Open Letter to My Boys: Capitol Riot

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Protesters gather outside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation’s capital during a joint session Congress to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

January 13, 2021

On January 6th, Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol building. A week has passed. It feels like a month. That fleeting feeling of time isn’t new, especially in the Trump era. The past four years have been one controversy after another. Each new atrocity washing away its predecessor. Trump’s defining attribute is desensitizing and exhausting those who repudiate him. His relentless onslaught of tweets, egotism, slander, lies, and attacks on social/professional norms are draining. Above all else, they’re dangerous.

January 6th’s attempted coup was no unforeseen side-effect. It resulted from years of attacking truth. Incessant lying and spouting his own reality, Donald Trump created a world where opinions can now be facts. A world where if one shouts loud enough, and for long enough, their own perceived reality becomes their absolute truth. Donald Trump lost the election. There is no disputing the facts, the numbers. The state governments proved it. The courts proved it. But, what does a toddler do when they are told something other than what they want to hear? They tantrum. They blame others. The key difference is, they don’t command an army of conspiracy theorists. A toddler cannot attack the foundations of an entire country. A toddler cannot threaten democracy.

Words have power. There are no excuses to be made for what happened at the Capitol. Donald Trump whipped his base into a frenzy and sent them marching to the Capitol. Facts are facts. History cannot be allowed to wash over this betrayal of our country by our own President. Do we blame the flame or the man holding the gasoline and lighter? I suppose in this case, it’s both, isn’t it?

We are all taught there are consequences to our actions. As a parent, how can I look my boys in the eye and tell them that is true for all of us? Or, do I tell them the current truth — There are only consequences to your actions if you lack the requisite power to avoid them? You are only punished if you don’t have the right skin color, connections, money or power? Sure, some of the insurrectionists face steep prison sentences for their attempted coup. As they should. What about those who pushed them? Those who encouraged them and fed them misinformation for so many years: Particular media outlets willingly spreading lies about the truth of the election results. Members of Congress not only unwilling to stand against Trump’s rhetoric, but indulging him. Trump himself for calling his loyalists to the Capitol and then holding a rally ultimately leading to the coup itself. If we don’t hold those in power accountable, what does it say about our nation as a whole? The world is watching.

Every day I drop my boys off at preschool and daycare. Every day I make them repeat Dad’s Rules: Be Good. Listen to people. Have fun.

Shouldn’t it be that simple?

Be Good. Do the right thing. If something feels wrong, then it probably is. It’s a blanket statement, but I explain to each of them that being good means treating others with respect and living within the confines of the rules when possible. It means being an example to others. It means being a leader, even when things seem murky or the right choice isn’t clear. It’s not always black and white, but doing your best is sometimes enough.

Listen to others. Oof. If only, right? I tell my boys their own opinions and what they want isn’t always how others think or feel. It’s important to listen to different ideas and to read others’ emotions. Listening is different than hearing. It feels like no one listens anymore. ‘I’m right and you’re wrong,’ and ‘if I shout the loudest then I obviously have to be right,’ have become the new norm. This is all trickier than it used to be. How do we listen to those of us who are spreading dangerous misinformation and blatant lies? Lies that led to January 6th’s dangerous display of misplaced anger. Hopefully our next generation can figure out this delicate balance. I reside in the belief most of us are reasonable and in the middle ground, we just get drowned out by the loud and angry. We need to change that.

Have fun. Remember what fun feels like? 2020 made finding joy in things more difficult, but not impossible. I always end ‘dad’s rules’ by letting the boys know, above all else, have fun. Life is heavy, but the weight doesn’t have to rob us of all joy. Perhaps we all need to close our computers, power off our phones, and step outside our front door more. Find the thing that melts the world around us away again. We have more in common than separates us. Perhaps it’s time we ALL find that ground again.

I’m not perfect. I’ve made (tons) mistakes. I have so many things I regret. Things I’m embarrassed about. Some were funny, some make me cringe. I suppose it’s all part of what Griff calls being a humanoid. But, I try every day to be better than I was the day before. I don’t want my boys to inherit the attributes I don’t like about myself. I want them to be infinitely better than me. I want them to be leaders. I want them to guide us to a better future, together.

If January 6th teaches us all anything, it’s that we need to stand up together against misinformation and dangerous behavior. Those responsible need to be held accountable, regardless of power, status, or political affiliation. Common ground has to be found. Extremist ideology, as well as attacks on democracy and facts, cannot be that ground. Let this be our collective mistake as a country that moves us forward to being a better nation. We owe it to ourselves, our children, our country and we owe it to the world. Let this be the moment we remember how to be good, listen to people, and have fun again.

Hemophilia – Help heal more than the physical

What if I told you the hardest thing about living with a genetic bleeding disorder, like hemophilia, isn’t the joint damage, the surgeries or any of the other physical hurdles? What if I told you, what “hurts” the most is going through a lifetime worth of struggles, disappointments, obstacles, and being told no! The hardest thing is the tiresome battle of fighting a disease you cannot beat, but only try to manage.

Don’t get me wrong – the repetitive internal bleeding in my joints caused by hemophilia has left its mark. Today, I live with –

  • End-stage arthritis in my right knee resulting in knee replacement
  • End-stage arthritis in my left ankle resulting in fusion
  • End-stage arthritis in my right ankle (requires fusion)
  • Beginning stages of arthritis in toes, an elbow and potentially a shoulder

Physical manifestations of diseases are often easier to diagnose and treat. The important question, that should be asked, is how the damage is affecting the patient between the ears – how can we understand what it is doing to a patient’s mental, emotional health as they try to deal with an illness?

Over the years, I’ve had to give up many things in my life just because they’ve become too physically demanding. This is something that weighs heavy on my mind all the time. Combine these losses with overheard comments from people in public, as well as in the hospital setting, and it becomes difficult to handle. Remember, not all disabilities look like the designated handicap symbol.

Take the case of when I fell and hit my head against the wall. I felt something was wrong, and was concerned I had a head bleed – which is the worst-case scenario for a hemophiliac. I went to the emergency room, and because of my diagnosis, I was seen immediately. Then, I overheard staff talking, just behind the curtain. “I don’t know why he’s back here, he looks fine and there are people who have been here longer. That’s not fair; he shouldn’t have got through so fast.” The comments bothered me – a head bleed is life-threatening. Rather than getting angry, I used this opportunity to educate the staff about hemophilia and why my concern was urgent.

So, how can medical staff treat the whole patient? It’s simple – ask questions. Get to know your patient and what defines them as a person. If their diagnosis robs them of a key attribute, help them find an alternative. Don’t focus on what a patient can no longer do, but focus on how they can find their way back or find something new to conquer.

As a child, my life revolved around sports. At age 12, my parents were instructed to stop me from playing all active sports. The risks were deemed too high, despite being treated prophylactically with factor VIII to prevent further bleeding episodes. Children are not as equipped to handle heavy decisions, especially the ones thrust upon them. I was no different, and my world was crushed. Looking back, I have little or no doubt that I struggled with depression in the time following my removal from sports.

It has been 21 years since, and although I’ve grown to understand why the decision was made, it will forever be a regret of mine – that I didn’t get to play the sports I loved with my best friends.

I’ve also learned that diseases don’t define people – rather, it is what one does in spite of their diagnosis. It took me a long time, but I found ways to adapt. Now, I exercise to stay fit, play golf, and recently started playing sled hockey with the Rochester Mustangs. I also share my health journey with medical students, hemophilia patients and their families, with the hope that my experience can help those in the hemophilia community find better ways to cope and stay healthy.

For medical staff, my goal is to help providers look beyond test results and diagnoses. Learn who your patient is, what drives them, and help them maintain their whole being. Listen, offer alternatives, and know that asking your patient to give up something they love, even if it’s in their own best interest, may only take a minute for you, but will last a lifetime for them.

Minnesota’s Mediocrity

 

Minnesota – a great place to live. Anyone who calls it home knows it. If you don’t agree, well, I won’t discuss the weather with you or treat you to an awkward MN goodbye that takes 45 minutes. But, let’s just get this out there, our professional sports teams mostly suck. Call a spade a spade, our teams are collectively inept and are the worst in the country for any state that has all four major sports.

(Inserting an emphatic shoutout to women’s sports teams in this state – whether it is Gopher hockey, the Lynx, Regan Smith, or the Whitecaps, our female athletes kick ass)

People accuse me of being super negative (true fact) because I’m frustrated and fed up with rooting for teams that never go anywhere. My counter is always the same, we are so used to our teams being bad or choking that when one finally makes the playoffs, we are happy just to be there. Our favorite teams are so bad, fans are satisfied being part of the conversation with no expectations of actually winning. The Pohlads have swindled millions from Twins fans because they know Minnesotans will show up to a nice park regardless of the product, satisfied with just being relevant every ten years or so.

Negative? Absolutely. Tell me why we shouldn’t be as fans? Let’s take a look at our favorite teams:

  1. The Minnesota Timberwolves (1989-2019)
    1. Career record: 961-1451, .398 W-L%
    2. 9 playoff appearances (Thank you Kevin Garnett)
    3. Drafted Rubio & Flynn over Curry
    4. Gave Wiggins a max deal
    5. No further explanation needed
  2. The Minnesota Twins (1901-2019) (between two states)
    1. Career record: 8903-9603, .481 W-L%
    2. 19 playoff appearances. 2 World Series championships (YAY!)
    3. Since 2000, 6 playoff game wins. Last 4 appearances: 0-10
    4. 10-year division drought snapped in 2019
    5. PLEASE DON’T GET SWEPT BY THE GD YANKEES THIS YEAR
  3. The Minnesota Wild (2000-2019)
    1. Career record: (W-L-T-OTL) 689-556-55-142 (1575 points – not awful)
    2. Playoff appearances: 9, including 6 straight from 2012-2018 (also good)
    3. Bounced in the 1st round in last 3 appearances (son of a !)
    4. Overall, not a horrible 20 years but not much to show for it
  4. The Minnesota Vikings (1961-2019)
    1. Career record: 480-399-11 .539 W-L% (good enough for 6th best in NFL)
    2. Playoff record: 20-29
    3. Superbowl appearances: 0-4 (F!)
    4. Best known for choking in the biggest moments and breaking fans’ hearts
    5. Vikings gonna Vike
    6. Gary Anderson.

After the recent loss to the Bears, I took my frustrations to Twitter and was savaged by fellow fans.

 

Tell me, what about the above is there to be positive about? We have the longest championship drought of any state that has the above four professional sports. As fans, let’s demand more from our teams other than just making the dance. Let’s quit convincing ourselves the Vikings are anything other than a .500 team with Zimmer & Cousins at the helm. I am a huge Zimmer fan, but it just isn’t working. I’m not advocating for anyone to lose their job, because I really don’t know what will help at this point.

I am confident, however, that as long as the Vikings are unable to draft their own franchise QB, they will be nothing more than a .500 team that occasionally jumps up and makes a run, ultimately ending in another wide left heartbreaker. Vikings gonna Vike.