Spare me the hypocrisy, America

It breaks my heart to write this, but I am angry and disappointed and hope that the shock sparks change.

Like many of you, I woke up this morning with a feed full of #NeverForget posts.

While it may make you feel good to see them and to share them, we have forgotten what it truly means.

What I see in this picture is a real attack on our freedoms.

All the rhetoric about how wearing a mask is an attack on your freedom just doesn’t compare, does it?

What I do not see in this picture are democrats or republicans. I do not see black or white, gay or straight, liberals or conservatives.  I see neighbors, colleagues, strangers, and friends…all part of our American family.

We say #NeverForget as if we will always remember, respect, and honor.

Yet even today, our country, the country I love, is still under attack.  Foreign enemies continue to attack our election processes, they continue to spread disinformation and division through social media, and they continue to try to hack campaigns and sow discord. 

We are under attack from within, by growing numbers of domestic terrorists, whether organized or individuals.  Hate crimes, anti-Semitism, and other types of discrimination are on the rise across the country, leading to an increase in violent attacks.

We are under attack from a disease that has ravaged countries around the globe and caused thousands upon thousands of deaths.  Even if you only believe the lowest of numbers, they are still significantly greater than our losses on 9/11.

Worse yet, we are under attack from each other, allowing partisan politics to divide us and undermine our institutions.  We are not each other’s enemies nor is a free press our enemy. 

So, what have we done to #NeverForget?  Not nearly enough.

We did not care enough to ensure the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation bill was reauthorized and funded until well over a decade after the attacks.

We did not care enough to go out and vote to ensure every voice is heard in our democracy.

We did not care enough to complete our census to make sure every person is counted.

We do not care enough to respect each other and the memories of those we have lost.

Sadly, instead of remaining united in the face of adversity, we have become the most divided this nation has seen since our Civil War.

We mock and denigrate each other because of our beliefs or political party affiliations.

We question each other’s patriotism and oppose everything that doesn’t fit our views, going so far as to tell each other to “leave if you don’t like it”.

We turn a blind eye to suffering and injustice and continue to sow racial division instead of working for equality and equity.

We continue to accept death; from COVID, from school shootings, from police misconduct, and from other forms of violence and disease as ‘acceptable’.

So, are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

#NeverForget cannot just be words or photos or memes on a page.  It must be in action and accountability.

Look back at your feed, at your words and actions. Have you truly been living up to those ideals?  Have you been respectful to your fellow citizens?  Have you taken action to unite or divide?  Have you supported those who have attacked or disrespected others? Have you been kind? Have you ‘unfriended’ someone because they believe differently than you?

Let us not forget that we are still a country at war.  Our troops are still serving in harm’s way.

If we cannot remain united and supportive, what exactly are they defending?

So today, as we should every day, we must not just remember, not just share meaningless words, we must honor that memory with our actions and intent.

If we are truly going to #NeverForget, we must live like we did on September 11th and 12th.  United in our commitments to our country and to each other, respectful and supportive of each other and our beliefs, and dedicated in ensuring that those lives we lost were not in vain. 

Never forget that we are stronger because of our diversity. That truth matters. Trust matters. That we must learn from our past to truly understand our present. That each of us has the power to change the future.

So, before your next post, pause to think about what you are saying and what you are sharing.  Or did you forget already?

#NeverForget #Respect #Freedom #USA #911 #Sept11 #History #Vote #Learn #United #Diversity

July 4, 2020

We cannot feign respect for our flag, for our country, without showing respect for each other.

“It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more”

John Adams

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson

I have written several times that the 4th of July is my favorite holiday.

The words, the ideals, written in the Declaration of Independence inspired the birth of a new nation, extolling a government of the People.  A government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.

I celebrate excitedly each July; the Grand Experiment in democracy…the birth of the United States.

For as much as we can admire the Founding Fathers, they were not without flaws.  They were not asking us to idolize them, or even emulate them; they were asking us to believe in them, in the ideas and actions that would change the world. 

“They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country.  They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.”

Frederick Douglass

These conditions do not have to be binary. 

We can look to the past with a critical eye, but together we have an opportunity to create a better future.

While the American Dream has been good to me, Jefferson’s truths have not been so self-evident for everyone.  Equality has been only a dream for too many for too long.  We’ve struggled as a nation to live up to those ideals.  We’ve fought, both in courts and on battlefields, for or against equal rights, and equal justice, for all. 

That history is just as much a part of our present as it is our past.

244 years later, we still struggle with discrimination; in race, religion, gender, sexuality, and much more. 

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Edmund Burke

Not only is it incumbent upon us to listen, to learn, and to educate, we have to respect our differences.

Ours is a nation of diversity, of disparity, but it shouldn’t be one of inequity and inequality.

We cannot feign respect for our flag, for our country, without showing respect for each other.

For all those who have fought, and continue to fight, for freedom, liberty, justice, and equality, I am grateful for your passion, commitment, and service.

I celebrate today, with pride and patriotism.  Not blindly, but respectfully, not just to the past, but for tomorrow.  The America I celebrate is the shining city upon a hill, where we teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important, where everyone lives in freedom and equality. It has been only a dream for far too long. Join me in working towards making it a reality. Our celebrations will be that much more meaningful when we can truly share them with everyone.

The Horns The Devil Gave Me

“Where are your horns? Don’t all Jews have them?”

47 years later, this question still haunts me. 

I was 5 years old.  My family had just moved from New York to Virginia.  That’s when I met Keith.  For those first few days after the move, Keith and I were inseparable – exploring my new neighborhood, riding Big Wheels, and playing games.

One day Keith heard that we were Jewish and asked to see my horns.  The horns on my head.  The ones the Devil put there.  All Jews have them.

My mother tried to correct him, with no success.  She even went to talk with his mother.  That made it worse.  Keith was not allowed to play with Jews.  It is a tough lesson to learn at 5, or at any age.  I did not understand what happened.  I just knew I did not have my friend to play with.

This was one incident in my distant past.   There was no violence.  No real hatred; just profound ignorance and hurt.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to have that thrust upon someone every single day of their lives.  Mistrusted, hated, abused, persecuted, for their religion or their skin color, or anything.

All these years later, while it has not been directed at me personally, the hatred and ignorance still exist.  Even worse, hate crimes and anti-Semitism are on the rise.  I am not a practicing Jew.  I do not go to temple.  I married outside my faith (or my grandparent’s faith.  We never really lived it). It does not impact me directly, but I feel it personally.

For my friends of color and everyone in black and brown communities who feel this ignorance and hatred and persecution and fear every single day, my experience pales in comparison.  I will never comprehend the reality you are living but I can listen, learn, empathize, and stand alongside you.

No one should live in fear because of the color of their skin or the religion they practice.  No one should die for those reasons, either.

I share my story not for empathy or to make any type of equivalence, but to join in solidarity with those who have been marginalized, mistreated, and maligned for too long.  While I cannot change the past for any of us, I can work with you to change our future.

 

Recovering what we’ve forgotten

The continuous feed of ‘Never Forget’ only serves as a reminder of what we’ve forgotten.

I’ve struggled with sharing this, and it saddens me that I have.

Throughout the day, I’ve seen all the ’Never Forget’ pictures and posts.

While I’ve always felt a personal pain at our collective loss and an overwhelming gratitude to those who gave their lives to help others, not just on that day, but every day, I feel we’ve diminished the lasting impact of this national tragedy.

As I’ve written in previous years, it’s not enough for us just to remember, we must honor the memory.

Scrolling through these posts, while a touching tribute to those we’ve lost, I’m afraid we’ve lost much more than all those lives 18 years ago.  The continuous feed of Never Forget only serves as a reminder of what we’ve forgotten.

We have forgotten how to respect ourselves and each other.

We have forgotten how to communicate and listen to differing opinions, perspectives, and ideas.

We have forgotten to seek out the truth and disavow lies.

We have forgotten the value of education and the reasons to keep funding it.

We have forgotten the allies who stood with us in solidarity 18 years ago, and long before that, and now question our future alliances.

We have forgotten who our enemies are and allow petty disagreements and distractions to prevent tangible actions.

We have forgotten that we are still a country at war.

We have forgotten all those we have lost, not just fighting enemies on battlefields across the world, but by their own hands here at home.

We have forgotten that we do not elect leaders in our country, but representatives.

We have forgotten that elections matter, and we have a civic responsibility to participate fully in them.

We have forgotten that the strength in our Republic comes from our diversity and our unity.

We have forgotten our motto: E pluribus unum; out of many, one.

We have forgotten to honor our soldiers and have subjected them and their families to conflicting immigration laws and deportation, and watched silently as they struggle with physical and mental health issues, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger.

We have forgotten that supporting our troops extends to long after they are home.

We have forgotten that when we were attacked, we were all attacked, not liberals and conservatives from red and blue states, but Americans.

We have forgotten that the first responders, the volunteers, the helpers, the rescuers, and the supporters, we’re all welcome sights to those in distress, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, political views, citizenship, skin color, religion, or anything else.

We have forgotten that our rights come with responsibilities, and no one’s rights are greater than another’s.

We have forgotten that we are stronger together than we are divided.

We have forgotten what it means to be American, and to stand as a shining example for the rest of the world.

So rather than just ‘liking’ all these Never Forget posts, take action. Do something positive. Be kind. Show compassion.  Give of your time, treasury, or talent. Speak the truth and question those who don’t. Respect other opinions and beliefs and learn from them. Get involved in something meaningful to you. Learn the issues in your community and those you’ve elected to represent it. Educate yourself and vote your beliefs, not your party. Hug your family. Reach out to an old friend. Smile at a stranger. Make a difference.

We must truly never forget, not just that we were attacked, but who we are and what we stand for.

I am forever grateful for all those who continue to protect and defend these United States and all of us who live here.  Thank you to our first responders and all who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe and thank you to each of you for taking the time to read this tonight.

#NeverForget #USA #Remember #Respect #Honor #America #Freedom #UnitedStates #History #Community #Rights #Impact #TakeAction

Memorial Day 2019

As I pay my respects to those who have given all in service to this great nation, I pledge to do more and ask each of you to join me. Each action we take, regardless of how large or small, honors those who have sacrificed.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Since those words were written in 1776, soldiers have fought to defend the ideals defined in our Declaration of Independence.  They have fought not just for that independence, but for liberty, freedom, and equality.

These are more than just words on a page, they represent our unalienable Rights.  They define who we are and what we are as a people.  These Rights have been worth defending since before we were a country and then enshrined in our Constitution after we won the Revolutionary War.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

For 230 years, men and women have put on the uniforms of our armed forces and sworn an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Throughout that time, millions have served, and thousands have died.

Today, we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation and all that we stand for.  Several years ago, I wrote that it wasn’t enough just to remember, we must honor the memory.

As hatred and isolationism grow in the United States and around the world, as the press more frequently comes under attack, as our institutions are circumvented, and our very Constitution is questioned, I wonder if we’re truly honoring the memory of all those who have served and sacrificed.

We are still more divided than united when it comes to politics and policy.

Our armed forces do not represent red or blue states, they represent the United States.  There are no Democrat soldiers or Republican soldiers, there are American soldiers.

Today, as we reflect with respect on the service and sacrifice of so many, we should pledge to either put aside or embrace our differences and work to uphold the ideals of unity so many fought and died for.

If we are going to honor their memory and their sacrifice, we must adhere to the same ideals, pledge the same allegiance, and respect the same Constitution.

We honor their sacrifice not with ceremonies and celebrations, but with actions and words.

We honor their sacrifice with a commitment to truth, knowledge, and fact.

We honor their sacrifice with respect, empathy, and care for each other.

We honor their sacrifice by being informed, engaged, and holding ourselves, and each other, accountable.

We honor their sacrifice by continuing to form a more perfect union, not by dividing and demeaning each other.

As I pay my respects to those who have given all in service to this great nation, I pledge to do more and ask each of you to join me.  Each action we take, regardless of how large or small, honors those who have sacrificed.

Words can never convey the deep respect, admiration, and appreciation I have for those who have defended our country and its ideals.  I am thankful for everyone who has ever worn the uniform and sworn the oath.  Today, as every day, I’m humbled to recognize those who gave all in service to the United States. 

Today is Memorial Day, but we should live as if every day is.

May god bless each and every one of you, and may god continue to bless the United States of America.

Pay It Forward Day 2019

“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty.” – James Monroe, born on this date in 1758

Today is Pay It Forward Day.

Rather than simply holding a door or buying a cup of coffee for a stranger, I’m making a much bigger ask this year.

Raise your voice to ensure that attacks at schools, churches, synagogues, and other places of worship, work, and education, are unacceptable; that perpetrators are held accountable, and that violence and hatred have no place in our society.

Hold your elected officials accountable and push them to focus on the important aspects of our society:  our health, our education, our infrastructure, and our safety.

Both parties are guilty of distracting us from what we need to capitalize on what they want.

We should not accept the narrative from either side but focus on what is best for ALL Americans.

No one should go bankrupt to care for their child or spouse, and everyone should have access to quality, affordable care.  Treatment options and outcomes should be dependent on science, not on geography.

All children deserve an education that prepares them for a successful future, that establishes a lifelong yearning for knowledge, and a quest for truth and facts that drive their decisions today and tomorrow.

We will no longer abide by partisan divisiveness and insurmountable debt while our critical infrastructure crumbles.  We must have dependable roads, bridges, and tunnels.  Children should have safe passages to their schools, and our utilities should be reliable, efficient, and secure.

We should not live in fear of our neighbors, the police, or our government.

Government derives its just powers from the governed, and it is beyond time we take our rightful place in oversight.

“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty.”  – James Monroe, born on this date in 1758

On this Pay It Forward Day, let’s preserve the legacy and memories of our Founding Fathers, our military veterans, and all who have sacrificed to guarantee our way of life, based on our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.

We must continue to pay it forward with our passion, our commitment, and our voice, to ensure we remain a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Thank you!

It’s not a matter of if, but when

There is a long history of heart disease in my family. My grandfather died at a very early age, my father had a quadruple bypass in his 50s, and my younger, healthier brother had a heart attack at 40.
I was immune only by luck.

For those of you who know me, you know I don’t have a self-confidence problem.  While I was certainly shy as a kid, I got over my stage fright long ago.  What I have had is a self-awareness problem.  It may have taken a while, but my eyes are now open.

Up until last year, I was fat.
(14 of 28) (2)

I don’t say this disparagingly, nor contemptuously. I say it because it is true.
I was overweight, and I was unhealthy.

Last year, my cardiologist asked (told) me to lose 25 pounds.  Now, I knew I was overweight.  Each year I would gain 10 pounds and lose 8 or 9.   Sometimes I’d gain more; sometimes I’d lose less.

I always thought, however, that all I needed to do was lose 10 pounds.  Maybe if I lost 20 I’d be in great shape, but 25?!  Like I said, I had a self-awareness problem.

Looking in the mirror, I knew I was overweight.  What I couldn’t rationalize was just how overweight I was; nor could I conceptualize how I got there or how I could lose the weight.

There is a long history of heart disease in my family.  My grandfather died at a very early age, my father had a quadruple bypass in his 50s, and my younger, healthier brother had a heart attack at 40.  I was immune only by luck.

Enter my cardiologist.  I may be lucky, but I’m also no dummy.  I was getting expert advice on how to avoid my familial fate.  This, of course, was a genetic issue that could be solved by medicine.  I just had to keep the schedule to take the pills.  Wrong!

I knew better.  I really did.   I ate well, I just ate too much.  I didn’t really exercise, although I pretended that the occasional leisurely walk was enough. I’d seen the impact on my family, but I couldn’t see it in myself.

Thankfully, during my cardiac checkup last summer, my doctor and I had a conversation that truly resonated with me.  When he asked me to lose the weight, he said ‘With your family history, it’s not a matter of if, but when’.

It was a very frank statement, but one I needed to hear, and it worked.

I had always known what to do.  I’ve been an advocate for the American Heart Association for years. I speak with our elected officials about enacting health policies throughout the state and country.  I train students on advocacy and promote healthy initiatives in schools.  It was time to practice what I preach.

My plan was a simple one.  Cut the empty calories from my evening cocktail(s) (unless I was out) and start to exercise.  A simple, easy to do, exercise: walking.

So, in late July last year, I started to walk.   First 20 minutes, then 30, then more.

As the time increased, I added more distance.

And the pounds came off.

I lost the first 10 without even knowing I did it.

Then I started to change my diet; just a little.

It was summer, after all, and there were plenty of fruits and vegetables available at the local farmers’ markets.  My goal was simple: put more color on my plate.

I love fruits and veggies; it was just never a priority, I never had the ‘plan’, to ensure they were ALWAYS on my plate.  Now they are.

I’d get up every morning and take a walk.

I’d eat my more colorful meals throughout the day.

And the weight continued to come off.  My strength improved, as did my stamina.

I slept better at night and looked forward to my morning walks.

I needed to buy better walking shoes.

I kept adding miles; kept adding time.

It was just as much a mental health break as it was a physical one.

And the weight kept coming off.

I’d lost 20 pounds, then the 25 he asked me to, and I kept going.

Somehow, not only was that ‘extreme’ number attainable, but I wasn’t at an ideal weight yet.

There was more to lose to become healthy.

25 became 30, 30 became 40, 45, and finally 50 pounds.

50!

I’d lost 50 pounds for my 50th birthday.

That wasn’t the goal, my goal was 25.  During this time, my goal shifted from weight loss to feeling good.

I’d not only become healthier, but I’d also become more self-aware.
More aware of what I was eating.  I was surprised to find sugar added to my healthy Cheerios, so I switched to whole grain oats and fruit.

I was surprised at how many ingredients I didn’t know were in my food, so I paid more attention to what was on the label to make sure I knew what I was eating.

I was surprised at how much weight I’d lost, not because I’d lost it, but because of how much extra I had been carrying around.

I became more aware of my body, and how I slept.  I became aware of my blood pressure remaining low, without increasing medications.  I became aware of my neighbors and communities as I walked, not with my head down, but with my eyes open.

I met new people and noticed new things, all in my backyard.

It’s not a matter of if, but when.

8 simple words that helped me change my life.

I know what I do will not work for everyone.  I know it’s incredibly difficult to make exercise, and health, a priority.  I know not everyone wants to add veggies, or cut sugars, or drink more water, or any one of a thousand things.  I’m not preaching, I’m sharing.

Find what works for you.  For me, it was those 8 words and the recognition that I wasn’t ready for the ‘when’.  I’m still not and hope to avoid it for a very, very, very long time.

I’m healthier today than I’ve ever been in my adult life.  I’m grateful for my renewed energy and passion for health, but sad that it took so long to figure it out, to be more self-aware, and to take action.   I’m not one to dwell on ‘should haves’, nor do I tend to have regrets, so writing this, sharing my story, hopefully inspiring others, makes it all worth the wait.  Had I not had the struggles, not gained the weight, not been blind to my own physical condition, I would not have this message to share.

It’s not a matter of if, but when.

This is true for all of us.  There is a natural end to everything, there is no if, but when.

For most of us, we want that when to be a long time out.

We don’t have control of everything, but we should take advantage of what we can control.

It’s certainly not easy to look at yourself with a critical lens, but don’t let that stop you from attempting to do so.  Self-awareness is important beyond your physical health.

It’s not a matter of if, but when.
Scott 2018