Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the Audacity to Hope

I remember back when Barack Obama was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and his book The Audacity of Hope came out. Just the title alone interested me, plus I wanted to learn a bit more about this candidate.  I went to a library and put my name on the waiting list for it and then was able to check the book out.  Unfortunately like I have a habit of doing, I checked out too many books at once and didn’t actually get to read the book! Yet the title alone has continued to reverberate in my mind. 
The Audacity of Hope; audacity means bold, daring, brave, and courageous.  In the phrase, audacity describes and gives further meaning to the word hope.  Hope is bold, hope is daring, hope is brave, and hope is courageous. 
Think about the word hope.  We name our daughters Hope, we hope things work out, but do we know what it means to really hope?  I really like the name Hope for a potential daughter (are you reading wife?) and of course Hope Solo is very attractive, but beyond a name, what does it mean to us?  We often use the word hope as a synonym for “wish.”   I hope I’ll be able to make it, hopefully I plan on being there.  Hope is an aspiration or an expectation.   I don’t think those words reach the depth present within the word hope.
When I think about the audacity of hope I also think about the audacity to hope.  Hoping is bold, courageous, daring.  Somehow saying “I’ll hope I make it over tonight” cheapens the word.   I’ve come to understand hope, and the audacity to hope as something deeper, something stronger, something that reaches the very core of our being.
The capacity to hope is something most of us take for granted; many of us are optimistic and our culture certainly encourages us to think things will “work out.”  I think many of us take hope for granted; we assume hope will always be there; except when it isn’t for some of us...
You can’t understand the preciousness of hope, the pricelessness of hope until hope doesn’t come; when hope isn’t there.  How can one describe the absence of hope?  Be it uncertainty, fear, indecision; yet the dearth of hope can often manifest itself in ways much deeper and harder to describe.  Just as hope can reach the very core of our being, the lack of hope can shake us to the core, shake us to the point we no longer know which side is up or down.
How can you put this feeling into words?  How can you explain the sheer terror and apprehension of risking, of putting oneself out there? How can one portray feelings which convince one that meaningful relationships will always end?  How can one illustrate what it’s like to grow up in utter poverty?  How can one give explanation to the feelings of despair that one falls asleep to at night and wakes up with in the morning?  How does one share what’s its like when simply existing seems like a constant struggle?
Perhaps the most difficult thing about hope is that it’s not a commodity, it can’t be bought, it can’t be achieved, it can’t be acquired; it can only be earned. And when one has lost such hope, it takes real audacity, flat out crazy, bold, courageousness to even begin to gain it back.  This is where the audacity to hope fits in; for one must be bold, one must be courageous, one must be relentless.
Regaining hope can only be gained in small steps, in risking, in being vulnerable. That may look like simply getting out of bed some mornings, or smiling, or just simply keeping on.  It may be sharing ourselves when we really just want to close ourselves off, it may be doing something that scares the shit out of us and causes our insides to quake, and it may be living like love is possible and love can be for a lifetime.  Hope is daring, hope is bold, and hope is courageous.  Even taking small, infantile steps are in fact signs of enormous audacity. 
Perhaps the only good thing about lacking hope is appreciating the sheer value of hope.  It’s something I wouldn’t take away from my worst enemy and what I would wish for everyone in the world to have.   If we can learn anything, it is that hope is precious and of immense value, but it can also be fragile, breakable, even losable. But we must remember, hope is bold, hope is courageous, and hope is daring. And for those among us who have been lacking in or perhaps even completely without, we must remember that when we choose to exist, we choose to go on, we are being utterly, fantastically, immensely hopeful; and these audacious, ridiculous, daring, courageous acts will only strengthen the resolve of the hope within each one of us.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rush Limbaugh, Capital Gains, and the Founding Principles of America!

So every once in a while I like to listen to the Rush Limbaugh Show on the radio.  I know, he’s a bit alarmist (ok, a lot) but I try to remember, Rush is just an entertainer and he’s trying to draw more ratings.  When he speaks in harsh, polarizing terms it’s really just to draw attention and draw listeners; who is going to listen to someone who says, “Obama has made some policy decisions I don’t agree with and the economies struggles may or may not be a result of such.”  Boring radio! Anyway, I value perspective, even if I don’t agree with it, so that’s why I listen every so often; as long as my stomach can handle it!
The other day, he was talking about the “Buffet Tax,” as it is so called. This Gazillionaire investor (Warren Buffet) wondered why his secretary gets taxed at a higher tax rate than himself, especially when he makes huge buckets of money (Literally! LOL!).   This comment by Buffet has been the impetus for a renewed vigor by the Obama administration for raising taxes (or to be more exact, ending the tax cuts Bush enacted).   Well, after listening to Rush, I think I may have learned something; though probably not what he wanted me to learn!
Rush kept going off about how ridiculous it was to tax these “job creators” on money they have already earned.  He said it was tantamount to “stealing their property” (my paraphrase).  So I got to thinking about this, and I must admit I’m not an economist, but Rush’s logic doesn’t make sense.  If I understand this correctly, the income which is earned off money invested is what is actually taxed.  So the suggestion that one is being taxed on money which has been taxed previously doesn’t really make sense. If I make $100,000 at my job, then invest it and make $10,000, it’s that $10,000 which is taxed, right? Because that is new income which has been earned. Right? That money hasn’t been previously taxed.
So assuming I’m right (and you’re welcome to comment if I’m not), because this income is not “earned” in the traditional sense, it doesn’t deserve to be taxed at the same level of “regular” income tax.  Why then is it considered “class warfare” to “raise” (or again rather end the temporary tax cuts Bush enacted) tax rates on money that is “earned” in a non-traditional fashion?
For all this talk about “entitlement” programs and people who “mooch” off the government without doing work, why are people who simply “mooch” off money sitting in the bank (or more likely in investments) called successful and worth exemplifying? Puritan Christianity was a huge influence in early America; remember “you don’t work, you don’t eat?” Puritan Christianity glorified the concept of work, which is one of the reasons Puritan churches failed to gain a following in the South, where people gained wealth off the work of others (slaves) and consequently were able to sit around and kick back quite often.  Well, these were two big taboos of Puritan Christianity; idleness and benefiting off the work of others. 
So if we really want to get back to the “principles” America was founded on, these principles (of the Puritans) did not allow for people to get rich off the work of others (i.e. corporate shareholders) and decried the sin of “idleness” (again, shareholders don’t work for their earnings).  In fact, if we really want to get back to the “principles,” we should ditch capitalism all together, for the Revolutionary era was marked by republicanism, a system in which citizens put the “general welfare of society ahead of private gain” (Lambert, Religion in American Politics). Funny how that never comes up when people talk about going back to the “principles” America was founded on.
What I’m getting at, is that for all the bashing of people who live off “entitlements” and depend on others for their income, they’re not alone; like there aren’t tons of kids living off the wealth made by their parents and grandparents?  If we are going to insult those “entitlement moochers” wouldn’t it be at least fair to be a bit more honest in speaking about the “income” these folks are earning? Let’s also be a bit more respectful, rather than slighting the integrity of people who find themselves in need of a little extra help.  Besides, maybe the government could use some additional revenue from that “previously taxed money” (the quotes are on purpose here!) to help create some jobs for those folks currently depending on the government for assistance.  For all the praise of the “job creators,” their taxes have been low for several years yet the unemployment rate continues to rise; perhaps they really aren’t creating any jobs after all…
I think we all could use a reminder, where ALL in this TOGETHER!  And we are ALL apart of the United States of America!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Post-modernism = The Judgment free zone: no lunkheads aloud!

I’m a big fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and recently they did a little segment I enjoyed on an exercise center known as Planet Fitness.    The segment was done by one of the “investigative reporters” interviewing a man who had been “expelled” from his local Planet Fitness for being a “Lunkhead.”  For those who don’t know that terminology, Planet Fitness tries to establish a laid back environment without all those intimidating, roid-popping, muscle-bound, grunting meatheads.  In fact, the clubs have a “Lunk Alarm” which will sound if someone grunts or drops a weight.  Yes, it’s a bit weird, but if you’ve ever dealt with some *@#! (fill in your own word) at a gym, you know where they are coming from.

So, sure enough, this guy interviewed on the daily show was one of those huge, burly guys. A classic meathead, he even wore a “dew rag” (which also is not allowed).  He had been asked to leave the gym for all the reasons above: dew rag, grunter, lunkhead…  So The Daily Show brought to its viewers this man’s story of discrimination… (Ok, I’m laughing as I type this! Why anyone would actually sit down with a Daily Show reporter and expect to be taken seriously is beyond me.  Just know you are part of the joke dude!) 
After sharing the sad story of this poor man (ok, try not to laugh!) the story moved to get the perspective of the gym management.  Comically, the interviewer asked the Planet Fitness rep how this gym that bills itself as “The Judgment Free Zone” actually passes judgment themselves on who can or can’t work out there!  It’s quite funny watching the Planet Fitness rep answer these questions.  This place that ends their mission statement with the words “You Belong!” actually has a habit of telling people they actually don’t belong!  (Please tell me you see the irony here!)

Funny thing is that it reminds me a bit of the word Tolerance.   It’s a nice little word that seems innocent at first but can have some pretty big implications.  When folks use the word, we think of everybody getting along and playing nice, of respecting one another and valuing each other’s opinion; that is unless your opinion doesn’t agree with our opinion.  Let me explain.
Perhaps the biggest difficulty conservative Christianity has with the word Tolerance is the apparent irony wrapped up in the word (spoiler warning: I am purposefully using “apparent” …more to follow).  Those who wear the coexist t-shirt and wave the flag of tolerance are fully willing to tolerate other perspectives, as long as those other perspectives don’t tell them they are themselves wrong.  They tolerate other perspectives because those other perspectives allow for other perspectives (did you catch that? Re-read if you didn’t, it’s important).    Let me try to say it a bit simpler, I tolerate your opinion because your opinion also is tolerant of my opinion; when your opinion defines my opinion as wrong and won’t allow for the possibility that my opinion may be ok, well, things get interesting.

This is where conservative Christianity finds itself in the world of tolerance, and conservative Christianity feels like it has been unfairly kicked out of the circle by an ideology that is itself hypocritical (remember, “you belong, but no lunkheads allowed?).   The question is then asked is whether an ideology such as “tolerance” is actually intolerant.  If I remember correctly, conservatives point out that to be truly “tolerant,” one must be intolerant of those who are not tolerant.  Seems a bit off, right?  According to post-modernism (at least a conservative’s understanding of such) all views are equal and no one can determine truth for another.   Total hypocrisy.  It seems…

In regards to post-modernism, it should be pointed out that conservatives are largely operating within a modernistic mindset, so to be fair, for all their challenges to the post-modern mindset, the same challenges should be leveled back at the modern mindset (see my “Rob Bell” post for more on this).  Remember, post-modernism is post (after) something, that being modernism.  So if we’re going to start pointing out weakness of one mindset, we should also point out weakness in another (modernism) as well as note that the arguments conservatives are making are straight out of that modernistic ideology.   Just as tolerance is a product of postmodernism, conservative Christianity is also a product of modernism.\
Here’s the explanation for the apparent paradox regarding the judgment free zone, but no lunkheads aloud.   Planet Fitness doesn’t want lunkheads because they make people uncomfortable, intimidated,  perhaps even afraid;  they’re way of exercising essentially hinders the exercise of another.  They are fine to work out in a Planet Fitness, they just must work out in accordance to the rules of the gym.  It’s the same way within post-modernism, Christians are welcome to exist and practice their religion within the pantheon of religion, yet when they start judging, condemning, and telling people their wrong it sort of hinders the religious exercise of others.  And that’s the problem; conservative Christianity denies the meaningfulness of any other religion besides itself.
Post-modernism does not allow for the KKK because it denied the meaningfulness of another race, Nazism because it denied the meaningfulness of another religion, Patriarchalism because it denied the meaningfulness of another  sex, and post-modernism does not allow conservative Christianity because it denies the meaningfulness of another’s religion.   For someone to deny the legitimacy of what gives another person meaning is to deny the legitimacy of that person.  The phrase has been in regard to homosexuals, “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but in hating that “sin” one is hating what provides meaning to that person; one is asking a person to stop being who they are.  

So is conservative Christianity and post-modernism incompatible? I say no.  One can still keep one’s own exclusive beliefs, but one must also be willing to respect and allow the beliefs of another.  Sharing one’s beliefs is welcome within post-modernism, but telling someone what they believe is wrong or what you believe is the only right thing isn’t.  I respect and appreciate those who hold strongly to their conservative beliefs, but I have a difficult time (as a post-modern) accepting someone who tells me that what gives me meaning is worthless, because they are telling me that I am worthless for believing such.  

Post-modernism does have an “absolute truth” and it’s “truth” is that what I find meaningful must also allow for the meaningfulness of what another finds to be meaningful.   Post-modernism is the “judgment free zone,” but no judgers are allowed!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Being a hero means being human

The other morning I went to the gym early to run and there were a couple of stories that interested me.  First on the Today Show was story about an albino seal left to fend for itself; the reddish, brown seal was apparently abandoned by his family due to his different color.  This lone young seal was found and rescued and placed in the care of a dolphinarium.  It was a nice, feel good story.
Less than 5 minutes later another came another story about a young motorcyclist who was pulled from underneath a burning wreckage after crashing.  There is actual video of this shocking event; a woman lies down on her belly to look underneath the car this man was under while the wreckage of the motorcycle, smashed into the front of the car, has flames shooting up in the air.   The bystanders had presumed that the man was dead, but this intrepid woman took a closer look and discovered he was still breathing.  Upon her pronouncement, a crowd of people descend on the still burning wreckage, lift the car on its side, and pull the injured man away from the fiery remains.  The young man, shown recovering in the hospital, expressed his deepest gratitude for their efforts, calling those people “heroic.”
I noticed a connection between these two stories, the one about an animal who left a young, different, and weaker animal to fend for itself and likely die without any sort of intervention from humans and the other story about the young motorcyclist. In one story a being was left for dead by his fellow beings, while in the other there was intervention to save this being’s life despite of the fact that they would be putting their own life in danger for a being who possibly would not survive even with their efforts.
With the recent anniversary of 9/11, America remembered the brave men and women who risked and even lost their lives undertaking extraordinary risks to themselves in order to save others.  These firefighters, police, and other public servants were call “heroic,” just as the “good Samaritans” in the story of the motorcyclist.  They should be honored, but I would like to say that rather than honoring them as “heroes,” we should honor them for being fully “human.” Hear me out…
The thing is I question whether we should title these people as “heroes;” especially if we remember the story of the seal.   If we were just like the animal kingdom, on 9/11 the first responders would have likely left the others to fend for themselves and not risked their own lives.    If we were just like the animals, those bystanders would not have risked their own lives for the sake of another, they would have left him to die.  What makes us human isn’t our ability to make tools or walk erect, what makes us human is the ability to care about our fellow humans beyond ourselves.  
Sure, there are some unusual instances when one animal species care for another, but this is the exception, not the rule.  Animals have no problems eating other animals, the Lion doesn’t cry for the gazelle he eats, and the mother seal left her pup behind because the pup was not adequate probably didn’t shed tears. For human beings, it’s quite the opposite; when a baby is born pre-mature, we labor and care for this weak and fragile baby to try to ensure its survival.  While animals leave the weak to wither away, humans intentionally exert additional care to help the weaker survive.
With all of the adoration of technology and the emphasis to become more logical and computer-like, we must realize that these things make us less human.  Remember the movie I, Robot in which “Spooner’s” life is saved by the robot because he had a greater chance of living.  “Spooner” was tortured by the fact the he lived while a young girl with a full life ahead of her died.  He wished it had been the other way, and was assured a human would have chosen differently. As Will Smith’s character says in the movie, there’s nothing there (pointing to his heart) just nuts and bolts (my paraphrase).  Interestingly enough, it’s the robot “sonny” that begins to blur the lines between machine and human in that he has capacity for feelings and emotion.  Computer logic tells us healthcare is too expensive for all, it tells us we can’t subsidize the well-being of others; computer logic is not human, humans know differently.
People rally for animals to be treated “humanely” which is odd in that animals don’t even treat each other “humanely.”  But it is our emotions, our feelings that drive us to wish to see even animals treated with dignity and respect.  When animals are in grave danger, humans rush to their assistance when nature simply would leave them be.  This is what makes us human, this is what makes us perhaps unique, we care. And we will often risk our lives for another fellow human being.
So this is why I wonder if we should stop using the word “hero” to describe humans who do amazing things for other human beings; for these actions do not make them heroic so much as these actions show them to be human.  When we fail to risk ourselves for others we fail to be human, we are in such cases sub-human.  When someone mistreats another human being they are in fact falling beneath the level of humanity, they have descended and abandoned what makes them special – their concern and care for the lives of fellow human beings. 
Perhaps also, in taking away the “hero” word, we can begin to realize that care and concern for other human beings is simply what is required for us to be human.  It’s not about going “above and beyond,” it’s about fulfilling one’s humanity.  Rather than shying away or resisting  the idea and the test to go beyond one’s self and be a ”hero,” we  must realize that we are all in fact challenged to fulfill our calling to be fully human.
We don’t need more heroes in this world, we simply need more humans.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The philosophy of the fair-weather fan: I'm a fan, not a fanatic!

The other day I emailed my college roommate to give him a friendly ribbing when “my” Buffalo Bills demolished “his” Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City 41-7 in week 1 of the NFL season.  He’s from the Kansas City area and he used to go to Chiefs games quite often.  I have been following the Bills since the beginning of their four Super Bowl losses (well technically I wanted the Giants to win that first one and for some reason started rooting then on for the Bills).  Anyway, he pointed out that I was being a “fair-weather fan.”  For those unfamiliar with the term, “fair-weather fan” basically refers to someone who only cheers for a team when that team is winning.
Of course I chuckled at his friendly ribbing, but as a sports fan it got me thinking, is it really so bad to care only about a team when they are successful?  Early this season, I went to a Colorado Rockies game and sat in $40 seats in the lower level in the foul ground of left field.  Unfortunately since then the Rockies have been pretty dismal, from starting out strong in April and leading their division early, they now find themselves 16.5 games out of first place and 8 games under .500.  Just last week I got a special offer in my email for 2 for $20 tickets.  I was interested, because I like baseball and that’s a pretty good offer, so I looked to see what seats were available.  Sure enough, the seats I had sat in earlier in the season that were going for $40 were now being offered $10 each as part of this special! That’s 75% if my math is correct!  Why were the seats so cheap? Because the Rockies are no good and not entertaining; who wants to watch a team that loses more than 50% of the time?
There’s this philosophy in sports fandom that if you only cheer for a team when they are winning you are not a “true” fan, instead you are a “bandwagon” jumper or fair-weather fan.  My question is why is this such a bad thing? Now I’m not making excuses for someone who simply chooses a new favorite team every week; those folks are silly and not worth my time.  Rather, I’m talking about the people who think that “suffering” through all those bad moments, tough losses, and losing moments make them a better fan than a person like myself who only pays attention when the team is successful. 
Here’s something to consider; must I go see every movie that my favorite actor or actress stars in, even if the movie gets terrible reviews?  Must I keep going back to eat at a restaurant that I initially liked even if the quality of the food takes a terrible downturn?  Must I keep watching a TV show I enjoyed for the first few seasons (say Chuck for example) if the storylines are constantly the same and the plotlines bore me?  Why would I do this? So why would I waste my limited time on a team that just isn’t “quality?”
I remember in high school I would watch sports whenever it was on, luckily the mass exodus of sporting events to cable TV had not yet fully taken place (since my family didn’t have cable).  In college I made sure I was able to watch every single Yankees playoff game.  Now, I find myself unwilling to spend more than an hour or two watching a Yankees game (for crying out loud, I missed the final outs of their 2009 championship to go to the movies with my wife)!  Am I a horrible fan? No, I just have priorities. My time is valuable to me, there is only so much to go around; there is my wife, my job, my education, my exercise… Time for watching sports goes way down the list.  Also, financially I am somewhat limited as well, and I’m only going to pay for something if I consider it worthwhile. People assign different values to objects based on a multitude of factors, but for me, if I’m going to spend money on something, I want it to be on something of quality; paying to watch a losing team isn’t valuable to me just as watching a losing team isn’t worth my time.
Does that make me less of a fan? I’d like to think it makes me a better fan, I demand a good product; put a good product on the field and I will watch.  Look at the Chicago Cubs, they have tons of fans that support them no matter what and they haven’t won a championship in like 100 years! And on the other end of the spectrum, I certainly don’t want to be like those crazies or diehards who have no logic or reason when it comes to supporting their sports teams.  Denver Broncos fans want to spend $10,000 to put up billboards demanding Tim Tebow be made the starting quarterback! Really! At least Tebow had the common sense to wish the money would be given to charity instead.  M
Maybe I am a fair-weather fan, but I think I’m ok with that. And if you only read my blogs that you think are “quality,” I’m ok with that too. ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - 10 years later: are we still any safer?

For our great grandparents it was Pearl Harbor, for our grandparents it was the JFK assassination, for our parents perhaps the Challenger. For those of us of Generation Y 9/11/01 is the moment we will always remember, like those generations before us, we remember where we were, what we were doing, how we heard about it…  It has been an event that has had a dramatic impact on our early adulthood; from airport security checkpoints to color-coded threat levels, the U.S. is in many ways very different now than it was 10 years and 1 day ago.  I remember the night before I was watching the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, I think they were playing the Giants.  Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey broke his leg during the game; it was a grisly sports injury and as a fan I was disappointed to see the Broncos lose one of their best players.  Less than 12 hours later, that was by far the least of my concerns.
There’s this saying, “don’t get mad, get even.”  And after we sort of were finally able to catch our breath as a nation, to come to grips with the horror and destruction that had been caused by crazy, extremist terrorists, America felt like it needed to hit back.   Less than a month later we were sending troops to Afghanistan to defeat the Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  The other strong desire was to rebuild the buildings which had been destroyed in this act of evil; to rebuild them bigger and stronger, to show the world how strong and resilient the American Spirit is.  It’s been 10 years since the tragedies of that day, and if you were to ask the average citizen, perhaps a month after the horrible event which would happen sooner, the rebuilding of the towers or the defeat of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, they probably would have said both.  In the stages of grief, we were far past denial, we had seen the ghastly images on TV; we were in the stage of anger. You don’t mess with America, we’re going to take care of business and come back stronger than ever. Who would have believed 10 years later, neither the war nor the rebuilding has been finished.
There’s an axiom in sports that “the best defense is a good offense.”  I’m not really sure what that means exactly, neither am I sure how one could prove such, but it sounds good.  America took that axiom out of the world of sports and into the realm of politics, our best defense was said to be a good offense as well, namely the war on terror.  Perhaps this phrase would fit within the term of axiom as well, in that it is sort of unprovable and presuppositional. We were told that the best way to prevent future terrorism was to take it to the enemy… so we did…and still are.
America has taken it to the enemy and fought the “war on terror, not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq.   We fought the “war on terror” to the tune of nearly $4 Trillion.  We’ve fought the “war on terror” at a human cost of over 6,000 soldiers (1,500+ Afg. & 4,400+ Iraq), not to mention the non-lethal casualties of war, or the many soldiers who face PTSD, or even the suicide victims (yes they are victims of war and I’m glad Obama has begun sending condolence letters).  This doesn’t even account for the loss of lives of those we were going over to “protect,” the civilians of Iraq and Afghanistan. No reliable records have been kept, but some estimates have the range at over 100,000 (  The New York Times suggested in an article that 10 civilians on average die for every soldier killed in combat.  So even with this estimation, the number is roughly 60,000.   That’s a ridiculously large amount of human beings killed, all in the “war on terror.” 
The U.S. currently has a budget deficit of $14 Trillion or so, yet it has been suggested we have spent $8 Trillion in “defense” since 9/11.  Our Annual “defense” budget is $800 Billion; double what is was 10 years ago.  Robert Gates has been quoted recently as saying that any more than $400 Billion in cuts over a ten year span to the “Defense” Department would be a national security threat.  According to my math, that’s about 5% a year and this is theoretically after our two current wars will be basically “over.”  Every day America spends millions of dollars on weapons of war in order that we may achieve peace. How’s that for paradoxical.  What’s that about those who “live by the sword, die by the sword?”
My question, is after 10 years, are we any safer? Has it been worth it? Nearly 3,000 precious lives were lost 10 years ago, but we have lost twice as many in our attempts to revenge their loss and likely caused ten times as many deaths in an effort to bring “peace.”  It is almost as if the rationale is that enemy deaths over there will somehow make up for the tragic loss of life over there.
Beyond the money, beyond the cost, beyond the time spent at war – all of this pales in respect to the most costly part of the war – the human lives involved; be it the soldiers or the civilians.  The soldiers can still be heroes at home, they can still serve our country in peace, and they can still be people we love and admire without having to risk their lives every day in this “war on terror.”
Support the troops, END THE WARS!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A degree nearly 10 years in the making: A tribute to my wife!

In almost a week, my wife, Corinna will be walking across a stage to accept a Bachelor’s degree in nursing.  Just that feat in itself is something to be proud of and worth being congratulated for, but there is more in it than that.  Corinna, or Rena as she has  been known by as well,  doesn’t always consider herself to be a highly motivated, go-getter type person; I think she’s underestimating herself, for September 16, 2011 will mark the end of a journey that began not simply 21 months ago when this program began, but way back when she started college in the fall of 2002.
2002-2004 = 5 semesters at Baptist Bible College majoring in Missions, then Youth, then Business
2005-2006 = 2 semesters at Cecil County Community College working on pre-reqs for nursing
2006-2007 = 1 semester at Front Range Community College on nursing related classes
2006 = enrolled at University of Colorado in order go into nursing program (soon to de-enroll)
2006 = re-enrolled at BBC again as Business major
2006-2007 = 2 semesters at BBC
2007 = dropped out of BBC, for various reasons…, started pursuing nursing program through Southwest                               Baptist University…only to move again
2008 = after moving back to Colorado, re-enrolled at FRCC to work on nursing pre-reqs
2008-2009 = 2 more semesters at FRCC
2010-2012 (almost) = 21 months at Denver School of Nursing
9.16.2011 = Graduation with B.S.N.!!!
WOW Right!  I tried to start writing this all out in paragraph form but it was taking up far too much space!  If you have lots of time and want to hear a crazy story, we could explain all this to you!  The point of this timeline is just to say, looking back, what determination and persistence she has shown.  I’m not sure she would believe it, but it’s completely obvious! She’s amazing! So many others would have just given up a long time ago; not her. 
Sure there were external motivators like a wonderful husband (LOL!), the FRCC advisor who reminded her “you’ll be 30 either way, might as well be doing something you like,” a super-supportive family, and many wonderful friends. But she’s an amazing person who will be accomplishing something quite spectacular; just look back and see how long she has been going after this! I think this shows what she is capable of! I really think she can do whatever she sets her mind to do.
 Yes, nursing is something she really cares about, but that makes it all the more wonderful that she had the courage and the valor to go after it; despite the financial precariousness of going to school and not working for nearly 21 months, despite the unbelievable sums of money it would require, and despite the sheer will it takes to get up at 3:45am to go to clinicals!
I know there has been times she didn’t believe, I know there have been times I have not believed, but her drive and tenacity (yes Rena, I am talking about you!) are a sight to behold, and they inspire! (Seriously, the 12 hour overnight clinical shift! No thanks!)  She soars right through it.  I’m definitely one of those guys that can say, “I married up;” and I better keep working on myself, because she’s certainly not staying pat!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

When Ignorance truly is Bliss.

I’ve found myself sort of fond of the saying, “ignorance is bliss” because most of the time it really is.  When one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know, life tends to be simpler and perhaps even happier.  When it comes to tragedy, suffering, and oppression in our country and in our world today, ignorance truly is bliss. There is an enormous amount of human suffering that is being endured every day in our world, whether it is violence and destruction in war-torn nations of Africa, the rebuilding amongst the devastation in Haiti and Japan, and even the hunger faced by children within America. Every day, across the globe, people of every age, gender, and ethnicity face starvation, violence, poverty, destruction, and much more; it can be overwhelming – if we choose to think about it.
In America, and I imagine in other parts of the world as well, those of us who are fortunate enough to not be facing horrific suffering on a daily basis are often oblivious and unaware of the pain and anguish of our fellow human beings because, if we are honest, it’s easier to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world around us than to really have to think about, and even more difficult, attempt to resolve the suffering of our fellow human beings. We go through life every day purposefully oblivious to the needs of our fellow human beings; we drive on the interstate over poverty-stricken neighborhoods , into our gated communities, and park in our attached garages without  having to actually step foot in the world. We busy ourselves with meaningless pursuits of wealth, materialism, and entertainment while we complain about how “busy” and “stressful” our life is.  Imagine telling a mother of starving children in Africa about our “hectic” lives while she mixes some rice and water together to soothe her children’s growling stomachs.
If only ignorance was our only fault, for we just as often look the other way.  When the TV commercials come on for Feed the Children or a similar organization and we see children’s bloated stomachs and their desperate, sullen faces we quickly change the channel or leave the room. When we see the man or woman begging on the side of the road, we drive on by either ignoring their plea or criticizing them for panhandling or simply trying to fund their addiction.  Or perhaps we even demean them if they have a pet along – for what person destitute and devoid of relationships wouldn’t treasure the companionship of a pet.  Yes, it’s easier to look away or to change the channel than ask how there cannot be enough food for starving children across the world when America throws away millions of tons of food each year.  Our demand for fully stocked food shelves – and the resulting waste of much of that food – would surely make one question how there cannot be enough food to feed the masses.
If only ignorance or intentional blindness was our only faults, but today there is a new buzz phrase floating around; the mantra of “taking personal responsibility.”  This is perhaps the most ingenious phrase ever thought up in regard to the vast amount of suffering in the world or even in America alone.  By insinuating a lack of responsibility on the part of the less fortunate, we can not only sooth our conscience, we can actually establish ourselves as being not only economically but also morally superior.  We are not responsible for the trials and tribulations facing the less fortunate, they are a product of their own creation; never mind that we constantly ship jobs overseas, lower wages, defund education, cut programs… besides people should have to face the consequence of their “sins.”  Right?
If these were the worst attitudes prevalent today, our world would be in enough peril as it is, but I’m afraid there is another attitude far more dangerous – that of pessimistic acceptance -- there’s nothing that can be done, my efforts are not even a drop in the bucket, the forces at work are too great to be changed…  In a word, the tragedy seen in the world today can be simply overwhelming.  I was sitting in church one Sunday when I heard a prayer request for a young adult who had been hospitalized for depression.  It was said that the pain and suffering seen in the world today had been “overwhelming.”  Chills went down my body as I heard the news and I found myself a bit envious, for when one stops and thinks about the violence, the starvation, and the poverty facing millions and probably billions in our world today – overwhelming is just about the best way to describe it.  Wouldn’t it be easier to be in safe, sterile environment, tucked away from all the suffering going on every day? When even stopping for a moment to consider the dreadful situations human beings have to try to live through every day, a hospital doesn’t seem like such a bad option; because in reality it’s far too painful to even think about what’s happening – it’s simply overwhelming.   In comparison to this dreadful, debilitating feeling of overwhelming sorrow and frustration for our fellow humans, ignorance or willful blindness seem like much better options, if only because they are just easier.
And so this is where I find myself asking, where do we go from here? What can be done? Can anything be done?  Perhaps this is where faith can come into play, whether it be faith in humanity, faith in love, or faith in a Supreme Being that can and will right all wrongs – for without faith I wonder, what’s the point anymore…