Should I proclaim my political allegiance?

I have been pondering a dilemma I have been facing during this election season, which is to what extent to what extent do I want to wear my political allegiance.

For decades I have forgone the displaying of yard signs at my home and bumper stickers on my vehicles. The answer is obvious: I was a journalist, and my craft presumes that its practitioners take an unsigned oath to keep our allegiance to ourselves.

I honored that pledge religiously for nearly four decades. To be frank, even though I am no longer employed by a media company, I am inclined to keep my pledge intact. I will stipulate that I do contribute freelance articles for a group of weekly newspapers in Collin County, but I am not on any payrolls. That means I am free to speak my mind … if I so choose.

I do write on this blog about my political leanings. You know, for instance, that I support President Joe Biden’s re-election. I oppose vehemently and viscerally the election of the presumed Republican presidential nominee, whose name I have been boycotting any mention on this blog.

I’ll need to stipulate that I know emotions run high on both sides of the chasm. Except that I never — not ever! — would damage anyone’s property if they decided to display a sign supporting the former Liar/Philanderer/Idiot in Chief.

Therefore, my angst at displaying my own allegiance has everything to do with how those on the other side might react.

To be candid, I dislike surrendering my First Amendment right to speak freely and peaceably about my government and the politics that produce our elected leadership. Yes, I am able to do so on this forum and for that I am grateful the founders granted us all that right. I just cannot take that expression to the next level, which would be to display a sign at my home or on my vehicle.

It’s just too weird out there … you know?

Highway crew goes over the line

As a general rule I am not inclined to gripe about the Texas highway department’s construction crews.

I am making an exception based on an experience I had today.

I was returning home from a quick trip to Beaumont, where I paid my respects at the funeral of a dear friend. I was driving north along U.S. Highway 69 through the Piney Woods; I veered onto a toll road and got back onto U.S. 69 south of Greenville.

That’s when it happened. A highway repair crew had stopped traffic because it had become a one-lane right-of-way. I pulled in at the end of a long line of northbound traffic. I could peer toward the head of the line to see the end of the southbound traffic. I noticed the last vehicle.

Our line started to move About a dozen vehicles got through. Then the flagger put the “STOP” sign up. We waited — hold on for this one — for roughly 40 minutes. No one moved through the site. Our line behind me backed up maybe more than a mile. I imagined that the southbound line of vehicles was just as long. Finally, the crew let the southbound vehicles through.

Finally, the end of that flow appeared, and we got through the site. The flagger was waving at us as we drove through. To be brutally candid, I was tempted to give that person the finger … but I didn’t.

I didn’t check my watch, but I am certain I was stopped dead on the highway for an hour.

Holy cow, man! I was beat from the drive from Beaumont. The last thing in this entire world I wanted to do was sit in stopped traffic because a Texas highway department road crew couldn’t manage the flow properly.

There. I’m done. Yes, I feel better now.

Where are the signs?

BEAUMONT, Texas — Having just driven through what I suppose you could call “The Heart of Trump Country,” I am surprised by the lack of what I expected to see on my five-plus-hour trek through Deep East Texas.

I didn’t see a single banner, or yard sign on any residence or business. Indeed, I saw only one decal plastered on the back of a Tacoma pickup, and I had to squint to read it on the rear window.

What does this all mean? Beats the bejabbers out of me.

I surely saw nothing extolling the candidacy of Joe Biden. I didn’t expect it, either. However, the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee is supposed to be exhibiting “grassroots strength” in communities such as Jasper, Kountze, Lufkin, Rusk, Huntington and Jacksonville.

Didn’t see a thing out there. Maybe I’ll see it on the way home, if I take a different route. My Ranger pickup GPS guided me through Greenville and then south along U.S. 69. The drive was gorgeous. The trees are lush, the grass is deep green. The pavement was dry. When I arrived at where I am staying overnight, though, I was greeted with that oh-so-typical Southeast Texas humidity.

I must be home. My family and I lived here for nearly 11 years. I came back to attend a funeral of a man I loved very much. Our friendship hit the skids a few years back over political differences, but it never negated the feeling I had for him and the friendship we forged during our time working together for the newspaper in Beaumont.

I just felt the need, though, to offer a bit of a surprise observation as I trekked south through the Piney Woods.

It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I didn’t have to grind me teeth for 275 miles.

So many issues …

So many issues from which to choose that will define this upcoming presidential election … so little time to decide which one matters the most.

If you were to ask me the one issue that resonates the most clearly with voters, I would go with “reproductive rights.”

Call it “abortion rights” as well. Whichever term you prefer, I believe this single issue could help decide who wins the presidential election. At least as importantly, may be more so, it could decide which party controls Congress. Democrats at this moment hold a slim majority of Senate seats; Republicans, meanwhile, hold an equally slim majority in the House of Representatives.

You know my preference, but I’ll repeat it here: I want Democrats to tighten their Senate grip and want Democrats to wrest control of the House from the GOP.

Republicans are hellbent to make abortion illegal nationwide. They would deprive women the right to make this profoundly personal choice on their own. The 45th POTUS managed to get three Supreme Court justices seated in his term in office.

He is taking personal credit for “killing” Roe v. Wade. Let us hope the boast bites him in his overfed backside as he seeks the presidency yet again.

Abortion is far from the only linchpin issue that could swing this election. We also have democracy vs. autocracy, support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and the ongoing crisis on our southern border.

The fight over whether women should control their own bodies, though, resonates with me as the one issue that could propel women to vote en masse to protect those rights against the mostly male governing bodies wanting to dictate to them.

This news hurts badly

Freddie Campbell was a dear friend, a confidant and someone with whom I could discuss just about anything.

He died the other day, apparently of complications from cancer. I struggled a bit over how I want to remember Freddie. I came up with something to share, so … here goes.

We worked together for nearly 11 years at the Beaumont Enterprise. I ran the editorial page, Freddie was the paper’s IT guru, the guy who kept the main-frame computer system running.

My day started the same way practically every day once Freddie and I became acquainted. I would go to work, read the paper (which was required of us) and start planning the day’s tasks.

Then Freddie would amble into my office. He would sit down and we then would begin discussing the news of the day. Later on, as often as not, the news involved the then-president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Freddie hailed from Little Rock, Ark., so he was quite familiar with the president. He didn’t think much of Bill Clinton and was unafraid to express his dislike to me. I had a different view of the 42nd POTUS. We would tussle, argue, even get our dander up. He then would get up and go about his day.

The routine would repeat itself the next day and days after that.

Freddie was a good man. He was smart and came from a family steeped in newspaper tradition. He was so very proud of his daughter and the woman she became.

But curiously, though, our friendship hit the rocks in recent years. We lost touch with each other because in the current toxic environment that has poisoned so many relationships, we couldn’t argue our points and then move on.

I regret deeply that our friendship soured.

Rather than talk any more about that, though, I am going to recall the joy we both felt in working for a newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise, that sought to report on the community, to offer perspective on where we believed was the right direction for the region we covered … and toiled diligently to ensure we could deliver the news each day.

Well done, Freddie Campbell.

MAGA misdirects its ‘pride’

How in the name of all that is holy can the MAGA movement justify its political kinship with this nation’s most notorious adversary?

I cannot even begin to comprehend this love affair with Vladimir Putin, his henchmen, his alleged principles and the idea that the MAGA cult in Congress is willing to all but give him a pass on his illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

The MAGA cultists, of course, adhere to the blathering of the 45th POTUS, who has acknowledged that Putin “talks nice” about him and, therefore, is a good guy and a “strong leader.”

Let’s unpack briefly something about Russia that doesn’t get much play in the American media.

For starters, Russia is a much more diverse society than what POTUS 45 envisions for this country. He bellows about how he wants this country to become a “Christian nation,” but Russia is home to a far greater percentage of non-Christians than the USA.

And did you know that abortion happens to be legal in Russia? The former Liar in Chief wouldn’t for a nanosecond blink at the notion of abortion becoming illegal in this country.

The MAGA minions continue to cling to the moronic notion that their hero in this country can make nice with a known killer and that their partnership somehow will solve all the world’s problems.

I do not get it. I will go to my grave never understanding how an iteration of Russia — the Soviet Union — was once called an Evil Empire but somehow has become the darling of the radical right wing of this nation.

Tragedy recalled

One year ago, a lunatic with an AR-15 rifle opened fire at the Allen Premium Outlet mall, killing eight people.

A few moments later, an Allen Police Department officer arrived and killed the gunman. The officer ended what could have been an even more horrific incident. The officer ran full tilt toward the gunfire after counseling a woman and her young child.

The city and local media are honoring the heroism demonstrated that day. Make no mistake, the officer acted the only way a true hero could respond: he ran toward the gunfire, drew his weapon and fired.

What’s more, the officer remains anonymous to this very moment. He is still on the job with the Allen Police Department. It appears quite likely we’ll never know his name.

May the officer, though, feel the love and gratitude of a community that is giving thanks that the hero was in the right place at precisely the right time.

Indeed, his post-incident reaction — his desire to remain unknown to the rest of us — is exactly how a real hero would react.

News has become boring

News junkies — such as me — shouldn’t ever say what is in my heart and what is about to come out on this blog.

But the candid fact is that the news is beginning to bore me. I spent two weeks in Germany without a TV in sight in the home of my friends. I didn’t miss the commentary and reporting offered by international journalists.

I have been home for a few days and to be honest I have barely turned the TV on since my return. Why is that?

I think it’s because the news has become predictable. The news involving the former POTUS is tracking just about the way many of us thought it would. He is facing criminal prosecution involving the 130 grand payment to the adult film actress. I have heard conflicting reports on how the trial is going. I’m going to wait for the verdict.

The Israel-Hamas war might be getting a break from the carnage. I’m going to wait for the agreement to be announced.

Student protests have erupted on college campuses around the country, including at University of Texas-Dallas. Students are upset with what they believe is our nation’s wrong-headed support of Israel.

I am trying to get re-engaged. A part of me wants to re-connect with the news outlets. However, I keep waiting for reporting that isn’t stale, or on issues about which I know plenty already.

The ex-POTUS’s conduct — including the violations of the gag order imposed by the judge in his hush money trial — would have landed him in the slammer, were it not for his title of ex-Philanderer in Chief.

I am left with trying to find other ways to occupy my noggin. Surely, I can locate something to fill this thick skull of mine.

High expectation for city manager

Mike Mashburn became Princeton’s city manager after a lengthy interview process with the mayor and reportedly a few senior city staffers.

He was introduced to the City Council, which met him in executive session; the council came back into open session and approved his appointment unanimously.

OK. Then came a peculiar event. The council approved a contract that pays the first-time chief municipal administrator a base salary of $240,000 annually. Not bad for a chief executive rookie. Then came a decision to give the new guy a bump in salary and an extension on his contract.

Get this: The new man hasn’t done anything — yet! — that commends a pay bump and a contract extension.

Mayor Brianna Chacon appears to be so high on this fellow that she is willing to pitch a pay and benefit increase on the hope that he’ll be a huge success.

Mashburn came to Princeton from Farmers Branch, where he served as an assistant city manager with duties that emphasized park development.

I have shaken Mashburn’s hand a couple of times. We haven’t yet spoken about anything of substance. I am struck, however, by the speed with which the council acted in approving the pay increase and contract extension.

Wouldn’t he first have to demonstrate his value? Wouldn’t the new city manager have to prove he is worth the faith that his employers have placed in him? That’s how they seem to do it in the world of private employment.

‘Juneteenth Grandma’ earns high honor

There have been few Americans who have earned the nation’s highest civilian honor more than the acclaimed “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”

Opal Lee lives in Fort Worth and this week she was one of 19 Americans to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Biden.

Lee dedicated several years of her life to ensuring that the nation honor the proclamation issued in June 1865 in Galveston, informing Black Americans that they were emancipated from the bondage of slavery. It took two years to get the word out after the Emancipation Proclamation was declared by President Lincoln.

Opal Lee’s dogged pursuit of this recognition resulted finally in the creation of a national holiday to celebrate Blacks’ freedom from the horrific lives they endured as slaves.

She has been honored repeatedly by local media outlets in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, as well as in many other parts of the country. Now she is the proud recipient of the highest honor our great nation can bestow on its citizens.

Well done, Opal Lee.

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