The Power Of Change

David had blood on his hands and he knew it.

He had gotten his friend, Betty Van Patter, a job as a bookkeeper with the Black Panthers. Betty needed work. Although David had heard rumors that the Panthers were rough and violent, that did not dissuade him. He thought the rumors were just meant to discredit the organization; but he was wrong. The Black Panthers murdered Betty Van Patter over discoveries she made regarding the pilfering of funds by certain members of the Black Panther organization.

That murder took place in 1974. It turned David’s world upside down, causing him to rethink everything he had learned and in which he thought he believed. In the end, he discovered that had been driven by a flawed ideology and that ideology that got his friend killed. As a result, David went through a massive personal crisis and completely changed his life.

David Horowitz tells the complete story of his journey in the book “Radical Son.”

Horowitz re-examined all areas of his life. Raised and ideologically infused by his parents, two card carrying Communists, he had to undo his belief system and his sense of self that was tied to that ideology.  He forged a new identity in the Conservative Movement and became known as someone who had “been there” and truly saw the dark side of the Left’s ideology.  The changes he made cost him everything…his job, friends, reputation and all of his contacts. Even after he forged his new identity, his old enemies from the Conservative side looked at him with disdain. They did not believe that such a person could ever change their stripes.

Change is hard.

Not everyone goes through such cataclysmic change in their lives as did David Horowitz. However, each of us in our lives is confronted by change and, if up to the task, embraces it. In my own life, I have had to reinvent myself time and time again. When I was in college I ran a t-shirt company and produced a calendar for my university to help finance my studies.  After college, I spent  four years on active duty as a Marine Officer. I changed tracks again leaving the service and started trading commodities. That led me to brokering bonds followed by trading bonds. Now, full circle, I am again an entrepreneur

Each change required massive effort to learn new skills. Many times I was on my own in a new city or country with no contacts or resources. I had to figure it out all on my own.  In each of those endeavors I was, at first, a failure.

Along the way I learned Aikdio. It taught me the most valuable lesson of all. To get good at anything you first have to be really bad at it.  The only way to get good at Aikido, or anything new for that matter,  is to be able to endure how bad you are going to be in the beginning. I take that lesson everywhere in my life because I know it is part of a process. Most people are not open to being so vulnerable because there is no denying it can be embarrassing.

Even with my children, I notice at an early age that they are scared to try new things because they don’t want to be embarrassed. My youngest daughter plays on a club team and is considered to be quite talented for her age. The coach always likes to play her in only one position as it gives the team the best chance to win. I always battle with him and ask him to play her in a variety of positions because she still needs to learn much more about the game. The coach is always reluctant to play her in other spots because as he puts it “She just is not as good in other positions.” I agree with him. She isn’t as good in other positions. There’s the conundrum: in order to be good at another position you have to first let her be bad for a while. Many coaches nowadays specialize too much and focus too much on winning such that they lose sight of the bigger picture that all things in life take time to flourish.

If we only gravitate to what we are good at then we will never really know what we are capable of. In my own life, in my own small way, I challenge myself with the material I read. I usually have one book that I am reading that is easy and one that is hard so that the material requires real effort on my part. One of the books I finished in the last few years was called The Prize, which is a masterpiece that chronicles the history of oil. It was grueling to read! I was lucky to read ten pages a day. Yet, the book left me with a much deeper appreciation for the history of economics that I never would have had if I had not challenged myself. The result was that this incremental improvement in my understanding of the oil markets has opened up a new business opportunity for me.

So even within the confines of what we do know, there are deeper levels of understanding that one gets only by change and challenge. Frank Shamrock, the legendary fighter, say that his recipe for success is to train with someone better than you so that they can teach you, someone who is at your same skill level so that they can challenge you, and someone beneath you so that you can teach them. This recipe will always be challenging your abilities and changing the way that you fight.

William Pollard, Quaker writer and minister, said “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” Most of the change that I’ve encountered in my life was thrust upon me. However, as I get older, I actively seek out and explore new experiences that will challenge and cause me to grow.  The only real certainty in life is change so its best to embrace it rather than resist it.



Free Speech: The Assault Begins

On 9/11, I was working for Merrill Lynch in the financial district of Manhattan when the buildings came down.

speechAt the time I was not quite sure what was happening. I believe the normal reaction would have been to run and get out of there as quickly as possible, but I was mesmerized. Even though I was at the center of Ground Zero of a terrorist attack I did not move. In fact, after the first plane hit, I watched the T.V. monitor for the latest developments.

I didn’t move because I didn’t know what was happening, nor could I comprehend that someone would actually fly a plane into a building. After a ten minute lull, the light bulb went off in my head and I made for the exits. I will always remember those first ten minutes because of the way I responded…as did everyone else around me. None of us moved.

In hindsight, I should have known what was happening. Previously, I had actually read a book about the likelihood of such an attack. I am a big Nelson Demille fan and around 1999-2001 I devoured everything he wrote including his book “The Lions Game.”  The plot centered around a terrorist who uses a plane to kill people. The book goes into great lengths to lay out the possibility of the Twin Towers being destroyed by planes. As a former Marine Officer, I had spent a considerable amount of time in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm and had taken numerous courses on terrorism and anti-terrorism. Still, at the epicenter of an attack, I was momentarily lost along with everyone else.

This inability to react, known as the normalcy bias is a common human reaction.  Some events are so evil in nature they become almost incomprehensible to the human mind as they are occurring.

Now, fourteen years after 9/11, another type of evil has surfaced and the normalcy bias is fully in play.  The assault on Free Speech has begun and woefully few of us are reacting as we should.

Take the latest case of Donald Trump criticizing the U.S government’s policy on immigration. Trump has asserted that Mexico is sending  the U.S many of its worst citizens. He was not saying all Mexicans were bad; just that a portion of the illegals that come here tend to commit a variety of violent crimes against U.S citizens. Trump thinks the conditions allowing this assault to continue need to be immediately and fully addressed… as should every law abiding citizen.That he may speak inartfully does not change the truthfulness of the message.

For speaking truth, Trump’s projects and contracts have been 1) cancelled by by N.B.C; 2) nullified by Macy’s ; 3) terminated by Univison;  boycotted by the PGA, and deemed by the Mayor of New York City to be in threat of terminating Trump’s business contracts with the city (by the way, an action a government entity is prohibited from taking…unless of course its headed by a Socialist).

The fact that Donald Trump is a billionaire and can handle these financial losses is irrelevant. This is a direct attack on a citizen’s Right to Free Speech as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Constitutional protection means nothing to a politically correct and politically motivated press and corporate entities, both of which drink at the trough of crony capitalism.

The assault on Trump is also a direct warning shot across the bow of any potential Presidential candidate who has politically “incorrect” ideas on immigration: Speak out and you will feel the wrath of retribution.

Beware if you take glee in the push-back Trump is experiencing. Your revelry will be temporary. As the issues and topics change, and this faux outrage is deliberately inflamed, more and more average Americans will find themselves the object of such brutal attacks, having their business shut down for not complying with the dictates of the politically correct.

Even before Trump, such attacks on bakers and florist unwilling to tend to gay clientele have forced many of them to close shop while sending chills down the spines of people who believe in free speech.

If you doubt it’s coming to a “theater near you,” look to history. History is filled with reactionaries and revolutionaries who attacked their opponents for not cowing to the political winds of the moment. Look at Robespierre, leader of the French Revolution, who was ultimately executed by the same beast he had created.

Free Speech is under assault and the counter cultural is jumping for joy as their enemies are taken down. But an assault on Free Speech, once commenced and unopposed, develops an insatiable hunger until there is nothing left to consume but the last vestiges of a once free society.

Most Americans, having grown up in a society that abhorred censorship, are experiencing the normalcy bias. They can’t perceive the attack because they still  believe the First Amendment will save us.  But lurking in the wings is the second wave of assault: The shutting down of religious institutions that still define marriage in the traditionalist sense. Once their voices are silenced…well, once again history is instructive. Hitler had all the images of Jesus removed from the Churches and replaced with those of “Der Fuhrer.”

We are not having a national experience of first impression. Our own history is replete with courageous citizens who have tried to awaken us  out of our collective slumber.

In the 1950’s Whitaker Chambers, Time Magazine editor, testified against Alger Hiss claiming he, along with many other government officials, were Communist sympathizers and spies for Russia; claims that were later to be found true. Chambers  said one of the hardest things he had to do was convince his colleagues of the threat, even though he possessed physical proof of their traitorous ways. His colleagues, as well as the general population, could not comprehend that their fellow Americans actually hated their own country, opposed everything it stood for and conspired with the enemy towards its destruction. Again, the normalcy bias in play.

The once former Leftist radical, David Horowitz, went through a similar awakening as a Leftist radical working with the Black Panthers in the 1960’s. An avowed Leftist, his main goal was to bring down the traditional institutions of the U.S.  During the time Horowitz worked with the Black Panther Party, its members killed a young female colleague of his that he had recommend work for them. The murder of his friend devastated him so completely that he was forced to reevaluate everything he believed and stood for up to that time.

The ruthlessness of the Left to reach their objectives changed Horowitz so deeply that he abandoned the movement. Today, Horowitz is a fearlessly outspoken opponent of Leftism and lectures around the country on its true aims and goals. He admits that he never saw the possibility of his friend being killed and so missed all of the warning signs that led to her death. Upon reflection, he realizes that he had misread the viciousness of the Black Panther Party and the extent they would go to achieve their aims. Again, the normalcy bias in play.

Donald Trump is the voice trying to awaken we the people from the latest normalcy bias delusion. Fact: We are losing our Right to Free Speech. Fact: We are being taken down by a failed and dangerous immigration policy. The attacks against Trump are coming in many forms and from many directions. Truth is shaking the corrupt and the evil-doers in both parties. Unopposed by the masses, those same forces will feed off the power of our inaction and grow stronger.

When they eventually come for the shopkeeper, the school teacher and the plumber…and make no mistake they will come…there will be no Donald Trump to withstand the onslaught. There will only be those of us who remained silent when it mattered.

And it will be too late to speak.