About Me

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I'm the author of The Liberty Pole. I dabble a bit in blogging and have a fascination with early American history (late 18th century) as well as WWII. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Hello all and happy Easter! This will be an incredible short post today with the intent, really, to say happy Easter.

I was hoping I'd have a full post for you today, but I've been sick with allergies all weekend and have been entirely unproductive. I did, however, decide on a post that will be coming up shortly. It may not be the next one (mostly because I'm even thinking about doing a series of posts on it), but I'd like to take a look at a well-discussed issue that religion in the time of the founding of our country, how it affected things then, and how views have changed since. The project still in the planning stages, and because I work a day job and am writing a novel, it may take a bit to put it all together. We'll see how it goes.

 It would have been appropriate to have posted the first tidbit today, but, as I said, entirely unproductive.

All in all, happy Easter to everyone, and God bless.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Commitment

Image via IMDB.com
I have a confession to make that is likely to either make my history-minded friends cringe or laugh. I feel I should make this confession in order to begin this post and to explain where I am coming from on this.

I adore the 1776 musical.

There. I said it. I know it's campy. I know it is, in many ways, historically inaccurate, and it often shows only charactertures of the Founders. There are many flaws to it, I know, but there is something to it that pulls at me and I will always love it.

The latter part of my time in undergrad I was very active in local grassroots movements in politics. I gave everything I had to it, fought the fight (as it were), and struggled to do what I could to make a difference. Here's the second confession of the blogpost: In all of that, there are many times when I feel like, no matter what I gave, it did little good in the grand scheme of things. This is not to say we did not make some changes, but they were local and, in the end, I felt very discouraged when I looked at the big picture.


(This does tie together with the 1776 musical, I promise. )

When you give your all into something, whether it's a political movement, a creative venture such as writing or art, or your career and you feel as if you are either at a standstill or losing ground, no matter the effort you put into it, it can be discouraging. If you lean more to the idealistic side as I do, it can be jarring. You feel as if all that time and effort is wasted and you might as well have simply kept your mouth shut and sat on your hands for all the good it's done you.


I've been there, and it's a struggle not to go back to that place. I think it is because of that I am so encouraged by this campy musical. Oh, it's good enough fun for a few laughs to see John Adams bicker with... well, everyone, and to watch the rest of the founders dance and sing about the heat and the flies, but I've always found something much deeper to it.

There are a couple scenes towards the end in which John is voicing his discouragement to Abigail, feeling as if everything he has fought for, everything he has ever believed in has gone to waste. She says, in so many words, not to forget that he is committed to freedom and to liberty. The scene that follows is one in which he is reading over a letter from Washington that asks "Is anybody there? Does anybody care?" In those words you can hear that low that we have all felt if we have put our all into a cause. It's a terrible feeling, but it's one that can make you stronger if you let it.

I find this scene encouraging, no matter what I feel my commitment slipping in, because even though he feels as if everyone is against him, he feels alone and unheard, there is a passion that reignites within him and he finds that commitment that he's been looking for.



I know this musical is cheesy, but I really feel like it captures, at least here, that terrible, sinking feeling that the Founders must have had at times. (Go back and read some of Washington's letters sometime... Poor man). No matter the odds, no matter the obstacles, commitment is the key. Don't give up and don't give in. We have to realize that even the greats in history were once questioning if their actions meant anything in the whole of the world. Without ideas there is no vision. Without vision there is no call to action. Without call to action, there is no change.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Character in the Making: Freedom Lewis

I tend to reserve this blog for historical and social/political musings, but every once and a while I may branch out into a bit more. Today is one of those days. I usually begin with a bit on history, but sadly this has little to do with our foundings and more to do with my own personal history in finding a place for a character that I created in my writings.

My second semester at university I enrolled in a philosophy class. The class itself obviously had little effect on me as I remember very few things about it. I believe it was in the morning, one of the books we read was Pride and Prejudice, the teacher had an affinity for knee-high boots, and it was during one of these classes that Freedom was born.

No, this is not meant to be some grand statement on the liberation of the mind, but an acknowledgement of finding the face and name of a character that I have grown to love very dearly. She had a heart-shaped face and dark hair that was bunched into dreadlocks. At the time she had several peircings (that she has since grown out of in her expansion as a character), a Chi Rho tattoo on her wrist, and was a bit of a gypsy. She was a free spirt and, because of this, she was very quickly given the name Freedom.
"Freedom's Dance" (c) 2006
(excuse the old, terrible art!)

She was fun, but I really had no place for her. She really was a free spirit roaming about my works with no place to settle down in. She had no setting, no family, and she didn't even have a last name that suited her. Every time I tried, it just didn't work. She wouldn't have any of it. So I continued to let her wander through my artwork, settling into a short story here and there where I tried with everything I had to come up with a backstory. It didn't fit.

For a short time in 2007 I was working on a story that I don't believe ever had a solid name attached to it. The idea was to take a look at various underground movements in culture and really dive into them. (I was a sophomore in college, it was that "finding yourself" bit I've mentioned before.) I thought that Freedom would be a nice balance for the characters, many whom would have fought and bickered regularly and her sweet spirit would act as a buffer.

That story line was fairly short lived. I moved on, working on other ideas that floated about in my mind, and Freedom resumed her status as my wandering character. She landed a brief stint in a short story that I wrote for a creative writing class that has since been lost.

Freedom on a political poster
(c) 2009
Then came the summer of 2009. While I have always been interested in politics, this was when I became vocal and active in various events, including peaceful protests. I noticed that many people created hand-written signs and the like, but as a cartoonist I was interested in using the hobby for something more than just enjoyment. As an artist, my art needed to mean something. So I began sketching and dug out my markers, hoping that they wouldn't dry out on the much larger project than they were used to.  Freedom, having no story home and being very much a favorite of mine, took center stage for my own poster.
Her peircings were gone and I still did not have a solid skin tone or eye color for her, but she was perfect.

Fall of 2009 rolled around and school began again. I had begun to think about a dystopian book project that would eventually form up into what has become The Liberty Pole. I knew at the time that I wanted many if not all of the characters to be heavily based off of historical figures. I had Nathan Thompson, a spy deep undercover in enemy territory that was based off of America's first spy Nathan Hale. I had Joseph Diem, a character that was originally meant to be based off of the fantastic Dr. Joseph Warren, though the character's father (Warren Diem) really took on more of the founder's personality as I wrote. I had the general in Alec Lewis, a silent and sturdy man that may bring about thoughts of George Washington, and, of course, there is the novel's lead protagonist: Bethany Adams.

As I began doodling out characters and forming up plot ideas I remember thinking how well Freedom Lewis flowed. As I thought more on it, on Alec and his wife Margie, on their adopted son Nathan, and on Bethany who was in great need of a friend to help her through the trials she faced, Freedom seemed the only plausible answer. After all, a young woman that goes by the name Freedom simply belongs in a story that's plot line is the struggle for liberty.

"Let Freedom Ring"
(c) 2010
"Freedom is Never Free"
(c) 2010
I can't begin to describe how excited I was to finally have found a place for this beloved character. She had a name, a past, and a family that she loved. It was just so right that I'm not sure how I could have ever pictured her in any other story line. There was no forcing her into the plot, there was no awkward shifting of other characters to accommodate her. She belonged in The Liberty Pole.

Most characters (or at least mine) set out on their journey at the beginning of the story that they are in. Alec, Bethany, Nathan, and the other characters of The Liberty Pole developed as I wrote, telling their story. Freedom, to me, had already been through so much. There was no questioning what she would do in a situation, because I knew the character inside and out. I knew her wants, her dreams, and her desires. It was comfortable.

I feel I'm having a hard time wrapping this post up, but I think that's because her story's not quite over. It may never be, as I do hope that others will enjoy her journey as much as I have. I would dare think that every writer would hope to produce something of worth that will change the status-quo and shake up the wrongs of this world and it would be well within this particular character's personality to be involved in that.

Freedom Lewis
(c) 2012





Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Finding Your Voice in the Masses

I once had a co-worker and good friend that referred to me as a walking history book. I took it as a great compliment and continue to do so even though I certainly don't feel as if I know as much as I should. The reason that she (affectionately) gave me this nickname was because I have a habit, in many conversations, of noting tidbits of history. After several months of working together, she decided that I could link most anything to history, no matter the subject matter.

I say this because I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the best way to share your voice today and, obviously, my mind went to some of my favorite historical figures and how they shared their voices during the early stages of the American Revolution. Great men such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Joseph Warren, and Thomas Paine have their words immortalized in grand speeches and beautifully constructed documents. Even personal notes were saved. John Adams seemed to have quite a few of his correspondences put into the public eye as there are collections made of his letters to Abigail, to Jefferson, and others. Through the times that tried men's souls founders remembered and not-so-well remembered wrote their thoughts and argued their opinions, many under pseudonyms in their local papers (my personal favorite, of course being Dr. Joseph Warren's writings).

I have always been a writer of fiction. My parents tell the story that when I was young I would dictate long stories to my grandmother and have her read them back to me for editing. University woke a brief spark in me in the earliest stages and I wrote under a pseudonym, mostly on social topics that were important to me. Looking back (and I don't dare at this point) I can only imagine them as bumblings that might have come across as rants, with little research and quite a bit of emotion (emotion, I believe, is a necessity when you believe fully in the subject, but fact is just as important). Coupled with the fact that I had no idea where to go, I did not go very far and soon gave up on the venture.

Towards the end of my university years I formed a friendship with another student who was also a writer and shared in many of my social and political views. As writers, we decided, we could use our talents to bring attention to local and national happenings that would affect our fellow students on campus. With this thought in mind we began tossing around ideas of creating a newspaper. If memory serves, we even discussed taking on names of our favorite historical heroes as pseudonyms in their honor. While the newspaper was not practical with our limited time and financial budget, we turned to the blogs. Together we created a blog called The Liberty Pole: Conservative writings from a generally liberal generation and were joined by a fellow contributor or two along the way. 

Once again, time restraints did a number on the project. I contributed a bit on a club's blog during those days, but most of my writing time (beyond the many papers required as an English Lit undergrad) was devoted to the novel I had just begun. It took on the same name as the blog and within its pages are characters that are (some more loosely than others) based on those historical heroes that we had discussed using the names of when The Liberty Pole was to be an underground school newspaper.  

Three and a half years have passed by since we started the blog called The Liberty Pole and probably about that since I first dove into the depths of writing the book. As an author of novels and short stories, I find my voice in that, but in today's publishing world they need more. I attended a writing conference last year and was told ever way that I turned that I should have a blog, a twitter account (something that I had avoided vehemently), and make sure that I was involved in the various other social media outlets. It's been a slow road, but I'm climbing it. I found my voice in my novel and this is yet another avenue to take in getting it out there. 

With all the outlets, with all the possibilities, I often think of how it might have changed things in the late 18th century if Warren and the others had had access to this. Would he have written his own blogposts? Gone viral? The whole works that every online-author hopes might happen? Then I stop and give it a good, hard look and realize: it didn't matter that he didn't have access to everything that is at our fingertips today. He spoke honestly and passionately and he didn't need all of this. His and the other founders' words live on today because they meant something. They continue to mean something. That, I think, is truly finding your voice. 


 "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
                                                                                                   Benjamin Franklin



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Young People and Politics

The American Revolution was, on a grand scale, supported from within the halls of the American universities in the 1760's and '70's. University students (then much younger than they might be now) showed great patriotism in the form of wearing home-spun clothing instead of the imported British cloth, holding debates on various heightened political topics of the time, and one particular class (I believe it was at Yale University), even ostracized the lone Tory amongst them, affectively running him out of the school (though I am not encouraging this as a method to be used to get your point across). Many graduates would also go on to enlist in the militias and/or what became the United States Army, including two of my personal favorites: Nathan Hale and Benjamin Tallmadge.

Students were well known for their strong opinions at the time, and in that fashion not much has changed. Universities are still a place where feelings are expressed, points of view stated, and every side is convinced, without a doubt, that they are right. Groups gather with home-made signs and shout chants that are spun from the issues at hand. They want their voices heard, and they should. That, within itself, is not the topic of my thoughts today, but rather the disturbing lack of knowledge and education on the subjects for which they speak and protest that seems to run through these gatherings and across campuses in our country today. Where once students were encouraged to debate thoughts on the events that unfolded around them, many are now spoon fed the personal opinions of professors under the guise of academic freedom.

One of my favorite past times is people-watching, and a university is one of the best places to take part in it. For the most part, students come from all walks of life, often from many different countries, cultural backgrounds, and religions. They are "finding themselves" at that point of life and trying to find out exactly what they believe about the world around them. Some are already grounded, but many are malleable and whimsical in their belief system, ready to take anything as fact that is put before them, even if common sense proves otherwise.

I will admit, while I entered my university years with strong beliefs I went through that phase that we all do during that point. Being an artist and a writer I was surrounded by those that thought very differently than I did and I became intimidated by it. As time wore off the intimidation decreased. I won't say that I entirely learned to pick my battles appropriately, but I did learn to watch and study more than just the books put in front of me. There is no doubt: a student population is a fascinating study. Not only are they fascinating, but often a bit unnerving.

One summer I spent with my parents back home. While I was there, I took a temporary job at a retail store in order to put back a bit of money. There was a girl there, not out of high school yet and attended what was/is a good school in the area. The topic of Ben Franklin came up and I will never forget the look she gave me as she shrugged and told me that she really didn't know much about history. Fast forward to the next summer. I was taking classes and a girl walked into the room wearing a t-shirt with Kim Jong-il's face on it (this was before his death) and below his face it read 'diva' in large letters. I was just putting my bag down and opening my computer to make myself ready for the class when she entered and I couldn't stop myself from asking if she even knew who that was. I suppose at least she knew he was from North Korea, but it didn't seem to phase her in the slightest that he was a dictator and a notorious abuser of human rights. I suppose it shocked me just a little less when a few minutes later as the professor was speaking about America's evils that she was amongst the group of students with a vacant look in her eyes simply nodding in response.

These two girls are just examples of a growing problem in the country. Our young people are either entirely oblivious to the social and political state of our world or they never question anything that they are told about it. Communists and Marxists such as Kim Jong-il and Che Guevara have become pop stars to them, faces not to remember so that horrors won't be repeated, but to be made into a trendy t-shirt. Some of the loudest voices I heard screaming on campus made no sense, and if you asked them to explain to you what they meant, many times they could not. I fear it's because they really didn't know themselves. Professor so-and-so said this and Dr. such-and-such said that, but they never put the words to the test. If they get the news at all, it may be from a passing glance at one source, taking little time to compare stories or think on the views of the people reporting on them.

I had the privilege of speaking briefly on a radio talk show in the height of the town hall meetings in 2009. I was in my final year at university and had spoken to our congressman at our local town hall. Afterword the host approached me and I spoke with him that next Monday. One of the questions that he asked at the time was if students at my university (or students in general) thought much about the subjects at hand. The specific question was directed towards health care, but it really could be broadened to "Do young adults care about the social and political issues at hand?"

I answered this in two parts. The first was to note that often when people on campus found that I was politically aware and active, they automatically assumed that I was an Obama supporter and a liberal and/or progressive and/or left-leaning individual. I was often insulted by it, but it did bring about the general understanding that many of those that were vocal - not always informed, as noted earlier in the example of the girl wearing a man's face on a t-shirt that she really had no understanding of, but vocal - in the academic arena were much more left leaning. Young, impressionable, they were just the next wave of people that put little thought into their theories and to whom facts were easily moved about for their own meanings.

The second part was to say that my generation (the Baby Boomer's kids) are, by great numbers, very lazy (which is funny, as we live in a technology driven world that should provide countless opportunities for self education and very little excuse beyond a particular brand of apathy to allow oneself to be unaware of what is happening around them). If it feels good to them, if it sounds nice or pretty they are all in. They don't put thought into it, they react. I commented at the time that students had a bad habit of getting so caught up in school, tests, and papers that they would push off their responsibility to focus on the nation as well, thinking that when they graduated that they would have more time.

I finished my undergraduate program two years ago. Between work, writing, and some semblance of a social life I find that there is still little time if I do not make it. I will continue to stand by the words that I said that morning on air: When you wake up and you graduate (or you get to that place in your job that you can take a breath), and you realize that your liberties have been stripped while you were in school (or working), then what good is that?

The problem is that they don't pay attention enough to know it. It's the boiling frog issue. Cliche, yes, but true nevertheless. Decades of propaganda (cloaked under the title of academic freedom so that anything can be said) have filtered in since birth and I'm not sure many of them realize that they do not think for themselves.

All in all we live in a very different world than the one that produced the Nathan Hales and the Benjamin Tallmadges of the late 18th century. You see people gather to yell and to protest, but most of my generation have no clue of the rich history of protest that our country developed from. All they know is that they want something and they'll get it in any way that they can, even if it is at the expense of someone else. A man or woman that thinks like that is easily controlled. We've seen this throughout history, but they would never know it. They never care to.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Humility and Arrogance

A few thoughts on humility and arrogance, on history and current day:


I recently discovered iTunesU and have just finished listening to an excellent lecture series out of Yale University by Dr. Joanne Freeman on the American Revolution. While I was listening through, I came across one of the lectures that specifically spoke on George Washington. I've always respected George Washington, as I'm sure many Americans do, but this particular lecture really started the wheels turning. There are a few cliches that come to mind when most people think about Washington. He was the first president, had wooden teeth, and chopped down a cherry tree as a kid. (By the way, if you're a historical nerd like I am and want to see some historical facts about the latter two, check them out here.)

I will not go into the great details, but the conversation was regarding Washington's attributes beyond the formal education of the time and John Adams' statements that he looked the part of a great leader. I started thinking, my mind adding into the lecture what I know of Washington beyond what was spoken as well as the new tidbits I was able to pick up from her talk.

Dr. Freeman described Washington as an imposing figure, but one that displayed a modest demeanor, not grasping for power. She noted detail on how that was to his advantage as Americans of the time had been put off (to say the least) by the abuse of power out of England. It was interesting, because I have heard historians over the years pick Washington apart, trying to find the flaws and the hidden meanings in what he did throughout his service to this nation, and while she weighed his actions back and forth, there was a general understanding from her that while he may have had certain goals in mind, he had a humbleness about him, a humility that was what this nation needed to begin well. He was confident, but not haughty.

He could have, as many people throughout history have, allowed himself to develop a lust for power, but instead chose to take a different path. Dr Freeman noted, as an example, that when the war was over and the Americans were victorious, that the people simply assumed that Washington - backed by an army loyal to him - would ascend to power. Instead he bowed out gracefully and went home. Simple as that. There was no grasping for control, no talk of how he and he alone could make the country work. He just went home.

Think on this a moment. Washington never assumed. He never assumed that he would be chosen to lead the army (and when he was he turned down their offer of payment for his service), and he never assumed that he would be made the first president of the United States. I thought about this as I was driving home from work the day that I heard this particular lecture. Dr Freeman was spot on. His modest demeanor was exactly what this country needed.

It still is.

Fast forward to the 21st century. I'd like to compare the first president this great nation had and the current. For all the humility, modesty, and care that George Washington showed towards the people - people that he was willing to lay down his life for -  Barack Obama shows that much arrogance, conceit, and - if we are honest just for a moment - disdain for the values that the Founding Fathers helped to cement into our beginnings. He cares little for the founding documents, for our allies, or for any opinion that may contradict his own.


One does not have to take hold of his every word to notice how often the current president refers to himself or may even throw himself into a terrible situation, not to offer help, but to instead bring the focus back around to himself. Though, I do find it interesting that when things go wrong he seems very adamant that it must be someone else's fault. He gives many pretty speeches that have little fact to back them up - just take a moment to listen to the State of the Union address from a few weeks ago - and is so often found absent from his duties in order to play a few rounds of golf or go on a vacation. It does make me wonder just how many vacations George Washington took on the taxpayers' dime.

I find myself thinking on these matters as they come about, and they often do. We do live in a different world than our Founders did -  one that I often wonder if they might recognize -  but that does not mean that we should forget what those that came before us knew. Many lives have been ended and much blood has been spilt to protect this great nation and it's unique people. I think we do ourselves a great disservice to brush aside what they have given to us for nothing more than a few pretty, shallow words.