Western Genre is True America

Western Genre is True America

Folks might ask, what’s such a big deal about another western? In an age where we’re told that America is unexceptional, patriotism is down, church attendance has dropped precipitously, and young marrieds are afraid to raise families, the western genre is a very big deal.

Edgy adventure, tough hombres, and romance set at the close of the War Between the States on the historical Texas frontier of 1864 blaze from the pages of Nueces Truth: Texans Face War’s Realities. It’s more than classic western fare. The characters and the story are fictional, but their personifications existed even as I’ve worked in actual historical figures of the time. Real events are juxtaposed against a backdrop of rugged but wildly beautiful landscapes. War had swept the nation! Most of Texas’ best men joined the fight, leaving the Texas frontier vulnerable to desperadoes, bandits, and hostile Indians. Luke Dunn’s life is caught up with law and order on the rough and tumble and increasingly war-ravaged prairies of the Nueces Strip while struggling with fundamental moral conflicts and his obligations to wife and family. This reveals an inherent contradiction in terms associated with western genre, not the least of which is its malleability as it’s transitioned from gun fights and good versus evil to more complicated stories. Mingled with the aromas of gunsmoke, leather, trail dust, and bluebonnets are riptides of the forging a life in a rough and tumble world. Plus, western authors are obligated to deliver rapid-fire pacing of action and plot as increasingly demanded by readers in an immediate gratification culture. This adaptation brands western genre as the very backbone of truly American literature, enabling it to endure since its gestation in the early 1800s. It defies credulity that western genre grabs little more than seven percent of readers of fiction. Authors and publishers are left to wonder at what the marketplace is afraid of? Those who blithely toss out. “Oh, I don’t read westerns,” ought to think again, as the genre is ever-inspired to reinvent itself. As to Luke Dunn in Nueces Truth: Texans Face War’s Realities, well, I’ve striven to deliver a character for whom a broader readership might seek. As is traditional with western genre, just about anywhere he rides, death could be reaching for his reins. But Dunn is more complicated. Comanche call him Ghost-Who-Rides, his and young Elisa’s ardor knows no bounds, rogue soldiers pose clear and present dangers, a not-so-civil war rages on, issues of man’s inhumanity to man must be dealt with, savages fight back against their certain demise, and everything converges at Heaven’s Gate Ranch in little Nuecestown, Texas. With Nueces Truth: Texans Face War’s Realities, I invite you to celebrate American exceptionalism, renew your patriotic vibe, rekindle your faith, and rebuild an optimistic view of your future.

Censorship Kills Cultures

Our nation’s Constitution keeps government from abridging free speech but doesn’t stop social media, publishers, and other private entities from doing so.  It’s about censorship.  Censorship takes many forms, though I’m talking about censorship of the writing arts in this post.  My recent experience at the Western Writers of America Convention in Colorado brought me face-to-face with the subject.   It was notable that Owen Wister Award winner Kathleen O’Neal reminded attendees that “killing the story kills the culture.”  For me, it was akin to being double-struck by lightning.  Seems many of my fellow authors have dealt with censorship in its various ugly forms, while I’ve been lucky enough to mostly avoid the problem.  I think.  Then again, Judy Blume in Places I Never Meant To Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers wrote, “In this age of censorship, I mourn the loss of books that will never be written, I mourn the voices that will be silenced–writers’ voices, teachers’ voices, students’ voices–all because of fear. How many have resorted to self-censorship? How many are saying to themselves, “Nope…can’t write about that. Can’t teach that book. Can’t have that book in our collection. Can’t let my student write that editorial in the school paper.”  I thought on the words of those two ladies.  Dang, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I have yielded just a bit, have self-censored.  I’ve kept the F-bomb out of my novels…found euphemisms for the N-word.  And I’m not even being kept in line by the “sensitivity readers” typical of the big New York publishing houses.  It occurs to me that it’s intellectually dishonest.  For one thing we dare not change history to make it more palatable.  Likely as not, my audience for western genre is looking for unbounded, take-no-prisoners, true-to-life action.  It’s about grit and passion, but also very much about the honesty associated with America’s western frontier.  They’ll find that honesty in my novels coupled with my unfettered balanced treatment of the cultures that populated the Nueces Strip of mid-1800s Texas.  Slavery and abolition, Indians, bandits, prostitution, sanctity of life, and more…are woven within the pages of my narratives.  As Cowboy Mike Searles reminded everyone at the WWA Convention, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”  I for one am committed to opposing censorship, especially in the arts.   After all, when you kill a culture’s stories, you do kill the culture.  Censorship kills cultures.

Why Buy Nueces Justice?

Think on:  “…us, who, born in the midst of peace and plenty, now find ourselves floundering rather hopelessly in the quagmires of political impotency and spiritual confusion?”  Mary Maude Dunn Wright (aka Lilith Lorraine) 1932

Why would any self-respecting person purchase a copy of Nueces Justice?  While I appreciate the western genre legacies of Louis L’Amour, William Johnstone, and Larry McMurtry, I do bring a refreshing sort of spin to western fiction.  Be assured, the Tumbleweed Sagas aren’t your grandparents’ western novels.  As to Nueces Justice, if you’re gonna climb into that saddle, be ready for the ride.  And ride it will be, as sequels will be along right soon.

Now, if you like history, you’ll find it in Nueces Justice.  After all, westerns represent a slice of Americana.  If you’re up for action; well, they say courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.  Looking for romance?  Yep, there’s a bit of romance, too.  Of course, there’s justice; the consequence of lawbreaking.  So, if you’ve got the good sense to spit downwind, this novel is for you.

But, why buy Nueces Justice?  I urge you to reread the “think on” quote above.  It’s actually from my cousin in the introduction she wrote for her father’s biography, The Perilous Trails of Texas.  Nueces Justice will transport you on an adventure to an era long past so as to better understand the trail you’re on today.  Might you have acquitted yourself as well as the settlers of the frontier, brought order to chaos, cleared a wilderness, forged a birthright of peace and plenty, safeguarded freedom?  Set on the Texas Nueces Strip of 1856, Nueces Justice will help you to better understand the mindset of the folks that built the west, that built our heritage of which Lilith Lorraine laments.

I invite you to purchase Nueces Justice today and share in the adventures of protagonist Texas Ranger Captain Luke Dunn whose life becomes forever etched on the vast prairies of the Nueces Strip.  His quest for bringing lawbreakers to justice creates a cycle of hunters becoming the hunted, as cattle thieves, whores, murderers, and Comanche are woven into this tale of the Texas frontier that stretches from Corpus Christi to Laredo.  Indeed, Luke Dunn forges the heritage that underpins the Texas of today.  Release by Defiance Press & Publishing is July 30 in print, audio, and eBook, and discounted pre-order is available today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other popular outlets.  Thanks. Y’all take care now.

Faith & Family Tamed Texas

In Psalm 49:12-13, we are advised “People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish.  This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.”

In the taming of the vast rough and tumble south Texas frontier, faith and family played an especially important role.  Faith bound families and communities together while sustaining a critical level of morality in the face of often unscrupulous forces.  Those who in today’s culture seek to marginalize faith and family need to reverse course and recognize the great value of these key ingredients toward sustaining our nation.

My own immigrant ancestors were Irish Catholics, having escaped British persecution in the 1840s and 1850s.  Following are excerpts from my historical autobiographical novel about my great great grandfather, Nicholas Dunn as told in Long Larry Dunn.  First here’s a description of Nicholas’s father’s house as described in family archives: “The parlor featured horse-hair upholstered furniture, marble top tables, rich mahogany finishes, and ornately framed pictures of the famed Irish heroes Daniel O’Connell and Robert Emmet, as well as a large painting of all the Popes from Pope Peter to Pope Leo XIII.

The Dunn family historians went on to describe the nature of the family’s faith as they settled near Corpus Christi, “Our Catholic faith easily integrated with the pre-existing Spanish culture, as they too were mostly Catholic.  We were a God-fearing lot, good Catholics to the bone.  My father was the right-hand man of the bishops, priests, and sisters of the parish.  I understood that at one time or another virtually all of the Sacraments had been delivered in my father’s house except Holy Orders.”  I find it hard to imagine a greater commitment, but there’s more.

The Dunn family contributed charitably to their faith community, “I’d be remiss not to share that my father and my brother John were instrumental in the establishment of St. Patrick’s Church in Corpus Christi.  Its first priest was Dublin-born Father Bernard O’Reilly.  Prior to Father O’Reilly, the area had been served by the pastor from Victoria, Texas, County Mayo-born Father James Fitzgerald.  My father also gave over a portion of his land that later would become St. Theresa’s Catholic Church along what is today called Up River Road.”  As you’ve by now fully gathered, my family like many on the Texas frontier was very much involved in the Catholic Church and wrapped in their Christian faith.

Dun family church involvement continues to this day, as a cousin, Father Bob Dunn serves as much-loved Parish Priest at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church in the Corpus Christi Diocese and many other descendants are involved in Catholic and Protestant faiths.  To my thinking, faith in Christ keeps Texas “tamed” in a manner of speaking.

Nicholas Dunn and his wife Andree Ann had nine children, losing two before their first birthday and another dying as a young teen.  Other family members were lost to yellow fever.  Life on the Nueces Strip could seem unforgiving.  Yet they endured, loved, prayed, and hoped.  They built a life of significance in a secure world of their choosing and achieved the satisfaction of having tamed the land for future generations.  Our socialism-promoting politicians and elitist academics that marginalize Christianity could indeed learn a lot from the taming of the Nueces Strip.

I do suggest that we need to take Psalm 49:12-13 to heart.  Just sayin’.

Tumbleweed Talks – The Education Dilemma

Nobel Prize Winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats defined education: Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Tumbleweed notes that insanity is often defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the U.S. public education system as currently manifest is total insanity.  It fails us miserably.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some great dedicated teachers and loving concerned parents; it’s just that the system has let them down…big time.

John Dewey is generally regarded as the father of modern public education.  To put modern in context, Dewey lived 100+ years ago.  Yet Dewey is adored even today by liberal progressives.  However, critics blame him for the decline of American education.  Dewey believed that our democracy must be transformed first by a revolution in education, followed by a social and economic revolution.  His idea was to indoctrinate through education to create a more pliable populace for the transformation.  Little wonder that he was highly regarded by and sympathetic to Marxism.  Like the Bolsheviks, Dewey sought the elimination of religion from the public square, especially the schools.  While he was a Communist sympathizer for many years, he eventually recanted, though Marxist influence pervaded his life work and the evolution of U.S. public education.  We can’t ignore U.S. education history without mentioning now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  When she was an attorney with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, she expounded regularly on building a massive system of child care in the nation such that wives and mothers would be free to join the workforce.  In a huge way, the public education system served that need.

So, what is this education dilemma?  Tumbleweed contends that today’s U.S. public education system is a system of competing interests representing Federal and state education departments, teacher unions, academia, curricula publishers, education bureaucrats, and politicians.  As John Dewey imagined, this system has facilitated the insertion of revisionist socio-political philosophies into the material taught in our public schools.  It enables the perpetuation of powerful interests in an archaic one-size-fits-all system often referred to as the Prussian model.  It has duped millions of parents into believing that it is infallible.  It subjugates individualism to a government system under the guise of some fallacious socialization for the “greater good.”

Education is huge, a behemoth representing nearly 6 percent of our GDP, one of the highest rates in the world.  Yet, there’s been a broken trust.  In his recently published book Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past, James Robbins notes that “schooling is necessary to the development not only of a well-rounded person but also of a strong society.  But tearing down traditional history and civics education leaves children weak in these areas.  With the growing intolerance for the exchange of ideas in colleges and universities, basic knowledge of American identity has become confused.  Students no longer know what America stands for, becoming more aware of what divides us than of what unites us.  This thinking begins in the public-school system.

There’s a certain irony here that is actually rather ludicrous.  Just before I joined the board of the school district where I live in in Pennsylvania, it was ranked well into the bottom half of the commonwealth’s 500 school districts.  This in a state that ranked in the bottom third in the nation.  Yet the school had parents convinced it was a top-performing district.  Broken trust?  Most parents are concerned that their children receive a good education that will prepare them for the challenges to be faced in the world.  Parents have an almost totally blind, even naive trust that public schools will deliver that good education, but the education blob leverages that trust to perpetuate its own agendas while wasting billions of dollars on scams like open classrooms or Common Core Standards that mortgage our nation’s future with flawed curricula and excessive time-wasting testing.  Notably, the students who do well in spite of the education system usually do so because their parents care enough to stay actively involved in their education.  Otherwise, they are taught in most cases to the lowest common denominator.  And it serves to frustrate teachers and often chase good ones from the system.  Plus, teacher pay actually declined over the past two decades while per-pupil spending increased by 27 percent.  School districts are saddled with budget-busting debt and profligate retirement systems.  The outcome as Tumbleweed has experienced it is undereducated graduates unable to perform common everyday functions as simple as a signature on a check or credit receipt or reading a tape measure.  Reading skills are at times horribly deficient.  We dare not lose sight of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said that the sage in the exercise of his governance, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.  Emptying the mind facilitates control.  Dare we refer here to the mindless drivel that passes for education in today’s institutions of higher learning wherein students are unfamiliar with simple civics, unable to name our nation’s leaders, and totally oblivious to the tenets of our Constitution.  Sadly, this is perpetuated by those Federal and state departments of education, teacher unions, colleges and universities, curricula publishers, education bureaucrats, and politicians so they can covet and protect their pieces of the power structure.

            Bottom line, it’s a fraudulent system.  Parents should be outraged, but they mostly stand by benignly as the education system self-destructs at their children’s and our nation’s expense.  For example, in most school districts nationwide, where were parents and Board members when it came time to actually review Common-Core-based curricula page-by page?  I’ve seen that lack of involvement first hand, and we see the result in ever-more progressive socialism-based curricula indoctrinating precious generations of our children.  Equally bad is good teachers being hamstrung by this failed education system, spending inordinate time on standardized testing while scrambling to teach at least some skeletal level of knowledge with the remaining time.  Moreover, under-performing teachers are protected by tenure and receive salary increases regardless of performance. (How many private sector folks would love that?)  The system is a fraud, a total con.  It’s little more than a large, expensive child-care with some education layered in.

So, I’ve framed out the challenge.  Now what?  In my experience most folks from both sides of the political spectrum agree that problems exist.  BUT, how do we solve them?

Let’s first look at local solutions.  We need schools that educate, but throwing money at the problems without achieving true education improvement is a fool’s game.  Without taxpayer largesse propping up their inefficient business model, public schools couldn’t survive.  Academics must be improved and budget austerity must be sustained in an environment of often declining enrollments and ever-lowering tax bases as populations age and dwindle.  (Today’s Millennials aren’t exactly filling the maternity wards.) Progressive-leaning student indoctrination must be squashed, as teachers graduate from colleges featuring overwhelmingly left-of-center political bias.  Bullying must be stopped, and the perpetrators – not the victims – must be punished.  School debt must be eliminated.  It’s imperative to set aggressive agendas for improved academic performance.  STEM and reading programs must be elevated.  Practical labor trades training must be promoted and delivered.  Teaching and learning must feature high goals, give top priority to instructional time, offer ample bonuses for outstanding teachers, and get parents actively involved at ALL grade levels.

Next, let’s consider state solutions.  At higher government levels, states need to end programs like Common Core Standards and associated mind-numbing, resource-wasteful tests, as well as overhaul budget-killing, overly-generous, public-school employee retirement systems to control exponentially rising costs.  These costs cause both school budgets and taxes to increase but not to the direct benefit of students, as public-schools must accommodate those rising retirement system costs.  Budgets must continue to be optimized to meet these concerns without raising taxes that especially impact low/fixed-income citizens and drive them from our communities.  Oh, and the Federal government needs to totally steer clear of education; it’s well above its pay grade.  Best way to do that is to totally eliminate the Department of Education.  It rose to power as part of an NEA voter pact with President Jimmy Carter and has metastasized ever since.  Oh, and do you know any politicians that got elected on a platform of cutting education budgets?  Heaven forbid that we follow the philosophy that it’s not how much money is spent, but how well the money is spent!  Let’s be real.  It’s not about spending more money, it’s about spending it more productively.

Solutions.  In an era of ever easier access to sophisticated technology applications like artificial intelligence or AI based interactive learning, choices in delivering education have grown by orders of magnitude.  Thanks to technology, we can throw away the supposed magic of low student-teacher ratios.  AI-based programs have a 20-year track record of being capable of delivering educational material with 99.6 percent effectiveness compared to a classroom teacher.  Take note of the plethora of online courses available today.  In addition to choices and material customized for individual students, technology has the added benefit of saving taxpayers the expense of brick and mortar infrastructure and large administrative departments.  Great teachers will be able to reach more students more effectively.  And testing students for knowledge retention AS THEY STUDY makes more sense than relying on post-course comprehensive testing.  We might even empower employers to create environments that enable parents to teach and monitor children remotely in both individual and group cooperative environments.  These sorts of solutions destroy the archaic child-care-based public school model and push parents into greater child-rearing responsibility.  We need a radical change in attitude toward education, an openness to new, innovative models.

We must fight back.  Tumbleweed, like many citizens, homeschooled.  My wife and I were nevertheless impacted by public schools as citizens and were concerned about high quality education outcomes.  Our public-school systems are indeed broken but not beyond repair.  The grown-ups must set positive, constructive, adult examples for the students.  Now is when students should truly get to be first.  Boards, parents, administrators, teachers, and students must team to turn back the government public education system behemoth and its legacy of failure.  School choice is an absolute must.  Our children must be prepared to get on in the real world.  We must see that schools deliver practical knowledge for life and careers through optimally educating our children.  If the government education system does continue on its relentlessly destructive path, great alternatives that exist today for parents to fight back include charter schools, home schooling, and private schools.  We just need to get off our collective posteriors and straighten the mess out.  Just sayin’.

Ethics & Morals

Think on: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” EXODUS 20:16

High, unimpeachable, consistently applied ethics and morals are essential to our success in all aspects of life.  In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge said, “If we are too weak to take charge of our own morality, we shall not be strong enough to take charge of our own liberty.”  Enron and Worldcom were just two modern-day examples of how everyone – not just the company employees – pays for unethical workplace practices.  Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance now costs companies millions of dollars which are then passed on to consumers.  Dodd-Frank compliance, legislative reaction to unethical banking practices, compounds that cost.  Both laws were “knee-jerk” legislation in response to perceived failures of securities regulation enforcement.

Examples of unethical practices in business abound.  In addition to the huge Enron and Worldcom scandals of the 1990s, there were the Archer Daniels Midland price fixing scandal brought to light by whistleblower Mark Whitacre, the Koss (headphones) internal $31 million fraud perpetrated by its vice president of finance, the case of CFO Sam Antar who bilked hundreds of millions from consumer electronics chain Crazy Eddie, CFO Aaron Beam’s $2.7 billion accounting fraud at HealthSouth Corporation, and there was Martha Stewart’s insider stock trading and Bernie Madoff’s investment scam.  The corporate executives pay the price for their behaviors, but the investors and consumers never really are compensated.  What can we do?  I’ve personally had sales executives attempt to bribe me to get a sale and even was passed files of corporate secrets from a competitor.  These are among the more heinous lies, especially as they are criminal.

Today’s moral relativism is rooted in moral values that far too often have become a matter of personal opinion or private judgment rather than something grounded in objective truth.  Mostly, it’s about our own selfishness, our immediate gratification mindset; the “I, me, mine” thinking of narcissistic hedonism.   It describes how most of today’s Millenial Generation…and many Baby-Boomers…define their morality.  In my 8 years of teaching as a college adjunct, I have asked hundreds of students what they base their morals on, and very few profess biblical morality.  These students are being fed a “do good, feel good” morality professed by the generations that preceded them and have been raised in a fully atheistic public-school environment.  Little wonder we seem to be breeding successive generations of corporate fraudsters.

Tumbleweed believes that the one of the biggest manifestations of corrupt ethics and morals is the lie.  As an inveterate collector of quotations, a couple that come readily to mind are Mark Twain’s, “A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.” and John F. Kennedy, “The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and realistic.”  What parent can forget “Veggie Tales,” especially the episode about the lie.  Or, recall actor Burl Ives famous reference to “mendacity” in the film, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

For me, the scariest and most tragic lies are those that are rationalized or justified by some relative interpretation of morality.  And perhaps even worse are lies that emanate from the perspective that someone’s lie is okay because someone else had gotten away with it previously – as though that makes it less of a lie.  We see that a lot in politics but in business, as well.

So, I’m afraid it does get down to the basics of ethics and morality.  I rather like Colossians 3:9, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices.”  It can be tough to resist the lure of compromising our ethics and morality, but we cannot serve two masters.  It’s man or God.   What’s your choice?  Just sayin’.


Only a Trillion Dollars

Tumbleweed admits that this is an unusually long post.  Then again, a trillion dollars is a lot of money.  It takes a special perspective to come to grips with it.  The next time you hear a politician use the word “billion” in a casual manner, think about whether you really want that politician spending your tax money.  Then, think about “trillion,” which you hear increasingly from the hallowed halls of our government.  Let’s see, to truly grasp the number it’s got to be more than the fact that a trillion is a thousand billion.

A billion is a difficult number to fully comprehend.  By comparison, a trillion is absolutely mind-boggling.  So, let’s get some perspective:

  • A billion seconds ago, it was 1976 (a trillion seconds would put you at roughly 30,000 B.C.).
  • A billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive.
  • A billion hours ago, our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
  • A billion days ago, no one walked on the earth on two feet.
  • A billion years ago, the earth was pretty much a molten mass…and a trillion years ago our solar system likely didn’t even exist.
  • A billion dollars ago was less than 2 hours ago at the rate our Federal government is spending it.

Now, let’s see.  The U.S. national debt as of November 2017 is $20,597,790,000,000.  Hmmmm!  The Gross Domestic Product is a mere $19,420,000,000,000.  So, the debt represents 105 percent of the U.S. GDP.  That is as bad as it seems.  Of course, politicians quickly point to Japan at 230 percent debt to GDP and Greece at 177 percent.  Of course, those two economies are in the proverbial toilet.

Actually, did you ever notice that the typical calculator won’t even permit you to enter a billion?  Hmmmmm.  So, what does one TRILLION dollars look like?

All this talk about “stimulus packages” and “bailouts” and “temporary spending bills”…  A billion dollars…  A hundred billion dollars… One TRILLION dollars…  What does that look like? I mean, these huge dollar numbers are tossed around like so many doggie treats, so I thought I’d try to get a sense of what exactly a trillion dollars looks like.

We’ll start with a $100-dollar bill. Currently, it’s the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slightly fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.  A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2″ thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun.  The next little increment is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000), and you could stuff that into a standard grocery bag.  While a measly $1 million might look a little unimpressive, $100 million is a bit more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet about waist high.  However, with $1 BILLION dollars, we’re really getting somewhere.  It would fill eight of those waist-high pallets.  Getting scary isn’t it?

Next, we’ll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we’ve been hearing so much about. What is a trillion dollars? Well, it’s a million million. It’s a thousand billion. It’s a one followed by 12 zeros.  You ready for this?  It’s pretty surprising.  A trillion dollars would require three football fields of those pallets stacked double high with $100 bills.  MIND BOGGLING!!!

So, the next time you hear some politician toss around the term “trillion dollars”… that’s what they’re talking about

The government will have taken in $3.21 trillion for fiscal year 2017 while spending was pegged at roughly $3.7 trillion, an “automatic” deficit of $490 billion.  The U.S. national debt is $20.6 trillion and interest is $2.4 trillion of which we will pay annual interest of more than $228 billion (there are those big numbers again).  We will have spent $1.3 trillion more on so-called “entitlements” (Social Security, Welfare, Unemployment, Housing, & Medicare) than we will have spent on defense of our nation ($1.9 trillion vs. $569 billion).  Besides borrowing, where does that money come from?  Bet you can’t read the following in a single breath:

Accounts receivable tax, building permit tax, commercial driver license tax, cigarette tax, corporate income tax, dog license tax, individual federal income tax, state income tax, multiple healthcare taxes, capital gains tax, business taxes, federal unemployment tax, social security & other payroll taxes, excise tax, energy tax, healthcare tax, fishing license tax, food license tax, fuel permit tax, gasoline tax, hunting license tax, inheritance tax, customs duties, estate & gift taxes, inventory tax, IRS interest taxes (tax on top of tax), IRS penalties (another tax on top of tax), liquor tax, luxury tax, marriage license tax, Medicare tax, property tax, real estate tax, service charge taxes, road usage tax (truckers), sales tax, recreational vehicle tax, state income tax, state sales tax, state unemployment tax, telephone federal excise tax, telephone federal universal service fee tax, state local telephone surcharge tax, telephone recurring and nonrecurring charges tax, telephone usage charge tax, telephone state & local tax, utility tax, vehicle license fee, vehicle registration fee, watercraft registration tax, well permit tax, building permit fees, workers compensation tax…anyone laughing?  Oh, and now we’ll add 23 new taxes and a penalty connected with the “Affordable” healthcare law.

Now, I hope you’re seated.  NONE (zero, zilch, nada, nil), none of these taxes existed 100 years ago!  AND our nation was the most prosperous in the world.

Just 125 years ago, we had absolutely no national debt, we had the largest middle class in the world, we were mostly pretty self-sufficient, divorce was rare, television was nonexistent, Twitter was what you felt when you were in love, AND moms stayed home to raise and often home school the kids.  We didn’t need bailouts or stimulus packages, the Federal Reserve wasn’t, paper money was backed by gold and silver, and no nation messed with us.  In fact, the government didn’t mess with us very much.  We weren’t perfect, but… arguably we were in better shape than today.

If you’re ready to hyperventilate, go to www.usdebtclock.org.

Anyone check lately about whether “entitlements” are in the U.S. Constitution?  Uh-oh.  They aren’t, are they?  What happened?  Whose money is being spent?  Whoa, wait, that’s our money!

Can you spell g-r-e-e-d?  Can you spell l-i-e-s?  Can you spell p-o-l-i-t-i-c-i-a-n-s?  How about P-r-o-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e-s?  E-n-t-i-t-l-e-m-e-n-t-s?

Billions…trillions…numbers that are so overwhelming that we’ve become numbed to them.  We hear them bandied about in the media, but since we can’t conceive of ever attaining those numbers for ourselves we tend to tune out the news.  Should we?

There are idiots out there that want to give even more free stuff from government coffers to citizens.  All we need to do is get rid of spending on defense and tax billionaires more heavily.  So, aside from our enemies coming in and walking all over us, let’s take away the sources of investment for the businesses that employ our workforce.  Putting aside that most billionaire wealth is tied up in investment (e.g., corporations, real estate, etc.) that’s not taxable as income, all the U.S. billionaires net worth combined could barely put a dent in the national debt.

Maybe what we actually need is p-o-l-i-t-i-c-i-a-n-s with f-i-s-c-a-l r-e-s-p-o-n-s-i-b-i-l-i-t-y.

Sexual Harassment – Defamation Tool

Think on: For wicked and deceitful mouths open against me; they speak against me with lying tongues.  They surround me with hateful words and attack me without cause.  PSALM 109:2-3

Like many folks, Tumbleweed has been noticing a veritable plethora of claims of sexual harassment and aggression exponentially dominating headlines.  From Congress’ Anthony Weiner to Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein to Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott to Alabama’s Roy Moore, we are besieged with real and possibly fake accusations.  Sorting through them to determine veracity can be a challenge unto itself.  How many are true?  How many are trumped up fakeries to bring down a celebrated figure or organization?

Tumbleweed suggests that accusations drawn from the past are more often becoming a tool of political hacks to take advantage of opportunists with clouded memories dredging up alleged dark secrets.  Yep, Tumbleweed is talking about those “wicked and deceitful mouths” out there.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  When there’s legitimate sexual harassment, violators should be indicted, tried, convicted, and punished.  Hang’em high!  We cannot stand for attacks on women.

So, there is certainly sexual harassment out there, and it’s shameful.  But we must stand awestruck at the profusion of accusations that continue to flood the media, as accusers get their 15 seconds of fame to bring down an alleged predator.  Tumbleweed thinks back on Bill Clinton’s “alleged” peccadillos and how his victims were sanctimoniously poo-pooed by the liberal elite.  Even his wife viciously discounted Bill’s victims.

What are the solutions toward stopping sexual harassment?  Education?  Probably.  Mutual respect between the sexes?  Good idea.  Christian love and compassion?  Certainly.  Avoid situations that encourage sexual contact?  Duh.  Just sayin’.

Words Matter in Art & Life

You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Most folks know by now that I’ve become increasingly immersed in my writing craft, creating poetry and fiction books.  I’m a member of the Poetry Society of Texas, the Pennsylvania Poetry Society, and Catoctin Voices, a local poetry group for which I have twice served as featured poet.  As Tumbleweed, I do manage to tumble around to various literary events.  Recently, I was confronted with a shocking reality.  I attended poetry readings at a Gettysburg-based poetry group.  These events generally consist of an hour of “open mic” whereby local poets may read their creations, and this is followed by a featured guest poet.  The featured poet is usually a published poet, is often a college professor, and likely has received awards for their poetry.  (My cousin Mary Maud Dunn Wright [pseud. Lilith Lorraine] was a much-awarded poet and novelist.)

Back to the event.  There were about 20 open mic participants, many of them local college students.  There was some really good word art delivered, and there was some arguably very bad material.  In my experience, what is good to one person may not be so good to another and that’s to be expected.  My concern, however, is with the trend toward ever more frequent use of truly vile language.   The student poetry in particular was liberally laced with expletives.  I was shocked.

My English teachers taught me that folks tended to resort to vile language, when they lacked language skills.  As an English major back at University of Maryland, I recall two semesters of Shakespeare as taught by a professor whose doctoral thesis was on the Bard’s use of sexual imagery.  They were fascinating courses, and I expect that in Shakespeare’s time the material was considered quite racy.  However, the audiences had a pretty good idea of what to expect.  There were no surprises.

I did leave the poetry event early, because I simply couldn’t tolerate the language used by the featured English professor poet and her student acolytes.  Pity, as there were some worthy poetic subjects shattered on the rocks of ill-chosen verbiage.

I don’t consider myself a prude, but I wouldn’t dream of inserting expletives in my own poetry.  In Proverbs 16:23, we are advised “The hearts of wise people guide their mouths.  Their words make people want to learn more.”  Surely, our poetry should reflect that advice.

I don’t believe in censorship on the one hand, but I believe the choice of receiving offensive material should rest with the receivers.  There were certainly guests in the room that Friday evening who were shocked by the language (their discomfort was obvious).  In fact, shock was likely the poet’s goal.  But few in our culture today are likely to take such abominable purveyors of poetic license to task.  It’s a sad commentary indeed that the morality of our culture should be so low.  After all, Ephesians 3:7 tells us that there’s a time to keep silent and a time to speak.  I suggest it’s time to speak against the corruption of our morals and of our language.

Justice in Justice

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. (Thoreau)

These days, it seems every “minority group” seemingly worth its salt is crying out for justice.  I think it’s fitting to kick off my Tumbleweed blog with a free-verse poem I wrote titled “Justice Enslaved.”  I hope my readers find it thought provoking. Where indeed is the justice in justice?

To what…to whom are we enslaved? Who forged our chains?

Is enslavement just?  Where is the justice? Who decides what is justice?

Slavery justified from the Hammurabi’s Code to Bible scrolls.

Neolithic times segue to Sumer, ancient Egyptian pyramids, Greece,

To China and Hebrew kingdoms, to the ancient Levant…even to the West;

Slavery as punishment, debt repayment, spoils of war, or birthright.

Christian, Hindu, Islam; all find justice enslaved to the law.


Is there justice in slavery?  From slavery?

Be it medieval Europe, Vikings, Tartars, or Barbary Pirates;

Slaves were as booty, a mercantile undertaking, a way of life.

Justified in economics essential to the culture, a fact of life!

Whether issued by Dum Diversas, Romanus Pontiex, or Sublimus Dei.

Pope or Imam, King or Sultan…made no matter; misanthropes all!

Justice stood as mute sacrifice to some larger, greater need.


Where then is justice?  What indeed is the justice?

Reparation, rehabilitation, retribution…mere slogans.

From Aztecs to Cortez’, Incas of Peru, Comanches of our plains;

To southern cotton fields and tobacco barns enslavement flourished, justice died.

Despite Wilberforce, Newton, and Lincoln, slavery forever prevails.

EBT cards replace chains, urban plantations defy any escape;

Khartoum, Delhi, Jakarta, or Detroit; enslavement abounds.


We cry out for justice.  Cry to end enslavement.

Yet its pervasive tentacles imprison all nations, all people;

Justice seems such a shallow game, a losing default setting for life.

What is justice to the enslaved?  What then is justice to the enslavers?

And what is justice for those who would end slavery? Such optimistic fools.

Only our souls offer protest, unshackled by iron chains;

Yet justice rings hollow as payment for our past enslavements.


Dare we dwell on justice for past and present sins?

Can money or lives truly compensate for injustice perceived or real?

For justice remains an elusive charade, be it divine or natural,

Be it distributive, egalitarian, social, fair, or utopian.

Retributive and restorative justice stand as inherently unjust;

We find ourselves mired in justice, mine or yours, the red pill or the blue pill;

God forgives, and in the end only “the truth will set you free.”


Indeed, the truth is all that really sets us free; the only justice.