Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Envy Makes Me Do Crazy Things

I suppose it began when my friend Peggy announced she was going to a lovely Pacific island for a couple of weeks. She started posting these gorgeous pictures of palm trees and sand and water - warm, swimmable water. And there was blue sky and sunlight. We don't have much of any of those things here right now.

Then my friend Patricia bid me farewell as she prepared to jet off to Paris and Positano with her family for spring break. She was uncharacteristically cruel when she told me excitedly that "it's about 75 degrees in Paris right now, can you believe it?" I had consoled myself with the thought that although Paris is absolutely fabulous, it would be grey and chilly. A few days ago, I glanced at the temperature when I got up, and it was 38. Gah!

My lovely neighbor Jenn and a gaggle of choir kids and chaperones have spent the past week in New York City, continuously posting photo after photo of themselves in iconic spots: atop the Empire State Building, in Times Square, at the Natural History Museum.

I grew quite out of sorts. I told my family how jealous I felt.

Yet my son could not understand my discontent. "You've been to all those places, Mom. What's the big deal?"

Those of you who know me understand that I suffer from CTD (Compulsive Travel Disorder). If I am not somewhere else, I am sad. I love to plan trips, and to go on trips. When I am on trips, I think about new trips.

I snapped. If I could not actually travel, I could virtually travel. So I have been posting photos of places on my Facebook, pretending I am on spring break. I use clever language to provide hints that all is not real: "This spring break is simply unbelievable! Love Neuschwanstein" "Our fantastic spring break trip continues at the Tower of Pisa!" "It is incredible to think we are here at the pyramids." The only problem is that people are taking me seriously. They are commenting sincerely, wishing me a great trip, expressing envy at my good fortune. I am a fraud, but I cannot stop.

Today, I posted this.
I wrote this caption: Last day of our unbelievable spring break has been a little disappointing. As my husband pointed out, the place just has no atmosphere.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My New Second Husband

Yes, I still love all my other second husbands. But this guy won my heart big time:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Richard Nixon, Musical Censor

John Adams (William Daniels) is displeased with the words of Dickinson (Donald Madden) of Pennsylvania in 1776.

Hello, my darlings! I've been preparing material to share with my current crop of students in Religion and Race in Revolutionary America. It's a course dreamt up by a historian who teaches at the same community college I do; he is off gallivanting out of state the final two sessions, so I get to do those.

One of my favorite tricks to avoid having to actually learn things so I can teach is to have guest speakers. It's a little tough when the course is set in Revolutionary times. I'm going to skype in some re-enactors from the east coast for some of the time, which should be very fun. And I'm going to play some film clips and some music that addresses the theme. I'll share my playlist with you over at Holly Forrest Teaches, my other blog. If you have any ideas, comment here.

But I digress. When I was researching the films, I thought of 1776, a great musical we'd seen years ago in Cedar City, Utah. I just previewed the film version and was delighted with it. Then I started looking into fact vs. fiction. Lots of the plot points were added for dramatic tension, some of the noble intent and conflict was fictionalized, but the most surprising thing was that an entire musical number was cut out of the film release, only restored after it was put on DVD.

Apparently, back in 1972, President Nixon asked his friend Jack Warner, studio head, to pull one of the numbers because he felt it was critical of the Republicans. Take a look. I think it's a pretty accurate portrayal of the right. The line that Dickinson from Pennsylvania says before they break into song rings true today. It's something that bothers me a great deal about those who criticize President Obama and his work to help the poor and middle class by taxing the wealthy; the critics are those who would be helped! He says "Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Lesson on Proverbs 29:7 for Junior Teabaggers

Proverbs 29:7
The righteous considereth the cause of the poor:
but the wicked regardeth not to know it.

My beloved son came home yesterday extremely upset. He is in a World History class, and the teacher posed the question "Do the rich have an obligation to help the poor?" The overwhelming consensus of his classmates was NO.

What made it particularly disturbing to him was that so many of his classmates proclaim themselves devout Christians. They are all about the Jesus. In my immediate family, we believe Jesus was a great guy, but we are not churchgoers. We do not seek to convert anyone, and we sure as hell don't hold with the notion that if you don't believe certain things, you don't get into heaven. I know this bothers my mom, who has the view that if you simply believe Jesus died for your sins, you will be saved. We've gone round on this, because I think that if you're a Jesus follower, you also should at least try to live a good life and follow his teachings in order to get through the pearly gates. It seems way too easy to me that just being a believer lets you make the cut. She has a convoluted reasoning that if you believe, you will live such a life, as though it's inherently connected. Yet I know so many people who loudly proclaim themselves Christians whilst practicing extremely selfish, un-Jesus-like behaviors.

Let me quickly interject here that many Christians I know are extremely generous, loving people, who work their butts off to help others and do not begrudge (okay, they might prefer to decide how their money is allocated, but they don't complain very much) paying taxes. They contribute to causes which help the poor. Some, like our friend Isabel Jones, take it up a notch or two with ambitious endeavors to really make a difference.

My son's previously been informed by some of his more judgmental peers that he is going to hell because he's not a Christian. I am certain that many of the others privately think it, too, but at least they are classy enough not to say it to his face. Yet I'd wager that his heart is a whole lot bigger and kinder than theirs. He believes that individuals don't need enormous wealth, that they should share with the poor. After all, how many millions does one man require while others go hungry?

I found the approach he used to argue his point fascinating. He quoted scripture. I'm not familiar with the passage myself, but his father (raised in Catholic schools) knew it well.

Luke 3:11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.”
Actually, my son may have just used the tunic and food line. I'm not 100% sure. But I think it's worth including the tax collector lines here because the class was talking about taxation, whether the government should tax the rich to help the poor. Count me and my son on the yes side. We've read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed; we don't believe the extreme differences of sumptuous quality of life for a relative few while others go without is acceptable.

I tried to cheer my son up and told him maybe some of the people who didn't speak up in his class felt the same way he did. He asked why they didn't speak up too. I told him I thought maybe they were intimated by the eloquence of his speech and didn't feel they had anything to add. He called bullshit on that. He was cheered that one girl did say similar things to what he had expressed. But he was really depressed about the rest of them, especially one of his friends, who twisted what he had said and spoke against it, claiming my son was extolling religious virtues and that he (the friend, a regular church-goer, BTW) was in favor of the separation of church and state. Geez, Louise. Talk about a fallacious argument. I can't decide if it's a straw man or a red herring, but either way, it stinks.

Of course, many of these schoolmates who are against the principle that the rich should help the poor also believe Obama is a Muslim. Oh, and a socialist/communist to boot. Stupid feckers. Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they say.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Most Troublesome Servant

CLARIFICATION: As I confess at the end of this post, it is not my finest, clearest writing. I wish to clarify that two things I refer to, the program "Rachel's Challenge" and the book The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership by James C. Hunter are not directly connected. The book is not part of the group's presentation.

I am spluttering right now. Somehow a discussion with my mother about my concern regarding an upcoming school presentation by a group called Rachel's Challenge has degenerated into her blaming an Arizona community college for not doing something about the gunman who shot Congresswoman Giffords, her bemoaning the loss of US jobs to foreign countries, implying strongly that it is the fault of the current administration, and her saying the ACLU gives her a pain in the ass.

WTF. Just.....WTF.

I love my mother. But Fox News has alienated me from her. Do you think I have a case? I know that most states have eliminated alienation of affection lawsuits, but geez.

I think Fox News has eliminated her ability to think coherently. I am not joking. She skips around from topic to topic, complaining about stuff or expressing fear.

Thankfully, the one thing she did agree with me on is that simply praying is not going to prevent tragedies like the one in Nebraska or the one in Arizona. Rachel's Challenge is a program aimed at preventing incidents like the Columbine shooting. Presenters came to my son's high school today. I was not impressed with the reports I read of it. You can read a discussion here.

And I was unenthused that the organization founded by the man who wrote and recited this simplistic poem when he testified before Congress was being paid by public school student funds to come talk to my community's students:
Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You've stripped away our heritage,
You've outlawed simple prayer.

Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question "Why?"

You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!

Darrell Scott, father of Columbine shooting victim Rachel Scott, son of a preacher, is entitled to his opinion.

I get that we have free speech. Yay, free speech!

I get that we have Second Amendment rights.
Though I would prefer that mentally ill people weren't packing heat.

But we also have a little thing I like to call the Establishment clause of the First Amendment.
I hoped the presenter wouldn't try to push his religious beliefs on our kids.

I went to the session this afternoon, and it was a cheery message that focused on inspiring kids to be kind to each other. I didn't see any overt religious message. So my concerns were abated, at least, about that. But then a friend told me that she'd learned the presentation likely cost a few thousand dollars, based on the estimates she'd seen when her own school was considering (but declined) to host the program. I question whether this is the best use of student activity fees. Surely our own teachers could have conveyed a similar message for a lot less.

Still, that's not the thing that's bugging me the most. In the course of my research about Rachel's Challenge, I learned that the local school is using a book for a leadership course that I believe is.....hmm. What do I believe it is? That it's violating the Constitution's prohibition of establishment of religion? I dunno. That it's inappropriate? Yes.

It's entitled The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership by James C. Hunter.

I have only been able to read excerpts so far; I'm hoping to borrow the book in the next day or so and read the whole thing. It's pretty clear from all I've seen that it is rooted in evangelical Christian thought. There are multiple references to Christ as a servant leader. There is one review that particularly piques my interest. Or perhaps a better way to phrase it is to say it causes me concern.

Here's an excerpt of the review written by Jonathan at Goodreads:

PG 120
Throw-away society

No doubt we are a throw-away society and perhaps I am the worst offender in this regard. But I find the use of abortion to support this point to be problematic.

There is a comment here suggests that the decision to have an abortion is as simple and easy as tossing away something unwanted. There are so many points to be made against this that I am not sure where to begin. But I will end here, this is a difficult decision for any person or couple to make. If they are pro-life (that's right folks pro-life people have abortions) or if they are pro-choice, it is a emotional, serious, and tough choice to make. It is even tougher to follow through with. I would be naive if I did not say that there are people who are flipant about this decision but that is extremely rare. The vast majority of people make such a significant decision carefully and thoughtfully.

Perhaps a better example, one that is never touched on very strongly, is the amount of resources that we use compared to our population. Not sure the exact percentages here but in the USA we consume a large portion of the available resources relative to our population. How about those gianormous SUVs we see crusing around the burbs? You know the ones that get about 10 miles to the gallon? I could be wrong here but their sole purpose seems to be to prop up the ego. Is that not wasting resources? The take more material to manufacture, utilize, and maintian than cars 1/2 to 1/3 their size. If the purpose of a vehicle is to get us and our gear from point A to point B AND a smaller vehicle will do the job, then isn't any vehicle larger than that in effect a waste? Is that not simply throwing away resources that could be better used elsewhere? Wouldn't our world be better served by a more wise use of our resources? How about applying servanthood in this context?

PG 153
Smokers blame cigarette companies to their addiction.

For the most part, I have to agree with the book on this one but fact is the cigarette companies deliberately manipulated nicotine levels so as to maxmize the chances for the smokers addiction. Yes, everyone who put that first cigarette in their mouth made that choice freely AND there are plenty of people who struggled with the difficulty of quitting to shake the habit. So we know it can be done. But the fact is, the cigarette companies stacked the deck...or pack...in their favor to intentionally addict users and ensure a continued market for their product. They even went so far to create cartoon characters to market their product so as to get young people to smoke. Here again, coupled with nicotine levels intended to produce addiction, they ensure a stable and reliable market for their products and profits. All this while internal documents clearly and directly link their product to cancer and heart diesease. Were it not for these actions, the books point would have been stronger.

If we are talking about being servants here then where is the service in the cigarette companies actions? Where is their responsiblity? There is a subtle message here that corporations are not to blame for the impact of their actions. Why isn't the notion of responsibilty that is applied to individuals also leveled at corporations?

Let me be clear. I like Jesus. He seems like a good person. I like many the things he is reported to have said and done. I'm sure that most of this book gives good examples and principles of leadership. But I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to leave Jesus out of it when teaching in a public school, and to have picked a book that didn't have some of these other issues.

I apologize for the length and rambling nature of this post. It's been written in stops and starts throughout the day. I'm eager to read your comments about all of this! Please share your thoughts, particularly about what you would do or what you think I could do to constructively express concern about this book.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lord, Hear My Prayer

Just read this article:


Dear Jeebus, no. No, no, a thousand times no. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, NO!

Please, deliver us from the crazy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wall of Separation or Good Neighbor Fence?

Whilst looking for the perfect illustration, I found this at http://garlicgingerturtles.blogspot.com/

Hello Internets!

I need to get to bed, but I wanted to check in with you to see what you think about the concept of the wall of separation between church and state. It seems to be a hot button topic these days, but usually comes up pretty regularly at this time of year because of Christmas displays in public places and celebrations in schools.

I have my own stories and thoughts to share, but I thought I'd ask you for yours first. Please comment! I'm going to be teaching a Mature Learning college course on the Wall of Separation in January, so I'm eager to mooch off your experiences and mighty brains.

Bonus points if you also share your favorite holiday memory/film/song!
Note that I say "also" - be sure to answer the main question first!!