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Anonymous Mailbag

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It’s Tuesday and I’m here to solve all of your life’s problems.

As always, you can send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed. Request right up top here, how about some fun questions? We have been overloaded of late with super serious questions. That’s great, I’m happy to pick the best questions to solve, but, man, there have been a tough of serious ones recently. Let’s have some fun and frivolity back as we get ready for football season to return.

Okay, here we go:

“I’m an officer deployed to the Middle East right now. I was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened. I watched the towers come down from the big screen tv in our library.

We were at war in Afghanistan for my entire military career, and we’ve spent more of my life at war there than not.

I was fortunate to never deploy there, and my friends and family who did have all come home alive and physically intact, thank God.

But we sat in our dining facility (DFAC) on Sunday and we watched in real time as the Taliban overran Kabul, something we were told couldn’t even begin to happen for at least 90 days. We’d been betting it could happen sometime around Christmas, depending on how the Taliban treated the ‘fighting season’; now there isn’t even a country to ‘hand off’ next month on 9/11. It’s basically ‘Last man out of Afghanistan, please turn off the lights’.

More than half of the people I’m with deployed and/or fought in Afghanistan, many of them more than once. Almost all of us know someone that didn’t come back. To say it’s been a rough 72 hours is an understatement. It’s like someone ran over your dog and your grandma died all on the same day. Lots of people just have a vacant look in their eyes. We’re all professionals and will keep doing our job of course, but lots of people are taking long looks in the mirror and asking hard questions (especially the younger soldiers, some of whom have literally never been alive at a time when we weren’t at war in Afghanistan).

If you were standing in front of a group of Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen (and women), some of whom fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of whom are fresh out of Basic Training at their first duty station; some in their 50s, some not even 20 yet, what would you say about what the world watched this weekend? What would you say about the last 20 years that we’ve been fighting for gains that were basically erased in less time than it takes for us to get a package from home in the mail?

Please don’t use my name, rank, position, or organization for obvious reasons.”

First, thanks for your service over the past twenty years, and second I would say you’re in an incredibly difficult position here, not just given the situation in Afghanistan itself, but given the wide variety of perspectives from the men and women serving under your command. Some of these soldiers see you as a dad, others see you as a brother, some might even see you as their son. No one statement is going to perfectly address all of them or all of their concerns.

Based on your experience, you know far more about how to talk to your soldiers than I ever will. But with that in mind, I would begin my comments by saying soldiers win wars, suits lose wars. I would make it clear that all the soldiers who served in Afghanistan, both living and dead, did their jobs and served their country with distinction. Your soldiers need to know they did nothing wrong. In fact, they succeeded. This was a United States political decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, not a failed mission by any soldiers. This was political, nothing more, nothing less.

Given how long we’ve been in Afghanistan, many of your soldiers likely aren’t familiar with the reasons we went there in the first place. So I’d give a brief tutorial on our mission there. Our initial mission, hard as it is to remember, was to crush Al Qaida after 9/11 and to ensure terrorists were never able to use Afghanistan as a staging ground to attack America again. I think it’s worth rehashing that history lesson for all the troops. For twenty years, we did that and roughly a decade ago we also tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden, which, in retrospect, should have probably been the time for us to declare victory and exit the country.

It’s likely a similar end result would have occurred, but narratively we would have been able to exit with a declared victory and honor as opposed to this disorganized mess of a retreat we’re all seeing now. But even in that disorganized political retreat, do you know who the heroes are? The soldiers being called in to ensure that American citizens and our allies are able to leave safely.

And then I would close by saying something like this: “Ultimately, politicians, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or an independent, often disappoint you because most of them don’t have the same honor, integrity, and discipline that you and your fellow soldiers do. They don’t live on the edge of perpetual war, they don’t know the struggles and challenges that you all do, and they generally don’t know what it’s like to live and die for your country in a foreign land. Politicians will eventually disappoint you, but the reason I’m a lifelong soldier is because we are the opposite of politicians. We never disappoint our brothers and sisters in arms. We never cut and run. We’re always here for one another, and we’re always here to support and protect the brave and noble across the country and around the world.

And I’ll always be here for all of you too.

So if you want to come and talk to me about the situation in Afghanistan, my door is always open, but I want you to know that I’ve never been prouder of all of you, and all of our fellow soldiers, than I am right now. And I’m damn proud to be your commanding officer. Thank you for all you do for your country.”

Good luck and thank you.

“I’m 31, married, with two kids and live in Texas, but I’m from Kentucky and was raised as an only child. My father passed away last year (on my 30th birthday no less) at age 61 suddenly. He and my mother (who both lived in Kentucky) had been foster parents and adopted a boy and a girl (they are biologically brother and sister) about 6 years ago.

My mother hasn’t handled my dad passing well. In October of 2020 I drove back to Kentucky and brought my brother (10) and sister (8) to live with me. My brother in particular says Mom was throwing staplers at him and hit him on the head with a broom stick so I came and got them so she could get help. She went to therapy and in May of this year sold the Kentucky house and moved down here with us in Texas.

Since moving in though it’s clear she’s not healthy. She’s mean to all the kids (my own two kids and my brother and sister) and the kids are scared of her. I’ve talked to her about her tone but she said she’s ‘old school.’ Last week she tried to go after my brother and pushed my wife to get to him. I got her a hotel room because putting her hands on my wife was a step too far for me. This is not the first time she has had an episode but it is the first time I’ve seen her go after someone. Usually it’s just verbal insults about being a bad son mostly aimed at me and my brother but she has threatened to strangle my brother a few times. She of course says she would never hurt him once she’s calmed down but I’m not sure the 10 year old knows that.

My question is what is the right thing to do here? I love my mother, she wasn’t the greatest Mom and I don’t have the warm fuzzy feelings others do but I do want her to be happy. I just don’t think it’s fair to the kids to have someone who is so volatile and has now tried to go after one of them. I know she’s grieving but so are my brother and sister and already dealing with the trauma of being adopted. My wife has had enough but I’m also not sure what my options are here other than taking my own mother to court which…..sucks.

Advice?”

If your mom is being physically violent with young children, both your step-brother and step-sister and your own children, you can’t keep her in your house and allow her to parent these kids, especially not unsupervised.

You just can’t.

You’re already doing more than I think could be reasonably expected for any son to do. You’ve taken on your parents’ fostering responsibilities and you’ve moved your mom into your own home. I’m not an expert in foster parenting or the laws surrounding it, but if you genuinely care about the two kids your parents adopted, which it seems that you do, I’d seek custody of them yourself. Given the fact that your father died, there’s a very strong argument that you and your wife, who are much younger and already have kids of your own, are a much better fostering option than your mom by herself.

I don’t believe this would be a very complicated legal case, but I’d encourage you to consult someone with a family law background in Texas to confirm this. Already, I’d think you have done a decent amount of work to be permitted to move these two foster kids from Kentucky to Texas so there should be a decent track record at this point of your stability for these kids.

This means the conversation you’d need to have with your mom is less of a legal issue and more of a personal one. She’s behaving in an unacceptable way around your kids and her adopted kids. And it doesn’t sound like this situation is tenable either for your wife or you.

And it shouldn’t be.

You have to tell your mom that you need her to get well, maybe use your dad’s death as a challenge she is facing, before you can allow her to parent these kids and live in your home. If you can afford to do so, finding her a small apartment or in-law’s quarters in the area would be a good compromise in the short term.

“I work for a midwest-based construction company in an office of about 40 people. Routinely the company asks employees to fly several times a month for projects we have across the country. There are a number of individuals who recently have newborn children as well.

We were scheduled to have our annual company golf outing on Friday, where everyone splits into groups of four/five and often times we have an afterparty at someone’s house. Management cancelled the golf outing on short notice (Wednesday) citing spread of the Delta variant as the concern.

I could understand cancelling the indoors gathering after golf, but to me it makes little sense to cancel the golf portion where everyone will be outside and limited to small groups. Other employees were incredibly discouraged after working hard during a potential record year, especially considering they are asked to put themselves at risk traveling/flying on a regular basis.

How can companies balance keeping employees safe but at the same time sponsor team-building and incentives? Could allowing a return to workplace normalcy create a competitive advantage over firms that would prefer to keep everyone at home with little interaction?”

I understand it’s fun to golf on a regular work day with your co-workers, but if you really want to golf together — or hang out after golfing — why does it need to be managed by the company to happen? Couldn’t individual employees just schedule their own golf event and after party?

From the company’s perspective, this seems like an easy issue to revolve: Just give everyone Friday off and let people choose how they spend their time on that day. An extra day off, especially leading into a weekend, might be more popular than a work golf event would be anyway. This way, the people who want to golf with their work friends can do it and then you can also have an after party at someone’s house. It just feels here, at least to me, like you’re too reliant on your company’s decision to impact your fun.

Do I think it makes sense to cancel an outdoor company golf event because of COVID? No. But am I surprised a company would elect to do so right now? Not at all.

Ultimately if you want to hang out with work friends during this COVID mess, at most places of work, you’re going to have to take the lead as opposed to the company.

“Obesity is unhealthy. Full Stop.

Body positivity has hijacked health in the United States. We’re in the middle of a pandemic where obesity is a significant comorbidity for those who get COVID-19 and we’re offering donuts and french fries and beer to coerce people to get the jab. Everyone is worthy of love and not all healthy body types are ‘small’ but we need to stop accepting the lie that obese people are healthy. Medical doctors need to be able to counsel those who need it without being accused of malpractice or ‘fat shaming.’

Why is this controversial?”

Because anything that could possibly hurt someone’s feelings is now considered unacceptable.

And calling attention to someone’s obesity, at least typically, makes people feel bad and we’re more concerned with feelings in this country than we are health.

Look, it stinks to be chubby or fat. I was a chubby kid from the age of about 11 to 14, roughly fifth grade through seventh or eighth grade. Then I hit puberty and became the perfect Adonis you see today.

Back then, some people would pick on you for being chubby or fat. That was common in schools. And at least for me, it helped to encourage me to eat healthier. I didn’t want to be chubby or fat. Having your feelings hurt was a motivator for me to help get in better shape.

Because here’s the deal, all of us have a substantial amount of control over what we weigh. And there’s power that comes in knowing you can control what you weigh. I believe in personal responsibility. Each of us has the ability to control the decisions we make. To me, that’s far more powerful than the negative feelings that might arise over being overweight.

Instead of mandating masks last year, we should have mandated exercise. Getting in shape would have been the single best thing any of us could have done to help combat COVID for all of 2020. What did the government tell us to do instead? Go home and shelter in place. They shut down hiking trails and the beach. They took down basketball rims in public parks. They filled in skate parks with sand in California. They told us to stay inside, where we now know COVID spreads more efficiently than it does outdoors.

I mean, all of this was pure madness. We did the exact opposite of almost everything we should have done.

That’s what’s truly shameful.

“Hey Clay, my family was supposed to head down to Florida for my cousin’s bar mitzvah later this month, but they’re all cancelling because of rising cases in Florida. Most of us live in the northeast where lockdowns were happening a lot, and we’re all vaccinated, so I don’t see any reason to why they’re scared of Florida like they’re going to die by stepping foot into the state (though what do you expect when you live in a family of coronabros?) If you were in my position, I’m sixteen years old, what would you do?”

First, if you look at the data, it’s likely that Florida’s surge of COVID cases will move to the Northeast and Midwest as the fall arrives. So no matter which part of the country you live in, it’s likely that eventually you will see a delta variant infection surge at some point in the coming months. Right now, Florida and other parts of the South are seeing the surge occur because this is the time of the year when people in the South are inside the most. Why? Because it’s very hot. As the temperatures moderate through the fall, people go outside much more and the overall COVID rates tend to decline.

But that’s a larger picture story. What about your specific situation here?

Your age factors in a big way here because most 16-year-olds don’t get to make decisions like this. So the first question that has to be asked here is whether you have the ability to go to your cousin’s bar mitzvah or not? That is, do you get to make this choice yourself? If you can make the choice yourself and your parents would allow you to travel to Florida on your own and you’re good friends with your cousin and would like to be there, then I’d go.

As a 16-year-old, you are under a greater risk of dying in a car accident than you are from COVID. You’re also under a greater risk of death from suicide, murder, heart disease, drowning, the seasonal flu and cancer than you are from COVID. All of these causes of death are more pronounced for people your age than COVID is, if you need some evidence to provide to your parents.

If your parents said, “I don’t want you to go to Florida, I’m afraid you’ll get murdered there,” just about everyone would see that as an irrational fear. Yet the data reflects that you’re 2.5 times more likely to be murdered at your age than to die of COVID.

Risk — and danger — is a never-ending part of American life and, mercifully, COVID has had almost zero impact on young people around the world. You can’t escape all danger in life — and you wouldn’t want to either because if you did, life would be incredibly boring. You’d never go outside.

So if your parents will let you make the trip, I don’t think there’s any doubt at all, you should go.

Good luck making the case to them.

Okay, I’m off to the radio studio for the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show. We’ll have the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, and Tomi Lahren on today as guests.

Should be a fun show.

Talk to you then.

And, as always, send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed. (And please give us some fun questions. We’re drowning in the serious right now.)

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

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