You bet your bippy, Bucko.
I love this county. Love it like a rock.
I've been lucky enough to see some other places: England, Mexico, Australia, France, Morocco, Ireland, Scotland, Argentina, Italy, places like that.
And if you're an American and you haven't traveled abroad then the first thing I can tell you is that you need to pack a bag and get out to the airport and fly away, son.
There's a whole world out there and it's worth seeing.
And the second thing I'll tell you is that the best thing about going away is coming back home.
Because This is the Place.
And it's not just because of the chance of Big Money, it's not just Vegas Fever.
It's part that, sure. It's a lot that, O.K.
But that's not all of it.
And that's not the important part, really.
It's mostly because this place is the best idea backed up by the best good luck and fortune (no way Washington should have beat the British, simply no way except that he did) resulting 236 years later in simply the best place to live on the globe. Rich or poor, this is the best shot going.
And we're not taking care of it and we're taking it for granted and if we keep behaving like we're behaving it's going to keep getting worse and worse.
And we're only about four months away from the election and no one seems to be paying attention, so I've decided to act.
So, in true Tom Paine fashion, I've started this blog.
If blogs had been around in the 18th century, you know Tom would have been one annoying, blogging bastard. He would have been tweeting you ten times a day and had seven thousand Facebook friends.
I've invited three of my friends to co-anchor this thing. Three other voices to howl in dismay or quietly counsel us all back to reason, we'll see.
I'll introduce the players.
Bill Hennessy, from St. Louis, MO, is an old high-school drinking buddy of mine. He's a hard-core, card-carrying Tea Party true-believer and he describes himself like this:
Bill Hennessy lives a varied life. (Maybe it’s his attention span.) He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He gave up a theatre scholarship in 1984 to join the U.S. Navy where he spent nine years on active duty in the submarine force. He’s been an activist, a writer, a small business owner, a software architect, and a new media marketing director. But his activism and writing are what most people want to know about.
Tim Vahle married one of my closest friends from Dallas, TX, the luminescent Sally Nystuen, so that's how I met Tim.
Sally is the Meryl Streep of Dallas.
They regularly publish articles in the Dallas papers with headlines like "The Best Actress in Dallas?" and then answer their posed question with a big-ass puff piece about and picture of Sally.
Tim, by all accounts, was a pretty serious thespian his own damned self. But a few years back Tim and Sally had two of the most beautiful daughters you can imagine and as Tim told me one hot Dallas night when we were down visiting (and I'm paraphrasing as drink had been taken):
"You can drag yourself through ashes and be fine with it. But when you've got kids, you can't drag them through the ashes. You just can't do it, John."
So Tim exited stage left, left the impoverished, unpredictable lot of the actor, stopped performing for a while and this is how he currently describes himself:
Occupation: Vascular Access Nurse
Hometown: Texarkana, Texas
Political affiliation: registered Dem (but am going to be changing that to "independent.")
(I asked him those questions, so it's not like he's a rules and regs type person.)
And rounding out our quartet is Dr. Robert Clough of Bangor, ME.
The good doctor didn't supply me with a bio, so I get to write it for him. Here goes, and this is all true:
"Robert Clough" was found foraging in the Maine woods by a prominent surgeon from Bar Harbor, Dr. Hiram Cercophalus Clough, inventor of the trachea. Robert was naked, covered from head to foot in thick, spiky hair and had no faculty of language, barking only the syllables "Sing-Gull-Malt" and "Si-Gar" at the top of his primitive lungs. The good doctor Clough took the creature in, shaved him daily, taught him the English language and raised him as his own. He christened him Robert after his favorite apostle.
Funny but not entirely true.
Robert is one of the great humanists I've ever met, a cardiac surgeon and a patron of the arts up in Bangor.
I spent a hilarious half-year or so with him and his incredible partner Jo Ann (I pray I'm spelling that right because she will kick my ass if it's wrong and I mean that literally, the woman is a world-ranked weight-lifter in her division, no joke) and their children, Andrew and Becca. He's an old-school Republican, a serious man and I'm honored he's taking part in this foolishness.
Tim and me on the left, arguing the philosophy of liberalism or progressivism or whatever we're supposed to call it nowadays and Bill and Robert on the right side of your screen, arguing the conservative point of view.
Here we go.
The idea is a civil, spirited conversation about our country and what's next.
The only guidelines are no lying and no canned talking points.
Assume intelligence and honesty all around.
Assume we are all patriots in the real sense of the word: people who are fellow countrymen and want the best for the country.
I've got something I'll use to start the conversation tomorrow.
But know that I hope you'll join in and we'll have a broader conversation with many more voices chiming in.
Hey. Exercise the first amendment.