Throwing Stones Only Breaks Glass


A recent column by Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America has received some attention for its criticism of Virginia Tech’s orientation. She attended this year with her son, an incoming cadet. Nance and I have a few things in common: parents of cadets, conservative, and Christian.

When I initially read her concerns about the university embracing self-selection of personal pronouns on orientation ID badges, and some of her other worries, which included religious freedom and preferences, I thought, “Absolutely!”

However, with a little soul-searching (prayer, if you will permit), I see not only my own error in thinking, but must also respectfully disagree with the activist approach that she is encouraging.

I understand that in today’s world, attention and, perhaps, financial gain goes to those who create the most controversy. Nance, a president and CEO of a national political action organization, is able to stir the pot in spades. After all, that is her job. But when it comes to offering a perspective of love, compassion, humility, generosity, faithfulness, and, in general, staying true to Christian beliefs, she missed the mark.

Honestly, academia is hardly innocent. It seems to welcome drawing negative attention. Campuses all across the country are easily identifiable with left-leaning orthodoxy. From safe-spaces to the shouting-down of conservatives, many universities hardly promote the free exchange of ideas they piously claim. I am sure this thought played a role in why Nance lamented that her son is about to embark on four years of “indoctrination” to “leftist propaganda.”

Nance, having heard enough, stated that it is time to stand up to the “liberal, ivory-towered academic’s worldview.”

Perhaps. Instead, I am reminded of a Bible story. Are you familiar with the account of when the adulterer faced certain death by stoning from the scribes and Pharisees?

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” Christ famously challenged the mob (John 8:7).

He then turned to the sinner, after the now-neutered prosecutors sheepishly dropped their projectiles and dispersed, and asked the woman where those who had condemned her had gone. She did not know. He then said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

This is the Christian example of confronting what is wrong.

We are all incredibly sinful beings. From our vanity to jealousy to anger and everything else, none of us can claim the moral high ground.

I understand that the LGBTQ community does not think of their identity as a sin, however, expecting the religious faithful to condone and accept the practice is next to impossible. Especially at public universities when kids are involved.

On the other hand, for those who are believers, they should also recall that no sin is above another. For example, it is sinful to shout or even think, “you fool!” to the person who cut you off on I-81 yesterday or to worry about how a presentation will go tomorrow. Yes, worry is a sin.

In other words, from our birth to our death, there is no way to escape our own sin, no matter what it is or who we are. We need help. We need repentance. We need faith. We need not cast the first stone.

I saw what the College Republicans at Virginia Tech had to say on this topic and they could not be more on point: “One of our main goals as an organization is to foster a community of respect, love, and inclusivity. Virginia Tech is a place where one should feel safe to grow as a person and not be worried to freely express themselves, a right given to us in the First Amendment.”

That same First Amendment gives Nance the freedom to be critical of the Virginia Tech practices. It is the same right that I have to respond to her. It is also the same right that students have to participate, ignore, or, better yet, discuss like adults the pronoun issue.

It is also the same right that her son, my daughter, and thousands of Hokies past, present and future swear an oath to protect and defend; a right enjoyed by all Hokies, Virginians, and Americans regardless of their political or social perspective. Ut Prosim (‘That I May Serve’), indeed.

The left may have done a good job of marginalizing common-sense beliefs and ostracizing those of faith, but no one ever said being a person of faith would be easy.

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.” (1 Peter 2:16-17)

Stating the truth is the right thing to do, but state the truth in love. Especially when trying to set the tone of the conversation and affect hearts and minds. Also, recall Jesus did not come to the world for a Biblical debate with scribes and Pharisees; He chose to commune with and save the sinners: us.

Nance is worried that the university stated, “Parents, don’t be shocked if your kid comes home changed.”

In my view, I certainly hope so; I hope these challenges have made my daughter’s faith stronger.

I believe it has.


This column also appears in The Roanoke Times.

Power down for a bit

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”

In the 1968 classic Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, an incredulous H.A.L. 9000 supercomputer, fresh off of eliminating most of the crew of the Saturn-bound Discovery, is quite concerned that Dr. Dave Bowman is proceeding to power him down.

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, living rooms are dominated by flat-screen televisions that bring the viewer into the drama depicted in the show.

George Orwell in 1984 describes an authoritarian state with a watchful eye – Big Brother – who sees into your home and monitors your behavior.

2001 is 51-years-old, Fahrenheit 451 was copyrighted in 1953, and Orwell published 1984 in 1949, 60 years ago. While the dates might be a decade or two off, they certainly had a vision of what was to come today.

Is it any wonder that now, with immersive technology, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things (building the web into other objects), some of us get mildly nervous regarding the future of civil liberty?

While it is my hope that we continue to guard against “newspeak,” the “thought police” or the “firemen,” it is hard not to see the current climate of mass media and social media intoxicating us with its ever-present echo chamber. And, that we are continuing to be divided further into our tribes and closer to openly assaulting the First Amendment.

That said, we are really not all that far from quickly going from “marketing efficiency” to Draconian society. Without a doubt, we are being watched. Marketers crave our data to tailor their product offerings directly to us. Politicians, too.

They love to know our voting patterns and pet issues to ensure we’re aware that they’re on our side. And the media and social media giants are guilty, too. They seek to offer you your personal clickbait for the purposes of advertising and have what appears in your feed be exactly what you want to see.

While you might expect the rest of the column to be about my making points about how to prevent a dark, dystopian society, I’d rather focus on a simple, much more personal and highly practical action that we all can take to forestall authoritarianism, totalitarianism or mob populism.

It’s easy and incredibly simple, and, as we move into August, now is the perfect time for a reminder: take a break. You have to unplug and unwind. Take a walk. Stop and smell the roses – or the seafoam.

What better way to ensure that the behaviors that guard against a societal downward spiral – love, patience, tolerance, personal ownership, integrity, etc. – than to simply relax?

Take a vacation. Rest. It’s common sense that if you sleep and rest well, you wake up in a better mood, and that means a better world.

If a vacation isn’t in the cards, another easy way to reset is simply by putting away our phones and social media for at least one day a week.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just go one day without hearing about a Trump tweet and the subsequent global response?

In “The Hard Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle,” Aaron Edelheit argues that productivity improves simply by putting the phones down for one day a week. With the barrage of emails, texts, and tweets keeping us ever connected, the mobile phone which was supposed to be a business optimization tool isn’t actually making us any happier – or more productive, as designed.

So, do yourself a favor this August: take a break. Put the phone away.

Keep the laptop shutdown. Put your smart speakers on silent. Do this if only to preserve your sanity and, ultimately, our democracy.

And, if you haven’t already, use your newfound free time to watch 2001 and read Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. Maybe even visit Sandbridge or Knotts Island to simply listen to the water.

It’s the American thing to do.


This article also appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Special Session Not So Special – Or Necessary

As I write this, it has been just over two weeks since the Virginia General Assembly convened for a special session called by Gov. Ralph Northam. Yet, almost as soon as they met, they adjourned for a four-month recess.

It should be obvious what the nature of any “special” session is. It is not routine. It is extraordinary and necessary.

In this case, the extraordinary – and incomprehensible – reason for the session occurred Friday, May 31, at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. Northam felt that the legislature should gather to debate gun regulation without the benefit of an investigation and based largely on his and many of our neighbors’ justifiable disgust over far too many gun deaths.

Unfortunately, while having strong emotions frequently stimulates action, letting raw anger, frustration, sorrow and fear be the impetus for lawmaking does not result in respectful, conscientious and lasting law.

Equally unfortunate is that the governor knew before the Virginia Beach shooting victims’ funerals had even been conducted that he would create a political sideshow. It’s almost as if he was looking for a lifeline for his own political survival.

Of the legislation submitted at this special session, there were only a handful of pieces that truly met the criteria of possibly having some sense of urgency. They were submitted by state Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach.

Knight filed three resolutions, two of which were passed on a voice vote, celebrating the lives of those killed in the mass shooting and commending the first responders who helped so many on that day. The third resolution, seeking federal tax benefits for the victims’ surviving families, has been referred to the House Committee on Appropriations.

Knight also filed three bills that were directed to the appropriations committee:

► HB 4013 Taxes on income, wills, and administrations; exemption for victims of the Va. Beach mass shooting.
► HB 4022 Virginia Beach Municipal Center; grants for the renovation of Building 2.
► HB 4023 Treasury loans; renovation of Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

This practical legislation does what you would expect from state government after a tragedy – help the affected community by advancing efforts sought by its leaders.

“I submitted my four pieces of legislation for the victims and the city of Virginia Beach,” Knight told me. “That was my focus.”

But Knight also told me something incredibly disturbing. When Democrats were asked about the scope of the “special” session, they unequivocally stated that they would not entertain these appropriations bills and that the session’s sole purpose was to debate guns. Knight minimized that point during our conversation. His bills will eventually be considered and in time to be put to good use.

The tax bills, if enacted, will be passed in advance of next year’s filing deadlines, and funding for Building 2 will be appropriated in time before any major renovations commence.

So, where does that really leave us? Was this “special” session really all that urgent?

No. Every year, the legislature gathers, examines, debates and votes on more than 2,000 bills. Many of them the very same gun bills proposed year after year — background checks, regulation on bump stocks or silencers, open or concealed carry in public buildings, permitting localities to make their own rules, etc. Nothing new under the sun.

When Northam learned of the adjournment until November, he reacted with emotion rather than logic: “It is shameful and disappointing that Republicans in the General Assembly refuse to do their jobs, and take immediate action to save lives. I expected better of them. Virginians expect better of them.”

Reality: None of these proposed gun regulations would have prevented what happened here on May 31. Are the proposals worthy of discussion? Of course, but in due course.

Instead of pulling this community together with strong leadership or acting rationally to support Virginia Beach, blatant partisanship has been on display. The one who should be ashamed resides in the governor’s mansion.


This column appears in the Roanoke Times and in the print issue of The Princess Anne Independent News

Balancing safety and liberty

Every year at this time, I invariably think of the Founding Fathers. Moreover, it is very easy for Benjamin Franklin to be one of the first who comes to mind.

Franklin – a publisher, legislator, scientist, ambassador and more – was on the committee that drafted our Declaration of Independence.

We also remember Franklin very well for his proverbs.

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. 

God gives all things to industry.

There are no gains without pains.

He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas. 

And, my personal favorite:

You may give the man an office, but you cannot give him discretion.

These are just some of the maxims attributed to him found on the pages of his Poor Richard’s Almanack

However, also attributed to him is a saying we regularly return to when we want to discuss the balance between freedom and security: Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

In 2011, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institute, did his best Inigo Montoya impersonation at explaining away why this saying is not really a testimony to the “devil’s bargain” between constitutional government and anarchy. 

“Franklin was not describing some tension between government power and individual liberty,” Wittes noted. “He was describing, rather, effective self-government in the service of security as the very liberty it would be contemptible to trade.”

You should read Wittes’ whole blog post, “What Ben Franklin Really Said,” via lawfareblog.com. It is not long and offers an interesting look into colonial politics in the mid-1750s. Franklin’s words still resonate very clearly when one chooses to see them through a civil libertarian lens.

With the recent tragedy in Virginia Beach, the upcoming special General Assembly session on gun control, threats of “domestic” terrorism at our public gatherings and our annual veneration of the Declaration of Independence, now does seem as good a time as any to chew on this idea again: Is liberty and security an “either/or” proposition?

Honestly, this discussion is as old as mankind, and so that should readily point us to the answer: No. It is not an even exchange.

If you think otherwise, one needs only to open the Bible to the Book of Exodus. And, if you have a different faith, you’ll find other sets of imposed curbs on behavior.

But what is the point of the laws? Are they meant to restrict freedom? If you answer in the affirmative, then you are not considering the alternatives or the net result.

For example, consider “thou shalt not kill.” Clearly, this rule restricts your ability to inject your personal choice over life or death. It gives due process for the accused or protects the innocent and harmless from tyranny. Supposedly.

Or consider having no restrictions on what a property owner can or cannot do with their property. If you live in a community, and one of your neighbors does not act as a good steward of their property, there can be serious consequences to the freedom of others in terms of their own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. In other words, the saying “where one person’s freedom ends, another’s begins” — not Franklin’s — is also very true.

Franklin also wrote:

Love thy neighbor, but don’t tear down the hedge.

Ultimately, when making law, the overall net benefit to the community that maximizes freedom while providing the necessary curbs on human nature should be what is most considered.

Independence remains a matter of perspective. You can have too much of a good thing — both in freedom and an overreaching government. Let’s hope we continue to pursue that balance through our constitutional republic for a very long time. 

What kind of government do we have? “A republic, if you can keep it,” as we are still warned by Franklin today. 

And that idea — our shared great experiment — is still worth celebrating.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Why did Northam and Herring vote for plan they now oppose?

Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring were pretty happy partisans this past week.

The Supreme Court decided by a 5-4 vote in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill that the House of Delegates lacks standing to appeal a lower court’s ruling that mandated eleven House districts be redrawn by a special master.

Of course, it wasn’t just eleven districts that were redrawn. In total, 26 districts were affected and the Virginia Public Access Project calculated that six of the new districts now favor the Democrats. In a House where Republicans hold the majority by the narrowest of margins, a six-seat swing does not bode well for their prospects of holding onto that majority following the election this coming Nov. 5.

“This is a big win for democracy in Virginia,” said Herring in a press release. “I’m really proud of the work my team and I did to protect the new, constitutional districts, and to protect the voting rights of all Virginians.”

Work? Reality: Herring’s work was to do nothing. He failed to defend the state – again.

The irony, which has been very little reported in the whole fiasco, is that then-state Sen. Mark Herring voted in favor of these lines in 2011.

And so did then-state Sen. Ralph Northam.

His take now?

“I am pleased that this fall, every Virginian, no matter who they are or where they live, will cast their ballots in fair and constitutional districts.”

Does this mean that Northam and Herring for that matter are acknowledging their role in voting for unfair and unconstitutional districts, if that’s what they really believe?

The basis for the lines in the first place is that Virginia still must comply with the Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act.

Because of the VRA, special consideration must be made to have a percentage of African-Americans be the majority in some districts. The percentage the House used at the time for the districts chosen was 55 percent. The lower court thought this number was too high, but it is hardly “cramming,” a racially-charged term, if ever. This is how reporter Marie Albiges writing in both The Virginian-Pilot and The Daily Press characterized it in her report.

The media, under the influence of the two men accused of wearing blackface in their misguided youth — the attorney general even admitting so — have completely drunk the Kool-Aid being offered by those men that the district drawing effort was racially-motivated.

If that premise is accepted, then the media should equally hold Northam and Herring culpable. I repeat, they voted in favor of the lines. But why did they?

Because on the Senate side of the equation, where Democrats held a majority in 2011, they packed as many Republicans as they could find in specific districts.

Let me illustrate it to you plainly. Corey Stewart lost a lopsided U.S. Senate race to Sen. Tim Kaine, 57 percent to 41 percent. In 14 state Senate districts currently held by Republicans, Stewart won in all those districts!

The term in the political business is “partisan ghetto.” And it’s odious.

This explains why the Virginia Senate did not join the House in their fight over the lines. They were arguing over two different issues. It was also the Democrats who drew those state Senate lines, while the GOP has the majority now. The argument before the court only affected the Virginia House of Delegates.

This makes Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s argument that “One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process” entirely laughable and devoid of common sense.

In the coming weeks, it is likely that the court will hear other cases related to redistricting — and they are based on partisanship. It will be interesting to see if the seemingly odd coalition of Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Ginsburg hold up or if this is a feint to keep redistricting where it belongs: in the statehouse.

The bottom-line: Don’t believe the false narrative coming from Northam, Herring, and a malleable media. They are masking the truth. Then again, they’re used to masks.

This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News and Roanoke Times

In the wake of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, seeking answers to evil

Tragic. Senseless. Inexplicable.

Terror. Hatred. Violent.

Shocking.

All words to describe what happened at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, Building 2, the afternoon of Friday, May 31.

“Life doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way,” said Attorney General Mark Herring in a statement following the murder of 12 public servants at our Municipal Center by one of their peers.

So, that leads us to the inevitable word we are all thinking: “Preventable?”

In a word, no.

I wish I could say that background checks, metal detectors, constant guards, confiscation of all weapons, limiting magazine cartridges, banning silencers, limiting gun licenses, improving mental health, providing counseling or midterm evaluations with employees, more health care, whatever your cause de jour that could explain what happened would prevent what actually happened.

I can’t, and I won’t.

There is only one word for this: evil.

Sometimes we need to really just call things what they are.

This act was not committed by someone affronted. 

These murders were not done by someone who didn’t have an opportunity to succeed in life. 

This was not an act of some freedom fighter seeking their people’s liberation.

This was done by someone with malice. With boiling hatred. With premeditated destruction solely in mind. 

With the calm, cool, and calculating demeanor to resign their post mere hours before committing violence upon the innocent.

Did I mention evil?

This was a self-centered, narcissistic, 35-minute horror show perpetrated with the absence of love. 

At this point, I could speculate and begin to wonder what could motivate a person to commit such heinous acts on public servants who are merely trying to keep the water moving and bridges standing, but that would be giving this person way too much credit.

Ultimately, there is nothing government, the gunman’s colleagues, his network, the police, building security and others could have done to keep this man from his diabolical work.

So, if not preventable, why?

In prior columns, I have written about loyalty, love, and personal responsibility. 

We cannot see into the hearts of people, but we do know that all people are capable of incredible acts of heroism, compassion, and sacrifice, such as Ryan Keith Cox, the 50-year-old pastor’s son and steady voice of calm who shepherded his colleagues to safety in the face of unspeakable danger that cost him his life.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” — John 15:13.

Cox has rightfully been described as having a servant’s heart. He proved it. So did the first responders who navigated the maze of Building 2 and confronted evil head on.

Unfortunately, just as Cox was in the light, some completely succumb to darkness. We don’t have to look far for examples. 

Gov. Ralph Northam noted in a speech calling for a special session of the General Assembly that we lost 1,028 Virginians due to gun violence in 2017. Hatred and anger are at the root of much of this loss.

I don’t fault people for looking for controls to protect themselves and seek safety. The reality is that evil will always try to find a way, and it is always checked by love.

While we lost 12 of our family, friends, and community servants, if not for love and bravery, it would have been more. 

And it is love that ultimately triumphs.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Loyalty

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally the publisher assigns a topic.

Given that this past weekend was Armed Services Weekend and we’re leading up to Memorial Day, John asked those of us with a military background what we “took from our service for the rest of our days.”

That, in and of itself, is a fairly straightforward question.

The correct answer, if there is such a thing, is what you expect: I learned planning, discipline, respect, punctuality, hard work, teamwork, sacrifice, courage, honor, integrity and so much more.

However, I do not think John was really looking for the transformative qualities that were instilled into me over the course of ten weeks in the hot Orlando sun in 1992, which eventually gave way to the same sun beating down on me in the Persian Gulf during at-sea replenishments a decade later, or the white-hot light of a video camera glaring at me throughout my career as a public affairs officer.

No, if I know the publisher, he wants me to dig a bit deeper.

The reality is that what will always stay with me from my military service is loyalty.

Whether it’s the camaraderie I still have with shipmates who I served with long ago or my commitment to writing this column for John and you, being known as loyal is incredibly important to me. This is not a blind loyalty or loyalty that ignores problems and concerns. If anything, it’s that sense of loyalty and desire to improve organizations, groups, states, nations, cities, etc. that makes what I learned from the military so special.

Truly high-performing units in the military understand this cohesion and the productivity that comes not from mutiny or disobedience, but from skilled and sometimes courageous advice from everyone who is part of the team. It is a loyalty to ensuring that your team achieves the mission efficiently, utilizing the unique skills of all involved. Working on solving the problem together.

Loyalty is also the embodiment of the golden rule. It is the concept of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Loyalty, as a form of love, is mutual to all involved. In other words, loyalty is not a one-way street.

Loyal organizations and people are found everywhere throughout the military. There are, of course, exceptions, but I have been blessed to serve and work with exceptional people who put others ahead of themselves. They were tremendous human beings. They had your back, stood up for others, supported the team, did what was necessary to get the job done and were present through thick and thin.

The opposite of loyalty, of course, is betrayal. There’s a reason this act hurts so much and is met with such a strong response. When someone breaks trust and confidence, it is the worst sort of pain. We instinctively understand betrayal, which should help us understand loyalty.

I like to think of myself as loyal, and I attempt to practice it in everything I do. I also think most of us are instinctively loyal, but it was the military that made me aware of the behavior.

Knowing what loyalty is and conscientiously applying it to my everyday actions has truly added more value and meaning to my life.


This column was written for The Princess Anne Independent News.

Live for Life

The political argument and what is reported in the news regarding abortion is, in a word, heartbreaking.

This topic tends to polarize instead of looking for long-term solutions. People go to their respective corners – quickly – and shout at each other.

Worse yet, they shut each other out.

Why? Because this really isn’t a debate about changing an opinion or attitude. This goes much deeper into challenging a person’s beliefs and changing our culture.

For those who truly believe in life, what really is at stake in this conversation requires much more than words. As I type these words on a keyboard, I realize the irony: that pro-life advocates simply can’t defend the innocent by typing on a keyboard.

No, recent arguments on the left have moved beyond “safe, legal, and rare” into the realm of a governor saying: “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Ralph Northam later tried to clarify that the remark wasn’t about infanticide, but some pro-choice advocates have pretty much jumped the shark into openly supporting infanticide.

The time for words is really over. The pro-life movement must act.

Proponents need to truly support life through volunteering and fundraising for organizations like the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater or Virginia’s Kids Belong.

And there are plenty of opportunities that present themselves for action now.

Crisis Pregnancy Center is a non-profit that exists to support women who are unprepared for pregnancy, including offering counseling – on all options, including abortion recovery, parenting classes, call centers, ultrasounds and more. In 2017, the organization reported it was able to save more than 686 babies from being aborted.

The center has a 33-year record of success in Hampton Roads, existing because there was an obvious need to offer women an alternative to and information about abortion. They have proven time and again that if women are provided support, love and encouragement, a life will be saved.

Over the next few weeks, it is holding its annual Walk for Life at City Park in Chesapeake, on the Boardwalk in Virginia Beach and at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. This is an opportunity to visibly show your support for life and help them with their mission. You can find out more about the walk by visiting cpcfriends.org/walk.

In this regard, I will be walking the walk vice just talking the talk. I have walked for CPC on the Boardwalk in the past. This year, I am walking at the Virginia Zoo.

Another option is to foster a child. Despite recent news, foster care is an outstanding way to help a child who has been neglected, is among our most vulnerable, and simply a victim of circumstance.

Recent legislation passed in the General Assembly to reform the foster care system should make fostering a child focused on where it should be – care and compassion.

According to Virginia’s Kids Belong (vakidsbelong.org), a non-profit that advocates for fostering and adoption, there are thousands of kids in the foster care system in Virginia. Hundreds are never adopted and “age out.” Of these kids, the financial costs per child alone exceed $300,000 in social welfare and 60 percent of social workers leave foster care within the first year due to burnout, according to the group.

My friend Eve Marie Gleason and her husband, Ryan, of Loudoun have fostered four kids.

“I choose to foster kids because kids matter,” she told me. “It’s that simple. Being a foster parent isn’t easy. It changes your life, changes you. It’s hard and inconvenient. It means choosing loss and heartache, dealing with difficult adults, and parenting kids who have been through things nobody should have to face ever.

“It also means being the voice of hope in their life, the stable constant who teaches them how to make healthy choices and provides the unconditional love they need to have a chance to flourish. We don’t always feel like it, but foster parents make a tremendous difference.”

One thing Gleason also mentioned is that, even if a person or couple is not able to foster or adopt, they still can immeasurably support the foster parents through gift cards or just being available to help out with babysitting, moral support or preparing a meal. At virginiakidsbelong.org, there are opportunities listed to “lean in” where everyone can get involved from supporting foster families, birth families, teens, workers and more.

“Not everyone can foster or adopt, but everyone can care and be part of the solution to Virginia’s foster care crisis,” Janet Kelly, president of Virginia Kids Belong and an adoptive mom, wrote in an email. “This crisis is solvable if servant leaders from communities across the commonwealth step up to help vulnerable children and families.”

While conservatives can’t keep the left from outrageous statements and inconceivable policy positions, we can continue to promote a culture of life.

It’s as simple as making a commitment and taking constructive action. By making a commitment, the culture will change. In time, words and legislation may, too.


This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Monopoly – A Life Lesson

So, my daughter is away at college. This means my wife and I were home alone this past Friday night. It was as if we were transported to a time that we could barely remember. When we were teenagers full of enthusiasm and assertive ideas.

This time to ourselves provided newfound freedom. We decided to take full advantage of it. To change up our routine.

Risky, I know. We played Monopoly.

The last time I broke out that board game must have been as a junior in high school. That was over 30 years ago.

In need of a refresher of the rules, we read the instructions from beginning to end. The rules are challenging. But you should read them and put them into practice in life. You will likely achieve a level of success you never anticipated.

First, and most important, even before the game officially begins, you have money. $1,500 to be precise.

What a lesson learned. Do we do that with our kids? “Hey, junior, here’s one-point-five-grand.”

Sort of.

Many of us invest thousands of our hard-earned dollars into this vacuous entity called “college.”

But does college actually give our kids the kick-start they need? Some – rightfully so – argue that higher education has become too expensive and too commercial, where the concerns are less upon providing value to future employers and economic progress and more to the bottom line of the institution.

No, that might not be the right investment. Especially if you, the parent, are making that choice for your progeny. Maybe just give them the $1,500 at 18 and say, “You’re now an adult. I love you. Make it happen.”

I’m not saying don’t save for your child’s future. I am saying invest wisely. Maybe the lesson learned from the Monopoly rules is to take care of your kids and give them, as best you can, something to start from.

Ownership. What a phenomenal and underutilized notion. Every time you buy a property in Monopoly, you get financial benefits when someone lands on it in the form of a rent payment. Property is the ultimate form of passive income. It will either increase in equity or you can charge people to occupy it for you.

Far too many of us choose to be owned v. own. Renting serves its purpose, but it is ownership that provides long term wealth.

Some Monopoly rules, frankly, suck. “Go to Jail,” “Pass Go” and “Pay Luxury Tax.” Only a socialist could have come up with these rules for the game.
Roll the dice and land somewhere you shouldn’t be? You’re sidelined into a penitentiary. Roll the dice and actually make it around the board? “Congratulations, and here’s free money.” Roll the dice and land on another punitive square? You’re paying the government $75 for the privilege.

Why on earth should a roll of the dice determine our outcome?

Monopoly, sometimes, is a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma.

Sure, the roll of the dice determines where you land. But the flip side is whether you have the moxie to invest and own. Do you have the resources to succeed? Do you have the guts to buy and build?

America was built on doing things with risk and passion, not on passivity and regression.

Monopoly is a game well worth revisiting if you haven’t played in awhile.

At least you’re spending some time away from the screens with your love on a Friday night. But maybe try not to overthink it.


This column also appears in The Princess Anne Independent News

Virginia is for Lovers of Free Speech, not Lawbreakers

As a proud former Michigander who loves his heritage from Scandinavia, Germany, and Poland, I am no stranger to immigration.

Mobility, when within the confines of the law, is fantastic. It brings new ideas, innovations, and perspective; enthusiasm, energy, and drive.

But am I writing about immigration in this post?

Absolutely not.

I became a Virginian in the mid-90’s and haven’t looked back, save for the fact that I still love my Detroit sports.

No – I am writing about people coming to Virginia and acting like asses.

Did you happen to notice that what makes headlines for our political unrest and vandalism in the past few years have all been started by out-of-staters?

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville? James Fields, the idiot behind the wheel, was from Ohio.

“Mr Fields, from Ohio, had driven his car into the crowd”

Protesting Gov. Northam’s administration with a can of red dye in a historic fountain? A Californian.

Patrick E. Talmantes, 23, of Sacramento, Calif., was charged with misdemeanor vandalism and misdemeanor littering “after being observed pulling a container of red dye from a lime green shopping bag he was carrying and tossing it into the fountain at the southeast corner of Capitol Square,” according to police.

Dressing up as Virtus to protest the ERA in near-nudity? A New Yorker.

“A New York activist supporting Virginia’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment exposed her breast to lawmakers outside the Capitol on Monday while she and another activist mimicked the great seal of the commonwealth in a performance art bit.”

Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but the Commonwealth made protesting the government way in vogue centuries ago. Patrick Henry showed us the way.

“Give me Liberty or give me death,” he said.

Not to mention we have the father of our country, George Washington, the author of our Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who drafted our Constitution, as favorite sons.

I think Virginia understands civil discourse and how to do it right.

So, if you’re going to come here and take part in our internal arguments, fine. But please don’t break our laws. We don’t.