Saturday, October 30, 2010

So Take That, Glenn Beck and Fox Noise!

The Rally to Restore Sanity
(And/or Fear)
Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Friends

The Washington Mall

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So here we are, Jon Stewart said at the closing of the Rally.  Indeed, here we are!  This rally reflected the America I love, the country I believe is strong in spirit and respectful of the individuality and character of its people.

Jon hoped that those who came for a good time had that experience among the thousands of like-minded adults, children and families. This was about much more than fun, though the laughs were many.  This was not a rally to ridicule others or to pretend that things are not difficult in our country right now.  Certainly, we are experiencing hard times, but not end times!

It is NOT in Washington, nor in the MEDIA that things get done.  Rather it is in our own homes where we express family values of support and encouragement.  It is in our cities and towns where we seek to build strong systems of acceptance and cooperation.  Government is not here to do everything for us, but rather to help us do for ourselves and to provide a broader base of opportunity that helps to open the way for our success.

The rally was a very welcome relief from the rhetoric and acts of incivility that have deluged us leading up to Tuesday’s election.  My personal belief is that those who base their vote on the advertising they have heard about the candidates or issues, have wasted their time and their energy.  They have also threatened the stability of the democratic process, which is not just about the right to vote, but also about being part of an educated and aware citizenry.

I voted, though it was difficult for me to feel good about it.  Every election it seems to be tougher to ferret out the truth and to believe that things will change for the better.  Traditionally, in most things, the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, only briefly passing through moderation.  Perhaps it takes this action for us to formulate our opinions, but when we lose sight of the moderate, centrist possibilities altogether, I believe it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a reasonable society.

So, here we are.  Another crossroads in the ongoing story of the greatest county in the world!  May God (by whatever name) guide us toward reconciliation and resolution in our deliberations and actions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Wonder . . .

It is a beautiful fall day.  The sun is bright in a clear blue sky.  This morning was our first frost!  I had to do a double take when I looked out my window and saw the frost on the cars in the parking lot.  Wow!  Fall is here and the leaves are beginning their colorful shift from green to orange, red, yellow and eventually, brown.  At that point they fall to the ground and it is time for homeowners to get the rakes out and clean up.  (Glad I don't own a home any more!  I can watch out my window from the comfort of my computer keyboard as others do the work.)

I have just finished reading the blog post of a friend from China who was commenting on her life and reviewing her attitude about her work, her team mates and friends.  What started out as a somewhat negative retrospective turned out in the end to be a positive reflection on how she could make her life more meaningful and fulfilling.  I was struck by her philosophy and her willingness to accept what friends had shared with her about how she could chart a more successful course.

After I shared my coment with her, I began to wonder.  I wondered why so many of us have times of despair where we feel like things are never going to get better.  Of course, in America right now it is not difficult to list numerous reasons why we get depressed about how life seems to be going.  Some of us hope that when the elections are over in November, a new crop of politicians will get busy to set things right that they think the current politicians have done wrong.  It is always like this.  Unfortunately, it seems that we get farther and farther away from constructive change in our elections.  We have become polarized regarding just about every issue.  There doesn't seem to be a powerful effort toward reconcilliation or positive compromise.  In fact, it seems compromise has become a dirty word and deleted from our conversations and actions.  So, yes, there are many things that give us pause to reflect on just what in the world is going to happen to us?

It is probably trite to mention, "behind every cloud the sun is shining," especially on such a sunny day as this.  Or that it is raindrops seen through the sunlight that brings the rainbow, an age-old symbol of prosperity and well-being.  And yet, this is exactly what we should be focusing our attention upon.  It seems to me that we have a choice.  We can choose to look at life positively, to believe in rainbows of abundance.  Or we can join in the negative conversations of those constantly moaning about how terrible everything is.  You might reflect:

As I sat frustrated and alone
A friend came by and said,
“Cheer up.  Things could be worse.”
So I cheered up.
Sure enough! Things got worse!
        -- Anonymous

There are plenty of people complaining.  What we need is people positively reflecting upon what is right with life.  Cherish your friends, especially the positive ones.  Enjoy the sun, the clouds and even the rain--they are part of the life cycle that continually renews itself.  You live in that cycle of renewing life, so focus your attention on the positive possibilities within every aspect of the cycles of change that come your way.  There is good to be found there.  If your friends cannot find good things to talk about, don't give in to the temptation to whine along with them.  It may be time to take a constructive stand or even find new friends.

I wonder . . . What would life be like if we really did change our viewpoint, our conversations and our dreams?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Failure To Ask

This is one of those essays I find difficult to start writing.

Like so many others I have been profoundly affected by the suicide of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University student whose bright light was extinguished by the waters underneath the George Washington Bridge from which he jumped last week.

It is ironic to me that as we debate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issue in the Armed Forces, and we are told that the younger generation does not have an issue with those who have recognized their gender attractions to members of their own sex, that it was exactly members of the younger generation that attempted to ridicule and shame one of their own.

It is bad enough that the life of Tyler Clementi was brought to an abrupt end, but the facts are that in recent weeks five teenagers in the United States have taken their lives because they were openly gay or thought to be gay.  I do not care what one’s personal beliefs about gay and lesbian individuals may be, there is no excuse for the brutal behavior they are exposed to by their age peers and others.  To me such behavior amounts to nothing less than a hate crime and should be dealt with as such.

This morning, on CBS Sunday Morning (CBS, 7 AM PDT), the lead story was about this subject.  Reporter Jim Axelrod stated, “You may hear about a bad break-up or stress as the cause of a suicide.  Those usually mask underlying mental health issues as the real explanation.”  People struggle emotionally for myriad reasons, yet so seldom is there the courage to stand up and say, “I’m struggling.  I need help.”  The report states that in 2009 13.8% of US high school students—almost one out of seven--reported they seriously considered attempting to kill themselves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Laurie Flynn who runs Columbia University’s nationwide TeenScreen program, designed to identify 14-to 17-year olds who are at risk, asks teens, “Why didn’t you say anything?”  The teen response was, “Nobody ever asked me.”  It would seem that part of our problem of escalating teen suicide has to do with our failure to ask!  Somewhere between a person’s fear of asking and our failure to recognize another’s emotional needs and ask, “Is there anything I can do?” someone falls through the cracks and is lost.

Some of us are hesitant to intrude on another person’s private thoughts and feelings.  However, if we sense there may be a serious problem building to an explosion point, isn’t it better to take the risk and offer a listening ear or a hug?  The worst that would probably happen is to be told “No.”  Sometimes we may need to not take no for an answer.  I wish I could tell you how to be absolutely certain when it is time to act on behalf of another person you think is in need.  I cannot.  Still, I prefer the pre-emptive action of making myself available than to simply wait until it is too late.  “What ifs?” are never satisfying.

Some of you who follow my blog or Facebook Notes are aware that I have had my ups and downs emotionally.  We all do to some extent.  What has saved me for the most part, in addition to writing as an outlet, is that sometimes I am able to ask for help.  Other times I have found myself receptive to someone injecting themselves into my life, not only asking if they can help, but insisting upon it.  My former wife and long-time friend, Shawn, was such a presence for me awhile back.  Putting aside her own issues she visited me to make sure I was okay.  Her courage to ask made a remarkable difference for me at the time.

The failure to ask goes both ways.  We need to carefully monitor our own sense of well-being.  It is important to have persons in your life with whom you can confidently share your needs and who can understand your need for help.  We need to ask for help.  We also need to be aware of our family members and close friends, watching for any sign that they may need some kind of assistance.  We need to ask, “How can I help?”

The tragic loss of Tyler Clementi and others who were trying to understand their sexuality and what that means for them is regrettable in so many ways.  Every life is important.  Every life counts.  No one should be put under a microscope of scrutiny and judged as irrelevant.  No one, especially teens, should be mocked and ridiculed.  Much of our society today is so divided and so willing to see everything in terms of black and white, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, that we are virtually at war with each other.  Is it not apparent where this divisiveness and bigotry are leading us?  It is time for understanding.  It is time to be more “our brother’s keeper” than his enemy.

Finally, failure to ask is NOT an option!  We need each other!