The Long Goodbye

I have always hated goodbyes. I am so bad at it that I will linger at certain places a little longer, holding on to mundane conversation just so I do not have to say that final word and take my leave. I have even spent nights at people’s homes, so I could wake up early and sneak out of the house before anybody starts to stir just so I can avoid doing this.

It is not because I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of goodbye, not at all. I could not begin to fathom a world in which nobody utters that word. Society would turn into a place where everybody was so self-centered because they would not care about ever seeing someone again, or a place where we would start to gather in clumps because we would never be able to depart from one another.

The second idea does not work because we all eventually have to take that leap and say goodbye. Society would become stagnant if we never said goodbye. We would see only that small group of people and share the same ideas over and over again until we reached the point that we thought that we were original and not just another rehashing of an idea that has already been spread amongst ourselves a million times before. The conversations would be the same because there is nothing new to say if we stay within the same group of people. And nothing would ever get accomplished because we would be too busy holding onto that mundane conversation to go out and get something accomplished.

And of course we could never go on living a life where we just moved on without saying that all important word before we moved on. That word gives us a sense of closure to those moments that we have spent with those individuals. It gives importance to those moments that we get to share, and wraps them up into a nice tiny package that we can carry around with us to open up when we feel the need to revisit a happier time when we were with people that we cared about. Oddly enough, it is that goodbye that allows us to open up that moment again so we can work backwards to that single snapshot that we hold with such high regard. Many times the snapshot that we look back to his that final hug and the utterance of that word, goodbye.

And there is always that ultimate sense of closure that we all have to reach at sometime in our lives. How will that moment play out if there is no loved one there to say that word to, or who can say it to us with our final passing? Will that mean that the life we have lived is not worth the time that we spent on it because that all important word is not hovering over the air to document the moment? Is it the word or people to say it to that gives life meaning?

This leads to the ultimate question: if I understand the importance of this word so much, then why do I hate goodbyes so much? I think it is because of the importance that this moment has causes me to despise any time I am forced into one of them.

A great example of this comes at the end of the school year at my current school. It should be a time of rejoicing because the whole faculty has pulled together to deliver another great school year, and help so many students move on to that next stage in their lives. The grades have all been recorded and the final comments have been chiseled into the stone of the PowerSchool gradebook. There is nothing left for us to do except enjoy the warm weather of the summer and get back to the lives that we left behind in the little corners of the world where we are from. But there is one more thing that we have to do before we can cut loose and enjoy our time off. The whole school gathers out in the front of the high school as people load on to various buses that we whisk them off to the airport and new adventures, and we have to say our goodbyes. There are many hugs given and buckets of tears that are shed as some people are faced with the reality that they may never see some people again even though they have been a significant part of their lives for so long.

I can definitely see why these people would like to have that moment of closure in their lives, but for me, it is really uncomfortable. All of a sudden, people who I did not think that I had that big of a connection with come up and try to find that moment with me. The embrace that we engage in feels a little forced as if it were not meant to happen in the first place. Do not get me wrong, I do feel sad that these colleagues of mine are moving on to different parts of the world. There were moments that we had shared that I will be able to bring up again someday when I want to smile, but they are people that I worked with and I do not need to hug everyone of them goodbye. Some of them were very good friends of mine, and I made sure before they left that I had their contact information so we could get together again when we find ourselves in the same part of the world, but still it felt awkward to make a big deal of their leaving. They wanted to leave, and I was happy for them because they believed it was the right decision for their lives. I should not consider myself to have such a large ego that I need everybody to stick around to prove that I have some worth in some people’s lives. They need to have the right to make these decisions on their own and I should not be considered when that decision is being made.

This might be viewed as being callous, and uncaring, and this might come from all of my years growing up in Denver. I know many people think of this city as an up and coming one that is constantly growing bringing many people from all over America to try and find a job there, but this was not always the case. Back in the 1980s, Denver was still considered a cow town by many people when they thought about the place, and there was some truth behind it. There were many places that had not been developed yet, and if you walked out of my house when I was really young, you only had to walk a block before you reached what everybody in neighborhood fondly called the field. Today, that field is non-existent, and I would have to hike a good twenty miles through city and suburbs before I came to a place that was even remotely like what I knew from my childhood. When I was growing up, Denver’s economy was based solely on oil, and when the bottom dropped out of that industry, so did the economy of Colorado. People started to move away in droves. Houses were sold way under the buying price, and I had to learn at a very early age how to say goodbye to my friends.

This education of loss continued on in my college years. I got a job at Olive Garden, and if you want to see people come and go on a regular basis, you should work in the restaurant industry. People are always looking over the other side of the fence at how green the pasture is over there. They constantly hop over the fence and take a role over there. But what they do not realize is that there is always another fence to hop over. When you work in the restaurant industry, you can stand on the rail of the fence you have found yourself on, and look out over all those pastures, and see familiar faces at all of the places. Every once in awhile, one of those familiar faces will come over and say hi to you, and you will reminisce about the times you were on the same side of the fence. It is nice to talk about the old times, but it is not the same friendship that you had when you were together. In fact, it is only a matter of time until those friendships start to fade away, and you will remember the face but eventually forget the name. It is not because you did not have good times together. It is because you have moved on in life, and you can only make the assumption that they have done the same thing, and they are now making new memories with a new group of people.

The goodbyes that people expected were always delayed in the restaurant industry because we were always expecting to see each other again. I was once again trained how not to have that moment that by this time in my life had become something that was an awkward and uncomfortable experience. It were these behaviors that I learned earlier in my life that make it difficult to say goodbye to those that I have come close to, especially when I know that those people will no longer be a central part of my life. Facebook and other social media sites have been created to take a little bit of the pain out of this bite. I can still pay attention to the major changes that are happening to many of the people I have at one time considered close friends, but seeing updates on a computer is not the same as creating those memories that made the relationship so meaningful in the first place.

Does this make me an awful individual because I never learned how to have a meaning goodbye? Some might think yes, and they would be able to make a strong case for my behavior as being selfish. And the more I think about it, they are probably right. But it is a selfishness that is rooted in the time I get to spend with those special in my life. I don’t want those moments to end; therefor, I do not wish to deliver that final goodbye. I believe by never saying it, the moment will last forever.

My students would be angry at me for making such a statement. The whole purpose of giving a goodbye is to give closure, and I am always talking to my students about how important that closure is in what they write. It is great to leave you readers wanting more, but if that is the case, the end should satisfy their audience enough to make them feel that satisfaction of flipping over that final page. This is the purpose of a heartfelt goodbye. We all have to move on in our lives, and there are times where that goodbye is necessary. If we stayed in those moments all of the time, we would never be able to grow as individuals. There is a time where we need to cut those connections off, not because we did not enjoy them, but because it is time to move on. It still does not make it any easier to do, and I will always still have a problem making it come out as meaningful as it really is in my heart, and I guess this essay is an attempt to start that process. It might take some time to reach its intended audience, and many of them might never even read this, but I do want those people to know that the experience has been great, and I have grown a lot of memories that i have gathered that I will always cherish. But there will be a time when I will need to say goodbye, and this is the start of that process. The date and time may be a long way off in the future, but it will eventually come.

Let us just consider this as my long goodbye.

The Problem with Modern Politics

A lot of Americans freak out about sports. They take one of the major sports and follow the moves of every player and every team. The find the team that they love the most, and they will live or die by how well that team performs. If their team actually wins the championship, they will walk around for the next year proudly displaying the gear that they have bought to commemorate the moment. If they have a losing season, they hide in their homes licking their wounds and praying that the next year will have a better showing. They become so devoted to their teams that sometimes they turn a blind eye to some of the team’s faults. If there is a player that is a thug and continues to have problems with the law, they turn a blind eye knowing that the player will continue to win games for them. If the team raises ticket prices, or plays games with the city so they can get them to build a new stadium, the fan will quickly forgive the owners as soon as the season starts up again. Even though there are some problems with this model, it is easily forgivable because after all it is only a sports team, and in the long run, they do not really matter the much. The problem comes with the way many people take this same approach with politics today.

The country is divided. I think that is one thing that all people can agree on. It is even evident when you look at Facebook and media outlets. They both cater to one side or the other, and as they promote their side, they look upon the other side as villians. This type of promotion is the same thing that happens with teams during the local sports casts on the nightly news. If I am sitting at my home in Denver, I do not expect the local sportscaster to talk about how great the Oakland Raiders are at this time. I want to know the details behind the Broncos’ next game and why they should destroy those black wearing bastards from California. There is a divide there, and the promotion of the rivalry adds to the fun of the event. I should not feel this same way about the politicians that are running the country. I should not feel an instant love for one of them because they play for a certain team and instantly hate the other because they do not play for the same team. I should instead maybe disagree with a policy of theirs and voice my opinion on it in order to influence the person to see some middle ground that might benefit more people. It should not be one side or the other.

But we have picked our teams, and we want those teams to win at any cost. It shouldn’t matter if what they are doing is right or wrong; it should only matter if our team is beating the other one. The teams have even gotten to the point where they have mascots, colors, and emblems that people can wear around to show which side they are on. This way if we see a person on the other side, we can talk in a low voice with our friends on the same side and make snooty statements how those people are so disgusting. We even come up with names to bring down the other side, whether it is an uneducated redneck or bleeding heart liberal. They are used just to boost up our feelings that we are cheering for the right side.
I witness this all of the time. A great example is the WalkAway Campaign that was taking place over the recent Fourth of July holiday weekend. The premise of this campaign was to have certain people tell their story about how they were no longer a bleeding heart liberal in order to become a card carrying Republican because they had finally found the error of their ways and had finally chosen the right choice. I had a friend on Facebook that kept on promoting this idea in hopes to sign up more people just to prove that he could reach a certain goal by the end of the Fourth of July. I don’t know if he was able to make it, but he spent all day writing post after post in hopes that somehow this would convince people. The sad thing is that this really had nothing to do with changing people’s minds. It was more about collecting people who had already made up their minds about how they felt about politics so they could feel like they belonged to some kind of group. Never once in his campaign to I see anything that had to do with hard policy, or explaining why the choice was a better one. It had more to do with saying that because the person chose do this, it would mean that they were not a Socialist, and the government would no longer waste money on silly policies, none of which were actually mentioned. There was a lot of name calling that was going on, and bandwagoning, but the posts were never long enough to establish anything intelligent. It felt like sitting in the home crowd stands at a sporting event and less about an intellectual discussion about what could be done about the current state of affairs.

I also saw this at a party that I went to. It was an afternoon bar-b-q and the festivities were winding down. Parents were gathering their children and sitting on the front porch getting ready to head on home. A person who had just moved into the neighborhood looked to be having what was a house warming party. He had a smoker set up at the edge of his garage billowing smoke into the banner of cheap plastic flapping American flags. Comments were made about how he was going to burn down the house until he walked out on the driveway wearing a cowboy hat, a wife beater, faded bermuda shorts, and boots. Someone one the patio shook their head and said, “Oh that explains everything. It is sad that this neighborhood is being taken over by the rednecks.” It was an automatic assumption that had nothing to do with the person and who he might have been. It was just based upon the clothes he was wearing and the stereotypes that we associate with somebody that dresses that way. It was easier for the people to sit among the people who were like minded on their porch and talk about the person instead of walking across the street in a neighborly way, introduce themselves to this new member of the community, and get to know them a little bit. It would just be like me walking down the street and seeing somebody wearing an Oakland Raiders hat and instantly feeling hatred run through my veins because they made the Broncos look so silly during their last game. I would never sit down with this person and have a beer with them because they obviously picked the wrong team to cheer for. It would be easier to find those who are wearing orange and talk about how much we hate the silver and black.

I know that there are people from both sides of the aisle that look at both of these stories, and when they look at the one about the other side they feel disgust that a group of people could act this way, and that justifies them and the team that they root for. They will say that they know exactly what this says about the other side, and that they are in the right. But in reality, they should look at both sides in disgust because this behavior is awful. This is the type of behavior that takes place at football games and causes fans to throw D-sized batteries at people who are cheering for the opposing team, or for fights to erupt over the silliest things like what color shirt a person wears at a certain time. The way this country is run should not be about whether the person waves a flag with a snake on it, or whether they have a degree from a certain university hanging from their office wall. It should be about a careful considerations of the issues that the country is facing and having civil and intellectual discussion about what we can do to solve that problem instead of standing by some silly ideology that slowly tears the country apart.

This ideology has spread beyond the two parties involved, and has seeped into the issues that they should be trying to solve at this time. It is no longer about what we can do to solve the problem and trying out various things until we are able to come to a solution that actually makes the country a better place to live. Instead, we stand by the platform of our parties and yell and scream that what we want done is the right thing to do. When the screaming and shouting has finally quieted down nothing has been done to solve the problem and it continues to get worse.

A great example of this is what is going on with gun violence right now. It is obvious that there is a problem with an increase in gun violence in America right now. It is not only happening in our schools, but it seems to be happening everywhere. The death rate by the use of guns is higher in this country than any other place in the world. I do not think that anybody can deny that it is problem.
But the real issue is the solution to the problem. Both sides have come up with solutions that are so extreme that they really not a solution to the problem. One side has stirred up a whirlwind of fear while they other has tried to maintain that same level of fear. Everybody that has investment in the issue is so afraid that something terrible will happen that they have moved to an area that no longer makes sense. Study after study shows that adding more guns into a community only increases gun violence. Giving teacher guns is an absurd idea. Most teachers do not want to own a gun or have one in the classroom. It should not be a part of their job to protect their students in this kind of fashion, and in an industry that it already strapped for cash, this is not the best way to spend that money. Also, everybody can think back to their high school days and think about that one kid that if they found out that there was a gun in the classroom, they would try to find a way for getting it for themselves. And I don’t want to even think about the teacher that will eventually lose it and come to the realization that they could use the gun to maintain the discipline of their classroom. This is not a good solution, but many people have jumped on this proposal because this is the one that is promoted by their party as being reasonable.

The other idea of taking away all of the guns is also absurd. This is a hobby for many people, and they should have the right to responsibly participate in it. If they want to go hunting with a rifle they should be allowed to. If they want to take on target practice at the shooting range, then that place should open to them. Also if we took away everybody’s gun, would everybody be willing to give up their guns, and how would that change the power dynamic in this country? Would the people who want to be responsible with this power be turned into a victim that they unfairly asked to be?

There needs to be a solution to the problem though, both sides would agree with this. But they are both so adamant that their solution that the extreme that their side tells them to believe is the only way that they can think about the issue. Neither side is willing to budge because if they do then it will mean that they are not buying into the ideology of their side, and because of this neither side is willing to compromise to come up with a better solution to the problem. This way the problem persists and in some cases event gets worse because we are not willing to put the ideology aside and look for something that makes sense and makes all sides happy.

This also means that both sides need to give a little bit to make sure that the solution happens. But both sides of lived so long with their fallacies in logic that they believe that if they give in a little bit, the lies they have been telling people come true. The greatest fallacy that is told is the slippery slope fallacy. There are many of our politicians that believe that they can predict the future. They believe that if they give in just a little bit then it means that they are going to eventually have to give in all of the way. But this goes against the logic of compromise. Both sides need to make concessions in order for a compromise to work, but in order for the concessions to made in the first place there has to be some logic behind them that allow the solution to the problem to be able to present itself. Once the solution has been put into action, then they can sit back and see if it works.
This is what is going on with the current gun laws. They are obviously not working even though there has not been many school shootings in awhile, but that might be because the stress of school has not gotten to the students yet and has caused them to want to do harm to other kids that they see on a daily basis, but nothing has changed about the way we do things, and the violence is going to return before the end of the school year. Statistics show that it is going to continue to rise until something is done, and just turning a blind eye to the problem and hoping that it will solve itself is not a reasonable solution to the problem. New laws need to be made that make the majority from both parties happy, and not just one over the other. Then while those same lawmakers sit back and see if gun violence has gone down because of the changes then we can be happy that we are moving in the right direction. If on the other hand, the violence stays the same or even gets worse, then those lawmakers need to get back together and work towards a new compromise to see if they can bring about the change that needs to happen.

Right now, that compromise is not happening. The lawmakers sit at their desks at work next to their ideologies and refuse to do anything. They know that if they can pull out that ideology around every election then it no longer matters if they did anything or not because the ideology is what keeps them in office. And the ideology is getting even easier and easier to wave around because it is no longer about presenting an idea that is for the greater good of society, but is instead just a direct opposition of the other side. It is easier to say no to something than it is to come up to a real solution to something, and for some reason the voters are enamored by the No so much that they no longer look for the solution. The No comes in many different shapes and sizes. The No is a negative ad campaign that everybody complains about but still listens to. The No is the quick witty one liner that the politician comes up with during a debate that everybody is so excited to repeat. The No is a nickname that the opposition gives to their opponent so that everybody can think that is who that person actually is. Every time there is an election in this country there is so much hatred being thrown around that by the time the election is over we have a hard time thinking that our society can be run in any other fashion.

If you don’t believe that Americans are not negative people just turn on the news from either side and don’t look for the stories that are being presented but see if you can find how they are trying to put somebody down. If you have chosen the news that caters to the opposition of what you normally lean to in order for you to feel as if this justifies your opinion that they are nothing more than propaganda, then turn on the propaganda you normally watch to see that they really are no different. If you watched your favorite form of media first, then look at the other side to see that they are no different.

This is the key to understanding the current problem with the United States. The side you have chosen is not the good side. I can say this with absolute clarity because it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican. This constant bickering between both of these sides is what is tearing this country apart. Both sides claim that they are completely different, but there is not much difference between either of them. They both hold on to their ideology while claiming that the other side is devil incarnate. Because of this their fighting is the thing that become the most important to all the people who glue themselves to their televisions and newspapers so they can see the latest development in this real life drama. It no longer becomes about making sure that the United States solves the problems that it is going through. It is now about which side can shout the loudest and stand by their absurdity the longest. It needs to end. The ones we vote into office need to get back to governing and we need to hold those people accountable without worrying too much about which side they are coming from. So in this upcoming election, if you see that there are ones who are begging for your vote that hold on to these principles that are slowly destroying America, you can not let them have your vote. It should not be about which party they represent because if we wish to have party politics go the way of the dodo then we have to stop following it ourselves. If that means voting for the side that you don’t normally vote for because that candidate is the better man who will actually accomplish something, then you should vote for them. You could take it even further by voting for a candidate from a third party that does not prescribe to a certain ideology, but instead will look towards fixing the problems facing the United States today. Nothing would scare the current lawmakers right now than to show them that the rest of America no longer buys into their silly ideology by electing a bunch of third party candidates that have nothing to do with their dumacity.

The only way that we can stop the thing that is tearing apart the United States is to stand above it, and do the thing that makes us, as a society, different than any other place in the world, think for ourselves. We need to think more when it comes to politics because it is reason and logic that will help solve the problems of the country, not passion that is spurred by ideological rhetoric. Passion is a great thing if it is associated with sports and wanting your favorite team to win the biggest prize, but that is not how we should make decisions that affect millions of people. It shouldn’t be about fighting for the right team. It should be about fighting for the right thing to do, no matter which team the person carrying that idea comes from. We need to stop fighting for a political side, and start hiring the people that will go in there and get the job done that needs to be done. Only then can the United States reach the greatest it claims to have.

These issue are further illustrated in Tag A Cautionary Tale, now available at Amazon.com.