I got an early morning phone call today from my nephew. He said "Hi Uncle Rick, it's Ty." There was an ugly pause and then he said "I am calling to let you know Ron passed today".
Ron is my older brother. He and his wife live in Billings Montana. We talk on the phone often, but because of the logistics, I haven't see my brother in a long time. He has an extended family, most of whom live in Montana, so our families only see each other when there is a wedding or a death in the family.
I was speechless. Eventually I said "Wow, I am sorry."
Ty, my brothers youngest, is in many ways the patriarch of the Montana Elkin Family. Ron had three kids, a daughter who lives with her husband and three kids in Seattle. His oldest son Cory, also lives in Billings. Ron's daughter, Cameron, the oldest of the siblings, moved away years ago (presumably to escape the 'small town' atmosphere), has successfully carved out a niche for her family in the Great Northwest.
The circumstances surrounding the sudden and unexpected death of an otherwise healthy 73 year old won't be known for awhile. His wife Holly was away on business. When she couldn't get him to respond to phone and text messages, she asked a neighbor to check on him. Until a report is issued, we won't know what actually took his life.
But he had a great life. He and I had spent many hours reminiscing about our younger days. He was especially grateful for his loving parents and how supportive they had always been. Ron was the oldest son, and as we all know, first borns are often over-achievers. That is what he was, always a perfectionist, never satisfied with mediocrity. He had to be the best at everything. He was a clothes hog, always dressed well, always sharply creased slacks and penny loafers. He would wear a blazer to fly from Billings to Denver. He hated the way people wore sweatpants in airports.
I remember Ron wearing freshly ironed Madras button-down sports shirts to high school for years. Eventually the Madras ink-dyed fashion trend died out, but Ron never gave up his wardrobe. Twenty years later, the fad returned and he was back in business.
Ron never gained weight. I hated him for that. He could drink a six pack of beer a day and never feel bloated or gain a pound. I remember one time, when I was probably 10, Ron had his driver's license and had joined a car club. He had a bunch of the club guys over one weekend when the folks went skiing. I opened the refrigerator and low and behold it was full of Miller beer bottles!
Just then Ron came up behind me and said "You didn't see that!"
As kids, my brother protected me and shared adventures with me. Our family was very active and so we spent a good deal of time together. But as we got older, he went into high school sports, and I went skiing on weekends with my folks, we became estranged. When he went off to the University of Southern California in 1964, and I was becoming a high school hippie, we spoke less and less.
I was, on the other hand, avoiding Vietnam, voting for George McGovern and wondering off the proverbial 'white privilege' plantation. He worried about me.
But he was always there for me.
He was always the conservative lettermen, the successful businessman and the active family man, attending school and sporting events, birthdays and especially Christmas get togethers. When I graduated High School and was deciding where to go to college, he was the first resource I had. I didn't have any outstanding grades or achievements to get me into a prestigious school, but I wanted to go out on my own and live on campus. He told me to just go to Cal State Long Beach. It would serve my needs, be reasonably inexpensive and give me space to grow up.
He was absolutely right. I am certain I would have flunked out of any other school. I was able to stay in touch with my folks and local friends and still maintain my autonomy.
For the next eight years I immersed myself in the ski shop business in LA. Eventually I resented making the store owners lots of money so I sought to do my own thing. In 1977, when I moved to San Diego and we went into the ski business together, I was given complete autonomy to do whatever I thought necessary to make the business work. He provided the financing and the bookkeeping, but he trusted me to do the buying. I wonder if he ever really understood how much that meant to me…
Eventually he moved to Montana and semi-retired in a small ski resort community. He wanted to be involved with his kids as they grew up and also wanted to avoid the total, all consuming commitment required to be a top commercial real estate agent in Southern California. Most people thought he was crazy to walk away from such a lucrative market, but his instincts turned out be a good.
Rons marriage to Ann didn't work out, but I know they have maintained a healthy love for each other, and I know their kids all know that too. They have a great group of friends and family in Billings and around the country. Like our folks, Ron and I have always treasured our relationships with family and close friends.
So I lost my brother today, but I will always have a brother in life.
This is an excerpt from my book Trump's Reckoning.
"The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost."
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Ask any American what are the three most important things in their life, and most will list Faith, Family, Friends, Love of Country, or their marriage, or any number of things.
I am just as certain that for too many of us, Freedom won't make the list.
How can that be? Because without freedom, we may not be able to practice or express our faith. Without freedom, it can be hard to determine who your real friends are. Without freedom, all you have is family, and that can be compromised when authoritarians decide to split up the family because it threatens their command and control. Isn't splitting up the family of undocumented immigrants by immigration authorities one of the main objections liberals have to ending illegal immigration?
Illegals live in a state of fear because they are subject to law enforcement coming along and changing everything about their lives. Imagine if all Americans lived like that!
And the history of freedom is that once people lose it, it is near impossible to restore.
So for me, Freedom is number one on my list. It is the trunk from which all of the branches of our human experience grow. For me, freedom opens the doors, faith escorts us through fear of dying, and family escorts us through the fear of living.
As Americans, we are privileged to be free and prosperous. None of which was accidental. We paid a steep price in human suffering and sacrifice to achieve it. And we live under a burden because unlike every other nation or creed on the globe, we carry the torch of freedom. We have been given the gift of it by our forefathers, and since it has proven to be the most enduring and peace-nurturing idea ever invented by man, we feel compelled to share it. But we have to preserve it first, so it can be shared.
To protect it, we have to face the fact that other human beings hate freedom. They worship doctrine. They are uncomfortable with freedom and try to end it wherever they find it. And in our modern world, there are people who are determined to return everyone to a dark era of rule by theocracy.
I fear that too many Americans have become complacent about the need to fight for freedom. To better inform those of whom I speak, I suggest thinking about our country, America, as our family. If you knew there was a threat to your family, how far would you go to protect a parent or a sibling? I know, for example, that I would throw myself in front of a bus if I knew I had to to save my Mother. I would not hesitate. That is a tangible choice that offers me no alternatives, because she gave me life. She is me and I am her.
I believe it is the duty of all Americans to pass on the gift that we have been given by each generation before us. Thinking this way helps us to understand why we need to be patriotic. It is a condition we need to nurture in order to fulfill our obligations to promote the exportation of freedom, and to assure that our children have the same opportunity to live free.
As much as we love freedom, and the lifestyle it affords, we have a debt to pay, and it is something we all must, at some point, confront. Are we willing to continue to pay that debt, to lead the world out of depravity and servitude? Or are too many Americans under the delusion that freedom is now as free and natural as sunlight? And that the need to fight wars to preserve it is an outdated idea?
Will the average American embrace their duty, to do what is necessary now, or will we wait till the indomitable spirit of freedom is damaged beyond redemption? As Winston Churchill said, "Americans will always do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the alternatives."
Let's hope he was right about that.
I like to frame the discussions about our freedom as an extension of my family. I call the concept Familyism. What makes Familyism so important, and more illustrative is that it represents something tangible. Freedom is a condition, a state of being, but not something you can touch or hug. Unlike freedom, which is an idea, your family is real and close to you.
Familyism can make heroes out of us all. It can provide courage and strength just when it is needed. It is superglue for love. It is what drives our volunteer service men and woman to superhuman efforts, and to lay down their own precious lives if necessary.
We fight for four country, and sometimes we die so our family can live in freedom.
If only we could understand that it works for all Americans as we are all Family. There is no reason for us to suffer the indignities and pain of a dysfunctional family. We have too much in common, and though we have our internecine disputes, our jealousies, our resentments and our fears, when there is a threat to our existence, I have no doubt most of us would jump in front of that bullet without hesitation to save our Nation.
When Cathy and I went to New York City during the 15 year anniversary of 911, we learned to use Uber. One of the best things about that was speaking with the different drivers, all residents of Manhattan to get their perspective of the Big Apple before and since that tragic day.
One of our drivers was an Israeli national who was driving a delivery truck directly into the area when the first plane crashed into the South Tower. He immediately called his wife as she was working across the street from the World Trade Center and he wanted to see what she knew and be sure she was safe.
His story was incredible as he eventually raced to the scene to dig out survivors, while not knowing if his wife had made it out of her office or even escaped the explosion. She was not an Israeli national but was a native New Yorker, and although she did escape unharmed by the attack, he said she was ultimately victimized.
As we exited his car he said "I have no problem sleeping at night because I grew up in Israel with bombs going off everywhere all of the time. But my wife, having been so insulated from war living in America, is to this day traumatized by her memory of 911 and has serious insomnia. She watched people leap from the top floors to their death to escape the flames."
As we watch the bombing of Israel today it is frightening how insensitive many Americans have become to the anti-semitism and bigotry our Jewish allies have to endure every single day of their existence. And equally disturbing is the selective amnesia many Americans seem to have about 911 and the fact that it was an attack designed to ultimately undermine our unity and moral strength and solidarity with Israel.
Almost 20 years later and Israel is still under relentless attack and America today is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.
I first posted this in August 2017. Nearly two years later it is worth another look even though it essentially says what we all knew: Trump was right about the spying and damn near everything else he has said about the Deep State coup efforts of former Obama appointees and Clinton snowflakes.
Everyone from Charles Krauthammer to Morning Joe Scarborough has their pointed tongues out for Donald Trump. They all say things like, "Belittling your Attorney General" is no way to treat your cabinet. "Trump is his own worst enemy," referring to his daily tweets. Or, Trump's claims that "serious numbers of illegal voting" may have cost him the popular vote, which is always 'qualified' by commentary that those claims are totally "unsubstantiated" and "false".
Let's just start by saying that in an unnerving and overwhelming number of instances, Trump's "outrageous lies" have been, more often than not, proven to be true.
Starting with the claim that John McCain was not his idea of a hero. The MSM went bonkers (which is laughable because just one election cycle ago they trashed McCain as an alt-right ideologue). But in the end, the myths and the truth about McCain supports Trump's position.
Trump has claimed that millions of illegal votes may have cost him the popular vote. In California alone, recent studies show that hundreds of thousands of votes came from areas that have more registered voters than people eligible to vote!
Trump claimed that EPA rules were hurting US employment figures. He was roundly criticized because the media focused on select industry regulations to make their case that more regulation would increase jobs (even as seven years of Obama era EPA expansion hadn't helped the 93 million unemployed find work anytime soon).
This misuse of the English language is probably the most galling aspect of the blatant leftist attempt to effect a coup. I cannot stomach supposedly educated, highly compensated, and oft quoted officials dropping pejorative words into their comments, when the correct word would have performed just as well. Unless, of course, they are purposely trying to create anger or frustration with their audience.
There are literally thousands of examples, but let's just talk about two: Trump 'slammed' Jeff Sessions when he was interviewed by Sean Hannity.
" If I had known he would recuse himself, I probably wouldn't have chosen him to be my Attorney General."
This was characterized by the MSM as as an 'attack.' Later, Trump said Sessions was 'very weak' in his position regarding investigating Hillary's email and unmasking transgressions. For this Trump was said to have 'ridiculed' Sessions.
If my boss was accused of ridiculing every employee he criticized, he would have been out of a job. In fact, it is his job to analyse and fix the shortcomings of his employees. Trump is an expert at that, and though he may not be the most charitable person when it comes to job reviews, he gets results.
I guess in the media and government, the concept of accepting responsibility for your actions is alien. Listening to your boss point out your shortcomings at your job is now considered 'ridicule'.
This is leftist petulance and ignorance of our language, and how the real world works. Evaluating the effectiveness of an employee is called running a business. It isn't always pretty or comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, but if you have ever worked for highly successful people you know they are rarely the most likable people in the room. In my experience, they are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: when work is over, they can be charming and approachable, but during working hours, don't waste their time with small talk or inaction. Running the most powerful country on Earth leaves no room for error, or for being 'very weak' at your job.
And what about the unmasking by the DOJ leading up to the election? Trump claimed to have discovered that his 'wires were tapped' by Obama. Technically, 'wiretapping' is vernacular of another era. Only in third world countries do the CIA or the FBI climb phone polls to tap the gangsters. So the MSM had a field day with this quote, because they knew they could characterize his claims as 'unsubstantiated.' He was accused of lying, because the press announced that there is no proof of 'wiretapping.'
But we now know that someone leaked information about telephone calls by Mike Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., and others working inside the Trump campaign. How were these conversations acquired? Trump used the wrong term, but the facts are on his side; the emails that Wikileaks put out about the DNC proved that Loretta Lynch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and John Podesta (and many others) had access to conversations that they could only have acquired by someone illegally unmasking the protected conversations of innocent Americans.
The fact that they arbitrarily chose to start the score card then is telling, because all of the issues that they claim he lied about are the core issues of the left: immigration crime rates, gun deaths, the Russians attacking our democracy, Obama's birth certificate, universal health coverage, big oil and gas deals, police brutality, and the size of the crowd at Trump's swearing in ceremony or how many times his face has appeared on Time magazine, etc, etc.
"We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump's part. But it would be the height of naivete to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying." (NY Times)The word lie is a tool that is more destructive than suggesting Trump misstates or exaggerates.
People who suffer from liars syndrome, who recklessly lie about just about everything, are usually unmasked at some point. Their friends and family, those closest to them are the first ones to recognize the problem. If Trump were a pathological liar, don't you think there would have been a line several blocks long, of people who know Trump well, lining up to point his out to the voters? What about his ex-wives, his former employees, his housekeeper's, his subcontractors, and even his kids? Many of those now screaming about his inability to tell the truth were all but best of friends 5, 10 or 15 years ago, whooping it up at high society social events, weddings and graduations at Martha's Vineyards, or one of Trump's resorts. Where were/are these people? Are they all under a threat? All they all dead? Oh, sorry, that would be Hillary's detractors….
There is no mention of his long history of real estate success, his business acumen or how he works with manufacturers, builders, or bankers. The NY Times list of lies is so obviously slanted to reflect the arguments ideologues have over what is 'true' and what is 'hateful' or 'biased' that is hard to take it seriously. They are taking the tweets, the rally speeches, the political rhetoric of a Manhattan business bulldog and trying to compare it to polished politicians, campaign operatives and lawyers, or a media spokesperson.
Just as the editors of the NY Times piece states, not every falsehood is deliberate. But isn't that universally true? What Trump accomplished, beating Hillary at her own game, is so far fetched, so unprecedented, and so offensive to the left, that they have to resort to ad hominem attacks on his character, on speech patterns, even the brand of clothing than Melania wears.
The media lies by omission, ignoring proof that many democrats, journalists, and editors have colluded to create a narrative to try to discredit everything about Trump, so as to eventually remove him from his duly elected position in the White House. Some of which borders on treason since it so overtly calls for the overthrow of a duly elected government.
We can take some solace in the fact that they do not find fault in many things Trump has said about really important issues. Since it isn't listed, I guess we can assume they are OK with other pronouncements of Trump's administration. According to the NY Times piece, Trump hasn't lied about the IRS illegally investigating the Tea Party, or how it refused to grant them the same tax exemptions they routinely grant to Islamic or Progressive political organizations.
He hasn't lied about the massive fraud found in many of the Obama era military programs, where 6.5 trillion tax dollars were apparently misplaced and untraceable.
He is apparently telling the truth about the Paris Climate Agreements, where the US would have been on the hook for upwards of 3 billion dollars (some say the number is closer to $3 trillion after all is said and done over 30 years).
He has been honest, I guess, since the NY Times doesn't challenge his assessment that Hillary and Obama left a void in the middle east, which allowed ISIS to form a massive army by grabbing abandoned US military weapons. Or that since Trump took office, we have had only one online video of a German hostage being beheaded because they couldn't collect a ransom for him, versus the almost nightly parade of beheadings, tortures and mass murders starting in 2014.
No, they do not talk about Trump's lies about building a wall, restarting the economy, fighting and winning the war on radical Islamic terrorism, or reducing regulations on business and entrepreneurship. Or fixing the ObamaCare clusterf**k, or rebuilding the support for and the necessary equipment required for our military, immigration and police operations. Or how the Veterans Administration has modernized it's approach with integrated outsourcing, fostered by Trump's appointee, Dr. David Shulkin, who has extensive VA experience, but also seems comfortable thinking outside the bureaucracy-box.
We are coming to the end of the First 200 Days of the new administration and we have learned a lot.
I guess the question is, who will outlast who? Will Trump survive a full term, or will much of the fake news media go under first? But all is not lost, because as of right now, DJT is in charge, and the unhappy people are on the outside looking in...
This story was posted on FaceBook from Kari Wade, who, with her family, owns a ranch just 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Just read a comment on another friends post and the comment said, "Where's the fire?"...as in reference to building the wall/more technology on the border states. Let me tell you where the fire is...
The "fire" is finding dead bodies on your ranch, the "fire" is finding domestic pig ears in your drinkers when there isn't a domestic pig for 25 miles, the "fire" is waking up to unknown people talking in your attic, the "fire" is dogs barking all night when your closest neighbor is 7-25 miles depending on the direction to just realize there are people outside your barn, the "fire" is having to come home after dark and have to carry a rifle to go feed your livestock after BP tells you that they only caught 9 of the 15 they are looking for.
The "fire" is making a choice...do I take my child with me to a dark barn to feed and hold the flashlight or lock him in the house, so you lock him in the house and call a friend to let them know he's home alone and if they don't hear back from me to come check on us.
The "fire" is you don't feel comfortable letting your child play outside without being in eye shot of them. The "fire" is having large drug busts on your ranch. The "fire" is feeling sick to your stomach every time the helicopter swirls your house because you know they are chasing people because you can hear them on the speaker talking to them.
The "fire" is seeing the BP camera set-up 1/2 mile from your house. The "fire" is coming home after dark...your children are driving in front of you as one is of age to drive, and there are officers on your road watching illegals 1/4-1/2 mile from your house and you have to call your children and tell them to keep driving, don't stop at the house.
The "fire" is coming home to your backdoor wide open.
The "fire" is real for me, my family, and my community."