Crossfit. Beast mode. Warrior Series. Mud Runs. Iron Man triathlons.

We’re a generation of Pain is Glory. Of pushing limits, many of which are totally arbitrary. Just about everyone I know has run some kind of road race. Many of my friends are multi-time ½ and full marathoners.

Our X Games legacy. Our desire to prove ourselves. Our escape from the cubicle of life.

It’s inspiring, really, to think so many of my contemporaries aren’t afraid of the hard work it takes to bike 100 miles or run 26. I feel gratified that somewhere out there some group of adrenaline junkies is sitting around thinking up the next great challenge.

American Ninja Warrior. Yesssssssss.

When I present my work models – the autonomous, asynchronous, results-oriented approach I think is the next evolution of the time card – I’m often rebuffed by traditionalists who claim the structure we have – the Industrial Standard – is so deeply imbedded that we cannot break free.

It’s just too hard to imagine change.

Too hard.

My father told me to disassemble the hourly-based work environment would “open a whole can of worms.”

Fucking open it.

We have significant problems in this country. Immigration, security, education, healthcare, and the widening gap between rich and poor. Add to that systemic racism, homophobia, fear disguised as nationalism and misogyny and we’re a hot mess around here.

We need to rethink just about everything.

Siri? What does it mean when everything is wacky and we need help?

Here are the results I found for ‘everything is wacky…’

Hard work. We need to put in some hard work. Some 25 reps of 90 lb squats kind of hard work. Some run until your legs are numb and then run five more miles hard work.

So why don’t we? Why do we keep looking for the cheap and easy solution to these deep and complex problems? Why do we keep pacifying and placating when we should be dissecting and solving?

Our generation (Xers, I mean you) has never had it “easy.” We grew up fearing nuclear war and drugs (Just say no!). We grunge-era’d our way through our own addictions, depression, and suicides. We graduated college into a recession. We’ve sat behind Baby Boomer managers for our entire careers, waiting for them to give up and go home.

Some of us are entrepreneurs. Some of us are scrappy and hungry. Some of us are still playing by someone else’s rules.

It’s our time. We cannot shirk this responsibility, we cannot wait for the millennials to pick up the slack. For fuck’s sake, they want a Universal Wage. WTH? (side note, don’t label them, cuz ya know, they’re all special.)

We have to recreate what balanced looks like. We need hard questions and complex answers. We have to Do or Do Not. There is no Try.

Come on, folks. We’re not afraid of hard work. Let’s get out there and get the job done.


Sillouette and Other Faceplants

Posted: January 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

Mistakes are like celebrity deaths. They often come in threes.

In what turned out to be a ridiculous failure, I competed in a spelling bee for charity recently. My teammates are good friends, their daughter and I were at Clemson together and we see them frequently during football season. We have another common friend who runs a children’s theatre in town. He asked them to field a team for the fundraising event and they invited me to be on it.

Back in fourth grade when we got to pick our own spelling words, I was reading a book on spy planes and I chose “reconnaissance” as one of mine. I failed that test several times. While driving around town on the day of the Bee, I thought about that word and how it had auto-corrected itself in my life ever since I was nine.

First word of the Spelling Bee? Reconnaissance.

Not fucking making that up. The.First.Damn.Word.

What are the odds?

As with so many things that turn out to be mistakes, this was a harbinger – a sign of things to come.

After missing that word, we got the second word right and the third word, silhouette, was what brought us down. The actual spelling is ‘silhouette’ (gotta love autocorrect) but the version we used is in the title of this blog.

Okay, so was the mistake the second misspelled word? The first? Or participating in the first place? Hard to pinpoint. Suffice it to say the night gets lumped in the “mistake” pile.

A couple of years ago, I read Whitney Johnson’s career-making book Disrupt Yourself in which she has readers do an exercise listing their professional faceplants. It’s meant to allow you to gain perspective on them, identify what you learned, and put the incidents behind you.

Or something.

What it did for me was make me aware of mistakes as they are happening in a desperate, sometimes futile attempt to diffuse them.

In the Spelling Bee, when offered the chance to buy back in for $50, I advised our team to just sit down. The buy-back was not a good investment, really, even if it was for charity. The Gods had sent us reconnaissance, so we’d likely be playing against the other 10 teams and some meddlesome celestial beings.

Another time when I’m sure the Gods had it in for me: caught in conversation at an Oscars party with the one woman who loved, absolutely loved, all three Fifty Shades of Grey books.

(face palm)

Professional faceplants are tough. They’re usually the result of exuberance, inexperience, or arrogance.

Here’s a quick list of some of those favorites, too: sending a great workshop proposal on writing GenX characters to a fantasy fiction conference; believing a potential client’s moron marketing person’s claim that my writing sample had grammar errors (tail tucked, deal rejected); knowing a full-time professor gig at the school I’d adjuncted for was mine (I was the perfect fit) only to see the job re-advertised after I’d interviewed (what the ever-loving fuck? Not a better candidate, just not me. Awesome).

Doing the Whitney Johnson exercise had me flipping the page over to add more. I was racking them up. I think I counted two dozen or-so times I’d simply been an idiot.

And what’s awesome about that is, now I’m an entrepreneur and I’m kind of expected to be an idiot about all kinds of things. I usually just admit, “I don’t know anything about that,” and someone offers to teach me. Brilliant!

So maybe I finally found the right place for my stumbling and bumbling and doubling-down on the wrong things.

I’m not risk averse which means I make mistakes. A lot of them, as it turns out. And what’s beautiful about that is that I’m also really, really good at recovering from them. That’s a skill that no degree program in the world can teach.

Last month I attended two literary festivals. This month, armed with the arrogance those festivals bestowed upon me, I took on #NaNoWriMo. Again.

I’d started this short story back in the spring about a kid who goes back to Neverland after having been on the loose in London. He’s grown up some, maybe he’s a teenager now, and the Lost Boys don’t recognize him. Peter doesn’t want him to stay. There’s some mystery around how he left in the first place. At the end of the story, Peter ejects (rejects?) Noah again.

The story had about 6000 words. I’d added a kind young candy striper at the hospital where Noah ended up. I’d let him drag his favorite Lost Boy, Hickory, out of Neverland with him. And I’d decided they had to accompany the Mulligan family to Boston and fall in with the Sons of Liberty. Call it the Hamilton (the musical) influence.

I like the dichotomy of Sons of Liberty and Lost Boys. It’s a theme that I thought I could get a lot of mileage from. I also like the possibility that the seditious writings published by John Gill and John Adams ahead of the Boston Tea Party might be satires — Neverland stories that paint Peter Pan as a tyrant, draw parallels to King George, and are being used by the author in one way and the published in a very different way.

The frenzy of #NaNoWriMo means that I have written dozens of scenes which will never make the final manuscript. I’ve been exploring the characters and their relationships and trying to see exactly how to grow my Lost Boy with experience on the streets of London into a ruffian revolutionary eventually called Hercules. There’s also a ton of research I need to do to get the names, dates, and intersections right. But the story is humming.

I’ve been working these great vignettes in that are Neverland legends about the moon and death and all the other ways the Lost Boys might have explained the world around them to one another. The legends are so whimsical and fresh that they’re currently my favorite parts of the book.

And, of course, there’s a love story. Our mysterious candy striper is Samuel Adams’s ward, a refugee from Neverland, and the key to helping Noah become the man he’s meant to be. That’s got a book jacket or query letter trio to it, doesn’t it?

The best part of #NaNoWriMo is that it’s a gluttony of creation. Just put NEW STUFF on the page. It’s invigorating and frustrating and exciting and daunting all at once. Kind of like taking on Neverland.

More on the Literary Festivals here and here.

It’s hard work. The bottom line about addressing racism in this country is that it’s hard work. We have to be willing to listen. We have to try to be empathetic. We have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

And that’s hard.

Most of us spend the better part of the day comfortably in our own perspective. We make two key assumptions from this point of view: 1) our perspective is true, and 2) others’ perspectives are similar to our own.

When we learn that there is a radically different perspective, an experience we had never considered, someone else’s truth, we doubt its legitimacy. Doubting is okay, after all, that perspective isn’t indigenous to us; it’s new and different and learning is hard.

Denying is not okay.

Denying someone else’s perspective is doubling-down on our first assumption. What we see is true, so what they see must be false. Denying someone else’s perspective puts that someone else at other. We divide and belittle when we reject others’ perspectives. We assert our own moral rightness leaving others to wrongness.

We end the conversation before it ever even gets started.

We have to be willing to listen. We have to try to be empathetic. We have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Imagine what the experience is like for them. Try to understand their hurt and anger and fear and frustration. All uncomfortable emotions that we don’t feel in our position of privilege.

Acknowledging we are privileged does not put us at a disadvantage. We have all the advantages, that’s the whole point. We have a perspective that is shaped by the advantages that we don’t even know exist.

The hard thing about addressing racism in this country is shutting the fuck up and listening to someone else’s perspective on it. How do they feel? What are their fears? How can I respond in a supportive and loving way?

#TakeAKnee isn’t about hating our country. It’s about hating the denial we have adopted in lieu of real conversations about race and dignity and privilege.

When I explained the most recent chapter in this complicated narrative, President Trump’s ridiculously callous comments, my nine-year-old daughter said, “I really thought we were done with all that.”

She really thought the Civil Rights Movement and I Have a Dream and integration had cured us of all that ugliness and bitterness and ignorance. And God bless, I wish we were cured.

But we’re not. Our nation is still sick with racism and we cannot ignore it and we cannot put off dealing with it for the next generation or the one after that.

We are in the enviable position in this country to be climbing to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. We have self-actualization in sight. To be fully actualized, we need to be honest about the ugliness at our roots. This isn’t about blame or victimhood. It’s about understanding and compassion.

It starts with being willing to have conversations that make us uncomfortable. Being willing to admit we don’t understand someone’s perspective. Respecting that perspective as valid. Believing that perspective is as true as our own.

We don’t fix centuries of racism with a couple of years of sensitivity training. This isn’t a politically correct whinefest.

The vitriol coming from those who would not even grant a man the right to kneel is crazy pants. It reminds me of the Dixie Chicks fervor. Remember that? People so quick to defend President Bush that they burned the Chicks’ CDs in effigy, demanded their money back, threatened country music stations, and protested outside of concerts. It was cuckoo pants.

Our country loves to shout, “Free Speech!” until that speech comes from someone else’s denied perspective.

Why would you refuse someone the right to express themselves when, in doing so, they can help you understand their experience?

Inclusion is the solution. To truly understand others’ perspectives, we have to be willing to listen. We have to show compassion. We have to try to put ourselves in their shoes. We have to love them.

And we have to be willing to change. I’m willing.

I have been known to confess my aversion to group work. In undergrad, I intentionally registered for more credits than I needed so that I could drop the two worst courses as determined by 1) attendance policy and 2) group project.

Throughout my career, I’ve maintained three tenants about group work:

Know your AORs

Areas of Responsibility, or AORs, should be the first thing defined in any group or team work experience. When people know what’s expected of them, then they can determine whether or not they can expect it of themselves.

Help your team identify who does what. Make that the very first thing you do. Keep a clear list and verify the list with everyone.

Work the Milestones

All projects have deadlines or a date for expected completion. The deadline could be totally arbitrary. In undergrad, it usually coincided with some kind of break so the professor had time to grade all the assignments. In implementation projects, the deadline is “Go Live” or the day the end users expect to be using the new application.

Working backward from a deadline enables planners to identify the volume of work. My favorite running app Run Trainer does this. It asks for the date and distance of the race you plan to run then it builds the workouts back to where you are today so that you can prepare.

Working the milestones means checking in at turning points during a project. Don’t wait for Go Live to recognize problems. At various points, ask where the work is and whether it can still be completed on time. If you’re three weeks out from a 13-mile race and you’ve only ever run 8 miles, you’re not likely to be ready.

Manage Yourself

You cannot manage time. Time is the same for everyone. 60 minutes. 24 hours. 7 days. 12 months. Time is a standard we all experience.

Managing yourself means making the right choices about how you spend that time.

I like to front-load: get as much done early in the week, early in the day, early in the month as possible. That way I have cushion if shit hits the fan and delays occur. Waiting until Thursday to work on a project due Friday will backfire 99% of the time. Thursday will get hijacked by some unforeseen circumstance like a sick kid, a broken printer, or a car that refuses to start.

You cannot plan for chaos. But you can manage yourself through it.

There is a generational argument to be made here, I think. With two decades-worth of collaborative, experiential learning, the Millennials and current college students are much more likely to feel comfortable with team projects and group work. GenXers tend toward my skepticism. We know from experience that if others can do what I can do then I can be replaced. So, we are more furtive in offering assistance and more protective of our domains.

I’m trying to let that go. I’m trying to Be Like the Chefs and share what I know and do with as many people as possible knowing they can’t do it as well as me and so eventually they’ll hire me to do it with them or for them.

I’m also becoming more assertive, emboldened by the knowledge that if I don’t lead, no one else will. Or, worse, someone else will try to lead and fuck it all up. With confidence in my experience and abilities, I take the initiative and invite others to participate. I’m at a turning point in my career and it’s scary as hell but I believe the other side will be rewarding. Maybe some teammates will surprise me with their proficiency and intellect. Maybe I’ll learn new ideas from their various perspectives. Maybe I’ll come out on the other side even better than I went it.

What’s with the ‘maybe’? Of course that will happen. Of course I’ll grow and learn and change and a willingness to change has been my governing principle for ever.

So let’s do this. Let’s group work the shit out of this. Whatever it is. Let’s collaborate and participate and congratulate and all the other –ates. I’m in. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t suck.

Young, Scrappy, & Hungry

Posted: June 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

Sometimes I wish my handwriting, my voice, or my laughter could precede me into a room. These are the stylistic traits of myself with which I am the most free. I will gladly pen something, speak up, or let loose a chortle without second-guessing myself.

My wardrobe is a different story.

Recently I’ve taken to wearing what I call my “writer gear” to 1 Million Cups, a business networking event I co-organize every Wednesday.

Writer gear consists of my U2 concert t-shirt and a slim skirt. My Hamilton “Young, Scrappy, and Hungry” t-shirt and a jean skirt. My First Amendment shirt and a pair of denim capris. I wrap my bracelets up my wrist, put rings in every earlobe hole (5 total), and wear my Chuck Taylors without socks. My Achilles’ tendon tattoo is on full display.

This is me and I want to be ME in all things.

Professionally, I wear dresses or slacks, high heels, and sleeveless shirts. These are me as well. They’re client-facing me, not quite interview-ready me, but a step up from business casual and two steps away from Hamilton tees.

When looking professional and being myself are not the same thing, I am deeply uncomfortable. I feel like I’m pretending to be something I’m not. I worry that my credibility isn’t really showing. That my costume is doing the work my voice ought to be doing.

A 1 Million Cups co-organizer said to me today, “You don’t have to prove you’re smart. The minute you start speaking, it’s undeniable.”

So, if I show my tattoos and wear concert t-shirts, and let my Jeep hair and piercings – the style I dig – represent me, do I have to work harder when I speak to get past that first impression?

Or does my “smart” voice fit my writer persona?


How much am I sacrificing if I decide to be me instead of conforming to the business norms?

The older I get the less inclined I am to accept “norms” of any kind. Just because it’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There’s a rebel in me that’s hitting pay dirt. I let others influence a good bit of my career. Now it’s my turn to lead.

I’m reluctant to don the costume, the cape and mask. I’m reluctant to perpetuate the myth of “business” in the traditional, industrial sense. Rather, I feel revolutionary in a creative and energetic way. I feel like I’m making something new over here and it’s worth paying attention to, dammit.

I am unwilling to wrap what I do and believe in the words someone else would say or in the costume someone else would like to see.

These are my words and I believe them even if others aren’t convinced. Even if others think I’m opening a can of worms. Even if others think people might listen more to me if I were wearing a suit. I know people who say others might be more willing to listen if I were working under a major university’s label or if I looked more like Sheryl Sandberg or Sallie Krawcheck.

I’ll just keep writing and speaking and pushing what I know to be true into the universe. Let my words precede me into the room and my wardrobe simply round out the vision of Revolutionary.


I learned a new term this weekend. It’s the term being applied to the enemy. It’s the nom de guerre for those asshats who plan to sell us down the river and ruin our nation.


Apparently, Globalists are more interested in raising up the poor, impoverished nations of the world than they are in providing for our citizens here in America. Apparently, the only way to do that is to shift our resources – primarily financial – to those countries. Apparently, the Globalists think it’s okay to put us at a disadvantage in order to provide advantages to those countries who can’t help themselves.


Except, in our nation we have resources going to waste because citizens won’t use them, don’t know about them, or can’t qualify to receive them.

And, in our nation we have an embarrassment of riches like clean running water, public education, roads and law enforcement, and waste disposal. We have infrastructure and we are way ahead of a lot of other nations.

When those evil “Globalists” talk about diverting our resources to raise up second- and third-world nations, are they considering that providing a Chik-Fil-A and a Starbucks may not be the best place to start?

I have a friend who worked for a year in Liberia building the legal infrastructure to prosecute sex crimes. Legal infrastructure. That’s a good place to start.

I have another friend who sat as the US representative to the World Bank in Southeast Asia. Financial resources for nations like Cambodia including entrepreneur loans, roads, and healthcare services. That’s a good place to start.

There are three ways to civilize the world: 1) export everything that’s good about America like MTV, Nikes, and Zest body wash and let the free market do its work; 2) develop strategies that work through a global governing body to protect human rights and educate citizenry and let bureaucracy do its work; and 3) wait for time to elapse and let Darwinism do its work.

We tried mass exportation. I remember being in Ukraine in 1997 and the only splashes of color were Marlboro and Coca-Cola signs. A Chik-Fil-A might prevent suicide bombers from walking into a Middle Eastern market but we can’t say with any certainty that “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich” translates to Farsi.

The United Nations, funded by the US, has worked to implement secular strategies that will address infrastructure and try to establish rule of law. But the UN is rife with corruption and nations like Ghana have been razed by sanctioned bullying. Aid organizations frequently evangelize religion in return for meeting basic needs. These are unprecedented times. We do not know the extent to which strategies and cooperation will suffice. Never before have we attempted to civilize the globe with intention and compassion. Are we shocked we haven’t been immediately successful?

So, that leaves option 3: do nothing.

Nationalists claim that we must protect our borders (which are arbitrary, by the way), and protect our resources (read: horde), and take care of our own legitimate citizens before we divert resources to others.

Except our citizens, for the most part, aren’t committing terrorist atrocities out of desperation. One approach to ending terrorism is to provide security and prosperity for as many global citizens as we can. It’s the humane thing to do, the Christian thing to do, and we’ve been doing it.

Until now.

Now we’re being directed to look out for our own first. Like feudalism, this approach is guaranteed to fail. We cannot build a Utopia of prosperity and safety while denying that the security and satisfaction of the world directly impact our own stabilization. What’s more, we’ve destabilized other countries for decades in pursuit of resources and labor. When we “divert resources” (read: fund) for prosperity elsewhere, we are paying reparations for when we took approach 1 above.

Above all, the urgency is what worries me the most. When we rush to give or rush to take, we risk not examining the long-term effects of our actions. Many Globalists suffer from the arrogance of self-actualization; they assume other nations are ready for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when, in fact, they still need clean water, roads, and stable legal infrastructure.

So who’s right? The Globalists know security is fickle and that no matter how many positive initiatives we fund, corruption and desperation are difficult opponents. The Nationalists know that we’re stronger when our own citizens are healthy and protected, and that no matter how much we try to isolate ourselves, we are a global economy.

I suggested to my debate partner (Happy Father’s Day, dad!) that we seek to improve cooperation, reduce predatory practices, and encourage other nations to take up the responsibility of funding international organizations. More than anything, we must recognize the vision we all have of a stable, secure, and healthy, world is a luxury. We’re a long way from global equity and prosperity. That doesn’t mean we stop working on it.


Senator Graham had a room full of people who didn’t vote for him on Saturday, March 25th, in Columbia. He asked early-on how many people were Democrats. He made a prepared statement and then he listened to questions read off cards people had submitted while waiting in line to enter.

Lots of concern around Russia: Would he propose a special prosecutor to look in to Trump campaign ties to Russia? What does he plan to do about the FBI investigating the Trump administration for ties to Russia? He said he’d let the FBI do its job and the investigation run its course.

Lots of concern about education. He said he supports charter schools as an alternative to the current under-performing public school system. He slipped the word “vouchers” in there which had people booing.

Here’s the thing: he’s not wrong.

The current system has been in place for a century and it’s antiquated and it’s failing our citizens. I’m not convinced charter schools and vouchers are the way to fix it, but we need to try something. Schools are funded on a per-student basis, so their resources will not be totally lost. Schools with failing performances will lose students and close their doors.

The transportation issue is what concerns me. How do lower-income kids get across town to better schools? Like I said, though, we have to try something.

Lots of concern about healthcare and this is where it got ridiculous. Senator Graham asked who in the room would like to see Medicare made available for everyone. Tons of hands went up. Then he said, Well, Medicare doesn’t provide pre-natal care, so it’s not exactly designed for everyone. (not a direct quote, just the gist)

The healthcare debate is not a healthcare debate. It’s an insurance debate. The two camps are those who believe they should have free healthcare and those who know someone has to pay for it. Healthcare is available to anyone who can get to an emergency room. They cannot turn you away. In that sense, it is secured as a “right.” But healthcare is expensive.

Click here for more of my rant  on healthcare.

When Senator Graham asked the room how to pay for things like Medicare expansion, someone shouted, “Tax the rich!”

Since that’s exactly the opposite of what’s going to happen when Trump tax reform goes through, let’s talk about that. For a long time now the Democratic party has run platforms on Robin Hood economics. Take from those that have too much to give to those who have too little.

Robin Hood economics is responsible for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was put in place in the 70s to catch the top 1% of Americans who were making over $100,000. Every year, the AMT catches more Americans. Middle class people, because we can all admit now that $100,000 really isn’t that much anymore. Congress won’t repeal the AMT because it’s a cash cow.

Robin Hood economics imagines that the rich are sitting on their money like Scrooge McDuck, diving through gold coins as if they were water in a swimming pool. Except they’re not. The rich are investing their money so that it earns money for them. There are three ways to get money: steal it, earn it, and let it earn money for you. The rich are doing the third. Yet, every time we cry, “Tax the rich!” what we mean is find out how they’re getting rich and try to make it harder.

When we make it harder for rich people to invest, they stop investing in us. They put their money elsewhere, in overseas markets for example, where they can make higher returns. What we need is a system that encourages investment because it’s the right thing to do. We should identify the influence investment has on our daily lives and celebrate the buildings and innovations investors are part of.

We need Wall Street reform. Demystify the money-moving and show us how the rich are helping us all out. Then we’re less likely to think of them as Scrooge McDuck and more likely to think of them as partners in progress.

Not all wealthy citizens are benevolent. But forcing them to be never works.

We don’t want to end up like Greece and we’re already well on our way. We spend more than we earn and we borrow more than we lend. Our government is top-heavy and unsustainable. Austerity measures hurt, but we have a wealthy citizenry that can be implored to help if properly motivated. Stealing from them to give to the poor won’t solve the problem long-term. It will only hasten their exit from the system all together.

Democracy requires participation. What’s encouraging about the galvanization of the public that we’ve seen since Trump’s election is that more sides are being heard. What’s concerning is that a lot of the voices are interested in two things: 1) a government solution to everything, and 2) an immediate resolution to these problems.

Senator Graham made a great point when talking about education. He said the reform of our country’s education system is not about us or our children. It’s about the generation after them and the jobs we’re preparing them for. Identifying the skills they’ll need and then equipping them with those skills should be our primary concern.

It’s hard, Senator Graham, to think that far into the future, when today’s uncertainty could mean being out of work, out of insurance, or out of the conversation all together.

Healthcare is NOT a right. It’s too expensive to be guaranteed.

Medical professionals have extensive schooling and loans to pay back. They have malpractice insurance to pay for. And they self-select what specialties they’ll pursue and some specialties are more abundant than others.

Litigators drive up insurance rates with malpractice lawsuits that hold medical professionals responsible for mistakes and negligence as if they were the same thing.

Insurance companies have negotiated rates with care providers and facilities. They set the budgets for care with algorithms and balance sheets, not compassion and logic. Health insurance companies are legalized gambling. They’re betting you won’t get sick and you’re betting you will. You both put money on the board and wait for the dealer to distribute the cards. The companies have done everything they can to hedge their bets: pre-existing conditions, a network of providers, lifetime caps. Not only did they rig the game in their favor, they have lobbied congress and state lawmakers to enable them to do so.

How can regular citizens get affordable care when insurance companies are unwilling to sell affordable insurance?

As long as the insurance companies are hedging their bets and rigging the game, there will be no insurance reform. As long as they can pay lobbyists to influence congress and policy wonks to write bills that protect their interests, there will be no insurance reform.

To frame the insurance reform debate around healthcare was a gross miscalculation by the Democrats as long ago as Bill Clinton’s first term. Healthcare means people are sick and can’t afford treatment. It means they need rescuing and the government is the only entity big enough to do it.

But healthcare is not a right. It’s a business and the care providers deserve to get paid for the professionalism, experience, and compassion they bring to the equation. Insurance companies do not provide care. They provide financing. Like bankers, their role is to take on the risk. Why should they be allowed to minimize their risk at the cost to the common good?

When Paul Ryan said healthcare is complicated, what he meant was that everyone in the debate has a valid position and it’s difficult to broker compromise. What he should have said was the citizens have leverage over the politicians, the insurance companies have leverage over the politicians, and what they want is diametrically opposed.

How can we convince insurance companies that offering coverage to the most expensive, at-risk population is in their best interest?

Saying “it’s the right thing to do,” doesn’t work.

Forcing them to compete in a government-sponsored exchange doesn’t work; many just opted out.

We could tell them that if they don’t participate in the exchange, they will not be allowed to sell insurance in our state at all. We could tell them that if they don’t offer coverage for the least among us, then they can’t offer coverage to anyone else.

But we also have to tell our citizens they should expect to pay for coverage. They should expect to spend some of their money betting they’ll get sick and need coverage. Because taxing people on what they make to fund a healthcare system for people who pay nothing is the worst kind of unsustainable Robin Hood economics.

I don’t think anyone really disagrees with Make America Great. I was raised in the Cold War 80s and we were fed patriotism like fluoride-laced water. To a one, my GenX friends are all fiercely patriotic.

We’ve dutifully served in the military, thanked soldiers for their service, and gotten teary-eyed at post-deployment reunions. We’ve given to the Wounded Warriors and demanded reform at the VA. We think military service is patriotic.

Every two years we anxiously anticipate the Olympics. We learn the athletes’ names, discuss their achievements and uniforms, debate the rules and procedures. We produced the most decorated Olympian of all time. We think the Olympics are patriotic.

We vote. Our Facebook feeds are full of political debate and passive activism. We Rocked the Vote for Clinton and W and we elected the first black President. We carried our babies in chest pouches like kangaroo citizens, waited in line at over-crowded precincts, and thanked poll workers for their patriotic efforts. We think participating in government is patriotic.

I don’t think we disagree with Make America Great.

We’ve been building businesses, volunteering in schools, having birthday parties at fire stations, and teaching our kids to stand still during the National Anthem since they started televising it again after 9/11. We think jobs, volunteering, civil service, and respect are patriotic.

It’s the Again that gets stuck when we say the phrase President Trump trademarked in 2012, the one he used to climb the disorganized Republican ranks.

It’s the Again that made Bill Clinton say the phrase had a racist bend to it.

Let’s unpack “Again.”

Again means to repeat a condition. It means to return to previous circumstances. That condition, in this phrase, is “great”ness. And the real question, when we add “Again” to Make America Great is exactly when was America “great”?

There is not a time in our history during which Great meant prosperity, safety, and opportunity for all Americans. There have been times when some Americans had those things but not all Americans.

So “Again” indicates an intention to return to an era during which African American citizens were in the back of the bus and not welcome at lunch counters. When women were relegated to secretarial work and sexual harassment in the corporate world. When homosexuals and transgender persons were shamed into hiding. Think Mad Men only for real.

When asked if we want to return to that era, the compassionate, literate, and moderate among us would say, “Fuck no.” And so we reject the phrase, the candidate who uses it, and the supporters who rally behind it.

It’s the Again that alienates so many of us.

It’s a nostalgic Babyboomer fantasy. Greatness is so subjective it could be referring to any version of patriotic orgy cooked up for us by the politicians.

Is the intention to return to military greatness? Because we don’t have a Cold War foe to encourage proliferation of arms. Also it’s expensive. Also our military is saturated with incompetent bureaucracy and staggering inefficiencies no amount of funding can fix.

Is the intention to return to economic greatness? Because global enterprise has made us so interdependent that we cannot compete without other nations. The global economic crisis of 2008 made that abundantly clear.

Is the intention to return to a peaceful, pastoral greatness? Because the John Trumball painting depiction of the Founding Fathers is the same idealization as Jefferson’s yeoman farmer economic fantasy and Whitman’s pastoral daydreams. And they’re all bull shit.

Life is messy and the American experiment is, too. It’s full of contradictions and challenges, injustices and disruptions. There can be no “Again” because there was never a Great. There have only ever been the attempts at greatness that each generation constructs.

We get some things right and we get other things so totally fucking wrong.

And then we try again. Not just every four years, but every two years, every season, every day. We try to get better. We try to do better. We renew our commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When we remain committed of securing these inalienable rights for all Americans, our effort is what makes us Great.