You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

Lyrics from ‘South Pacific’

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught from year to year,

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I must admit I didn’t get the underlying social messages when I watched this wonderful movie as a youngster. I was more interested in the beaches, and later as a teen – in the beefcake – to give much thought to a little bit of a song in the midst of all that glorious technicolor – sun, sand, the United States Navy, and the US Marine Corps.
That little throwaway number has become an earworm for me over the last few weeks, as I try to make sense of the senseless. I did a bit of research about the song, which actually had a pretty powerful message for 1949; and again in 1958 when the movie was released. Apparently Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein felt so strongly about the importance of that message they insisted it remain in the performances, even if it meant that the production failed. In essence, this song was the lynchpin of the entire play/movie to them, and could not be removed. And it was not, despite considerable political pressure to do so.

Humans are not born racists, homophobes, bullies, misogynists, thugs, or criminals. We are taught, and as the song goes – by “six or seven or eight” – taught to hate. It’s pretty easy actually. You just have to point your finger at someone who looks or acts different than you and blame them for your misfortunes. It’s easier than blaming yourself, after all. You just have to be afraid of the different. It’s kind of genetically programmed into us – right? Biology and survival of the fittest ; we cull out the mutations. We make snapshot judgements about others and we pass on what we think we “know” to our little ones. With our words, and with our actions, we teach our children to mistrust and/or hate people who aren’t exactly like us. Chips off the old block, as it were. We’re becoming increasingly polarized, intolerant, violent, and murderous. It’s almost impossible to even agree to disagree these days. The uber liberals and uber conservatives belittle and scoff at one another in their quest to be “right” and get the last word. Centrists don’t seem to have a voice – and a loud centrist voice is sorely needed. I had hopes at one point that our POTUS would be that voice, hopes that have been dashed by the realization he can’t even get out of his own way, much less facilitate an environment where all can come together to work towards solutions.

So I guess it’s up to us folks, and not the politicians. And maybe that’s as it should be. If change is not coming from our government, we must bring it to our government. Rightly, righteously, respectfully. We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We need a different lesson plan for People; for Families. We start with self respect; we set a standard for behavior at home and in public and we hold everyone accountable. We talk TO our children rather than AT them. We do not tolerate bullying or demeaning behavior and we support our children to speak out if they are targeted; and to stand up for others who are being harassed. We stop making excuses for offenders and we expect consequences for offenses. It’s based on the Golden Rule. Do unto Others…. We have the talk with our sons about respecting our daughters. We have the talk with our daughters about respecting our sons. We encourage learning – more books and less TV. We work at making our adult relationships work so that our children can see that these commitments are neither convenient or disposable. We admit when we are wrong, and we apologize. We can reeducate, but it will take some hard work. . I feel sometimes like I am screaming at the top of my lungs to what at best is echoing silence. These truths I have outlined, this lesson plan for humanity is SELF-EVIDENT. A no-brainer. A return to that Golden Rule and the Core Values our society is based on (see above).

Above all we need to get mad, in the proactive sense. We have to stand up and scream “No More!” No more hate speech, no more name calling, no more profiling, no more beatings, no more rapes. No more feeding a beast that deems softcore porn appropriate entertainment matter for a globally televised awards show. No more judicial system that says a 14 year old girl bears responsibility for consenting to sexual activity with a man more than twice her age… Just exactly how does one become “older than their chronological years” anyway? She is not an emancipated minor – just so that’s clear. 14 is not capable of legally consenting to ANYTHING. Coercion is implicit when a much older person gets a minor to perform sex acts. Apparently this is something the judge chose to ignore in his statement of ruling. No more mothers who sit bored and yawning in a Georgia courtroom where their son is on trial for cold bloodedly shooting an 18 month old toddler. Society’s Moral Compass is severely misaligned at present, quite obviously.

It bears repeating – This is what we need to be CAREFULLY TEACHING:

Respect yourself.

Treat others with Respect and Kindness, even if you do not receive Kindness in return. Remember that a difference of opinion is not a personal attack. If you can’t say something nice(ly); don’t say anything at all. (“You Stay Classy San Diego!”)

Play by the Rules.

Help your Neighbor.

Speak out about Injustice and Inequality. Be that shining light in dark places when all other lights go out.

Own your mistakes and strive to do better.

Get – and stay – Educated. Learn to read, speak publicly, write well, and most importantly LISTEN. You’ll find out much more when you are silent and observant.

Above all – Love one Another.

That’s not really so hard to do. The government isn’t going to legislate that for us. We have to do it ourselves. It starts with an individual commitment to change, and a commitment to raise our children to be better people than we are. How many of you reading this are willing to make that commitment, take that step, and for example perform an act of kindness for a total stranger? Give up getting a few extra presents under the Christmas tree and instead donate that money – or some of your time, to a food pantry or homeless shelter? Set limits with your children and enforce them? This includes curfews, and dare I say it again – some form of dress code? We can carefully teach our children by our loving example. They pay far more attention to what we do. What we say – not so much. (Ask any mother of a teenager about that – we’ll tell ya!) Hold the door open for an elderly person, offer to help someone struggling with grocery bags. Show our kids that we have respect for one another and I’m pretty sure our kids will start showing respect too.

I do not want these people, and countless others I can’t name, to have died or suffered for nothing – please remember them:

Delbert Belton. Christopher Lane. Antonio Santiago. Trayvon Martin. Matthew Shepherd. Islan Nettles. Cheryl Green. Jyoti Singh. Brandon Teena. James Earl Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Mickey Schwerner. Martin Luther King. Phoebe Prince. Jamey Rodemeyer. Reginald Denny. Paramjit Kaur. Satwant Singh Kaleka. Prakash Singh. Sita Singh. Ranjit Singh. Suveg Singh. Francois Chenu. Ginger Slepski. James Byrd. Jennifer Daugherty. The Victims and Families of 9/11. The Victims of the Manson Family Murders – included because it was Manson’s stated intention to incite a race war. The 11 million + Victims of The Holocaust. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………

There are no words, really… but I’ll try…

I am feeling inadequate this evening. Also very sad, and very, very horrified.  Mr Delbert Belton, an 89 year old veteran of the Battle of Okinawa during WWII has tragically been beaten to death by two individuals who aren’t worth the amount of time it takes to type their names. I am absolutely incensed by the fact that a member of the Greatest Generation has been horrifically murdered by two members of the Worst Generation – the worst generation EVER.  The Gimme Generation.  I’m not gonna play a race card here (draw your own conclusions folks) But seriously  I DON’T CARE what your income level is, or what color skin you have. There is a standard of decency and civilized behavior that must be maintained- and just because you don’t like white people does not give you the right to target and murder a defenseless old man.   Any more than just because you don’t like or trust black people gives you the right to profile, stalk, and shoot them in “self-defense”. This man did NOTHING to deserve what these two sub-humans did to him. Any more than Christopher Lane did to deserve getting shot in the back by 3 lazy good for nothing teenage idiots.

This man Delbert Belton – this Hero, sacrificed of himself so that future generations could live in freedom.  Think about it – if the Nazis had won the War does anyone believe that people of color; or of a different culture, would even still exist? Honestly, the crematoriums would still be burning if Hitler and his cronies had prevailed.   But if you do believe otherwise,  I have swampland in Arizona I can sell you on the dirt cheap.  Delbert Belton and his comrades fought for EVERYONE – and he ended up getting his head bashed in for it.  I wonder – whatever happened to respecting your elders? Hell, whatever happened to just plain respecting each other?   I think I might be able to tell you – but you probably either won’t like it, or just don’t want to hear it….

Its all about entitlement and enabling.  It’s about covetousness.  One of the biggie major sins the Ten Commandments talks about. Somehow, during our efforts to  assist others to better themselves, those we have tried to help have got the idea that they are entitled to what the rest of us have actually worked for. And we help them to validate this by buying into the “race card” idiocy. Which – to be fair – isn’t always idiocy…. But – Tell me, please – since when does decent, caring human behavior come with a color?   A person is a person is a person. If we truly want to have a dialogue and work towards a resolution of prejudice and racism then we have to agree  AND ENFORCE a minimum standard of humanistic behavior towards our fellow man.  This does NOT include beating someone’s brains out – just so we are clear.  No exceptions or excuses.  Excuses are where we get bogged down; where we get foggy.   Here are some statistics:

48.5% of African American children are growing up without a father ( in a single parent family) http://www.withoutafather.com/facts.php  A severely disproportionate number of victims, suspects,and arrest-ees are African American – in New York City at least, as of 2012. http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/crime_and_enforcement_activity_jan_to_jun_2012.pdfI I have been informed ancedotally that up to 70% of violent crime is committed by African American males between the ages of 16 and 21.  Are the rest of us wrong to be wary?  No.  Wrong to profile – absolutely yes.  But in the case of Mr Belton – Its quacking just like a duck – and loudly. This case, and the Lane case in OK, unfortunately quite solidly reinforced the stereotype.  And guess what? If you don’t want to be thought of and treated like a gangsta thug – STOP ACTING LIKE ONE!

How do we assist  single mothers to raise their sons to respect life, respect humanity – in all its diverse plumage? I don’t think we do it by throwing 50K a year (in MA) non-taxable benefits at them.  ( thats just me though and just so y’all know that’s a LOT more than I make annually!) Delbert Belton was an 89 year old widower and military veteran with nothing of value other than his dignity and a Purple Heart. Why did he become a target?  I think perhaps because we are raising a society that has no empathy, no connection to one another, no moral compass. I don’t dislike anyone based on the color of their skin. I dislike them for the demonstration of their lack of character; their lack of humanity, their stupid sense of self-entitlement, and their complete disregard for the value of life.  As John Mellencamp wrote: “Its what you do and not what you say – if you’re not part of the future, then get out of the way!”    This man was literally defenseless – and yet somehow two lowlife thugs who have extensive juvenile records for assault amongst other things – thought it appropriate to beat him with flashlights until he died. The future holds no place for ignorance, intolerance, disrespect, and injustice. Read a Book, Get Educated, Be Aware, , Ask Questions, Speak Out, Be Responsible.

At some point we need to put aside the racial baggage and start fresh – a clean slate – with the idea that all of us have intrinsic value and that no one should be a target of violence simply because their skin is a different color.  There has to be a standard of proper behavior for humanity.  Not one standard for one group, not an excuse for another. Until there is one standard for all, until the murder of any one person causes everyone to be outraged, until equality means we all play by the same rules – we are, and will continue to be – in a lot of trouble. So if you can’t play by the rules on the field – you should be ejected from the game. We can even provide housing for you – its called prison.  We can achieve true equality much easier if we hold everyone to the same standard.  Delbert Belton’s generation understood this – fought and won a war for it in fact.  And, if we don’t start seriously addressing this problem, Mr Belton will have died for less than nothing.  I, for one, will not stand for that.   Rest in Peace Mr Belton.  You are honored, and will be missed.  #JusticeForDelbertBeltonvet24n-1-web

Divide and Conquer

Besides the cheap hooker on the corner, its the oldest trick in the book.  And we are, sadly, falling for it hook, line and sinker.  Give em the old Razzle Dazzle!  That’s what Washington does, Elephant, Donkey or whatever.  They dangle the bait of some hot button yet relatively insignificant issue (in the long run) in front of us. We become incensed (rightly) and lose focus on the bigger picture. Its what they want us to do to keep the status quo.

Time for a brief American History lesson:  Our government was set up by  privileged landowners. Many of them were also slave owners.  When they said “all men are created equal” they were not thinking about anyone other than people like themselves.  Its a hard truth; and we have amended our thinking somewhat in the ensuing years – as evidenced by constitutional amendments, court rulings and new laws for all. But make no mistake folks – our government’s representatives are by and large interested in making and keeping money for themselves, and keeping the power that goes along with that.  Think about how difficult and expensive it is to run for office.  They don’t want an average joe in there. They want someone with a silver spoon- someone who thinks like them.  Now you can get donations- but who are the donors -Corporate, right?  If they are gonna give you money then they expect you to vote the way they want you to.  You are beholden and obligated; so even if you weren’t born with that silver spoon, you have to act as part of that club. Corporate Finance drives decision making in this country and you can bet your sweet bippy that most politicians are in their back pockets- where the money is.  Here endeth this lesson.

So the system ain’t fair,and they want to keep it that way – (Thank you Captain Obvious!)  How do they do that? By highlighting or creating issues that increase the divide between  parties, between right and left, so that the gen pop is more focused on taking potshots and full on sniping at the “other” side. Rather than focusing on Socially Responsible, Common Sense Right (ie Correct) change.  Change that does the most good for the most people. Change that benefits all of us.

One of the other problems is that we all wear rose colored glasses to an extent. We’ve been raised to believe that like us, most people are good and decent. We don’t think, or more correctly – we don’t like to think, that there are A LOT of people who are not good and decent. People who are corrupted by avarice, power, or just plain sociopathy – and who will do anything to get what they want.  We seem to have elected many of them to go to Washington. These are people who think that the rest of us are only good enough to be used.  Remember that the next time you think  ” Oh, the government wouldn’t do that to us.”  This is what the Germans and the Jews thought about Hitler and the Third Reich  -and we all know what a price was paid to fix that problem… Governments are all about self protection.

So folks, lets not focus on the fact that our president forgot to return a service members salute, or that he used an umbrella during an outdoor speech on a drizzly day. Or that our combat troops are having to eat MRE’s once a day as the military support system dials down in preparation for leaving Afghanistan. Given a choice, I’m absolutely positive that any service member would prefer to go home sooner rather than having a hot meal 3 as opposed to 2 times a day. Screaming and yelling at each other about trivialities keeps our attention directed away from where it needs to be, and we need to remember that’s what they want. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”  Indeed.

Lets focus on cutting waste and stopping fraud and abuse of “entitlement” programs. Let’s  focus on actually educating children rather than teaching them to perform well on a standardized test. Let’s focus on assuring that everyone has their basic needs met – that no one’s going hungry, without clothing, or without shelter.  Let’s focus on changing our collective self entitled attitudes so that we can be content with what we can  afford to have -rather than living beyond our means. Let’s focus. On creating employment opportunities for everyone. Let’s focus on taxation that actually makes sense – a flat tax rate so that everyone pays their fair share. LET’S GET OUR SPENDING UNDER CONTROL AND REDUCE THE NATIONAL DEBT.  And lets focus on making people accountable.  Threats of  “I won’t vote for you next election” carry little weight when our collective memory is even shorter than an Alzheimer’s patient’s. So let’s keep our eyes on the prize, shall we?   We’ve got some first-rate sorcerers in DC, who are really, really good at keeping the rest us off-balance, off-target, and divided.

“Bloody, but Unbowed”

“Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.”

I’m sure everyone can recall where they were and what they were doing when we heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  I was at work – looking forward to a nice late afternoon sunning on my deck – with a glass of white wine – upon my return home from said work.  All that changed shortly after 2:50 pm last  Monday – when the evil that crept into the hearts of two handsome young men came to fruition in a matter of seconds. Seconds that I believe changed the world yet again.   Seconds that are etched in our minds as the smell of smoke, the metallic smell of all the blood, the screams of the wounded, and the cries of the bewildered and the bereaved drifted across Boston and the horrific sights and sounds filled our television screens across the planet.

My best friend, a paramedic,  has volunteered at the Marathon for many years – and was stationed a mere few miles from the finish line.  A high school friend, now an MBTA K-9 Police Officer – and whose brother was my first serious boyfriend, was shot at by the younger Tsarnaev before he was taken into custody. Not to mention that Boston is OUR city.  Oh, us folk from Western MA piss and moan about Boston – but Boston is quintessential Massachusetts and for all intents and purposes the start  -and HEART – of our Nation.  Boston is , after all,  where we began. An attack there hits close to home whether you live in the Berkshires or the Sierra Nevadas.

I’ve been running the gamut emotion-wise.  To say I’ve been struggling would be an understatement. Profound Sadness and Grief, Shock and Horror,  Indignation, Anger, Pride in our First Responders – who ran towards the danger and got everyone to hospitals and the best medical care in the world – within 20 minutes. I swing back to indignation and anger frequently, as news of the bombers’ lives becomes public. These young men come from a family who came to America as political refugees – seeking and being granted asylum. Receiving welfare benefits from the state as many immigrant families do when they first arrive.  They attended the best schools in the Boston Metro Area, and the younger son even received a scholarship to attend UMass Dartmouth from the city of Cambridge. We took them in, gave them shelter – got them on their feet, provided OPPORTUNITY.  I guess I feel much like George Washington must’ve felt after Benedict Arnold defected to the Brits during the Revolutionary War.  After all we did for you, all the opportunities you were given here – THIS is how we are repaid?  With death and carnage?  You absolute BASTARDS… HOW DARE YOU? And on a day meant to represent the best in us.  At the finish line of the oldest marathon in the world. The anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the first time and showed us all what can be achieved when we are inclusive and caring towards one another.

I think of the young family the older Tsarnaev son left behind. The toddler daughter, the wife who worked 70-80 hours a week while her unemployed husband made bombs and planned destruction. How will they live, being branded with their father/husband’s heinous actions?  I think of the unimaginable pain and suffering the other victims and their families are going through. Because Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s family are victims too. I cry.  Then I get angry again.

And the one place I can’t seem to get to is Forgiveness.  Perhaps it is still too raw, too soon,  to forgive.  Maybe someday, when the stories of triumph, rebuilding, and success have come to be. When the blackness has been replaced by the light, and the tender hands of time have begun to heal us. We’re still wiping off the blood, but… Maybe. Someday.  I almost feel like I am going through stages like the grieving process. Back and forth, up and down. Frankly I’m not all that interested in the “why” of all this.  Religious differences have probably been responsible for more death and destruction on this earth than just about anything else except maybe the Plague. That’s the way it was, and is – unfortunately.  Someone is always gonna be pissed off that we have it better than them, or we’re somehow taking something from them. It’s an ancient tune with a predictable melody. So I know what I need to know for now.  That forgiveness thing though, is still eluding me.  But, one thing I do know is that NO ONE is going to keep us down.  We are not going to let darkness and evil win – EVER. We are – and ever shall be…. UNCONQUERED.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

~ William Ernest Henley, 1875.

#BOSTONSTRONG

 

The Baby and The Bathwater

I should be used to it by now. The knee jerk reactions that make it so difficult to really affect and effect change.  Somehow, we always end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater – despite our best intentions to do otherwise. And yet I find myself getting more and more irritated with stupidity.  Two great examples of this are the current hot button issues of gun control and dog ownership (particularly pit bull ownership).  Owning a gun and owning a dog carry many of the same responsibilities if you think about it.   You have to make sure your guns are well maintained (cleaned, oiled and stored properly), and you have to do the same for your dog (vet visits, shots, grooming etc) .  You have to make sure your dog is properly leashed or fenced in your yard, and you have to be sure your gun is stored safely and properly and the safety left on when not in use.

For some reason, we cannot seem to figure out a way to hold offenders accountable for their actions. For some reason, its easier to restrict the activities of the population at large than it is to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate criminal offenders.  I’ll use an example from the workplace.  Most workplaces have a dress code. Enforcing said code presents its own particular set of challenges that may or may not be quite humorous on occasion.  Like dealing with an employee who showed up to work in their jammies and couldn’t for the life of them figure out why they were being sent home – because they dress that way to go to the mall….. sigh.  Or, banning everyone from wearing sleeveless dresses, shirts or tops in the summertime because some of the men decided to cut off the sleeves of their t shirts and the gaping holes gave everyone a glimpse of nasty pit hair…. Instead of telling these guys they had to classy it up they just tell everyone – NO SLEEVELESS.  Baby. Bathwater…. and gone…..

So many people are negiligent when it comes to pet ownership and gun ownership.  Letting their dogs roam free to chase and bite people; leaving their guns out where children, toddlers, and flat out  crazy people can access them (with tragic results).  So what do we do?  Can I get a “Harrumph?” from you all? Because thats what we do. We get on our sanctimonious soapboxes and engage in inefficient hand-wringing – then we make ridiculous blanket laws that restrict and penalize mature,  RESPONSIBLE dog and firearm owners.  Look what just happened in Maryland with regard to pit bull ownership.  Look whats happening within the Gun Control Debate.  You only have to witness the political posturing to become really really annoyed. And I am. Annoyed. To the Max. I’m a centrist, basically. Common sense dictates we need reform -not blanket all or nothing restriction.  Nor do we need to jump into the Way Back Machine and head for the Wild Wild West.  Because we’re doing it again – throwing the baby out with the bathwater; instead of engaging in thoughtful dialogue and compromise to come up with solutions that work for the majority of responsible hard working Americans. Let me list a few ideas:

Brindle pit bull

Brindle pit bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dogs –

1. If you want to own a pit bull you must register them for obedience classes and give a copy of the certificate to City Hall in addition to the rabies tag number when you get the dog licensed.  You must demonstrate re-certification of obedience training every 3-5 years. You must be a homeowner to own a pit bull, or have sufficient assets to cover a lawsuit if the dog injures someone. This goes for other breeds like Rottweilers, Pinschers, German Shepherds, Chows, Dalmatians, and Akitas too – since all these breeds have aggressiveness bred into them. There may be a few breeds I missed here feel free to add…

2. Dog owners already pay increased  homeowners premiums, (depending on the breed, and they may not even cover you if you have a banned breed)  but all dog owners should be required to submit proof of vaccination and licensing to their policy carriers.

3. All dogs should be required to be on leash or in a fenced in yard  when outdoors- subject to fine and/or seizure of the dog if non-compliant. Not all communities have leash laws, and those that do may only sporadically enforce them – doing so only after there is a problem.

4. Dog owners should be required to notify the public that there is a dog on their premises.

There’s probably more but that’s all I can think of right now. It comes down to common sense , really – Which ain’t quite as common as it should be, sadly enough.

219px-Weapons1                                             (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guns –

1. I’ve listed several things in other posts so I’ll just summarize here: Background checks for all sales.  Private sales should be illegal.  No actual possession of said  firearm by the buyer until a training course is completed and certification of the ability to use and store said firearm safely is on file with the gun seller, and the new gun owner’s insurance carrier. Yes I do think you should have to insure your guns. No sale to anyone with a history of mental illness ( improve those background checks) Your right to be bat-guano ga-ga does not supersede my right to keep breathing safely.  No sale to anyone who lives with a family member with mental illness. PERIOD. No sale to anyone under the age of 16.. Proof of age required to purchase. Possession of a firearm by anyone not carrying an FID card and proof of ownership should invite criminal charges for both the possessor and the registered owner. Magazine clip size should be limited. Modification kits – illegal.  If a tragedy does occur and the investigation reveals that the gun owner stored the firearm unsafely or improperly or knowingly allowed  someone other than themselves to use the firearm – then the gun owner should be held civilly and criminally responsible.

I understand this may not curb criminal activity or criminal’s access to firearms, but it will damn sure make it less likely that a toddler can pick up his fathers gun and kill a Tennessee Sherriff’s wife with it. And it will make it extremely difficult – if not impossible – for idiots like Nancy Lanza to provide their mentally ill child with access to firepower.  I am in no way saying people should not have guns if they want them. But they need to assure those of us that don’t  they can own and use them responsibly.  SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY. And,  SAFETY.

It is a great privilege to own a firearm, and be a pet owner. Both carry great responsibility with them .  If we enforce the laws we already have on the books, that will help also. But if people start understanding that they are responsible for the safety of themselves and others and will be held ACCOUNTABLE by laws that make sense for the majority of people  – then perhaps that baby I’ve been talking about can go get toweled off, powdered, and re-diapered instead of floundering around in the mud. Rant concluded. Thank you, that is all  (for now)

Living the Dream

I was raised to believe in the American Dream and the intrinsic value of hard work as a means to success. The current envisioning of the American Dream is, that by participating in society and the economy, everyone has the opportunity to get a good education and a good job and can become successful.  “.. a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position”.  James Truslow Adams   These days –  financial success depends more on what you do for a living, than how hard you work/how devoted you are at or to your job. How successful you are in terms of economic status is not just determined by your hard work in your chosen profession – its actually determined more by the profession you choose and the salary and benefits attached to them.  Of course, if you are a screw up then you’ll lose your job anyway – but reasonable competence in the corporate world guarantees you a fairly high standard of living with few – if any,  economic worries.   Certainly you can still be successful in terms of job satisfaction/personal happiness no matter what your career. But I am also equally certain that the janitor cleaning those corporate offices after business hours has substantially greater economic worries than the executive whose office he’s cleaning. And that doesn’t necessarily indicate that janitor is living beyond his means.

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty I...

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somewhere along the way we came to equate the American Dream solely with financial success –  ie  if we ain’t livin large, we ain’t livin the dream. I completely disagree with that mindset.  And I’ll tell you why.  In my opinion – every job is an important one. Every career path chosen not only validates our interests, but also identifies us to the world at large.  No job is too insignificant. Performing your work well should be the primary factor in satisfaction but I know that  many times it is not. (We don’t always get that “attaboy” or “attagirl’ from our supervisors. But we always hear about it when we screw up, right?) Anyway, I’m not sure what we can do to change the mindset.  But I can tell you that I am blue collar middle class.  I work hard,  and I feel good about what I accomplish – every day.

Perhaps it is a gratitude issue.  We Americans are a whiny self entitled bunch these days.  I have a nice house,  food in my fridge and freezer, most of my bills are paid or pending to be paid, I have shoes on my feet, a choice of weather appropriate clothing to wear each day, indoor plumbing, laundry facilities, health insurance, heat and electricity, and an automobile to get where I need to go, and at least a few dollars in change in my pocketbook.   If I had to guess – that makes me better off than probably 75% of the rest of the planet. Most people I know are at least as well off. Even most of the poorest of us are generally better off than most of the other people on the planet. We have access to housing, medical, food and clothing, transportation  – all the basics are met – or can be. And yet – complain complain complain.  Because we don’t have the 52 inch plasma TV, or the jet ski, or the Beemer.  From my perspective, why do we care?  Having a BMW doesn’t make me “better” than  anyone else (not that I actually have one) And if you are receiving assistance, why do you feel the need to have the large screen HD TV?  If you can’t afford to pay for it yourself, perhaps you might consider finding something that fits into your budget.  Are you meeting the needs of your family – 3 hots and a cot? Are you proactively planning for your children’s education or vocational needs? Planning for your retirement? Planning for your essential living expenses?  If you aren’t doing these things/cant afford to do them , there is no place for that HD TV in your home. The world will not come to an end if you can’t watch The Avengers in HD.  Get over it.

American Dream

American Dream (Photo credit: Robert Gourley)

More to the point, I strongly feel that the American Dream should be about what you can DO, not what you HAVE or can GET. The American Dream should be, was intended to be, about the pursuit of happiness. I can tell you happiness is not defined by what things you possess, but rather by interpersonal relationships and self esteem. We’ve lost sight of that, much to our detriment.  My ideas to increase our happiness quotient, and thereby put us on a path to achieving our dream:

  • Volunteer –  Helping others – without judgement –  and sharing our wealth/resources is one of the best ways I know to get people out of their boxes, develop a broader world view, and develop empathy.
  • Live within your means –  Understand that living is about relationships not about possessions. This is perhaps the biggest issue in terms of  achieving happiness.  We have to redefine it and tell ourselves it is perfectly OK not to “keep up” with our neighbors.
  • Learn and Practice proper Social Etiquette –  Learn how to behave towards others in such a way that they feel valued – no matter their economic status, they are a person with intrinsic value and deserving of respect. You WILL feel valued in return, trust me on that.  Because  “in the end, the love you take – is equal to the love you make.”

I don’t have any other ideas at the moment, but would love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to comment.  Thanks.

I Think it’s Gonna Be Alright

As you all know, I’ve been more than a bit concerned about the direction this country seems to be taking. Very worried about the mess we seem to be leaving, that we might not be able to clean up. And, what that means for future generations. I’m not sure those currently in power have the right ideas to move us ahead responsibly.

Last night something strange happened. I stopped at Dunkin to pick up some K-cups for my Keurig. (You all also know I can’t function well without my caffeine IV…) On my way out of the coffee shop and back to the car, I was stopped by a tall man in his mid to late 60’s. He was slightly unkempt, but polite and well-spoken. He asked me if I would like to have a poem, and held a sheet of paper out towards me. I said sure, and took the paper – which indeed had some poetry printed on it. I thanked him, he said his name was “Henry” and said “God Bless, Be Well.” I turned away wishing him the same; and began walking the 20 or so steps back to the car. I got in and handed the paper to my oldest. She asked me what it was. I told her I just got a poem from the guy at the entrance to Dunkin, turned around to point him out. He was gone. The girls, who had been waiting in the car for me, had not noticed him.

Feeling slightly creeped out, I began to read the poem. It was rambling, had a disconnected feel to it – congruent with someone experiencing mental health issues. (There’s quite a few homeless, MH folks in my city). However, 3 lines leapt from the paper – “God shed his grace on us, on all of us! For America will see good days of invention again. We will be crowned with the fruits of kindness and fidelity.” My goosebumps got goosebumps, and the girls were affected as well. We looked down the side streets near the coffee shop, but were not able to find “Henry” anywhere. Normally, I wouldn’t give something like this a second thought. But I found myself profoundly shaken.  I got a message, and I think maybe – just maybe – we’re gonna be alright.

Le’Andria Johnson – It’s Gonna Be Alright