Thursday, August 27, 2015

a heart problem

I feel like we have a heart problem in this one great nation. We let too many things get in the way of loving each other and taking care of our neighbors.  We spend too much time looking down at our phones, at ourselves in the mirror, and not enough time looking at how we can help things get better.  We spend so much time trying to get what we believe is coming to us that there isn't enough time left in the day or money left in the bank to give what our communities deserve.
There are multiple mass shootings just about daily, I saw a calendar posted online today that showed all the mass shooting in the US this year. source  It's staggering.   What's even more baffling is that it's become so prevalent that people aren't even shocked by them anymore unless they hit close to home.  When people try to come up with solutions to all the gun violence they're met with resistance and people screaming about how no one is going to infringe on their Second Amendment rights to own firearms... but we have to do something to stop it, or at the very least find out why people are resorting to such drastic measures.  Is it mental illness? Is it entitlement? Is it just that some people are assholes and want to watch the world burn?  Personally I don't have any issues with stronger background checks and making sure your firearms are registered.  I don't feel like it infringes on your rights at all. You have a constitutional right to vote, but you still have to be at least 18 years old and be registered to cast your ballot, why shouldn't the same rules apply to pulling a trigger?  I understand that criminals are going to break laws, and murder has always been illegal, but you wouldn't let a diabetic toddler run around a candy store unattended, why would it be okay to allow just anyone to have access to items that were designed to maim and destroy? Yes... I also know that not all gun owners are irresponsible or mentally ill or going to go on a rampage, but if stricter laws, or making firearms/ammunition less easily accessible would save one town, one movie theater, one social security office, one elementary school from going though what Charleston, Aurora, Salinas, and Sandy Hook went through, it would be absolutely worth the inconvenience.

There is constant news coverage about people who abuse children, whether that be assaulting them, molesting them, starving them, kidnapping them, taking inappropriate photos of them and them profiting off those photos, what's the deal here? Do people really get off on violating our most innocent and vulnerable?

Websites like AshleyMadison encourage people to cheat on their spouses, and while this may not be the worst thing that could happen, it's still vile. If you don't want to be married, don't be married. If you want to be a dishonest creep, do it on your own time, don't hurt someone who loves you because you're bored.  If you feel like your partner is neglecting you, talk to them and try to figure out if the problem is fixable, if it is, fix it... if it isn't cut your losses and get out.  Maybe things aren't that simple, but that doesn't make creating an account on a site designed to help you be a cheat an honorable thing to do.

People seem to be more impatient and less empathetic than I've ever noticed. We live in a world of instant gratification, and if someone has to wait for more than a couple of minutes for anything they become irrationally irate.  Hey I'm sorry if you have to wait in line for your Big Mac, but those 10 people in line ahead of you got here first, it doesn't matter that you're in a hurry, everyone is in a hurry.  That doesn't mean you get to throw a tantrum because you ordered extra pickles and they forgot to add them to your burger.  Take a look at the Behind Closed Ovens blog on Jezebel's Kitchenette to see the worst of humanity and how they think it's acceptable to behave in restaurants.

Our educational system seems to be broken, in math and sciences we don't even rank in the top 20 based on global assessments. I'm including a graphic that illustrates the rankings, it belongs to a study from 2012 "which every three years measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries." source  This study actually shows that we are improving BUT the scores are still so low that it's shameful and wrong. There are so many people in this country that don't value education anymore.  With tuition prices and student debt through the roof fewer and fewer young adults are receiving a college education, and even having that degree isn't guaranteeing any sort of promising future anymore.  I don't know  how to fix this, I think parental involvement is key, your first teachers should be your parents.  They need to teach their children that having a desire for knowledge is admirable.  They need to be taught to ask questions, to make mistakes and to learn from them, that they need to do things for themselves and to not expect anything to be handed to them without effort on their parts, that grades are their payment for the work they've don't get an A because your mom calls the teacher and asks them to change the grade, you get an A when you earn it.

There seems to be more instances of bullying and teenage suicide than in years past, and while this could be due to the prevalence of social media and international news being available 24 hours a day in the palm of your hand, it seems there isn't a week that goes by without hearing about someone taking their own life because people were mean, like really really mean to them.  I hate that our children think that death is the only way to escape their tormentors, and that the people who are torturing these poor souls have no conscience telling them to take a step back.  It doesn't even stop at adolescence though... look at our country's leaders, the politicians running for President in 2016 spend more time tearing each other down than talking about how their going to raise our status back to greatness.  One election year I'd like to see all the mudslinging stop and only hear about what Candidate A is going to do to make thing better.  I don't need Candidate A to tell me anything about Candidates B or C, they can talk for themselves.  Is it even possible to run a clean campaign anymore?  Can we have a hero who doesn't turn their neighbor into a villain?  Is there a way for us to work together despite our differences?

I know I've listed a lot of problems and not a lot of solutions, I've asked more questions than I've answered, but if any one of these start a dialogue to help us get through these dark days, then my words were not wasted.  We have a long row to hoe friends, but I think we have the tools to make it work.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Zack, The Man From The Shack

As I was driving to work this morning, a little story popped into my head, it's a little Seuss-y, a little Silverstein-ish, and a lot of whimsy Lauren.


Zack, Zack, the man from the shack
Gathered all his things and put them in his pack
Said he was going to the moon and never coming back

He travelled down in the valleys
Wandered down back roads and slunk through many alleys

His dream was never far from his sight
It was always nestled among the stars at night

He crossed to distant lands
Met many different people and shook a thousand hands

One day he ran into a wise old monkey
Who asked "if you could be anywhere, where would you be?"
To that he replied "I'd be on the moon, you silly baboon!"

The monkey was worried, "Don't you know up there the air is too thin?
What will you do without oxygen?"
Zack told the monkey "I will hold my breath, as long as it takes
Keep my mouth closed so no air escapes"
The monkey was upset, "that's no way to live, no food, no drink
Please think this plan through, think think!"

But Zack could not be persuaded
Through deserts he walked, and oceans he waded
Mountains were climbed until his clothes were old and faded

Days turned to months, and months stretched to years
But he never gave up even faced with his biggest fears
Would he ever find the way?
Would be be able to get there and stay?

One evening he looked to the sky
With tears flowing down his face he screamed "WHY??"
"Why can't I find you? Why are you so far?"
The Moon smiled down and said "Oh there you are
Don't you know? The only way to get here is by flying car!"
So the Moon sent down her Moon-mobile, it was sparkly blue
Zack climbed in and off into the atmosphere he flew
After all his hard work, his wish came true
But as the earth grew smaller, he wasn't sure what he should do

What if the money was right?
What if the air grew thin and his throat grew tight?
How can a man live on the moon?
Was he really as crazy as they said? Loony as a loon?
The more he thought, the more he fret
Until his shirt was soaked through with sweat

The moon noticed his distress
"Friend there is no need to feel such duress,
Look in the glove box, you'll see a crank
Spin it hard and out will come an oxygen tank!"
He spun and spun, until the crank and sprung
And to his surprise out popped an iron lung.

He found the mouth piece and took a deep breath
"Oh Moon, you just saved me from the brink of death!"

The tank turned out to be endless
and Zack was never found breathless

Zack, Zack, man from the shack
Moved to the moon and never came back.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Here's the thing about heroes....

They come in all shapes and sizes, all colors, all walks of life, they wear different colored capes, and some don't wear capes at all.

Someone may think that Derek Jeter is their hero, while another person thinks that professional athletes are overpaid children playing games for money.  It doesn't make one person's view of Jeter more or less valid, it's just highly subjective.

That's why people getting mad at Caitlyn Jenner being honored as a hero instead of someone else who is "more deserving" irks me.  Is Caitlyn my personal hero? Eh... I think that her decision to transition late in life is brave and scary and that she can be a role model to so many people who just want to be themselves instead of pretending to be what society wants them to be, but I won't be dedicating a shrine to her in my living room... that space is reserved for Kelly Slater... I kid, I kid.

I think you can have multiple heroes, and they can range from someone who lives down the hall to someone on the moon.  If someone inspires you to be a better person, if someone has done great works, if someone has beat all odds and succeeded when everyone thought they would fail... I have no problem calling them a hero.

I don't think that it's fair or reasonable to think that because you don't think someone has reached "hero status" that they can't be someone that other people look up to, or that heroes are mutually exclusive.  Like I can't think that an EMT is a hero because firefighters are the real heroes... that just seems silly.... or another example I can't think that both soldiers and pacifists can both be champions.  Soldiers fight to keep us safe and free, they put their lives in the line of fire so that people like me don't have to, and I love them for that, at the same time I wish that we didn't have to use fists or guns and could instead use our words to get to a more peaceful place in this world.

Maybe my hero is a recovered alcoholic... someone who had demons, fought them, and won, but still feels weak sometimes.  Maybe your hero is your 8 year old niece who can still laugh and smile even though she has cancer.  Perhaps your neighbor's hero is that nice lady who has outlived her entire family and still manages to not be bitter.  There is even the possibility that YOU could be someone else's hero.  Not everyone is strong all the time, and they shouldn't be expected to, even the bravest person occasionally needs a hug and a night light.