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Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Would You Rah-ther…?

November 27th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

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Some of our children used to love to play a somewhat morbid game called, “Would you rah-ther?” That is “rather” but with an exaggerated British accent. They would ask each other questions such as, “Would you rah-ther have no hands or no feet?” and “Would you rah-ther live through war or plague?” I admit that we did not relish the speculation on, “If one of them had to die tomorrow, would you rah-ther it be Mommy or Daddy?” The questions often led to long discussions as the participating daughter explained her answer.

Here is a question that I think is worth asking yourself and those around you. “Would you rah-ther have freedom or equality?” In many cases, freedom and equality are mutually incompatible values. We can’t have both. If equality is the goal, for example in the boardroom, then a company cannot have the freedom to search for the best candidate. Instead of making the wisest decision, the business needs to check the proper gender and ethnicity boxes along with whatever other criterion are deemed needing equal representation. If freedom of choice is the priority, for example in the classroom, then the computer science department at a university might well be overwhelmingly male and Asian.  There wouldn’t be a great deal of equal representation to be seen.

Our government keeps expanding and enshrining the understanding of equality, most recently wanting to include sexual orientation as a category needing its intervention. Consequently, our constitutionally protected freedom of religion is under attack. In the economic arena, the freedom to succeed requires allowing economic inequality. Both freedom and equality are nice sounding words. However, while they can co-exist peacefully in the abstract, they dance a delicate waltz in real life. 

In our imperfect world, both freedom and equality lie on a spectrum where too much or too little of either one is disastrous. Unrestrained freedom leads to the law of the jungle, where the most vicious and strongest rules. The result for most people will be a decided lack of freedom. Total equality is an unattainable fantasy that leads to misery and servitude for the majority, under the lash of those who, inevitably, unequally hold the reins.

Around 150 years ago, the United States fought an incredibly bloody war to end a terrible institution that made a mockery of both equality and freedom. About 100 years earlier, the country’s founding highlighted the same concepts. This Thanksgiving, as the uneasy truce between equality and freedom seems to be reaching another crisis point we should express gratitude to God for the wonderful country in which we live and reaffirm our commitment to keeping it so.   

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Ted Cruz Fireworks

November 19th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

As I write this, I am at a Wallbuilders conference in Dallas, where my husband is speaking. I have just come back to the room after hearing Ted Cruz. Do you remember the tense weeks back in 2000 when the Bush/Gore election was undecided? A Bush-supporting acquaintance of mine confessed that she and her Gore-championing friend agreed to cut back on their interactions until there was a decisive result. Both of their emotions were so raw that no matter how innocuously their conversations started, each ended up exasperated by the other’s political obtuseness.

Ted Cruz evokes the same kind of passion, though the division is between Republican and Republican, conservative and conservative rather than between blue and red voters. Over the past few weeks establishment Republicans, such as John McCain, have attacked Senator Cruz with intemperate and angry language, more suitable to describing the Boston Marathon bomber. Others who share Senator McCain’s party affiliation view Ted Cruz as a principled straight shooter, championing ideas that need to be aired.

Many respected and responsible pundits, including economist Thomas Sowell, seem to admire and like Cruz, but suggest that his move to defund Obamacare was poor politics. I usually come close to violating the 10th Commandment when I read Mr. Sowell’s articles because I covet his rare ability for articulating complex issues in a brilliant and straightforward manner. His writings are illuminating and instructive. However, in this case, I have a slightly different view than his.

I believe that it is irrelevant whether Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and those who stood with them acted brilliantly or with political naiveté or even stupidity.  What matters is that they understand that the political landscape has changed—a fact that completely eluded Mitt Romney, leading him to lose a winnable election. Senators Cruz and Lee give voice to those who believe that there are two revolutions going on in the United States today. The first is characterized by President Obama and his staunchest supporters in the Democratic Party. If successful, it will undermine the traditional foundations of this country. The second revolution appeals deeply to those who fall under the sometimes disparate and conflicting umbrellas of Tea Party, Libertarian and/or ‘plain old disgusted,’ who may or may not be officially members of the Republican Party.  These Americans have little faith or confidence in those they consider ‘Establishment Republicans’.

I think there are millions of Americans who see the Republican Party that nominated John McCain and then Mitt Romney, heading towards losing the presidential election of 2016. Even if the party does win the election, these citizens do not believe that will save the country they love. To keep America thriving, they see a need for bold, unapologetic leadership. They may vehemently disagree on the direction that leadership should take in regard to cultural, social and economic issues, but they are fed up with lack of conviction, timidity and always being on the defensive.  A large number of citizens think that while bold, radical action may not work, incremental tweaking and hesitancy most certainly won’t.

I do not know very much about Mr. Cruz and Mr. Lee and I will cautiously follow their actions and statements. However, unlike those who vehemently condemn them, these men do understand that the ‘same old, same old’ is a losing strategy in a world that is rapidly changing. Revolutions are not compatible with back room negotiations that place practical politics ahead of overarching principle. Unless the establishment Republican Party recognizes and respects this widespread uprising, working with it rather than trying to delegitimize it, I worry for the future of the Grand Old Party.

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Smoke and Mirrors

November 13th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

How often do we hear or read something that makes no logical sense? This probably happens much more frequently than we realize, since our attention moves quickly to the next item assaulting our senses. Since we don’t closely analyze the barrage of messages coming our way, we are rarely aware of how much nonsense we are fed.
Political promises fall into this category, but so do advertisements and ‘catchy phrases.’ Looking through the newspaper the other day, I found myself stopping and analyzing the half-page (read: expensive), patently absurd, message being sent by UNICEF; the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The ad showed an early airplane prototype, followed by the words:

Man took to flight when we believed.
Children will stop dying from preventable causes when you believe.
Every day, 19,000 children die of causes we can prevent.
We believe that number should be ZERO.

Let’s stipulate that only the most hard-hearted monster wants children to die from causes that we have the knowledge and technology to prevent. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether giving money to UNICEF, or pushing government to give taxpayer money to UNICEF, is a good idea. It also has nothing to do with the fact that while the first two statements of the ad may be designed to provoke compassion or guilt, they are false. If you need to lie to get people to support you, perhaps you are not worthy of support.

Man took to flight when individuals harnessed imagination, knowledge, courage, time and money—not because anyone paraphrased the children in Peter Pan, repeating, “I do believe in flight, I do, I do.” Men took to flight when scientific studies of physics and engineering advanced so that instead of the failed attempts or unfulfilled ideas of millennia, human ingenuity and desire collaborated with technical progress to achieve risky, fledgling steps. If anything, the fact that Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved success while a week earlier the government-funded airplane built by Dr. Samuel Langley toppled into a river, suggests that perhaps supporting entrepreneurial efforts to help children, rather than bureaucratic ones, would be the smarter and more effective plan.

Way too many children have died in the 66 years since UNICEF’s founding because people foolishly followed seductive, but false, ideologies and chose leaders who led their nations (and other nations) into destruction. Sadly, the United Nations, has proven inept—the most charitable interpretation—at counteracting evil.

I don’t know if the last two statements of the UNICEF ad are true or if they are as false as the first two. I don’t know how UNICEF’s real achievements stack up because they are using their marketing dollars to peddle emotional twaddle rather than present statistical evidence. I do know that voting, donating or choosing how to behave based on a child-like belief in government or bureaucracy tends to lead to more tragedy, not less.

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When Loving Children Isn’t Enough

November 6th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

My husband and I flew home from Dallas a short while ago
after a week filled with appearances, including our multi-day presentation on
marriage and money. Two tired travelers, an evening flight and a crowded plane
suggested that zoning out was the best strategy. I had never heard of the movie
being shown, Way, Way Back, but watching it seemed a good way to ignore
my narrow-seated reality.

Instead, it made me realize a new reality of today’s world.
The movie, described as a “poignant coming of age” film, featured a number of
adolescents. All of them were children of divorce and all of them had parents
who put themselves ahead of their children. The kids were sad and troubled—not
because growing up is challenging—but because of their parents’ self-centered choices.

These were not abusive parents. They seemed the type of
mothers and fathers who might well make the statement, “I’d throw myself under
a bus for my kid.” While, they might choose their child’s life over their own
if confronted by such a dilemma, what they would not sacrifice was their own sex
life. If this movie reflects reality at all, today, the right to sexual
activity is more sacred than the ties between even mothers and children. Each
of the teenagers in the movie felt rejected by one parent and ignored by the
other as the adults who were supposed to love them put their own search for new
relationships ahead of their children. The strangest thing was that these
parents seemed utterly unaware that this narcissism was causing deep damage.
Without stretching too far, you could even say it was a form of child
abuse.  Statistics that reveal the number
of children living with adults who are not either their parent or married to
their parent, or whose parents have ‘friends’ stay overnight, suggests that the
movie reflects reality.

Even granting that seeing a movie on a plane makes it less
attractive than usual, none of the parents in this film seemed appealing. That
is not the case for the character of Sarah Braverman in the popular show Parenthood.
Played by Lauren Graham, she is attractive and funny, and her love for her
children shines through. Yet, after marrying poorly, thus providing them with
an alcoholic, irresponsible father, she repeatedly hurts her children as her
personal life takes priority over them. She is incapable of ignoring the pull
of affection and sex, leading her, for example, to sleep with her daughter’s
high school teacher and to uproot her son and move him to her fiancé’s
apartment (though the sexual tug to her boss will end that relationship).
Somehow, Sarah’s desperate desire to be a good mother ends at the point that
she might actually choose sexual and emotional celibacy for herself to protect
her children.

The show doesn’t gloss over the damage to the children,
including an alcoholic car wreck involving her daughter and her son’s excruciating
emotional pain. Both these results directly stem from their mother’s actions.
Yet, none of the other adults in her life force her to acknowledge the
disconnect between her maternal feelings and her selfish behavior. Is it
possible that the adults and teenagers watching the show also don’t see that
this woman needs to tell herself that her role as mother means she must carefully
weigh up the call of that part of her own life against her children’s best
interests until they become healthy adults?

There certainly would be damage as well if the relationships
shown in the above shows were chaste. The message to the child would still be,
“I come first.” Nevertheless, it is clear in the above situations, the
inability to master sexual urges or the lack of understanding that having
dinner with someone is quite different from sleeping with them, propels
relationships more quickly and less thoughtfully. No one even seems to see that
disrupting the children’s living arrangements makes them less secure and comfortable.
Have we truly reached the point in society where we have bought into the
message that as long as you are protected from pregnancy and STDs, sex can
cause no harm? Have we seriously elevated the right to sexual activity above
our obligations to love, protect and cherish our young? 

The movie on the plane did help pass the time. It also left
me amazed at reviews that cited funny lines or heart-tugging scenes but left
unmentioned the appalling cruelty by parents living in a society that
celebrates social mores that inflict cruel and unusual punishments on our
children.

Is this a trend that you have also noticed?