Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Virtue of Intolerance

These are crazy times we live in.  It seems that the whole world is falling apart and there's little we can do about it.  Right now, that crazy little man in North Korea is threatening a nuclear strike against the U.S.  Economies throughout the world, including our own, are faltering and failing and doing crazy things like taxing your savings.  Americans are debating the legality and constitutionality of same sex marriages, abortion, and government-mandated healthcare.  It's a swirling vortex of insanity out there.

No matter the discussion taking place, I always here the cry for "tolerance".  We must be tolerant of differing opinions.  We must be tolerant of different religious beliefs.  We must be tolerant of different governmental systems.  We must be tolerant of those who want to be heard.  It seems to me that "tolerance" is the word du jour and it's bantered about quite freely.  The implication behind each instance of a call to tolerance is that "intolerance" is disgusting and shameful and an abomination.  But, is it really that bad to be intolerant?

I'm going to argue that as much as tolerance is a sought after and desired state for some, intolerance is as much a virtue.  How in the world can that be?  Let me explain.

As a practicing Roman Catholic, I have to look at the teachings of my church and, more particularly, the teachings of the Bible for my guide.  I understand that the whole world is not Christian and certainly not Roman Catholic.  I tolerate those people quite well and, in fact, I love many friends and family members who are not Roman Catholic.  I even know and love a few friends who are agnostic, atheistic and of Protestant beliefs as well as different belief systems.

My belief that Intolerance is as much a virtue as Tolerance is rooted in the idea that there are certain moral and religious imperatives that don't allow for tolerance.  These are so clear and so certain that to defend the opposite of them is to deny the morality and certainty of the very belief and its source.

If you've been watching "The Bible" series on The History Channel, you may remember the scene where Jesus walks into the temple and sees the money changers and market place being held inside the temple.  Remember that the temple in Jerusalem was "the holy of holies".  As he looked on in anger and horror, he admonished those engaged in these act, turned over the tables and flat out told them that they were defiling the most sacred of places.  He became intolerant of their beliefs and customs because they were the opposite of those from the Old Testament.  I can see politicians today excoriating him for being intolerant of others beliefs.

In another instance of biblical intolerance, Jesus sends forth his disciples and tells them to go and teach the good news to all who will listen.  He also tells them to shake the dust off their sandals if they leave a town that won't listen.  He is, in effect, telling them that being intolerant is acceptable and he commands them to act in an intolerant manner.  Can you imagine someone today trying to convince him that he needs to be more "open-minded"?  I wonder if he would be labeled a "racist" and a "bigot"?
Perhaps a third example of biblical-based intolerance comes when we see Jesus being crucified.  The Jews were intolerant of him because of his teachings and the Romans, in order to keep the peace, were forced into crucifying him.  It's not really so different today.  People aren't crucified but they are certainly vilified and admonished for their differing beliefs.

If I disagree with someone who supports gay marriage, I'm labeled a bigot, a hate-monger, homophobic, and a host of other pleasant names.  If I disagree with the pro-choice crowd, I'm labeled as a woman hater and I want strip women of their basic civil liberties.  If I disagree with gun-control I'm a redneck, a hick, a hoosier, an idiot, an extremist and a variety of other things.

It seems to me that tolerance isn't so much a virtue as it is a vice.  Tolerance has caused us to move from a world of moral absolutes to a world of moral relativism.  Tolerance has actually caused us to become less tolerant of others because my disagreement with your beliefs makes me all of these horrible things.

I think we need a little less tolerance and a little more intolerance.  A little less moral relativism and a little more moral absolutism.  A few generations ago, they didn't really call this tolerance or intolerance.  They called it "doing the right thing".  We need to return to that.  We need to do the right thing based on the belief system this country was founded upon.  The constitution, the bill of rights, the amendments and all of the other documents that were written as this country were formed lay it out for us.  It seems to me that we and our elected representatives need to go back and read all of those documents and make decisions based on what they profess our country was designed to be.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Culture of Death: Reaping What We've Sown

What you are about to read are my beliefs. You don't have to agree and you can argue against them. Just know that my beliefs are based on my experiences and are shaped by how I see the world. I will readily admit that my beliefs about school culture are shaped by my political beliefs (conservative, not necessarily "Republican") and by my religious beliefs (Christian, in particular Roman Catholic). 

If you believe, like I do, that school culture is a microcosm of the culture at large, then you might want to stop and think about the larger culture that surrounds the school.  Acknowledge that your political and religious beliefs will probably influence how you perceive school culture and you'll be armed with a better understanding of how and why you see things as you do.

I firmly believe that we live in a culture that "celebrates" death over life.  Abortion is legal and fought over as if it is a fundamental human right to abort (kill) a human inside a mother's womb.  The very fact that we accept abortion as a society means that human life is devalued.  Period.  The culture of death that we live in also teaches that "doctor-assisted suicide" should be considered as a viable option for those suffering from a long-term illness.  These two issues alone have so perverted our culture that we have come to accept these issues as just part of the world we live in.  In my mind, that's a pretty sad state of affairs.

As a direct result of those two issues, we have seen the glorification of death creep into all aspects of our society.  Gangs have risen from the already depressed and troubled parts of our society.  Why?  Because instead of being loving and compassionate people who want to help others live, we view the poor and outcast as dispensable "beings".  Their suffering and poverty makes us all cringe and then we turn to cold "logical arguments" like:  "They are lazy."  "They don't want a better life."  "They choose to live this way." and the list goes on.  We've allowed ourselves to justify ignoring these humans in dire need.  As a result, they've adjusted and adapted to the lack of empathy and concern and have become self-reliant in their own way. 

When you live in a society that doesn't value life, you will quickly see the decline of "civilized" behavior in areas where hard times have come.

If you ever watch "Gangland" or any of the documentary shows on gangs in America you'll begin to pick up the recurring theme of "no one cares about me except this gang".  You'll hear the gang members talk about the expectation of dying young.  You'll hear them repeat that death is expected.  You'll see and hear them talk about how little they value their lives and the lives of others.

By now, you're probably saying that this doesn't explain the recent school shooting.  I'd argue that it does.  Let's leave the poor and destitute and focus on the middle class for a bit. 

We, the middle class, have enough disposable income that we can go to the movies, rent movies, download music, and buy or rent video games.

The Top 5 video Games of 2012 according to Forbes magazine all revolve around hunting down and killing others.  All five. 
Of the Top 10 Video Games of 2012 according to the Video Game Awards, nine (9) are warfare and killing games. 

Of the Top 10 Movies of 2012 according to US Magazine, four are movies that glorify killing others.

In a spirit of honesty, I'll tell you that I've played some of the video games.  I'll also tell you that I'm capable of separating fantasy from reality and that I'm grounded enough to know when enough is enough.  I was raised in a home that valued life.  Even when I played cowboys and indians or cops and robbers as a child, I knew it was fantasy and, at the end of the game, I went around and offered a hand to help someone up off the ground.  I wasn't raised in a world that saw death as "nothing". 

This culture of death in which we live and in which my children have been raised has come to maturity.  The devaluation of human life is so pervasive and so ingrained that it has become acceptable to watch gruesome killings on television nightly.  The more gory, the better the drama it seems.  We simply shake our heads and offer platitudes when we read that the murder rate in Chicago is now over 470 people.  That's 470 human lives that have been lost to murder in one city.  Detroit isn't much better. 

I know what some of you are thinking:  this last shooting was at a quiet little town that doesn't have a climbing murder rate.  Most of the mass murder events that have happened have taken place in towns that were relatively quiet and had low crime rates. 

I understand the argument.  For me, that makes things all the more serious.  This idea that death is "nothing" and that human life has no value has crept into our quiet little towns and is exploding in front of our very eyes. 

My point is simply this, school shootings and all seemingly random acts of violence will continue until we reverse this culture of death. 

(My next post will be about my perception of issues with the mental health system in the United States.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Ugly Truth About School Culture

So what is The Ugly Truth About School Culture?  In my humble opinion, it’s that school culture is talked about extensively but seldom sees much attention beyond talk.

What is school culture?  School culture is the climate or the feeling the students, parents, teachers, support staff and the community have about the school.  The overall school culture is the general feeling when one combines all of those pieces into a snapshot.  In my mind, the most important part of school culture is the student perception.  The students are the majority in the school and they, along with the teaching and support staff, set the dominant culture.

That’s a wordy way of saying: School culture is best summed up when you ask a kid how they feel about the school they go to.  If they answer in a way that makes you think, “Gee, I wish I’d gone to a school like that!” then it’s a great place.  If that’s not your thought…

Experts on school culture will argue that there are a lot of factors that determine what the culture truly is.  I guess they are right.  I prefer to think that the school is simply a microcosm of the surrounding society.  So, if your child attends a neighborhood school, then the school’s culture will probably mirror the primary culture of the neighborhood.  If it’s a friendly, family-oriented neighborhood then your school will most likely be the same.  If it’s an unsafe and crime-ridden neighborhood then your school will most likely reflect that, too.

Of course, nothing is as simple as the cookie cutter answer above.  School cultures are shaped and molded within the building by the administration, the teachers and the support staff.  You can have a really great school culture in the worst inner-city, crime-ridden neighborhood.  They are anomalies when looking at the broader picture but they do exist. 

I’m going to give you a list of questions to ask your children.  You must promise me to abide by the following rules before and while you ask the questions.



Ask your children these questions:

1.       What do you like most about your school?

a.       What makes you say this? 

b.      Can you give me some specific examples?

2.       What do you like least about your school?

a.       What makes you say this?

b.      Can you give me some specific examples?

3.       What do you think needs to be changed in your school?

a.       Why do these things need to be changed?

b.      How would you change them?

4.       Do you feel safe at your school?

a.       Why do you (feel safe) (not feel safe) there?

b.      What would make you feel more safe?

After you’ve listened and they’ve answered.  Think about what they’ve said.  Do you have any questions for the school administration about their comments?  Feel free to share your child’s answers in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Can Be Done?

I know it’s been a while since I last posted.  Life caught up with me and my job kicked into overdrive.  I am toying with resurrecting the blog and attempting to actually schedule some writing time and posting time into each week.  I hadn’t planned on posting anything until after January 1 but recent events have changed that plan.  I feel the need to write about this issue.

I’ve been asked by several people, “How do you feel about what happened in Newtown, CT?”  It’s an oddly worded question but I think the intent behind the question is something like, “What can be done to prevent these horrible events from ever happening again?”  My immediate answer is that NOTHING can be done to prevent these events from happening again.  The only thing you can do is evaluate what went wrong and what went right and determine if there is a way to deter, slow down, or stop the event once it begins.  That’s a scary thought, but it’s the truth as I see it.

People have asked me if schools are truly “safe”?  I believe many schools are as safe as they can be.  They have taken appropriate steps to ensure student safety.  Some continue to be lax in their security.  Again, I think the underlying question is, “Are schools doing enough to protect the children and the staff or is there more that can be done?” 

I guess my response to that question is this question:  “How restrictive of an environment do you want your children to learn in?”  And, I would follow up with, “Are you willing to pay the monetary price through increased property taxes and other taxes in order to provide that restrictive environment?”  There’s a cost associated with every benefit. 

School shootings scare the hell out of me.  The most vulnerable of our society are attacked in these situations.  Their lives are forever altered.  Dreams are shattered.  Innocence is ripped from them.  The security blanket of their lives is torn off and fear is allowed to envelop them. 

We send our kids to school to get an education.  We send our kids to school hoping that they will have a good day and that they will see their friends and that they will leave a little bit smarter than when they entered.  That’s what we hope will happen. 

Reality is a bit different. 

I’ll follow this up with a few more posts.  I think I’ll tackle it from different angles and, hopefully, give you something to think about.  Up next, The Ugly Truth About School Culture.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why I Don't Run

I have a lot of friends who enjoy running. They run early in the morning, during the heat of the day, late at night...whenever the mood strikes them. They all report "enjoying" running. Most of them never complain about hurting, shin splints, injuries or anything. They just extol the virtues of running.

I'm glad they enjoy it so much. I enjoy living vicariously through their run reports on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Many times I've imagined myself running right beside them. Cruising along, earbuds embedded, music pushing me...

That's about the extent of my joy of running. 

Reality looks more like this...

The truth is, I HATE running!  I loathe it with every ounce of my loathing ability. Usually, when I hate or loathe something it's just straight up jealousy.  Not so with running.  I hate the pounding of my feet on pavement or treadmill, I hate the sweat pouring down my face, neck, back, legs, and other areas. The very thought of me having to run makes me feel chafed in places. 

This pretty much sums up my feelings about running. 

I thought you might want to know why I don't run.  Here's a list of reasons:

1.  Running causes profuse sweating. Sweating in moderation is fine.  Profuse sweating can cause serious dehydration.  So, out of respect for my body, I choose not to take the risk of sweating to the point of dehydration.

2.  Running outside is a very risky proposition.  Runners must contend with cars, trucks, buses, dogs, snakes and, worst of all, bicyclists!  Bicyclists tend to view runners as lower class beings who can't afford a bicycle. That snobbery breeds contempt and contemp breeds temptation and temptation breeds disaster.  

3.  Running outside causes skin cancer.  You're running outside exposing your skin to harmful U.V. Rays. I know you slather on the SPF-5,000 but your sweat washes it all away and leaves your body exposed to all those evil rays!  Plus, when you sweat off the SPF-5000, you are polluting the local water systems.

4.  Running contributes to GLOBAL WARMING!  Shame on you!  It's a fact that when you run, you produce heat.  Your body temperature rises, you sweat to cool down, you expel heat and carbon dioxide and YOU have just shaved off 30 microseconds off the planet's life!  

5.  Running is sinful.  Most "serious" runners wear those little running shorts and skimpy shirts or sports bras. That's distracting to those of us driving by in our air-conditioned SUVs. We're driving along, enjoying the cool, then we see you. There you are all hot and sweaty and running along with things going up and down in perfect rhythm with your running stride.  We become distracted and, before we know it, you've caused us to have immoral thoughts AND maybe even a wreck!  (Same reasoning applies in the gym when you run on the treadmill.)

As much as I'm against running, I will admit there are a few times when it is necessary:

1.  If you are being chased by or even see a clown!  Do I really have to explain this one?

2.  If you see a snake.  (Helpful hint:  it's best if you can first trip or throw someone between you and the snake before you start running. It distracts the snake and it might think you are offering it a sacrifice.  WARNING:  Throwing your spouse or any loved one between you and the snake can have serious consequences if the snake does not accept your offering.  Yes, I'm speaking from personal experience.)

3.  If you encounter face eating or any other type of zombies.  (Try the sacrifice play outlined above. It may buy you a few minutes.)

4.  If you are caught outside in a hail storm.  (If I have to explain this one, you deserve to be beaten by hail.)

5.  If you smell bacon frying.  This is simple, folks.  If someone is frying bacon, then you better run to get to it because others will be headed toward it, too!  Typically, when there's bacon being fried there are a host of equally delicious foods being served.  

In all cases outlined above, you should only run until you find shelter or a mode of motorized transportation.  

I hope you've all learned some valuable tips. Soon, I'll be explaining why playing golf is unhealthy and why fried bacon should be adopted as our national food.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Jack My iPad And Suffer The Consequences

It appears that The Girl Child jacked my iPad and took some pics. Perhaps you'd like to see them...

Evidently, she found the app that distorts your pictures. 

Three nostrils are better than one. 

Here's a really popular look for back to school. 

And, here's a photo that would make any parent swell with pride.

Last, but not least, here's a real stunner. 

This is what The Girl Child usually looks like...

Now, do you understand why I'm crazy?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Things That Cause Me to Stop and Think...

In my travels I see a lot of unique and interesting things.  Sometimes, those things make me stop and think for a minute.  Then, because I'm slightly ADD, I move on to some other thought.

A recent journey brought these ruminations.... It was a trip through Chop Suey land.  Everywhere I went, I saw Chop Suey restaurants.  Here's a glimpse into my mind..

Welcome to Yet Bun Chop Suey!  I'm not sure what is served here, besides Chop Suey, but I'm not adventurous enough to go in and find out.  I did look them up on the interwebs and found out they have a nice rating on UrbanSpoon: Yet Bun Chop Suey.  However, I think I'll pass on trying the place for a while. 

Next up...

Yep, this is the world famous Dr. King Chop Suey!  Long known as a champion of civil rights he was less well known for his Chop Suey cooking skills. This fine building stands as a testament to those cooking skills. 

Urban Spoon gives it a very high rating based on four reviews :  Dr. King Chop Suey.  I'm not sure I can trust four reviews. I think I'll wait on trying this one, too.

Next, let's take a look at

Fear the DRAGON!  Dragon Chop Suey!  This fine dining establishment does have a website:  I'm not able to find an Urban Spoon link but I'm encouraged by the fact that they have a website!  

Just as I was getting discouraged with looking for Chop Suey restaurants, I saw this!

I see this A LOT in my travels. How does a shoe just end up in the road?  I've rationalized a shoe falling out of the bed of a pickup but can there really be that many pickup trucks with shoes jumping around in the back?

Did someone just dump that shoe on the road as they hooked a left?  Was someone walking along and their shoe came off and they didn't realize it?  How could you NOT know you'd lost your shoe?  Was someone hit by a car and the entire scene was cleaned up except for this shoe?  What a sad memorial if that's the case!

Finally, this picture is provided for you to feel my pain.

And, that's the end of this post.