A Hell of a Ride - A military retiree meets the country he defended.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Setanta ADV, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. GalacticGS

    GalacticGS Motorcyclist

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    For your first RR, this is truly epic! Just started reading today. Thanks for your service! Thanks for a great review of your trip - it's entertaining and thought provoking. To a large extent, this is what 2 wheels is about...adventure!
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  2. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Thanks man. I appreciate that. Hopefully I can keep that trend going for everyone!
  3. peejayess

    peejayess Adventurer

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    Thanks for the reply - guessed you must have sorted it or we wouldn't be reading this RR!! Know what you mean about the perils of slow manoeuvring. Looking forward to reading and seeing more of the trip
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  4. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 11

    Day 10, 7 September 2017.


    I woke early, springing out of bed and having a good breakfast. By “early”, I mean “the crack of noon. “Springing out of bed” means “eventually crawling out”, and a “good breakfast” translates to the remains of “last night’s pizza”. Thank God I wasn’t on any sort of tight schedule today. The only requirement I had today was to get out during daylight and check out the actual “Niagara Falls”. Maybe wander around the city a bit on the way back. I still needed to download my video from yesterday, to clear my SD cards, and charge batteries on my camera equipment. While that was happening, I decided to freshen up a bit and clear the cobwebs from my head.

    Having taken care of the cameras and myself, I grabbed my better camera, with the boom mic set up, along with my tripod, and proceeded to exit the hostel. Destination: Niagara Falls! I hadn’t gotten across the street, when the sky opened up and began pouring rain on me! I quickly reversed course and high tailed it back to the entrance of Gorge View, which had a nice overhang to keep me dry for the moment. “Is this going to last for a moment, or all day?”, I thought to myself. Checking the weather app, it seemed like today was going to be one of those days where it is raining in a spotty fashion, never in a wide area, seemingly out of nowhere. I could see the see the clouds blowing by, streaming tendrils of rain in small areas as they raced by. “Great! This is not what I needed today.”, I mumbled. Today was one of those rare days where I allowed myself a complete day at my destination. I wouldn’t have an opportunity like this tomorrow. I had to get out and get some footage today. I also had to make sure I didn’t destroy my best camera while doing that. I considered wrapping the camera in a trash bag, but that was only a partial solution for keeping the camera dry throughout the day. In the end, I settled on just relying on my GoPro Hero 5 Black camera for video. No, it wasn’t ideal, but at least it was inherently water resistant. “Win the war, not the day”, I reminded myself. I still had a lot of ground ahead of me to cover and film.

    Take 2. Cameras exchanged, rain jacket gathered for myself, down the steps I go, aaaannnndddd I make it across the street this time. So far, so good. I cut across some grass, in an area adjacent to the Aquarium of Niagara, cross a pedestrian bridge over the Niagara Scenic Parkway, walk through the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, and as quick as that, I’m overlooking the Niagara River from a cliff side vantage point. This is my first time to this area. I haven’t even made it to the falls, yet I can see the mist rising from them in the distance. Even this far away, the view is mesmerizing! All is not perfect, however. Something begins to tug at the back of my mind. On the way to the river, while passing the 2 previously mentioned tourist attractions, I notice that both are devoid of tourists. Now, I will grant that this is the week after the final U.S. holiday of the Summer season, and it is a Thursday, but where are the international tourists? Not to mention that the apex of both attractions, given their outward appearance, seems to be the 1970s or 1980s. Directly across the river from me, on the Canadian side, I can clearly make out a vibrant, tourist friendly atmosphere. Just along the banks, there are multiple hotels, water parks, zip line attractions, casinos, and other attractions. The Canadian side looked like it was absolutely booming! Why am I not seeing something similar reflected on the American side, which I was on? Was I just in an undeveloped area, outside of “the good spots”? Some of those questions would be answered by the end of the day.

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    Along the cliff side, there was a footpath, leading in the direction of the falls themselves. I headed off in that direction “Oooohing” and “Awwwwing” at each place I stopped along the way. I won’t belabor the point; the falls are genuinely amazing, truly deserving of their “natural wonder of the world” status. Photos or videos don’t do the place justice. There is power you can feel, coming off the water. I was told that 1/3rd of the earth’s fresh water passes over these waterfalls. The sound, the fury, the mist – it’s all very awe inspiring. Once again though, I noticed a distinct lack of people, even at the main attraction of the actual falls. The parking lots were there. The restaurant was there. The gift shop was there. The people were not there.

    I wandered around the area a bit and took in the different falls from different angles, collecting film footage and photos as I went along. As the water is moving, it’s all rather hypnotic. You spend hours there just staring at the fluctuations in the water. If you ever have the opportunity, Niagara Falls is well worth the visit. I’m sure the local community would appreciate your visit as well.


    I’ll include a few photos below here. More on this part of the report follows.

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  5. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 11A

    Continued

    European migration into the Niagara Falls area began in the late 17th century. In 1892, several villages were incorporated to form the City of Niagara Falls, which at that time, primarily relied on the power of the river and the strong manufacturing industry. As technology progressed, Niagara Falls became a large producer of hydro-electric power. Tourism only played a small roll, as industry continued to grown and the population reached a peak in the 1960s of over 102,000 residents in the city. Then began the decline of “The Rust Belt”, as manufacturers found more inexpensive areas to relocated their factories to. Tourism would play a much more important role in the economy of Niagara Falls as more and more manufacturing jobs were lost.

    Then came the “Love Canal Disaster” in 1978, where toxic chemicals from an underground dump were discovered and President Jimmy Carter called a State of Emergency. This marked a steady decline as more manufacturing jobs relocated from the area. This disaster made international news. Imagine the impact that would have had on tourism. It’s unbelievable to me that people would even toy with contaminating the very thing that draws people to you and even provides your city with it’s name! Those were some of the difficulties the city has faced, and continues to face. Now, there is only one major hotel in the city, which also houses the casino area. From a population of 102,000, Niagara Falls now finds itself with an estimated population in 2016 which has dwindled down to 48,000 people.

    Armed with this information, I wanted to go walk the streets of Niagara Falls and gain a sense of the city myself. The parks around the falls are very nice. Relaxing even. The grounds are well kept, small critters dart to and fro, and you definitely feel a sense of tranquility. The walk into the downtown area is nice as well, but again, very quite. Despite the fact that there are several restaurants providing various international fares, coffee shops of differing tastes, abundant tourist shops, and above all – the landmark Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, there is a depressed feeling lingering in the air. Hardly anybody was walking the streets while I was there. Entering the casino didn’t show any of the expected crowds. To say it was “half empty” would be generous. I didn’t understand. The area I was in “looked” nice enough. Why weren’t there people here? Where were all the attractions that the Canadian side had?

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    I began to make my way from the casino, in the direction of the Gorge View Hostel. After having only traveled about one block away from the main casino, the presumed crown jewel of the Niagara Falls downtown, I crossed the street and came face to face with an entire city block that was completely abandoned. Not one storefront was occupied. Graffiti was written across the buildings and the window. Those windows that weren’t broken out, anyway. The names of prominent businesses that had moved out, often remained. This wasn’t in “the bad area” of town. This was still the heart of the city. I’ve made a few screen shots of video I had taken while I was walking back.

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    To be fair, there were merchants and businesses who were taking risks and were trying to revitalize portions of the city, such as here –
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    But a very short walk down the same street would lead you buildings such as these.
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  6. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 11B

    Continued

    The decay continued into the residential areas, near the city center. Entire blocks of large houses had been boarded up and forgotten.
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    The walk back left me with quite a bit to think about. The night prior, some of the business owners I had spoken to told me about how difficult the local and state governments had made it for an entrepreneur to take a risk and open a new business in the area. I won’t attempt to go into details because people love to argue details about topics like this. The point is, the sentiment I was getting was directly from the horse’s mouths, the business owners themselves. They were telling me that the regulatory burden potential businesses faced, when they considered moving to Niagara Falls, often led them to leave the USA side, and set up shop on the far less restrictive Canadian side. I was told that, despite the Socialistic nature of government in Canada, the area of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls existed in a sort of commercial bubble, which was created to be extremely business friendly, and thus drawing both interesting businesses and the tourists who wished to be entertained by them. In fact you could see this from the banks of the river, on the American side. Many prominent American entertainment businesses advertised the limitless fun to be had from the Canadian side, while they didn’t have a representative on the American side at all. The people I spoke to all wanted the heavy handed regulations and taxes to go away, yet like in most areas around the country, the incumbent politicians who either created these regulations, or simply went along with the status quo, continued to be re-elected.

    As I arrived at Gorge View, I looked at it. I looked at how far he had come with his renovations. How he had served his country with me, returned home, firmly planted his flag and announced that he wanted to be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem. He loves his hometown and is proud of it’s heritage. This obvious after only a few minutes speaking with him. I felt incredibly proud to know there were Americans like him out there, along with his friends, who were willing to take risks with the opportunities this country afforded them. They chose a difficult and uncertain path to provide for both their families and their communities. I greatly admired their courage. It was depressing seeing what this city full of so much potential had become, but at the same time, I was hopeful for their future.

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    A quick check on Rexy showed that she had made it through another day, unmolested.
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    Arriving back, Jeff wanted to take me out and show me another wonder of the world, that for some reason is little known. Traveling further down the Niagara Scenic Parkway, past the Niagara River Rapids, you will find the Niagara River Whirlpool. Apparently, it’s the largest whirlpool in the world. Now, I don’t know much about whirlpools, but I assumed they were a big deal and I was impressed to the appropriate level.
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  7. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    A Hell of a Ride – 11C

    Continued

    If you continue to travel further down the road, toward Fort Niagara State Park, you will come upon a small village called Youngstown. Stepping out of your car, you might be forgiven for believing you have somehow been transported back in time to the Revolutionary War era. Jeff knew the local public house well, so we entered “The Mug and Musket” to have our dinner, and continue our conversation from the night prior. As is typical with old military guys, we talked about stupid things that happened during deployments, gripped about dumb things we were made to do in our old units, and educated the bar manager on how to spot “Stolen Valor”. She had known Jeff for a while now, and knew he was in the military previously. Apparently, Stolen Valor is a big deal around that area. There are no major military bases around, so the civilian populace is supportive of the military, yet somewhat naïve to the finer points of the military, due to lack of exposure. People try to exploit the good will of thankful and generous people around the country. I was happy to let them discuss the topic. I glanced around the room and spotted some old timers, military vets from the local community, sporting various pieces of apparel representing their respective branches and units of service. There was a guy in there wearing a regular Navy hat. I knew he wasn’t a Stolen Valor case because nobody ever lies about being a regular guy in the Navy. They all have to be SEALs!

    We had our dinners and drinks. Jeff and I made sure to remind each other how awesome we were “back in the day”. We were pale shadows of our former selves. Well, I was at least. Jeff had left most of that life behind him fairly rapidly. He had moved on with life and was well into his next chapter. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do “when I grow up”. He knew what I had been involved with in my previous life. While I was in, I had just expected that I would simply move into a civilian version of what I was already doing. By the time my career was actually ending, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to do anything but that. For over a decade, everything took a back seat to the needs of the mission. I had repeatedly made note of lessons that needed to be learned. A decade later, in the same location, those same “lessons learned” remained valid, and un-heeded. I was exhausted, beating my head against the wall. A year later, and far removed from that life, I could instantly feel the frustration when the topic would come up. Jeff was there with me during some of those frustrating moments. It was good to be with him now, sharing a beer, in the late 1700s, far removed from Fort Bragg and the events of the Middle East. Exiting, I realized the day had cleared up and now there was a beautiful, calm, silent night that had settled in. Damn life was good. I’ll drink to that…

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  8. Effisland

    Effisland Talk is cheap - what you going to DO about it?

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    Very interesting and I must admit to being curious about what some of those lessons learned would be, as without any military experience the imagination runs wild. A noble idea also this project of yours is. I'm often wanting to do more with life and a big part of that potential is bringing people together who normally wouldn't think they would have anything to do with those other people. Fortunately my job allows for some of that at a micro scale but not the big picture as your sights have been set. Unfortunately for myself and many others our only outlet is venting impotent rage online, trolling etc, which I am trying to avoid but difficult. Any lessons applicable to us civilians and you've probably got a book in the works I wouldn't mind paying for!

    Kudos for what I'm sure was some significant personal sacrifices during your service.
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  9. lifetravelled

    lifetravelled Adventurer

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    Great RR, just caught up, really enjoying it keep up the good work.

    Josh and Stef
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  10. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Thanks Effisland and Lifetravelled. I appreciate the positive input. I'm as frustrated as anybody, with what I see going on in my country, and other countries as well. I try to focus on working on things in my country though, because it's the society and culture that I understand the best. Plus, I have a vested interest in what happens here. Obviously, there are bad things that happen in this country. That's undeniable. "Bad things", however, are not the only things that happen. There is plenty of good happening as well. It's far too easy to make complaints, while not offering any positive solutions, or acknowledging anything that is good. I just decided that I wanted to be part of "the" solution, rather than adding to our problems. I'm hoping to highlight the good things people are doing, as well as common ground we might share, while addressing negative aspects of our country as I come across them. If I accomplish nothing other than getting a few people to politely converse with a person whom they might not agree with, I'll be happy with that.

    The polarization and constant labeling that is growing in this country is a terrible thing and it doesn't contribute a single thing to "the common good". I've seen people do far too many awful things to each other. I also know that I'm not going to be able to change anyone's political opinion in this day and age. I've given up caring if someone is "Left" or "Right, up or down. All I'm trying to do is be respectful to others and respectfully listen to their opinions. Hopefully they will consider returning the courtesy to me. I may not agree with what is said, but I at least want to discipline myself to listen to the thoughts of others, and acknowledge their existence. I doubt that will cure all the ills of the world, but it makes me feel like a better person at least.
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  11. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

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    This is a very interesting report: sort of taking America's pulse. I've been to Niagara Falls all of once and some friends of mine have been there many times. They always told me they only go to the Canadian side (they are from Connecticut) because the view is so very much better there. When I got there I checked out both sides, and I agree with them: the Canadian Falls are far more impressive and beautiful. Whether that is the cause of the increased development on the Canadian side or not, I don't know, but I think it must contribute to it. I don't know anything about the history of the Canadian town, but if development there was fairly recent, well, people are attracted to new things - new stores, new buildings, modern stuff. Also, for many years the US dollar has had a lot of purchasing power in Canada, making things like hotel rooms and meals a bargain. This reversed during our recent recession as I recall, but I was just in Montreal this month and the dollar is king again.

    The story about over-regulation strangling businesses is interesting. My own experience has been profoundly different. I have set up LLCs in about an hour, not counting the requirement to publish notices and mail proofs to the NY Sec State. Those companies were up and running that afternoon (no, not my company. I just do the set-ups.) I started my own retail business in upstate NY in the late 90's and about all I had to do was get an EIN, sign up to collect sales tax, and register my business name with the county. A building inspector looked over the place I rented, signed off, and that was that. As far as I know it is still that way today. My g/f has operated her own business (veterinarian) for over 30 years in New York, and although she loves to complain about any kind of govt interference, has few if any complaints re her business. If you want to see a downtown rebirth, come take a look at Troy, NY. A fallen industrial city, the downtown is home to many independent businesses and young people keep opening innovative new bars and restaurants seemingly every month. Yet I too keep running into people who tell me govt regulation is driving business away.....but I find everyone who tells me that has never had their own business; has never tried to start a business. That's why I'm wondering if the folks in Niagara had any first hand knowledge.

    Don't mean to rant or hijack your awesome report, it's just that I'm in upstate NY and where I am the evidence points 180 to what people in Niagara are telling you.......and there were plenty of empty storefronts hereabouts at one time.
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  12. bobw

    bobw Harden the phuck up

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    Have shared these same sentiments with so many and as "simple" as one would think these are and could be embraced/practiced as reasonable adults "most of the time", it absolutely escapes me why it isn't so. I get beyond angered when so called leaders of Government, Industry and others with great access to the public via celebrity, intentionally ramp up discourse rather lead the way to have all hands on deck to deal with so many large scale issues here and globally. I guess it pays better and it's easier to pander for power rather work together on issues we all are vested in directly and/or indirectly. I did similar travels as yours and had similar experiences that renewed my faith in "regular" people and also was saddened by the limitless examples of what you came upon in Niagara Falls. I could go on, but a very long reply to say you are not alone on this particular journey and I wish you well as you peel away the layers of the onion to get to what you may wish to do "when you grow up"! Thank you for your Service and Love of Country.
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  13. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    By all means, chime in! I won't claim to have any definitive answers here. What I'm writing are mere observations of the environments I'm passing through. In my defense (not that I feel under attack), "my" thoughts on the state of the city - and of business - were not purely my own. I had talked to several business owners in the area, and this is the general information they gave me when I asked why certain portions of the city were run down. They were the ones telling me about the regulatory challenges and possible reasons for economic stagnation. I don't know enough personally, to offer up a defense. I'm just conveying the general information I was told. The conversations carried much more detailed information than I can provide you right now. I'm not sure the issue was the ability to start a business. I think the greater issue was being able to keep a business running and viable, under the regulatory environment the local, or potential, business owners face. The Canadian side has also provided a much more business friendly environment, I am told. True, the view on the Canadian side of the falls is more picturesque, and that certainly plays a roll, but you can actually get close and personal with the falls on the American side, so there is much appeal to both. Another issue may be the types of businesses the people I was talking to are running. They may be facing specific regulatory or tax challenges that other business types don't have to contend with. I do know that people there really do care about the state of their city, and are putting their money where their mouths are, in regards to revitalizing the area.

    Thanks for the insights!
  14. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    If there is one thing the military instilled me it was, if you are going to lead, lead by example. Simply put - be "what right looks like". I can't control what others say or do. I can, however, control what I say and do. If I've done something positive in such a way that people choose to emulate that, so much the better. This isn't to say that I don't have my own opinions on matters. I certainly do, and I'll fearlessly share them, IF I feel that my counterpart is open to a real discussion. If not, then I've found there is also merit in listening - and learning. I've learned I don't need to convince the entire world that I'm right, right now. Of course, I've been known to vent, but I'm trying to do that in private more than in public. My wife certainly knows my hot button topics by now! But I try to keep things civil in public now. I don't always succeed, but I try. As the native Irish part of my extended family says, "God loves a try-er!"
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  15. BLucare

    BLucare Ambitious, but rubbish

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    @Setanta ADV, thanks for sharing your thoughts, photos, observations, and advice so far. I love reading about journeys with a true purpose, and this, for sure, is one of them.

    "I've found there is also merit in listening - and learning." << That is the truth, and is particularly relevant in 2017. We often forget how to honestly listen these days, and generally spend more time thinking of what we are going to say next than listening, intently, to what others are telling us. Keep the rubber side down, and thank you again for taking us along for the ride :thumb

    Best,

    Ben
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  16. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    So kind of you to say so! Thank you. I'm hoping that this write up remains relevant and meaningful for you all. I really appreciate the feedback.
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  17. Micah.Berry

    Micah.Berry n00b

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    Setanta ADV - I have been following you on FaceBook for a while now, and appreciated following your travels as you would post. This ride report helps put into perspective the thoughts and feelings you had (and I did wonder what you were thinking and going through) when your photos would come up in my feed. Thank you for this detailed ride report. I am thoroughly enjoying your writing and perspective, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of your adventures.

    By the way, the night shots of the port town were great!
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  18. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

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    Expanding upon your "discussions" with others. I have found that with my friends, I know what to NOT discuss. Avoid the disagreements, and "agree to disagree". I move to the "agree to disagree" theory a lot quicker than I used to in my youth! It really works to move on to other more non controversial subjects.
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  19. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Thank you so much! I'm glad to hear that you were familiar with this from what I had posted while on the road. I'm really behind right now, but stand by for some videos to come out soon. I'm going to keep it simple at first, and just focus on the traveling itself. You will have special insight by having read all of this already! Out of curiosity, which page are you following on Facebook, the Setanta Adventures page, or my personal page? I keep the two fairly similar by sharing the Setanta posts.

    Keep following along and drop some comments whenever you feel like it! I'd be happy to hear your thoughts as we go along.
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  20. Setanta ADV

    Setanta ADV Adventurer

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    Yeah, I agree. I imagine most "reasonable" people find themselves using this tactic more and more often now. The fact that I have to do that actually bums me out though. The fact that people might compare my wish for civil discussion on controversial (aka "grown up") topics, with chasing rainbows and unicorns kind of reflects poorly on the state of our society now. I've been trying to use the founding fathers of our country as examples to emulate lately. Not for their politics or laws created, but for how they comported themselves. Here were men who, let's be honest, often hated one another. Yet they knew they were working for a higher calling, and moving toward a final objective which they would never achieve if they substituted the necessary business of the day for petty personal attacks. With the guidance of one gifted referee (George Washington), they were able to craft a government from scratch. Now, few people could ever be as self disciplined in their conduct toward others as George Washington, but imagine if we tried to emulate his better traits, or even those of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Lincoln, and others. I find myself falling short when trying to replicate the model these men have set because, well, it's just damn hard to live the way they did. But what if we tried to better ourselves in ways beyond getting a better job? What if we worked on bettering ourselves in how we interact with others civilly? I'm convinced that whenever I get off track on something, physical conditioning, marksmanship, math, etc., "getting back to basics" helps to reestablish a foundation from which I can begin to make progress again. Is "learning how to be civil with others" another example of that?

    Just some thoughts for reflection.
    Manny
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