Thursday, July 7, 2011

So let me get this straight, the Democrats want to save social security and Medicare for millions of Americans, but the Republicans want to cut them. But Republicans also want to save the super rich from having to pay taxes, and the democrats want the rich to pay their share. So the dems want the rich to pay more so the poor get more, and the repubs want the rich to pay less so the poor can get less. Sounds like the republicans are the party for the entitled. Hmmm

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Question about Organized Religion 1

If so many people involved with organized religion in the United States of America consider themselves to be so patriotic, then why don't they openly advocate for buying American made goods? It seems with the wide reach of religion's influence here in the U.S., it would take very little effort to encourage millions of people to begin buying American made goods, and thereby stimulating the American economy with our own money. But the churches haven't done it. They have left civil rights behind, and now they are leaving the economy behind. The question is why? Why do they consider themselves so patriotic, but won't help our own citizens economically?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Where does one find balance? how does one survive when keys are missing from the keyboard? When some letters are gone?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The other day I was asked about how to change her Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character. Naturally, I asked why. The response I received was meant to be a jab at me and my ilk, for sure, but I took it as a compliment when my Facebook friends and I were referred to as nerds. Presumably, this was supposed to mean that I (and others like me) don't interact well with the rest of the outside world either. That's fine, I can accept that. What I don't understand is why it is supposed to be a bad thing to not take part in populist cyber-movements that are only so effective. For that matter, there is no real reason for me to take part in any populist movement.

Let's face it, I could change my profile picture to Charlie Brown, but that won't really make some eight year old's life any better. Becoming a foster parent will. Becoming a social worker will. Becoming a teacher will. Becoming a friend will. Taking an active role in our communities and neighborhoods will probably make the lives of abused children better. Opening our doors (literally) and taking a look outside; or even better yet, going outside and being vigilant will probably do more to prevent child abuse than changing my profile picture. Making friends with our neighbors and becoming an active participant in our immediate communities will probably do the same because it is just too difficult to hide abuse from the world if world is sitting in the abuser's living room. Unfortunately, our lives are far too complex to ensure that even our direct involvement will make a difference, but at least it is an active attempt.

As a society, we really like to project our best intentions in ways that are not always the most fruitful. Changing my picture won't really make anyone's life any better. If anything, it will just give me a false sense that I have actually done something good for the world, when in reality I did something for myself. I don't want to rain on any one's parade because I am sure that all the cartoon character profile pictures are well intentioned, but I don't think it is fair for those of us outside of cyber-populist movements like this to be made fun of. In fact, maybe everyone who changed their profile pictures should also be required to volunteer their time with a socially conscious, people-oriented organization. Maybe every time we post something to "bring awareness" we should also automatically commit to volunteering for some organization or directly donate money that will actually do something in regard to that issue. Then it becomes real.

I do appreciate the idea of bringing awareness to something or working to prevent something else, but we know about the value of talk. All we need to do is look at the thousands who braved the rainstorms to raise money and take part in the Susan G. Komen walk. That is real commitment. Notice how many people walk for autism or give to food banks. If we really want to help the lives of children, then advocate for and raise funds to build shelters for families escaping abuse. Press our politicians to reinstate the funding cut from mental health services for children. How about unconditional free medical coverage for any child, regardless of socio-economics or medical condition? How about free counselling services for anyone who has gone through a traumatic experience? After all, many abusive adults have also experienced something devastating in their own lives that contribute to their own loss of control.

Yes, Charlie Brown would be much nicer than the mug I have on my Facebook right now, but what difference will it really make? Probably not as much as actually taking five minutes to talk to some child or parent who is having a bad day. Definitely not as much as actually doing something for those abused children instead of yourself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Season's Greetings

Although I didn't follow my mother's Christian faith, I still love this time of the year. And yes, I do call it Christmas, even though I don't practice or believe in any version of the Christian religion. The reality is that even secular-minded people like me can fully appreciate the good-will-toward-men mentality that presents itself from mid-November through the beginnings of a new year. It gives us all hope that, despite our differences, our more generous and humble nature will prevail to ensure that the world will survive for one more year until we can regain this feeling again.

Today at the grocery store I bought a bag of food for some nameless needy family, and had my son help me drop it into the collection barrel as we walked out the door. When he asked why we were leaving a bag of food at the store I simply replied that we need to help those who don't have enough food. The sad thing is that so many of us (myself included) don't do this enough throughout the year.

I've been poor and I've seen the sadness on my mother's face because of it, still I become so wrapped up in my own world that I seldom remember to extend my own helping hand. I do a lot of socially conscious work as a teacher, but I get paid for that so it really shouldn't count. But today at the grocery store I picked up a pre-packaged bag of food that cost me about six dollars to help another human being. It honestly isn't enough, so I am sure I will repeat the gesture a number of times in the coming weeks, but then what?

Like so many parents I'm going to spend more than I should at Christmas time on my children and on the children of those I care deeply about, but that isn't what this season is about. Throughout the northern hemisphere cultures have used this time leading up to the winter solstice to battle the the very real, increasing darkness; and this might be key factor to what has helped us survive. Regardless of a person's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) we, as a species, has found it in our hearts to help those in need. Some do it as an ulterior motive for some personal or collective gain, and I believe them to be down right despicable. Yet, others give just because it is the correct thing to do, with no strings attached, no pop quiz before you get your meal, no jibber jabber to earn a blanket and a cot. They just give because it is the human thing to do.

I hope that during the next couple weeks we all can find it in our hearts and pocketbooks to buy a bag of groceries, a blanket, or a toy for someone who has less than we do. I hope that I remember to do it enough that my children learn that giving is an essential part of humanity. I hope I can sustain my efforts beyond the new year, and hope you can too. Together, we just might make the world a better place. You never know, one day when you least expect it, you just might be paid in kind for your small sacrifice, and on that day, at that moment, you will realize how fortunate you were to give and how fortunate it can be to receive.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Its Academic

Yesterday I received the wonderful news that I was being recommended for tenure. Aside from helping solidify my future employment, this also makes me think of myself as an academic. That's a long way from the blocks at NASSCO, but maybe not so much.

I began thinking about the role of an academic and came up with the simple idea that one of the primary roles of academics is to maintain a healthy level of intellectual curiosity that is fed with truth, proof, and critical analysis. I must admit, this can be difficult to uphold for a number of reasons. As a father and husband, it is difficult in terms of time. Also as a father and husband, this can be difficult in terms of belief. As a colleague, this can be difficult in terms of professionalism. As a human being, this can be difficult in terms of how much can one really want to know and how will that inherently change your life? These are big issues because I must balance my intellectual curiosity with how much time I spend playing with my children or just enjoying my family. This intellectual curiosity has already ruined my ability to ever watch a light-hearted movie with my wife. It has compromised my ability to attend family functions without looking at sociological implications based on how people act. I must balance my wife's faith in a religion with my constant desire for some sort of proof that there is any basis in reality for that religion. I cannot look at a newspaper without analyzing issues. And don't even get me talking about a subject that I have ready anything substantial about.

So here I am excited about my life as an academic and simultaneously bothered by who I have become as a direct result of my intellectual curiosity. Unfortunately, I cannot stop the curiosity to know more, to have support of claims, to understand the power of the desire so many of us have to believe in something we know cannot be true, and my irrational desire to expose untruth as untruth. In some ways, I have become my own worst enemy. In others, I have become my sole friend.

If nothing else, the next few decades should be interesting.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Conservative Conundrum

For as much as conservatives work at being, well, conservative, I'm not sure they understand just how easy it is to be, well, conservative. Let's face it, life is easier when you just deny progress. Its easier when you deny people their rights. Its easier when you allow some entity to create the rules you live by and then swear that its the best type of freedom around. Its easy to deny the facts. Its easy to deny social convention. Its just too easy, so why do they work so hard at it?

I have no answer as to why they work so hard at being conservative but I have a theory. First, like most irrational actions, it takes a lot of effort to keep perpetuating the mythology they have created inside their own minds. Take the Founding Fathers, for example. None of today's current political pundits were around during the founding of the United States, so none of them truly knows what the Founders intended but they sure talk like they do. Even the most vocal of the conservative wing probably has actually read less than ten percent of the writings associated with the beginning of our republic (sorry, but for the most part we don't live in a democracy), the initiation and subsequent fighting of the Revolutionary War, the process of writing our Constitution, or the work that took place for about 50 years after the first presidential election. If someone actually had read and studied all of those writings, then that person would be considered a scholar of late Colonial America and the early American republic. We don't see those people on television advocating a one-dimensional view of our nation because they are smart enough to know that we have never been one dimensional. Hence, even the most conservative scholars of early America generally divide perspectives into one of two ideas.

Those who consider themselves conservatives tend to view our Constitution and its principles as static, whereas the liberals see the Constitution a dynamic. Again, we see where conservatives tend to take the easy way out, somehow believing that our Founding Fathers believed that the world was going to hit its pause button at 1789 and that was that. Except there was no such thing as a pause button. So how were we supposed to stop changing? We were no longer British subjects, but somehow that doesn't seem to conflict with the idea of remaining static? The logic doesn't add up. Same goes for the Second Amendment. If the Constitution and Bill of Rights are static, then why should people be allowed to bare any type of armament not readily available during the Revolutionary War? No semi-automatic handguns. No M-16s for deer hunting. No one would even be allowed to carry weapons with a brass cartridge casing, let alone an Uzi. But that doesn't apply to them because it is not part of their mythology. It is alright for old white guys to carry guns with a permit. They can even have a conservative revolution. But let the Black Panthers walk into the State Assembly in California during the Civil Rights Movement and suddenly gun control makes sense. How many conservatives support Malcolm X's By Any Means Necessary ideology? They should because it is supported by the Second Amendment. How many agree with the Latin Kings's ideology to sell drugs to whites if they give some of the money back to their home community and its schools? They should because it falls in line with laissez faire economics. How many conservatives agree with Tucson Unified's right to teach Raza Studies because it is truth, just not a truth oft spoken? They should. But they don't because they are hypocrites and the truth is too difficult for them to face.

So next time you see some partial truths posted by conservatives, ask them how blissful ignorance really is. Even more important than that, give them a short lesson in reality with the facts to back it. All one needs is a couple of books or an Internet connection to see how complex and dynamic the world really is. You might not win any converts, but that shouldn't be one's purpose, the real purpose is to expose the truth; and truth sure ain't an easy pill to swallow if you only believe in unsubstantiated mythologies. So here's to those of use who dine on the truth because it is good. Keep a healthy mind and keep on thinking.