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Archive for October, 2010

The World in Black and White

October 27th, 2010 3 comments

I am sure that most of you have seen The Wizard of Oz.  If you haven’t, then you need to consider giving up any claim to being a participant in cinematic popular culture.  (Of course, this is coming from the woman who has never seen The Godfather, Rocky, or a single episode of The Simpsons in its entirety.)  Dorothy leaves the black and white world of her uncle’s farm in Kansas and lands in a place that filled with bright and stunning colors.  Yes, Dorothy’s trip is an involuntary one, as there are not many people who will raise their hands when asked if they would like to be shot airborne by wind circulating at very high speeds.  Once she gets to her destination, however, Dorothy’s eyes are opened to new perspectives, new people, and a greater appreciation for the values and the relationships she had in the first place.

What happened to Judy Garland after filming for The Wizard of Oz ended?  She spent the rest of her abbreviated life in a drug and alcohol-induced haze.  Why?  I think she was trying to see all of those pretty colors again, because the world is so much more interesting that way.

Unfortunately, there are too many people who choose to live the way that Dorothy did before her home was uprooted by that twister.  Everything in their world is black and white.  There is a right and there is a wrong.  Their way is the only way that matters, and please don’t challenge them on that.

I want to live in a world with countless colors, with people who have different opinions than me, who have reached those opinions with thought and consideration, and who want to have reasoned discussions about the issues that matter to all of us.  I want to know people who aren’t afraid to say, “I’m willing to give that perspective some thought” and “Thank you for giving me something to think about” and “I still don’t agree with your opinion, but I enjoyed talking with you.”  I also want to be that type of person.

I am not saying that we should discard the absolute values and morals by which we live.  Not at all.  I have certain beliefs in which I hold firm.  That being said, I love having conversations with people who feel very differently than I do.  In many instances, I come to find an even stronger sense of who I am and what I hold true after such talks.  Dorothy had to melt a witch and get apples thrown at her head before she could say, “There’s no place like home.”

So, instead of screaming at people who disagree with you, or sticking your fingers in your ears and refusing to listen, or stomping on someone’s head at a campaign rally because she doesn’t like your candidate, or using the kneejerk accusation of racism when someone doesn’t agree with your policies (there’s some black and white for you), or labeling someone as a fascist or a socialist or a Nazi or a communist or a teabagger because they subscribe to a different political ideology, or assuming a person wants to blow up an airplane and make you wear a burka because he prays to the East five times a day, or assuming a person is a homophobe and a simpleton and a person filled with judgment because she claims Jesus Christ as her Savior, or only reading articles and books and blogs written by people who agree with you, or keeping your kids sheltered from people and circumstances that will challenge them, or defaulting to words like “always” and “never,” or making fun of others simply to mask your own insecurities and doubt in your own position . . . how about we open ourselves up to all possibilities.

If, after our great travel to the land of heartless men of tin and mind-altering flowers and small people who dance while holding ginormous lollipops, we decide that our ideas were always correct and there really is “no place like home,” then I think we’ll just be better for it.

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My Response to a Talk Show Listener’s Insightful Logic on Gays and Lesbians

October 21st, 2010 2 comments

Yesterday, we all were asked to wear purple in order to bring awareness to the young people who have taken their own lives recently as a result of being bullied for being gay, or just for the assumption that they were gay.  The fact that any teenager is bullied for being perceived as “different,” whether that difference is sexuality, race, religion, language, and the list goes on, is just so sad.  And, it is even more sad in 2010 when those who bully can quickly share their taunts and aggression with millions of people through Facebook, YouTube, and other online outlets.  For the victims, it truly can seem like there is no escape.

I was focused on my thoughts about these kids while driving in my car yesterday afternoon when the following caller to the always enlightening Phil Valentine show shared something to this effect:

The media tries to tell us that these homosexuals are naturally occurring in the population. (I like how he makes his fellow humans sound like bacteria or the swine flu.) If that was the case, wouldn’t there be some of them everywhere?  But, there’s not.  They all live in San Francisco or New Orleans, where they are taught in their liberal schools that such behavior is OK.  It’s taught; it’s not natural.

Since I did not have the opportunity to respond to this insightful gentleman personally, I would like to offer my thoughts to him here:

First, sir, I would be willing to put serious money on the fact that there are at least a couple of gay people in your community.  Why they wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing that information about themselves with you is beyond me.  You seem like the type of guy who would hug them and tell them you love them no matter what.

Secondly, if you are brave enough to go to San Francisco, given the high probability that you could catch a sexually transmitted disease simply by breathing the air there (the liberal media doesn’t want you to know about that), I challenge you to ask some of those ‘artificially occurring’ gay and lesbians if they were born in that city.  Again, if you are a betting man, I would be willing to double down on that money I just won when you discovered there was actually a gay person in your town and he’s allowed to shop at same grocery store as you on the fact that most members of the gay and lesbian community in San Francisco were not born there.  Instead, I bet they came from cities and towns all across the United States and moved to a place where they would not be judged (I’m sure you read the Bible . . . judging is not your job) or harassed and where they could be around other people like them.  For better or for worse (sorry to insert a marriage reference when talking about gays . . . please don’t be mad), we all feel more comfortable around people who are like us. It’s human nature.

Thanks for listening!

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Message to My Kids: You Don’t Have to Go to College

October 20th, 2010 6 comments

“My child will be going to college.  He will not have a choice in the matter.”

“My daughter will attend college if I have to walk her to the door of her classes myself.”

I have heard these statements and many others like them from my friends and other random parents I encounter every day.  I would like to offer a different message to my children, and it is as follows:

You do not have to go to college.  If you want to start a business or dance on Broadway or build furniture or play golf for a living, why spend four or more years of your life in a pursuit that gets you no closer to your goal?  Find an apprenticeship, take classes specific to your talent at an art school or an athletic facility, read lots of books.  In fact, I think the parents of your friends who are making their kids go to college are doing them a disservice.  That’s valuable time that they could instead be using to learn their trade, develop their talents, or simply get to work.

You know what I think, kids?  Too many people already go to college as it is.  It’s the thirteenth grade.  Just look at most of the colleges and universities around here.  Do you know what they do?  They hire a physician to hang out in the Admissions Office. If you are proven to have a pulse, you’re in!  College degrees are, more often that not, meaningless in terms of furthering your real education.  Never assume that someone is intelligent or more educated than you simply because she has a “Bachelor of Something” hanging on her wall (or still rolled up in a tube, like me).  Anyone can get a college degree.  Then what?  Most graduates end up in a career wholly unrelated to their field of study.

Don’t get me wrong; there are reasons to go to college. Want to be a doctor?  An engineer?  A chemist?  A professor of ancient Russian history? Yes, in those instances you should go to a wonderful university and fully immerse yourself in your studies.  I loved my time both in undergraduate and graduate school.  I loved lectures and research papers and final exams.  But, it’s not for everyone.  It shouldn’t have to be. If you don’t thrive in school and you are not oriented to traditional academic pursuits, why would I force you into a situation that does not allow your true potential to shine?

Also, I would be remiss if I did not say that there is plenty to learn in college outside of the classroom as well.  If you decide to go to college, I hope you will go somewhere far away (I’ll miss you and I promise to visit, but I want you to see new places and develop your sense of independence and true self) and meet people of all different backgrounds and traditions.  Those 2:00am conversations in the dorm room?  That’s often where the real learning occurs.  But there is opportunity for that kind of education in other environments as well.

I want you to be whatever you want to be, and take any path that is needed to get you there.  If you decide to go a great university, I will be thrilled and rush with excitement to buy one of those “My daughter and my money go to University of __________” bumper stickers.  I will listen on the phone for hours as you talk with excitement about a professor who is changing your life.  I will cry tears of pride at your graduation.  But, before any of that happens, you and I will have many serious conversations about your goals, your desires, your strengths, and your weaknesses.  If we come to a conclusion that the next stage of your life is waiting for you somewhere other than a college campus, please know that is OK and you are going to do amazing things with your life no matter what.

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I Don’t Want to Grow Up . . . and Mommy Won’t Make Me!

October 18th, 2010 2 comments

There are several obvious signs pointing to the decay of our society:

1. Christine O’Donnell and Alvin Greene are candidates for the United States Senate

2. Only 43% of high school seniors know that our country’s Civil War was fought “between 1850 and 1900″

3. Jersey Shore

Here’s number four — I read an alarming statistic on CNN’s website today that furthers the argument that we are in serious trouble.  Twentysomething.com, a marketing and research firm that focuses its studies on Generation Y, learned that 85% of college students who graduated in May returned home to live with their parents.  Eight-five percent!!!

The article asserts that the tough economy is one factor in this return to childhood comforts, as the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 20 and 24 is around 15%.  Yes, but it isn’t 85%!!  The director of the survey shared that, “Even if they have jobs, they are living at home.”  Job or not, why is the default response to run home?

Is there really no longer any stigma to living at home with Mommy and Daddy once you are an adult?  Many college graduates say their job doesn’t pay enough to live on their own or they are staying with their parents until they save enough money to afford a nice place to call home.  Why is that allowed?  Since when was your first apartment out of college supposed to be nice?  And, if your job doesn’t pay enough to make the rent, then get a second job stocking shelves or waiting tables or find three roommates.  It can’t be that hard to find people to split the rent . . . just go back to the homes of your old high school friends because they’re probably living at home, too.

How long are we going to allow our 20-somethings to delay adulthood?  I contend that a good number of the students in college are there for no other reason than to stall the end of their carefree adolescence.  (As one of my high school students, who was barely passing his senior year, answered when I asked why he was going to college in the fall, “To party for four more years at my parents’ expense.”  Nice.)  Now we are allowing them to drag their feet even longer as the scary prospect of responsibility and paying bills looms before them.

It’s one thing if you know your stay at home is brief and has a definite ending date.  Maybe the lease on your place couldn’t start until a month after graduation or your new job in a city on the other side of the country starts in September.  I get that.  But, this study found that many graduates move back home with the intention of staying for the summer and are often there for eighteen months or longer.  I don’t get that.

I had to live with my parents for five weeks when I was 27 years old.  There was a gap in time between when my apartment lease ended and my wedding date.  I did not enjoy it.  I love my parents and they did everything they could to be accommodating and allow me my independence.  But . . . I was 27 years old!  It was embarrassing and just felt wrong.  And, I knew exactly when I would be leaving!  I can’t imagine an open-ended stay.

Is 30 becoming the new 18?  Are we doing our kids a disservice by not expecting them to grow up and take care of themselves?

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What the First Lady Did Was Wrong

October 15th, 2010 No comments

The crazy right-wing bloggers and talking heads are nitpicking our awesome First Lady and making a big deal out of a non-issue.  Right?  Well, wait a second . . .

First Lady Michelle Obama is said to have participated in some campaigning within a polling place while in Chicago to cast her early vote.  According to an eye (and ear) witness in the room, “She was telling me how important it was to vote to keep her husband’s agenda going.”  And, you know what, I think this is a big deal.

The law in Chicago, as in many other places (including Nashville), states that there may be no campaigning or political talk within 100 feet of a polling station.  As someone who has worked at polling locations in several capacities on Election Day, I can tell you that we always received a stern lecture about enforcing this law.  Men and women who enter a school or a church or a community center to vote for their candidates of choice should have confidence that they will be able to do so without feeling any pressure or coercion (however friendly) concerning their decisions.

At least as problematic as I found the First Lady’s conduct was the response given by an official with the Illinois State Board of Elections, who said, “You kind of have to drop the standard for the first lady, right? I mean, she’s pretty well liked and probably doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

Wow.  That’s kind of like eighth grade . . . the popular girls don’t have to play by the rules.  Really?  We should “drop the standard” for the First Lady?  What, does she get diplomatic immunity when in Chicago?  The President and the First Lady must adhere to the rule of law just like the rest of us.

And, I don’t buy the argument that she didn’t know what she was doing, which I think is condescending and makes her sound like she deserves a sympathetic pat on the head.  First, I think she is very smart . . . more so than her husband, I would wager.  Also, despite the common cry that President Obama is not qualified to lead our country, he has participated in several elections in the state of Illinois and undoubtedly his wife was involved on some level.  She knows campaign law.  She knew what she was doing and that no one would care.

Let’s be honest–the situation would be different if Sarah Palin had done the same thing.  Imagine that she had walked into a Wasilla polling place (or, should I say, the Wasilla polling place) and said, “Hey there, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Six Pack!  You betcha that I want you to support Republican candidate Joe Miller because I like him and he will continue the agenda of freedom and small business and freedom that we all want for these great United States!” There would have been a MAJOR fuss in the media.  Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann would have been beside themselves and it may even have topped the Chilean miners on the network evening news.

First Lady Obama should apologize and those who speak for the administration should stop blowing if off and making excuses for her poor choice.

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