Monday, November 17, 2014

Full-Time Competitive Free Old Man Happy Face

Frankly, like many Americans, I’m exhausted from exhausting all my avenues. For 15 years, I have been a writer. With degrees in history from the University of Missouri, I have contributed to several encyclopedic projects, scholarly journals and websites; as a former opinion columnist/editorial writer, I have written on topics ranging from socio-economic issues, local and national politics and international relations, and have reported on the political scene throughout the St. Louis region. Additionally, my short story fiction and poetry has appeared in various online and print magazines; this year, [*PROMOTION ALERT*] I self-published my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life, and a novella, Judgment Bound. Yes, I am bragging about my achievements as a writer because I take pride in them. Just as a good death is its own reward, so too creativity is only as valuable as the personal worth attached to it; in essence, I have gone broke gaining riches in artistic fulfillment. I’m okay with that, but its own reward doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

Over the years, I also have held a colorful variety of jobs – dishwasher, delivery driver, substitute teacher, archeology technician and bartender. While I haven’t experienced its full brunt, I can sympathize with the under- and unemployed as a “full-time” freelancer. Far too often, I come across so-called “competitive” rates that are more expectant of “free” work than freelance. My resume/credentials are on a multitude of freelance/employment board websites, with innumerable applications/proposals sent to potential clients; against my nature, I am regularly active in networking efforts on both professional and social levels. As such, I have committed to every piece of advice about getting out there. Yet, there is very little movement from any in the form of steady work, even from the most promising; many other freelancers face the same situation. While I have resources tied up in certain ventures (like my aforementioned books), generally these too have not been a steady stream and typically not accessible when needed.
That may sound like I am complaining – which I am, because it’s inherent for me to do so both genetically and professionally – but as I said, though, it’s more that I’m exhausted. For probably only the second time in my life, I’m a blank canvass devoid of ideas, plans or solutions of my next step. Uncharacteristically as well, I have no contingency ideas, plans or solutions from which to draw. Because, I have exhausted those too.

In another life years ago, I worked at a country club as a bartender for four years, and more recently managed/bartended at a music venue for seven – the latter of which came to an abrupt end both from burnout and upper-management incompetence and unprofessionalism, to put it nicely, that I was unwilling to continue tolerating or ignoring. You know, standing up for my principles et al…while those to whom I was making a statement continued in their positions. Overall, since age 16, I have 25 years of experience in the bar/restaurant/entertainment industries; as such, thought has been given to returning to bartending but do I really want to? Similar to when I was pursuing a teaching degree in yet another life long ago, the answer I keep coming back to is no. As a curmudgeonly “old man” – suited perfectly and contentedly for home-based, solitary freelance work – I am finding it ever more difficult to put on the requisite “happy face” for people in general.

I’m exhausted from it.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rooting For the Home Team

There is a continual debate about people who root for multiple teams in the same sport. I am one of those people – especially in football and hockey – because I don’t believe in blind brand allegiance simply because a team is the favored or home one. Born and raised in St. Louis as I have previously outlined, it was all about Cardinals football (now the Arizona Cardinals) and Cardinals baseball; not too much later, Blues hockey came into the fold for me as well. Therefore, my loyalty always has been, and will be, with these three home teams. Nevertheless, from an early age, I became a Dallas Cowboys and New York Rangers fan as well. (When it comes to the baseball Cardinals, there is no favored alternative.) To be honest, we usually rooted for the Landry-coached, Staubach-quarterbacked “America’s Team” over the characteristically dismal home team when the Cowboys came to town; as for the Rangers, they simply became my default Eastern Conference team when the Blues either were not playing or not in the playoffs.

Then the football Cardinals moved from St. Louis to Tempe, Arizona, before the 1988 season. It was a stake to the heart.

In 1983, my dad and I, as we typically did, were watching Sunday football. There was a young quarterback out of Stanford playing for the Denver Broncos; his name was John Elway. My dad said to watch him, because he prophetically believed that one day he would be a great quarterback. Three years later, I was a full-blown fan of the Denver Broncos – ironic, given that the Dallas Cowboys, for whom I rooted, had beaten them 35-10 in Super Bowl XII. Therefore, as far as football, I have rooted for three teams since the mid-1980s, the situation dictating the extent of it – with the Broncos, especially, and Cowboys taking precedence. The true test will be if the two ever meet again in the championship game, but my loyalty assuredly would lean toward Denver.

When college called, I had in mind three main choices:  University of Missouri (“Mizzou”), University of Alabama and the United States Naval Academy. The Naval Academy, as a potential means to serve in the U.S. Navy as a naval aviator, was a stretch from the start given personal circumstances (not to mention my dogmatic attitude toward authority), and soon fell by the wayside. Once accepted to Missouri, as that was my favored choice for personal reasons, Alabama came off the table. (To read about this and other subjects, purchase a copy of my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life.) Yet, despite being a proud and loyal Mizzou alumnus, I still root for both Alabama and Navy football, again with the situation dictating the extent of it. In this case, like the Blues and baseball Cardinals, there would be no contest for split loyalties – Blues, Cardinals and Mizzou 100%!

Similarly, I was born American, but my family roots are Irish, German and Spanish/Cuban. Thus, while my loyalty will always hold steadfastly and unwaveringly firm for the United States, I have an affinity for Ireland, Germany, Spain and Cuba. Is it wrong to like, and equally hate on, countries not of my birth except in lineage in comparable fashion as the good ol’ U.S.A.? Even in politics, my loyalties can cut across the spectrum. I consider myself conservatarian, which is a mix of conservative and libertarian ideas. To this end, it mildly irritates me when those of us similar in ideology are generalized as “Republican”; though I may typically caucus, as they say, with Republicans, as an independent I always avoid adherence to any particular party platform and vote as such.

So, it’s okay to cheer for the home team…even if, technically, they aren’t the only “home” team.

©2104 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lame Duck Is Served

It is exactly two years until the next presidential election. By all measure, President Obama, his administration, leadership and policies were repudiated in the mid-terms this past Tuesday. The wave of conservative victory was nothing less than a vote of non-confidence in his “governing” (or, more aptly, incessant campaigning and vacationing) and disapproval for the direction of the country. However some leftist pundits, and the president himself, wish to spin it, this was a historically devastating shellacking from a livid electorate. We will not have to wait long before the mainstream media – for so long its best champion in propagandizing its rhetoric – begins distancing itself from the administration as well. While there are still a few clinging to hope and change, it is not hyperbole to state that for many the thrill is gone. (And remember when it was considered racism to disagree with the president? Clearly, that only applies to right-wingers given the hypocritical backlash toward Republicans like Tim Scott and Mia Love.)

As a handful of analysts have pointed out, the political shift is owed to the thrice-pronounced-dead Tea Party. In spite of mainstream Republicans perverse efforts to discredit and renounce these party insurgents, they are the ones who kept conservative ideas afloat in the battle against progressivism over these past six years. All but written off only a few years ago, they have handed Speaker of the House John Boehner and prospective Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – unless an (unlikely) audible is called in deference to another candidate, like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul – overwhelming Republican control of Congress not seen in 85 years. Now, it is time for these two to deliver on the promises and desires expressed by voters at the ballot box. There can be the expected gloating and boasting, but complacency in standing high on political smugness and gluttony is ill-advised; for Republicans, it is time to go to work in right-wing leaning countermeasures and resolute determinism.

For some while, I have held a belief that Speaker Boehner was playing the long game. He knew he held only a slim majority in the House; what would have been the benefit or point in futilely pushing against the administration and Democrat-controlled Senate in that situation? Now, he has the opportunity to raise the stakes, call the president’s bluff and reveal his hand. Given the frenzied atmosphere before the election over the various scandals facing the administration, is impeachment realistically back on the table with the emboldening gains? Or, is the country better served by bipartisanism in mitigating and healing the wounds inflicted by the administration’s actions (and, in some cases, non-action) during its tenure? In either approach, it would seem best to abandon the ideologically frivolous and unproductive – without compromising the principles that led to the landslide victory – in order to concentrate on and address the most important matters and concerns facing the country.

According to a majority of pollsters, this means fiscal stewardship and accountability to reign in uncontrolled spending, spiraling deficits and dismal economic forecasts, with healthcare (i.e. Obamacare repeal), immigration reform and national security high on the agenda. In essence, the call to arms for a return to conservatism – limited government, individual liberty, free markets – was answered; it is time for that gauntlet to be picked up and the pledge for which it stands, in McConnell’s own words, be delivered to those who threw it down.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creating A Culture of Non-Consequences

It disgusts me when the media and football commentators talk about Michael Vick's “tough time” in jail; what about the dogs he murdered and tortured? Frankly, he should still be in jail. From the perspective of some defenders of his time served, every ex-con who has served their time and never re-offended should be allowed to "just do their job." But a lot of the time they can't even get a job, or at least a decent one, because that goes with them on every job application. So, while average ex-cons are shafted, Vick continues to make millions playing football. And that's the message the NFL is sending out:  “hey if you commit a crime but have talent, we'll overlook your crime!” Every dog I've ever had was thought of as equal in importance, love, protection, etc, same as a sibling, child, friend, etc; when it comes to people, I seriously have to weigh how far I'm willing to do that. Plus, as I’ve previously stated, I prefer dogs to most people. I mean…HAVE YOU MET PEOPLE???!!

Reminder: Michael Vick's Dogs Were Shot, Electrocuted, Hanged and Beaten to Death

Texas Animal Abuser Sentenced To Six Years In Prison For Brutal Killing of Dog

The Texas case is one of many examples, and used to illustrate that this guy went into a (presumably impulsive) rage, beat and drowned his dog and, rightfully, received a six year sentence; yet, Vick willfully and knowingly ran a murder/torture ring, but only received 23 months. Then the media and commentators puff him up as some sort of repentant angel deserving of a multi-million dollar contract to continue playing in the NFL because he has talent, rather than him, in my opinion, deserving of nothing less than shoveling dog excrement in the lowest bowels of hell. In general, it's a microcosm of the entire problem with disparities and inequities in our justice system and society as a whole (which is an entirely other argument for another time, thank you). This has contributed to increasing numbers of entitled malcontents of all ages indifferent to consequences of their actions, because of the examples they see in their “role models.” And not just in the Vick case, or even just in football; in all other cases, both past and pending, where players committed a heinous crime but basically were given a pass for such transgressions because of their status and value, the insinuation has been reinforced.

No matter those who try to deny it, millions of kids, male and female, look up to athletes as their role model. I grew up admiring Roger Staubach, who graduated as a top student-athlete at the U.S. Naval Academy – winning the Heisman Trophy in 1963 – served honorably in the U.S. Navy and quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. Although it did not pan out, he had inspired me in my teen years to a desire to attend the academy and join the Navy as well. Pretty terrible role model. Fortunately, I grew up in a family of sports enthusiasts, but also had other inspirations from which to draw as well.* For some kids, though, sports and athletes are all they have to rely on for role models given any myriad of reasons, because, for the most part, it is one of the first activities to which many kids are exposed at an early age. Whether a fan or not of sports, one must appreciate that influence; it would be wise to make it a positive one, especially in illustrating the consequences of inappropriate behavior and poor choices.

*To read about this & other subjects, purchase a copy of my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life

©2014 Steve Sagarra