What a “radical” year!!

It’s been a tough year for political moderation.

As I passed my 65th birthday this past September, I am reminded that I have had the opportunity to watch the state of politics in the US since the 1950’s to today.  I’ve seen quite a lot of change.  Some good …. and a lot not so good.

The first election I can really remember much about was Kennedy vs Nixon in 1960.  My mother, in particular, was totally enamored by John F. Kennedy and his family.  Mom didn’t care much at all about position papers, she just liked Kennedy’s style.  And he did have style!  Richard Nixon did not.  (It took Nixon years to learn to look and speak decently on television!)

I don’t recall many issues from back then (I was around 10 at the time), but I do know that Kennedy accomplished a lot of things in his short tenure.  He challenged us all to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  He had the courage to stand up to Khrushchev and the Soviet Union’s placement of nuclear arms in Cuba, and he challenged us to reach for the Moon by the end of the 1960’s.  He supported tax cuts to spur business growth.  And reached out to help oppressed people overseas fight back against the scourge of Communism.

In other words, he was a pretty conservative fellow by today’s standards!

Here in Washington State, we were represented by Democrats like Henry Jackson, and Republicans like Dan Evans.  Moderates all.

None of whom could be elected today.  None.

Doesn’t make any difference which side of the aisle you are on, there are no more moderates welcome on the political stage. In order to make the activists, and the money brokers, happy a candidate (and his/her ideas) must cater to and placate only the extremes.

Which means very little good is happening.  Just gridlock because of extremist ideology.

An example …. “Political correctness” continues to stifle free speech and our religious rights.  The victimization culture continues to gloss over real issues for sensationalism.  We have so many people yelling, a majority of people have stopped listening.

After years of “discrimination,” members of the LGBT community won the right to marry.  Ok, fine.  What someone does in their own home with their gender identity is their business, not mine.  When some “gay” couple decides to have a wedding, they find that a staunchly Christian (or Muslim) owned business prefers not to participate.  So they go nuts – calling on the government to intervene in this “discrimination.”  Lawsuits are filed.  The Christian owned business is sometimes even punished (fined) by the government for their religious beliefs.  Then, a lot of Christian folks get upset about this discrimination against their beliefs, and they work to pass a law to protect Christian owned businesses against that kind of discrimination.  And so it spins out of control … one side against the other.

I have observed over the years that name calling and lawyers are never a good mix when you want to solve a problem!!

But, the solution is so easy.  Stop yelling.  Stop suing.  Find another baker/caterer/photographer who doesn’t disagree with your lifestyle choice and enjoy your day.  Then the Christian baker/caterer/photographer doesn’t have to go out of business or pay fines, and the state legislature doesn’t have to pass a law to protect them!!  We all just get along.

Jesus (basically) said:  “Treat your neighbor as you, yourself, would like to be treated.”  If both sides of society’s conflicts would just follow this simple rule, most of our conflicts would disappear.

And, then, the political moderates can once again speak out and serve all Americans … and not just the extremes.

Ken

 

 

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EVIL

Recent events this week, the loss of four brave comrades in arms to an Islamic terrorist, is sort of the last straw. I need to vent a little, so fair warning!!

In my soon to be 65 years on this planet, I have seen a lot of politicians and “leaders” come and go. Some have been good, a few inspiring, some terrible.

The way I see the difference between liberal and conservative, Republican or Democrat, boils down to two broad areas.

The first is how much do we take from those who succeed in life to give to those who do not or who need help? There are a lot of shades of grey in this dichotomy. And, I think we can have a spirited set of debates, disagreements and compromises on what is enough and how best to solve these problems. That’s good for our democracy.

But the second broad area is far more sinister … it is the perception of EVIL in the world and how to react to that EVIL. Here there is clearly a monumental difference in world views that I have difficulty reconciling. There IS EVIL in our communities … thugs, drug dealers, thieves, murderers …. they are the personification of EVIL that we see in our neighborhoods. But, there is also EVIL in the outside world as well. Evils such as “systems” including Communism, Socialism, or Naziism. Evil in those who bend a world religion to meet their own sick goals .. be it Islamic terrorists or the KKK flashing their “Christian” symbols around.

Effectively dealing with EVIL is not magic … you confront it head on, refuse to “negotiate” with it, remove it quietly if possible, but sometimes you must step up and remove it with as much force as is necessary.

This is where the current crop of Democrats/liberals/progressives completely and totally fail. You cannot trust or negotiate in good faith with EVIL. Period. History has taught us this over and over. “Gun Free Zones” will not stop EVIL people … it only prevents honest, law abiding people, from protecting themselves. Sanctuary cities with lax law enforcement do not protect their citizens from “immigrant” criminals. Agreements with terrorists will not stand the test of time – the terrorists will do anything to advance their goals including lying and cheating on “agreements.” Drawing a “red line in the sand” and then ignoring it only leads to one failure after another.

I could go into so many examples of this in the past … Hitler and Neville Chamberlain, Jimmy Carter and the Iranian mullahs, Ronald Reagan vs Ghadaffi in Libya, Mayor Giuliani vs New York crime lords … but they all reflect the same result.

You succeed when you recognize, confront and remove EVIL. You fail when you do nothing but talk and give in to them.

We need leaders who will succeed in dealing with EVIL … not those who refuse to accept that it exists. Those are the leaders we should be proud of and that we should seek out, no matter what “party” they belong to.

Henry Standing Bear’s Canadian “twin”

As many of us wait patiently for Craig Johnson’s new Longmire book and season 4 of our favorite TV series to arrive on Netflix, there are times we need to fill our TV sessions with other things.

As I have alluded to before, one of the shows my wife and I have found is a Canadian series called Heartland. The first 5 seasons are available on Netflix.  (The show is just wrapping it’s 8th season overall on CBC and has been renewed for a 9th.)

Although radically different in plot than Longmire (it’s the story of a young girl and her family horse farm – a long way from our Sheriff’s work!!) … the two shows share several things in common: spectacular scenery and locations (Heartland is filmed near Calgary amidst the Canadian Rockies), excellent acting and writing, a respectful relationship with Native America, and wonderful music, in this case from some little known Canadian artists.

As a nice sample, if you’re a fan of Henry Standing Bear (which I am, especially the Henry we get to know in the Longmire books), there’s a particular episode I think you’ll enjoy. It comes near the end of season 2, called “Full Circle” (episode 17).

Our heroine, Amy, is having trouble with her horse and takes it to a Native American friend (Victor Whitetail) of her deceased mother. The scenes between Amy and Victor are really well done and are full of inspiring Native American wisdom. Several times, I found myself saying “Victor sounds just like Henry …” There’s some side story stuff that may not make much sense if you’re not watching the entire series involving Amy’s older sister, Lou, but just pay close attention to the scenes with Amy and Victor. Truly amazing. Near the end of the show, there is a wonderful music track that made me instantly think “man, that music would be so cool in an episode of Longmire!!”

I’d love to hear your comments so please feel free to post back.

Cheers!!

A new “guilty pleasure” – Heartland

One of the great features about Netflix is the “suggested” shows they come up with.  Sometimes, the suggestions don’t make any sense and sometimes they are just plain off the wall.  But, sometimes they can open up a jewel.

In early December, all three of us in the family came down with the flu/cold/sinus infection … aka the “crud.”  And we were all hit pretty hard.  Ryan stuck to his games and Lulu and I watched some TV.  One of the suggestions that popped up on our Longmire page, was a CBC drama called Heartland.  We started watching episode one of season one (of eight, so far), and were hooked immediately.

Which is no doubt kind of strange, because we’re probably not really in the show’s “target” market!!  My guess the show is aimed primarily at young folks and probably mostly female.

Well, I’m neither but I love it anyway!!

In a nutshell, the story is about a family who owns a ranch in Alberta near the Canadian Rockies.  The Mom perishes in an auto accident in the first episode leaving a Grandpa, two sisters, a neighbor girl who hangs around a lot, and some other folks to make the ranch work.  The primary focus of the ranch, named Heartland, is on horses (something I also know absolutely nothing about).  The younger sister, Amy, has apparently inherited her Mom’s knack for understanding horses and the horses play an integral role in most of the story lines.

There’s also a few romances to go around and associated other family issues.

What I have grown to love about the show is the excellent writing, strong cast, and glorious scenery contained within each episode.  (Sound familiar … like Longmire?)

I especially like the way they have treated the various generational romances.  For example, in the early seasons, Amy is supposed to be a high school student, and the Grandpa (Jack) sponsors a young man (Ty) who is on probation from the criminal justice system to work on the ranch.  Ty and Amy start out as friends, and over the course of the first several seasons, they form a deep and loving relationship.  But, along the way there are a lot of ups and downs, and the writers have done an excellent job of showing how youthful selfishness and jealousy can often derail an otherwise great relationship.  Ty and Amy eventually work things out and (spoiler alert) will get married in Season 8.

It’s a series that’s filled with positive messages from all of the generations.  Grandpa Jack is about my age and I can clearly identify with a lot of thing he says and does.

And then there’s the scenery.  Wow!!  The ranch is supposedly located just south and west of Calgary, and the various characters quite often head to the nearby Canadian Rocky Mountains.  One of my favorite locales is Jack’s “fishing cabin” which is a nice sized rustic cabin built on the side of a river in the foothills.  Several couples have spent time there, including Jack and his special lady, and even though I’m not a fisherman, seeing Jack fly fishing in the river is a spectacular sight!!

The series is currently in season eight on Sunday evenings on CBC (which we get on cable).  Seasons 1-5 are currently on Netflix and are thus easy to find.  We watched many of the shows from seasons 6 and 7 on YouTube although the quality was quite poor.

Give Heartland a try.

photo-blog-heartland

Longmire’s Appeal

(Originally written on Sept 24, 2014)

This fall, I was watching the season finale last evening of Dallas on TNT. My “guilty pleasure” tie to Dallas comes from long ago … when we all thought JR Ewing was such a lovable villain.

As the show ended, my wife Lulu (who is not a real fan of Dallas) asked … “has it been renewed?” I don’t know. No idea. And, I really don’t care. If it’s there, I’ll probably watch, but if not, I’ll watch something else. It’s that way with virtually all of the TV shows on the air right now. OK tshapeimage_2o watch, but if they disappear, it’s really no big deal for me. Another good example .. CSI: NY. I really enjoyed the show and totally respect star Gary Sinise’s work with veterans. But, when it left CBS I really didn’t fixate on it.

But, Longmire is different. Why?

For me, it’s a combination of factors. It starts, of course, with Craig Johnson’s books and his wonderful ability to weave a good story. Reading his books is like an escape to a simpler time and place where values remain more important than technology. A place where imperfect people live, work, love and, sometimes, die. All built around a core of characters who we can identify with.

Of course, the TV series really doesn’t follow Craig’s story lines. The show has it’s own storyline and has managed to carve out a “world” that is both engaging and honest. It’s full of people we can respect (Walt, Vic, Henry, Ferg, Cady, Lucian, Mathias) while at the same time showing us folks with a dark side as well (Branch, Jacob, Barlow). The writing has been nothing less than suburb, the acting is natural and engaging, and the producers have made sure that the cinematography is better than any other series on television. All of these factors combine to make Longmire’s demise all the more painful.

Longmire IS different than most series TV. It’s engaging without being “in your face.” It’s storytelling with moral values of good vs evil thrown in for good measure. It’s acting and visual images and dramatic music that is much more like a movie than a TV show. It’s stories about people we have learned to trust and who often think before talking or acting.

It is, in my opinion, the best crafted show on television and if it is not picked up by another network, it’s not only the 6 million devoted fans who have been watching that will loose out. It’s the millions more who need to be introduced to Walt and the folks in Absaroka County. They are the ones who should be reminded that good needs to triumph over evil; and honesty, and integrity, are real values that we need in our society.

Longmire Country in Person

Originally written on August 24, 2014

It started a few years ago … this obsession with a series of mystery novels.

I had read in the paper about a “new” TV series on cable called Longmire. Set in modern day Wyoming, a state that I have long had a fond relationship with dating back to living in Cheyenne back in the 1980’s, I decided to give it a try. Watched one of the episodes and was immediately hooked. The story … the acting … and especially the photography. Wow. I wanted more!
I quickly found out that the TV show was based on a series of books written by Wyoming’s own Craig Johnson. Soon after I started the first novel in the series, The Cold Dish, I quickly decided that I would spend last summer reading all nine of the books. Which I did … by the middle of July. One after another, the stories blended together into this wonderful tapestry of the life and times of Sheriff Walt Longmire and his family, his friends … and a few foes. Along the way, I also learned a great deal about the Northern Cheyenne tribe and their culture and traditions, a key part of Sheriff Longmire’s world.

Meanwhile, the TV show has just finished it’s third year and has garnered high ratings for a cable drama. The main characters are present in both the books and the shows, but follow differing story lines. The show has garnered a strong following among viewers and a very active social media presence. What really differentiates the show from other crime dramas is the writing, the acting and the photography. All are the best I have ever seen on television and rival what you’d expect from a major motion picture.

The show even has it’s own civic celebration …. Longmire Days.
Held for the past several years in Buffalo, Wyoming, the celebration highlights the world of Craig’s stories. Although the books (and the TV show) are set in a fictional county (Absaroka) and town (Durant), the city of Buffalo and the surrounding country are really the “home” of Longmire and his adventures. Many of Buffalo’s real word locales are in the books, including the Occidental Hotel, the Busy-Bee Cafe, and others. So, it just seems “right” to celebrate “Longmire Days” in Buffalo.

I drove from Tacoma, Washington, to Buffalo this year to partake in the celebrations. It was an amazing couple of days that reminded me of all of the wonderful people and places in America that are virtually ignored by many on both coasts. Buffalo is truly in “flyover country” but is truly well worth the time to visit.

The town went all out to welcome Longmire’s fans.
On Friday evening, there was a street dance in the small downtown area. The live band played the night away and several of the show’s cast members dropped by to mingle with the audience. No “Red Carpet” lineup here!! Selfie’s were the order of the day!!

On Saturday, the cast setup in the town’s central park area and signed autographs for literally thousands of fans. Later that afternoon, a number of Cheyenne dancers entertained with traditional costumes and dances. (Many of these same dancers played guest roles on one of the episodes of the TV show this past season.) In the evening, there was a softball game between the Cowboys and the Indians. It was a terrific community celebration from start to finish.

Although the TV show is filmed in New Mexico, the Longmire Country near Buffalo is well worth a trip by itself. The Big Horn Mountains are nearby and beckon travelers to a more low key experience than Wyoming’s other tourist areas such as Yellowstone or Grand Teton Park.

The trip was terrific in every way. The people I met … fellow fans, Buffalo residents, and the cast of the show … were all warm and friendly people. The countryside … worthy of more time to explore.

Will there be another Longmire Days in 2015? Maybe. If the show is renewed for a fourth season … probably.

(Ed note: there will be a fourth season on Netflix and another Longmire Days in Buffalo in the summer of 2015)

But a visit to “Longmire Country” is well worth the time … anytime.

Some of my images from the trip:

http://minutemanphotography.smugmug.com/Summer2014/