Posts in Susan’s Musings

Three Cheers for Generation Z

February 23rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Can a video make you want to cry and cheer at the same time? Well, that was my reaction to this amazing video created by sixteen-year-old Autumn in reaction to a foolish and, dare I say, downright evil, article that ran in Teen Vogue magazine trivializing abortion. 

In her video, Autumn discusses the idea of female empowerment, dismissing the claim that ridding yourself of the bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh is empowering. Even if, to some degree or other, you accept abortion, each one is a tragedy not a triumph.

You won’t be shocked to hear that I do not read Teen Vogue. Nevertheless, Autumn’s video led me to take a look at its webpage. Here is their tag line: “The rebellious, outspoken, empowering magazine that you need right now.” A quick look at the titles suggested that their definition of rebellious is  walking in lock-step with academia, entertainment and most of the media. Outspoken, I grant them. Nevertheless, my biggest question had to do with the word empowering. 

What I saw on their website was a fair dose of social and political indoctrination. I saw articles that will sow confusion in teen lives that have enough inherent confusion due to hormonal and psychological changes. I saw the expected amount of consumerism. I looked for empowerment and realized that I have no idea what that word means.

Is empowerment perhaps a substitute for self-esteem? The self-esteem movement has withered. Studies showed that criminals ranked higher in self-esteem than law-abiding citizens. So did American schoolchildren, who thought of themselves as proficient in math and English despite doing less well on tests in those subjects than schoolchildren from other countries.  Those foreign students who did not consider themselves outstanding easily outscored the Americans. Self-esteem produced a cadre of people who spoke well of themselves rather than behaving in ways that would produce self-respect as well as generate respect from others. 

Has the self-esteem movement morphed into the empowerment movement?  Does empowerment mean being the best you can be or making sure that others cannot succeed? Is it defined as being able to do whatever you want no matter the cost to anyone else? Does it mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people or something completely different at a hundred different times? 

Looking at Teen Vogue, like looking at so many other parts of our culture, can be depressing. Listening to voices like Autumn reminds me that there are many teens and young adults who are rebelling far more than a left-leaning, jump onto the latest bandwagon magazine is. They are actually willing to stand against the tide to fight the hedonistic, secular culture. They  are articulate and outspoken messengers for empowerment in the best sense of the word.

If you know a teen whose life perspective comes from magazines like Teen Vogue, comedy apps and left-leaning teachers, make sure you provide a counterpart. Here’s one suggestion that will spark non-conformist thinking as well as opening up a valuable conversation.

Order by Mail

 

On Rabbis and Immigration (Guest Musing)

February 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

I am delighted to share my Musing platform with Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt. You will soon hear more about Rabbi Rosenblatt who we are delighted to welcome as director of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC). He shares our passion for and commitment to an America firmly based on Judeo-Christian values. Like us, he is deeply troubled when Judaism is misrepresented as modern liberalism. He was moved to compose the following piece.

On Monday, February 6, some 200 rabbis and rabbinical students protested outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.   19 of them blocked traffic and were arrested for disorderly conduct.  The group was protesting President Trump’s executive order placing a 90-day hold on immigration from seven countries which lack adequate security programs to vet the peaceful nature of visa holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Teru’ah, the left-wing rabbinical group that organized the protest, said it was meant to show that many Jews oppose the ban.

“We remember our history, and we remember that the border of this country closed to us in 1924, with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.  We know that some of the language that’s being used now to stop the Muslims from coming is the same language that was used to stop Jewish refugees from coming“, she said. 

As the great-grandson of a rabbi who immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of religious persecution, these words caught my attention.

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Wanna Talk About Me

February 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 35 comments

Toby Keith’s country music song, I Wanna Talk About Me always makes me laugh. It stops being funny when it isn’t about a guy who says to his girlfriend, “I like talking about you, you, you, usually, but occasionally I wanna talk about me,” and instead represents the plea of children to the adults in their lives.

We live in strange times. Many parents are clueless. In the 1940s, Mama’s Bank Account was a popular book. Renamed as I Remember Mama it became a movie, play and TV show. It was a peek into author Kathryn Forbes’ Norwegian grandparents’ lives as they raised a family in the United States. The title story, if memory serves me correctly, was how her grandmother frequently spoke about a bank account that could be accessed in an emergency, thus providing her children with a sense of financial security. Only when the children grew up did they find out that there wasn’t really any savings account and how vulnerable they truly had been.

Many adults today similarly work to provide their children with a feeling of safety. The mother whose checkbook is running low but whose children see her putting money in the Salvation Army bucket isn’t only modeling charitable giving. She is reassuring them that they are fortunate enough to help others rather than alarming them about their own financial difficulties. The father who presents a confident face to his young children despite privately worrying about being laid off, allows them to focus on their schoolwork rather than on fear.

And then there are the, “I wanna talk about me,” parents and teachers. Sometimes, they are simply careless, speaking about adult matters within earshot of children. Or they just might not have the self-control to regulate their emotions during tough times. Most of us can relate to those scenarios, though hopefully we work on ourselves to do better.  Other parents and teachers are more problematic and need to be called out.

They are the adults who misuse the children in their lives for their own aims, often political.  Teachers have their students write letters to politicians opposing anti-union measures. School projects are based on environmental fears. Assignments present complex issues as one-sided and terrifying. In the anti-logging political environment of Washington State in the 90s, some parents had to deal with sensitive children’s night terrors where youngsters pictured loggers armed with menacing chainsaws coming after them.

What brought this Pacific northwest memory to mind was reading a quote from one African-American mother as to why she participated in the women’s march opposing President Trump. She spoke of her daughter’s fears that they would be deported to Africa. Now, this was not an illegal immigrant from Ghana; the implication was that this was a multi-generational American citizen. If her daughter was truly afraid of deportation that means that the adults in that child’s life are responsible for that fear. Whether it is the mother, teachers, or friends’ parents, these adults are ignorant and need to better educate themselves. Alternatively, they deliberately play into lies in order to advance their own political philosophies. Meanwhile, a child is needlessly terrified.

This is not a Right/Left issue. I am a pro-life proponent, yet I object to posters that show dismembered babies at public rallies  because they don’t belong where children can see them. No one should deliberately place  horrible images in a child’s mind. Likewise, I  would object to a teacher assigning letters to a politician pleading for refugees not to be let into America because students are worried about being blown up by terrorists. Terrifying children is a particularly unwholesome activity.

We walk a fine line between educating our children about issues of the day and passing on our own convictions, and betraying our trust as their guardians. Even when real and immediate danger is present, thrusting our fears onto our children’s fragile shoulders is wrong.  Certainly, using them as political pawns is indefensible.

Gratitude and Gorsuch

February 2nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 66 comments

I must open this Musing with gratitude. Gratitude to those of you who wrote such lovely comments after last week’s Musing and to those of you who thought of writing but never quite did (been there done that). I am truly honored by your friendship. Many of you also sent lovely notes and heartfelt prayers just one year ago when our daughter had emergency surgery and delivered her son prematurely. I’m filled with gratitude to you and overwhelmingly to God for the good health they both now enjoy that can make those scary days seem much longer ago than they actually are.

Like most Americans, I only heard about Judge Neil Gorsuch recently. Not to worry—a quick search brings up any number of articles with titles such as, “Seven Things to Know about Judge Gorsuch,” or “Five Important Facts about the Supreme Court Nominee.” Scanning those articles didn’t answer my main question.

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How’s the Weather? Quite Offensive, Thanks.

January 26th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 196 comments

I have had a troubled few days. Let me give you some background. In the late 1970s, my husband was a business professional in Los Angeles when he was introduced to Michael Medved, who had recently begun exploring his Jewish background. My husband began teaching Torah classes to Michael and a few of his friends. This small bunch soon grew to a sizable group studying in crowded living rooms. After a short while, they discovered an almost abandoned old synagogue on the Venice (CA) oceanfront. Within a year this forgotten little synagogue was filled by young people. Although almost everyone started with little knowledge of his or her Jewish roots, they thrilled to investigate Scripture and discover the majesty of religious Jewish life.

While synagogue attendance played a role in the feeling of community, the passionate congregation that sprang up was chiefly based on Bible study and growing together in connection to God.  In fact that is what constituted membership!  If you attended at least one Torah class a week, you were a member. The group, as befits the time and place, was composed of many whose values and views had been shaped by the turbulent Sixties and confused Seventies. It included ex-commune members and hippies as well as an unusually large number of scientists who started off believing that science and religion were in conflict.

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Mr. Trump’s Low Approval Ratings

January 19th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 67 comments

I’ve often received poor approval ratings. There were the times I insisted that my children write thank you notes before birthday presents were enjoyed. That certainly wasn’t a popular demand. Then there were the times that I joined my husband in his alliances with Christian leaders, years before the Jewish community recognized what an important friendship this was.

Most recently, a woman at my exercise class backed away from me as if I had just told her that I had beri-beri disease when I said that I voted for Donald Trump. In different times and places, being popular is at odds with being principled, correct or even righteous (not that I’m claiming those mantles).

For this reason, I find the constant headline news that Donald Trump is heading into Inauguration Day with low approval ratings (or conversely that Barack Obama has high ratings at the same time) completely irrelevant. Not being omniscient, I have no way of knowing if President Trump will be principled, correct or righteous. However, I do know that aiming for popularity would be disastrous for his presidency.

Certainly, ignoring the public is risky. In 2012, many people felt that Mitt Romney didn’t care about people like them; in 2016 Hillary Clinton had the same problem. Yet, small slices of information can be misleading. President Trump clearly had a better read on Americans than the pollsters who were incessantly gauging public opinion. Maybe all those people who are gleefully touting the new president’s low approval ratings need to be reminded that doing the job well and being unpopular is preferable to doing the job poorly while being personally popular.

If the country does well, economically, globally and socially over the next few years, it matters little if people (like me) have issues with Mr. Trump’s demeanor. It is certainly nice that the Bushes, father and son, as well as Mr. Obama represented respectable family lives. Neither main party candidate gave that option this time around. I will look elsewhere for role models for my grandchildren in all sorts of areas including guarding one’s speech. There are many aspects that I don’t like about Donald Trump, the man. Right now, I’m looking for a strong hand on the tiller steering our country in the best direction, not a best friend.

Noah’s approval ratings were even lower than Donald Trump’s. His neighbors hated him while God valued him. Why? What made Noah stand out? Find out in The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah, on sale now.

The Gathering Storm

Avoidable Heartbreak

January 12th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 18 comments

Most of the time, my daughter doesn’t share details of the overnight shifts that she spends as a nurse in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Sometimes the care that she and other medical professionals give allow their patients, with God’s grace, to graduate from the ICU on the road to recovery. Other times, she is honored to tend with dignity to those losing the battle for life. Many of her patients are not awake and communicative; she often doesn’t get to uncover the unique individual  hidden behind the person in her charge.

Last week she did share a story. While the natural human emotions of medical professionals need to be controlled for them to do their job, one patient’s plight pierced through my daughter’s defenses. It was not the first time she cared for a young man dying from sickle cell anemia, and his fate upended her equilibrium.

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The Bigger and Not Always Better Picture

January 5th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

For the past few months I’ve been driving to a class a few times a week. Rather than listening to the radio, I’ve immersed myself in a podcast, Presidential. Lillian Cunningham of the Washington Post began hosting this weekly broadcast 44 weeks before the recent election.  She intended November’s historical event to coincide with her final episode which, I believe, turned out to be quite a surprise to her.

I am only up to Dwight Eisenhower, though I admit that I cheated and jumped ahead to hear the episode on Donald Trump. What have I learned? I’ve certainly learned about presidents like Chester Arthur who existed only on the periphery of my historical knowledge. I’ve learned interesting factoids on better known presidents like Abraham Lincoln. I’ve gotten a view of the sweep of American history through the eyes of the executive branch. Mostly what I’ve learned though, is how many hills and valleys, tragedies and triumphs, twists and turns have dotted our past.  Personal tragedy, illness and assassination along with national and international events and well or poorly chosen appointees helped frequently to make presidents’ achievements differ greatly from the expectations that existed prior to their elections.

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Great News! Donations to Liberal Organization are Soaring

December 29th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 13 comments

This might strike you as strange, but I think the fact that individual donations to liberal organizations, including Planned Parenthood, are increasing is great news. Not because I support these organizations and want them to have funds to carry out their objectives; I don’t. However, the increase in donations reflects a fear that government funds (a.k.a as money confiscated from taxpayers) will be less available under a Trump administration. I hope those fears are justified.

On this issue, I lean libertarian. I don’t want to see funds moved from liberal organizations to conservative ones. I want to see funding in general cut back. I  resent the National Endowment for the Arts using tax money to promote artwork that ridicules and insults Christianity such as the monstrosity known as Piss Christ, but I have no desire for the government to fund pro-Christian art or art that denigrates atheists. How about leaving funding to private individuals or, if they choose, local governments?

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Searching for an Honest Woman

December 22nd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 22 comments

The ancient Greek philosopher, Diogenes, famously carried a lantern as he looked futilely for an honest man. We’re talking over 2,000 years ago, so maybe we can put the current media hysteria about fake news in perspective.

However, the reality is that many of us today see reporters, TV hosts, bloggers and columnists as partisan propagandists. We view media outlets as centers of distortion, censorship and hypocrisy. Our conclusions are not without reason.

In the days when debate was actually a clearly defined skill, people recognized that being able to see your opponent’s point of view was necessary to argue your own case well. At the time of America’s founding, while there was propaganda and misinformation, there was even more learned debate and published material arguing for various perspectives. How amazing that Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or the Federalist Papers were read and discussed by everyday citizens (or citizens to be) not by obscure academics!

These observations led me to spend an hour listening to Oprah Winfrey’s interview with First Lady Michelle Obama. I had been struck by the contrast between highly negative articles including quotes from the interview and glowing reports of the interview on platforms from opposite sides of the political aisle. Not surprisingly, the comments under each article mostly shared the opinions expressed. I didn’t see anyone mentioning a few good points and a few troubling one. Everything I saw presented an analysis that was black or white as well as predictably in line with the author’s political views. I wanted to make up my own mind rather than have it made up for me.

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