Colin Kaepernick and the Civil Rights Museum

Disclaimer: Any perceived “virtue signaling” is entirely unintentional, because all of these social justice warrior buzzwords are inherently grossly narcissistic.

Serendipitous might not be the precise word, but last weekend I went on one of my “amuck in America” jaunts. I drove to Memphis, Tenn. The state is beautiful. Memphis, not so much. It is a fascinating city, however, and the home of the National Civil Rights Museum.

It is not a perfect museum, but it is an engrossing place that examines many of our nation’s self-inflicted wounds regarding race relations. It is absolutely worth a visit.

Unless, of course, you prefer to wage social struggle at your keyboard. If that’s the case, you post about Kaepernick and his Nike ad this week.

Full disclosure: I have no problem with the former NFL quarterback/civil rights provocateur being the male model for a Nike ad campaign. A job is a job. Besides, even after visiting the museum I would be a damned fool to claim I’m an expert in civil rights. At best, I am merely a student. All I can say about him as a quarterback is that once defenses figured out the read-option, he was pretty much done.

But regarding this alleged controversy and “the struggle,” I have to confess something: I just can’t see an advertisement for a shoe company as a civil rights triumph. It doesn’t anger me. It just seems so, so cynical. Like the quest for justice has gone corporate. So small.

I can’t see it as a victory. Not after Rosa Parks. Not after the sit-ins. The Freedom Riders. Not after Diane Nash, John Lewis, E.D. Nixon.

Not after the Rev. Martin Luther King, who was slain at the Lorraine Motel, which was refurbished into the museum I attended.

Maybe I am still blind.

Look, you go to the museum and you learn that legions of famous black performers and dignitaries stayed there because it was the only hotel in the city that would welcome them. Imagine going to see Aretha Franklin in concert, but she gets denied entry at the hotel you are staying in.

Then you learn that the wife of the motel owner was so traumatized by King getting shot that she had a stroke that night and died. That’s in the first exhibit.

Much of the museum is organized around King’s leadership. He was a reluctant authority figure, recruited by Nixon to lead a lengthy boycott of the Montgomery, Ala., bus system in the aftermath of Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her seat. (A side note: The bus exhibit is disappointing. We don’t know if it is the actual bus, and to make people feel the discrimination, sensors in the bus trigger “the driver” to order you around. It’s quite distracting while you are trying to read the display.)

From there, you pass exhibits where you learn of dangerous moves black men and women felt compelled to take to simply assert their humanity — in education, economics, where to go to the bathroom. You learn who embraced the message in Washington and who shied away. Sure, President Johnson was assailed for the Vietnam War, but it was apparent he accepted the call moreso than JFK, which to me was a little startling. My family reveres Kennedy.

What resonated with me on a deeper level, though, was one of the latter exhibits. Sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike when two black coworkers died after being forced to work in dangerous winter conditions. They died a week after I was born. The strike eventually inspired a visit from King, which led to his death April 4, 1968. I wasn’t even three months old.

It moves me even now, sincerely. When you consider life expectancy now, King could have been alive today.

Now, I think of all I learned last week in Memphis, the men and women who lost their freedom, their lives. Real blood, real pain, real death … and now I’m supposed to feel the same way about a shoe ad?

I can’t.

Again, if you want to appreciate Kaepernick, do so.

But a shoe ad is not the same as a letter from Montgomery jail.

The your-girl-is-right-don’t-visit-every-baseball-stadium tour guide 30) Tropicana Field

To be clear, at this moment, I have not visited every MLB stadium. I have six to go. But I have little doubt the remaining stops are better than this overturned trash can in central Florida.

Tropicana Field has been home to the equally overlooked Tampa Bay Rays since their inception in 1998. Every few years, the Rays play pretty good baseball. The abomination of Tropicana Field, however, is eternal.

The domed stadium was complete and ready for business eight years prior, which is a testament to how little desire other teams had to play in it. They have given the concourses paint jobs and added a bar in the left-field upper deck, but make no mistake, The Trop is the case study to stop this idiotic quest American men have to visit every Major League Baseball stadium.

To get here, you make a pleasant drive over Old Tampa Bay on Interstate 275. Ahead, St. Petersburg beckons with clear skies and gorgeous blue waters (unless you are traversing one of Florida’s famed daily monsoons) and you think to yourself: A fella could live here.

Sure, you could. Until you see that giant concrete pimple on the horizon.

Where to start on how bad of an experience this is? … OK, first of all, nobody there particularly likes the Rays. Half of the upper deck and parts of the lower bowl are covered in tarp, lowering seating capacity from about 45,000 to 31,042. Why lower your seating by one-third? It’s because the Rays are a way for the locals to see their beloved Yankees. The Bronx Bombers have played spring training games about a block away from the Buccaneers stadium for decades.

Therefore, if the townies won’t provide the Rays with a home-field advantage, what is the point of making the home field appealing at all?

When the Yankees aren’t in town, you can get in the lower bowl of the place for about $20 on StubHub.

Know this, however, when you go it is most uncomfortable. Florida is a giant retirement community. Imagine being boxed into an enclosed space with 15,000 octogenarians. Try getting to your seat when the four people in front of you are blocking the slender concourse because they can only advance their walker a painful quarter-inch at a time. After a lifetime of binge smoking, Rays fans can’t fill their lungs to cheer. As a result, the team sells small cowbells to rattle.

Oh, that doesn’t get annoying.

Aesthetically, Tropicana Field is like Daubigny’s Garden, which is to say it’s Vincent Van Gogh’s last work before committing suicide. Sportswriters, in their short-sightedness, complain about the catwalks. It’s not just the catwalks. It is a genuinely ugly interior, the same color as your work cubicle — which you wanted to flee from in the first place. And consider the place isn’t even that clean. It’s not exposed to the outdoor elements! It’s indoors! Wipe the place down, for Pete’s sake.

Also, Tropicana one of two stadiums in MLB that stubbornly clings to its artificial turf. The outfield seating, of which there is little because of space, are park benches. The scoreboard also can’t be upgraded, due to the enclosed stadium’s size.

Home runs are celebrated not by fireworks and hype videos, but by the Tropicana logo lighting up and rattled cowbells.

I made multiple laps around the stadium in a desperate search for redeeming qualities. I found one. Take a walk on the dingy lower level behind the outfield wall. Eventually, you will see an opening to centerfield, with a chain-link fence. There you are, level with the centerfielder, getting his view of home plate.

The kids might like petting stingrays in a tank over centerfield, but the water isn’t clean and isn’t that how Steve Irwin died?

The Rays take great pride in being a cutting-edge franchise in terms of analytics — the fancy-pants term used to discover inexpensive players by going blind over spreadsheets. To be fair, every so often, the Rays play well. They are currently 10 games over .500 with a payroll of about $71 million. That would be a reason to watch the Rays play, when they come to your town.

As for taking a trip to central Florida, take the kids to Orlando or head east to the Atlantic Ocean for Cape Canaveral.

A Catholic conundrum

Dad would be furious with me at the moment if he knew.

Yesterday, he was in at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Fontana, Calif., getting treated for the another malady that naturally happens as we age. I’m the oldest sibling and I work in healthcare. I see things such as advanced cancers, blood clots and aneurysms on a daily basis. Dad, God bless him, has faced off with his health problems like a champ.

That was yesterday — Saturday. Today, he is most assuredly back in a Catholic church somewhere in Southern California’s so-called High Desert.

And I am not.

I can’t.

Today, the Catholic Church repulses me. It doesn’t make me question whether there is a God. It makes me wonder how best to appreciate and worship an omnipotent being, because dropping money into a collection bin that on some level financed sexual abuse makes me ill.

If I listed the number of recent discoveries in the church, it would simply take too long. The most damning is a grand jury report about 900 pages deep released in Philadelphia in August. It asserts more than 1,000 children were abused by about 300 priests.

Moreover, sex abuse cases have popped up in Latin America and Australia.

Full disclosure: my uncle was a Catholic priest who served around the world — including in Houston, Salt Lake City and Connecticut in the United States. I will not entertain any jokes about the man. Truth be told, having him visit our family when I was a child was pretty convenient. On Sunday, we could sleep in and he would hold a private family Mass in our house.

In later years, I learned that in many countries having a priest in the family is considered a status symbol, looked at with the same reverence that we Americans look at relatives who are doctors or professional athletes. To a degree, it makes sense. What’s left if you live in a country that doesn’t revere wealth or pop culture? Would it not be a relative who has dedicated his life to Christ and has the pedigree to prove it?

Because you have to be intelligent to be a priest. You have to be a college graduate before you begin seminary, preferably majoring in philosophy. If you didn’t major in philosophy, you probably have to go back to college for yet another year. Then you go through four more years of intense theological study in seminary. After that? One more year serving as a deacon.

Side note: I was a philosophy major at Cal State San Bernardino, but I digress.

The reason for all of this study is a good priest will spend the rest of his life serving a being that millions of people do not believe exists. You’re also about to be the last line of defense for people who are considering turning their back on Christ, or children who do not comprehend how evil exists in a world with a benevolent God, or taking positions against war. And all that study, which you could have used to become a doctor with a trophy wife? Nope. You will live a spartan lifestyle to serve your fellow men and women on a path to that God.

You better know your stuff.

Only none of this justifies a damn thing that I have seen.

While I am not questioning my belief in God, I have no choice but to question the church. Better stated, I’m furious.

Because where am I supposed to go now, Pope Francis?

Before anyone reading this makes a suggestion, rest assured I have been to a number of different churches. I think they are populated by mostly nice people. Others, highly judgmental folk. Greg Laurie of Harvest Crusade fame — and by extension, a Calvary Chapel near you — is a highly judgmental man. I have conversed with him repeatedly. Joel Osteen just looks slimy.

I once went to a six-hour Pentacostal service where exactly one Bible verse was read, but more people collapsed in the aisles than if a plague had broken out. Bring your dancing shoes and plenty of blankets. Your Bible? Maybe not.

I enjoy the structure of a Catholic Mass — which attempts to take a chapter in the Old Testament, one Psalm, a third biblical chapter and the Gospel and weld these passages into a unified message of hope. That is not a simple task. There is a gap of about 500 years between the old and new testaments. We spun from Barack Obama to Donald Trump in one day. How much did society change in 500 years? Yet, if you pay attention, a Catholic Mass led by a dedicated priest can be an enlightening experience.

I’ll give an example. One Sunday in Lake Elsinore, I’m at this run-down church and the Old Testament chapters are from Leviticus, an extremely boring book of Jewish laws. The Gospel reading was about Pharisees who rebuked Jesus for helping the poor on a Sabbath. After all, it’s against the law to work on Sabbath, right? Jesus’ reply was how you can’t ignore helping desperate people to obey a law.

The priest gets up. I am wondering how he will make a coherent message out of that. “I spent a month in Central America this year. I saw people dropping dead in the streets because they starved and we had no food to give. … I know many people do not give a shit about people in Central America. I also know many of you are more concerned that I used the word ‘shit’ than helping starving people in Central America.”

And then he sat down. He made the point in less than a minute.

Mind. Blown.

But I can’t accept a message of hope if I think it is from a criminal pervert.

And so I sit here in a fast-food restaurant, ranting about what the hell I’m supposed to do next.

Because I still believe in God.

Hopefully, Dad is OK with that for a while.

If they build it, you don’t have to go … No, seriously, you really don’t have to

A good woman is better than baseball.

I haven’t found a good woman yet, but I am certain this is true.

I believe this because if you take the most romantic woman you’ve ever met — the type who knows the entire screenplay of “The Notebook,” but repeatedly stops reciting it to you because she needs a good cry — she will ask you if you will go to the ends of the earth for her.

Only she doesn’t really mean it.

Baseball, on the other hand, does mean it. How many men have you met who privately yearn to — only when we’re retired and the kids have gone off to college, honey — rent a Winnebago and visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in all four corners of the country?

I’ve met quite a few.

I have so far attended games at 24 MLB stadiums and ladies, if you think watching that much live baseball is stupid, you’re right.

Absolutely right. Your man might not need to be more like your platonic friend who joins you for mani-pedis, but he does need a more compelling life goal. I am here to help you convince your man that there are far better pastimes to consider than the national one.

I do not believe women are stupid, despite my terminal bout of the singles. I am content being by myself, but even then I get it. Men, you do not need to go to all 30 ballparks, for Pete’s sake. Maybe a couple, because only a few are fascinating.

What will be coming in the next few days are reviews of the 24 stadiums I have attended with honest reviews if they are worth the time.

Some background: I am a former sportswriter for a national news outlet (Gannett News Service). My work primarily appeared in The San Bernardino Sun with a few bylines in other papers across the country. As a scribe, I did go to a number of stadiums. I will not be looking at these parks as a reporter, though, because sportswriters are idiots. When you work in the press, you get a special parking pass. Then you are led to a special entrance with an elevator that takes you directly to the press box, which is one of the best seats in the house. Then you often get fed for free, so of course, Petco Park is going to get a five-star review.

That’s bogus. You and I have to see if the place is affordable, comfortable and fun. That is the lens I am going to use.

I started my little trek to these ballparks purely by accident. I had seen all of the stadiums in California when I lived there. Then I moved to Florida. Along the way, I would catch a few games. Then, if I was angry at my employer — which happened often — I would rent a car for the weekend to get away and next thing I knew, I was in Baltimore.

These are the stadiums I have not been to yet: Seattle, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Boston. Only Fenway Park in Boston is considered must-see. And this is part of my point that ladies should make to the men in their lives. Is visiting Cincinnati really that important? Really?

Having been to St. Petersburg, Fla., Oakland and Houston, naw son, it ain’t.

Tell your significant other to keep this in mind, too. Anyone who embarks on this quest will watch a lot of bad baseball. The Red Sox and Dodgers aren’t going to be at every stop. You’re going to see far more of the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds than you realize.

Will I see these other stadiums? Depends on how often I get pissed off at my job, I suppose.

Furthermore, I will not be reviewing or ranking “who has the best hot dog?” It has been written that we only utilize 10 percent of the human mind. I believe I will be on the fast track to dementia if I spend any time taste-testing Fenway Franks and compare them with Dodger Dogs. It’s ballpark food. It’s supposed to be awful.

Finally, these reviews will come in an order from worst-to-first. Dodger Stadium will be the last entry, by the way. It is my personal favorite. Having said that, I admit my bias as a Dodgers fan. I also won’t entertain any “You ranked my stadium too low” arguments. I’m not going back to Detroit to hear you out, because this is not about who is in the Top 10.

This is about talking some common sense to you.

Visiting all 30 major league stadiums is a bona fide stupid idea.

Your wife is right.

Now shut up and get that mani-pedi.

The Frenemy of the People

Today, more than 300 newspapers banded together to run the same editorial, taking President Trump to task for calling the denizens of the Fourth Estate “the enemy of the people.”

My first reaction was surprise there are still more than 300 newspapers left, but I digress.

I think most everybody can agree the dude knows how to push buttons. I also think we can agree Trump can be truth-challenged, shall we say? However, as someone who watched more than a few printing presses roar with my golden prose splattered on the pages, I think my former comrades are on — as people love saying lately — “the wrong side of history.”

It isn’t that the free press is the enemy of the people.

It’s that you’re screwing up — royally and often. And these mistakes are so grievous that they make you nobody’s friend.

You cannot speak truth to power when you do not speak the truth in the first place. It is just that simple.

This should be a time for nationwide media introspection instead of pearl-clutching. Because — and I’m genuinely stunned I seem like the only one who realizes this — the antedote to being called “fake news” is to be accurate.

If the national press had its facts were straight, and it does not, CNN’s resident moralist Jim Acosta could reply to Sarah Huckabee Sanders or the big orange villain himself with “Go ahead, tell me where I’m wrong.” I speak from years of experience. I was accused of bias all the time. The only response is to say “where was I wrong?” Prove it.

But there wasn’t much of a mea culpa in the days after Brian Ross of ABC falsely reported of meetings “candidate” Trump wanted arranged with the Russians. It took months to for ABC to finally let Ross go.

Or Zeke Miller of Time magazine claiming Trump had a bust of Martin Luther King removed from the Oval Office. Or the Washington Post falsely reporting the entire State Department leadership resigned in protest over Trump in January, 2017. Or multiple outlets reporting Trump fired FBI director James Comey over funding for the Russian collusion investigation. Or NBC claiming Vladimir Putin confessing that he had compromising information on Trump. Or CNN’s Thomas Frank wrongly reporting Congress was investigating a Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials.

I haven’t even mentioned the petty side stories about rally crowd sizes or the First Lady that were simply factually incorrect.

You do not have to be positive. You must be accurate. It is your mission.

I might also add that you have to be ethically sound.

Hello, New York Times, does a friend of the people hire a bigot (Sarah Jeong) for its editorial board? Does that sound friendly? For that matter, does a friend of the people look the other way when a reporter (Ali Watkins) has sex with sources? Same, I might add, for Fox News. How did Kimberly Guilfoyle stay employed for a single day after she started dating the president’s son?

I learned a long time ago that choosing journalism as a profession meant I would have few friends, which is why I cherish the ones I have. It is also why it pains me to see the garbage that passes for reportage today. Every misstep adds fuel for the firebreather in the West Wing.

If I took Howard Stern’s self-proclaimed “King of All Media” mantle for a few minutes, I would:

1) Immediately downsize all pundits in print and broadcast media. I would cut the opinion page to a cartoon, a staff editorial and letters to the editor. Punditry on all sides has been reduced to shrill name-calling. Who pays to read opinions, anyway? I can get the same for free from Facebook.

2) Take whatever money I save from that and anywhere else and hire more copy editors. A confession. I hate getting my copy proofread. My ego tells me my articles are as crisp as fine linen. Copy editors show me where it looks like something scraped from the mattress of a Motel 6.

Copy editors are the ones charged with making sure reporters don’t look like damned fools. When the journalism industry started cutting staff, editors were often the first to go because a river of new content was the priority. Reporters had to be saved because getting read was what made money.

Which is a fair argument, unless what is being read is factually wrong.

3) Any analysis piece must not be looked at in terms of vote counts. Did we really know if Obamacare is a good idea? The Trump tax cuts? Not really. We just heard about how it looks in the polls for “signature legislation” to pass. It could be argued that we went to war in Iraq in part because the press spent far too much time wondering if that was good for George W. Bush and precious little time asking if the stockpiles of chemical weapons were really there.

4) No more movie roles. You can’t be a real reporter and interview an actor in a wheelchair about what Superman did to him, Soledad O’Brien. You can’t on Friday, be anchor Wolf Blitzer and assail the Trump White House, but follow that up on Saturday and be actor Wolf Blitzer and break news about MI6 being blown up while James Bond was away.

5) Stop giving a shit if people like you. I have news for Acosta. They never will. I got my first threat at 14. I have been approached and surrounded by angry readers. It comes with the job. Grow the hell up. This is no time to whine. Nor is it time to complain about how Trump’s tweets hold up on a fact-check website.

It is instead time to recommit to fact checking yourselves.

Every First Lady should wear that jacket

Hyperpartisans never learn one of the most basic axioms of American culture: We like our First Ladies.

We like them a lot, even if we’re not too keen on the husband. Political hacks obsess over polled approval numbers. The wife is always more popular. I’m a conservative. I like Michelle Obama, but more on why I like her in a moment.

Yesterday, because our political discourse hasn’t become ridiculous enough yet, #TheResistance morphed into the fashion police by trying to create a controversy over Melania Trump’s jacket. On the back of this $40 garment were the words “I really don’t care. Do U?”

Now, to our modern-day faux patriots, this is a sin of the highest order. FLOTUS was on her way to Texas to observe a detention facility where immigrant children (call them undocumented or illegal if you wish) were transferred to. Obviously, by her choice of outerwear, Mrs. Trump doesn’t care.

Please.

I can think of many different reasons why she absolutely should have worn that garment. Moreover, if this is how we are choosing to utilize the First Amendment, every First Lady should get that jacket when they move into the White House.

Michelle Obama should get to wear it because of the obscene racial slurs.

Barbara Bush should have gotten to wear it for the cheap insults to her appearance.

Laura Bush should wear it for a horrible things said about her daughters.

Even Hillary Clinton should wear it. She heard jokes about how bad she was in bed. Otherwise, why would Bill cheat?

In the last month alone, while Melania Trump was in a hospital bed recovering from surgery, some jerk who draws a paycheck covering politics speculated she was a battered wife. There were conspiracy theories as to Melania not being in the public view. In the last week, a famous actor wished someone would rip her child from her arms and be thrown into a cell full of pedophiles. Another has-been comic tried to revive her career by going after the First Lady.

So yeah, she should wear that jacket as a middle finger to all of those who have allowed their politics to become a pathology. Taken too seriously, politics becomes a sickness that rots the core of your being.

Which is why I like Michelle Obama, by the way. First Ladies tend to be viewed by most reasonable people as above the fray. We see in most of them a secret desire for ourselves — the hope to marry well. By all accounts, Mrs. Obama is a pretty, healthy, happy, bright lady and a responsible parent.

Michelle Obama, if she were single, would be a catch. And we want to marry well because a strong marriage is another thread that stabilizes society.

First Ladies also undertake noble missions during their husband’s terms. You may dislike Obamacare, but consider Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” program. The idea of lowering childhood obesity sounds fine to me. And she wasn’t the only First Lady to look out for kids. You may think George W. Bush is a war criminal, but Laura Bush was popular because she wanted to encourage reading. Nancy Reagan wanted to lower narcotics use. Melania Trump wants to end cyberbullying.

My God, what villains!

As a side note, it occurs to me that perhaps a reason Hillary Clinton has always been looked at with enduring suspicion is because unlike other First Ladies, she did desire political power.

Aside from that anomaly, First Ladies are seen as ladies outside of the most partisan among us. Hyperpartisan Americans are like fingernails on a chalkboard. Even if their thesis is sound, it is overwhelmed by the shrillness.

America appears to accept the thesis that Melania’s husband needs to do something about children at the border.

What American culture has shown it will not accept, time and again, are unfair attacks on women. Hyperpartisans say the current president is vile. As a response, they have attempted to outvile what they see as vile by attacking a lady.

And Melania Trump really doesn’t care.

How ladylike.

Love your enemy: Why David Hogg will fail

Before getting into the main focus of this post, a disclaimer: I was raised in journalism to avoid all insults about teenagers. It’s a sound policy. You cover, for example, a high school football game. You never write “Johnny Jones stupidly fumbled the ball with the game on the line and cost Generic High School a glorious victory. What a loser!” Instead, you go basic “Nonspecific High School recovered a fumble with 20 seconds to go to secure a victory over Generic High School.”

A lot of people who should know better — including Laura Ingraham of Fox News — violated that simple mandate for decency by taunting the Florida high school shooting survivor with insulting tweets or social media posts. Debate is one thing. But the adult needs to remember who the adult is when debating a teenager. Ingraham should have been above doing such a thing, which is why she apologized. More on that later.

But Hogg is going to fail in his quest to create massive social change when it comes to the Second Amendment.

Hogg is the latest in a long line of pretenders to the throne that remains occupied by the memory of Rev. Martin Luther King when it comes to creating lasting social change.

I have spent the last few days researching where civil rights has gone since the 1970s. It’s true that society has changed and granted more civil rights in the last 50 years, but no single person has been a galvanizing force. If anything, most individuals with an axe to grind create a backlash even if the cause is just. Remember how Cindy Sheehan was going to inspire us to stop going to war? We’re still in the middle east.

What exactly have the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton accomplished?

I keep going through name after name of activists who undermined their causes.

True, after his passing, some have besmirched King’s memory. But how was he able to advance a cause and be simultaneously revered?

The answer, in my opinion, is that King took a Biblical lesson to heart — to love your enemies.

It takes superhuman inner strength to find a way to simultaneously stand your ground over what you know is right while loving people who believe you should be oppressed. In today’s hyperpartisan culture, it seems antithetical. Yet, King was able to do that. More importantly, his flock followed his lead.

And millions benefitted from persistence that was based on love. Sheehan couldn’t do that. Sharpton doesn’t want to. Remember the people who ended friendships over President Trump’s election? The middle fingers given from #TheResistance?

How can anyone believe the slogan “love trumps hate” when there doesn’t appear to be love from people asking for change?

Standing your ground based on love has the capability to change hearts and minds.

Take a look at the reaction of activists in the wake of the Parkland shooting. We’ve seen thousands boo, jeer and vent fury at a U.S. Senator who offered to listen and help. We’ve seen children claim that adults have ruined democracy. At the center of it all is a 17-year-old who I’ve never met, and who I have yet to see express love for anything.

I don’t know if he’s a bad guy. He apparently has a little trouble getting into the college of his choice, but so did I. Can’t fault him for that.

But I know that in order to change gun laws, you have to convince legions of gun owners that it has to stop.

You don’t do it by telling them they are responsible for your friends’ deaths. You don’t do it by raising a fist in the air.

If you have any chance to do it at all, you start from a place of loving your political enemy.

Hogg could have, for example, loved himself and Ingraham enough to say, “You went over the line, but I accept your apology.” That’s what a mature person does. Instead, he called for a boycott of the her show’s advertisers, which people correctly saw as silencing political thought.

Now, Hogg and by extension his movement faces a backlash. I’m looking at an online survey from a pop culture site that calls the kid “arrogant.” TMZ, while trivial, is left-wing.

Kid, no disrespect intended. You have a long life ahead of you and you went through some real mess. I hope you find inner peace and a good college. But take it from someone who also had a big ideas and an even bigger mouth when I was your age: Find a way to love your enemy, or you will fail.

North Korea’s in-your-face sex slavery

Well, to be clear, it’s only in your face if you are watching the Winter Olympics.
Did you notice that the “unified” Korean Olympic team includes a few dozen “cheerleaders” dancing for the athletes?
Um, despite what the international press is telling you about how nice it is to see these young ladies supporting both sides of a divided peninsula, I’d like to cut to the chase. You’re watching sex slaves.
I take absolutely no pleasure in telling you that. To be honest, I am no social justice warrior, but I am anti-female-abuse and when I think of these poor girls I get nauseous. I get sick at how they have been exploited and furious at a press corps that has empowered the North Korean propaganda machine.
My sources come from research I have done for an upcoming novel. The theme of the novel I am working on is how propaganda conceals atrocities. I know. Light stuff. Included in the research are three history books from the notoriously secretive nation, including propaganda treatise “A Kim Jong Il Production.”
The authors of these books are by no means right-wingers rattling sabers against the North.
The North Koreans became master propagandists during the Kim Jong Il regime. You may have read that North Koreans believe their first family are gods. Kim Jong Il created that, crafting a story of his parents being a Korean Mary and Joseph, and that baby Kim Jong Il created miracles.
Anyway, Kim Jong Il enjoyed the spoils of being a tyrant. One such carnal pleasure is the “Joy Brigade,” a battalion of girls ages 14-22 who are taught to please the North Korean leadership. The girls are taught to dance to American pop music — which is outlawed to the public, give massages and feed their “deities.” After their dance-massage shows are complete, they obediently follow the men behind closed doors and follow orders.
Yeah, 14 year olds.
The best hope for these girls is that one of the ministers falls in love with them. If the girl marries a well-connected Kim lackey, she gets to eat after she turns 22. If not, back to your starving family.
Now the North Korean government is quite conscious of world opinion. Anything it can spin to an advantage, that government will cheerfully accept. So if North Korea is going to send a contingent of dancers to the Olympics, it will send the best.
The North Koreans sent the Joy Brigade, their mostly underage sex slaves.
And if you think the International Olympic Committee will take issue with sex abuse, have you forgotten it has a sordid past of its own?
Wanna throw up yet?
As a side note, Kim Jong Un’s sister — the one the international press is fawning over — is the North Korean minister of propaganda. In other words, she’s the one telling her countrymen scrounging the countryside for insects to eat that her brother is god.
Looked at from that perspective, and I’m not telling you to support President Trump if, I’m pretty happy Vice President Mike Pence disrespected the North Koreans.

In case I don’t see you during Thanksgiving…

Lately I’ve been reading an ugly idea: that Thanksgiving dinner is an ideal place to argue politics — as if we don’t have enough fertile ground for shouting matches with relatives. I just can’t partake in Thanksgiving politics, although I admit if I see that photo of Al Franken one more time my stomach will empty for another plate.

On this holiday, I prefer to feel gratitude — as old-fashioned as that sounds — and I have a lot to appreciate this year. It was an unusual year for me, in that I had four major goals. I accomplished them all. Despite that, I went through a three-month period of misery. It’s startling to achieve dreams and still be dreadfully unhappy.

Those three months were my last in Florida. I know what caused it. I prefer not to go into it.

So for openers, I am thankful for the people who sensed I wasn’t happy and reached out. They know who they are. I am thankful for you. I hope you have a most joyous holiday season.

I am thankful for the friends I did make in Florida, too. It is a fun state, fascinating and gorgeous. Regrettably, I didn’t make many lasting friendships there. The ones I did make? The people there I appreciate their humor, their intellect, their quirkiness. Sorry the rest of it didn’t work out for me.

Living on the east coast afforded me the chance to see most of the country at a slower pace. I am thankful for what I learned about America. What an amazing nation. My senses overloaded on the hues of our culture, which varies from state to state. It would take months to fully recall and appreciate what I’ve taken in. I savor those memories daily. The music of Nashville. The art museums of Philadelphia and Chicago. The architecture of Baltimore. The alcoholism of Kansas City.

I must admit, though, that I am extremely thankful to be closer to my friends and family here in Las Vegas. I’ve already made road trips to Los Angeles, Arizona, and I can’t wait to see my parents tomorrow. Thanksgiving is a time for overloading on comfort food, but eating all of that grub is merely a symbol. Thanksgiving dinner is a metaphor of how our lives can be delicious and bountiful. My life is abundant for the friends I have. The relationships you create lead to lasting comfort and joy.

My best friends? They know who they are. People I’ve begun to cultivate relationships with, I hope you know I value you.

Finally, I am grateful for those of you who have purchased my latest novel, “Assumption Day.” I want to keep that brief because I don’t want to make this blog post sound like a sales pitch. Thank you.

Let’s all have a warm holiday season. There are far more beautiful things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in political philosophy.

What’s the point? Or, why do authors get so hung up on theme?

About a year ago I flew to New York City to wow somebody in the publishing industry with a murder mystery novel I created. While most agents are women — which, by the way, is a good thing since women tend to make up most of the people I see in a Barnes & Noble — I happened upon a male rep in the restroom of the Midtown Hyatt in Manhattan.

“Thing I hate the most is authors who can’t stop talking about the theme of their books,” he muttered to the wall paneling just above the urinal. Then he looked over at me and added, “Pitching to me in here taking a piss I hate even more.”

Like most everything I’ve learned in the publishing industry, that simultaneously made sense and made me wince. Oh, it’s not the only thing that came across as useful and insipid. I had an agent tell me my book would stand a better chance of getting published if I could squeeze “girl” in the title. Girls on trains and with dragon tattoos kicking over hornet nests and falling into spider webs. That sort of thing.

But I digress.

My point is beyond mentioning there will always be a disconnect between authors and agents. That’s apparent. It’s also obvious to mention that agents are the first bona fide readers of a writer’s golden prose. Your friends and family may think it’s brilliant, but nobody else is going to know if it doesn’t land on a bookshelf. That’s an agent’s job. If the agent doesn’t care about theme, chances are most readers don’t either.

But I must suggest that agents let their crabby little wordsmiths prattle for 45 seconds about the brilliance of the theme.

Themes — as hoity-toity as they come across — are what push a writer across the finish line. No matter how strong that first inspiration permeates a writer’s alleged soul, in my opinion there is no such thing as a muse for a novel. I have to have a compelling reason for why I’m writing in order to finish. My current novel, “Assumption Day,” checks in at about 300 pages. It’s not exactly as long-winded as “War and Peace,” but compare that to the average article in USA Today, and that’s a hefty amount of quality time at the laptop.

Most writers that I know don’t like to wing it. (As an aside, that’s called “pantsing” in publishing, another phrase that simultaneously makes sense and creeps me the hell out.) The writers I hang with, read, etc., they want to have a reason for slogging through the process.

Theme is that reason. They want to make a point. The story, the character, or just one particular scene, can make that point.

I write murder mysteries. The point is not to say “killin’ is bad.” If the Ten Commandments didn’t convince you of that, neither would Agatha Christie.

In the case of “Assumption Day,” I studied the lengthy and turbulent history of Northern Ireland. I appreciated its music. I shook my head at its petty divisions. I learned bombmaking, not hands-on, of course. I went through the research and filled notebook with ideas came because of one salient point that has more to do with the United States than it does about the Emerald Isle.

That there’s only one Martin Luther King, Jr.

In my mind, I wanted to use Ireland to illustrate the point.

Many have tried to stake a claim to King’s mantle, and yet nobody else has even come close in Western civilization. Not in America. Not in Europe, either. Definitely nobody among the legions of social justice warriors online. Perhaps that’s why things continue to be divisive among us.

If you enjoy “Assumption Day,” maybe you will pick up on that. Maybe not. I hope not to make things that obvious.

But “Assumption Day” wouldn’t be possible without that little point I wanted to make.

Having said that, I wouldn’t want to disrupt your time in the bathroom to tell you that.