The Worship of Sports in America

Simply put, Americans take sports way too seriously.

How The Middle-Class Got Screwed (Video)

A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or A Republican!

There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.

Whatever Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.

ADHD, ODD, And Other Assorted Bull****!

A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Guns & Fear, Part 2

Continued from Part 1 (http://beyond-the-political-spectrum.blogspot.com/search/label/White%20Males)

Yes…I am still talking only to the white males.
With regard to the current health care reform debate and the fear of a loss of “civil liberties” associated with reform proposals, why do white males feel the need to display guns at otherwise “peaceful”—admittedly a loosely-used term given the often raucous nature of the debate—town hall meetings and rallies? It’s not as if health care reform is a rational slippery-slope toward a totalitarian regime reminiscent of America’s Cold War-era adversaries…or is it? Sadly, and not understandably, many of you who feel threatened by the prospect of the federal government getting involved in the business of providing affordable health care insurance for those lacking seems to evoke fears of an encroaching “Socialism” monster coming to, among other things, take both your guns and your civil liberties.
Historically, it’s not as if you have a leg to stand on. There is no historical instance of white males being interned in concentration camps within the borders of America since the end of the Civil War, not based on their identities such as what happened to Japanese-American citizens. There have been no laws created to curtail gun ownership of white males (again, based on identity) in conflict with the Second Amendment, such as black citizens have had to endure…well into the 20th century (see Part 1). With respect to what happened at Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho during the 90s, those tragedies do not measure up to the wholesale violations of civil and individual rights of non-white citizens that have happened many times throughout both the recent and distance history of America. So why do you fear of a loss of civil liberties? What would make otherwise reasonable men fight so hard against potentially reforming a broken system in opposition to their own self interests? The answer is simple: belief.
Like religion, personal beliefs have no place in policy. Beliefs fuel ideological dogma, which in turn impedes the need to change what needs to be changed. In the case of health care reform, it is the irrational belief that “Socialism” will lead to many other negative government actions. Many opponents of health care reform believe that an increase in their taxes to help insure uninsured fellow Americans amounts to an erosion civil liberties. Needless to say, this is unsound reasoning given the fact that their taxes already fund “government-run” health care-related programs for the otherwise uninsured: Medicaid and Medicare. What this amounts to is, based on politically-inspired fear alone, Americans will cherry-pick which programs they support and are willing to allow their taxes to be used for, while ignoring the fact that by simply thinking or looking beyond the rhetoric, they could easily find many other unpopular programs—most with track records—that their taxes already pay for. So why should health care insurance and/or affordability be different?
Again, the fear of a Socialism Boogey Man is at the heart, most of it based on nothing more than ignorance. To illustrate, many these individuals often associate this fear of a socialist encroachment on their lives with the common practice among the former communist regimes of the Cold War era to suppress the various freedoms which we as Americans enjoy. Not only does this lack of knowledge ignores the distinctions between socialism and communism as economic policies, but assumes that a free market automatically equals personal freedom. Just look at modern-day China, an emerging capitalist juggernaut whose citizens dare not cross the boundaries of certain policies ambiguously codified by the state in regards to speech, assembly, religion, or even to have children. On the other hand, many of America’s traditional (and closest) allies may have certain economic policies that critics may slander as “socialist,” but that fact makes these countries no less democratic than ours; most European countries that opponents of health care reform enjoy all of the same rights and freedoms which we as Americans enjoy. In fact, one could argue that these “socialist” countries represent democracy far more readily than America, given their multi-party politics and parliamentary legislative structures. As a further example, in many European countries, the electorate and other special interests are forbidden from making contributions to political candidates for office; the government foots the cost for political campaigns, keeping Big Money out of the democratic process. And thankfully, these realities strongly challenge these over-patriotic Americans’ assertion that our example of democracy is the example of democracy. So again, I ask white males who feel free to intimidate the discourse regarding health care reform by displaying guns why?
Such a groundless, baseless, and uncivil choice of tactics is reminiscent of bloodthirsty and mindless mobs of days past who armed themselves, just before they gathered to lynch, burn, or otherwise do away with those who dared to think differently than they. Is that the message you want to send?

Addendum - (09/02/08)
WUNC, the local National Public Radio affiliate in Chapel Hill, North Carolina aired a segment on it's daily program, "The State of Things" about the word "socialism." It's an interesting look at how both the idea of socialism, and the usage of the word as a loaded term is typically not fully understood (outside of its negative connotation) by those who use it as a political tactic to derail questionable policy proposals. Open minds should give it a listen.

http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot0901abc09.mp3/view

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Guns & Fear, Part 1

When I write about the problems that America has in relation to certain socio-political policies, the words of Bill Maher reflect my own thoughts: I love America…its Americans I can’t stand!
As such, I’d like to address just the white American males—particularly those who consider themselves political conservatives—for a few moments. I will pause now to give those who don’t fit that particular demographic time to navigate away from this page, or power-down your computers.

Now that it’s just you and I, please allow me to ask you a question…what’s the deal with the fear that your civil liberties are under assault by the government?
Last Thursday, the Washington Post published an opinion by columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. entitled, “Leave The Guns At Home” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/19/AR2009081902961.html) . The piece was a response to the growing occurrence of guns being brought to and displayed by certain protesters at health reform-related town hall meetings and rallies around the country, even one attended by the president himself. Gun enthusiasts and other supporters of gun-owners’ rights defend these actions as protected by the Second Amendment’s Right To Bear Arms…a right as an American citizen that I fully support. The White House, as its response, has seemingly gone out of its way to assure these conservative gun owners that their rights are fully respected with regard to their right to own and/or carry their weapons.

The Obama White House purports to be open to the idea of guns outside the president's appearances. “There are laws that govern firearms that are done state or locally,’ Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said on Tuesday. “Those laws don't change when the president comes to your state or locality." (Dionne Jr., Washington Post, 08/20/09)

Surely then, there is a double-standard as it relates to this desire not to cater to the baseless fears of conservative gun owners and scare them even more.

In 2006, a New York state official (who was a Democrat) joked stupidly that one of his colleague should "put a bullet between the president's eyes," referring to President Bush. Within hours, he profusely apologized, and not long after that, Republicans were calling for his resignation. It was a reasonable reaction to the suggestion that a sitting president be fatally removed from office. (Stone, “Guns at Obama Rallies: Where’s the Outrage?” Newsweek, 08/18/09. http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2009/08/18/guns-at-obama-rallies-where-s-the-outrage.aspx)

Strangely, these “thinking” conservative white males should have more of an allegiance to common sense than their own political ideologies; after all, the last time a gun was brought to a meeting where a sitting president was attending was when John Hinkley was trying to impress actress Jodie Foster. And one has to wonder what the response would be if leftist activists exercised the same right to carry and bear arms at an event staged by conservative politicians; would their rights to carry be as respected? History says no. We saw this in California back in 1967 when former president and arch-conservative Ronald Reagan was the state’s law-and-order governor. Reagan, seeking to stop the militant Black Panthers from exercising their legal right at the time to carry weapons in the open, signed the Mulford Act, which then prohibited “the carrying of firearms on one’s person or in a vehicle, in any public place or any public street” (keeping in mind that the Panthers adopted the policy of openly carrying weapons as a perceived defense against the Oakland, California Police Department, a government arm with many documented complaints of unprovoked brutality, excessive force, civil rights violations against them). That particular instance was just another in a long history of instances where local, state, or federal government engaged in the interference or suppression of civil liberties of non-WASP males. Shall I mention the post-Civil War and Reconstruction era-enacted Black Codes of the South, which in many instances forbade black ownership of guns? How about the many illegal lynchings of blacks and other hyphenated-Americans at the hands of “good Christians” as local government turned a blind eye? The decimation of entire black towns such as Rosewood, Florida and Tulsa’s Greenwood District (sometimes called the “Black Wall Street” due to the existence of many black-owned businesses that were the basis for the district's economic success) in 1921? How about the internment of thousands of Americans of Japanese heritage during the Second World War?
Need a more contemporary example? With respect to the good people of both Chicago and Washington D.C., the high rates of homicides among their large minority populations defies the logic of the tight controls each that cities’ government has on handgun ownership. The local laws, which prohibit purchasing and/or owning a handgun within their city limits limit any chance that the law-abiding citizens of these cities have to defend themselves in the face of gun-toting criminals who don’t allow themselves to be bound by such hindrances as these laws. And it's obvious these tight controls haven’t done anything to stem the tide of the record numbers of handgun-related murders in each city in recent years, controls that impede the desire and right of self-protection. I could go on ad nauseum.
Listing these historical occurrences are not by any means an attempt to elicit or impose feelings of racial guilt in white males, nor are they meant to make you look bad from a historical perspective. But they are meant to put the issue in perspective. Each instance had/has the willing assistance of some level of government, and I (or the rest of America for that matter) have yet to see any such policies enacted or enforced in areas populated by largely non-minority (i.e., white) citizens. There have been no such similar instances (at least to my knowledge) where the wholesale hindering or ignoring the civil liberties (not to mention affecting the very lives) of white male citizens occurred to any similarly measurable level...including instances of forbidding the ownership or use of guns for self-defense. The bottom line is that the white male fear of having one’s weapons taken away, or of having their rights limited by government is not fully understood in light of the lack of any similar or discernible instances where laws and/or local ordinances were passed to curtail their rights. So how is it that you fear gun-control or civil liberty violations when government has a tradition of working—for better or worse—in your interests?
I will again now pause, this time to allow you to either try to formulate a justification for this apparent irrational dissonance (something I’m sure will be predictably along the lines of, “Yeah, but those instances were different…") or to try to search your memory banks for similar instances where white males’ gun ownership rights or civil liberties were so imposed upon by any level of government on a level of scale.


A gun-toting protester identified as William Kostric stands in the crown at a Phoenix, Arizona health care reform rally.





To Be Concluded...

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Socialized Medicine"--Innovation By Any Other Name

As someone who would love to see every American covered by some form of substantive and affordable health care insurance--one that doesn't result in the majority of personal bankruptcies year-to-year--I often ask myself What good is having "the best health care system in the world," when its priced out of reach for most people?
We love telling ourselves that we Americans are the "best" at innovation. Yet, when it comes to innovating a new way to cover all Americans, it's in this area that we suddenly "recognize" our apparent limitations. All of a sudden, after years of irresponsible spending on senseless military actions, pork barrel-spending, and constituent-supported tax-cuts, we worry about paying for a program, one whose need cannot be challenged.
Its our American arrogance which leads us to believe that we can't learn anything else from other countries when it comes to addressing the issue of health care coverage. Back in March of this year, CBS's Sunday Morning presented an illustration of how the French (yes, those "French"...the country that often finds itself the butt of American television late night comedians and of patriotic sitcom leads) deal with the high cost of health care treatment.



Watch CBS Videos Online

The French penchant for choking at times of conflict notwithstanding, give them credit for having the bravery to at least try to implement a way of addressing the need for health care for its citizens. It's easy to oppose universal health care or universally affordable health insurance while spouting pro-Free Market patriotic rhetoric when one can afford to pay his or her medical bills. But given the choice between potential financial ruin, and embracing the ideological rhetoric of those opposed to any form of universal health care, I'll wager that many Americans who can't afford health care coverage would gladly opt for a system of "Socialized" medicine similar to that which the French use.
We're not going to get out of addressing the rising cost of health care, nor are we going avoid trying to provide coverage for all Americans without spending any money. We are going to pay to cover our fellow uninsured Americans, whether through higher premiums, higher taxes, or higher service fees, all to cover charity care for the uninsured. It's time we got real and stop falling back on baseless fears of a "Socialism" Boogey Man.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What Happened To The Lessons of Childhood? (Or, “What the **** Is Wrong With People?”), Conclusion

Continued from Part 2 (http://beyond-the-political-spectrum.blogspot.com/search/label/Religion).

With the Christian Church being the foundation for many of the life lessons that we learned as children, and given that it’s leadership and spiritual advisors are as every bit as susceptible to the insanity to which has infected all other aspect’s of America’s secular institutions, it’s should come as no surprise that it’s supposed adherents have come epitomize a distortion of its values. Take the current debate over health care reform.
As children, we are taught to help everyone who needs it—a central tenet of Christian as well as all religious doctrines. With respect to the between 40 and 45 million Americans who either have no health insurance coverage or who are underinsured, it’s astounding that many supposed men and women “of faith” can justify the current system of runaway health care cost, and near universal unaffordability—if not for employer-based coverage—for the sake of embracing their political allegiances and their associated dogmas. We all know the pitfalls of the current system of health care in America, one that culminates with it being the single greatest cause of bankruptcies year-to-year. However, despite both the reality and the need, opponents of health care reform resort to un-Christian-like tactics such as distortion of facts, fear mongering (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/health/policy/14panel.html?no_interstitial - NYTimes article, "False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots," from 08/13/2009), willful ignorance (see link below), selective facts which support their political dogmas (http://www.newsweek.com/id/211981?GT1=43002 - Newsweek magazine's article "Seven Myths About Health Care," as sourced from Factcheck.org, from 08/14/2009 ), and a slew of other hypocritical acts. And all for what? Because they believe that any government-subsidized programs intended to provide universal health care coverage for all Americans would be “Socialist” in policy (forgetting that private business can successfully compete with similar government-adminstered endeavors; Fed-Ex, UPS, and other mail delivery services are doing far better than the U.S. Postal service, and the private security firm--the former Blackwater Group--is able to pay its employees better than the U.S, military). Apparently these individuals hold the idea of a Free Market America far more sacred than the tenets of their religious faiths, or the support of reason. And challenging opponents on this observation will only result in a weak defense comprised of twisted and secular logic. In one recent town hall protest in Raleigh, North Carolina, a reporter for a local television station illustrated that many of the protesters there had not even read any portion of President Obama’s health care reform proposal. In fact, one woman, when interviewed, said that she “didn’t have to read the proposal,” and that she relied on the “voice of the Holy Spirit to tell her it was wrong.” The logical effect of this sad dynamic is that while it’s apparently ok for a sick person to pray for a healing, but any government-backed effort to help pay for medical treatment is wrong based on her interpretation of Biblical principles. (http://www.wral.com/news/local/politics/video/5794533/ Uninformed health care reform protesters in Raleigh, NC, from 08/14/2009 broadcast). It seems that many of those opposed to universal-backed health care in this country do so based on either ideological reasons, to gain political power for oneself and/or political affiliation (ultimately), or as a knee-jerk defense of Free Market principles; people should left up to their own devices when it comes to assistance. From a philosophical perspective, these reasons run against the very first Christian Commandment…Thou shall have no other God before me (and the principles He is said to stand for).
It’s ironic that people are opposed to such a laudable idea as universal affordability of health care coverage, when opposing runs counter their self-interests. Often citing the potential costs of implementing such a policy, many of these same individuals opposed to health care reform had no problem with supporting—at least by their lack of protest and quiet acquiescence—the increased defense budget spending and the costs of America’s unwarranted invasion of Iraq under the last administration’s tenure…one that has to date resulted in over 1,500 American military deaths, an untold number of Iraqi civilian deaths, a rising deficit, and the tarnishment of the country’s reputation in the global community.
What happens when politically dogmatic individual individuals and organizations prevents us from helping others by misrepresenting the goals and intentions other individuals or groups simply to make their ideas more favorable? While this is nothing new—more conservative individuals and groups have a history of labeling unionizers, women and minority suffrage campaigners, civil rights workers, and others they disagree with as “Socialists” “Communists”—this tendency has gained a more intense fervor over the past 20 or so years. On the flip side of coin, more liberal individuals and groups have been quick to slander individuals seeking to strengthen the traditional family unit—a laudable goal to be sure given the high divorce and single parent rates in this country—as “fascists.”
What are to do about parents who treat parenthood so casually…or even worse, those who micromanage their children’s every move, thought, or goal?
What’s the effect for society when the institutions meant to guide us and make our lives better—secular and spiritual—have become as dysfunctional as the individuals who comprise them? How are things supposed to get better for our society when our political machinations become nothing more than organizations staffed with opportunists and self-serving individuals looking to pad their pockets? Is there any wonder that people like myself are so cynical toward these institutions…that there is a recently revealed growing resurgence of anti-government militias (See the Associated Press article, "Officials See Rise in Militia Groups Across US." http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iyMfoxDzPi3tRgwrutPFpd154C7QD9A13T3O0 and Southern Poverty Law Center: http://www.splcenter.org/ )
What hope is there for society when we are so quick to hurt one another for nothing more than simple personal of political advantage?
What are we supposed to do with the life lessons that we learned as children, but disregard as adults? How about disregard them for want of their effectiveness? Let’s teach our children that it’s ok that their parents embrace a selfishness attitude toward parenting. That it’s understandable that parents live their own lives vicariously through the live of their children. And let’s tell them that it’s ok to treat our children like gold, but other children like crap. It’s ok to drink and drive…even if it puts the lives of ourselves and others at risk.
Let’s teach our kids that it’s ok to ignore helping others in our society simply because we want to validate—in both our own minds and those we hope to convert—the particular dogmatic beliefs we chose to embrace. Let’s teach them that embracing socio-political beliefs are far more important than our own spiritual teachings about helping others and elevating our souls…that "socialism" (and other similar beliefs) is the worst idea humanity has ever conceived…more evil than genocide, serial killing, rape, or even war. Let’s teach our kids that the labels we attach to those who wish to see progressive change in the world mean more than their intentions.
Let’s teach our children that it’s wrong for two consenting adults to engage in sex, but that’s its ok for us to engage our children.
While we’re at it, lets tell them that solving disputes by fighting (especially if it’s on national television) is fine.
Let’s just throw out the life lessons we teach children; give reality a chance to catch up with the hypocrisy we engage in on a daily basis. At least then we can stop asking ourselves, what’s wrong with us?

For an illustration of the desperate need for universal health care affordability, click on the following link:
http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=8309740 or watch the recent NBC Nightly News piece below.




video

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Happened To The Lessons of Childhood? (Or, “What the **** Is Wrong With People?”), Part 2

Continued from Part 1 (http://beyond-the-political-spectrum.blogspot.com/search/label/Adults)

Whenever we think about the life lessons that we were given in our childhoods, perhaps no institution comes to mind more than the Church. But what happens when the Church itself ignores the same advice it gave us? What happens when those we look up to the most, who are supposed to represent themselves as agents of all things decent and spiritual, allow themselves to fall prey to material pursuits and all-too worldly behavior? We get a dose of painful reality…an understanding that many spiritual institutions are every bit as dysfunctional and out of control as many in the secular world.
It’s only recently that the seemingly rampant wave of child molestation and allegations of such at the hands of officials in the Catholic Church have started to subside. The allegations, the arrests, the accusations of sanctioned cover-ups, the civil actions…all because officials within the Church were incapable of living up to their promise of disciplined and dedicated spiritual counselors and followers of the advice they were charged with giving us (remember the Golden Rule?).
In the [recent] American Protestant tradition, politically active Evangelicals wed themselves to secular political ideologies and groups for the sake of influencing social policy, and violating the spirit Church and State separation. What does it say that those of us who don’t share a particular faith with the religious movers and shakers are forced to accept an interpretation and application of law based on how someone views the “Word of God?” Must the possibility of beneficial treatments for many medical maladies go unexplored because someone else’s interpretation of God’s intention’s forbids harvesting stem cells from dead fetuses…no matter the cause of death? Do we ignore benefits of making available to young people in this country contraceptive simply because someone believes doing so will endorse out-of-wedlock “fornication?
Acknowledged religious figures like Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell have a great deal of influence among the religious bloc within the conservative electoral base in this country—one needn’t have to look beyond the many Christian-based institutions each have built such as universities, television programming, etc. So what does it say when figures like Robertson overly maligns the feminist movement in the following way:

"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

And what of religious leaders in America? What does it do to the faith of a believer when a [at least to some] religious figure like Jesse Jackson is revealed to have been involved in an extramarital affair during the same time that he was supposed to be providing spiritual counsel to former President Bill Clinton during his own widely publicized tryst with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky?
What it looks like is that our traditional refuge of spiritual counsel is not longer a place for solace and comfort, as those who represent its values have seemingly lost their minds along with everyone else!
What’s worse is that politicians of all stripes—from leftist liberal to reactionary conservative and everyone in between—still holds out hope that our political institutions are where our hopes lie. This particular sense of hope that salvation for our collective well-being lies in the political realm is harder to understand than even the basic question of what’s wrong with people? given the unexplainable way that politicians have and continue to violate both their family and the public’s sense of trust…and despite being in the public eye constantly. The list of political officials who have recently had questionable sexual indiscretions reads like a Who’s Who of the politically influential:

2009: after disappearing for seven days, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admits that he had secretly flown to Argentina to visit a woman with whom he’d been having an affair.

2009: Sen. John Ensign admits that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer who was then employed as one of his top aides.

Aug. 2008: John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, and the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004, confesses that he had lied repeatedly about an affair with 42-year-old Rielle Hunter.

2008: Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleads guilty, is forced to resign, and is jailed for lying under oath about explicit text messages he sent to an aide, revealing they the two were involved in an extramarital affair.


March 2008: New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, resigns a week after a New York Times report links him to a prostitution ring.

June 2007: Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is arrested in a Minneapolis airport restroom. He pleads guilty to disorderly conduct for tapping his feet and swiping his hand under a stall divider in a way that signaled he wanted sex. Craig later denies any wrongdoing and says he is not gay.

July 2007: Sen. David Vitter, R-La., acknowledges that his Washington phone number was among those called several years before by an escort service.

September 2006; Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., abruptly resigns after reports that he sent sexual messages to teenage male congressional pages.

2005; Spokane Mayor Jim West, one of the most powerful Republicans in the Legislature and a champion of an anti-gay agenda during his tenure, admits to having private online relationships during 2005 through the Gay.com website. In more than 20 years in the Legislature, West had initiated legislation to outlaw sexual contact between consenting teenagers; supported a bill that would have barred gays and lesbians from working for schools, day care centers and some state agencies, and; voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.


If one looks at this issue from both a Biblical standpoint, and that of how they ignore the lessons were were taught in our childhoods, it would tax the imagination as to how many of those simple lessons for living these violations ignore.
What is wrong with people?

To Be Concluded

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Canadian Health Care System...Myth vs. Fact

During this current debate on health care reform, there are tons of aspersions, tidbits misinformation, and now television ads, both pro and con, being hurled to and fro in the politically-charged atmosphere. Probably the most commonly used comparison with regards to the health care debate is that of the current system in America to that of the Canadian health care system.
Well, finally one of the country’s news outlets—National Public Radio—decided to bypass the sound bites, rhetoric, industry spin, and political dogma to actually travel to Canada to look into the truth surrounding our northern neighbor’s health care system and how it’s administered.
In the search for clarification of how the Canadian system deals with the problems associated with providing health care for all if it’s citizens, NPR interviewed those who would know best…namely Canadian citizens, doctors, and political officials.
Click on the link to listen to the full report (aired: August 10, 2009)

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=111721651&m=111721665

Addendum (08/19/09):
National Public Radio looked into the British Health Care System--often cited as a reason by opponents of health reform in America not to fine-tune it's failing system of covering all its citizens--to explore its pros and cons. In addition, this piece also served to debuk the half-truths and myths put forward by this country's opponents of health care reform:

http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=111976186&m=111976232

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What Happened To The Lessons of Childhood? (Or, “What the **** Is Wrong With People?”), Part 1

As I watched, listened, and read the various news items of the past week, I found myself asking the same question that many others are probably asking; What the **** is wrong with people?
No doubt, the same people asking this same question had imparted on them during their childhoods the same lessons for life that and I had imparted into me: Treat others as you would have them treat you; go to school, study hard, work hard, and you will prosper, it’s not what you look like, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, a penny saved is a penny earned, and an entire slew of other such familiar life lessons.
But as we grow up, we tend to undergo a kind of sociological puberty… we start to see the benefits of experience, our emotional skins become thicker, we tend to loosen the social and psychological inhibitions we were programmed with, and we tend to shed our embrace of the fairy tales we thought were possible…including the fairy tales of the life lessons we learned.
A cynical perspective? You tell me. This past week, we saw yet another unprovoked mass shooting in a public place, this time in a suburb of Pittsburgh. We saw a 36 year-old mother, intoxicated with high levels of both alcohol and marijuana in her system, driving the wrong way on a New York state freeway, which resulted in a crash that killed herself, her child, three nieces, and three other men in another vehicle. We saw town hall meetings in different cities, intended to educate the public on aspects President’s Obama’s proposed overhaul of health care, degrade into shouting matches—some of them no doubt orchestrated by organized opposition—complete with forced removals of the unruly by law enforcement and death threats of elected officials. And these were just the high points of the week; I haven’t even brought up the items illustrating social dysfunction which flew under the radars of the major news organizations.
This is not meant to deny that every day, a great many good things are done by good people, especially with regards to the current economic downturn; these too I have see or read about this past week. I could just as easily list a few, but the problem is that effects of the bad things tend to be more far-reaching, and more pronounced than the good. The bad things tend to have national consequences (yes, I concede that this point is debatable), while the effects of the good don’t seem to extend past the local level. We simply do not have a Mother Theresa or a similar archetype of individual who can give us a sense of hope that the good things that we do have a national or global impact. And this being America, even if there were someone like that working in our midst to create a better society, our cynicism would prevent us from accepting what they do as being purely egalitarian in nature; no doubt we would attribute their rationales to personal, financial, or political motives.
But the more I watch things around me, the more I start to see that the life lessons that we learned as children are just more of those things that we put away as we become adults. Remember the advice that we got about calling the police whenever you see a crime being committed? Given the daily headlines about shootings, robberies, and other assault-based crimes (many of them unprovoked), it seems a solid suggestion. This week on two different days, NBC’s Today Show aired two separate news pieces relating to people getting involved with the prevention of crimes against others. In the first incident, a 10 year-old girl saw a bank robbery underway right in front of her, and had the presence of mind to run to a nearby business and call the police.


video
video

In the other case—and in another bank robbery—a teller, who had been the unfortunate employee who’s window was targeted by the robber, not only denied the robber’s demand to hand over the bank’s cash, but proceeded to follow the criminal out the bank and chase him down, eventually appending and holding him for the police with the help of another citizen. For his trouble, the teller was eventually fired by the bank…and rightfully so. The young girl displayed far more good sense with regards to the situation than her adult counterpart. Not only did the teller ignore the bank’s rule of compliance with any demands in the event of a robbery, but chose to ignore common sense, putting not only himself but the bank’s customers and others in possible jeopardy. What was this man thinking? Apparently, the teller hadn’t heard the old adage that “a hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.” Even more important, the comparison of these incidents illustrate that in many instances, people don’t necessarily grow into wisdom, but out of it.
How about the mother who killed herself and 7 others in New York? Apparently, she wasn’t capable of empathizing with the fear of most other mothers, including the mothers of the nieces she was related to. Most responsible parents want the best for their children, the best education, shelter, a secure future, etc. So why is it that the woman in New York couldn't empathize with a fear that many parents have…that their children could be killed by an irresponsible adult impaired by foreign substances behind the wheel of a vehicle? We all know that not only is drinking and driving illegal, but highly dangerous to the general public…we learned it all back in school. So why do seemingly rational people make a habit out of completely ignoring a major foundational idea of such as not driving impaired? Perhaps along the way during the march into our adult lives, we somehow got the idea that maybe the lessons that we were told were so important for us to absorb were merely suggestions, and not advice to help us advance our lives.


video
A penny saved is a penny earned? Not when you live in the premier consumer society on earth....a society that we allow to program us to purchase and consume at any cost, at any price. The current financial crisis may have been perpetuated by corporate malfeasance and greed in the financial industry, but it was spurred by way too many consumers trying to skirt the common sense of thrift, of actually working and saving enough to afford the house with the white picket fence portion of the American Dream. Too many people with questionable credit were granted loans for houses which they could ill-afford under normal circumstances. Now while I am totally for giving stable individuals a chance for home ownership, many lenders made a cottage industry out of mass approving high-risk loans, and of investing against the anticipated returns from these loans, playing on the housing boom of the late 90s and early to mid- 2000s. So much for working hard and saving.

To Be Continued...