Thank you, great American soldiers and sailors and aviators and all other military personnel who put on a uniform so that we can have the freedom to be so distraught over the most controversial peaceful exchange of power in the history of the free world.
A day after the all-important Veterans Day, know that our ability to vote, to protest, to celebrate and to commiserate about Tuesday's election outcome are because millions of our fellow citizens have made and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
I woke up Friday wanting desperately to write about something other than Donald Trump. Anything other than the backlash. Any topic other than the bipolar horror stories from each side that detail middle school kids chanting "Build that wall" at their Hispanic classmates or random people being pulled from cars with Trump stickers and beaten on the streets.
This is not who we want to be.
We can't regulate that; we can only bemoan it collectively and hope to rectify it together.
Beyond the initial outrage comes the calming knowledge that the ability to protest — even to the criminal limits that should draw our outrage — is because of the people we celebrated Friday.
In the aftermath, have a little global perspective.
How many citizens in how many countries around the world would love any choice of leadership, even the decision Tuesday that left a lot of voters on each side picking what they believed to be the lesser of two evils?
How many people around the world would be killed protesting the next leader?
We don't normally — nor should we — grade ourselves on a global curve. But in the shadows of this combative season, I believe it is important we remember that through all our differences — political, social, racial, economical, sexual, you name it — we are all Americans.
And those choices, options and freedoms have forever been protected by our brave and unselfish military members.
Silent protester, silent voice
Potentially, the second-most-controversial American of the fall has been Colin Kaepernick.
You know Kaepernick; he's the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who has knelt during the national anthem.
The loudest protest and talking point of the last six months about a key part of racial unrest in this country was a silent kneel by an NFL millionaire. That made us think. It made us try to understand.
And then, when he was given a chance to truly speak in a way that is heard through history and has marked the transition of power for the entirety of our free nation's history, dude shrugged his shoulders.
For Kaepernick to ignore his chance to have his say in the loudest of ways — even if he did not vote for either presidential candidate because he claimed each was the devil and voted in the rest of the races on his ballot — spits in the faces of the real protesters who made real change with real sacrifice.
Maybe voting is the ultimate thank you.
Yes, we are tipping our visor to all the military members after Veterans Day. Please know you have our thanks, our respect and our admiration.
But let's spin this a little forward and pay tribute to those around town who pay tribute to our military heroes.
Kudos to Caroline Johnson, a valuable member of City Hall staff who has been a key part of the movement to honor our military heroes and their families with the flags that fly on the Veterans Bridge.
There was another glorious celebration Friday as a new round of flags was raised. They swap out the commemorative flags on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Johnson was quick to share praise with her staff and a selfless group of fine Chattanoogans who made the celebration especially great Friday.
"The flag poles were in a state of disrepair," Johnson told me earlier this month, "and we were trying to figure out how to pay to fix them."
Then in walked Scott McKenzie, a local engineer who quietly and generously put together a collection of folks with the skills and the generosity to refurbish the poles along the bridge.
"It was a great example of giving and a public-private partnership," Johnson said. "He took it upon himself and the people that helped. It was wonderful. Now all of the poles look beautiful."
Here's a final thank-you.