Walt and Encanto

“Umm…Mr. Barker, you have a visitor.”

The low-level executive at the Walt Disney Studios closed his eyes in frustration. He was busy. He’d told Marjorie he was busy. What part of busy was unclear? He stared at the receiver in his hand currently awaiting his response with resignation.

“Marjorie, could you pick up?”

He heard the click indicating he was no longer on speaker. Before she could speak, he started in.

“Marjorie, I thought I explained how behind I am. Unless it’s the CEO, I don’t have time for visitors. Can you please figure out a good excuse for me, because I don’t even have time to think of one, and deal with this?”

“Mr. Barker…” Marjorie hesitated. The hackles on the back of the executive’s neck began to rise. Marjorie never hesitated.

“…I believe your schedule may have just opened up. Your guest is quite insistent and has made it clear time is of the essence.”

He hung up the receiver without responding and sighed deeply. He could not conceive of anything that could possibly take priority over the project sitting on his desk. But the truth was, he knew Marjorie understood that as well as he did, so despite a myriad of reservations, he stood and grudgingly made his way to the door of his office.

Stepping out into the hallway in front of his admin assistant’s station, his heart stopped and his jaw involuntarily dropped open. Standing in front of him was a man who would have commanded the immediate attention of the CEO himself, let alone someone as low on the org chart as him. Despite any plausible explanation, he found himself staring into the face of the man who started it all, Mr. Walt Disney.

Unable to produce a sound, the executive stood dumbstruck, his mind unable to comprehend what was happening. Marjorie for her part, seemed equally incapacitated and simply sat at her desk, her eyes darting nervously between the two men.

Sensing that no formal introductions were forthcoming, the visitor stepped forward with his hand extended and said, “I believe you probably recognize that I’m Walt Disney. From your stunned expression, I assume you are struggling with the fact that I’m standing here when the reality of my circumstances are that I’m dead.”

Through the haze crowding into every corner of his brain, the executive managed a half nod.

“Well, I would normally be happy to explain to you what is occuring, but my understanding is that I have exactly three hours for my visit. Three hours that began approximately,” Mr. Disney paused to check his watch, “six minutes ago. Suffice it to say, you wouldn’t understand it all even if I told you, but the short of it is, I have two hours and fifty-four minutes to glean all I can regarding the current status of the company started.”

The executive began looking around at all of the other offices along his floor and slowly realized the traditional work day had ended over an hour ago. Due to the time crunch he was under, he hadn’t left and had actually kept Marjorie on the clock long past a time that would be appreciated by the folks in Fiscal. In short, on this floor he was alone.

“Uh, if you can wait a moment, my assistant and I can try to find someone more qualified to show you around or answer your questions, sir,” the executive stated as he moved around the barrier in order to pick up the receiver of Marjorie’s phone.

“Young man, did you not hear me? I have less than three hours. I can’t wait for anything. I would actually love to tour my theme parks, but the time it would take to even get there would not allow it. I would love to get a full corporate rundown on all that the Disney company is involved with today, but again…time. However, as I contemplated how I would spend my three hours, I believe there is one thing I can do that will adequately inform me as to whether or not the company I gave my heart and soul to is living up to my expectations.”

The bold declaration hung in the air as Mr. Disney stood confidently staring at the obviously flummoxed executive. When it became clear that Walt would not be volunteering what it was he expected without some prompting, the executive finally broke the silence.

“Ohhkayyy. What is it you believe I can do for you?”

“Do you have access to a screening room?”

“I do.”

“I would like to see the most recent animated feature released by the Walt Disney company. You still produce animated features don’t you?”

“Uhh, yeah. We just released the 60th Disney animated feature last week.”

“I want to see it.”

Mr. Barker breathed easily for the first time since this unexpected encounter began. This request was actually something he could handle quite easily. With a half smile and quick nod, he shot back, “Let’s see what we can do.”

The executive picked up the phone and began firing instructions into the receiver and less than ten minutes later, the two men were seated in a small screening room one floor up from the young executive’s office. As an afterthought, he’d asked Marjorie if she wanted to join them, but she quickly produced an excuse and begged off. He was on his own and not entirely certain that he wasn’t in the midst of experiencing a mental breakdown. Nevertheless, he glanced over into the expectant gaze of Mr. Disney and raised his eyebrows.

“Go on, man. We haven’t got all day.”

The room went dark and the screen came to life with the story of Mirabel Madrigral as told in the motion picture, Encanto.

Almost immediately, a look of astonishment crossed Walt’s face.

“How are your animators doing this? Drawing all of this would take a decade or more?”

“We don’t hand draw anything anymore. Everything is done with computerized animation.”

Walt shook his head and looked as if he wanted to follow up with more questions, but he stopped, turned back to the screen and resumed watching.

The executive noted a contemplative frown cross the old man’s features as the refrains of the movie’s first song filled the room. But he said nothing.

The next 120 minutes followed without another word spoken between the two men. The executive, who had seen Encanto no less than 30 times, kept his attention focused on his unexpected guest and never once shifted his gaze to the screen. However, as the movie entered its final climax, his sense of how Mr. Disney felt about what he was seeing remained a complete mystery-the only hint comprised of a brief brushing of the eye at a crucial moment meant to elicit an emotional response.

As the film concluded, they continued to sit in silence as Walt Disney studiously examined the credits and the executive continued to watch closely for any indication of how the movie had been received.

Finally, Mr. Disney turned to Mr. Barker as the credits continued to roll. The executive pushed a second button and the screen went dark as the lights came up.

The executive held his breath as he awaited Mr. Disney’s verdict. However, the first words out of his mouth relayed an unexpected question in the form of an observation.

“There’s no villain.”

“Uhh…no. That’s true. There is no villain. It’s more of a film about personal growth, family introspection, and the finding of one’s self-worth. It’s actually a trend in our animated movies lately. I can’t think of a memorable villain in the last…I don’t know, four or five movies we’ve done?”

“Hmm.” The old man turned back to the screen and narrowed his eyes, contemplating his next question.

“Is it financially wise to focus an entire movie on a…South American demographic?”

“Well, it was the number one movie at the domestic box office over the Thanksgiving weekend. Keep in mind that we are still experiencing pandemic level box office returns, but it had a significant opening at just over forty million dollars.”

“Forty million dollars!” Walt bellowed. “Movies today can make forty million dollars in a single weekend? That’s insane!”

“Actually,” the executive stammered, “the Disney company has produced quite a list of movies that have brought in over one hundred million dollars in a single weekend, but again, we haven’t seen numbers like that since before the pandemic.”

“One hundred million dollars,” Walt breathed, his eyes glazing over. Then, shaking himself back into the moment, he added, “I’m sure I’d love to learn more about this pandemic you keep mentioning, but time is running short. But if I understand you correctly, this movie performed well?”

“It’s only been out for less than a week, but…yes. Pretty well.

“Your heroine is not a princess, and she’s practically the only one in the entire movie who doesn’t have magical powers.”

The executive wasn’t sure if he was being asked a question or if he was even meant to respond. Before he could decide, Walt went on.

“The music…this Lin Manuel-Miranda fella. That kind of thing flies today?”

“Oh, yes! His most recent Broadway musical was a massive hit. This is the second animated Disney movie he’s written songs for. The other one was quite popular.”

“Did he throw so many words into those songs as well?”

“As a matter of fact, he did. That’s kind of his style.”

“Hmm,” Walt murmured again. “Well, I have to admit that this experience has been very enlightening.”

After more than two hours together, the finality of the statement without any insight as to the feelings behind it was more than the executive could handle. He blurted out, “Well, did you like it?”

Walt turned and regarded him silently for several seconds. Finally, he responded.

“I would never have made that movie,” he said quietly.

The younger man’s heart fell. Although he hadn’t been directly involved in the making of Encanto, he still felt a sense of pride for what the company had produced. To hear that the man who had started it all was not impressed hurt more than he ever could have imagined.

“Well,” he fumbled, “I’m very sorry to hear that. We often ask ourselves around here, ‘What would Walt think?’ or ‘What would Walt do?’ I have to admit it is truly disheartening to learn we aren’t…there, I guess.” His eyes dropped to his knees as he struggled to find any additional words to say.

Walt leaned forward, placing a comforting hand on the young man’s knee. “You misunderstand what I’m saying. I would never have made that movie. And the Walt Disney company would have been so much the less for that decision.”

The executive looked up, confused.

“That movie was beautiful. The story…so much deeper than anything I ever produced. Each character was layered with personalities traits that were so rich and compelling. The music is not what I would listen to, but it’s ability to move along the narrative is unmatched in any film we produced in my day. The themes of my films were always some form of good triumphing over evil. What I just watched was so much more.”

The younger man stared back at Walt incredulously. “But, you are the ultimate example of dreams and imagination. Certainly you would have arrived at this point, as we did.”

“Maybe,” the older man acknowledged. “But I doubt it. I was a pioneer. But even pioneers are limited by their own life experiences.”

He stopped and looked away. “Let me put it this way. Have you heard the story about my inspiration that led to me creating Disneyland?”

“You mean the visit you had to a park with your daughters where they rode a carousel while you sat on a bench and watched?”

“Yeah, that one. That experience inspired me to create a place where families could experience enjoyment together. But that’s as far as it went. This movie can help families understand what it means to be a family. To be accepting of each other, and truly love each other, despite our faults. That’s extraordinary!

“Long story short, I never would have made that movie because I was limited in my vision of what an animated movie could be. But the dream that I had for this company, that imagination and powerful storytelling would continue to lead it to new and exciting frontiers, is so beautifully encapsulated and portrayed in this movie, Encanto. Thank you, for humoring an old man and providing me this opportunity to experience that.”

Walt stood and made his way for the door. As he reached for the handle, he turned back and said, “And that Lin Manuel-Miranda guy. He’s pretty good. It would have been fun to get him together with the Sherman brothers.”

“Funny you should say that,” the executive laughed. “We made a sequel to Mary Poppins a few years back, and he starred in the Dick Van Dyke role and even wrote some of the songs for that movie as well.”

“Mary Poppins!” Walt exclaimed. “But clearly he’s not British.”

“Well, neither was Dick Van Dyke, if we’re being honest.”

Walt dropped his head in acknowledgement. “Ain’t that the truth. And don’t think for a moment that P.L. Travers has ever stopped letting me hear about that one, even beyond the grave. But I still say it was worth the worst Cockney accent I’ve ever heard if it gave us a chance to see that man dance.”

He returned his gaze to the executive and smiled. “Mr. Barker, it has been a pleasure and two hours very well spent. And obviously in light of the circumstances, that’s saying something.”

Then he stepped through the door and was gone.


If We Have A National Embarrassment, It Isn’t Simone Biles

“Selfish, Childish National Embarrassment…”

Those are the words Texas Deputy Attorney General, Aaron Reitz, used to describe Simone Biles following her self-removal from the Olympic team gymnastics all-around competition earlier this week. To his credit, Mr. Reitz felt impressed to remove his tweet where he expressed this opinion and later issued a very significant apology.

But seriously, what is it about our society that Mr. Reitz felt the unabashed freedom to say that in the first place? I mean, I understand that we in America have Freedom of Speech. But I have also been taught that where much is given, much is expected. And so I ask, when are we going to start expecting more of ourselves with regard to our speech freedoms?

Now some might argue I am speaking in favor of Cancel Culture. I’m not. I’m speaking in favor of growing up. I’m speaking in favor of being human. I’m speaking in favor of exhibiting Christlike behavior in a country that claims to be majority Christian.

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of the worldwide religion that is athletics. And I am more than aware of our belief as human beings that we somehow have the right to rain down abuse on those who participate in athletics. It goes back centuries. But does that make it right?

“Well, they make millions of dollars for what they are doing.”


I mean, I’m sorry, I don’t understand how someone else’s success give us the right to say hateful, hurtful, or vicious things about them. I have a friend who is doing very well financially. Does his success mean that I should now feel the right to get on social media and blast him personally if some aspect of his business doesn’t perform to my satisfaction? Of course not. But athletes are different right?

“They should just shut up and play sports. I don’t want to hear their political crap.”

Says the guy whose previous 15 social media posts are hateful, politically motivated, and generally truth impaired.

Athletes have a right to speak up just like anyone else separate from what they do for a living. If they bring it into the arena, every person has a right to turn off the broadcast. But do we really need to turn everything we disagree with into another reason to be ugly to our fellow human beings?

“Well, they were being ugly first.”


I’m pretty sure when I read the Bible it didn’t say, “If thine enemy offends thee, get on social media and take that (expletive) (expletive) down. And watch those likes roll in, baby.”

I don’t know Simone Biles. What I do know about her is that she has dedicated more of her life at 24 years old to gymnastics than I have dedicated to any one thing at 48. She has represented our nation at the highest levels of her sport and come away victorious more than any other person in history. So if she feels like her health might be at risk if she continues, I’m gonna give her the benefit of the doubt. Because if she goes forward and injures herself in a way that will inhibit her the rest of her life, I get to turn off the TV and say, “Well, that’s a shame.” Simone? Not so much.

Am I contributing to our nation becoming softer? I don’t know. I don’t care.

But it does seem to me that our world is turning into a place where being kind to someone we don’t know might be the most difficult thing a person can do. It’s easy to be hateful. It’s easy to be a jerk. Especially from behind a keyboard. Showing compassion? Apparently, that takes guts.

So that’s why today I will commend Simone Biles. I’m glad she showed us a different path forward for someone who is struggling with mental issues or mental illness. It’s been far too long in coming.

But in that same spirit, I will also offer this to Mr. Aaron Reitz. Thank you, sir, for your apology. We all say and do stupid things and it was good of you to recognize that your tweet regarding Simone Biles fit into that category. I hope you will take this experience and think twice before spewing hatred ignorantly. As someone who has done the same thing, I can testify that showing restraint and kindness is the better way to go.

Recreation and the War Against Stagnancy

When I decided to run for my local town council, I never once considered that I was taking on the moniker of Politician. To my way of thinking, I wasn’t a politician because I had no ulterior motive. I wasn’t the front man for a large nameless organization lurking in the proverbial shadows. I wasn’t running to represent the high-minded ideologies of a political party. I was running because I wanted to be a part of making my town better.

Not that I thought my town was bad. It wasn’t. I just believed there were things that could be done to improve it. In fact, some of those things were already starting to take shape as Thatcher had just completed a splash pad park that was proving quite popular with not only Thatcher residents, but also residents from neighboring communities that stretched from Fort Thomas to Duncan and Morenci.

But to my idealistic mind, I was running because I believed a new splash pad park should be just the beginning. I wanted to ensure that in no way would a small park that provides a decent respite from the summer sun for small kids be the culmination of our focus on recreation and amenities that the Town of Thatcher could provide to its citizens. I believed—and still believe—that we should think bigger.

Over the last six years, others with views similar to mine have joined the Thatcher Town Council and as a result, a new soccer field/amphitheater complex is taking shape at the intersection of 8th Street and Reay Lane. When fully completed, this new complex will have the potential to be a major draw not only for residents of Thatcher and neighboring communities, but also for much of Southeastern Arizona and beyond.

Now, I understand that parks aren’t everything. I realize that they generate no revenue. I realize that they require significant funds to be spent annually for their upkeep. But on the other hand, I also understand what parks say about communities in which they are found. I understand what a small greenbelt or a full-size soccer complex can say to the family of a young professional looking to relocate or a recently retired couple looking for a winter home. I understand that a well-kept park system speaks to a community’s pride in itself. And I understand that once a community’s pride in itself is stoked, more often than not, greater things are on the horizon.

As evidence of this, I point to some of the changes we’ve seen in Thatcher over the last three years. Red Lamp Mobile Home Park has been cleared out to make room for revenue generating businesses along our main commercial thoroughfare. A proud bronze eagle sits atop a beautifully decorated monument in the middle of a totally revamped Church Street—a street that now boasts pavement that stretches from curb to curb and provides for parking and a bike lane on either side of the street. Striking new welcome signs framed by newly planted trees greet visitors on either side of town, informing them of their arrival in Thatcher.   

To me, all of this is positive change. It is evidence of a growing community.

Now I understand that some may question whether growth in our community is actually a positive thing. I think that’s a fair question. Those of us living in rural America generally do so because we enjoy the many benefits that come from a slower pace of life. But my answer to that would be that no community truly stays the same. A town’s identity is always somewhat fluid, and often if you are not growing, you are stagnating. And I would further argue that stagnation is the first step toward a town’s eventual demise.

Which brings me to the subject of a community recreation center. Currently the Town of Thatcher—in partnership with the Town of Pima, Graham County and Eastern Arizona College—has been investigating the possibility of building a recreation center that would house: athletic courts that could be used for basketball, volleyball, pickleball, and more; an indoor pool complex that could possibly include a warm water leisure pool, a cool water lap pool and a hot water wellness pool as well as a water recreation area for families; possible indoor racquetball courts; an indoor walking/jogging track; an Aerobic/High Fitness studio; and an ADA compliant wellness area that could possibly replace the current EAC Wellness Center.

The reason for exploring these possibilities is simple: each of these amenities are vital to the growth and sustainability of the Town of Thatcher as well as every community in the Gila Valley. In order to continue providing volleyball and basketball leagues for both youth and adults, Thatcher desperately needs more court space. Barring a major renovation, or complete replacement, the pool at EAC has a very few short years left. And should it go, Thatcher swim team, aquatic classes at EAC, seasonal lap swimming at the college, and a public pool facility in Thatcher all go with it. Additionally, in a world where year-round swimming is developing into a near-required amenity for both young professional families and mobile retirees alike, it is becoming more apparent each day that no such aquatic facility exists in the Gila Valley.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit and tour recreation centers like the one we hope to build in Thatcher. Each facility visited was a beautiful centerpiece for its community. And more importantly, each facility I visited was full. Full of individuals playing pickleball; full of young families enjoying a morning swim; full of high school volleyball players taking part in a summer camp; full of children receiving swimming lesson; in short, full of people who are busy living in a vibrant, thriving community.

Additionally, in each facility I and my fellow team members visited, we discovered the same two truths. The communities we were in are similar in size to the population base of the Gila Valley. And secondly, each of those communities are experiencing positive economic growth. I believe Thatcher, AZ is a special place. I believe the entire Gila Valley is special. But I also recognize that our valley is at a crossroad. And it is the same crossroad that faces every rural community in America: Grow or Stagnate. I believe working together as a community to build a recreation center that has the potential to meet so many needs for our citizens, as well as provide economic stimulus for our area, is one essential key to establishing the Gila Valley’s position on the road that leads to growth and continued prosperity. I invite all those in my community who agree, to take the opportunity in coming months to get involved in this process and help transform this desired possibility into a reality.

What About Dad?

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Through the course of recent history, there are thousands of photos that would be considered iconic. There’s the photo of a navy sailor kissing a girl in Times Square following the end of WWII; the girl running down the road after having been napalmed in Vietnam; three fireman raising an American flag over the debris of the World Trade Center following 9/11. Those are just three examples from a list that could go on and on.

The photo at the top of this post is never going to be widely seen outside of our family and so it will never belong in the same conversations as those photos noted above. But for the Ryan and Shannon Rapier family, this photo has already become iconic.

It represents so much. But for me, more than anything it represents the day our family died.

Now, I can already hear the voices out there. “Whoa, dude! Slow down. I know it hurts, but don’t you think you’re overreacting just a bit? Your family’s fine and hundreds of thousands of families have gone through this. Dial back the melodrama already!”

And trust me, I get it. I am fully aware how over the top my statement of familial fatality is. But let me explain.

I’m talking about my family of children. Now some could argue it had already died and I would concede that it had been on life support for three years since my daughter, Abby, graduated high school. But she still lives nearby and I see her regularly.

This was different. On Monday, June 6, 2020, I watched my son walk away from us for two years. To make it worse, that boy who walked away isn’t coming back. Ever! On top of that, if all goes according to plan, Abby will leave Thatcher within the next few months and I will have two children gone from beyond my regular sphere.

I know it is the natural order of things. I know that from a religious perspective there is no place I would rather have him be. I know it’s supposed to be the best/worst day ever. Except it mainly it felt like the worst.

Now before anybody reaches out to me and tries to console me with insights meant to make me feel better, please know that I already know. I know that if he had not gone, I would be sad in a whole different and probably worse way. I know that he will be better for having gone through this experience. I know it all. For those who aren’t clear, I actually did it myself almost 30 years ago and I am familiar with the outcomes.

I just miss my son.

You see, unlike most teenage boys, this kid actually seemed to enjoy being around me. Our Rapier male bonding road trips across the country these past two summers were carried out at his request, not mine. He would wander into Shannon and I’s bedroom at night just to talk and we would have to beg him to leave so we could go to sleep. Long story short, he’s my friend. One of my best friends.

And what sucks is that when my wife posted the picture associated with this post on her Facebook page, that post was inundated with comments of friends telling her it was okay to have “mom cries” or something like that. Tons of female supporters expressed to her how difficult it is to be a missionary mom on day one and expressed sympathy while offering support. It was wonderful. For her.

I posted that day too. You know what I got?

“He’ll be a great missionary!” Or some variation of that sentiment.

No offense folks, but thanks a lot! I actually already know that. What I want to know is where’s my permission to cry? Heaven knows I did far more of it standing there in the middle of an airport than I’m comfortable with. Especially in front of people I don’t know.

Where’s my support group of dads who are there for me in case “I just need to talk”?

I’ll tell you where they are. In the same place I would, and will be. Looking at the pictures of families crying and thinking, yeah, that sucks. But…whatcha gonna do?

Sometimes it just bites being a man. Not being able to express your feelings out of fear that you will appear weak. Not being able to cry like a dang baby when your world gets flipped on its head because…I mean, c’mon. We’re men!

I experienced every emotion conveyed in my wife’s face as she clings to my son in the picture above. I desperately wanted to keep him here, take him home and tell the Church that, I’m sorry, Braden Rapier is apparently not available until further notice. Which made it suck even more when I had to be the one to say it was time to say final goodbyes. To be the one who forced the end upon everyone else. I despised not being able to give in to the selfish desire to sneak one more hug in after Shannon was done because I had to adhere to the unwritten rule: Mom goes last.

In short, I hated having to be the Dad.

So, to make up for all that, I decided the best thing to do was throw myself this pity party on my blog and document what I actually have felt and not a bunch of platitudes conveying what I should be feeling. Does that make me weak? Probably. Do I care? Not so much.

Now before anyone reaches out to me based on what I have I written, let me just say: Please Don’t. In this situation, I will truly be fine with letting the thought count.

In the end, I am a guy and in many ways I have already retreated into my natural male tendencies of suppressing my feelings and focusing on the logistical and mundane as a coping mechanism. I’m fine with that.

Also, the only thing worse than not being able to talk about my feelings of sadness over my son leaving would probably be talking about them. It sucked! I miss him like crazy already. What more is there to say?

Finally, I know the platitudes are correct. I’m glad he’s where he is. I am so grateful for the experiences I know he’s going to have. I can’t wait to meet the man who is going to come home. It will be wonderful. And the family that died on June 6, 2020 will be reborn, like a Phoenix, into something greater and more wonderful.

But in the short term, when I am alone and I allow myself to dwell on what is missing in our home, I can’t help but fight back tears. I know what is happening is a good thing, but I was under the incorrect impression that all the painful growth of a mission was supposed to happen to the missionary, not the family. I didn’t sign up for that.

So I guess in the end, I’m telling everyone to ignore everything I have written in this post. These words are the just the irrational ramblings of a crazy man who is struggling to process what has happened to him in a world where men are expected to do that kind of thing on their own. I both hate that and completely understand it all at the same time.

To finish, I guess what makes this whole process most difficult is that I know what he’s going to face. I know how hard it’s going to be. Nobody else in my little family understands it, but I do. And there are going to be things that happen during the next two years to my son that I wouldn’t wish on an enemy, and there is nothing I can do about it. That, more than anything, hurts so very bad. I know it will be for his good, but my natural instinct is to protect him from things like that, and I can’t. I mean, I could…but I can’t. And I’m having trouble dealing with that. I know there will be wonderful things that happen as well and for those life-changing events I am so excited for him. But as he goes to bed tonight in a place that is foreign to him and he is finally left to himself to deal with his thoughts and feelings, I have an inkling of how he feels. Like I said, I did it myself 28 years ago this month. It’s a very lonely place. And it doesn’t matter how much you know the Lord is with you or that you are where He wants you to be, it’s not home. And that’s when the reality begins to sink in that the life you left behind isn’t going to be there when you return.

He’ll be fine. He will survive the hard times like literally hundreds of thousands before him have. But I’m a parent. And I can’t help but worry. However, as a male parent (this blog post aside) I will do it quietly or with as much faked bravado as possible. That’s just what we do. But every great once in a while, I find myself wishing there was a manly way to break down.

Until then, though, we’ll go with everything is fine. We’re all good and there is nothing to see here. I am proud of my son and I am praying for him morning, noon and night. And I know for a fact, he will be a fantastic missionary. He better be. Because his mom didn’t give him up for two years to be anything less. And because I’m a dad, that’s the last thing I told him before we watched him walk away through the gateway to adulthood.

White America Can’t Let This Go

Today, I didn’t want to write about the ongoing issues regarding race that are enveloping our country at the moment. I wanted to write a much lighter piece about our family selling a vehicle that we’ve owned for 16 years. But talking about anything other than the death of George Floyd, the current state of race relations in America and the desperate need for institutional change in our country just seems wrong.

Which I suppose it the whole point, isn’t it? As a white American, if I get down or depressed or stressed out about the plight of African-Americans in our country, I can just choose to not think about it anymore. I can focus on something else. The color of my skin allows me to leave those overwhelming problems behind.

Which is why for decades nothing has changed.

I can tell myself that I’m not racist. I truly do believe I’m not. I certainly try not to be. I’ve empathized with African-American families who have lost loved ones to police brutality, but I’ve also been guilty of becoming judgmental when negative aspects of the victim’s life come out. I have to admit to having thoughts of, “Well, maybe he did something to deserve this. I mean, he’s barely in his early twenties and he already has an extensive police record.” If you’re white and reading this, be honest. Have you not had similar thoughts as well?

I’ve also found it easy to dismiss the plight of the African-American community when protests have turned to riots. I have, in the past, justified myself in moving on to other thoughts because if that is how those individuals feel about their own community, why should I get too worked up about it? I have my own problems. Which I would then move on to and forget about what day to day life might be like for people in this country with skin color that is different than my own.

Writing those two paragraphs makes me ashamed. It legitimately brings tears to my eyes because I have always thought of myself as a Christian person who wants to do good.

And at that same time, I know that my failures in this area do not define me in total. I really don’t believe I’m a bad person.

I’m just privileged. So privileged in fact that I have the luxury of not having to think about race problems.

A few years ago, I got pulled over crossing the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The Native American officer who pulled me over wasn’t a police officer. He was a tribal equivalent of a game and fish officer. He had been driving in front of me for several miles at a rate of speed that was at least ten miles below the posted speed limit. When the time arrived, I passed him legally and did not exceed the speed limit in doing so. He pulled me over anyway. He took my license without specifying what I had done wrong and left me sitting in my vehicle on the side of the road for over 10 minutes before returning to ask me what my hurry was. He then suggested I slow down. He never told me how fast he clocked me going. I’m not sure he had the equipment in his vehicle necessary to do so. He just stopped me because he felt I was going too fast and he had lights on top of his truck that gave him the power to do so.

It was extremely frustrating. I whined and moaned about that experience for weeks and declared I would never stop for any law enforcement on the reservation again. My attitude was that if tribal cops wanted to call ahead and have me stopped by “regular” law enforcement, I would be happy to deal with them.

Now, after two days of reading account after account of African-American men who have been pulled over, detained and harassed-simply because they match a description of being black-I feel pretty silly. For them, there’s no one to complain to. There is no “regular” law enforcement coming to help them in their search for justice.

They just have to take it.

And that has to stop.

The problem is, I feel powerless. What am I supposed to do? I am a pretty average white guy in rural Arizona. I have no power. I have no ability to enact change.

Except I do.

I am friendly with a number of people of color. I say friendly, because I worry about granting myself the designation of friend based on my lack of interest in what their American life experience has been. One of these people I have great respect for is a woman named Royce Hunt. She’s amazing. Yes, she never gets me the form I need on time for an annual event I oversee, but it is well known where I live that if you want someone committed to getting things done in our community, you call Royce. Over the years, we have talked on occasion about the struggles African-Americans face in society, but the truth is I could have listened more. I should have listened more without the prompting of national riots. Now, one concern I do have is that people of color are likely to be bombarded with people like me suffering from white guilt who suddenly want to know “their story.” I don’t know that forcing those conversations now is necessarily the answer either.

But what I can do is vote. And those are the conversations I can have. I don’t need to badger people who are different than me to share their most uncomfortable experiences. I’m certainly open to hearing them should they want to share them. But what might be more productive is talking to Royce, or talking to my brother who is Asian-American, or talking with many other voices I know about political issues. Issues that I think I understand, but maybe could understand better with added perspective from a person of color. I can then act on that information and add my voice at the ballot box to those who would make our country better for EVERYONE. I can vote for candidates who will fight for better funding for schools that teach predominately black and Latino students. I can vote for candidates who are willing to stand up and say we need to open up the hood on law enforcement in this country and seriously evaluate what we can do better. I can vote for candidates who recognize that statues of Confederate heroes are an abomination to entire communities within in our country. It’s not a culture issue, it’s a form of intimidation. We never erected a single statue honoring the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor. So why would we recognize the men who committed treason against our nation and caused the death of over 400,000 loyal American military men just to protect the institution of slavery? We shouldn’t, and I can vote for candidates committed to tearing those abominable monuments down. And lastly, I can vote for issues I don’t even know about yet because to this point they have never affected me.

Bottom line, I can vote for a lot of things. And I can speak up on those issues and let others know why I am voting for those things. I can also be more compassionate. It’s not much, but it’s what I can do. It’s what I, as a privileged white American in the middle of nowhere, can do. And by doing that, I can go from being “not a racist” to being a person who is actively against racism. I believe it’s my duty as an American. But significantly of more importance, I believe it’s the answer to a question I try to ask myself everyday:

What Would Jesus Do?

Today, I believe He’d tell me that Black Lives Matter and to do what He would do if He were here.

So to the best of my ability, I will. I hope we all will. Because if we don’t, then we may have to acknowledge that America isn’t as great as we all think it is, and never was.

End The Riots? Demand Real Change Now!

George Floyd – Killed by an officer who knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This officer had 18 previous complaints filed against him and had been involved in three police shootings with one fatality.

Ahmaud Arbery – Shot and killed by two men who took it upon themselves to be neighborhood protectors. They followed Arbery, who had stopped at a house construction site, looked around and left without removing any item, and confronted him with shotguns. When Arbery tried to run around them, they blocked his path. He then grabbed the shotgun of the man closest to him in an attempt to get past his assailants and he was shot three times. The killers were a father and son and the father had been a local police officer before his retirement. This former police officer had been suspended by the department one year prior to this event for failing to take mandatory firearm training. The local department found no reason to charge either man with a crime following the shooting. Two months later, after footage of the exchange was released, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took up the case two months after the incident and within 36 hours had found evidence sufficient to charge both men with murder.

Breonna Taylor – Was shot eight times as she lay in bed by officers who were not in uniform who broke through her front door. Officers claim they knocked first and identified themselves. Taylor’s boyfriend and neighbors stringently deny this account and claim officers broke through the door without identification. Taylor’s boyfriend then fired his legally licensed gun at what he thought were intruders and three police officers returned fire. It should be noted that neither Taylor nor her boyfriend were thought to have committed a crime. The “no knock” warrant to search her house was issued because there was a belief that an acquaintance of Taylor’s had used her house to receive a package of drugs. The acquaintance had already been arrested and no drugs were found in the apartment. Why this raid had to be conducted at midnight has never been explained by police.

Atatiana Jefferson – Killed by an officer who fired at her through a back yard window of her own home. The officers had been called to investigate a non-emergency situation by a neighbor who was concerned about her front door being left open. Officers arrived at this non-emergency situation, drew their weapons and proceeded to circle the home and at no time approached the front door.

Oscar Grant III – Shot and killed by an officer who had 10 previous complaints issued against him for excessive force before he shot and killed Grant who was lying unarmed on his stomach begging not to be tased.

Freddie Gray – Killed en-route to jail inside a police van by injuries consistent with those experienced by individuals in major car wrecks. Gray was placed in the back of a police van without restraints (seat belts) despite policy that required such action. Many speculated he was taken on a “rough ride”, a practice where a suspect is placed in a police van without restraints and without the ability to see or use their appendages for protection. This was never proven, but the fact that the practice had a name was of significant concern to prosecutors who tried the police officers involved for multiple crimes connected with the death.

Laquan McDonald – Shot in the back and killed while walking away from a police officer who had over 20 complaints previously filed against him, including 10 for use of excessive force.

Tamir Rice – Shot and killed while holding an Airsoft gun by an officer who had literally just arrived on scene and had been deemed “emotionally unstable with a lack of maturity” by the previous police force he had worked for (and was in the process of being fired from when he resigned) before he was hired by the Cleveland PD without any background checks having been processed.

The list could go on and on.

I believe the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line each and every day are good and amazing individuals who want to provide safety and security to the communities they serve. I work with some through my role as a town councilman. I know they feel as disgusted by what they saw on screen with the death of George Floyd as the rest of us. I believe what is happening in our country is that a very small number of officers are giving the rest a bad reputation.

But there are clearly problems. And they demand address.

Bad cops are getting into the system when they shouldn’t and then are not being weeded out as evidence mounts suggesting that they should be. This has got to stop.

Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not suggesting that addressing this specific problem will fix all of the issues that currently exist with well-documented institutional racism in select police departments or over-policing of predominately black neighborhoods or any of the other race issues that exist between police departments and minorities across this country.

But it would certainly help.

It’s time to demand that those whom we give the right to use deadly force meet stringent personality tests and guidelines during their recruitment. And what should happen when red flags arise regarding propensities toward excessive violence? Officers must be IMMEDIATELY removed from situations where those opportunities to apply excessive force come into play. It simply has to happen.

It’s time to stop ignoring truth. I support good police officers and I stand with the many officers who put their lives on the line to protect us and our freedoms. I am a huge believer in people like Sheriff Chris Swanson who kept the peace in his town of Flint, Michigan by joining protesters and being a part of the community while fulfilling his role to serve and protect. I support the cops who have stood and knelt in solidarity with protesters, disgusted by the acts of the men who murdered George Floyd while wearing a badge. I stand with cops who are tired of having their hard work flushed down the toilet by idiots who shouldn’t be allowed to have jobs as mall security.

But unfortunately, not every cop is worthy of that support. And to those who aren’t, I refuse to offer it anymore.

So as white Americans, can we all just stop being afraid to join in saying Black Lives Matter? They do! Saying it doesn’t diminish the value of other lives. It simply acknowledges injustice being unfairly borne by a specific race of people. They deserve our support, not our suspicion. They tried kneeling, they tried turning their back, they tried/are trying peaceful protest and they tried/are trying rioting. To this point, none of it has moved us in White America to demand change. Well, today it has moved this middle-aged white guy. It’s time to do something. I mean, actually DO something. So let’s start by getting rid of bad cops. It truly is the least we can do.

It’s Time To Own That I Am Human Scum, And Proud Of It

I miss my mom. She would have turned 71 this year. Unfortunately, cancer took her in 2009 at the age of 59.

She was a great mom. She was an even better grandmother. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to nurture that talent nearly long enough. It’s incredibly sad to me that two of her grandchildren were born after her death and that a third was too young to remember her at all. We, her family, are all a little less because of time lost with a truly inspirational woman.

And in memory of my mom, I will tell you that she was one who never ran from a fight. She was very active in her community and she was a tireless advocate for the children and families she counseled with later in life. She believed in standing up for what you believed in even if it was hard. I’ve spent my adult life trying to live up to her example.

Which is why I am no longer content to rage away here on my own personal blog or whine and moan among my tight circle of friends who feel the same way I do politically. Anyone who has ever read a posting from this blog knows my feelings about President Trump. I am not a fan.

I find President Trump to be reprehensible and a true threat to the soul of who we are as a nation. Despite his MAGA campaign slogan and his constant draping himself within the flag, I believe his approach to governing and life in general to be un-American. It has nothing to do with issues. In a number of instances I probably agree with what he has tried to accomplish. But the price has not been worth it.

So if that is what I believe, what am I supposed to do? Sit back, keep my mouth shut, and hope he doesn’t get re-elected? Write the occasional blog post that highlights his latest example of buffoonery or worse? I suppose I could do that. But I decided to try something a little more.

A couple of months ago, I reached out to the organization, Republicans for the Rule of Law. They are an organization made up of individuals who believe in conservative values, but cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump. This group asked me to submit a short video explaining my background as a Republican and why I can’t support the president. I did so.

That short explanation turned into a conference call which produced material that was edited into a three minute video and was released this morning on the website, http://www.rvat.org. In conjunction with the release of this page, the New York Times ran the following story covering the initiative.


My picture sits atop that article, so I guess I’m out there whether I like it or not.

In a tweet dated October 23rd of last year, President Trump described people like me who are known as Never Trumpers as HUMAN SCUM!

Well, like the Trump supporters who reveled in being labeled deplorables, I take great pride in this label. I will happily be recognized as someone Donald Trump thinks is human scum. However, there are some labels that I will not accept from him nor anyone who supports him. To those individuals, I would say the following:

  1. I am not a liberal. I believe in the same compassionate conservative values I held when I voted for George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney. I didn’t shift. You did!
  2. I am not a RINO (Republican In Name Only). In fact, I’m not a Republican at all anymore. I waffled on leaving the only party I had ever known during my adult life up until the day Donald Trump turned his back on the Syrian Kurds who helped us defeat ISIS in exchange for protection from a Turkish invasion. They kept their end of the bargain. Donald Trump did not and as a result, thousands of our allies lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes and join the massive ranks of the world’s refugee population. I won’t be a member of a party that accepts that. In fact, I would suggest that such a move is totally against all values I understood Republicans to stand for. So who are the RINOs really?
  3. I do NOT hate America. And how dare you suggest otherwise! I respect your right to espouse your views without calling your patriotism into question. I vehemently disagree with them, but I respect your right to espouse them. Loving all things Trump does not make someone a patriot. Conversely, calling out reprehensible behavior on the part of our president does not disqualify an individual’s patriotism either.

For the last four years, I have heard the following justification of Mr. Trump: Oh, I wish he wouldn’t say some of the things that he says, but he’s doing such a good job. Well, I’m sorry but what he says matters a great deal. Mr. Trump has spent the last two weeks basically accusing a media personality he doesn’t like of murder, without the slightest shred of evidence. Think about that for just a second. The leader of the free world is trying to intimidate a member of the press by repeatedly accusing him of crimes of which there is not one shred of evidence and which can also be easily refuted. That’s horrifying! And that kind of behavior can be directly tied to protesters in Kentucky hanging their governor in effigy. You know, the kind of idiotic crap that third-world dictators pay their mobs to do in the streets.

Well, that’s just Trump being Trump.

No, it’s a problem. It’s unacceptable. And if it were President Obama doing the exact same thing, Trump supporters everywhere would be calling for his removal. If we lived in an alternate universe where the president today was Hillary Clinton, the cries of “Lock Her Up!” would be ringing across the nation. Unfortunately in 2020, it’s just another day at the office in the Trump White House.

I can’t accept that anymore. Not without trying to do something about it.

I fully recognize that my efforts will amount to little more than nothing. As I have indicated in a previous post, I unfortunately believe Mr. Trump will probably be reelected. I hope not, but I suspect it will happen.

But I am going to follow the example my mother set for me and stand up and do what little I can. I’m doing it for a number of reasons, but first and foremost because I want my children to see in me the same resolve that I saw in her. That’s important to me.

Secondly, I believe in my country. America didn’t need to become great again. It was great already. It was great before Donald Trump got elected and it was on the road to becoming greater all the time. I believe in the years since his election, he has become the largest impediment to its greatness. And I believe we as Americans deserve better. So let’s demand better, even if we have to spend the next four years putting our house back in order to do it.

Predictions For The Back Half Of 2020

There aren’t many things in this life that will get an American more excited than an opportunity to make a prediction about future events. And even though we’re wrong about 97.6 percent of the time, the dopamine rush when you get a prediction right is just intoxicating. Which is why we feel the need to share what we think is going to happen in every facet of life despite having no qualifications, knowledge, experience or insight. We just know we have better brains than the experts and we’ll trust our guts over the generals eight days a week and twenty times on Sunday.

So with that said, I am here to present my own list of predictions for the rest of this year based on keen observation and my generally myopic view of the world. And be prepared: if even one of these suckers works out, know that you all are going to hear about my genius for years to come.

  • A High School In Washington State Changes Its Native American Themed Mascot To The Murder Hornet.

In 2012, the Washington State Board of Education passed a resolution asking all educational institutions in Washington who still had Native American themed mascots to consider changing them. At the time, approximately 50 schools still had mascots which met this criteria. But with the arrival of the Murder Hornet in the state, these schools have been provided a special opportunity. I mean, no school is going to get too excited about changing their mascot to the Hornets. Hornets? Big Deal! An appropriately placed boot can wipe out several standard hornets in one stomp.

But Murder Hornets? That’s a whole different ball game. Think of the intimidation factor. “You better not mess with us Murder Hornets, or we reserve the right to kill up to 50 of your small children over the course of the next year. Uh huh! That’s what I thought!”

You heard it here first. Be on the lookout for the St. Mary’s Blessed Children of the Poor Murder Hornets, the charter school of your nightmares, coming to a high school athletic contest near you in 2020/2021.

  • Mike Pence Contracts COVID-19 Through An Outbreak That Occurs At The National Republican Convention And Requires Hospitalization And Isolation In The Very Mayo Hospital He Toured Without A Mask In April.

Republicans have said they are moving forward with a live, in-person convention in Charlotte, NC in August. This is likely precipitated by the strategy the president is taking of declaring victory over COVID-19 and doing all he can to focus the election on a recovering economy. I do understand his strategy and I understand the reasoning of moving ahead with an in-person convention. It would be hard to make the case that you fearlessly defeated an enemy if you are delivering the speech touting said victory in a zoom meeting while you hide from said enemy.

  • No Movie Released During The Rest of 2020 Surpasses A Worldwide Box Office Of $500 Million.

I realize $500 million is a lot of money. But for perspective, in 2019 two movies made over $500 million in North America alone. A movie making $500 million worldwide last year would have been the 15th most successful movie of the year. But this year, despite the loud voices of a few, I don’t believe the general public is going to be in a hurry to head back to theaters. In fact, as a second associated sub-prediction, I believe we’ll see the trend of releasing films directly to rental streaming continue beyond social distancing requirements. I also sub-predict several national movie theater chains will suffer the same fate as JC Penney.

  • Demand For New Automobiles Decreases Such That The Average Overall Price For A New Toyota Camry Drops Below $20,000.

I’m planning on buying a new car later this year. It just so happens I’m very interested in a Toyota Camry. There’s a chance this may be more wishful thinking than an actual prediction.

  • This Will Be The Ugliest Presidential Campaign Of Our Collective Lifetimes.

What do you do if you are a generally unlikable human being and you are put in a position of trying to make someone else look even more unlikable than you? That’s the predicament now facing Donald Trump. And boy, don’t doubt for an instant that he, and his vile little mini-me 1 and mini-me 2 aren’t up to the task.

Over the weekend, Donald Jr. leveled the claim that Biden is a pedophile. No proof of course, because in Trump-world proof is never required. What is required is to define your opponent with a slanderous allegation first, before that same definition can be assigned to you. With 23 named women-some of whom were minors at the time-on record with allegations of sexual misconduct against the president, it’s going to be important for the Trump campaign to get the stink of sexual miscreant slathered all over Biden as soon as possible. That way, when the damaging label comes calling for him, the hope is that we the public will have given the entire subject of sexual deviancy a collective shrug. Sounds almost Clintonesque doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, Eric Trump spent his weekend trying to breathe life into the ridiculous claim that COVID-19 is an overblown hoax meant to take down his father. He further claimed that once the election is over, COVID-19 will magically disappear. I could offer further thoughts and perspective on this, but instead, I’ll just go with what most rational human beings would say to this idiocy…Man, just shut the h*** up, you freaking Jack-wagon!

But here’s the problem. This is just a preview of what’s to come. You see, Trump isn’t just going to dust off the Clinton playbook on how to deal with your political adversaries, he’s going to give it a massive overhaul complete with dual exhaust, gold rims and a hydraulic lift system. He knows he is going to have to generate as much dislike for Biden as existed for one of the most unlikable presidential candidates ever to come down the pike in the form of Hillary Clinton. That’s not an easy task. It’s gonna take a river of money the size of the Amazon all spent on advertising designed to bombard us into the stone age. And that’s just on the Republican side. I’m already tired of this election and it hasn’t even really started yet. And to make it worse, I live in a designated swing state. Maybe I should just join a monastery for the next six months. Or better yet, I’ll just disconnect my Facebook and stay in quarantine with just my Disney+ subscription to keep me company. When is the second season of The Mandalorian supposed to drop anyway?

  • Republican Senators Will Eventually Attempt To Have Former President Barack Obama or Current Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden Testify Regarding “Obamagate”.

Boy have we seen this movie before. President Trump throws out the wackiest of claims and then demands that nationally elected GOP Senators and Reps back him up. Initially, these elected officials do all they can to avoid getting swept up in the latest hi-jinx of Trump’s on-going reality series Keeping Up With The KarTrumpians. But in the end, after months of non-stop conspiracy theory validation (minus any actual proof, of course) from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, the pressure from their radicalized base gets too high and these GOP politicians trade in their solid reputations for a ticket to board the express train to Wackoville. Republican senators will follow this model once again and we should expect hearings on this Trump self-described “biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA.”

Which leads me to my next prediction:

  • Republicans Will Lose Control Of The Senate.

Way back in 2016, I made a prediction that despite how much fun it would be for Republicans to throw the world’s biggest temper tantrum and elect Donald Trump, in the end, The Notorious DJT would ultimately damage the party so severely that it would take decades to recover. For the record, I am standing by that prediction. For evidence, I say look no further than my home state of Arizona. I recognize that election day is a long way off, but polling today suggests that by January 2021, Arizona will be represented by two Democratic senators for the first time since 1953. It didn’t have to be this way. Had Republicans not run off Jeff Flake in 2018, there is sufficient evidence to suggest he would have held on to his seat in a general election. But he had committed the ultimate crime in the new Trump-GOP era. He spoke ill of the king. That’s not allowed. He voted for the president’s agenda over 90% of the time. But that’s not good enough. You have to kiss the ring, or anything else for that matter, whenever The Don says so or you are a Dead Man Walking. Well, it’s possible that the GOP could follow Jeff Flake into attaining Dead Man Walking status in Arizona if trends don’t change. The same is true in Maine, Colorado and Nevada. Georgia is now looking to be in play nationally in 2020 as is North Carolina and possibly even Florida. Now I don’t believe those states will all flip over into the blue column, but the writing is on the wall. Trump has done nothing to expand the base. Nothing! He may still win the White House based on his Reality TV/Larger Than Life persona, but those traits don’t play well down ballot. And a scenario that seemed all but impossible to Mitch McConnell one year ago now looks more and more like a real possibility: his days as senate majority leader may be coming to an end.

  • Democrats Will Screw Up A Prime Opportunity And Lose The White House In 2020.

The playbook is simple. Republicans laid it out for them in 2012 and 1996. You can’t win a presidential election by simply pointing out what an idiot/miscreant/sultan vile betrayer/demon overlord the other guy is. It never works. These parties live in a bubble and listen to what their base is saying and always fail to hear what the voters who make the difference are saying. Loyal democrats hate Trump. They hate him more than cats hate water. But while the middle of the road voter might not actually care for Trump, their overriding concerns are about actual issues that affect them. They care about their jobs. Voters that will decide this election in the states that matter care about manufacturing jobs, oil production jobs, and maintaining a way of life that mirrors the romanticized lives of their parents and grandparents. For all of his faults, Trump gets this. Time and again, Democrats have proven that they don’t. We’ll see if Biden figures it out in time, but if he’s forced to placate the progressive wing of his party then we’ll know he hasn’t. And we’ll know that he’s going to lose.

  • By December 2020, A Majority Of Folks Will Just Be Too Exhausted To Be Angry And Scared Anymore.

I wish this was a real prediction. Heaven knows we need it to come true. Everyday just feels like we’re all on a never-ending loop of the Jerry Springer Show and it sucks. We need to stop. We need to start seeing every other person for who they actually are and not for the radically segmented portion of the population they supposedly represent.

So instead of a prediction, let’s call it my 2020 Christmas wish. I wish for us all to calm down. I wish that if a world-threatening pandemic strikes us again, our most concerning thoughts will be on the welfare of others and not on who should take the political blame or what political statement I’m making if I wear a mask. I wish for 24-hour news channels to be banned as part of the final COVID-19 bailout bill. I wish for people to care about each other. All the time.

Bottom line, I wish for the impossible…and I know it. But like I said at the top of this post: ridiculous odds aren’t gonna stop me from making such a wild prediction. Because imagine the dopamine rush I would get should I happen to call this one right.

A Heavy Dose of the Bittersweet

When you break it down fully, life has very few moments that truly live up to “memorable” status. For me, I would guess there are maybe 50 moments in my life that have deep enough significance that I remember them clearly. Relationships are similar. In the grand scope of people you know over a lifetime, there are very few that gain admittance into your inner-circle. At least for me anyway.

But over the last two days, I’ve been given plenty of opportunity to reflect on both.

Like everyone else, the Rapiers have been learning to cope with an altered reality over the last two months. As days settled into weeks, it became easier to forget all we had given up. But as Arizona started its reentry into the “normal” this past week, we realized that our aimless drifting through time had placed us smack up against a hard deadline.

My son, Braden, received his call to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Dallas, TX, on March 10, 2020. Three days later, the country literally began to shut down. Going on a mission is a rite-of-passage for young adults in my faith, and it is no small undertaking. A great deal of preparation is required, much of which requires shopping.

Unfortunately, shopping for mission supplies and clothing is not very conducive with worldwide pandemics and so we coasted along, basically avoiding thoughts of how we might deal with Braden’s approaching report date of June 17. That was all good at the end of March. It wasn’t really that big of a deal throughout April. However, when we learned that some retail stores might be opening this past weekend, it was shocking for us to realize we are not months away any longer, but rather weeks and days. And we were nowhere near ready.

Going on-line, I quickly learned that most retail shopping was still unavailable and that if we wanted to get anything accomplished, it would likely require an appointment. Thankfully, the good people at Pomeroy’s clothing store in Mesa worked with me and we were able to get in for their first appointment of the morning, even though there were technically no appointments available. I played the “woe is me, we’re from out of town” card pretty hard and they took pity on me.

Anyway, all that to say that I had no idea how emotional shopping for suits and slacks was going to be. I can’t explain it, but seeing my son in his suit for the first time made this whole adventure he’s embarking on a lot more real. And it also drove home how close we are to having him leave…in some ways for good. Standing next to rows and rows of shoe boxes, I actually teared up a bit watching him get sized. Thankfully, between my glasses and my mask (which was required) I don’t think anyone noticed.

I have a feeling that time will make the poignancy of that moment fade. But I also think I’m never going to forget it. Maybe I will. Maybe I’m overreacting and maybe events still to come in the next month or so will push this one deeper into the vaults of my memory than I realize. But in the moment, this one was pretty powerful.

Meanwhile, during our drive down to the Valley for this touching and yet ridiculously expensive family outing, I received a text message from my bishop. The message informed me that a man in our congregation had passed away in the early hours of the morning. Due to the list of tasks I had to accomplish, I did my best to push this news to the back of my mind. However, roughly 18 hours later when dawn broke on Mother’s Day, I was no longer in such a position.

The man in question was a person I would unequivocally declare as good. There really isn’t any other way to put it, he was just a good, good man. I have known his family for much of my life, but I never really knew him until we moved into our current home 15 years ago. But once I met him, and felt his all-encompassing arm around my shoulder welcoming me into the ward, I have consistently looked up to him.

To make matters worse, his passing reminded me that I would spend yet another Mother’s Day without my own mother. I miss her. You would think a decade going by would make things easier, and in some ways it does. But on other days, the feelings of intense sadness and loneliness are just as raw as the day she said goodbye to this earthly existence.

I look at my two young daughters, one who was not yet a year old when she passed and the other who was four years too late to meet her at all. I mourn for the love they will never feel physically from a grandma who quite literally lived for her grand kids. I think of my oldest daughter who I sometimes fail to connect with fully. She was my mother’s first grandchild and there was a bond there. I can’t help but wonder what their relationship would be like now.

I have the best wife in the world. My children have one of the two greatest mothers I have ever known as their mother. They’re lucky. I’m lucky. And sadly, I don’t think I make a big enough deal about how special she is on Mother’s Day. For some reason, I just never seem to have the heart.

So as Mother’s Day weekend 2020 fades into the past, I pray for a lot of things. I pray my son will be safe. More than anything I want him to be safe. He’s going to struggle, and that’s okay. I just want him to go, learn what he needs to learn, and then come home safe. I pray for the Gardner family. I’ve been where they are. Sadly, they’ve been where they are all to recently with the loss of a son and brother. I hope they know that their father was not just special to them, but was special to a number of people they will probably never fully realize. In the months following my mother’s death, people I had never met would come up to me and tell me about the significant role she had played in their lives. I was stunned at all the things I never knew about her. I imagine the same will happen for the Gardners. It should. He was that good of a man.

I also pray for the women in my life. I pray that everything I believe is true. Because I can’t stand the thought of never seeing my mom again. It just has to be true. It just has to. And I pray for my sweet girls. This world is not getting easier and I worry they have such an imperfect father to try and help them get going in it. I worry I’m failing them. And I’m left praying that a Father in Heaven will somehow make up for my shortcomings.

And lastly, I pray for my wife. She’s amazing, but I don’t think she knows it. I try and tell her, but for good reason I believe she stopped putting stock in my opinion a long time ago. This life of mine would empty and useless without her. I love her. And hopefully, between homemade waffles (okay, Bisquik) and a card, she got just the slightest glimpse in to how much. Happy Mother’s Day, Sweetheart, one day late. I’m sorry you’re stuck with me, but don’t think about it too hard. Instead you should buckle up and hold on. I think this sending out a missionary thing is going to kick both our butts a whole lot harder than we think.

One Man’s Hoax…

Lately, I’ve discovered a fascination with nature shows. It started several months back when I happened upon Planet Earth on Netflix and it continues to this day. The beauty of life and the complexities of what happens on this big ol’ planet of ours is unreal. And it can also be horrifying.

Earlier this week, I was watching a National Geographic show called Wild Yellowstone. Shockingly, it was entirely about Yellowstone national park. Anyway, there was this very intense scene where a young elk calf was being pursued by a hungry male Grizzly. The calf had to hide and basically hope that the Grizzly passed it by while the mother elk could do nothing but watch helplessly from a distance.

As my six-year-old daughter and I watched, I was totally prepped to cover her eyes as I was pretty sure this was going to go badly for the young elk. To my surprise, things went the other way as the Grizzly finally gave up and moved on. Wisely, the mother led her young calf to a swift flowing stream/river to get away and wash away their scent. As they started across the flowing waterway, much to my surprise, shock and horror, it proved too much for the calf and it got swept away. The mother looked on helplessly as the narrator said, and I quote, “The calf survived the hunt of a Grizzly, but Yellowstone claimed him anyway.”


But there it was on full display, the harsh realities of life and death. And in the case of wildlife in Yellowstone, only the strong survive.

As we enter this new phase of COVID-19, there is a growing chorus of themes that are picking up steam among the population. One of those themes is that all this virus is doing is thinning the herd and that we should probably let it run its course. Of course, this isn’t exactly the way this theme is worded, but that’s the general gist. People are going to die and as unfortunate as it is, we’re just going to have to accept it and move on.

As much as I hate this viewpoint, I have to admit that it has a certain level of validity. I can actually see it from both a scientific and spiritual point of view. One, mother earth has a way of keeping populations from getting out of hand. And at our growth rate, it is an easy argument to suggest the human population might be getting out of hand. Two, according to scripture, God has sent plagues to torment his people before. And in the grand scope of biblical plagues, this one is not remarkably severe.

Either way, for those making this argument, I can grudgingly see their point. I don’t know what the correct way to handle reopening our country is, and the longer this goes on, I’m beginning to believe that no one really does. But I will acknowledge that if the majority of our citizens begin to subscribe to the idea that we have to get back at it regardless of the human toll, then that’s what is going to happen, in spite of what I may think.

But there is one idea percolating out there that I cannot grudgingly accept. Along with the anger that has built up regarding the loss of jobs, or the loss of milestones in life, or even the loss of basic human interaction; a political anger has sprung to life that has reignited the talk of this entire exercise being a hoax. This insidious idea suggests that nefarious forces have been conspiring in the background to use a normal everyday illness, that really isn’t that bad, to sink the economy and ruin the reelection chances of Donald J. Trump.

I’m sorry, but that’s unacceptable.

78,000 people confirmed dead at the hands of COVID-19 in a matter of four months is not a hoax.

But wait, those numbers are inflated. I mean, nobody dies of pneumonia or the flu anymore. They’re just calling everything COVID-19, so it’s really not as bad as they say.

Yeah? Prove that!

And I’m sorry, verbal diarrhea spewing forth from the mouths of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham is not proof. Anecdotal urban legends about your cousin’s wife, who works at a hospital and is the person responsible for reporting COVID-19 deaths, being bullied into changing numbers in favor of more virus deaths is not proof. I want to see actual data where confirmed COVID-19 deaths are being fabricated. Otherwise, shut the h**l up!

Because you see, for a lot of people who have really faced this first hand, they know for a fact this has not been a hoax.

Take for instance, the family of Kious Kelly. For them, to suggest this excruciating nightmare we’ve been living through is a hoax would just be cruel. Kious was a nurse who worked at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. When his hospital ran short of PPE, he volunteered to continue seeing patients without that protective gear so that others wouldn’t have to. Kious was remembered as a kind individual who was always providing small acts of service to everyone around him. Were it not for COVID-19, he would still be providing those acts of service. Kious Kelly was 48.*

For the 18-year-old daughter of Madhvi Aya, COVID-19 is anything but a hoax. Madhvi was a physician’s assistant who worked in the Emergency Department of Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. Her daughter, Minnoli, is studying pre-medicine at the University of New York at Buffalo and would talk with her mother every single night to catch up and share their daily experiences. She says what makes this entire grieving process worse is that she has absolutely no bad memories of her mother. To quote her, “All of them are good.” Madhvi was confident that she had contracted the disease from a patient she had cared for at work. Were it not for COVID-19, Minnoli would still be talking to her mother every night.*

Finally, for Dr. Lorna Breen, the horrors of COVID-19 were most definitely not a hoax. As the Emergency Department medical director for New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, Dr. Breen contracted COVID-19 while treating dozens of patients infected with the disease. After recuperating, she returned to work and continued to try and stem the tide of COVID-19 patients flooding through their doors. In the end, it proved too much for her. She was sent home to further recuperate and eventually moved in with her parents in Virginia. In the days that followed this move, she spoke to her father repeatedly of the scenes she had witnessed including those of patients dying from the virus before medical personnel could even get them out of the ambulances. After several days of mounting detachment and exhibiting symptoms synonymous with depression, Dr. Breen killed herself. According to her family, she had never suffered from mental illness prior to her experiences associated with COVID-19.**

These are just three of the thousands upon thousands of stories associated with those who have lost their lives to this scourge. All of them real people with real families who would still be with their loved ones had COVID-19 not torn through our country and their lives.

That is not a hoax.

To me, one of the greatest tragedies that will be associated with COVID-19 will be the politicization of this pandemic. It will be that we lived in a time where caring about our fellow human brothers and sisters all too often took a back seat to our political indulgences. In 2001, 2,753 people died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. In the weeks that followed, people stopped being Republicans and Democrats and just became Americans. Millions of us had never been to New York, but we mourned with our fellow citizens just the same.

Since February, 26,581 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19. And sadly, there are far too many people on right-wing media and social media discounting their deaths as a ploy by the left to defeat President Trump in the fall. I’m sorry, but that’s just not right.

Because once again, I can understand the desire to get back to regular life. And I can understand those who would argue that death is part of the grand scheme and we are just going to have to accept it as we open up our country and move on. I may not entirely agree, but I can understand and empathize.

But a hoax? That’s vile!

This world is bigger than Donald Trump. Human life and the dignity of those we have lost are bigger than Donald Trump. And I can say unequivocally that millions of people did not become infected with COVID-19 to undermine Donald Trump. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide did not die just so they could stick it to Donald Trump. To suggest otherwise is just stupid.

As I see it, we had a worldwide pandemic that caught us all by surprise. We weren’t ready and in many situations we responded too slowly. Not Republicans, not Democrats, all of us. We had people doing the best they could. We had experts trying daily to get their arms and minds wrapped around what was happening and they did their best to try and protect as many of us as they could. Did they do it perfectly? No. Should we have even bothered with all of this shutdown business? Well, Dr. Fauci said from the beginning that if we handled this thing right, then we’d all be complaining that we overreacted when we were done. And now two months later, there are a lot of people claiming we overreacted. And that’s with 78,000 deaths and counting.

As the months and years go by, there will be a lot of armchair quarterbacking of this pandemic event. But the one thing that can’t be changed is that it happened. People died. A lot of people. And for most of us, at one point or another it was scary. Let’s never forget that.

And let’s also not allow ourselves to continue this talk of a hoax. That kind of argument devolves our entire shared experience in to being about one man. And I’m sorry. Despite what he himself may believe, he’s just not that important.

*These examples were provided by an article entitled, American hospitals have lost dozens of medical workers to the coronavirus. Here are some of their stories, published May 3, 2020 on the website, Business Insider.

**Details of this story were provided by an article published in the New York Times on April 27, 2020, entitled, Top E.R. Doctor Who Treated Virus Patients Dies by Suicide.