for the newspaper.

Unfortunately, this is one of those weeks.

And even more unfortunately… I’m writing it anyway. YIKES!

If this were a weekly TV show – instead of a weekly newspaper column – we would be in the middle of “Summer Re-runs”, and it wouldn’t really be a problem.

But also, if this were weekly TV show, a few weeks ago we would have aired our Big Season Finale… a really big, exciting, dramatic, top-quality, climatic wrap-up weekly column to end the season… the culmination of all the weekly columns so far.

And, CLEARLY, that didn’t happen here!

Still, the idea that I could take a few months off and just re-use “summer re-runs” until September is appealing to me.

In addition to my failure to publish a “Big Season Finale”, there are several other problems with that plan.

First problem: There were columns about Super Bowl, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, none of which will make much sense in August.

Second problem: There’s the annual celebration of Elvis in August. If I’m using re-runs from the winter and spring, I’ll completely miss my opportunity to write anything about The King. That seems a little un-American.

Third problem: Most of my January/February columns detailed my annual New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss Competition in which I, along with six or eight others, tried to shed the most poundage in am eight-week time period. If I re-run those columns, and people see me in my current hippo-pig-whale-like state, they’ll think I was fibbing in February… which is not true… I’ve merely been eating non-stop since the end of the contest. (Perhaps it’s time for a summertime weight-loss competition… any takers?)

Fourth, and perhaps most thorny, is this: I just re-read through all the columns I’ve written so far this year – all of them – and I realized that most of them shouldn’t have been published to start with. I have no writing talent whatsoever. I should immediately cease and desist from any attempts at anything resembling journalism whatsoever. I should not be allowed to own a laptop, or for that matter, an ink pen. They should take away all my tablets of paper, my writing instruments, and put me as far away from a desk as possible. I should get a job driving a truck, or roofing houses, or making sandwiches. But NOT writing column for the newspaper. I have no talent.

Or do I?!!!

Maybe I do, and I just think I don’t. And I’m just conflicted!!!

Do I or don’t I? That’s the kind of conflict that Big Season Finales are made of. Keep the audience guessing. What’s going to happen? It’s a cliffhanger. Nobody knows for sure.

So there you have it, folks. The Big Season Finale! I’ll see you in September.

Or will I?


You’re always welcome to let me know you agree, disagree, can’t make sense of, or simply don’t care about anything I’ve written here… or about any other topic that happens to be on your mind. You can email me directly at:

And, if reading it once just wasn’t enough for you, read it again online – along with previous columns -- at my new blog:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rob DeBoer, All American

For a few years back in the early 1990’s, Rob DeBoer delighted USC Gamecock fans each Saturday as our gung-ho, get-up-and-go, give-it-all-you’ve-got fullback.

Rob was not your average ball player. He gave it his all, every week, every game, every play. He played the game with enthusiasm. He exemplified the spirit of teamwork and athletic competition.

A prototypical clean-cut Midwesterner, Rob came to Carolina from Nebraska, lured by the chance to play both football and baseball. Indeed, each spring he was a stand-out on the baseball diamond, just as he was on the gridiron each fall.

I didn’t know Rob back then, but I had the opportunity to get to know him in 2004, when we were working together on a community improvement project. Since that time, we’ve worked together on a few projects, and I’ve come to respect him as a hard worker, a dedicated family man, and a genuinely nice guy… AND … a true-believer in the American free-enterprise system (so much so that I’ve suggested to him more than once that he could be a refreshing voice if he were to ever run for public office.)

Shortly after getting to know him, I heard him expounding on his belief in free enterprise. He unabashedly told of his plan to work tirelessly to meet his goal of becoming a millionaire. He wasn’t shy about it, and he wasn’t ashamed of it. He was excited about: energetic and enthusiastic. Rob approaches his work the same way he approached his football career: with zeal. As a fullback, he put his head down, and ran as hard as he could straight ahead… exactly the way the game was meant to be played. And in pursing his career and financial goals, he’s exactly the same. He does it the right way and gives it his very best.

So when I read in The State paper this weekend that Rob was being taken to court by an agency of the federal government, I immediately knew that something was badly amiss.

Not with Rob. With the federal government.

When tax dollars are being used to hassle, harass and persecute an individual who is doing nothing more than working hard to realize the American Dream, something is badly amiss.

And make no mistake… that’s exactly what’s going on here.

A couple of years ago, Rob came across a business which combined two very prevalent marketing trends: online marketing and network marketing. It’s a company called “BurnLounge”, which allows you to purchase music online, and if you wish, make a profit by giving others the opportunity to do so.

I’m familiar with the company, because I signed up a couple of years ago – having been introduced to the concept by another friend -- and I’ve purchased some online music. I never made an attempt to make a profit from the company, because frankly, I’m too old and worn out to have the kind of energetic and enthusiastic money-making zeal Rob has. But... I certainly respect those who DO have that zeal, because that’s what makes America great.

When I was introduced to BurnLounge, I marveled that someone had been clever enough to merge network marketing – the sales approach made famous years ago by Amway – with an online product. This, I thought to myself, is the beginning of a new wave of commerce.

This weekend, however, I read that the company, along with one of their brightest stars, Rob DeBoer, has been taken to court by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
After half a century of Amway, Shaklee, Excel, Herbalife, and a host of other vitamin, cleaning, art, and houseware product sales, the FTC has apparently just decided that this style of marketing represents a pyramid scheme.

So the FTC, wearing its “consumer protection” hat, decided to protect us from the people who were clever enough to find a new, high-tech way to buy music, and make a profit while doing so.

Does it seem odd that, while the federal government can’t keep our borders secure, can’t seem to do anything with the millions who are here illegally, and can’t stop them from earning American dollars illegally, it CAN go to court to stop a Nebraska-born go-getter from selling music via the internet?

If I were not so old and cynical, I would probably chalk it up to just another case of bureaucratic incompetence. But I AM old and cynical: In my mind, FTC really stands for “Fatten The Corporations”. And I’ll bet my Hawaiian Shirt collection that this FTC action didn’t happen in a vacuum. Somewhere out there, there’s a giant music or entertainment corporation, or some other media giant or conglomerate, which wanted to see these young upstarts at BurnLounge stopped.

And the shame of it is that Rob DeBoer, the All-American Good Guy, gets negative headlines in the daily paper for nothing more than doing his best and trying his hardest to be successful.

We’ll be keeping you posted with the rest of the story.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon, I try to include some actually useful information in this column. This is one of those times… depending, of course, on what your definition of “useful” is.

Last month, you may know, we observed a Blue Moon. “Blue Moon” is the term given to a second full moon which occurs in any calendar month. It doesn’t happen very often. On average, there is a Blue Moon every 2.7 years… a little more frequently than we hold presidential elections. During any 100 years, there will be approximately 40 Blue Moons. Hence, the phrase “once in a blue moon”.

I hope you found this information useful. The rest of this column will NOT attempt to include any particularly useful information.

As it turns out, when I was looking at the calendar trying to figure out the Blue Moon thing, it occurred to me that summertime is really here… and my mind started to wander. (You will note that I said “summertime is here”, not “summer is here”. In my mind, there’s a difference: “Summertime”, to me, is the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and “summer” is the period between the summer solstice – typically June 21 – and the autumnal equinox – about September 21.)

Anyway, realizing that summertime is here, my mind wandered back to the time when summertime was really important: back when I was a kid!

It was a simpler time, and those glorious months of June, July and August were what made life worth living!

I’m sure you’ve got your own summertime memories from your youth… and I’ll bet if I tell you some of mine, it will jumpstart yours….

Barefoot. All summer long. At the end of the day, my feet were dirty, because they had been in the dirt all day long. (But be careful walking on asphalt. Hot!)

Riding my bike. Everywhere. I used clothes-pins to attach pieces of cardboard to the bike, so the spokes would make a sound like an engine. There was a backseat to give someone a lift, and a basket to tote stuff in… occasionally even a small person or a pet.

Going swimming. Virtually every summer day would find me at the lake. I lived five miles away from Lake Murray, so my buddies and I would hop on our bikes and pedal up and down hills in the middle of the day to reach our swimming spot. Some days, Dad would take us again after work.

Walking to the store to get a Pepsi. It was hot, and a bottle of Pepsi was cold and wet. Buying a soft drink was an extravagance back then. It was before the days of canned drinks in the refrigerator at home, and before there were coin-operated drink boxes on every corner. But you could hike to the nearest store, and for a dime, get a Pepsi, Coke, RC, Nehi, or Dr. Pepper. They were in reusable glass bottles, and the Cokes came in a small size, too. And the best part was this: When you returned your bottle, you got a two-cent deposit back. That means, if I didn’t have a dime – which I frequently didn’t – you could simply collect five bottles and turn them in for a dime, then use the dime to pay for your Pepsi!

Staying a month at a time at Grandma’s house. She lived out in the country… it was great. We’d play Rummy and Setback in the morning, and various aunts, uncles, or cousins usually came by in the afternoon.

Baseball every day. All the guys in the neighborhood would bring their bats and
gloves to the nearest field. It wasn’t exactly sand-lot baseball, because there wasn’t any sand…. It was a field full of weeds that we would beat down, or cut with a sling-blade. We’d choose up sides, and make the rules as we went along. We’d usually keep playing until the sun went down, or the bat broke, or the ball went into a drainage ditch, or one of us got stung by something and needed first aid. We never counted innings. Probably 40 or 50. We also didn’t count balls and strikes… just strikes. A batter could watch 10 or 12 pitches before swinging if he wanted to.

Attic fans and shade trees. Air conditioning was not something readily available in my youth. I remember my family getting our first window unit when I was older… maybe in junior high school (which is what we used to call middle school.) But before that first AC, it was all about fans and shade. At night, I would open the windows and feel the breeze from that attic fan.

Grilling out. There really was not a lot of “eating out” in those days… fast food restaurants really hadn’t been developed yet. So suppertime was always at home. But, for a treat, we’d grill hot dogs, and maybe even hamburgers. For special occasions, we’d have actual store-bought buns with the burgers or dogs – but that was a luxury, because plain ole bread worked just fine.

Camping out. In the back yard! The neighbors would come over, and we’d camp out all night. Sometimes even up in the tree house.

The drive-in movies. During the summertime, Wednesday nights were FREE at Ray’s U.S. 1 Drive-In Theatre in Lexington. Well, not totally free… but all you had to do was get a coupon from a local merchant. I lived right down the street… so I walked in to the drive-in every Wednesday.

Myrtle Beach.
Wow. Nowadays, the word “vacation” means taking a week off for an exotic destination, a cruise, or maybe even Disney. Back then, the word meant “Myrtle Beach”… maybe only for a couple of days…maybe even just a day. Didn’t matter. It was Myrtle Beach, and you couldn’t ask for any place better.

I could go on and on… I could fill up an entire newspaper… because when I was a kid, my world revolved around summertime. Life was wonderful.

In this age of cell-phones and laptops, fast food and year-round schools, I hope the kids of today are still getting a little bit of what we had back then. And I hope my memories of summertime have helped you dust off a few of your own.