Off The Record with Brad Meltzer

Over the last several months, Glenn has emphasized the importance of bringing together individuals who share the same goals and unifying principles so that we can learn from one another. GlennBeck.com is working to fulfill that goal by sitting down with some of the most interesting minds to give you an inside look at who they are and what they are working on.

#1 New York Times bestselling author, host of History Channel’s Decoded, and award-winning comic book writer Brad Meltzer opened up to GlennBeck.com assistant editor Meg Storm about the high school teacher that changed his life, what it is was like to brainstorm terrorist plots with the Department of Homeland Security, and why his favorite superhero is Batman.

Below is a transcript of the interview: 

Hey Brad! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

Happy to do it!

So I wanted to start with your background. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

What’s crazy is that I never thought I would ever be a writer because I didn’t think that was a real job. I grew up in a very working class family, and I always thought I would go to high school and go to work. My mom and dad didn’t go to any type of four-year college, so I didn’t think college was even an option. My dad, when he was 40-years-old, lost his job. He lost everything. He had $1,200 to his name. He had no job. We had no place to live. He picked everything up and moved us to Florida, and he said it was the ‘do over of his life.’ He was going to start his life over from scratch on that day.

When we got to Florida, my parents gave a fake address so I could go to the better local public school. When I went to that school, people were talking about going to college and taking the SAT. I didn’t know what the SAT was. But because of my parents and that moment, I suddenly had my life changed.

thetenthjustice-128x230That’s incredible.

It really is. And what made it more incredible is my English teach in 9th grade was a woman named Sheila Schweitzer. She told me: You can write. She said, ‘I can’t put you in the honors class because of a conflict in your schedule.’ But she said, ‘You are going to sit in the course the entire year. You are going to ignore everything I do on the blackboard.’ What she was really saying to me was: You’re going to thank me later.

Sure enough, 10 years later, I went back to her classroom when I got my first novel published, and I said, ‘My name is Brad Meltzer, and this novel is written for you.’ And she was crying.  I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ And she said, ‘I was going to retire this year because I didn’t think I was having an impact anymore.’ And I said, ‘You changed my life.’ My life was changed by an English teacher who took a chance on me.

That is such a great story.

True story. Can’t make it up.

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You ended up going to law school though, correct?

I didn’t go to law school for plot ideas or to write political thrillers. I went to law school because I was terrified. I was terrified of having the life my father had and shoveling for money all the time. I just figured if the writing thing never worked out, I wanted something to fall back on because my father never had anything to fall back on.

I will say, I found the law interesting and it showed me how the world works – where the strings are in the universe. I remember the first day I sat down in law school, the dean got up in front up everyone and said, ‘Open up any newspaper, and any story that is on the front page – a lawyer is involved in that story.’ I will never forget that moment.

Were you writing while you were in law school?

I was. I graduated college at the University of Michigan, and I had debt to pay off because my parents couldn’t get me the whole way through. A guy in Boston said to me, ‘I want to be your mentor. I want to take you under my wing. I want to teach you all the ways of the world.’  He said, ‘Move yourself to Boston. And if you love the job, you’ll stay. If you hate the job, you’ll leave after a year with some money in your pocket.’ So I moved everything to Boston, and the week I got to Boston, he left the job. I thought in that moment I had wrecked my life. So I did what anyone would do when they thought they had wrecked their life. I said: I am going to write a novel.

(Laughs)

And the first novel I wrote, I got 24 rejection letters. There were only 20 publishers at the time, and I got 24 rejection letters. So some wrote to me twice to make sure I got the point. So I figured if they didn’t like that book, I would write another. If they didn’t like that one, I would write another. It was my second book that became my first published book: The Tenth Justice.

What was it like to face that rejection?

I am stubborn. The moment they said I couldn’t do it, all I wanted to do was do it. I think it is why Glenn and I have always gotten along – we have a real commitment to what we believe in. And the moment anybody says, ‘It’s not possible,’ is the moment where we kind of double down and say, ‘This is it.’

thebookoflies-128x230

Can I ask you how you first met Glenn?

We met when he was on CNN. He had me on for one of my first books. He just liked my thrillers. We hit it off, of course.

But we became real friends when we discovered our mutual love of Superman. I wrote a book about the origins of Superman, and where Superman came from. And I went to the house where Superman was created and it was in disrepair. I wanted to help repair it, and Glenn said, ‘I want to help you with that.’ And he gave us the platform to really promote the book to America.

The house needed a new roof. And we ended up raising – in one month – over $100,000. A few Christmas’ back I got a Christmas card from the family that lived there that said, ‘Thank you for saving our house, Brad. This is the first Christmas where there is no water coming in, no snow coming in from the roof.’

Glenn and I really bonded over that mutual love of a real hero of ours. And we have just been friends ever since.

Your writings cover a wide range of topics and genres – from fiction to nonfiction to comics! Where do you look for inspiration?

For me, everything that I work on has the same exact theme. It is my core belief. I believe that ordinary people change the world. I don’t care where you went to school or how much money you make – that’s nonsense to me. I believe in ordinary people and their ability to change this world. So whether I writing a thriller set in the White House or a kids’ book about Abraham Lincoln or a comic book about Superman, they all reflect my belief of the power of an ordinary person. To me, the most important part of the story is never Superman. The most important part of the story is Clark Kent. We all know what it is like to be Clark – to be boring and ordinary and want to be somebody beyond ourselves.

heroesformyson-140x142You have spoken with Glenn on radio about the importance of offering kids real heroes to look up – not the reality stars and celebrities we idolize today. Is that what drives you to write your books?

On the day I was born, my dad went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of champagne and said, ‘I am going to open this bottle on the day my son Brad gets married.’ When my dad lost his job, he threw all our stuff in a moving van. But there is some stuff you never put in a moving van. When we drove from New York to Florida, behind the headrests he put two bottles of champagne – one for me and one for my sister. My parent’s didn’t know anything about taking care of champagne. They were rolling back and forth and in the Florida sun. But we were their lives and they took care of us.

What was amazing to me was years later, when my kids were born, I said, ‘I don’t care about champagne. What I want to do is write a book for them that will last their whole lives.’ And that is where Heroes for My Son and Heroes For My Daughter came from. They are profiles of American heroes like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, and Mr. Rodgers.

heroesformydaughter-140x143As my kids got a little older, I realized I needed to tell even more of their stories. I was so tired of my kids looking at reality TV show stars and loudmouth athletes and thinking of them as a hero. I said to them, ‘That’s being famous, and being famous is very different than being a hero.’ And that’s when I decided to do illustrated children’s books that tell the story of Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart. But not just the stories you know. It is the stories of when they were kids – the story of Amelia Earhart when she was 7-years-old, Abraham Lincoln when he was 10-years-old. And as a result, you see the power and the potential that is in all of us. That’s where I am Abraham Lincoln and I am Amelia Earhart were born.

Your books offer historical stories that aren’t necessarily mainstream. What is the research process like?

You know, I found this amazing place. It’s called the library.

(Laughs)

I honestly think what happens today is we are so used to going and looking for things on the Internet. The Internet is a beautiful, powerful tool. But anyone who has ever tried to do research on the Internet knows it is filled with noise and filled with mistruths. I try as hard as I can to go back to the original sources.lincoln-140x140

There is a story of Abraham Lincoln as a little boy. He came upon a group of boys that were torturing turtles. He loved animals, and he had to figure out what he was going to do in that moment. He stands up to the bullies and saves the turtles. And I tell that story because a professor and Abraham Lincoln scholar sent me that story and the original sources – letters written by people who knew Abraham Lincoln. And it is amazing what we found. It was a story that I never found in any Abraham Lincoln book. It had been buried over the years.

HistoryDecoded-final-cover-1-140x140What was it to work on your History Channel series Decoded in addition to all the writing you do?

The fun part of that is it let’s me do the things I can’t cover in the books. The TV show feeds my own love of history. And the research we do on the TV show ends up feeding the novels. You will see we did a show on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and then the next book that I did was about a conspiracy theory where you find out all of the presidential assassins – from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald – were all working for secret cause. They were not lone wolfs, but working for a secret society. Obviously, I made that last part up for my thriller, but all the research in the book is real. And I get to have that research because of some of the work we do on the TV show.

I read on your website that you were once recruited by the Department of Homeland Security to talk about terrorism and things of that nature –

Yeah, a few years ago I got a call from the Department of Homeland Security. They said they wanted me to come in and brainstorm different ways terrorists could attack the United States. My first though was: If they are calling me, we have bigger problems than anybody thinks!

Seriously!

But I was honored to be part of what they called the Red Cell Program. They brought together what they labeled ‘out of the box thinkers,’ and they paired me with a Secret Service agent. They would give us a target – like a major city – and they would ask us to destroy it. Within a half hour we would find a way in or we would find a way to destroy it. It’s not one of those days where you go home feeling good. You go home feeling terrified because you see how easy it is to kill us. It is one of those moments where you sit back and realize how blessed you have been because that is a crazy way to spend a day of work.

Not many people can say they have been asked to destroy a major city by the U.S. government.

Not only that. They asked me for other ones as though I was on to something. They were basically saying: You’re good at this. And that’s scarier!

Switching topics a little bit, GlennBeck.com’s managing editor, Wilson Garrett, is a huge comic book fan and a big fan of yours. He would kill me if I didn’t ask you about your work in the genre and what that process is like. 

FINAL-Fifth-Assassin_HC_Brad-MeltzerYou will have to thank him for me! I really appreciate that.

When you write a novel, you have one palette to paint with. And that palette is words. You use different permutations to tell your story, but you are still painting with one palette. When you write a comic book, you have a whole new palette – pictures. You have to learn how to shut up. You have to let the pictures tell the story.

When I write a comic book, I will tell the artist everything I want him to draw. I will tell him in panel one I want to be up close to Superman’s face. In panel two, stay close to his face and pay attention to the sweat crawling down is forehead. In panel three, I want to be really close on his forehead and the sweat crawl. In panel four I want a little tiny bead of sweat coming down the Man of Steel’s face. And now I haven’t used a single word, but you know he is nervous because you see that single bead of sweat. The beautiful part of writing a comic book is that you get to lean on that new palette of using pictures.

To write the word S-U-P-E-R-M-A-N and get to put words in Superman’s mouth is a really cool day of work.

Can I assume that Superman is your favorite superhero? 

My favorite superhero is actually Batman because I will never be Superman. I will never have lasers fly out of my eyes or lift a car over my heads. But Batman is just a stubborn guy in a costume committed to a cause. And you know what? I can do that.

Do you have any writers that you personally admire or read?

It’s funny, I don’t read thrillers anymore because I end up taking them apart and trying to figure out how they were built. It’s like a mechanic driving a rental car. I am just trying to figure out what is wrong with them.

I tend to read a lot of young adult books. I read a book called Wonder by R.J. Palacio that I just loved. It was about a boy who was trying to deal with going to a new “normal school.” And I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I read The Book Thief, which I loved as well. I have been on a real young adult slant for a while.

But I read comic books. I read non-fiction. I read Lincoln biographies and Jefferson biographies... And just about anything else I can get my hands on.

Do have any projects you are working on right now that you can talk about? 

earhart-140x140Absolutely! We did I am Abraham Lincoln and I am Amelia Earhart. Now we are doing I am Rosa Parks, which will be out in June. And then we are doing I am Albert Einstein, which will be out in September. My real goal is not to just put out a book or two, but to help people build a library of heroes for their kids, their grandkids, their nieces and nephews. The long-term goal is we can give them heroes in America that they can be proud of. So those are the children’s projects.

At the same time, I am working on a new novel that will be a sequel to The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin.

That is something to look forward to! When you are now writing and traveling and working on your TV show, what do you like to do in your spare time?

For me, it is all about family. I love reading. I love history. I love going to movies and being entertained. But there is nothing to me that lives up to the hype of being a father. I have three children.

Before we finish up, we have a ‘lightening round’ that we like to include. One or two word answers will do. 

One word – got it!

What’s your favorite book?

To Kill a Mockingbird

What’s your favorite movie?

Shawshank Redemption

What’s your favorite TV show?

Come on! Decoded! Duh…

What’s your favorite food?

My mother’s chicken parmesan

What’s your favorite place to visit?

My old high school

Who is your favorite music artist?

Good one… If I have to name one I would say James Taylor takes me to my youth. I took my kids to the Billy Joel concert to show them what the previous generation thought was rock ‘n’ roll. And definitely Prince too.

--

Keep up with all of Brad's upcoming projects by 'liking' his Facebook page or visiting BradMeltzer.com. And be sure to check out Brad's new children's books I am Abraham Lincoln and I am Amelia Earhart and his latest thriller The Fifth Assassin.

My fellow supporters,

It is with a heavy heart that I must make a sad announcement today. The time has come to press pause on the dream of Beto for president. It's not the end of the Beto dream. It's just pressing pause for a while, like pausing a Foss CD. The dream will keep right on spinning, until we return to it and press play again. I mean, look at Bernie Sanders. That guy's almost twice my age and he's still running for president. That means you can look forward to Beto running for office for decades to come. I have found there is tremendous joy and freedom in running for office and never winning. All the travel, Vanity Fair cover stories, food and free beer, with none of the hassle or responsibility of having an actual job in elected office (or any job at all). It's really great.

With the exception of myself, no one has supported Beto more faithfully and true than you, the fans. I'd also like to thank my wife Amy for continually raising our children so that I can travel this great land in my never-ending quest to find myself (and also to connect with you, the fans). From attending my very hip and not-at-all contrived jogging town halls, to slapping those trendy Beto bumper stickers on your hybrid-SUVs, to steadying tables all over America so I could jump on top of them and yell and jab the air, to clicking "like" on all those Facebook videos of my dentist visits – you perpetuated this Beto dream way longer than it had any right to be perpetuated.

So, I'm sure you're now wondering – what's next for Beto?

Other than pursuing my career as a solo rock recording artist, I believe the best way I can serve America and bring true justice to this great land of ours is by stealing from the rich and giving to those who fall in the sweet spot on the intersectionality charts. Except I won't steal from my billionaire father-in-law, only because getting my family cut out of the will would not be in America's best interest. You need a Beto who is independently wealthy via his wife and so do I. Plus, as you know by now, from following the 2020 presidential campaign so closely, the only acceptable status quo in America is leaving the wealth of Progressive elites alone. Everyone else's wealth is fair game, including the middle class. It's the right thing to do.

You need a Beto who is independently wealthy via his wife and so do I.

Therefore, from this day forward I will henceforth be known as Beto Hood. You will be able to join the cause by purchasing official Beto Hood merch soon at Beto Hood dot com. Together, with my band of merry men, who will be known as "merry non-binaries", we will roam the land, righting all the wrongs and bringing about all the social justice that Donald Trump refuses to let you have.

Beto Hood and his Merry Non-Binaries will live on the road. And in the woods (in eco-friendly, fully sustainable treehouse yurts). And in the shadows. We will skateboard and learn archery and rappelling. We will become proficient in hand-to-hand combat. We will become experts in all weaponry except guns, since guns are the evilest weapons. We will care for all the animals of the forest. You already know my affinity for squirrels. Not only will we continue to rescue all the orphan squirrels, we will train them in petty thievery and nimble sabotage. We will affix tiny helmets on them, fitted with tiny Go Pro cameras to live stream their heroic exploits on Facebook. Side note: my colonoscopy next week will also be live streamed on Facebook and available to rent on iTunes.

Using the skills I honed as a college graduate scaling the gates of UTEP, Beto Hood and his Merry Non-Binaries will scale the gates of America's richest and steal from their grotesque wealth. Jewelry, high-end electronics, precious antiques, art, women's shoes – nothing of value will be off-limits. Drawing on my experience while my father was a county judge, we will live above the law. It will be dangerous work, the Lord's work as some people say. But totally worth the risk.

Also, we will not wait for Constitutional amendments nor judicial overreach to get rid of America's AR-15s. We will steal those too. One by one. Using very large versions of those stretchy sticky hands that come in cereal boxes, we will literally be able to snatch these vile guns right out from under the noses of the monsters who own them. Then, with our literal mountain of confiscated AR-15s, we will melt them down and use the metal to build a flotilla of sturdy watercraft, called Beto Boats (trademark pending). Families will be able to use these Beto Boats to save themselves and others when the rising waters of climate change overtake our cities in exactly ten years.

Who needs the presidency? I have big, bold plans for a bright future as an outlaw hero.

Who needs the presidency? I have big, bold plans for a bright future as an outlaw hero. So, don't cry for me, America. Beto will be just fine. Dropping out of this race is nothing that another months-long, head-clearing road trip won't cure. And after that, I'll start shopping for some tights.



[NOTE: The preceding Memo was a parody written by MRA writer Nathan Nipper – not Beto O'Rourke.]

Ryan: Making of an Ant Queen

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The embattled, Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo wrote that "Life is priceless even to an ant."

An ant colony can only survive for a few months after the death of its queen. On average, queens live 10 to 15 years. Some, up to 30 years, one of the longest insect lifespans, hidden deep within the colony, protected, unable to use her wings because she's a little bigger than she used to be.

Plus she's very busy.

The majority of ants are female. Wingless, sterile worker ants. They build nests, they forage, they hunt.

Theirs is a far briefer life than the queen's, ranging from a few weeks up to a year. But they see more of the outside world than any other ant.

The bigger they are, the farther they travel. And they release pheromones along the way so that they have a trail home.
Drones — winged male ants whose primary function in life is to mate with the queen — die after mating and rarely make it out of the colony.

Then, there are the soldier ants. They protect the colony and attack.

To quote philosopher Bertrand Russell, "Ants and savages put strangers to death."

They go on raids.

The attacking colony rarely loses, so most colonies flee as soon as an invasion begins. But they sometimes remain and fight.
Ants on both sides of the battle die in droves.

Henry David Thoreau describes an ant battle in Walden: "On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely."

If the attackers succeed in overtaking a colony, they pillage the eggs. Some are eaten, fed to larvae. But others become victims of slave raiding. Meaning that the victors return home with their enemy's unborn, feed them, nurse them. Then, when the eggs hatch, the victors force them into slavery.

Often, the slaves even develop an allegiance to the colony which ransacked their home and enslaved them. They'll even help raid other colonies and either die pointlessly or help with the seizure of the next generation of slaves.

Sometimes, however, the slave ants rebel.

In the words of Persian poet Saadi, "Ants, fighting together, will vanquish the lion."

Flying ants, both male and female, leave the colony to form another colony. Once they find a suitable place, the males's wings fall off and they mate to their death. Then one or more of the females becomes queen.

*

It felt odd, any time I sat with a roomful of media, a few hundred journalists from all over the world, as they simultaneously, silently, decided "Yep, that's newsworthy. We should hammer that."

It wasn't like everyone turned to each other and said, "Let's agree on the narrative."

It was an energy.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Like in Houston, at the third Democratic Debate, after Biden misused the word "record player," you could hear chatter spread through the room, people muttering the words "records" and "record player."

In Houston, the media watched the debate from a gymnasium around the corner from the auditorium. So I could contrast the crowd's reactions with the media's reactions.

Nearly every time, there was a disparity between the two. The media were more relaxed — during the debate at least. The audience enjoyed any mentions of identity issues. There were a lot. But the media barely reacted at all.

This was a good thing, probably.

*

It's impressive to see how politicians force their stump speeches into a new form, depending on the context. How they say it like an epiphany.

That night brought the opposite for the ever-fledgling Kamala Harris. I could not believe it. Was this the same woman who'd made Iowa hers, just a little over a month ago?

All night, she was so loyal to the tactic she'd premeditated that she didn't realize it wasn't working, like she kept putting on a puppet show on some busy sidewalk.

At one point, she declared, proudly, "We're not talking about Donald Trump enough."

The most talked-about man in the world, perhaps in our country's history.

In five weeks, she became an entirely different candidate. Her latest version resembled a Xanax-fueled stepmom. It was like she was transforming into Joe Biden.

She kept laughing at her own jokes. And the entire media room cringed every time.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Amy Klobuchar's pre-formed jokes and half-zany dad jokes fell short every time, too. Most of the media saw Klobuchar's long rants as a chance to chat with a neighbor or jet off to the nearest bathroom, which was likely a locker-room full of plastic flight containers and padded camera cases and journalists who curse like sailors.

During the debate, the press was stoic. So if a candidate got a reaction from them, it carried a certain authenticity.

They laughed at things that the audience ignored or disliked or didn't notice. In part because the audience didn't do a whole lot of laughing. But the media laughed like professionals laugh. In-jokey and staid yet ready for anything unexpected.

They loved it when Booker said the thing about "Let me translate that to Spanish … 'No'." And Yang's opening handclaps. As well as Pete Buttigieg's reaction to Yang's raffle.

The biggest laugh of the night in the media center, surprisingly, was when Yang said, "I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors."

*

Early scientists believed that ants adhere to a complicated hierarchy, which biologist E O Wilson compared to the Hindu caste system. The idea was, ants and humans have a lot in common, and ants belong to a society divided by class and determined by labor.

In the Wealth of Nations, father of capitalism Adam Smith wrote: "It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people."

Ants have been organized into colonized societies since the Cretaceous Period, 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs still dominated the Earth. All of that changed 74 million years later. Which was about 66 million years ago. When a comet slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in the KT mass extinction.

80 percent of all plants and animals died. The ash and dust and debris polluted the air, blocked the sunlight, transforming the Earth into a dark, frozen wasteland full of asthma.

Insects, carrion-eaters, and omnivores all survived. Any purely carnivorous animals starved to death, while mammals and birds fed on insects and worms until the earth repopulated itself with more animals that could be eaten.

The K-T Mass Extinction ushered in a new era of life. Species that had lived in constant retreat from predators were suddenly able to form more elaborate purposes.

After these lifeforms thrived for tens of millions of years, certain mammals started to become vaguely humanlike.
Early humans popped up about 300,000 years ago.

Meaning, ants have existed for 140 million years, which is 139.7 million years longer than humans.

For reference, if you counted to 300,000, it would take you roughly three-in-a-half days. To get to 140 million would take about four-and-a-half years.

Humans only began developing language about 100,000 years ago.

Yet we're the ones with libraries and governments and ABBA and iPhones. What did ants have? Other people's sugar?

*

Before the debate, I wandered out of the gymnasium and onto bustling sidewalks with makeshift security fencing on each side. And hopped over the massive yellow tubes that belonged in E.T. and pumped cold air into the building. Past dozens of police and security, through an elaborate weave of temporary checkpoints and wires bigger than a fire hose.

On the street, I passed a group of six-or-so teenagers flipping DELANEY signs around like those cardboard "WE BUY GOLD" banners which actual people bob around while dressed as Elvis or Lady Liberty or a Banana.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The sun cast a delightful orange over Houston, glitter in the humid air.

Those kids were having a blast with those signs. Laughing so hard they had to stop occasionally and slap their legs.

On the other side of the fence, some of the most powerful people in the world were readying for battle, and these kids could not have cared less.

*

The protestors had gathered just outside the gates of the campus entrance.

Far as I could tell, it was me and no other journalists present. The rest of the media were in the gymnasium, preparing for the debate or networking or already on-air. Once they got into the media center they stayed put. For many reasons, I assume.
The air collapsed under a wave of heat unique to Houston.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Gnarled blockades served as borders on both sides of the street. Locked into steel fencing, flanked by rows of police cars with their lights on but their sirens off.

Worse than the humidity, and more intense, was the energy bouncing out of the protestors on Cleburne Street. The opposite of suction energy, shoving out with tension and panic and elation.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" blared from a Bluetooth speaker. I envisioned a slow zoom from above, beginning with the top of my head and rising, up and up and up. Drawing in the greater scene. Up past Trump's message-board plane. A panorama of city, then county, then state, capturing the topography and nuance of each snapshot of nature.

The higher the camera rose, the more I resembled an ant. One more wingless worker or obedient soldier rushing from place to place on a mission.

And when you got far enough above, you saw the colony that each of us belongs to.

Then it shrank like a passing bobsled, and Earth itself resembled an ant.

The scale of it is daunting.

For thousands of years the sky has filled humans with romance and humility and wonder. A restive impulse that strikes when we gaze up at the moon, the stars, the galaxy, the quiet.

But at ground level, I was a man in the throes of a great human drama. And my job was to document it as neutrally as possible.

The 120-odd protestors on the south side of the street spilled onto the sidewalk and into a lawn, and they chanted as the Trump plane groaned overhead.

They were crowded together, and they were all fighting for different causes. Lots of contradictions under the same banner.
Next to a group of Beto supporters with pro-choice t-shirts, several women chanted

We.
Want.
A pro-life.
Dem.

Chaos itself occupied the south side of the street. The protestors weren't sure how to handle it. So they chanted and sang and probed for the problem. Like so many tiny creatures hauling an orange slice.

Across the street, facing that horde of supporters, two men gripped pro-life signs.

They were the counter-protestors. Their barricade was far wider than needed. The grass around them looked sad, like the trail a dog makes along the fence when it wants to escape.

Behind the two counter-protestors, a mini-bus covered with photos of aborted babies, tangled fetuses, severed and indistinguishable chunks.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Photo by Kevin Ryan

I squinted and gasped and felt downright unwell.

Two days earlier, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child.

At the very moment I stared at images of tiny human shapes contorted and grey, our baby was the size of a pea.
A few weeks later, we'd see its heartbeat pulsing like a strobe.

I'm not making a statement on abortion. That's not my job as a journalist.

It's more my admiration for the impeccable depth of life. The timing. How messages and symbols confront us all the time, with unmatchable creativity.

Because there I was, literally in the middle of two opposing factions. Again. In the divide. Tangled into so many dichotomies. Life and death. Freedom and oppression. Order and chaos. Activity and stagnation. Creation and loss. Art and nature.

And I had once again remained in the middle.

This brought me tremendous satisfaction. It signified personal and journalistic success.

It was also a bit ridiculous.

As a reporter, I never wanted to pick a side. I already had a side. My side was America, and Ireland. My side was humanity.

My side was life.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.Not to act is to act."
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cost of discipleship can be daunting and few people are willing to sacrifice and stand in the face of evil to do what they know God is asking of them. The "Bonhoeffer Angel Award" is awarded to someone with the vision and courage to act when others only talk, to dig in and listen to the whisperings of the spirit when others turn a deaf ear. It is only fitting the inaugural award go to the visionary founder of Mercury One, Glenn Beck.

The award was presented by the Board President of Mercury One, David Barton and CEO of the Nazarene Fund, Tim Ballard. There was a touching video tribute as well including the likes of Penn Jillette, Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Joe Liberman, Congressman Loui Gohmert and Rabbi Daniel Lappin.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

Glenn will be hosting the annual Operation Underground Railroad gala Saturday, November 2nd with keynote speaker Tim Ballard. If you are able to join us, tickets are still available and donations of all sizes are welcome.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!