Archive for February, 2014

Republicans can learn from the pope

The Republican Party needs a Pope Francis.

You know, an old white guy who is tolerant. Kind, not grumpy. Open to more than only people who have millions of dollars or an extra-large chip on their shoulder.

Notice that Pope Francis hasn’t changed any fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church. He’s just made it more likable, more relevant, more involved with the world by urging Catholics to remember the core values of compassion, mercy and tenderness and to be less shrill when opposing homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

It’s about time.

Both the Republican Party and the Catholic Church took a harsh right turn about 40 years ago, ignoring the work that had made them great and demanding that everyone be just like them.

As a former altar boy who has been a lapsed Catholic since my first year of college, I’m not about to rejoin a church that treats women as second-class citizens and clings to the rule that priests must be celibate and male. And I hope Francis works harder to open the church’s eyes to the harm done by so many years of looking the other way while priests abused children.

But I am more likely to listen now when he speaks.

The pope walks the walk. His style is down to earth, and he is taking a page out of the Bible by ousting the Vatican’s inbred bureaucracy. Talk about kicking the money-changers out of the temple! If only politicians would do that with big-bucks lobbyists.

The Republicans seem bereft of likable, innovative leaders. (The Democrats are very weak, too. Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton and Maxine Waters all need to make way for new blood and new approaches.)

The Republicans have high-profile newcomers in the Senate, but they’re not leaders. They’re guys like Marco Rubio, who seems lost outside of Tallahassee. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are self-aggrandizing vote-mongers who never learned the lessons of Newt Gingrich and other kamikaze politicos. And while bully-boy Chris Christie may be secure as governor of New Jersey, he polls very poorly among women.

For decades the Republicans have been wrong on the big issues, opposing women, minorities, education, the environment and just about any positive change for America. They’ve excommunicated themselves from most independent voters.

Maybe the Republicans should lock themselves up somewhere and not emerge until they find someone who can lead them back to mainstream America.

Let us pray.

Mark O’Brien is a writer who lives in Pensacola.

(This column appeared on on Feb. 18-19.)


Can’t pull the plug on this relationship

Our television set is old enough to vote.

It passed the 18-year mark a few months ago, this old, outdated but still-functioning TV bought in 1995. Even then it was far from the cream of the crop of TVs—just a 24-inch General Electric in Model T basic black— yet it has persevered through season after season of ESPN, HGTV, “American Idol” and far too many episodes of reality shows to admit.

It’s stock except for a DVR added last year to skip through some of the many mind-numbing commercials that blight television.

I know I should be happy with this faithful servant that brightens whenever I touch its buttons, and usually I am.

But I’m a man, and even the happiest of men sometimes is tempted to look elsewhere for some fun. I admit, I have occasionally strayed into Best Buy and H.H. Gregg and lusted after a fancier, prettier set than what I have at home. Today’s televisions have such big, clear, inviting pictures that a man could imagine stepping inside the screen and spitting with the boys from “Duck Dynasty,” cutting deals on “Shark Tank” or pacing the sidelines with the coaches at the Super Bowl.

Oh, those fancy new TVs reach out to a man like high-tech temptresses, flaunting their 55-inch, 64-inch, even 75-inch screens.

“Hey, big boy,” they seem to say, boasting of their LED 1080p–240HZ. Oh, and listen to the sound bar with wireless woofer; it’s calling my name. All this electronic sweet talk could make a modern fella woozy.

As if that’s not enough, the salesman starts touting the Jelly Bean operating system, the dual core processor and the 3.0MP rear-facing camera.


Sure, any man’s heart would race at such sights and sounds, but I’m an old-fashioned guy. I made a commitment to my television, until death do us part. I’m not trading in Old Faithful for some super-fancy television, even if most of my buddies are on their second or third trophy TV by now and maybe have even experimented with a home theater system.

So I’m sticking with this TV that has been tried and true, following me from “The Colbert Report” to “Big Bang Theory” to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and never once questioning my taste.

It’s not that I’m too cheap to buy a fancy new set, although I am.

As any married man knows, a couple can’t simply buy a television set. Think of the domino effect of any major home purchase.

The new TV would be too big and too modern for the current entertainment center, and then the new set-up would require new paint on the living-room walls and maybe carpeting, too. But the new colors wouldn’t blend well with the backsplash in the kitchen—installed just last year!— and the kitchen would have to be redone again. And if we’re going to all this trouble, let’s do the bedrooms over. By then we’ll be so broke the new TV will be repossessed.

So I’m staying with my little ol’ TV forever, or at least until it’s old enough to be of drinking age.

This is from the February 2014 issue of Splash!