Amid a Sunday homily focused on the appreciation of the totality of a decorated Christmas tree my parish priest asked the congregation to consider the often-overlooked feature that keeps our beautiful trees standing. 

He said, “We marvel at the lights, but it’s a simple stand filled with water that holds the tree in place.” 

A living tree needs soil, sun and strong roots—it needs a solid foundation to grow. 

What are the ideals that we ALL agree on?  Is our foundation strong? What can we do to keep our foundation in place? Do we know the history and sacrifice that created our nation’s roots?   

As Americans we emerge from our holiday season into an increasingly divided country and state. Metaphorically, our collective tree has had its many lights and shiny ornaments replaced with two colors—blue and red. 

This divide within the branches of our tree makes us wary of free expression, weary from arguments, and warlike in our intolerance of the “other side.” The level of nastiness in the average comments section is amazing. 

Our elections have become revenge parties or conspiracy-driven-excuse-fests created by two political parties that have frankly not served our nation well for decades. Reactionary politics followed by mutual-assured obstruction are not healthy game plans for our future. The enemies of democracy must be smiling with the level of discontent we are currently displaying. 

Do you find yourself witnessing allegedly sane people living in alternate realities? Each side fortifies and feeds its own narrative while demonizing the “others.” It really sucks being an “other.” 

Each side has its own media and social circles. Is our 1st Amendment strong?  

Yet somehow despite it all the nation continues to flourish, innovate and create at a pace that outruns the idiocy of our elected officials. The economy is doing quite well, but there’s a hungry beast lurking ahead somewhere near the future lives of our children that worries me—its name is national debt. The economy is a cornerstone of our nation’s foundation. 

We need to throw off the yoke of polarization—and think for ourselves. 

Recently, I found myself strongly disagreeing with Governor Ralph Northam and many liberal friends on his threat of infringement on the rights of lawful firearms owners with registration, restrictions and even use of the National Guard. I hope a peaceful protest combined with the symbolic warning of the 2nd Amendment sanctuary movement will show that there are limits to governmental control on our lives. 

I believe in the 2nd Amendment and find it despicable that many of my left leaning friends try to blame sportsmen and women, lawful weapon owners and collectors as somehow complicit with gun violence committed by delusional murderers and domestic terrorists. 

I support peaceful opposition and protest of Northam’s proposed restrictions in January.   

I also hope that the optics of this movement improve to show that support for the 2nd Amendment is not the sole domain of one group of camo-clad people—that it encompasses all socio-economic backgrounds, races, veterans, historians, collectors, hunters, farmers, law enforcement officers and homeowners.  

The only flag I want to see waving is the flag of the United States—the flag of the nation I swore to defend as a soldier. 

Those that stand in opposition to the governor must also hear the concerns of those on the “other side.” People are truly fearful of mass attacks, domestic acts of terrorism and the horrific fact that we must have our children practice active shooter drills.  We should also be respectful of people that say they have no use for any firearm. We should all desire a safer world to live in.    

We all hate the fact that these horrific acts occur. We should all work daily to improve our community, care for those in distress, provide accessible mental health care, stop bullying, stand against racism and religious hate. 

In recent years, I have found that my fly-rod is my preferred sporting tool—but a couple of old rifles are also still within my rights to own. Photos with soon-to-be released fish don’t inspire nasty comments or arguments that last deep into the night—that’s what I like.  

This new year let us ALL consider the foundation of our collective tree and that we are all in this together.  Let us remain civil in our discourse but steadfast in our belief in the potential of our nation.  






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