With this blog, I’ve tried to simply provide a bit of positive daily motivation. That’s been my only goal. If I’ve accomplished anything, I don’t use this blog to brag about it. If I’ve failed at something – and oh dear Lord have I failed at things thus far in my life – I try to use this blog to briefly describe it, as well as how I’ve tried to use each failure as a lesson learned. One thing I have always chosen NOT to write about is politics. I have my own political opinions, as do all of you. My political opinions may make some people happy, while others would seethe over them. But the great thing is that each of us are entitled to our own opinions. We are allowed to voice them, peacefully. We use these opinions to cast votes for the officials running for office that most closely match them. One of the things that has always made this country great is our inherent right to have these differentiating sets of opinions, the ability to debate them openly and, mostly importantly, to listen to each set of opinions in order to develop the most effective ways to address our problems as a society…for being able to see every side of an issue provides us with the opportunity to develop the most educated, well- rounded conclusions.
Why am I blabbering on about politics in a blog that is focused on positive motivation? Well, it’s because the political climate right now is so filled with loathing and negativity that it seeps into every part of a person’s day. In short: the overall level of negativity out there right now is distracting. It’s taking away from out ability to unite and work together for common goals. Our politicians need to stop speaking and thinking in absolutes. Democrats are not looking to destroy the fabric of the nation. Neither are Republicans. The definitions of being either a Democrat or a Republican needs to return to what they once were – a representation of each party’s core beliefs. And both sides need to be reminded of the fact that nothing positive can be accomplished by speaking and dealing solely in absolutes. It’s when we communicate – when we debate the issues lively WHILE USING FACTS – that we can move forward and continue to evolve as a country.
My grandfather passed away when I was 11 years old; however, he taught me some very valuable lessons before he passed on to the great Yankee Stadium in the sky. I’ll throw a few of those lessons out there, because they kind of tie to the point I’ve been trying to make. Here’s what he said to me – and remember, this is a man trying to explain some complex stuff to a 5-6-7-8 year old dense little boy who just wanted to watch TV and play baseball:
- “Joey, you know how how people have different skin colors? And some of them go to church while others go to other places of worship? Well people come from all over the place, so that’s why we all look and sound different. But technically – we are all the same. The way I see it, there are types of people in the world: honest, hard working, caring people….and assholes. Both types of people come in every color of the rainbow. Joey….don’t be an asshole.” (My grandfather was blunt – what can I say?)
- “Joey, if you’re speaking all the time, then you aren’t listening to everyone else. And listening is how you learn. So learn to shut up and listen.” (I’ve had some issues with this one, because there’s nothing I love more than constantly listening to the melodic qualities of my annoying Bronx-accented voice.)
- “Joey, here’s the deal: if anyone uses the word “but” in a sentence when they are talking to you, just know that whatever he just told you is absolute horseshit. Let me show you what I mean. ‘Hey Joey, I like your hair, BUT it may look even nicer if you brush it’ See? if I said that to you, then I DON’T like your hair. Right? Remember that.” (Oh this one I NEVER forgot)
- “Baseball isn’t slow – it’s a game of patience. Play baseball. Learn some damn patience.” (It took me a while to figure that one out.)
- My grandfather gave me my first sip of scotch. It wasn’t good scotch – apparently we couldn’t afford the good stuff, and why the hell would I even know what the “good stuff” was at the age of 8? Nonetheless, he gave me a sip and it tasted like gasoline. I spit it out, and looked at him like he must be NUTS to swallow this stuff. He looked at my face and laughed. Then he said “Joey, life’s too short to drink crap.” He then poured the rest of the bottle down the drain.
The last one I’ll share is one of my favorite memories of him. I came home from school pissed off one day – I was in second grade at the time. I took the bus to Pelham Bay Station from City Island, where my grandfather would meet me. We’d walk a block or two under the “L” (if you’re from NYC, you know what that is – if not, Google is your buddy), and go in to OTB (that’s Off Track Betting – we’d bet on a horse or two after school, and if we won, I scored an extra pack of baseball cards as payment for keeping my mouth shut and not telling my grandmother about the extra cash in his pocket). So this day I was pissed off because I got into a fight during recess after being teased about my name (I used get get called “pollack”, “potatohead”, and a bunch of other names in the schoolyard). I wasn’t hurt, and neither was the other boy – but I got in trouble and the principal sent a note home. I knew I was royally screwed – my mom was going to smoke me like a pack of Cool’s. I told my grandfather what happened while we waited to hear the results of the race we just bet on. I began to tear up a bit while describing what happened. From what I can recall, the conversation that occurred after my story was over sort of sounded like this:
“So…..you guys fought. OK. That solve anything?”
“OK – so the fight didn’t help – it only screwed crap up more. Right?”
“And he was teasing you? Other kids heard it?”
“So you decided to fight because you were embarrassed?”
“Will fighting today stop him from teasing you tomorrow? The answer is NO. So do me a favor: when the bully shoots his mouth off, it’s because he’s jealous. That’s all. He’s trying to show off – trying to make you feel smaller hoping that that will make him bigger. Remember the two types of people I told you about? Which one is he?
“He’s an asshole.”
“Bingo. Ignore the assholes – they are people that don’t know how to be good, honest, hard working people yet, because they were never taught. So you know how to piss of the kid that’s teasing you? Just stand there and let him rip in to you. Then – just laugh at him. Him not being able to get you pissed will annoy the shit out of him.”
“OK, but what if he throws a punch?”
“……oh then you knock his freakin’ lights out.”
So I shared these memories because I think too many of the politicians out there forgot what they learned (or should have learned) in grammar school:
- Race, color, creed, etc don’t matter. There are two types of people in the world – so be honest and hard-working, and just don’t be an asshole.
- Shut up and listen for a change.
- Say what you mean, and mean what you say. And don’t bullshit us – none of you are good enough at it.
- Invest in the bottle of the good stuff, pour a few glasses and debate different perspectives in an open forum without casting blame for the purpose of actually improving our overall situation.
- And any politician that runs his / her mouth, teasing anyone that disagrees with his / her opinion should just be ignored and laughed at.
Maybe….juuuuuust maybe…..if we can do these things and stop the constant negativity, we can get this ship back on course. No single party or person alone can do it – and if someone tells you different, they are trying to blowing smoke up your ass.
We need fierce, positive momentum. We need it now.