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Anonymous Mailbag

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It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for me to solve all the problems in the OutKick universe.

But first, we’ll be in Nashville this weekend for the OutKick bus tour. This week’s game is Georgia at Vanderbilt, and we’ll be set up right by the stadium so you shouldn’t be able to miss us. And for the next two weeks, we will be on the road at Ole Miss-Alabama in Tuscaloosa and then at Alabama-Texas A&M in College Station. So if you’re going to be at any of these three games, come see us on Saturday morning at our OutKick tailgates.

As always, you can send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com.

Okay, here we go:

“I am a middle aged white guy who teaches US History at a large, urban high school in Los Angeles County. When it’s time for my class of 38 mainly minority students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance they ALL refuse to stand. Today, one student started to stand, but her neighbors told her to sit down. They hiss, shake their head and act disgusted when it is played over the loudspeaker.

I feel like I’m limited in what I can say because it is their right to sit and I’m the only white guy in the room, but when I look at the students I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Their families risked a lot to get here so that they could have a better life. I get the sense that their limited skill set, anti-American sentiment and overall lack of respect doesn’t bode well for their future or for the United States.

How would Mr. Travis handle this?”

First, this is one of the things I most fear about the future of our country. If we don’t have a shared national narrative — for instance, a belief that America and American institutions are forces of good in a world that is often evil — then we risk being torn apart by all the identity politics that can be used to divide us.

Standing up for the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance is a small symbolic thing, but a classroom that uniformly refuses to respect either doesn’t bode well for national unity in the years ahead. Okay, so what could you do as a public school teacher to help to foster better engagement from your kids?

I’d use this as a teaching point, honestly. Instead of you trying to teach them, let them teach you. What is it that your kids find so offensive about America that they refuse to stand for the pledge of allegiance? I’d ask them all individually in your class one day. It could just be a teenage rebellion. Teenagers, at least throughout most of history, have looked to rebel against the values of older people. So not standing may be a form of petty rebellion. (Although when everyone rebels and does the exact same thing, it isn’t actually very rebellious, but that’s the story of social media writ large right now. People think it’s brave to be woke when standing up to wokeness is the act that actually bears some personal risk.) Right now, among many young people it’s very fashionable to hate America. That’s where the left wing of the country has led us. Given the power that the left wing has over media and culture, it’s not surprising many kids would buy into this narrative.

But since you represent the establishment in their mind, you’re a white male teacher, I don’t think you should try to tell them what to do when the pledge comes on. I think you should ask them to explain why they are making the choices they do. You say that many of their parents gave up quite a bit to get them to America. Okay, where did their parents come from? Why did they come here? What is the situation in their home countries? Presumably America is far better — and far freer — than their home countries. How many of these kids realize this? It’s been my experience that most people who “hate” America have very little understanding of what goes on in the rest of the world or of how good they have it, comparatively, in this country compared to what they would have in other countries. But most don’t realize this. I think you can help them to realize this.

Once you understand all of those stories, I’d focus on a larger story. That is, the story we tell about America. And the truth is you can tell any story that you want to tell about America. You can focus entirely on the awful parts of our history — slavery, lack of equal rights for women, Jim Crow, internment camps for Japanese during World War II, the opposition to the civil rights movement — all of those things are there. But focusing on the negative obscures the larger story — which is mostly very positive. America, and I really believe this, over time has always rewarded equality and justice. That doesn’t mean in any given century, decade or year that America is entirely just and equal, but it does mean that over time we are. Our nation really does bend towards righteousness.

Then I would focus on three additional things to teach your kids within the context of your classroom: first, you control your own future. No one else does. You have the power as an individual to succeed in this country. No one else can stop you. I think one of the most important things kids can be taught is individual responsibility. That is, you control your destiny, you make the choices that dictate success or failure in your life. And I’d hammer home three choices that guarantee you won’t be poor in this country: graduate from high school, don’t have a kid before 25, and eventually get married. If you do these three things, the poverty rate in America for all people, regardless of race, is virtually zero. You can tell them you hope they all grow up to be rich one day, but you can’t guarantee that. What you can guarantee them is they won’t be poor if they do those three things. If I were teaching kids today, no matter the subject, I’d hammer home these three life choices.

Second, I’d ask what do they gain by not standing for the pledge? What message are they sending to their friends, family and potential employers one day? Much of success is determined by the energy you put out into the world. By refusing to stand for the pledge, are you making yourself more likely to be employed one day? Are you sending the message that you’re reliable and trustworthy? One day, you’ll have interviews for jobs, and the energy you give off will go a long way towards determining your chances to get that job. (Or to get a loan to buy a house or to get a loan to start a business.) Make sure the choices you make help rather than hinder your success. How is refusing to stand for the anthem helping you in any way?

Third, I’d focus on their individual goals and ask to meet with each of them individually. You’re teaching history, which they may believe does not have any relevance to them right now. I’ve found that a huge part of success is finding someone else successful and modeling your life choices on the choices they made. Well, what do your students hope to achieve in their lives? What are their dreams, what aspirations do they have? If they’re like most teenagers, they probably idolize entertainers, You Tubers, TikTokers. I’m not kidding, those are probably their idols right now. But if you meet with them individually, I’d bet you are likely to find some historical precedents to help them achieve success. Model your history class around those people so your kids can have aspirational role models.

If I had your history class, I would probably try to teach “aspirational history,” by which I mean to focus on people who have triumphed in America and use those triumphs to tell the larger story of America. You won’t reach all of your kids, but I think you’ll connect with many and that can lead to ultimate success in a much bigger way than being able to tell us the dates of Revolutionary War battles or the dates amendments were ratified.

I was a history major in college, by the way, and one of the things I thought about doing, if I hadn’t gone to law school, was going on and getting my doctorate in American history and teaching in colleges. There’s another career path I could have taken where I might have ended up teaching in college as my career. In fact, it’s probably the one I came closest to taking instead of what I do today. (I also ended up getting an MFA in creative writing, and I taught at Vanderbilt University while I got that MFA. I still think teaching on a college campus is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Some day in the future, who knows if it will ever happen, I’d like to do that again.)

So I think you’ve got a very important job, and I wish you good luck with your kids.

The best thing I think you can do is get to know them on an individual level and connect that way.

“The 9:30 Club in DC is a fairly famous music venue – but its been closed since the start of COVID due to fear and DC politics. Well, last week, the Foo Fighters announced a surprise show to reopen the club. For a band that previously has sold out venues like Wembley Stadium to now play in a club with a capacity of 1,200 was pretty cool. Tickets sold out in minutes, but I was able to get a couple. After the tickets were secured, I started looking at the ‘Health Check’ requirements. All patrons were required to show your vaccine card, or show proof of a recent negative test. I was fine with that part of it… Its a private entity for an entertainment event — and I was already vaccinated. Its not like they were denying people the ability to go grocery shopping or ride public transportation.

However, since DC can’t get out of their own way, it doesn’t end there. There is a universal indoor mask mandate in the city. So, we just stood in line, proved we were vaccinated (and, if we weren’t, would have had to produce a negative test) – and then had to put on a mask as soon as we went in the building. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!! It was a only a mild inconvenience, and it was fine in the end — but holy hell, does anybody use any sort of logic or critical thinking anymore? Can the messaging really be ‘Hey, get vaccinated because we said so. Also, if you get vaccinated nothing changes.'”

Back in college, I went to the 9:30 club several times for concerts, so I’m familiar with the venue.

What you’ve just laid out is one of the biggest issues I see with COVID policy going forward. How does any of this ever change? Back in May, they gave us a clear pathway: get vaccinated and masks aren’t necessary. I know it was just supposed to be for vaccinated people, but essentially mask mandates disappeared overnight. Eliminating the mask mandate was significant because it sent the message that we were back to normal.

But the question you’re asking is one I’ve been asking for a while now: how does COVID end if protocols like the one you went through are in place?

COVID isn’t going away.

Probably forever for the rest of our lives.

It’s always going to be here.

So are these venues always going to check vaccinations — something they’ve never done before for any virus — and also insist on you wearing a mask indoors — something, again, they’ve never insisted on for any virus? Leaving aside the efficacy — this likely does nothing to stop COVID from spreading since we know the vaccinated can still spread COVID and since we also know masks provide virtually no protection — you’re engaging in a massive amount of cosmetic theater here for virtually no benefit.

With that in mind, how does this ever end?

The vaccines don’t eradicate COVID, and they don’t stop it from spreading. Even if 100% of people were vaccinated, there would still be an awful lot of COVID circulating in the country and in the world. And we’d still be vulnerable to any variant that emerges anywhere in the world. So are these vaccine requirements and mask mandates going to exist forever now? Will we ever be able to get on airplanes, for instance, without masks again?

It seems to me that almost all of our COVID protocols have been predicated on the idea of COVID zero. That is, that we were going to be able to eradicate COVID like we’ve eradicated small pox, for instance. But that’s not going to happen. Essentially we’re going to turn COVID into the flu. And just like the flu, COVID’s going to be with us for the rest of our lives.

So how do we get to treating COVID like the flu, particularly in blue cities and states? I just don’t know. I don’t know how we land this plane and end the COVID fear porn. (And this doesn’t even include the political angles here because I think we’ve left the science behind, and I’m not sure left wingers will ever be convinced that anything is safe again or that their political leaders want that to happen.)

So I spend a great deal of time thinking about this. I’m just not sure how we ever land the proverbial plane and get back to normalcy.

“I just started my first job post college in nursing. I earn pretty much what I expected. However, I came from a lower middle class family, so I had to get a decent amount of loans (~$75,000) to pay for college. I’m still lucky to have my parents pay for my phone and car insurance. Outside of that I’m pretty much on my own. I live with a buddy so my rent is only $400 a month (again lucky to have this). I don’t have to start payments on loans until November. What’s some financial advice you would give to someone in my situation? For my current situation I’m not too worried, but down the road once loans start to hit and hopefully a wife and family, I’m worried I will be struggling. I want to eventually go to grad school, but that will also lead to more loans. I’m not looking to be rich, just able to put food on the table and have a family down the road and go to bars with buddies.”

Lock in your student loans at as low of an interest rate as you can. You’re fortunate that loans are still very affordable in terms of an interest rate environment. Assuming your loan rate is in the 2-3% rate, I’d put your extra money into S&P 500 index funds and just not even look at the day to day spikes in value. Over time, you’re going to make around 9% a year.

Some people would tell you to immediately pay off all your student loans first, but if you have the discipline to invest in S&P 500 index funds, over time you’re going to do much better banking a 9% a year return than you would paying off loans that are in the 2-3% range.

As an example of this, I still have a mortgage on my house, even though I have plenty of money to pay off the mortgage on my house. Why do I do that? Because I’d rather earn the 9% a year while I have an extremely low mortgage rate, essentially free money based on inflation right now, than pay off my mortgage.

Again, people can differ on these decisions, but I’d rather have my money growing at a high rate of historic return with a small amount of debt at a low interest rate than have my money go to eliminate the debt.

Eventually you’ll buy a house, assuming rates are low. I’d pay off your mortgage slowly over time and let your investment income grow faster.

You have the advantage of youth and decades to grow your money.

Good luck.

“I have a relative, male in his 40s, who since March of 2020, hasn’t seen his friends, been to restaurants, or done anything slightly fun at all. He wears a mask, face shield and gloves everywhere and he is fully vaccinated for reference. There are no major health conditions, but he told me if he catches COVID that he will die and that’s why he is so cautious. How do I convince my relative to start living his life in the slightest bit? It’s pretty sad to see how things are with him now. No matter what I would send or suggest he’ll just tell me what he saw on CNN earlier. It’s just sad to see him to scared to live his life. He also constantly complains about how depressed he is, he can’t meet his friends, go to bars, etc but he’s the one doing this to himself.”

We’ve allowed the most fearful people in our country to dictate what the rest of us can do. And our media’s fear porn has been a big part of this. I’ve been asking for over a year now, why should your fear, particularly if it’s irrational, dictate my freedoms?

I put out this Tweet yesterday, but I think everyone needs to see it. Whatever your age is, look at how many people of your age have died WITH COVID over the past 18 months. (Remember, many of these people are dying with multiple co-morbidities, not COVID alone, but they all count as “COVID deaths” if they have COVID at the time of their death.) If you’re healthy and under the age of 50, you have virtually nothing to fear from COVID at all. If you’re unhealthy and older, your fear rate increases, which is the natural course of life.

And if you have kids, your kids are more likely to die of the seasonal flu, of murder, of traffic accidents, of drowning. I mean, it’s insane.

This is the point I was raising above though, how do we ever land this plane? How do we get back to normalcy if so many people are behaving like your relative?

I just don’t know.

That’s why I keep saying the best thing you can do is get back to normalcy yourself.

And that’s why I’ve been so encouraged by the huge crowds at college and NFL games. When there are millions of people showing up every weekend without masks on to watch football games, it’s hard to argue it’s unsafe to live your life.

Like I’ve said countless times, my family has essentially lived our normal life since May of last year. There have been virtually zero restrictions on what we have and haven’t done since May of 2020. The best way I know to get things back to normal is to behave in a completely normal fashion.

That’s what I’m doing, and it’s what I’d encourage all of you to do as well.

Thanks for reading and as always you can send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com

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.

2 Comments

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  1. Buddy w/ $75k in debt:

    Agree w/ Clay on throwing down some duckets on the stock market but start chipping away at that debt asap. Set aside $1000/mo to throw at the loan every month. Assuming you make ~$50k/yr, $1000 is only about 25% of your total monthly budget, which should leave plenty aside for bills and happy hour. If you commit to $1k/mo the loans will be gone in 6.5 years. You don’t want to be paying off student loans until your 40’s.

    Also, mutual funds and index funds are fine but don’t be afraid to take some chances on low-cap stocks w/ high growth potential. Weed & sports gambling are my bread and butter. TCNNF for the weed, MGM/DKNG for sports betting. Apple & Tesla are also nice buy & hold stocks.

  2. We get back to normal by individuals acting as normal as they can in settings that require COVID restrictions. Don’t get yourself in an argument(or worse) but wear your mask loosely (stretching the elastic helps a lot) and below your nose, carry a water bottle and take it off frequently to take a sip.

    Make it obvious that you don’t take masks seriously.

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