Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: parenting

My Confession

I have a confession to make. It’s not one I’m proud of, especially given my small participation in trying to reduce gun violence in America. On May 23rd, in Santa Barbara, a gunman killed six people and then himself on a college campus. On June 5th, in Seattle, a gunman killed one person on a college campus. On June 8th, in Las Vegas, a couple killed three people, including two police officers and then themselves. And yesterday, in Troutdale, Oregon, a student killed another student and then himself. Oh, and on June 3rd, in New Brunswick, Canada, a gunman killed three police officers. Nineteen days have passed since the murders in Santa Barbara. Eighteen people died in those 5 incidents.

According to the Brady Campaign, on average, 86 people are killed by gun violence in America every day (33 are murdered and another 50 kill themselves). Every day another 205 are shot and survive (including 148 shot during an assault, 10 suicide attempts and 45 “accidents”). To annualize those numbers is to understand the magnitude of our psychosis. 31,346 people are killed due to gun violence every year. Another 74,835 are injured, but survive. That amounts to over 100,000 Americans victims of gun violence every year.

In the 543 days since 20 six- and seven-year olds were murdered along with six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, there have been 74 school shootings. Seventy four! If the chart below of school shootings doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, you have liquid nitrogen running through your veins.

Yesterday, President Obama said, “The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted, in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me.” Ah, but all of these people must be crazy, whispered the 2A “patriots.” To wit, the president said, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.”

The United States has a gun homicide rate 20 times higher than other developed countries. Surely, we are not to believe that we have 20 times more mentally troubled people than these other developed countries. Their reply, “It’s the person not the gun. A gun is an inanimate object. If it weren’t for the gun, they would find another method.” To wit, I would refer you to author Steven King’s response in his book Guns:

 “I read a jaw-dropping online defense of these weapons from a California woman recently. Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty school kids with a fucking spoon.”

There are over 300,000,000 guns in America. If having a gun made people safer, America would be the safest country on the planet. We’re not. Not even close.

The White House tweeted the following comment from the president yesterday:

So, my question to you is this: What will it take? The slaughter of 20 school children didn’t do it. Eighty six deaths and 205 injuries a day hasn’t done it.  Seriously, what will it take for us to say, “Enough”?  Is there a number? Is there a victim? Are we content with this and numb to the stories? Have we swallowed the “good guy” line from the NRA and now consider these deaths and injuries collateral damage and friendly fire in order for us to “exercise” our “God given” Second Amendment right? Or are we ready to insist on change? Will we demand a better, safer future for our children? As one of the millions who work every day to bring about change I believe we deserve, I hope so, because here is my confession: I have muddled the most recent shootings. I can’t keep them straight in my head. I feel horrible for the victims, family members and friends of the victims, because they deserve to be remembered. I just can’t keep them straight anymore. I demand better of myself and my country. What about you?

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A Conversation With My Daughter

feminist

 

“Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

I am lucky. As a heterosexual, white, American man, I found, out of the millions of available women, the best. Does that sound right? “I,” “I found,” “I am lucky.” Let me try to rephrase that. A strong, compassionate, brilliant woman, a woman with talent and brains and limited tolerance for fools, a woman destined to positively impact the lives of countless people, chose me. Better. Although I was right, I was/am lucky.

I had the most incredible conversation with my 19 year old daughter last night. It was a text message conversation, but, in many ways, the technology was not a barrier to thought or feelings, but an aid. Perhaps it is the inherent delay in responding or the necessity to distill thoughts into typed words. Whatever the cause, the effect was blinding, pure logic bathed in compassion. The subject: Feminism.

Again, I’m a guy. But that does not preclude me from discussing or even embracing feminism. Ultimately, feminism is one wavelength within the light spectrum of equality.

Plato wrote in The Republic,“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” That was in 380 B.C.

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban on her school bus for having the audacity to think, “Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” (I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban)

Clearly, in 2,392 years we have done little to evolve as humans. Why do some (males and females) see feminists as the enemy? Why have some vilified them as militant, anti-men?

To help answer this question, I need to back up to a 30,000 foot view of “civilized society.” My daughter is an artist, and the best kind. She is infused with talent, an incredible work ethic blended with a strong desire to learn and stirred by passion; truly a recipe for greatness, both as an artist and as a compassionate human. As we chatted last night we wandered into a metaphor that, I think carries some veracity. The idea that while seeing all issues in pure black and white is easy (read: requires little or no thought), it is boring and excludes the rainbow of colors that make life (and art) joyful. Seeing (or rather acknowledging) the gray in an issue requires us to pause and consider differing opinions, perspectives and, potentially, shaking the ledge upon which we base our morals. It is neither comfortable nor easy, but it is necessary and should be required! Somewhere along the line, Descartes argument cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) has been bludgeoned into “I am, therefore I need not think.” How sad.

Feminism is not the charge of a select group of women but rather the obligation of all rational thinkers, therefore, all of humankind. Where it is the weak minded and threatened man who disdains feminists, so too is it the weak minded and male-oriented, society-molded female who defends organized subjugation. To subjugate one is to imprison all. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “”No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Our willing abdication of thought may inevitably lead to an Orwellian future of newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrimes and perpetual war. How far down this road are we already? Who wants to drive?

I am proud of my daughter. She is strong-willed, passionate and compassionate, thinks for herself and wants to make the world a better place. If that is the definition of a feminist, sign me up.

Character Candling

candling egg

From Merriam Webster:

candle (transitive verb): to examine by holding between the eye and a light; especially : to test (eggs) in this way for staleness, blood clots, fertility, and growth

Have you ever looked at a word you’ve written a thousand times as though it couldn’t possibly be spelled that way? You doubt yourself, double check it in the dictionary and carry on. I have recently had the opportunity to reassess personal relationships I’ve held sacred, but upon examination found I have done so without a compelling reason.  No longer a child, I held up these individuals to the same light of reason, logic, compassion and magnanimity  to which I would hope to be judged, not unlike candling an egg. Rather than record my observations, I sought insight from those more intelligent. Here are my thoughts via their appropriated words, alpha by author:

“Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.”     Maya Angelou

“Beware the man of a single book.”     St. Thomas Aquinas

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”     Isaac Asimov

“The basic stimulus to the intelligence is doubt, a feeling that the meaning of an experience is not self-evident.”     W.H. Auden

“I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.”     Reuben Blades

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”     Derek Bok

“There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.”     Robert Burns

“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”     Albert Camus

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”     George Carlin

“The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.”     George Carlin

“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“I am not ashamed to confess I am ignorant of what I do not know.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“To live is to think.”     Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”     Eoin Colfer

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”     Confucius

“Ignorance is the night of the mind, a night without moon or star.”     Confucius

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.”     Confucius

“He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”     Confucius

“Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”     Dalai Lama

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”     Charles Darwin

“And, in fine, of false sciences I thought I knew the worth sufficiently to escape being deceived by the professions of an alchemist, the predictions of an astrologer, the impostures of a magician, or by the artifices and boasting of any of those who profess to know things of which they are ignorant.”     René Descartes

“Military guys are rarely as smart as they think they are, and they’ve never gotten over the fact that civilians run the military.”     Maureen Dowd

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”     Albert Einstein

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”     Albert Einstein

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”     Harlan Ellison

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”     Euripides

“Anger exceeding limits causes fear and excessive kindness eliminates respect.”     Euripides

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”     F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Stupidity lies in wanting to draw conclusions.”     Gustave Flaubert

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”     Benjamin Franklin

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”     Benjamin Franklin

“The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”     Benjamin Franklin

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”     Benjamin Franklin

“I wash my hands of those who imagine chattering to be knowledge, silence to be ignorance, and affection to be art.”     Kahlil Gibran

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”     Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, selfishness, evil — or else an absolute ignorance.”     Graham Greene

“If you’re gonna be stupid you gotta be tough.”     John Grisham

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”     Stephen Hawking

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”     Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.”     Elbert Hubbard

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.”     Elbert Hubbard

“The learned man knows that he is ignorant.”     Victor Hugo

“The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”     Thomas Jefferson

“Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth.”     Joseph Joubert

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing — to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.”     John Keats

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”     Søren Kierkegaard

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”     Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A fool can easily be known by what proceeds from his or her mouth.”     Adedayo Kingjerry

“Living is easy with eyes closed.”     John Lennon

“Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.”     Michael Levine

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”     Abraham Lincoln

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”     Nelson Mandela

“Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.”     Groucho Marx

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition.”     Henry Miller

“We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”     George Orwell

“I would prefer an intelligent hell to a stupid paradise.”     Blaise Pascal

“And whenever anyone informs us that he has found a man who knows all the arts, and all things else that anybody knows, and every single thing with a higher degree of accuracy than any other man –whoever tells us this, I think that we can only imagine him to be a simple creature who is likely to have been deceived by some wizard or actor whom he met, and whom he thought all-knowing, because he himself was unable to analyze the nature of knowledge and ignorance and imitation.”     Plato

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.”     Alexander Pope

“There is no reply to the ignorant like keeping silence.”     Proverb

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.”     Robert Quillen

“When ignorance gets started it knows no bounds.”     Will Rogers

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”     Bertrand Russell

“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”     Bertrand Russell

“Two things are to be remembered: that a man whose opinions and theories are worth studying may be presumed to have had some intelligence, but that no man is likely to have arrived at complete and final truth on any subject whatever. When an intelligent man expresses a view which seems to us obviously absurd, we should not attempt to prove that it is somehow true, but we should try to understand how it ever came to seem true. This exercise of historical and psychological imagination at once enlarges the scope of our thinking, and helps us to realize how foolish many of our own cherished prejudices will seem to an age which has a different temper of mind.”     Bertrand Russell

“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence, but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence to something that transcends them both; this is an observation of the Middle Way.”     Seneca

“There is no darkness but ignorance.”     William Shakespeare

“A knavish speech sleeps in a fool’s ear.”     William Shakespeare

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”     William Shakespeare

“The shortest route to courage is absolute ignorance.”     Dan Simmons

“There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.”     Socrates

“It’s an universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”     Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”     Maurice Switzer

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”     Thomas Stephen Szasz

“Ignorance and inconsideration are the two great causes of the ruin of mankind.”     John Tillotson

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”     Leo Tolstoy

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”     Mark Twain

“Ignorance is a virus. Once it starts spreading, it can only be cured by reason. For the sake of humanity, we must be that cure.”     Neil deGrasse Tyson

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.”     Voltaire

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”     Voltaire

“If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”     Kurt Vonnegut

“Irony is wasted on the stupid.”     Oscar Wilde

“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.”     Oscar Wilde

“He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.”     P.G. Wodehouse

“Ignorance is not bliss – it is oblivion.”     Philip Wylie

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”     Zig Ziglar

Which quote is your favorite?

Mine?

“Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.”     William Shakespeare.

Although you may recognize it as:

“The pen is mightier than the sword (or gun).”

Summertime Thoughts

And now for a few thoughts:

I always wonder what my dog is thinking when he gets inside an elevator. We go into a small room, he looks out at the room we just left, watches the strange doors close and sees a completely different world when the strange doors open. What happened to the other world? What happened?

Is there anything better than a home grown tomato?

Nothing says summer better than hydrangeas in bloom.

In a perfect world, everything would smell like gardenias.

I love how time dissolves when I’m gardening.

Too bad I rarely get the chance.

Too bad it’s 150 degrees outside when I do get the chance.

Summer is going by too fast.

2013 is going by too fast.

My life is going by too fast. I still have a to-do list from when I was six that I can’t seem to get to.

I can’t think of anything so profound I would have to have it as a tattoo. And I can’t imagine any tattoo that isn’t an Oscar Wilde quote. Or George Orwell.

I love driving.

I hate other drivers.

I love to watch airplanes. I always wonder where they are going or from where they have come. What vacation stories are waiting to be discovered or retold. Take me with you.

I feel like my dog in an elevator when I fly. I go to the airport, sit in an aluminum tube for a few hours and exit into a totally different culture. Wonderful!

The older I get, the more I love my wife.

The older my children get, the more I love my wife.

The older my wife gets, the more I love life.

What’s next?

Soft Targets

The events in Boston today are still raw, the embers are still burning, the wounds are still being dressed and the limbs are still being amputated.

When did living in America become a balancing act between freedom and paranoia? When did we decide that churches, schools, movie theaters, grocery store parking lots and marathons should no longer be considered integral parts of our daily life but “soft targets?”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle will call for prayers now. The gun lobby will ignore compassion and state that if only a “good guy with a gun had been there” blah blah blah, and nothing will change. We will wring our hands and shake our heads, call for justice and ignore the facts, demand vengeance and persecute the innocent in misplaced bloodlust, run to Wal-Mart to purchase our assault weapons and hunker down in our bunker waiting for the end of times.

And then our fickle little minds will forget and move on to the next crisis where we will wind up our public outrage for a new group of victims.

What happened to compassion and empathy? Are they so anathema to the personal success and safety in America that we are doomed to suffer for our arrogance? When did celebrity and instant gratification replace intelligence and hard work?

I am heartsick to learn that the final mile of the Boston Marathon was dedicated to the families of Newtown affected by the evil events at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Sickened to learn that there may have been another device under the very VIP viewing section in which they were seated.

I refuse to live in a society where we gauge our potential activities by some weighted average based on their “soft target” quotient.  I should not have to sit in a movie theater with an eye on the best route of egress, or view the pole obstructing my view as “cover”, or worry if I need to use the restroom whether my children will be attacked while I’m gone. I should not have to worry at a sporting event that I am in a large group and therefore a great target for mass casualties. I should not have to worry that when some student who did not prepare for an exam in college calls in a bomb threat and when my children congregate with a large group of students waiting for the “all clear” that they represent a soft target.

America used to be the land of the free, now we are the land of the paranoid, where 300 million guns exist to “protect” us from our own government and fertilizer is no longer used exclusively to feed the world, but to detonate and kill, where politicians disgorge vitriol and fabrications in order to make the evening news and Congress enjoys a 13% approval rating. We blame the President, Congress, the education system, parents, the environment, the weather, any other country and everyone else with certainty, but we never look in the mirror. The golden rule has been bastardized to be “Do unto others before they do unto you.” We harden ourselves and avoid soft targets. Can’t we do better? Don’t we want better? Shouldn’t we demand better? We continue to burn holes in the calendar. Am I whistling alone in the hurricane?

Shouldn’t there be a Test?

You want to mess with my kids?

You want to mess with my kids?

We have testing for everything in America.  I have to pass a driver’s test to drive my car.  I have constant training at work to enhance my capabilities.  I have to fill out an intrusive and frightening survey every eight weeks just to donate blood.  And don’t get me started on the full body scan and background check required at the pharmacy should a family member have the sniffles and need Sudafed.  However, for the most important job ever known to mankind, parenting, one needs only surrender to momentary lust without any consideration of the lifetime commitment later required. No tests, no screening, no training, no manual.

In fact, a good parent first recognizes their own mortality. They recognize that they have just stepped up a place in the generational queue, one step closer to the white light at the end of the tunnel.  In an instant, one goes from being the center of the world to the custodian of its future.  Parents should feel obliged to build a better world on two fronts.  First, as the provider and protector of the innocent, they should strive to change the world around them.  This mental paradigm shift allows for the revelation of worldly dangers previously not seen, the recognition of entrenched prejudices, and (should) force us to abandon the societal ennui of callousness and selective blindness which, in its most insidious sequence, allows us to neglect the labors of others in favor of our own egocentric path.  Second, through the nurturing, education and development of children, they set the foundation for the next generation who will be charged with taking the mantle of responsibility from us and perpetuating the process over again. So it is with the father who would literally take a bullet for their child, stand in front of a train to protect them and endure all manner of hardship and personal neglect in favor of their children’s prosperity, safety and future. So too it is with the proverbial “Mama Bear” who will, with teeth bared, take on all comers who dare threaten her young, and will, with her dying breath, repel any attempt to harm, malign or impede her children.

Unfortunately, while most of us consider these actions and reactions systemic, indeed, genetic, there are those who procreate without the ability to offer up themselves in favor of their children. Living in some weird Kierkegaard/Nietzsche/Rand bastardization of existential reason and egoism, these people come to regard their offspring as either serfs and vassals living in perpetual obligatory servitude to fulfill their whims and desires, or burdens and impediments to their quixotic (and righteously due them) fantasies; feeding, sheltering, educating and providing for their young no more than some nobles oblige from hell.  Nowhere in this prescription does there exist the a priori elevation of the child’s needs and safety over the parent.  In its extreme, this takes the form of abuse.

Although regarded as an innocent fairy tale, Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 story The Little Match Girl, when viewed through the actions/inactions of her father (and the many passersby) is a story about child abuse cloaked in the wonder of a near-death experience and the promise of eternal warmth and salvation in the next world. The bottom line is that the bare footed little girl froze to death because she feared being beaten by her father if she did not sell all of the matches. Fairy tale, indeed.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a division within the Department of Health and Human Services, in fiscal year 2010, an estimated 3,300,000 referrals were made involving approximately 5,900,000 children to state child protective service agencies. More than five children die from abuse every day and 80% of them are under four years of age.  A report of child abuse is made in the United States every ten seconds. Every ten seconds! Sick.

What is the answer? I don’t know.  The Chinese one-child policy has done little to reduce the increase in population and may have increased the number of forced abortions, has resulted in vast underreporting in certain areas and resulted (in its most heinous extreme) in female infanticide. All I know is that sometimes, it does take a village to raise a child, and while I don’t mean this in the political sense, it is true that once adopted by a sleuth of mama bears, any neglected child has the revitalized opportunity to survive, grow and succeed. Beware the wrath of a sleuth of mama bears! The earth and stars melt beneath their fury!

Sometimes, it takes a village.

Sometimes, it takes a village.