Maybe It’s Time To Finally Put Away All Those Election Campaign Signs And Flags…

I was old enough to record into memory the Presidential election of Ronald Reagan in 1981. I was nine at the time. Since then, I witnessed his reelection, and subsequently the elections of George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr., Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and most recently Joe Biden. If there is one thing I never saw after any of the prior presidential elections before this one is the presence of so many election campaign signs and flags still being up months after it was over, in support of the candidate who lost, something I find very upsetting.

As most know, I’m not a political guy at all and I came close to not even voting in this past election, because frankly I was so sick and tired of all the drama going on with friends fighting each other over who should be in office. But sadly, people are still fighting long after this election has ended, continuing to believe in conspiracies, and leaving those election campaign signs and flags up in their yards and at their businesses just to make a point. Not too far from my home in fact, on a construction site is a very immense flag flying, and I do mean it’s quite large, that says Trump will “Make America Great Again” and it irritates me, solely because it feels like it’s just one more way of creating separation in this country, something we don’t need more of right now.

People may believe through me saying these words that I am anti Trump. I’m not. What I am anti though, is not supporting who our current president is. Because if there is one thing that I do my best in, is accepting who our current leader is. I prayed for Donald Trump during much of his tenure as President and did my best to see the good in him. I did the same for each of the prior ones as well. I never took sides and I continue to do my best to see the good in everyone, including Trump and all the former presidents I remember being in office.

I know some may be wondering if I was bothered by all those during Trump’s tenure who wore shirts or made statements on Facebook that said “Not My President”. The answer is yes. Just as much as I’m bothered now by those doing it with Biden. Because making statements like this just puts us in opposition with each other, taking sides, and causing separation rather than connection, something that our country is so filled with right now.

Regardless of whether there is any truth or not to any of those election fraud claims or other conspiracy theories, does holding on to anger, bitterness, or the like by proudly keeping those election campaign signs and flags on display long after the election is over do any good for our country? Does it really make any bit of difference for the better for us? Does it bring any of us closer together? Does it help to create greater unconditional love between us at all?

Look, whomever is President is a tough job and I feel it’s my job to support them, even if I didn’t vote for them, by praying for them daily and offering my unconditional love, even when they don’t do what I think they should be doing. Because I know I most assuredly would screw that job up if I had it, as I’m sure we all would in that position.

Regardless, can we all please, just move on and accept that Biden is leading our country right now, even if it’s not someone you voted for? Maybe the first step in uniting as a country isn’t through some big policy change or law put into effect. Maybe it’s as simple as everyone putting those election campaign signs and flags away and moving on with acceptance of our nation’s leader and learning to love each other again no matter who we voted for.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Will COVID Vaccination Cards Become The New Requirement Norm? If So, I May Become A Leper Of Sorts…

Recently, I went to a coffee shop I normally go to at least once a week and decided to change things up by trying a new type of latte and a different topping for my croissant. What harm could that cause, I thought? Within minutes of beginning to consume both, I was breaking out in hives and feeling itchy, especially on my face. As soon as I discarded both and switched to my normal order there, the problem went away.

The fact is my body is extremely sensitive to everything I put into it these days it seems. Food, drinks, medicine, etc., I have had a number of reactions to plenty of things I’ve ingested or even put on my body topically over the years, things that probably aren’t ever a problem for the rest of the mass populace. Why I tell you this is that it’s the very same reason why I’ve had to make the difficult decision not to do any of the COVID vaccines at the present time, because I don’t want to risk having any more serious reactions with my health. And if you’re wondering what I reacted to in that coffee shop order, it was either the oat milk or almond butter, two things I’ve ingested before, that suddenly created a problem for me!

Nevertheless, while I fully support all COVID vaccinations in the hopes they will help remove this pandemic, I’m frustrated because companies are now moving in the direction of requiring vaccination cards if you want to do business with them. I’m having to face this very thing now with the cruise line my partner and I plan on sailing for our 10-year anniversary in 2022 that we already have a down payment towards. Cruise lines are just the beginning of a growing number of businesses that are talking about requiring vaccinations cards when doing business with them. While I don’t have a problem getting a COVID test, or taking all the necessary precautions of mask-wearing, remaining socially distant, and using hand sanitizers, requiring a person to have to carry a vaccination card feels as if rights are being taken away. Because I really don’t have the luxury of taking a COVID vaccination shot and assuming I won’t react to it.

For most people though, getting the COVID vaccine isn’t going to affect them whatsoever. Some, like my partner, might get localized pain at the injection point or minor body aches, but the vast majority will probably have little to no reaction at all. I wish I could safely say the same would be true for me. But when something as simple as drinking Chamomile tea causes me to break out in painful hemorrhoids (yes that’s true!), or taking Gabapentin a number of years back when prescribed caused me to hallucinate, or taking Ciprofloxacin a number of years ago as well for a prostate condition caused me to have red welts all over my body and extended damage to my skin, or consuming many other things I’ve tried where each has caused me serious side effects, some taking months or longer to resolve, I’ve had to accept there’s a significant chance I’d react quite negatively to any COVID vaccine.

So, yes, I’m frustrated, because it really does feel like my rights are being taken away when vaccination cards start becoming a requirement to do things like take a cruise. I mean, what if restaurants, movie theaters, airlines, etc., start following suit? Could this become a world where you’re only “good to go” if you have a vaccination card? While I know vaccinations for this virus are important, especially in light of me having had the dam thing for the entire month of January, and still having residual smell and taste issues since, it should still be a choice with no positive or negative ramifications stemming from that choice.

Regardless, I want to make one thing very clear. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, as I fully support whomever chooses to do a vaccination, especially a COVID-one. My stance on not doing a COVID vaccination presently is more about my health and the very difficult life I’ve been living long before this pandemic ever hit our world. I’ve had so many health issues that adding one more to my plate could very well break me for good. So, when there’s potential for me having yet another crazy reaction to something I don’t ultimately need right now for survival, I’m choosing to not take it for now. So yes, I may have to accept the fact that if the new norm of our world is the requirement of vaccination cards to do things, I may actually become a leper of sorts in society. But, if there’s one comforting thought in me saying that, at least I know Jesus will unconditionally love even lepers like me too…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Sadly, I Know All Too Well About The Tragic Effects Of Fraternity And Sorority Hazing…

Fraternity and sorority hazing recently arose in nationwide news once again with another tragic passing of someone who was pledging a fraternity where alcohol was the cause. In this case, it was a young man named Stone Foltz, a 20-year-old attending Bowling Green State University and also pledging the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity there. Since 2000, there have been more than 50 hazing-related deaths like Foltz’s in the United States. While that number may seem insignificant, there are countless hazing-related incidents that never get reported, many of which end up causing PTSD to the one hazed. I should know, as I went through it myself during my freshman year at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

I’m thankful I can start this article out with at least one positive statement about hazing in that my fraternity at RIT, Phi Kappa Psi, has strong policies in place today to prevent hazing from ever happening. But back during my fraternity days, hazing happened all the time and it was just an acceptable thing. On some level, I think the movie “Animal House” made hazing seem cool. That’s probably why I saw so many incidents of it not only in my own chapter, but also in many others on campus as well.

Over the years whenever major hazing incidents would surface in the news, like in Foltz’s recent case, people tend to ask what the purpose of hazing actually is. Originally, hazing was seen as an effective way to teach respect and develop discipline and loyalty within the group, quite like what many branches of the military still employ to this day. But is it really effective? From my experience, it wasn’t and only created more pain in my life instead.

One of the biggest incidents of hazing I went through that to this day I still remember quite vividly was the night I and my five pledge brothers were blindfolded and guided onto a sand volleyball court that was near our chapter house at the time. There we were told to dig. Eventually we discovered five very warm cans of the cheapest beer you could buy locally, deep in the sand. The brand was one called Golden Anniversary. After the five were unearthed, we were instructed to each take one and down it as quickly as possible. It was nasty and felt as if it had baked in the sun all day. After plenty of dry heaves, I finished the task and thought, “Thank God that’s over!” But it wasn’t, because after silently being guided back into our chapter house, we saw on the bar there, five nicely organized rows of five cans of the same brand of warm beer. We were instructed to each choose one of the rows to stand in front of and once we did, informed we needed to finish all 25 cans of warm beer before they all finished their one can of cold Coors Light they held in their hands. Oh, and we were also told to make use of the garbage can in the center of the room if needed during the task, but not to stop until the warm beer was all gone, even if that meant throwing up repeatedly. With none of my pledge brothers being big guys with high alcohol tolerances, and with mine only being about three beers before I started to black out, I wasn’t all too keen on doing the task. But I wanted the acceptance of those brothers so bad! So, I didn’t question the task. Once they counted back from 3 to 1 and said “Go!”, I began to chug as fast as I could. I hurled along with my brothers and even took over some of the slack when some of my pledge brothers gave up. We finished the task and were all miserably drunk and sick to our stomachs because of it, but then we then got to celebrate with more drinking. I don’t remember the rest of that night, like I didn’t on most nights I drank back then. But unlike Stone Foltz, I’m alive today to live and tell a true story of the horrors of hazing. Sadly, that was just one of many others I could speak of, which regrettably, became a sad rite of passage that continued on for a while longer in my chapter until ramifications from it finally led us to thankfully put an end to it, once and for all.

Hazing never made me a better brother, a better person, or a better anything. If anything, what it did do was lower my self-esteem, increase my PTSD, and make me an angrier and more mentally imbalanced individual. While I don’t know anything about the life Stone Foltz once lived, I wonder if he was like me, a shy, nerdy kid that was always overlooked for much of his younger years, who just wanted for once in his life to find acceptance and love, and was willing to do whatever he had to, to get it, even at his own expense. Regardless, hazing is stupid and toxic to the health of everyone involved. Earning respect, learning discipline, and garnering loyalty have come in my life today through acts of service, unconditional love, and kindness. They come naturally from my heart and not from someone shouting in my face during line-ups done in 90-degree rooms where people called me a total piece of shit because I didn’t remember some trivial piece of information in my pledge book about one of the brothers. Yes, that did happen, and yes, a lot more even worse than that too.

The bottom line is that all forms of hazing need to stop, immediately! Because people like Stone Foltz deserved to live a far longer life, one where people got to love him for just being himself. Not because he was willing to drink to excess for acceptance, not because he was willing to do anything for acceptance, but just because he was good enough for just being himself. I am thankful my Phi Kappa Psi chapter at RIT today believes in this and I hope that I may somehow have helped in sharing my experiences with hazing.

So, if you happen to be someone who is currently being hazed or suffering from PTSD from it being done to you at some point in your life, know you’re not alone. Please, find someone safe to talk to about it because it will help, and if you can remember one thing from all this, you truly are fully worthy and deserving of being loved and accepted just as you are.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson