Saturday, September 27, 2008

Public Service Announcement


I just realized that Halloween comes right BEFORE the presidential election. This means parties and costumes. Let me say this now while you are all planning your costumes...


No it does not matter if he is running for president. If you want to be Barack Obama buy a mask. This is not negotiable. No it is not "unfair" or political correctness gone too far. Just give up the idea now or buy your mask. Ask questions if you need to, just put the makeup back in the drawer.
(artist, Ryan Muldowney)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Criminal Record

Wednesday night we had a church youth activity at my house. We played a Jeopardy game centered on our church's standards.

The category was "Sabbath Day Observance"

The answer was "when looking for a job you should tell your potential employer {blank}"

(the answer is, "we don't work on Sunday)

In an effort to win a twelve year old boy quickly blurted out "Your criminal record!!!"

As people laughed not only he, but his teammates as well, looked around wondering what was funny.

This kid has never commit ed a crime in his life.

You can't tell me this kid has the same opportunities I had at his age.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Johann Sebastian Bach

I figured this was appropriate after my last post.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Football is the answer to all our problems, answering the question in my last post.

Football is the answer to all our problems.

Don’t laugh, I’m serious.

Now I’m not just talking about sports in general but this specific one. I will concede that all sports, well most sports, have merit. It is good to learn that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Winning takes work, or luck, or a weaker opponent. Sometimes you just aren’t good enough, sometimes the referee robs you, and sometimes you are just unprepared.

There are rules. If you choose to disobey the rules penalties are enforced, unless they don’t catch you, but someone always notices.

Sports are proactive, or reactive, but always active. Doing is required. You have to play. There are those who watch, and they are often loud and always have an opinion, but someone has to play.

All these things apply to sport and life. These merits have made room in our academic institutions and our children’s schedules. Long live sports!

But if I was told all sports must go but one, I would need no time for deliberation. The answer is clear. If I had to choose one sport with which to instruct our youth, one sport with the most to offer, one sport with which to craft our world, it would be Football!

First, before you start, I’ll address the violence. Yes, football is rough, so is life. I am not fundamentally against spanking kids, but I’m doing everything I can not to. It is hard not to because I know that sometimes a quick smack in the mouth teaches a lesson quicker than a sermon, 5 time outs, and forfeited toys. The problem is I don’t want my children associating smacks in the mouth with me. That’s what is great about football. There are strict rules governing the use of violence. There is room to exert it with everything you have, but only while in control. When you loose control there are the most severe of penalties… you get thrown out of the game.

There are pads to protect the player. In a violent sport there must be some sort of protection but pads also change the game. What my rugby playing brothers don’t understand is that football pads are covered in plastic and metal. Plastic and metal are much harder than muscle and bone. Pads allow a player to play past the usual physical limitations. Without pads a player could not run full speed directly into another player, who is also running directly at him, exploding into the contact rather than bracing for it. The pads remove hesitation and fear, allowing the player to give it their all without inhibitions. The result is much more explosive collisions, more intensity, and more violence.

Laws, family, and society work as pads for life. All can both protect us and change the nature of the game we are playing. The more padding life or society gives us, the harder we can play without fear of pain or penalty. If we abuse this padding the consequences are also amplified.

Football, more than any other sport, must be coached. Someone is calling the plays, directing the game, orchestrating the whole show. Every play is choreographed. There are so many moving parts that must work in concert with each other, that the one moving the chess pieces must be heeded. A player must learn to take instruction, feedback, and criticism, not only in daily practices but during the heat of battle as well. Player and coach must learn to communicate and wills must bend. Someone must lead and someone must call the shots. A player who wants to play must learn that performance gets the coaches attention. If a player wants to get noticed, wants to contribute, they must gain the coaches favor. Some coaches judge solely on skill and performance, others on personality and family. A player must learn that if the coach is running the show, the player must accommodate. Most all programs have multiple coaches. A player must learn to listen to different coaches and use these coaches as advocates in their favor with the head coach. Each individual must not only perform individually, but gain favor of layers of others, be they teammates or coaches, and at the end of it, all must work together to win.

Society works the same way. Jobs, governments, neighborhoods, and families all possess layers of hierarchy and networks that must be maneuvered and navigated.

Unlike basketball, baseball, or even hockey, no one player can completely dominate a game. There is no real Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods of football. In basketball all players are more or less doing the same activities, dribbling, passing, shooting, defending. Some may perform these tasks with slightly different roles but essentially a center and a guard are both dribbling, passing, shooting, and defending. There are some players who do all these things so well they can render the rest of the team secondary or even inconsequential. A pitcher can throw a no-hitter. A goalie can amazingly shut down an entire team… not in football.

Each position in football has a unique purpose, and all must be done well to have success. A quarterback is useless without good lineman, and the two positions are absolutely nothing alike. Receivers and linebackers are nothing alike but both are essential. The different positions are so varied that they require players with a staggeringly wide range of skills and abilities. Some positions require obscene size and strength, others speed and agility. Some take aggression and reaction, others vision and cunning.

To win a team and its players must learn to perform individual tasks while also relying on others to simultaneously perform completely different tasks. You must balance individual responsibility and trust in others, as well as a system. A player must learn to trust someone who is nothing like them; doing things they can in no way do themselves. Leaders may emerge and weaknesses may become apparent, but to win all must adjust and work together.

This lesson, above all else, can make the world a better place. We must not all be alike in the world, nor should we be. Difference is good, even essential. The key is learning to appreciate that no one position, or person, can do without the other and all are important.

As long as we are all on the same team.

We perform our roles with varying levels of success, while others do the same. We win, we lose, and our actions have consequences for both ourselves and others. The way we play in life has rewards and sometimes pain. How much better prepared is a person, or a society, that has practiced living while young, before it really matters? How much better prepared is someone who has learned what it takes to win, or lost and still got up to play again?

Our world and our society are fraught with problems. We have racism, starvation, greed, and selfishness. Irresponsibility, laziness, nepotism, and politics are everywhere.

What is to be done?

Let’s play football!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Social Studies class got it all wrong.

Have you ever read a recipe, planned a great meal, followed the directions, and had it turn out terrible? There is always a chance the recipe was a good recipe but somewhere along the line you messed it up, forgot something, or maybe you just don’t understand the kitchen well enough to cook well.

That sums up my education of the civil rights movement.

The civil rights movement was not love and peace, it was rights.

It wasn’t, “please stop hating me and let me sit next to you on the bus”, it was, “stop hanging people and let me have a job.” How did I miss that? I was paying attention. I was genuinely interested. I was taught the civil rights movement had something to do with everyone getting along. I thought it was about the content of our character and not judging others. MLK and the freedom riders won that war. Mission accomplished right?

So why are black people still angry?

The fundamental misunderstanding was, and I think still is, about how bad it really was for black people. The problem wasn’t not being accepted, few people thought that even possible. The problem was feeding your kids. The problem was owning your own house for a fair price. The problem was being able to walk down the street without fear of violence. The problem was a justice system that assumed your guilt and took very little effort to protect you.

Hurt feelings were trivial compared to a lynching. Hurt feelings are trivial compared to working hard every day while knowing you will never reach a level of comfort.
I was not fully taught how bad it was AFTER slavery and I don’t think I’m the only one.

I don’t think I’m the only one because I still hear people, when confronted with a complaining black person (on TV of course), say “slavery was over 150 years ago, get over it.”
The majority of all white people were relatively untouched by the racial tension of those days. Most of us remain relatively untouched (outside the media) by black people PERIOD.

Do we really think people marched, got arrested, and risked their life over a seat on a bus?

That was the battle, we passed some laws, then what?

Do we really expect “them” to like “us” just like that?
Sure it may have been 40 years since then but what has anyone done since then to encourage black people to like white people? Did we suddenly turn nice and accepting? Have we (whites) done enough by simply refraining from burning crosses? Yes that is a fair question because THAT was the problem, not just dirty water fountains.

Serious question… Who out there is, or has ever, done anything proactive to promote a healthy social relationship between black and white?

(you may be surprised by my answer)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How did you get where you are?

We tend to think we get what we have because we worked hard and acted responsibly... or the reverse may be true. Sure we may have done those things, but is that why any of us really are where we are?

Did you go to college?

You studied and worked hard to get into and through college. How did you know the entrance process and requirements? When did you realize or think college was an option for you? Who placed those ideas in your head? Did you know other people who were, or had been, in college? Did you do all your homework on your own or did some one “help” you? I don’t mean help as in what is four plus four but as in, “get in there and do your homework!” How many of your friends, or people in the neighborhood, finished high school?

How many times did you or your family move from k-12?

How did you pay for school?

How did you get your current job? Did you just walk up and apply or did you know someone? Did you know anyone in a similar industry before you started working there?

Did you ever get in trouble with the law growing up? What were the consequences? Who helped you get out of, or into trouble?

The answers to all these questions may or may not play a large role in where or who you are today… you tell me?

After answering these questions consider that the likely answers change depending on your race (and other factors, mainly economic) and ask why.

Is it all up to us, or does our situation play a large role? How did those before us get into these situations?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Do we Really Know About "Them"?

What do you really know about them?

Some time ago I read an article about local high school graduation ceremonies. This article was a little bit of a rant rather than report. It was the smaller neighborhood paper so I expected nothing too ground breaking. What I did get was a great example of culture clashes still happening today.

The ceremonies in question were from the local Catholic schools. The Catholic school system here is the most viable option for those wishing to escape a drowning, and burning, public system, as opposed to the unaffordable ivy prep style private schools that also dot the city.

Where else would a Catholic graduation be held than in a cathedral? Makes sense.

The article was about the behavior of some “types” of parents and families. These people were designated as “newcomers”, a different “class”, and not “from” the usual neighborhood. What was not stated, but is true and obvious is that these people are black.

The behavior in question, and being complained about, was; shouting, clapping, cheering, and standing up. It was pointed out how inappropriate behavior this is for both a church and a ceremony such as this. The writer was deeply and vocally offended.

Has this person ever been to a black church?

What is appropriate to one is not always appropriate to another.
The writer saw these actions as inconsiderate at best and more deeply disrespectful.

Was it?

Did the writer consider that in the churches these “newcomers” attend, if you like, or approve of something you immediately let them know? Did the writer consider that in this culture NOT showing approval or excitement when one should be excited, is seen as disrespectful? Did the writer know anything of the black church’s association of spirit, progression, and making a “joyful noise”? I’m sure in the minds of these newcomers they were acting as expected and as is appropriate.

Now the inverse is true.

If you enter a new place or culture you should take some time to learn the ins and outs. Did the newcomers stop to think of what a Catholic would see as appropriate behavior in a catholic cathedral? Did they know or care what the “others” thought was appropriate?

The two cultures, black and white, are different. These differences are OK.

Who if anyone is paying attention?

Why is no one taking the time to educate each other on these things, or are they but no one wants to listen?

No, in stead we just watch, get offended, and talk about whats wrong with "them."

Monday, September 1, 2008