Summer of love

As this summer nears its end—I promise I’ll get that last Summer Reading List post up before Labor Day!—I can’t help but look back and see what a difference three months makes. And, for that matter, what a difference a partner makes.

I’ve mentioned her many times on PPC, but it was always with a note of sorrow. For three years, I alternately tried and gave up on trying. Whether it was my inability to get a job, a lack of transportation, bouts of severe depression, or a global cabal attempting to establish a New World Order by creating an overblown pandemic, something always kept me from getting to her. Nothing brought me down harder than getting a simple text message (“I miss you” always did the trick) from the woman I love and knowing in my heart that I could do nothing. I couldn’t even respond with anything approaching truthfulness, because I didn’t miss her. You can’t miss what you never had, after all.

A few weeks ago, however, the stars finally aligned. I drove into a city I’ve never visited, through a storm even more turbulent than my emotions, to a nice house on a nice street. As I parked my mom’s car—the only vehicle I had available at the time—I felt like I was going to throw up, and my mind was flooded with questions, worries, doubts. Would she recognize me? Would she want to talk to me? What would her family think? It was all I could do not to turn the car back on and back out of the driveway.

She came out to meet me, but…not exactly. I’d imagined that we would embrace like long-lost lovers desperate for one another’s touch; instead, she stood a few feet away, staring at her phone. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I thought was indifference on her part was actually the same fear I felt.

Since then, we’ve spent four weekends together, and Labor Day will mark our fifth. They aren’t really “dates” in the traditional sense, although we do have date-like activities. We go to restaurants, visit landmarks, and she even convinced me to try an escape room. Twice, we’ve stayed at hotels in our respective towns, and that was out of both caution and respect. At home, we’ll watch movies or play games, but that’s so much different with her.

What I’ve learned most in this time is perspective. We’re a lot alike, and it took seeing her in person before I truly understood what that meant. The problems I thought were mine alone are, in fact, something we share. And that means we can solve them together, just like we did for that escape room. Sure, working out a future in a fast-collapsing world is much more difficult than finding the clues that unlock a door, but I don’t have to do it alone.

That’s the thing. When you’ve gone so long without any kind of hope at all, even the simple knowledge that you might not have to face the future by yourself is…well, it’s a feeling that goes beyond mere relief. It makes you want more. Not necessarily in a physical or sexual sense, the desire and passion you expect when people talk about love and relationships, but every aspect.

If I act over-romantic, it’s because of that. I want her in my life, and I would do anything to keep her, because I know what it’s like to go without. I don’t yet know if we’ll last. But I hope we do, and I know I couldn’t have done even that much when this summer started.

We will walk this road together
We will face this hand in hand
With music and love on our side,
We can’t lose this fight
Tomorrow our dream comes alive
— Dream Theater, “Ravenskill”

Summer Reading List 2022: second

This one took a lot longer than I anticipated, due to all the upheaval in my life. I’ll have to rush to finish the third before Labor Day, but I think I can pull it off.


Title: I, Citizen
Author: Tony Woodlief
Genre: Political Science
Year: 2021

“A blueprint for reclaiming American self-governance,” reads this book’s subtitle. Knowing me, you’d wonder how I managed to miss it until a fediverse friend posted about it a few months back. I’m glad he did, because it was an interesting read. Not great, mind you, but interesting.

Woodlief introduces the problem that we already know, but in more detail than anyone would think to provide: America is divided, almost irreconcilably so. Our hyperpartisan country is tearing itself apart before our very eyes, and everything the so-called elites do only seems to make things worse. Of course, that’s by design, which he explains fairly well.

This isn’t how America is supposed to be. Our founding documents make no mention of parties—except for a denunciation of them in Federalist #10—or lockdowns, or social justice, or any of the other problems plaguing the United States of today. We have, at some point, turned our collective backs on the guiding principles of our nation, and only a return to that tradition would stop the coming calamity. All that is well and good. When he sticks to the topic, the author does a good job laying out the reasons for our fall and the things we need to do to avert it.

Unfortunately, Woodlief spends far too much of this book getting off topic, or making illogical leaps that only serve to paint him as just another Washington hack trying to make a quick buck. His “solutions” are only found in the final chapter, and he spends most of that trying to convince people to join his network of do-nothing think tanks. Yes, this push is prefaced with some sensible advice about love and community, two things sorely lacking in modern society, but his only guidance to build those boils down to, “Join a church.” For the growing numbers of us who find Christianity (or religion in general) distasteful, that’s no help.

It gets worse than that. The author’s true colors can be seen throughout the book, in fact. Often, he falls victim to the fallacy of false equivalence, painting both major parties as equally responsible for the decline in community. But only one “side” is censoring its opponents. Only one party is sending jackbooted thugs after its political rivals. Woodlief wants us to reach across party lines, but who would extend a hand in friendship to those who have spent the past two years wishing death on us? The truth is, some very vocal people in America want nothing more than to destroy America. Yes, he’s right when he says these make up the minority, but they wield power far beyond their numbers, and he’s wrong not to call that out.

Likewise, the final chapter makes mention of the dictatorial edicts of state governors during the so-called pandemic, as this book was written in 2021. But Woodlief only calls out the most heinous offenders: Whitmer and Cuomo. Never mind that 49 governors (all but Kristi Noem of South Dakota) are culpable in this destruction of basic human rights. The author is a traditional conservative, so Republicans like Bill Lee and Greg Abbott were…just following orders?

My last gripe is much more minor, but it illustrates the underlying hypocrisy of the book. In every case, Woodlief refers to the “Founders”. The correct term, as any student of history knows, is “Founding Fathers”. They were all men, and there is nothing wrong with that. To use the politically correct phrasing shows the same spinelessness that is part and parcel of any conservative call to action.

To be sure, this is an informative book. It’s a good book. But it’s not a blueprint for regaining our rights. Nowhere in it does the author talk about, for example, how to get Critical Race Theory out of schools, or how to reform police departments so they can be held accountable. His advice can be summarized quite simply as, “But if we talked to each other…”

Maybe that made sense in 2021. Now, though, we may very well be past the point of talking.