Thursday, July 26, 2007

What?! No Holocaust?? Consider the Source...

Sometimes thinking in a humorous or obscure view can eleviate the tension of talking politics with mind-set people like in-laws. I always get a bit annoyed by their bad mouthing former President Clinton, usually because they can't put the blow job episode to bed. So, at our Maine visit with them in July, politics come up.

Now, understand that I have taken the policy to smile and nod my head when controversial issues come up ("uh huh, yeah, right" type blended with a good measure of internal sarcasm). Doing so usually keeps me out of trouble.

However, for some reason it internally disturbs me to see devoted Christians, like my in-laws, talking ill of the policies of former Democratic Presidents Clinton and Carter all due to the Republican mudslinging, and disregarding the humanitarian good these presidents have shown their country and the world.

As expected, the discourse of the terrible Presidents Carter and Clinton came up and somehow (a miracle, perhaps) we got off that topic. Only to go directly to the Iraq Conflict and controversy with Iran. [dramatic music] Holocaust deniers! [/dramatic music] There's no way to make that topic any better, I thought, nor any way to make the leadership of Iran any more at our level of human with that topic. World War III--get ready!

Then, like a dove from heaven, a thought came into my head and before I could think it through, I began to say, "you really need to look at it from their perspective." Oh, dear God! What am I saying, I thought to myself. "Consider how they live daily. Ethnic cleansing is normal, every day stuff to them."

Oh, my. I was looking for my foot to insert in my mouth, but no, I continued to talk. "So, what we consider the Holocaust, it's really nothing new for them." Gasp. Oh, God, you know my mother-in-law's mind is difficult to sway, this isn't good, I thought, as I expected her to rant about how terrible it is for anyone to deny such horrendous torture and death.

A brief moment of silence. Then, my mother-in-law says, "I never thought of it that way. You might be right with that." And with that, the holocaust denial discussion was tucked away and put to bed. Whew. That was GOOD.

I have a feeling that my brilliant conclusion might have come from my diligent observation of the off-perspective views from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. If so, thank you, gentlemen, and keep 'em coming. If not, I believe TDS and TCR sentiment is there, and maybe they will bring up this point of view about holocaust denial as business as usual, when it surfaces again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Painting the Pretty Picture

Anyone in business knows that the way to get ahead is to paint the pretty picture, regardless of what reality shows. So, if your business practices are not up to par and you leverage out your competitors, you cover it up to the outside so those who want to be in the know, like investors and customers, only see the best of your product and your company.

Imagine, however, if someone who claims that they only want to help your company comes out and tells the world your inequal business practices? Well, it would be devastating to your product, and eventually might lead to the demise of the company, right?!

For decades, we have been led to believe that Africa is suffering in dire conditions. Most of the African people living in oppressive, famine-like conditions under evil governments that want to enslave children as soldiers, and such. So, imagine my surprise when I read this article about the implied horrors of Africa.

So, what the statistics from this article tell me is that Africa, well, it's not so bad. Not as bad as we were led to believe, anyway. Take this stat: One half of 1% of the population, in each case, die in war each year, are child soldiers, afflicted with famine, died with AIDS, or living as refugees. That's hardly a drop in the bucket. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill!

Okay, I do understand things are getting better in Africa. So, why are all these advocates, like Bono and Bob Geldof, not painting the pretty picture? I mean, things won't get better in Africa, until it does get prettier there.

Gotta have that pretty picture so Wal-mart will open there, just like they do here, to help out small, declining rural communities with their economic powerhouses. Just think of all those women and children that previously were forced to be cast as poor, barely clothed and starving (how humiliating and degrading) in all those late night "feed the children" commercials , could possibly be greeters at the new Wal-marts built in Sub-sahara Africa--if only we'd paint the pretty picture.

Who Else Celebrates the Red, Beige & Blue??

So, the president recently commuted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby from his prison sentence, saying it was too much. Who didn't see that coming? *waits* Okay, so it was pretty much imminent that this was going to happen. However, it seems a bit in haste, doesn't it? Was Scooter Libby guaranteed no prison time, or was the president pressed to do it now to cover something instead of waiting to give a full pardon at the end of his presidential term?

It would seem that the president's commuting Scooter Libby now, would give even more ammunition to the Democrats on the campaign trail, and further hinder the credibility of the Republicans and their stance on morals and ability to uphold the law. You'd think, right? I don't know, and I don't have a crystal ball (no, I didn't get one with my bachelor's degree, although it seems many bosses in my past seem to think that I have one that works with extreme clarity). Who knows?

Well, among those outspoken critics of the president's actions is Hillary Clinton. How dare she, right?! Just look at what her husband did! [whisper] He lied under oath about a blow job. He pardoned and commuted sentences for, like, a bunch of people at the end of his last presidential term. Yeah, even a former Clinton cabinet member who apparently made false statements to authorities. [/whisper]

See, the difference here is that all this pardoning and such was done at the end of Bill Clinton's presidency. It did not affect Al Gore's aspirations with his presidential campaign, and it did not affect the former president's ability to do his job at the White House while he was there. Bill Clinton did some of his dirtiest work at the end of his White House stint (kept the White House as clean as he could for as long as he could, because who wants to be the president living in the Beige House?). Maybe the current president should have taken note of this (and maybe he did).

However, it seems if Hillary does make it to the so-called White House, she'd better be armed with lots of house cleaners and Formula 401, because she's got a lot of cleaning to do. (Probably one of the best reasons to elect a woman president, they usually know how to clean house. Figuratively speaking, of course! Off my back, women libbers!! It's just a silly social stereotype, anyway, 'cause if any of those social stereotypers knew me, they'd rethink their stupid stereotype.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Watching the Wind Blow By

Sometimes, as the battles of life tend to overwhelm us, it is good to sit and watch the wind blow by. The leaves on the tree branches waving in the breeze. Maybe they are waving "goodbye" to all the problems of the day?

The wind feels cool against the heat of the sun on my face. It is as if the heat is like all the negative challenges in my life and I am holding on to them, for what reason, I don't exactly know. Then, the gentle wind comes up. I don't want to give up the heat and I hold onto it for a slight moment. And then, I release my grip on all the frustrations of day and let the wind carry it away, drifting aimlessly into the blue sky to dissipate into nothingness. It's gone.

I smile as I admirably gaze into the vivid blue sky. I sit up smiling and feel the renewed power of the release. Carpe Diem!

It's All About RESPECT

"Yes! He's gone. He's history!" The first words of the character Sid Philips in Toy Story. Someday I, too, will echo those words... when 'Sid' and his parents, our neighbors in the adjacent rental property move out.

A parent's worst fear we have realized, as our neighborhood Sid has a penchant for disrespect and destruction. Even the images of skull and cross bones are everyday neighbor sights from our backyard.

It is one thing to experience Sid watching Toy Story, and wince at his evil antics. It is another to deal with a Sid character and his parents in real life. When we first met Sid's parents, we were sympathetic to their plight: one just laid off from a minimum wage job, while the other working another low-pay job. They seemed like young parents having difficulties getting a good paying job to support their family. So, we allowed Sid to play with our two boys.

I realized early on that allowing Sid to play with our boys was beginning to have a negative impact on our boys' innocent and polite dispositions. Sid would be mean in his play, and his coarseness was rubbing off, especially on my youngest son.

I also noticed the relationships between Sid and his parents, and it caused me to pause. Their way of handling misbehavior with Sid was to get into a yelling match about it, profane words used by both sides, and Sid trying to talk his inappropriate actions into something that should be acceptable. In the end, usually Sid got away with whatever he did, or he was told to go inside, and he'd yell all the way, calling his mom a "bitch" (and his mom would do nothing about it) as he'd walk inside.

However, Sid's antics made me more of a hawk over my kids when they would play together outside. Finally, it came to a head about a month ago. Here's a forum post I made at a mom website (this is lengthy, but you may get a better understanding of the situation) about that time:

Sometimes I would just like to be able to have neighbors that can respect me and my family, and to respect our property. Neighbors that would stay on their own property and when we are outside, to ask before coming over. (We do not allow our children to go playing in our neighbors or any other person's yard without first asking.) Neighbors that encourage their child to play nice with our children, and when they don't, to have the grace to take their child back to their own yard to play. Is that asking too much?

[begin rant] Apparently so, to our neighbors. A couple of weeks ago, it was a typical scenerio where the neighbor boy, I'll call him Sid, was over playing with our two sons and ever so often doing mean things to them. Well, he brought over his skateboard and was laying on it to go down a dirt hill in our back yard, and let our kids do that, too. The first time he yanked the skateboard out from under my 3 year old, his mom yelled at him and they did their usual yelling match. The second time, he yanked it out from our 5 year old as he was just descending down the hill, and my husband came over and told Sid that it was time for him to go play in his own yard. Well, Sid's mom had this look of "how dare you say that to my son" as if her son had magical rights to play on our yard. Sid then proceeded to argue his point why he yanked the skateboard from under my son, and I said told him he didn't need to use words. He said he hated us, and I told him that he made those choices and he needed to play in his own yard until he was ready to apologize and play nice again. His mom yelled at him to get inside at this point, and he did.

Now, mind you, similar behavior was going on previously with Sid, and we would ask him not to do the behavior and to play nice. It got to the point where our 5 year old did not want to play in our yard anymore because he didn't like playing with Sid. This really upset me, because this is our yard, and my son shouldn't feel like he's bullied in his own yard, to the extend that he avoids playing in our own back yard!

Thus, we decided that 1) neighbor kids can only play in our yard when we are outside in our backyard and they need to ask before playing each time; and 2) if a neighbor kid is not playing nice, they will need to go play in their own yard until they are ready to apologize and play nice again. Now, I think these seem like basic, simple rules to follow, not only in the backyard, but in life in general, as well.

Well, I saw Sid out playing in our backyard last week when I got home from work. I got down on his level, as we always do when we talk with him or our own children, and told him in a normal voice that unless we were outside playing and he was ready to play nice, he needed to play in his own yard. He then went in a tangent about how his mom told him that he couldn't play with our kids anymore. I said that is fine, but if you are not going to play with our kids, then you need to stay in your own yard. Then, he wanted to get in a yelling match to argue his point. I continued to tell him he needed to play in his own yard. He then ran inside his house. Fine, I thought.

This past week Sid continues to play in our yard ever so often when we are not outside. Today I went up to him as he was playing near our dirt hill with several of his toys scattered in our yard, got down on his level and said that since he isn't playing with our kids he can't play in our yard. He didn't say a word to me, left his toys in our yard, and darted to where his dad was working on an engine on their driveway. I waited, then calmly walked over to speak with his dad.

I mentioned that since they decided that Sid could not play with our kids, then Sid needs to stay in his own yard. He told me that was ignorance (I don't think he knows what that word means) and said that it should be okay for him to play in our yard because he's not hurting anything and it's not like our yard where he's playing is anything like a nice lawn that he would be destroying or anything like that. I told him its not about that, it's about playing nice with our kids and if Sid isn't going to play at all with our kids, he doesn't need to be playing in our yard. Apparently, our neighbor doesn't know anything about being respectful of his neighbor's property. He did finally tell his son to get his toys out of our yard and to stay in their yard. Sid just stayed in their yard, so I gathered his toys and nicely put them in Sid's yard and walked away.

Latter in the afternoon, there was Sid again, driving in his battery powered black car (actually the skull monster truck hearse version of the barbie jeep) around our yard. My husband was home and went over to talk with Sid and again Sid ran away into his yard, leaving his monster hearse in our yard. So, he went over to talk to Sid's dad to let him know that we would be putting up a fence this weekend. Then, Sid's mom came out and yelled at Sid to drive his car back into their yard and they got into a yelling match, with Sid finally driving his hearse back into his own yard.

It's one of those deals where I don't understand why they are balking against us so much, when it is OUR YARD in the first place. I just want our backyard to be a place where our children can play nicely and not feel bullied out of it. I think that is reasonable, and most parents should be able to understand that.

What do you think?

(And maybe you are our pesky neighhbors, so tell me why you think your child should have free reign and dominion over our back yard, and be able to play in our yard, even though you told him not to play with our kids? How would you feel if our kids played around your backyard without your permission, played mean to your child, and then refused to play with your child? I'm thinking you'd do exactly the same thing we are doing.)[end rant]

There's plenty of stories where that came from, but I won't bore you with them. (Like the gun play and Sid's "jail" or Sid's car-jacking of our sons' toy Gator vehicle.)

Now, by this time his dad got a job as a clerk at the local grocery store, another near minimum wage job. I can understand the frustration of working near minimum wage, especially when you have skills (like the skill of kindness, politeness and respect) and abilities to earn much more (been there, done that--for a very short while).

However, I also somewhat understand why these parents cannot find good work. They have no respect. They have no respect for each other, as they banter and roughly argue, both the parents and their son, on many occasions about the littlest of things. They have no respect for their own property, as Sid is allowed to smash a hammer against his rusted up, beat up wagon and to run over all his toys with his grave digger power wheels car, as his dad tries in constant vain to work on motors (revving the engines ever so often to destroy their own hearing and whoever's in ear shot) pulled out of their vehicles and banging on other parts in their yard. They show no respect for a neighbor's property, and when they do trespass and are kindly asked to stop, instead of seeing the property line (physically and metaphorically) and staying on their own yard, they badger us with a 'how dare you' attitude.

Now, if I was the boss for either of these two adults, and they talked back to me like that on the jobsite, their time with my company would be very limited. There's only a certain amount of tolerance, before disrespect leaves detrimental consequences for people who come from a low economic level (if you are born into wealth and disrespect, well, they call those mobsters, lawyers, or politicians).

We still see Sid and his parents outside, and sometimes at the grocery store. We don't hold their lack of respect against them. It is a sad state for them. They will likely always feel "victimized" because they lack respect within themselves. And they will always bully others because of their own lack of respect.

And only so much empathy I can give to people who sadly just don't know respect. If anything can be corrected in our society, it is the ability for all people to learn and show respect. Why respect isn't one of the three "Rs" is beyond me. It should be the first thing children learn in school and the last thing they are thankful for as they breathe their last breath.

It's all about RESPECT. Aretha Franklin hit the nail on the head with her aptly named hit song. Oh, and regardless of previous personal thoughts, fences do make great neighbors.