Sacrifice and Foregiveness; Giving up the Grudge

by Steve Miller

For an adopted kid in a great home, biological heritage doesn’t matter.  And then it does.  Adopting older children makes a radical and notable change in their life versus adopting an infant who isn’t aware that they were adopted — at least not until they become aware.

In some cases, when a child finds out that their parents aren’t really their parents, there can be a sense of betrayal.  There can be confusion, resentment, and chaos. That wasn’t a problem for me; I became aware of my radical and notable change as it occurred.

As I blended in as part of the Miller family, I took on their traits.  My acquired southern accent got bad enough that the school sent me to speech therapy.  Once they talked to my mother in person about my progress, they figured it out and quit wasting their time.  How was I to know that “over yonder” wasn’t a precise location or that “that” was always followed by “there”?  And making two syllables our of one-syllable words seemed to me like a sophisticated way to pronounce them.  For example, a fo-wah comes right before five.   The window was a “winder”.  Had I grown up speaking southern from the start, I would have probably been okay, but the hybrid California/Tennessee pronunciation of words didn’t cut it in school.

I wanted so much to be like my parents that during the first year, I tried to emulate a lot of what they did.  I was elated when my last name  was officially changed to Miller, and I didn’t have to answer stupid questions like, “How come you and your mom and dad don’t have the same name?”  Nevertheless, part of me always questioned who I really was.  The older I got, the more I wondered about it.

I always had a feeling of exclusion when people would talk about their nationality.  “I’m German and Irish.” or “I’m Spanish, Portuguese, and Native American.”   When it came to be my turn, it was, um, well, quiet.  Then one time, with a burst of courage and sarcasm, I said, “I don’t know what nationality I am.  I was adopted.  For all I know, I could be a space alien with superpowers that I haven’t discovered yet.”  It went over well, generated some laughter, and I started using that line a lot from then on.  Secretly, I still fantasized about being an heir to the Romanov dynasty.  After all, they never did find Anastasia.

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia

What you don’t know can hurt you.  Maybe not physically, but it puts you in a position where you need to write your own story.  For example, I wondered if there was something wrong with me that I didn’t stay with my biological parents.  But then it couldn’t be just me, because my brother and sister were given up too.  So, what I resigned myself to believe was that there was something that my mother and father wanted more than children.  That turned out to be true, at least partially true.

Somehow my birth mother found herself in a situation where she couldn’t support the three children she had in her custody.  I haven’t discovered what that reason was. Recently, I found that she too was adopted and found herself in a strict home that wasn’t anywhere as nourishing or loving as mine. She hated it.  So, it wasn’t like she had any delusions about adoption.

Until recently, I had a lot of resentment toward her about being given up.  How could she?  I never considered that the choice to part with us was probably gut-wrenching and emotionally draining.  I never thought of it as a gesture of kindness, a sacrifice, or a gift of mercy.  I do think that way now.

All in all, I was satisfied with my situation as a child growing up in the suburbs.  I envied no one.  I had everything that a kid could want.  I had it better than the Beaver because I didn’t have a dad who made me listen to these metaphorical right-versus-wrong morality speeches each time I did something wrong.  My dad handled reprimands quickly and efficiently.  It was better that way, and it must have worked because I didn’t get in nearly as much trouble as the Beaver did.

I didn’t miss much of the great 1960s Southern California experience growing up.  Dad had the same job at the General Motors plant from the time he and mom were married until he retired.  Mom was a housewife when the title still one of honor and respect.   Breakfast and dinner were always at the same time.  There wasn’t any luxury, but there weren’t any deficiencies either.  You don’t get more “normal” or typical than our family was.  Well, maybe the Cleavers were.

Some days the fact that I was adopted didn’t even cross my mind.  And then other days it was all I could think of.  I had a brother and a sister.  And, as it turned out, another brother and three more sisters that I didn’t even know of at the time.  I would see people out in public and sometimes wonder if I had just been in proximity to a relative.

I didn’t realize how far out of their way my parents went to make sure that I had not only what I needed but what a middle-class southern California kid was supposed to have.  A bike, and eventually a car.  I got a small, portable Remington typewriter for Christmas, which I eventually wore out.  I got piano lessons and a giant upright piano on which to practice.  Not only did I get the basics, but I also got a lot of extras, most of which I took for granted at the time.

Everything that I got required some degree of sacrifice on the part of my parents.  What I learned later is that sacrifice isn’t always material or financial.  Sometimes sacrifice comes from deep within one’s heart.

When I was about 12, in 7th grade, I wanted a paper route.  Other kids had them, and they were making a fantastic profit for doing something that was fun – riding a bike and throwing papers.  My allowance at the time was a couple of bucks a week.  A paper route could get me as much as ten to fifteen dollars a week depending on how many customers I had.

When a route became open in our neighborhood, I begged, pleaded, lobbied, and negotiated until I got permission to apply for it.  Not only did I get that route, I eventually got a route right next to it.  There were so many papers to deliver after school that I had to make several trips back home each afternoon to replenish my saddlebags.  On Saturday and Sunday, the paper was four times as big and had to be delivered in the morning.  I would hear the “thud” as several bundles of newspapers were dropped off in the driveway by the delivery truck.  Most mornings, mom would get up with me to help insert the sales ads and put on rubber bands or plastic bags depending on the weather.

Each trip, she would stand on the porch and watch as I rode off into the predawn darkness to deliver my route.  What I didn’t know at the time was that her 13-year-old son from her first marriage had been hit and killed by a drunk driver while delivering the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, the same paper that I was delivering.

She could have easily told me no, you’re not getting a paper route.  Who would have blamed her?  I can’t imagine the kind of angst that she felt each time she saw me ride my bike off into the darkness on a rainy Sunday morning.  It wasn’t about the money – she could have just given me what I would make on my paper route.  No, it was about me being like everyone else, doing things that I wanted to do – she wanted to make sure I had that experience.  As I said, sacrifice sometimes means giving up a piece of your heart.

Forgiveness is like a sacrifice because to accomplish it you have to give something up.  In fact, “give up” is the meaning of both words.    In the case of forgiving someone, you have to give up the desire for vengeance or resentment.  I realize now that both my biological mother and my adoptive mother made sacrifices, just in different ways.

Something caused me to embark on this journey to find my past.  I couldn’t shake the curiosity about my heritage.  Friends and family told me over and over I should look into at least finding my siblings.

When it became possible to discover my nationalities without much effort or expense,  I took the leap, spit in the bottle, and waited.  When the results came back from Ancestry.com, I was surprised.  Now I belonged.  No longer was I a space alien with undisclosed superpowers.  I was from somewhere on Earth just like everyone else.

The results proved that I am mostly British, some German, and a small part from various other places in Western Europe.  To celebrate my new status of being included, I bought a British flag.  I was still a Miller though, by choice.  Not mine, theirs.  Their choice was the single most significant event in my life.

The DNA test proved that biological father was wrong when he disputed paternity.  Otherwise, I would have been part Jewish like my half-brother.  I can understand why he may have had his doubts.

Now that I have confirmation that I was from planet Earth, I want to know more about where I came from and what led up to me being who and where I am.  I want to know about my biological parents and their history.  I don’t want to stop there.  I want to go back as far as I can and find out what I can about those who share my DNA.

My past is now present, but I’m going to save that story for next time.

We’re Sure as Hell not the Cleavers… and we’re Damn Well Better Off For It!

by Steve Miller

Okay, I know… I haven’t blogged in a while.  I have been busy with other things and I just haven’t felt the need to take up the bandwidth.  That’s all changed.  Recent events inspire me.  Now, while what’s written on this blog may bore most people to tears, it may be of interest to my children who used to ask, “Where did I come from?”

Many parents dread that question but for reasons other than mine.  In the past, I couldn’t answer the question because I truly didn’t know.  That’s changed.

Most people can’t imagine not knowing where they spent parts of their childhood or with whom.  Who’s mom?  Who’s dad?  I did more than imagine, I lived it.  I was adopted and really didn’t know my biological parents.

Now that I do know from whence I came, I want my children to know.  I want their kids to know.  More than simply know, I want them to understand that while there might be a definition of a normal family, very few families fit that criteria.  In our family, the one that I have just recently discovered, we were so far outside the criteria that we have established a new definition of normal.  That’s not such a bad thing.

Deviating from the social norms is what makes a family unconventional.  Not operating to the benefit of the family as a whole makes it dysfunctional.  While our family may have been dysfunctional in some areas, and certainly unconventional in most, there was also an abundance of love and caring.  The loving and caring part wasn’t always apparent.  Sometimes you had to look for it.  For those who judge, well, first of all, you shouldn’t.  If you choose to, you will find plenty of reason to place fault.   People do what they’ve got to do to survive.  They adapt using the resources available to them at the time.  That doesn’t make them bad people.

In our family, most of us have fought our battles, some of us have slain our demons, or at least we have them on a short leash, and we have emerged with a better understanding of where we came from and who we are.  We have lost those we love and loved those we found.  Our present generation has shed the “dysfunctional family” label.  After more than a half-century apart, we’ve finally found each other.

Now, here we are.  This is us.  But before we talk about us, I’m going to talk about me. 

The Cleaver Family

While Leave it to Beaver was playing on 1950s television, the epitome of a healthy wholesome American family, many families were living a much different life.  Invaded by alcoholism, marital infidelity, and financial deficiency, my biological family was one of those labeled as dysfunctional.

My parents adopted me at ten years old.  Before that, my life as a little kid was spent growing up in the Westlake/Echo Park area of Los Angeles.  Today, it’s an area where a bulletproof vest is a necessary fashion accessory.  It’s a place where you’ll find more residents affiliated with gangs than credit unions.  It’s home to the LAPD Rampart Division where police officers are likely to have more use of force encounters in a week than suburban officers would have in their entire career.  It’s an area full of 1920s apartment buildings, home to Korea Town, MacArthur Park, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Continue reading

It Isn’t the Wolves you have to Worry About

by Steve Miller

Back in the 18th century, flintlock firearms had a ‘cock’, or striker mechanism, which when discharged would make a spark to ‘fire’ the gun. These could also be set at half-cock, so that the gun was in a safe state, or at full-cock, when it is ready to be fired. A gun would only ‘go off at half-cock’ by mistake.

half cockWe now commonly use ‘going off half-cocked’ to mean ‘speak or act impulsively and without proper preparation’.   There are a small group of individuals with a large amount of time on their hands who have gone off half-cocked, armed with misinformation, and are trying to stop any progress from being made on Palo Verde Regional Park.

In today’s world, it doesn’t take much effort to spread misinformation.  All you need is a little paint and a few sheets of plywood and the propensity to cry wolf when none are present.  It’s true that sometimes fiction is much easier to believe than fact.

The truth is that there is no government conspiracy to take our land.  Rather, government, through the Pinal County Open Spaces and Trails Master Plan, is trying to plan recreational areas for our future.  Arizona comprises almost 73 million acres of land, much of it managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  Pinal County lays claim to 3.4 million acres of this land and is the third most populous county in the state.  It would stand to reason that county government would plan for public recreation on some of this land.  No conspiracy there.

The conspiracy theorists would have you believe that the county intends to put a fence around the area and charge admission to anyone who wants to enter.  While there will be day use fees for certain activities, like camping or use of the rifle range, there will also be areas where people can enter and use the trails free of charge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t see a fence or toll booth in this picture.  Do you?

There has been more transparency in the master plan than anything I’ve seen a government agency do in recent history.  Despite the fact that there have been meetings, notices, publications, and an extensive web site with maps, pictures, and videos, the is still the insinuation by a misguided few that there’s some secret plan.   Now the untruth being spread is that the park master plan is a precursor to annexation of the Hidden Valley and Thunderbird Farms areas.

The problem with that theory is that annexation of the rural area surrounding Maricopa would have to be initiated by the residents, not the city as it was attempted in the failed and mistaken 2008 attempt.  Second, annexation would be into a city whereas the park is being planned by the county.  It’s really easy to write an interesting story when you’re unencumbered by the facts.

The fear of annexation would only be a factor for those in the unincorporated areas.  What about the tens of thousands of residents living in Maricopa, Stanfield, or Goodyear?  Do they have a say in the matter?

Another untruth is that taxes would be raised if the park were to be established.  The tax money concerned here has already been collected, or will be collected, and generally involves impact fees for new development.   Parks will be built regardless – the only question is where.  There are multiple sites throughout Pinal County that have been identified by the Trails and Open Space Committee.  If a park isn’t developed here, it will be developed elsewhere and somebody else will get the economic, ecological, and recreational benefit.

I’m still curious about why someone would go to the time and expense to try to side rail the plans for a managed open space.  The first question in mind is: What’s in it for them?  Could it be just the unwillingness to pay a nominal day use fee for the services that require such a fee?  Perhaps being able to have target practice anywhere and know that there’s very little regulation or oversight to prevent destruction and an abundance of trash as a result.    Maybe cutting their own trails through environmentally sensitive desert land unencumbered by park patrols is the reason.  Whatever it is, you can be sure that those reasons are to benefit the few, not the many.

Feedback FormThere are four options under consideration.  Option “A” leaves things pretty much the way they are.  The other three options add increasingly more development and recreational opportunity.  If you haven’t done so yet, visit this site and make your voice heard. Be heard.  Oh, and we don’t have wolves in this area.  It’s the coyotes you need to be worried about.  They make a lot of noise but there is very little worthwhile information.

Here are some links to the truth about Palo Verde Regional Park.

http://pinalcountyaz.gov/OpenSpaceTrails/Documents/PaloVerdeMasterPlan-FAQ.pdf

MCSO: Bail Out the American Flag

by Steve Miller

The American flag is a centuries-old, globally recognized symbol of freedom and justice for everyone.  It stands for freedom, not incarceration.  It has no place on county jail inmate uniforms.  That is exactly where our flag would end up if Sheriff Joe Arpaio were to succeed in his latest quest for media attention.  Yes, Joe wants to sew the American flag on inmate uniforms to “teach them to respect it.”

The American flag is something worn by heros and those in service to their country, not inmates.  Many of those held are immigrants, legal or otherwise, from other countries.  They’re not American citizens and to make them wear our flag is a misuse of the flag.  Unless they’ve been convicted and sentenced, they’re being held for trial to determine if they’re guilty.  As such, making them wear the flag of a country to which they bear no allegiance is not only wrong, it’s a denial of their due process.

I wonder how long it would take the State Department to protest if US Citizens being held a foreign jail were forced to wear that countries flag while in custody?

In the past, Arpiao had the American flag painted inside the cells in his jails.  He then dared any inmate to deface it, threatening them with charges of an crime if they did.

As a veteran, I am offended by this flagrant disrespect for our symbol of freedom.  Arpaio may think the flag is just another tool for him to get media attention, but men have died defending that flag and what it stands for.  Every veterans group in Arizona should call on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to do whatever is necessary to keep this disrespect of our flag from happening. Continue reading

Palo Verde Regional Park: Say Yes!

by Steve Miller

I have been a resident and property owner in Hidden Valley since 2004.  I am an avid off road enthusiast and I have spent a considerable amount of time on state land and BLM land throughout Arizona.

I support development of Palo Verde Regional Park and I believe it’s completely selfish to deny everyone the use of a regional park just because of the opposition of a few nearby residents.   Everyone has an equal entitlement to the use of that area and when the county makes improvements and enhancements to that area it benefits us all – especially those who live nearby.

Neighboring parks enhance property values.  Absence of a regional park in this area does not protect the open space or our freedom to use it.  Most of this is BLM land and the Bureau of Land Management can close or restrict access to this area any time they see fit.  A good example of this is the Butterfield Pass/Mormon Trail area north of Highway 238 between Mobile and Gila Bend.  This area was closed in 2008 because BLM felt that off road vehicles and ATVs were damaging the area.

Continue reading

Arizona, Get Ready for the Secret Police

by Steve Miller

Arizona State Senators John Kavanagh and Steve Smith would like very much to see the police in our state operate in complete secrecy.  No accountability.  No publicity.  After all, police work is much more efficient and effective when it is not encumbered by the United States Constitution.

A proposal by Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would make it against the law to shoot video within 20 feet of any “law enforcement activity” unless the officer first gave permission. A first offense would carry a $300 fine, with subsequent violations potentially sending someone to jail for up to six months.
police brutality 1

John Kavanagh, a Republican who is also a retired cop, said such a law is necessary for officer safety.  What are we supposed to do, get out a tape measure before turning on the camcorder?

He said he does not see a problem that such a law would make it illegal for citizens to record their own interactions with police, stressing that citizens do not have that right, despite the numerous court rulings that disagree.  Sounds to me like it’s to hell with protecting citizens, we need to be protecting cops. Continue reading

Should Individuals on the No Fly List be Able to Buy Guns?

by Steve Miller

Should those individuals suspected of being terrorists who are placed on the No Fly List be able to buy guns? Of course, they shouldn’t but only because most of them shouldn’t be in the US to start with. However, for those who are American citizens, being on the list shouldn’t automatically restrict gun ownership because there isn’t any due process of law.

Hillary and a number of other Progressive Democrats, including our President, are calling for expansion of gun purchase prohibition to include those on the No Fly List. They make it sound like a compelling argument, however, it’s just another attempt to restrict gun ownership.

Obama-No-Fly-ListOh sure, it sounds plausible on the surface. Why should terrorists be able to buy guns in the United States? If these individuals really are terrorists, then they shouldn’t be walking the streets. If they’ve done something criminal, than they should be arrested, charged, and locked up. If they are not citizens, then they should be deported. Those actions would make us safer. However, taking away their right to buy a gun doesn’t make anyone any safer. Continue reading

Should Syrian Refugees be Allowed to Come into the United States?

by Steve Miller

Engraved on a bronze plaque inside the Statue of Liberty are the words,

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

History-of-statue-of-liberty-1Much more than poetic words, the promise of refuge is what made America so different than any other society in world history. Along with the Bill of Rights, the freedoms of thought, speech, and the promise of personal liberty made our country the most successful endeavors since the beginning of time. Given the opportunity for a new beginning, many started with nothing.  Through hard work and ingenuity, they prospered. Collectively, they created the richest country ever.

Back to the poetic sonnet known as The New Collosus. Less known is the sentence right before the more widely recognized words, which reads:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips.”

Almost clairvoyant are these words, written in 1883 during a period of mass immigration to the United States from countries in Europe. It wouldn’t be until over a century later that “ancient lands” could refer to the biblical countries of Syria and Iraq.

On November 13, 2015, a vicious, brutal attack was carried out in Paris by Islamic extremists. Muslims who had immigrated to France carried out random acts of murder, one after the other, shooting into crowds of defenseless civilians. Then, in a final act of cowardly desperation, most of them blew themselves up avoiding the pain and punishment they were certainly entitled to. Continue reading

Former Deputy Ben Fields: Not a Role Model

by Steve Miller

Unless you’ve been vacationing on one of the outer planets of our solar system, you’ve seen the video of the South Carolina school resource officer brutally handling a 16-year-old girl. In case you haven’t, here’s a link.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/sc-officer-fired-classroom-confrontation-video/story?id=34792908

You will find no disagreement from parents or teachers that teenagers can be insolent, rude, bratty, rebellious, and defiant. Some of them know just what buttons to push to bring out the worst in anyone in authority. I get that. However, in this situation someone needs to be the adult – and it certainly wasn’t Deputy Ben Fields of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Not by a mile.

images There were a series of mistakes made in this situation starting with the placement of school resource officers at schools in the first place. This program started in inner-city high schools where gang violence was a chronic problem. Perhaps their presence was warranted in that situation but now we see cops in suburban elementary schools. Perhaps the PR is good for police departments, but those officers could be much better utilized out on the streets. Continue reading

Return Fairness to American Justice

by Steve Miller

This is the land of the free. However, as I write this, a large percentage of the population in America is behind bars. Over six million people are locked up – more than there were in Joseph Stalan’s Gulag. We lead the world in the number of citizens incarcerated. The United States has become a police state.

“Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today,” writes the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik.

states-private-prisonsThis is a relatively new phenomenon fueled by two legislative mistakes: The war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing. How many times have we heard a judge say, “I know this sentence is unfair but my hands are tied in this matter. I have no choice.” Unfair sentences should NEVER be a part of the American justice system. Continue reading