Self, Family, and Country…
By Jim Kuiken
In the first post of the “Getting to Know You” series, I talked about ‘The Basics’; what is the foundation of my nature, the motivation for ‘how Jim’s brain works’ (although a lot of my family and friends consider that an oxymoron…).
In this second instalment, I’d like to share my beliefs on personal independence, family, friends, and national security. I know that sounds like a lot, and sounds totally unconnected, but bear with me, like most things in my life it’s actually pretty simple.
As I mentioned last week in ‘The Basics’, one of my main traits is self-sufficiency (i.e., independence) and the basic character is that of a ‘protector’. Those both form the core of my personal belief system.
When it comes to my family, you can see that play out over and over during my childhood up into adulthood. I mentioned a well-known (within the family) incident when I was about four – which set the pattern. What happened is that we had just moved to Florida, when my dad got a short-term temporary assignment overseas (he was in the Air Force), and his new wife (my mom) with her two little boys were left behind for the first time. It was scary for her, and for us boys, who had just gotten a new dad, and he was leaving. We didn’t really understand at that age, but we were scared, and watched our mom trying to put a good face on it.
When it came time for dinner, we all came to the table, but my dad’s spot was empty. He was always there to cut the meat, serve, and just head up the dinner – and now he wasn’t. I have no idea what I was thinking back then, but I just walked over to his seat, and (with my mom’s help) got up in his chair, and (again with my mom’s help) cut and served the main course to the family. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that helped fill the void, and seemed to comfort my mom and make things right.
There are numerous times during my childhood when I jumped in to help my brother when he was picked on, teaming up with him against all foes…and later, in my adult life, at least a couple of times when something was happening to my family that I dropped everything (once while I was on Active Duty with the Marines, and again, just after I had stepped into a new job with federal law enforcement), and the first time, flew across the world, and the second time, across the country to step into the situation and resolve it through any means necessary (no specifics here, “to protect the innocent”).
Even my own mom once told some of her friends that I was “the family bulldog. We keep him in the closet unless there is some trouble, then we let him out…”
So exactly what is this philosophy? Like I said, it’s pretty simple. I learned it from something my mom said when I was a kid, and it fit my feelings exactly. “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins”. (Zechariah Chafee, "Freedom of Speech in Wartime", 1919)
I’ve put that in my own words many, many times throughout my life. I’ll clean it up a little for you here. “If you just leave me and others the #@$% alone, I’ll leave you alone.”
I don’t care what anyone believes or what anyone does (within the law), as long as they don’t hurt or infringe the rights of me or others to believe and do what they want. Back to those Saturday morning cowboy movies I talked about - as John Wayne said in The Shootist, “I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
Like I said in the beginning of this post, I wanted to share my beliefs on personal independence, family, friends, and national security. This pretty much covers my personal belief, but how about the rest of it?
While I was down in Texas, out on the campaign trail running for US Congress, I got asked all sorts of questions in many venues, town hall meetings, debates, etc., about National Security, and my answer was always the same – not because I had memorized a ‘sound bite’ for the cameras – but because it is exactly the same belief I have had all my life. I spoke from my heart.
As I said, it’s very simple. I have the exact same belief about my own personal security, my family and friends, and this country. It is the belief I already talked about.
If you leave (insert the appropriate word here…“me”, “my family”, “my friends”, “my country” “our allies”, etc.) alone, I / we’ll leave you alone. Be my / our friend, trading partner, ally, etc., and I / we’ll be yours, with all of my heart and complete loyalty.
Try to hurt (again, insert word here), then I’ll /we’ll do everything in my / our power to stop you or take you out. Period.
I won’t stop, I won’t back down. Ever.
Like I said, pretty simple, huh?
From The Ground Up – The Foundation
By Jim Kuiken
Although I’m responding to lots of questions about “what makes Kuiken tick” during this ‘Getting to Know You’ series, I’m still uncomfortable talking about myself – that always seems so egotistical and narcissistic (for an example of that, look at the current crop of national candidates and/or office holders).
I much prefer talking through the main character of my books, ‘Bekker’, or telling stories and talking about events, friends and others. As I used to tell my campaign staff (ad nauseam) while we were out talking to folks on the campaign trail (and I actually meant it…), “It’s not about me. It’s about helping others, making their lives better.”
I’ve always felt satisfied and fulfilled when I was working in a specific type of job – in one that was focused on a career in service (like the Marines, firefighter/EMT, law enforcement, public service, etc.) – and never felt that I was doing anything important, or contributing during those times when I was not in that line of work.
Two specific conversations have always stuck with me, and helped me understand that I had the need to serve others and make a positive contribution to society if I was going to feel that my life had meaning.
The first one was when I was a Firefighter/EMT, and my daughter Christy, who was very young at the time (probably around 5 or so), was visiting me at the station. We were standing out front on the tarmac in front of the fire station, and I had just finished showing her some equipment and things that we did, and she was standing right next to me, holding my hand and looking up at me.
She asked me “Daddy, why do you always do the dangerous jobs?” I still remember the instant feeling that flooded through me. I had never looked at it that way, or even recognized something that seemed so obvious to a 5-year-old, and it hurt me deeply when I realized that I had caused her that worry. I knelt down and looked her in the eyes when I replied.
“Baby, I don’t always do the dangerous jobs, I do the jobs that can help people. Sometimes those jobs just happen to be dangerous, but I’m doing them to protect people, or to help people who are hurt or need help.” I had never realized that the jobs I was drawn to tended to be dangerous, just that they allowed me to help other people – something that satisfied my need to be of service to others.
Many years later, I was talking to Lydia, my sister-in-law, when she said that I was “a protector” – and that it was obvious to everyone that it was my basic nature and what I was called to do. It was a watershed moment for me, because again, I did not spend a lot of time in introspection, and had never realized (or even thought about) what seemed to be so obvious to others. It got me to thinking about many incidents throughout my life, and how I had always stepped up – with the first well-known incident (in the family) at about four years old, to protect, help and serve others.
I think it was partly my nature – something I was born with, but was very strongly influenced by my upbringing. Nature or nurture? The constant question – but in this case, most likely both.
I was raised in a family with fairly traditional American values during the ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. My dad was a young enlisted military man supporting a family with two boys, and later, a girl as well. He didn’t make much, so to support his family, after he would get off work at the Air Force base he would head over to his second job – generally at a camera store, TV repair shop, or even a night shift at a local convenience store…sometimes even a ‘stop and rob’ in a bad neighborhood, depending on where we were living at the time.
When we were young, sometimes my mom even had to have a job to bring in a third paycheck, just so we could make ends meet. They both focused on family, and doing what was necessary to make it work during those early days, and us kids pitched in with chores, and even a paper route or bagging groceries at the commissary to earn some money, or working on our uncle’s dairy farm and picking berries during the summers. We learned those values early.
As a young ‘cowboy’ from Idaho, I was raised with those values – honor, courage, self-sufficiency, family, and taking care of and protecting those in need. Honesty and integrity meant that your word was inviolate.
Besides the Saturday morning cowboys like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, Glenn Ford and others…and the characters from books like those by Louis L'Amour, and good-guy action heroes like Thor and Superman, I had many real-life heroes to look up to and emulate.
These were my dad (Gerrit), Grandpa Kuiken and uncles, all with a record of service to our country. My Grandpa Hartley, a quiet, humble man who had great influence in Idaho (and in my life), and who also served during the war…in a slightly different capacity. My father (Bob) and Grandfather Rose, both career Firefighters in Boise. And in case you think all my heroes were men…think again. My mom (Penny), Grandma Hartley and Great-grandma Pokie – although not in public service, were mainstays and guiding lights in service to our family.
I’ll leave you with two things that epitomize the values I was raised with – and I hope are just as meaningful to you.
My youngest sister Beth posted this – from her heart (it actually describes her), and to you from mine. Humble and Kind.
And lastly, the quote you will find at the end of all my emails, on my website, and pretty much anywhere else I can put it…it says it all for me.
"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal." Albert Pine
♫ Getting To Know All About You…♪
By Jim Kuiken
Whenever you first start a venture, whether it be business, political action, recreational team or event, or whatever floats your boat (small nod to my last post…), you almost always start out with a buddy or small group of friends. You know them and they know you. You’re comfortable with each other and trust each other.
If you’re lucky (and work hard), it may grow past your small group of immediate friends, colleagues and family, and then you start incorporating a larger group of folks – many who don’t really know you, and you may not really know them.
When I first started dabbling in writing over 20 years ago, I shared my writing with family and friends. Mainly, I wrote because I had something in my head that I had to get out and on paper (the Bekker story, which has since turned into a series of 10 books, comprised of two 5 book min-series).
After I retired from both the Marines and federal service (law enforcement), and my follow-on business and political ventures, I started writing full time. It was just a logical progression, and actually started out as “well, now that I’m retired, I have plenty of time on my hands”. Yeah, right. Little did I know…
Writing this series of books, as well as my weekly blog and other articles made me start looking past my small circle of friends and family, and out to the larger world of readers. I wanted to share the story with lots of folks, because it touches a lot of folks out there.
Of course, once you start looking – as a serious writer – towards spreading the word about your stories, then you have to start looking into the business of writing, marketing and publishing. Here we go again…remember that bit about “plenty of time on my hands”? Not so much.
I was lucky enough to find a great mentor – Clint Goodwin, and a great social media expert and partner – Scott Attenborough, and together, we started growing that circle of friends and family into a larger group of followers and contacts…as well as them incessantly (and mercilessly) bugging (pushing? hounding?) me to keep my head down and write to get these books out…which I deeply appreciate.
Now, we have a reach of almost 5,000 followers (growing every day), with over 2,000 more direct contacts we can reach out to. Not quite the small group we started with… (by the way, if you’re interested in how we did that, drop me a line!)
That’s all interesting Kuiken, but what’s your point – or are you just rambling again? Nope, even my ramblings usually turn out to have a point, even if we have to go the long way around the barn to get there.
My point is that a couple of my nephews made some comments about the writing, and how they really liked it because it helped them understand me (and for them, our family) a bit better, and gave them a historical perspective.
Not so coincidentally, I’ve had a growing number of folks also asking about where these stories, articles and posts come from, and looking to get to know me a bit better – how I think and why I express the opinions and outlook (which I admit might not be those that most folks would think that I would have, based on my history and background) that I do.
It’s like meeting a whole new group of friends, and getting to know each other! I love meeting new friends!
So, based on the numerous (and growing) number of questions and comments, I’ll be putting out a series of blog posts about various facets of my philosophy and background so that folks can get to know me (and by extension – Bekker). As with any conversation, I’d love it to be a two-way conversation…so don’t hesitate to make comments on the post (via website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Twitter, or anywhere else you see it) or send me an email!
Looking forward to talking with you soon, and getting to know each other better!