Presidential Election 2012: A Few Initial Thoughts

November 7th, 2012 No comments

1. I went to my polling place and picked the candidates I wanted.  I am a woman and I was not beaten or stoned for being so bold as to think I should be allowed to have such a voice.  I do not live in a country where leaders are chosen based on who can shoot the greatest number of innocent children (see Syria).  Last night, a dictator did not win with 99% of the vote before heading over to the nearest golf course to land four consecutive holes in one (see North Korea).  America is pretty awesome that way.  I did not vote for President Obama.  I oppose a majority of his policy positions.  But, he is my president and I will continue to teach my children that I can adamantly disagree with the views and the agenda without namecalling and hate and disrespect for the man.

2. To those of you who were pinning your hopes on Mitt Romney to save our republic and our freedoms, I ask this.  Mitt Romney? Really?  Many of you rejected him and spoke out against him as a big government moderate during the primaries, you admitted he was your fifth or sixth choice, but he now was going to be your 21st century George Washington?  Like I’ve written before, Romney seems to be a very nice man with great business sense who loves his family and country very much.  But, the guy has such a track record of being a flip-flop that he makes John Kerry look like a solid, dependable hiking boot.  Romney cannot be the principled champion of individual liberty, small government, and personal accountability.  Well, maybe he could on a Thursday, but who knows what you would get by Friday.  It seems like some voters, if it became necessary, would have been willing to stick a tri-cornered hat on a cardboard box and anoint him the next Patrick Henry because they were so scared of the alternative. 

3. Along those same lines, I remain optimistic that most Americans (and members of the human race in general) crave freedom and want to feel pride in country and the benefits of a hard day’s work.  We just haven’t had a leader who has effectively spoken to those principles in quite a while.  I refute the notion that we are on a one-way, no stopping it road to suffocating government and an entitlement society.  We elected FDR and LBJ, two men who were kind of fond of the heavy hand of government, but then Reagan was elected and re-elected in a landslide more than forty years after the New Deal and fifteen years after the thick safety net of the Great Society.  Yes, demographics have changed since 1984, but the population also changed greatly (and thankfully voting rights were greatly expanded) between 1936 and 1984.  Strong and compelling messages still win no matter what.  That doesn’t change.  I still believe that most American voters are receptive to the positive message of freedom and responsibility and opportunity for greatness.  We just aren’t hearing it. 

4. My fellow Christians who are crying out that God is punishing us and that the devil won last night, and who are using some horrible language in reference to our president and this election . . . stop.  Please.  It’s heartbreaking.  Reading and hearing the hate last night and this morning actually brought me to tears.  God loves Barack Obama as much as he loves you.  And, I’m pretty thankful for that because we all are awful people sometimes.  Christ calls us to do all things out of love.  “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love . . .” Eph 5:1-2.   ”Love your neighbor as yourself,” Mark 12:31.  “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing,” I Cor 13:2.  That doesn’t mean you become a doormat.  That doesn’t mean that you don’t stand up and loudly speak on issues about which you are passionate.  I will continue to share my frustration with Obamacare and redistribution efforts and other tentacles of government intrusion, but I will do so without calling our president a moron or a damn Muslim or  a “dufus” (one of my favorites from last night).  Several people have written that “God is weeping” over the fact that President Obama was re-elected.  I do not dare to assume knowledge of the emotions and reactions of God, but my humble guess is that He more likely is weeping over some of the vile words being written and spoken in His name today. 

5. In the past couple of weeks, I came to the decision that I wanted President Obama to win re-election. It’s not because I support his agenda.  I think it’s pretty clear I do not.  However, I don’t think Mitt Romney is the solution and eight years of his presidency is not a concept that gets me excited for an American rebound.  I believe that President Obama will continue to be rather ineffectual for the next two years, with the House intent on stonewalling him, and then I hold great hope that in 2014 some of our states will pick quality Senate candidates instead of men like Akin and Mourdock who are an affront to sensible voters of all persuasions.  I am fairly confident that President Obama will not have a Democratic Congress at any point in his second term, so essentially we are in a holding pattern until 2016.  And, I look forward to seeing what hopefully will be a strong, compelling, thoughtful slate of candidates for both major parties (and other parties!) at that time.  Small government, practical, “can actually reach out to voters of all backgrounds and concerns and work with people in an honest and productive way” conservatives have a great bench warming up — Christie, Paul, Cruz, Love, Jindal, Martinez and others are just getting started.  (And for those worried about the Supreme Court, it’s not that hot right now anyway . . . Chief Justice John Roberts and Obamacare ring a bell . . . and who is leaving in the next four years with a departure that could cause a great shift?)

6. The future of this country does not rest on the person who occupies the Oval Office.  It depends on the values we are teaching in our homes about respect, service, hard work, discipline, love, and accountability.  It depends on how we view our fellow man and how we reach out into our communities.  If we get that right, starting in our own families and working outward, we’ll be good.  If not, we are in trouble.  The person in charge over on Pennsylvania Avenue can only affect the speed at which some of these inevitable changes one way or the other are able to occur.

Categories: 2012 Election Tags:

These are the Choices? Then, I Choose “Other”

October 18th, 2012 No comments

I have watched both of the presidential debates that have taken place so far.  (I also watched the vice-presidential debate featuring “condescending, disrespectful laughing guy who thinks he is better than you” and “please don’t ask me any specifics about domestic policy or anything at all about foreign policy guy,” but that’s not the point of this post.)  In both instances, as the men shook hands and then greeted the family members who had been instructed to rush onstage and hug them warmly, I had the same reaction.  One of these men is going to be the president for the next four years, and that is truly upsetting.  Like, makes my heart ache for our country upsetting.  That is why I will be voting for neither Obama nor Romney when I cast my ballot sometime in the next couple of weeks.

I  like President Obama from what I can tell of him as a man, husband, and father.  I bet I would enjoy having a beer with him.  I love First Lady Michelle Obama.  I think she is smart and beautiful and I am thrilled that she has made healthy eating and getting kids moving her chosen platform.  I would like to have them as neighbors.  But, I don’t want them in the White House for another four years.  Why? Because I fundamentally disagree with the President’s vision for the role of government in our country and how he seems to perceive the ability of the ”average” American to embrace responsibility and accountability.

I believe that President Barack Obama and other members of the Democratic Party truly think that the federal government, with them at the helm, should maintain a heavy hand our lives.  Because they know better than us. It’s for our own good. I will never forget coverage of a DNC Q and A session that I watched on C-Span several years ago, when the Committee was led by former Governor Howard Dean.  One of the men in attendance raised his hand and asked Dean, “How do we convince some of the people who don’t realize we know what is best for them that they need to support our party?”  Dean replied, “That’s an important question.  We need to work on that message.”  Seriously.

Look, you simple-minded Americans.  Watch your football games and your reality television.  Just let the Democratic Party decide what to do with your money and your health care and your job and your education.  You don’t need to worry your little brains about such things.  That’s why Chris Matthews and Bill Maher and Michael Moore and Paul Krugman get so frustrated by the “undereducated” (as Matthews calls them) poor, white voters in the South who are “voting against their economic interests.”  Stupid people.  You should let our refined, all knowing Democratic leaders scoop together all of the money and decide to do with it.  It’s safer that way.

One out of every seven Americans now receives food stamps, a figure that has jumped greatly during the current administration.  That’s more than 46 million people!  That is insane.  Welfare costs have jumped by nearly a third over the past four years.  Yes, there was a recession and more of our families needed some temporary help to get through tough times.  However, that’s a lot of giving a man a fish, and I’m not sure there is a lot of teaching to fish going on.

I understand that these social safety nets are needed.  I am a single mom who not too long ago spent time living below the poverty level with a three-year-old and an infant.  I’ve gone to bed at night with knots in my stomach over paying for rent and groceries.  I get it.  But, you are not going to convince me that more than 14% of the people in our country NEED food stamps.  It fits into the model of the current Democratic Party, though.  Recruit more people to sign up for food stamps (or insert other government program here) by advertising it as a great service that our nation offers its people.  Pay for radio ads that advertise free cell phones.  Pretend that 25-year-old adults are still children who need a big grown up to cover their insurance needs.  Make people beholden to the government.  Proceed to control their lives because you hold the purse strings.  Do this for generations so that people come to know no different than looking to the government for help.

When Americans lose the individualism and the drive to succeed and be better and the willingness to take a risk knowing we might lose it all and belief that it’s OK to let our kids fail sometimes, too, then we are fundamentally changed as a nation.  When we become comfortable letting bureaucrats make decisions for us and settling for a life in which we are doled out an allowance instead of striving for something greater, we are sunk.  I know some people will tell me that this is not the Democratic Party’s intention–that the Party values hard work and success and the diversity of opinions and needs in state and local governments and only thinks the federal government should intervene when necessary.  But, I just don’t see it that way.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that employers should be required to provide coverage for contraception (I personally believe they should, but don’t believe they should be required by government to do so).  I don’t think there should be a federal Department of Education.  I think we should have a 10-15% (I’m flexible here) flat income tax rate across the board.  Simple. Done. I don’t think the leader of the free world should spend time negotiating peace in the Rose Garden between a professor and a police officer over a couple of beers. (I wonder how those two are getting along now . . . maybe they go to Red Sox games together.)  I don’t think there should be a federal minimum wage.  I think that the age to receive Social Security should be raised and I think that younger contributors should have the option of privatization or opting out altogether.  So, I just have fundamentally different opinions on policy than the current administration and the Democratic Party.  It makes sense that I simply can’t vote for big “D” to stay in power.

Then there is Mitt Romney.  His personal charity work sounds wonderful.  He gives generously of his money and time, which is not given the attention it deserves in the media.  Like President Obama, I have no doubt that he dearly loves his wife and children.  Great.  But, he is an empty suit.  As I’ve written before, I don’t think Romney has any core political principles.  I think he just wants to be president because it’s the ultimate challenge to conquer.  I don’t think he actually wants to DO anything once in power.  And, I think he tells people what he believes they want to hear in order to reach that goal.

I doubt he really thinks that 47% of our population are victims who contribute nothing to our nation’s coffers.  I even doubt he’s thought about it all that much.  I just think that he decided such a comment would play well with the millionaires in the room.  I don’t believe he is pro-life.  I don’t believe he is pro-choice.  I think he wants to encourage gun ownership and ban all firearms.  I think he likes the idea of government controlling health care, but also thinks it’s a terrible idea. He just wants to be elected.  What does he need to tell you in order to make that happen?  OK, good.  He’ll say that. I cannot have respect for, and offer my support to, someone who changes positions in a such a sweeping fashion time and again for political gain.

Some have argued to me that Romney having no core political ideology is a good thing because he just will support any legislation that will keep him in the good graces of the people who elected him.  He can be a puppet for the conservative cause.  I’m not willing to cast my vote for someone with no ideological soul to occupy the most powerful seat in the world and to be in a position that I hold in such high regard.  When my daughter asks me, “Why did you vote for Romney?”, is my only answer going to be, “Because I’m scared of what Obama would do if given more time as President.”  Is that the best most of us have got?  Sorry.  I’m not going to vote for a guy I don’t like out of fear for what the other guy wants to do.  I did that four years ago and it felt awful.

My other issue with Romney is it really does seem, as his critics on the left have charged, that he is detached from the realities facing us socially, economically, spiritually, and globally in 2012.  Russia is no longer our biggest threat, as Romney oddly claimed on the campaign trail.  Putin is creepy, no doubt, but I don’t put him at the top of my watch list.  And, I think the silly “binders of women” and “make dinner for her family” comments mean something.  They speak to his instinctual reactions to the roles of women.  I am a single, working mom who would love the idea of a flexible schedule, but honestly it’s not so I can rush home and stand over a stove for a half-hour making dinner.  It’s so I can go to doctor’s appointments or go on field trips or grab a little of that precious time away from the day care provider who sees my son more than I do.

Demographics have changed.  Technology has changed.  Some changes have been for the better, some for the worse.  But we must operate within the reality of what is happening inside our borders today.  The United States is complicated and messy and wonderful and fascinating and heartbreaking and inspiring, all at the same time.  We don’t need a leader who has experienced all of the many different  circumstances that people in this country face.  That’s impossible.  But, I do think we need someone who looks at and appreciates those many layers.  I don’t get that from Romney.

So, I can’t push the button for either candidate.  I cannot affirm that I want either one to lead this country that I dearly love. I will be voting for a write-in candidate.  (So, watch out if you are behind me in line because that request for a paper ballot always irritates the poll workers and slows things down.)  I am determined to walk out from that curtain knowing that I submitted the name of someone I actually think would be a good steward of the leadership position that has been loaned to him or her by the people for four years.

Those who want Obama out of office may say that I might as well be voting for the current president by not voting for Romney.  Rush Limbaugh said that very thing on his show today.  (Well, not directly to me.)  I’m contributing to the inevitable downfall of the republic through my naive and foolish voting ways.  I disagree.  I don’t think our country hangs in the balance of any one man.

Do you know what I think? What is more destructive to this country than either man, in my opinion, are people who think living off government programs is a perfectly acceptable and fulfilling way to go through life because that stuff is owed to them and/or they might as well get what they can for free, participation trophies, parents who call their kid’s college professor when they don’t like the grade their 20-year-old received and then allow  their “kid” to come home after graduation to live there until he is 30 without paying rent and working at least two jobs, political correctness,  reality television, grade inflation, absentee fathers, shoppers who leave their carts in the middle of the parking lot instead of returning them to the nearest cart stand, shoppers who talk on their cell phone while paying for their purchases instead of acknowledging the humanity of the cashier standing on the other side of the counter, the callousness that is being created in our kids through technology.  Those are symptoms of a much greater problem in our nation than our selection of any single person to sit in the Oval Office. Those are the problems that keep me up at night worrying about what kind of country my kids are going to live in as they become adults.

So, until I somehow get to vote on the impact that some of those serious issues I just listed are having on our culture, our politics, our families, and our future, which won’t happen . . . or at least until the choices I am given are no longer just Romney and Obama . . . I will stick with “other.”  See you at the polls.

Categories: 2012 Election, President Obama Tags:

If You Like the Other Guy, Who is Evil, You Also are Evil . . . Apparently

September 2nd, 2012 3 comments

I am a racist.  I am a moron who doesn’t understand what is best for me.  I hate poor people and women.  I want old people to die.  I am a fascist and a Nazi.  Apparently, if I don’t want President Obama to be elected for a second term, all of these things must be true. That’s what I read from a lot of liberal writers and hear from many of those who have the loudest mouthpieces for their party.  And frankly, I’m a bit disappointed in myself.  I always thought better of me than that.

And, as seen from the graphic above (which I’ve seen on the Facebook pages of three people recently), you’ve got to be pretty messed up to support Obama as well.  (You really can’t win, can you?)  Here we see the implication that President Obama is among the likes of Mao Tse-tong, who killed tens of millions of his own people through forced starvation and the Cultural Revolution, Hitler, who orchestrated the systematic genocide of nearly an entire ethnic group (you try finding a single Jewish person who can’t tell you of at least one grandparent, aunt, or sibling who was slaughtered in the Holocaust . . . won’t happen), and Lenin, who signed off on the Red Terror, executed religious leaders and intellectuals, and also starved many of his own people. To put President Obama next to those other men is absurd and insulting.  I don’t want the government running my health care, either, but I’m not worried that I am going to be shipped off to a concentration camp in Idaho after being ripped apart from my screaming children, where I will be deprived of basic human necessities for months before my skeletal, hardly functioning frame is marched into a small room in which I will be gassed before my lifeless body is dumped into a pit like trash.  But, maybe I’m just naive.

Look, I am not a supporter of President Obama’s political philosophy or a majority of the specific policies he has/wishes to put in place for our nation.  I believe that our Constitution, and what makes our country so exceptional and amazing, functions as it was intended when we hold true to our founding principle of  limited government.  President Obama has a much different take on what the role of government should be.  Fine.  I won’t vote for him.  But let me also be clear on another point.  I don’t think the president is evil.  I don’t think he is the anti-Christ.  I don’t think he is an a**hole or a scumbag or a myriad of other names I don’t believe you ever should call our president . . . any president. Those of you who called Bush a fascist idiot and a pile of s*** when he was president — that was wrong, too. Not because we don’t have freedom of speech and not because the president is above criticism, but because it cheapens the political discourse and because the casual use of terms like Nazi and the coarse language that is often scrawled across poster board does nothing to make you sound reasonable and legitimate.

I think Mitt Romney is a fundamentally good man who loves his wife and kids and who wants to do what he thinks is best for the country.  I think Barack Obama is a fundamentally good man who loves his wife and kids and who wants to do what he thinks is best for the country.  Let’s talk about their different agendas.  They have two very distinct visions for the United States, and those are good discussions to have.  Let’s get passionate about it!  Let’s protest when we think something is wrong and let’s affirm with our votes and our words of support when we like what we are seeing.  But, stop jumping to these ridiculous and counterproductive extremes.  Stop screaming that all Obama supporters are  ______________ or that all Romney supporters are ________________.  (Choose your own insults for the spaces provided)

Here’s the sad truth, and this development does honestly upset me.  I don’t love politics nearly as much as I used to.  I’ve been following elections since I was in elementary school.  I was active in the political life of my college campus and interned in D.C.  When I moved to Tennessee a decade ago, most of the people I met my first year were tied to the political process.  I could talk about politicians and debates on the floor of the House and the new bill coming before the Metro Council for hours.  Not so much anymore.  I still love the history of our government and thinking about policy issues, but the level of discourse has left me almost wanting to walk away from any active engagement.  It’s so nasty and so crass and nearly devoid of thought or respect.

Some people will argue politics has always been this way.  Andrew Jackson had plenty of mud slung at him when he ran for office.  Grover Cleveland had that nifty jingle written about his illegitimate child.  Heck, there probably was a smear campaign against Hammurabi.  I think it is worse today, though,  and I largely blame the internet and social media.

People can be much bolder in their ugliness when they can hide behind the anonymity of their computer keyboard.  An insulting photo or a ridiculous accusation can be “tweeted” around the globe in seconds.  Angry people can find each other much faster and gain courage from one another. And, this phenomenon has extended its impact beyond the online world in two unfortunate ways.  First, we now have a traditional print media that, in its rush to stay relevant, is trying to one-up the online outlets in tabloid trash.  If it’s incendiary, print it.  Second, the coarseness with which we communicate with one another on Facebook and chat rooms and blogs has carried over to “real life” interactions.  We have become so desensitized to the appalling disregard for basic courtesies and conversation skills that we find during the many hours we are plugged into our electronic devices, that we bring that same behavior to town hall meetings and candidate forums and even chats about the campaign with some friends over a couple of beers.

I’m not checking out of the process yet.  I’m still someone who makes sure her voter registration is updated before utilities are turned on when she moves.  I love the energy every time I go home and walk around D.C. . . . you breathe in the politics there and it’s fabulous.  I have deeply rooted and, I believe, well educated beliefs about what makes our country great and I have a vested interest in making sure that I am engaged for the sake of my children.  But, this inflammatory and absolutist rhetoric (especially when done with a lot of grammatical errors and in all caps) is so disheartening that part of me just wants to shut it out for a while and clean my mind and my spirit.

Categories: 2012 Election Tags:

Miracles Happen

August 9th, 2012 1 comment

“If he is not already brain dead, if he is somehow able to wake up and survive the trauma that so many of his organs endured . . . if he makes it through next weekend . . . it will be nothing short of a miracle beyond medical explanation.  But . . . miracles happen.”

When Tony Nolan suffered a massive heart attack on July 15,  in the hours and days that unfolded I called several doctors and nurses I know, shared his story, and asked what they thought of his prognosis.  The unanimous response is what you just read above.  According to the medical odds, Tony was not supposed to survive.

Tony was not supposed to suffer cardic arrest and lose consciousness, have his wife perform CPR on him at home until the ambulance arrived, endure a quintuple bypass later that afternoon, have his damaged body shocked back to life dozens of times, have a second massive heart attack four days after the first one, have his liver and his kidneys and his lungs and his pancreas fail him, spend multiple days on a heart/lung machine, be intentionally put so deep into sedation that he would go days without movement or discernable neurological activity . . . and still be alive more than three weeks later to tell his wife that he loves her.  But . . . miracles happen.  And he did.

I will not recount every detail of Tony’s surgeries or how the doctors have gone from saying that his prognosis was grim to where Tony is now, a week in which he officially has been kicked off the heart transplant list because his own heart is recovering so well. A week in which he got to kiss his wife and visit with his beautiful three-year-old twin girls through a computer screen.  A week in which he has watched the Olympics while sitting in a chair.  But, I encourage all of you to visit his wife’s Facebook page.  She graciously has made her page public in order to share both their terrifying moments and every moment of victory, large and small, with the thousands of people around the world who are praying for Tony and his family.  I promise you — you will be inspired and humbled by Leila’s strength, grace, and determination, as well as by the outpouring of love from family and friends who care so deeply for this man, when you take some time to scroll through the history of what life has been like for the Nolans since July 15.  There is no better way to learn of his story than through the words of his wife and other family members and friends who have posted there.

So, instead of retracing the medical path that Tony has taken, I want to tell you what I know about Tony Nolan.  And, I’ll begin by admitting that I’m not the best person to do this.  I am not one of his close confidantes.  I only have known him a couple of years.  We don’t talk on a daily or weekly basis.  But, I have been to Tony and Leila’s home for cookouts (man, can Tony grill a good burger!) and socialized with them at restaurants and dropped off my daughter to play with their girls and joined them on their deck for beers and enjoyed casual conversations outside of their home while walking through the neighborhood.  Their girls will be going to kindergarten with my son.  I consider Leila a dear friend.  So, I can share what I know.

First, Tony loves his girls.  All three of them.  Tony and Leila clearly adore one another, but beyond the playful spark that is still evident between this couple, it also is obvious that there is a deep bond of trust and devotion and utter admiration for the other person.  And, Tony loves his little girls, Romie and Cordy.  In the times that I have spent with the Nolans, I see Tony’s entire face change when he looks at his daughters.  He becomes softer and you know he is a daddy who would do anything for those kids to feel loved and safe . . . while also keeping them in line like a good daddy should!

Tony is a no-joke American hero.  He was an Airborne Ranger who earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in Desert Storm.  The dude jumps out of airplanes!  He has put his life on the line for all of us.  He has saved the lives of others.  And now, he has been fighting just as hard to save his own.  I have no doubt that the courage and strength he needed when stationed halfway around the world is providing a large part of his success in this very personal fight he is battling in a Nashville hospital today.

Photo: "Flying High Again..."

Tony is a good guy with an amazing heart (he’s proved that in new ways the past few weeks!).  When I moved into my home and several times since, Tony has offered to help with whatever I needed.  From lifting furniture to fixing my computer to making sure the locks worked on my doors, he was ready to help in any way possible.  As a single mom, knowing there are guys like Tony who let you know they are only a phone call away offers a wonderful peace of mind.  Walk down his street and talk to his other neighbors.  You will hear similar stories time and again.

Tony needs our help.  Tony’s progress over the past few weeks has brought me tears and goosebumps on many occasions.  I continue to be in awe.  But, he still has a long road ahead.  His lungs need to get stronger and his kidneys need to do their job.  He likely will be losing part of his right hand due to a thrown blood clot during one of his surgeries.  He has physical therapy and speech therapy and you-name-it therapy ahead of him for who knows how long. He has an amazing wife and two beautiful young daughters who need comfort and hugs and encouragement.  So, you can pray.  You can join in the prayers that have been lifted up for him in the thousands without ceasing for the past 25 days.  You can send him thoughts of healing, of positive energy, of peace.

You also can help the Nolans with the cost of Tony’s medical treatment, which is probably one of the last things on their minds right now, but is certain to be daunting.  Please consider donating to Tony’s medical expense fund to ease this financial burden to come for this husband, father, friend, and veteran.   You also can send notes of encouragement, gas cards, grocery cards, care packages for the girls, etc. to the Nolans at 1552 Goldfinch Circle, Hermitage, TN 37076.

Yes, I am asking you to help someone you don’t know.  But we do that all the time, don’t we?  That is what makes good people so awesome.  We look out for one another.  We are a collective family.  Besides, who says you have to remain strangers?  I hope you will take a few moments to get to know Tony through his wife’s writing.  Giving to Tony’s family will be an opportunity to affect his life in a positive way, and reading his story is likely to do the same for you.

Thank you.

This article and all photos published with Leila’s permission!

Talking to My Kids about Our Country

July 4th, 2012 No comments

The fact that we are called the “land of opportunity” means something.  Take your finger, put it on that globe we have sitting on your desk, and spin it around.  Your finger may land on India or Germany or China or Costa Rica.  It doesn’t matter.  While each of these places has wonderful people living inside its borders and perhaps some elements of its industry or culture that we would enjoy, they do not have the life choices and freedom to succeed and fail that you do here.  In the United States, you can be a plumber or a doctor or a musician or a prison guard . . . and that goes for both of you, not just the boy.  You can live on a farm or in a studio apartment.  You can earn your graduate degree or drop out of high school (I advise against the second option).  You can have fifteen babies or choose to live a single life in which you travel or engage in charity work until the day you die.  It’s totally up to you.  That is exciting and wonderful, but you also will find that this scares some people.  Some people want to be told what to do.  Don’t be one of those people.

Now, while the opportunities for your life here are better than anywhere else on earth, don’t believe the notion that everyone begins at the same point on the starting blocks.  A child who is born into wealth and privilege, whose parents can afford the best private colleges without ever looking at a student loan application and whose family name opens doors to job offers starts off a few steps ahead of you, at least in terms of what we typically deem as success in our society.  That doesn’t mean that same kid isn’t going to screw it all up and destroy his life.  It happens all the time. You have a mom who owns a home and who makes sure you are surrounded by books and music and laughter, and you live in a middle-class suburb that allows you to attend a pretty good public school.  You have some advantages over a kid living on the other side of the river whose mom is unemployed, who sees drugs and violence every day, and who walks up to a school that is falling apart when he arrives with a hungry belly to try to learn every morning.  Never use your advantages as an excuse not to work hard and never blame your disadvantages as a reason you simply can’t succeed.  Just be aware of the circumstances of those who live around you.

Take the time to read the Declaration of Independence every Fourth of July.  Read it on other days, but especially be sure to read it on this day.  We already are doing that, but that book I’m reading you right now is the condensed, Cliff notes version.  We’ll be reading the “inalienable” rights and “usurpations” of the crown soon enough.  Really think about the men who wrote and signed this document.  They pledged their Lives, their Fortune, and their sacred Honour . . . for you.  And that meant something.  Most of these guys were wealthy farmers or skilled tradesmen.  They were the “one percent” of their time.  But they risked everything, and many of them lost everything, for this notion that people deserved to be free.  I don’t think many of us now really appreciate how bold and dangerous their actions were.

That being said, you will hear a lot in school about how our founders weren’t really so great.  Many of them owned slaves, they weren’t exactly role model family men, and the notion of women being an equal part of the political process was not even considered.  You may have teachers who want to vilify these men.  It’s true.  They were flawed humans.  (Look into the personal lives of most of the public figures we hold up as great leaders; it’s usually not very pretty) Slavery is a disgusting and embarrassing scar that most countries have come to bear at some point in their history.  And, you probably wouldn’t want to have been married to Benjamin Franklin unless you had a healthy supply of penicillin in your medicine cabinet.  But, seeing that penicillin wasn’t developed yet in 1776, that would have been difficult.  Let’s not diminish the importance of what these men did, though.  They stood up to the most powerful empire in the world and created a system of government that has allowed our people to improve on its mistakes and make the changes that they unfortunately could not have the foresight to deem necessary when our country was founded more than 200 years ago.  It is right to honor the good things they did.

I hope you get the chance to travel to many parts of this country.  Take lots of road trips.  Fly to both coasts.  The song is right — it really is majestic.  We have enormous oceans hugging either side of us, water that offered a barrier of protection as we struggled to become a nation in our early years.  We have rich farmland that beckoned planters from around the world to put down some stakes and grow.  We have gorgeous mountain ranges, as well as flat deserts over which we can see for miles.  We have lush forests with hardwoods that have stood for hundreds of years and swamps with alligators lurking just below.  Go to Maine in October.  You will lose your breath from the beauty.  Walk along the rocky beaches near San Francisco and compare them to the fine sand dunes in Florida.  Take a flight that allows you to look out your window and see the Rocky Mountains below you.  I can’t think of another country as unique in its physical diversity as ours.  It’s special and awesome.

We are not a Christian nation.  You may believe that we are, especially living in the part of the country that we do, but we aren’t.  Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, etc (and I don’t mean to demean anyone by putting them in the “etc” category) all have, or should have, equal footing here.  I want you to have friends who introduce you to a wide variety of beliefs.  I’ve been to bar mitzvahs and the breaking of the Ramadan fast, Hindu weddings and Catholic funerals.  My life is richer for it and all of those experiences would not happen in many places other than the United States. Yes, our Creator and Divine Providence are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and there is no doubt that our founding fathers believed, to varying degrees, in God and some of them claimed Christ as their Savior.  But, the First Amendment that was written about a decade after we declared our independence makes it pretty darn clear that the government is not to establish a religion.  People in other countries throughout the world are tortured and killed for not believing what their government wants them to believe.  In America, you are free to believe or not believe whatever you want. Keep reading, though, because the second part of what the First Amendment has to say about religion is just as important.  Government also cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion.  You are allowed to pray, to worship, to sing out loud to God on the public square.  And in your office.  And in your school.  Do not let anyone make you feel ashamed or embarrassed to express what you believe.

Be passionate about this country and its grand experiment.  Learn how our government works and study the people who want to be a part of that process.  Engage in the great policy debates of your time.  It’s OK to have a completely different opinion than me.  Just care.  You should get that “tingling sensation down your leg” (h/t Chris Matthews) every time you walk into a polling place.  If you ever lose that feeling, spend a few moments staring at the photo of a young man who stood down a tank in Tiananmen Square or the grandmothers holding up purple fingers with tears in their eyes or, in our very own country, the college students who faced water hoses and police dogs and women who endured hunger strikes in jail just so you could inconvenience yourself for a half hour to push a few buttons at your local elementary school.

Along those same lines, be passionate but don’t make it personal.  I may disagree with many of the ideas held by our current president, but I don’t dislike him.  Many people proudly state that they hate him, and just as many people hated our previous president.  That is the word they use — hate.  They use vile language and demean the office which these men hold.  Don’t let your emotions get away from you.  You do nothing to further your cause when you call our president, whoever he (or someday she) may be, a jack ass or a Nazi or a moron.

Finally, if you get goosebumps up and down your arms and you find that your eyes burn with tears every time a drum line marches down a parade route followed by our soldiers in uniform carrying the American flag, it’s OK.  It happens to me, too. I am humbled by the opportunity I get to live in this amazing country when billions of people, no different than me, spend their lives in horrible circumstances, the reality of which I can’t even imagine.  I am incredibly fortunate to be an American, and so are you.

Categories: Kids Tags: ,

Six-Year-Old Detained for Riding Bike

April 25th, 2012 No comments

And I thought it couldn’t happen here.  (OK, actually I did; I just hoped it wouldn’t)  My friend’s son was stopped by a police officer yesterday and prevented from riding his bike.  This boy was told that his mom was irresponsible and let him do bad things.  I am so angry on behalf of my friend, who, along with her husband, is raising smart, responsible, independent children.  Please read on.

My friend’s son, who is in the first grade, loves to ride his bike to school.  When his older sister, who is ten, also rides her bike to their nearby building of public education (a mile and a half away on paths lining streets of suburbia . . . oh, how treacherous), they head together without adult chaperones and usually encounter other walkers and bikers along the way.  On those days when the boy is riding solo, my friend hangs back in her car and makes sure he arrives safely.

Yesterday, this boy was at the school with his mom, as she had arrived to help with an after-school activity.  When the time came to leave, his mom told him to head out to get his bike while she went in the opposite direction to wrangle a group of kids she was responsible for driving home, with the intention that she would meet him outside.

She drove to the side of the school at which her son was to be waiting for her and saw a police car.  Oh, my!  What happened?  Turns out, the cop had stopped the six (almost seven)-year-old boy, questioned him, and then informed him his mother had done a bad thing by letting him be alone with his bike and cross one street alone.  Well, not really alone . . . even though he had crossed this street many times before, a teacher happened to be right there and watched him get across safely and then continued to look out for him once he was on the other side; that is, until the officer arrived and took charge of a clearly volatile and threatening situation.

Once my friend pulled up to her son and the disappointed man in uniform, she was confronted by the officer: “Don’t you think your son is too young to be riding his bike by himself?  I think the world of my kids and would never let them ride by themselves!  Anything could have happened!”  He never introduced himself before shouting at her.

To translate, the police officer essentially said the following: “I actually love MY children; you don’t.  You obviously don’t care whether your child lives or dies.  He could have been abducted by a serial killer or mutilated by a wild pack of coyotes, all while dozens of parents and teachers who know and love your child and were within mere feet of your son simply would have stared and done nothing to help him.”

My friend’s son was nervous and afraid . . . not by the prospect of riding his bike without a parent attached to his side, which he had done many times before, but by this ridiculous police officer who made him feel like he was doing something bad.  He later told his mom, “Maybe I should have told him that I was seven instead of six and then he wouldn’t have yelled.”

Here is one of many reasons that my friend is awesome.  She told her son to get back on his bike and ride on home.  She didn’t want him to think he had been doing anything wrong.  Because he hadn’t.  If more kids rode their bikes home every day, I think that would be a good thing!  What would the cop have cited her for — encouraging independence and a sense of responsibility in her child?  And, in a move that surely would have further infuriated the officer, the next day, this boy and his big sister rode their bikes to and from school together . . . without Mommy hovering around them.  They made it just fine.

My friend did not drop her son off on a rural road five miles from home and next to a parked, windowless white van with a man leaning against the back door offering him candy and then tell him to find his way home.  That would be stupid and dangerous.  Instead, she trusted him to get his bike and start his short trek home, knowing that within minutes she would be right behind him with parental eyes on her child–a child who was actually exercising and getting fresh air!  She had been teaching him, and all of her children, small steps of independence from the moment they could walk.  That’s what we’re supposed to do, right?  Teach them to be confident men and women who can live safely in the world around them?  Those lessons can’t start when a kid turns eighteen.  She didn’t treat him like a helpless infant, but as a boy who understood safety and used common sense.  I’m so glad that she has not let this police officer, who apparently thinks horrible people and certain amputation or death are lurking around every corner, affect what she knows to be best for her son and daughters.

As I’ve done my reading over the past couple of years by authors who assert we are raising our children in a culture of unwarranted fear, I’ve come across stories in which “concerned neighbors” call the cops because they see a 10-year-old walking on a sidewalk unattended or a mom has to fill out five triplicate forms in order to let her kid ride his bike the half-mile home from soccer practice by himself.  I try not to get frustrated at this bubble that some authority figures want to place around kids, because it does me no good and because I know it all comes out of love for our children.  But, boys and girls are as safe as they ever were.  In fact, statistics show that kids are safer than when we were growing up in the 1970s and 1980s — fewer abductions, less violence, less disease.  What were we allowed to do by ourselves as kids?  Did our moms not care about us and our safety?

I let my six-year-old walk to the bus stop without me and when she walks to school instead, she does the last part of the walk with a nine-year-old neighbor and not me.  I’m thrilled that my friend lets her kids bike to school and trusts them and the people around them (most people really are good!) enough to know they will arrive and return safely.  Some parents aren’t comfortable with that.  OK.  But, with the exception of some clearly abusive situations, most parents should be afforded the right to decide what is best for their children.  That cop was out of line in the way that he talked to my friend and handled the situation in general.  His mindset is detrimental in promoting the safe and vibrant communities we all want.  We need to have some discussions at our schools and in our neighborhoods about the restrictions we put on our kids and the real reasons we do so.

Single Parents = Child Abusers?

March 8th, 2012 1 comment

My abused and neglected children

Quick quiz: Which of the following home environments is the most dangerous for a child?

a. Mom and Dad drink heavily, invite their partying friends over on an almost nightly basis, and expose their children to all kinds of language and behavior they shouldn’t have to hear and see.

b. Dad belittles Mom in front of kids every evening, sometimes giving her a shove for good measure, offering a horrible example for his son about how to treat a woman and to his daughter about what to expect from a man.

c. Mom is divorced and is the only parent in the home.  She works hard to provide for her kids, is active in their school, and provides hugs, prayers, and bedtime stories every night.

If you answered “c,” then, according to Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, you are correct!!!  Give yourselves a hand.

A bill proposed by Senator Grothman, Senate Bill 507, would require the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize “nonmarital parenthood” as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.  This effort is to include statewide awareness campaigns and the dissemination of information that shares one important way to prevent child abuse is not to be a single parent.

That’s it.  Be married.  Apparently, no matter what, that makes you less likely to place your children under threat of abuse and neglect in your home.  On the other hand, if you happen to be a single parent, due to death or divorce, or if you are part of an unmarried couple with children, you are labeled a potential child abuser.

This is not meant as a defensive gripe because I am a single mom.  I’m not denying that the ideal situation for kids is a mom and a dad who are in a loving and committed marriage in which the family unit is respected and made a top priority.  No doubt about it.  But, you cannot tell me that the kids who lived below me in an apartment complex last year whose parents screamed at each other while high and then blared music until 2:00am or the friends I had growing up who saw their dads hit their moms, who themselves were hit with belts and burned with cigarettes, or as girls were told by their fathers how sexy they were becoming, or who were reminded regularly how stupid or worthless they were, or who lived in a cold home in which their mom regularly confessed to them that she did not love their father are in a better situation than kids who grow up in many of our country’s single parent homes.

So-called “conservative” politicians, those who espouse the virtues of small government until using government fits your moral agenda, I say this to you.  Stop.  Single parents deal with lots of challenges (as do all parents, actually, but single parents face some unique issues of their own) and many already carry extra guilt and worry over their kids’ well-being and future.  Labeling them child abusers in the supposed attempt to protect and promote the traditional family is insulting, harmful, and absurd.

Oh, and Senator Grothman, have you met our own Senator Stacey Campfield?  If not, give him a call.  I think the two of you would get along famously.

Categories: Kids Tags: ,

Let’s Talk about Sex . . . but only after you’ve talked about it with your friends and learned all kinds of misinformation

February 29th, 2012 2 comments

It was the summer before fourth grade. I was at my friend’s house and we found a copy of Where Did I Come From? on the top shelf of the bookcase in her living room. We read it from cover to cover. We stared at each other in disbelief. Then we read it again. After that, we got out a tape recorder and recorded ourselves reading it and then played the recording back. We were fascinated.

We shared our discovery with my friend’s mom, who advised me to walk home and let my mom know about the reading material I had encountered that afternoon. (Perhaps there also was a phone call to my mom while I was in transit; I don’t know.) I remember my mom was in the middle of teaching a piano lesson, so I patiently waited upstairs and then told her all I had learned at the first opportunity. She was awesome. She answered every question I had, including several that I probably would have been too embarrassed to ask if I had been a little older.

That must have been the summer that a lot of kids “found out,” because sex was all the buzz when we walked into our fourth grade classrooms. Lots of whispers of, “Do you know?” and “Our parents do that!” And, looking back, I don’t think that was too young to learn about sex. I handled it fine, and so did my peers. I will have no problem with my kids learning about sex at age eight, nine, or ten, at least in general terms. I hope the conversations I have with them will evolve as they grow and more details become age-appropriate. I want to talk to them before they hear too much from their friends. And, they will hear things.

In fifth grade, we got the “Our Changing Bodies” lessons, with my teacher in charge of the girls and our school principal taking the boys in another room. We used the same book for fifth and sixth grade health education, and I clearly remember my teacher telling us not to skip ahead because we would learn about actual sex next year and then hearing the quiet yet urgent flipping of pages that immediately followed. Seventh grade science devoted a week to sex education, and my teacher put a box in the front of the room in which we could leave any questions we wanted to ask anonymously. There were some intense queries from some very confused and frightened students, as I recall, and Ms. Mason answered them all with respect and compassion. Ninth grade health class brought more in-depth material and some very graphic photos of end-stage syphilis. Senior year gave us the condom on the cucumber lecture in the auditorium, with the expected snickering. There were permission slips that went home in every instance, and there were usually just one or two kids who had to go sit in the library until we were done.

None of these classroom instances compelled me to have sex.  But, I was glad to have the knowledge and to be able to have rational, informed conversations about the topic.

I am glad that sex education was taught throughout my schooling. My mom talked to me (or at least was willing to respond to my questions) but many kids do not have a parent at home who will do that. Perhaps a class discussion will encourage kids to ask questions at home to a mom or dad who might not address it otherwise. Or, at the very least, they will get some information about how sex works (the level of misinformation is shocking) and how to protect themselves.  Ideally, yes, parents should have these tender moments with their children when they sit down and discuss how sex is an act of love between two people who are committed to one another for eternity and if you even think about having sex in high school (or earlier), your genitals will explode and then fall off (or something equally as compelling). But, that doesn’t happen.

The CDC reports that 46% of our kids are having sex before they graduate from high school. This isn’t because they are exposed to sex education in the classroom. Just as scary is the statistic that around 40% of these kids aren’t protecting themselves. I don’t think kids should have sex in high school. (Both literally inside the high school . . . we all know someone who did that . . . or during that time of their lives.) But, if they are, I want it hammered home that they need protection. If their parents aren’t going to be responsible and have that conversation, it needs to happen elsewhere. The alternative is an ongoing waiting list of pregnant girls signing up to star in the next season of Teen Mom as well as a bunch of babies who are more likely to be raised without a father, to struggle in school, and to live in poverty than their peers who are born to older mothers.

This post was prompted by my reading of commentary regarding State Senator Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill (yes, the same fine legislator who recently asserted the notion that AIDS was brought to our country by a pilot having sex with a monkey), a proposed piece of legislation that would ban any discussion of sexual orientation before the ninth grade. My research led me to investigate how sex education is handled in Tennessee in general. I did not know that our state does not require sex education for its students and if it does, it must emphasize abstinence. I also didn’t know that current law forbids schools from teaching any sex education until the ninth grade. Sex education then can be taught to high school students in the appropriate classes (biology, health, etc). Doesn’t that seem too late? I’m not asserting that a lot of kids are having sex by the ninth grade, but I can guarantee most of them are talking about it.

The statistics for Tennessee are troubling. We are higher than the national average in teen pregnancies, teen STD rates, and percentage of high school students who didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex. There are a lot of teenagers in our state having sex and truly not knowing how to prevent pregnancy or maybe just not getting the lifelong consequences of their decision not to protect themselves (if the ill-advised decision to have sex is made in the first place).

I don’t want the government to invade into the private sexual decisions of young people, like, say, a Rick Santorum might. Those moral questions must be addressed within a family. But, I do think that sex education has its place in a school curriculum before the ninth grade. Boys and girls are learning all kinds of wrong information during discussions that take place as they ride school buses and walk through school hallways and sit in school cafeterias; that conversation shouldn’t stop when they step into the classroom.

To Vote or Not to Vote: That is My Question (h/t Shakespeare)

February 23rd, 2012 No comments

So, I’ve been thinking about not voting this year.  That’s big for me.  Whenever I move, I submit my voter registration information before I call the cable company or make sure my lights are turned on.  I have only missed one opportunity to vote since I turned eighteen in 1993.  It was a primary in a state election and I still feel guilty about it.  But right now, I really feel like I would have to apologize to the country if I voted for any of these guys to be its leader.

I’m no fan of President Obama.  I don’t agree with most of his political priorities and have a very different view of the role that government should play in our lives.  I don’t want him to sit in the Oval Office for another four years.  Now, I take no issue with the man personally.  As I’ve mentioned before, he seems to be a lovely husband and father and I probably would enjoy an animated discussion with him.  I just don’t like his vision for the country.

And, regardless of whether or not I agree with his ideology, I think Obama has proven to be a very weak leader.  Bush was pummeled for gas prices lower than they are currently when he was in office; Obama apologists say he just can’t help it and there’s really nothing one man can do to affect this global situation.  We can’t seem to pass a budget, and Obama and the fellow leaders in his party blame the Republicans (and then Boehner cries).   We now have more people on food stamps than anytime in history and nearly half of our population not paying income tax.  Hey, the president isn’t good at accepting responsibility, why should the rest of America?  He is really skilled at apologizing to other countries but disappears when the time comes to take a strong stand on behalf of the people of he is supposed to lead.  Three years ago, he asked for and received nearly a trillion dollars in stimulus money that would “save or create” 3.5 million jobs.  Yeah.  Not so much.  President Truman had a plate with “The Buck Stops Here” on his desk; perhaps Obama could learn a lesson from one of his Democratic bethren.

With that in mind, people tell me that the most important mission we must have is defeating President Obama.  Anyone would be better than him, they say!  Our country won’t survive another four years of this administration!  Let’s put a plastic bag on the ballot and vote for it, as surely it would do less damage than our current president!

I disagree . . . I don’t think that every other possible option is better (the plastic bag being one example).  I think our country would veer as far away from the Constitution and the writings of our founders under a Santorum administration as it currently does with an Obama one.  Santorum loves him some government intervention.  He is a self-proclaimed fan of big government as long as it’s manipulated by supposedly conservative principles.  You can’t rail against government running our lives when you don’t like the way the guy in charge is directing the efforts, but then turn around and think it’s awesome and righteous when your agenda is being promoted.  Limited government is a founding principle of our country.  Period.

I’ve posted it before, but this 2008 quote from Santorum bears repeating,

“[Some conservatives] have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues . . .that is not how traditional conservatives view the world. There is no such society that I’m aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.”

I don’t understand how conservatives of the “less government is better government” variety can support this guy.  He believes that government should get involved in your bedroom . . . in cultural issues . . . in how you choose to live your life!  Santorum wants to use government to force the country to conform with his religious and social mores.

So, vote for Ron Paul, you might say.  No one can argue against the fact that the fine Congressman is consistent in his adherence to limited government.  True, and I admire him for that.  But, I also can imagine a moment in which a President Paul sits down to negotiate with Ahmadinejad or some of his peeps on a boat floating in the Caspian Sea.  As they are chatting about the weather, that fine mentally stable leader of a country in which there are no gay people leans into Paul and whispers, “We just blew up Tel Aviv.  The city is leveled.  Our bodies are probably beginning to feel the effects of the radiation right now.  How ya like me now, Doc?”

I don’t imagine this scenario because I think Rep. Paul is naive about foreign policy, as ridiculous callers to Phil Valentine or Michael Delgiorno like to say.  (Those calls always sound like this: “I think Ron Paul is 100% right about our economy and I would love to see him Secretary of the Treasury, but his naivete about foreign policy is a dealbreaker for me.”)  I don’t think Ron Paul is naive.  That’s insulting.  He is an intelligent and well read man who comes by his opinions from a place of genuine principle.  But, I think it’s in instances of foreign threats in which you have to give the Founding Fathers a little room for error.

In 1787, how could you have imagined the creation of large metal objects with wings that could fly across oceans in mere hours in order to deliver a weapon that split the nucleus of an atom, resulting in thousands of immediate deaths and radioactive repurcussions for generations to come?  No lasting foreign entanglements sounds easy enough when your most recent enemy, and the most powerful nation on earth at the time, was across a body of water that required several weeks in a wooden boat to cross.

Note: I tried to write about Newt Gingrinch in this blog post, but his ego wouldn’t fit on the screen.  And, he kept telling me what I should write and which of my opinions were legitimate ones.

Even though I wrote before that I could not vote for Mitt Romney because he had no core principles, perhaps he is the best option after all for that same reason.  As several wise friends have argued to me, since Romney doesn’t actually believe in anything, he will just try to keep people happy.  If we get a true, small government Congress in place, as we seem to be trending, at least Romney will be a good sport about signing the legislation that lands on his desk.  With President Obama remaining at the helm, we’ll have another four years of stalemates and a problematic can of horrifying deficits and entitlement spending that continues to get kicked down the road.

I have to admit, I’ve wondered a lot recently if I even am a Republican.  When I look at those guys on stage at the debate last night, I start to think that I’m not.  I take solace in the fact that 55% of the members of my party wish that someone else was running.  I am not alone.  Here’s hoping for a brokered convention!

When the time comes, I’m sure I will walk behind that curtain for the primary and the general election, press my selections on the electronic screen, and slap on an “I Voted” sticker before heading off to work.  I can’t bring myself not to participate.  But, I hope that one day there is once again a candidate for whom I can have some excitement about voting, who I will be proud to see represent our nation and its interests.  Until then, I will have to accept disappointment and reluctant engagement as my most compelling emotions of the day.

Categories: 2012 Election Tags: ,

Senator Campfield Talks Monkey Sex

January 26th, 2012 1 comment

It was only two weeks ago that I wrote about the lovely comments made by State Representative Richard Floyd regarding his desire to “stomp a mudhole” in any transgendered individual who tries on a new blouse in the proximity of his spouse.  Today, State Senator Stacey Campfield took to the airwaves and made Floyd sound, in comparison, like someone who could lead the next LGBT Pride Parade.

Campfield visited a show on XM radio and shared this fantastic insight into a health epidemic that has caused devastation around the world for three decades:

“Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community — it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall. My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex…very rarely [transmitted]. What’s the average lifespan of a homosexual? it’s very short. Google it yourself.”

There is so much going on in these five lines that my head is spinning in my attempt to digest it and write coherently about how ill-informed and absurd these comments are . . . made by a man who has actually been elected to office . . . more than once!

(Side note — For those of you familiar with Senator Campfield’s blog, to which I often look for inspiration concerning how to craft elegant and persuasive prose, you will realize that if Campfield had written these words instead of speaking them, it would have appeared something like “scrooing a monkee.”)

It’s shocking how irresponsible an elected official can be in stating publicly that it’s virtually impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex.  Luckily, the average ninth grader who’s completed a semester of Health class knows better than that.  The CDC reports that in 2009, nearly 30% of new HIV infections in the United States were due to heterosexual sex.  I know it’s some tricky math, but I don’t think that qualifies as “very rarely.”  In the rest of the world, the AIDS crisis that rages on is overwhelmingly furthered by unprotected heterosexual sex . . . between two humans (just thought I would add that in case Campfield wants to continue to blame the monkey for ongoing risky sexual decisions).

The fact that Campfield says these ridiculous things out loud, and that some of his constituents might actually believe him, is simply dangerous.  Let’s see how Campfield’s “very rarely” conclusion holds up when placed against the 14 million orphans of the AIDS crisis in southern Africa.  Those precious children are without a mom or a dad because of a virus transmitted through heterosexual sex.

And, I like that the fine Senator falls back on the always handy “gay guy = guy who engages in bestiality” equation.  He makes it sound like a pilot put his plane on cruise control, invited a primate into the cockpit for some intimate inter-species relations, and immediately following that encounter, walked up and down the aisles to have sex with multiple unsuspecting men who then landed and . . . boom . . . started the AIDS epidemic.

It is true that transmission of HIV is higher as a result of gay sex than heterosexual sex, and that AIDS began primarily as a disease within the gay community in our country, but this is not a “gay disease” that flourished from a one-night stand with a monkey.  It is widely accepted that the virus first spread from chimpanzees to humans in the early 20th century, likely to bushmeat hunters in Africa who had a lot of exposure to the infected animals and had the infected blood pass through a cut in their skin.  These hunter dudes then had sex with lots of WOMEN (and probably some men, too . . . I’m not discounting that factor) and the virus took off.

I assume that the statistics about the lifespan of homosexuals that Senator Campfield wants us to discover through our Googling are based on the “research” done by Dr. Paul Cameron and the Family Research Institute, which has been thoroughly debunked by multiple scientific organizations and by anyone who can read the methodology with any level of critical thinking.  Cameron sampled obituaries posted in gay magazines and newspapers and said, “Look at how young all the gay people are dying!”  Oh, that’s conclusive.

Maybe we should ask questions like, “Is it possible that some older men and women just never were comfortable sharing their sexuality publicly?” or “Is it possible that just the untimely deaths by AIDS were being highlighted in order to raise awareness about the disease?” or “Is it possible that some gay men and women were never accepted by their families and therefore there was no one to write the obituary of the 90-year-old lesbian who lived down the street?”  Or, maybe Cameron was just looking for an excuse to thumb through hundreds of gay publications.  Whatever his motivation, Dr. Cameron’s efforts have gotten him expelled from both the American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association and his work has never been published in a reputable journal of his field.

Sadly, this is about what I would expect from Senator Campfield, so I shouldn’t be surprised.  He has a fine and well-deserved track record of absurdity.  It just makes me sad that some people in this state that I have now called home for almost a decade and love dearly actually want this guy representing our interests and priorities in the General Assembly.  That truth is stranger than the fiction that the senator was spewing today.