The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘life’ Category

STICKS AND STONES

You would have to be very naïve or extremely unread not to realize that mankind has a long and brutal record of violence in our brief while on this planet.  The murders today in Newtown, CT, horrible beyond description, are simply an extension of the behavior that we have exhibited since we became the head of the food chain.

We all know the nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  I learned that from my parents when one of the neighborhood kids insulted me.  As I had never been beaten by this child with either stick or stone I had to imagine what that would have felt like.  In the meantime, I knew what the insult felt like because, my parents’ wisdom notwithstanding, I was hurt by that snub.

Man started making war and making his way on this earth with sticks and stones.  We moved to bow and arrow and spear and lance and knife and sword.  We invented guns and then pistols and each evolution of these weapons proved even more effective and faster and less personal than its previous incarnation.  And we made rockets and bombs to replace the old assault weapons of catapult and boiling oil.

We became more efficient with our methods of dispatching one another.  And every time we found a faster and better way to kill, we learned not to think of those whom we victimized as people but as targets – necessary sacrifices who stood in the way of whatever goal we had set for ourselves.

We should be disturbed and deeply saddened but not surprised at what happened in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. 

This is a terrible tragedy.  It is almost too difficult to conceive – other than that we have already lived through it far too many times in other places with other killers and different sets of victims. 

When a tsunami or other “natural phenomenon” claims thousands of lives, we can at least understand that this occurred without willful intent.  While that is small solace for the victims and their survivors, at least we can wrap our thinking about the misfortune.

But this is different.  And because it is something that is so hard for us to comprehend – why anyone could be led to murder twenty children and six adults, including himself, defies any sense of logic – or at least it goes far beyond mine.

There will be extensive coverage of not only the shootings but we will hear about the shooter and his family.  We will come to know this man intimately.  We will see the funerals of the victims and we will cry at the horrible injustice that their lives ended by his hand .  We will hear from journalists, politicians, psychologists, clergy, the families of the children who died and the children of the adults who perished.  We will hear from those who advocate that all firearms be surrendered and we will hear from the NRA.

And, after a short while, those who were not personally touched by these murders will forget and go about their business, looking forward to the next NFL game which may or may not produce any number of injuries or watching our favorites mar and scar their opponents in an Extreme Fight.  And we will put a bumper sticker on the back of our car that proclaims our son or daughter is a graduate of D.A.R.E. and has learned to resist violence and drugs, complacent in the certain knowledge that we have fulfilled our role as a good parent.

Take away all the firearms on our planet.  We will once again find ourselves battling each other with bow and arrow, spear and broad sword, catapult and boiling oil.  Because with all our getting, we have yet to get understanding – and even less have we found for ourselves the beneficence of compassion and love and decency.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Albert Einstein

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THE REAL MEANING OF “PC”

Let me give you the thrust of this post by saying that I am a person who believes in calling a spade a spade.  And I’m not going to take umbrage at the way in which the word “spade” has been used in racial slurs in the past.  If that term offends you as much as it did me, then get over it and grow up.  Learn to cope with the fact that there are insensitive, bigoted people in this world and that’s just the way it is.  God bless them.  Maybe one day they’ll grow up too.

Let me offer the definition which might have been given by Freddie Prinze of “Chico and the Man” fame were he alive.  “PC” stands for “Pure Chit.”

PC is nothing more or less than an effort to whitewash, if you’ll forgive the PC – incorrect term, a bad behavior or weakness into something that sounds far more euphonious and, therefore, less offensive.

We no longer have syphilis, gonorrhea or other such things.  We have STD’s.  Having an STD is almost a sign of virtue in a dissolute society – and for the illiterate being turned out by our public school systems is far easier to spell.

Of course, people get STD’s the same way they used to get the “clap.”  They come upon us because there are men whose thinking is dominated by their small rather than their large head.  And there are women out there who are really “Girls [Who] Just Want To Have Fun.”  As a consequence of their minor indiscretion, they might have to hustle down to the clinic for a morning after pill or, if they were too busy sipping lattés to take care of the problem in time for that to work shuffle off to Planned Parenthood for an abortion “procedure.”

We live in an “inclusive” society – or so my liberal (substitute the terms progressive, socialist or Communist) friends tell me.  By that I have come to understand that their term inclusive means that anyone who agrees in totality with their opinions on everything is welcome as a member.  Others are not.

I am still awaiting my engraved invitation nominating me as a new member of the fold (or even an email invite).  That nothing has been forthcoming says to me that I am on the right path – or at least struggling to find it.

PC thinking is designed to relativize our thinking so that virtually everything can be explained or understood – but only in context.  There are no absolute rights or wrongs – other than to challenge the core hypothesis of Political Correctness itself.

One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes is the following:

“If God wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments.”

If we have no standards then, of course, we can never fail.  Of course, the corollary to that is that we can never succeed.  And we are living in a society where the only standards are that there are none.

This is not meant to be a theocentric conversation.  Unlike some of my acquaintances, I embrace your right to believe or to choose to reject God in whatever form you perceive that entity.  But in His absence, who is left to offer us laws to regulate the way we are supposed to conduct ourselves with our fellow humans?  Only man.

That is why, at the heart of Communism it was essential that religion be overthrown and replaced by the philosophy of the Party’s leaders and their vision of the future and purpose of man – which was to do nothing more than serve the State.  And mankind has served the Communist states well – to the tune of more than 350 Million murdered.

Political Correctness is not the end but merely the means to an end.  And that end is to lull a gullible population into a false sense of euphoria and non-thinking so that they can be manipulated (and when the time comes) be disposed of by those with a political vision in which they and they alone will be empowered with the authority to determine who is needed to serve them and those whose lives are superfluous.

Welcome to the world of liberal socialism.  Welcome to Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  Welcome to Stalin’s Soviet Union.  Welcome to Obama’s America.

SO YOU THINK LIFE IS ROUGH

When my business partner of twenty-six years left town with all the funds in the company account while I was away for a long weekend, it came as a bit of a shock.  I mean after that long you’d think you know someone pretty well.

I won’t go into the sordid details of the event, but it forced me to consider my options and to re-group.  It was a struggle but I survived and, as it turned out, he had done me the biggest favor imaginable.

It took almost four years but I found myself in a new business which was far more fulfilling and financially successful than my previous one.  Of course the intervening time was difficult but I struggled through.  I had to.  I had two dogs at home who relied on me for their support.

Thinking about this event it always amazes me when I hear a fellow American complain about how rough their life is.  Well, let’s face the facts.  Some of us are born into better circumstances than others.  And the roads on which some of us travel have a few more bumps in them than others.

But the fact that we are born here gives us the opportunity to take the hand we’re dealt and make something of it.  Whether we play the hand well or fold it is up to us.

I thought about this because the other day, Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs football team killed his girlfriend and then himself leaving their three month old baby behind.

Other than what I read in the story that reported this I know nothing about the man.  I don’t know if he was a phenomenal line-backer or a run of the mill player.  He obviously had some issues which he resolved in an unfortunate way.  He folded his hand – and in the process took another life down with him.

My guess is that he was making a pretty good salary as that seems to be the case with most professional athletes.  So I doubt that money was at the center of his actions.  And that’s strange because we seem to focus on that as an almost absolute standard for determining our sense of achievement.

In the long run, having money does not insure happiness.  I’ve seen far too many wealthy people succumb to what it will buy for them – drugs being one of those items near the top of the list.  When we give ouselves up to something that is stronger than we are, the inevitable result is that we have agreed to enslave ourselves to our new master.

While things in America are far from perfect, the vast majority of us have a roof over our heads and enough to eat.  We have the right to express our opinions and to assemble with those whom we choose.  That is not the case everywhere on planet Earth.

In Timbuktu, Mali, six young people between the ages of 16 and 22 were each given 100 lashes in the public market.  Their crime was talking to each other on the street.

In Afghanistan, a 14 year old girl was beheaded because she refused a man’s marriage proposal.  This was the fifteenth such incident in that country reported this year.

So you think life is rough?  Unplug yourself from your iPod.  Turn off your 60 inch entertainment center and take a look at what’s happening throughout the world.  And if you still think your life is rough, I have a good relationship with a travel agent who can book you on the next flight to Timbuktu.

RIDING IN COACH

I was on my way back to Chicago when I was informed that instead of the aisle seat I had reserved the plane had been overbooked and if I wanted to get on the flight I would have to accept a center seat.  I wasn’t a very happy camper – but I thought I could endure the three hour flight without having a tantrum.  As it turned out, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  Sitting in the window seat was “Zig” Ziglar who passed away today at the age of 86.  I recognized him immediately.

Those of you who do not know who Mr. Ziglar was have missed the opportunity to enjoy the warmth and positive attitude that he brought to the world of motivational speaking.  He was truly a genius – and unlike so many people who broadcast one image on stage and another one off, Zig was just as upbeat as a seatmate as he was in delivering one of his famous seminars.  I left the plane feeling that I owed United Airlines some additional compensation for allowing me to sit next to him.

Zig Ziglar was the author of 30 books on the subject of motivation, positive attitude and how to be successful.  I cannot even begin to imagine how many thousands of seminars he conducted and how many hundreds of thousands he motivated to be better people than when they entered the auditorium to hear him speak.  He was truly a champion of the positive.

Born the tenth of twelve children, his father died when Zig was five years old.  He began selling peanuts to help support his family when he was six.  Later he turned to door to door sales, vending pots and pans and ultimately began his career as a motivational speaker.  Here was truly a self-made man – and a man who shared that success with countless others along the way.

There are many Zig Ziglar quotes that I love but perhaps my favorite is this one:

“Building a better you is the first step to building a better America.”

Zig, we’re going to miss your genuine honesty, your upbeat outlook and your never quit attitude.  You were the real deal – a terrific American and one of our most valuable assets as a citizen of the world.

THREE DAYS

I doubt that very many of those who dressed up in costume and partied hearty on Halloween have a real sense of what the day was all about.  The term we now use is a corruption of the original phrase which is All Hallows Eve – the night which used to be observed with prayer and vigil before The Feast of All Saints, November 1st.

Remembering those who had set examples of goodness and virtue for us on All Saints Day was so important to the minds of the Church’s theologians, that it was incorporated into the calendar as a Day of Obligation, when the faithful were required to attend a liturgy in commemoration of those who had gone before us and were now enshrined in heaven.

But there is a third day in this sequence, November 2nd which commemorates all who have died, the Feast of All Souls.  In the liturgy, at least as it used to be structured, the names of those who had passed and whose loved ones wanted to remember them, would be read during the service.  The liturgy was offered specifically on their behalf, as well as all those who had died and who were no longer remembered by anyone.

And that brings me to sharing a story with you:.

There was a very average man who lived some while ago.  He was average in every way.  He was of average height, average looks, average intelligence and had an average job.  He was a nice enough chap, but there was nothing about him which caused him to stand out in a crowd.

One day it happened that he was introduced to a young lady who was anything but average.  She was beautiful, charming, witty, extremely bright and was a gourmet cook as well.  Although smitten by her, he didn’t feel that he was the sort of person in whom she would ever take an interest.  But he was wrong.  She loved his company.

Well this average man and this charming lady began seeing each other.  He adored their time together – as apparently so did she.  And after months and many dates had gone by, he finally got up the nerve to ask her to marry him – holding his breath for fear the she would reject his proposal.  But much to his delight she accepted and they were wed.

Every day our average man was inspired to enjoy his day at work because he knew that his beautiful and loving wife would be home to receive him at day’s end, one of her wonderful meals waiting for him.  He couldn’t believe what a fortunate man he was to have found such an incredible companion.    When he experienced a bump in the road, his wife was always by his side to help pick him up.  And when he was enjoying good fortune, sharing it with her made it even better.

And so they lived their lives together for twenty-five years.  Their only disappointment was that they never had children – but they had each other and that seemed to be enough for both of them.

One day when he returned him, our average man found his beautiful wife dead on the sofa of their home.  Apparently without any warning, she had suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away.  As you can imagine, he was beside himself with grief at the shock of her death.  And he was filled with anger.

He was angry at his wife, on whom he so depended, for dying.  He was angry at the neighbors who came by to try to comfort him.  He was angry at the world.  And he was angry at God.  He was angry in a very un-average way.

The day before his wife’s funeral, he was sitting in the funeral home from which she was to be buried, alone – or so he thought – with the coffin containing her remains.  Seeing his wife’s corpse in the casket brought on a great wave of anger and he directed this at God.

“How could you have taken her from me?  She was so young.  It’s just not fair that you did this to her and to me.  What will I do now without her?  She was my love and my life.  I don’t know how I can go on.”

Much to his surprise, he heard a voice.  Whether it was in the room or his head he wasn’t sure.  But it was the voice of Wisdom.  He believed it was the voice of God speaking to him.

“Look at yourself and listen to what you are saying.  You know that you have always been an average man and you received an exceptional gift in your wife from Me.  You didn’t have any reason either to expect or hope for such a wonderful companion – yet I made you this extraordinary present and during the years you had together you were always happy.”

“But I didn’t give her to you to own.  No person has the right to believe that he or she owns another.  Rather, I made you a loan.  And as with all loans, in My own way I decided that the term of the loan had concluded and I called it in – a loan for which you provided no collateral and had no reason to expect would be made to you in the first place.”

“Therefore, do not turn to Me in anger but in gratitude, since you enjoyed your wonderful wife for the many years you had together.  There are those on earth who have never known that sort of love for even one fleeting moment of their lives.  It is for them that you should shed your tears – not for yourself.” 

Moral:  Please write your own and, if you like, share it with us.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Other than having read more than my fair share of Freud, Jung, Skinner and various others in their field, I have no training in psychology or psychiatry.  So it would seem that trying to understand the psychology of what motivates people would be best left to those with greater credentials in the field.

I do have training in other of the social sciences – all of which are inexact in both their methodology as well as their conclusions.  But it is not on this training that I will rely in this post – rather something quite different.  That is my own power of observation.

Perhaps it is a function of genetics, perhaps the environment in which I was raised or both but I am very observant.  I say that with no aim to self-promotion. On the two occasions that I have witnessed a crime the police have commented that, “they wished more witnesses were as descriptive and accurate as I was.”  By the way, the guilty parties were both apprehended.  (One conviction – one plea bargain).

I have been trying to make sense of the seemingly endless stream of impersonal group murders that have been making all too frequent news.  Whether it’s a movie theater or a Sikh temple or a military installation or a high school.  Yesterday’s shooting in a conservative organization’s offices in Washington, D. C. might well have been added to this list had it not been for the brave intervention of a security guard.

Can these all be incidences of copy cats run amok?  Or is there something else going on?  The motivation and the targets seem to be disconnected.  Yet, I believe there is a connection, if not in terms of the victims, but in terms of the perpetrators.

It is difficult to walk up to someone and insult that person to his face, let alone take his life.  Direct confrontation makes things very personal.  But it is not difficult to say something malicious about someone and post it on Facebook so that thousands of people can see it.

Are we becoming disconnected from one another on an interpersonal basis?  Let me offer this example for you to consider.

One of my acquaintances asked for my advice about her relationship with her boy friend.  She told me she wanted to talk with him about where it was going and what their mutual expectations were.  So she called to speak with him, actually wanting to have a sit down face to face conversation.  He chose not to do that – although he was willing to discuss the matter – but only if they did so by texting each other.  After hearing this it took me two days to recover from the shock.  By the way, my advice was, “Move on.”

Our technology has done many wonderful things for us.  We can communicate faster and stay informed under almost any circumstance or location.   That is a good thing.  But the bad thing is the impersonality of how we achieve this as we sit behind our computer screens and our smart phones.

Would it have been as easy for James Holmes to pull the trigger in the Aurora, CO  movie theater if he knew the victims he was about to shoot?  Would the shooter at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin have been able to carry out his plan if some of the worshippers were his neighbors?  Perhaps there is something so twisted about these people that it would have made no difference to them.  But perhaps not.

If we are becoming people who can only express our feelings about our inter-personal relationships through texting; if we view each other merely as out-of-body avatars and gravatars; if we give up our innate need to communicate on a personal level with each other through touch and compassion and feeling, is it any surprise that these sort of events are occurring with greater frequency?

I can’t help but think of the proverbial poor fish who are swimming in the barrel, the hunter poised to strike with his rifle outside their little world, looking in on his victims.  And we are the fish.

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(NOT YET) FAMOUS QUOTES – XIV

In this series I have tried to post original quotations.  But sometimes something that has been said by another is so important that it should be remembered – even if it has been overlooked by us.  And that is the case with today’s quotation – given to us by an ancient Roman statesman and philosopher.

“Live among men as if God beheld you; speak to God as if men were listening.”

– Seneca

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