Monthly Archives: December, 2013

Being Hated, Don’t Give Way to Hating

December 25th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

Ken Hutcherson started life being hated by those who did not know him but who disliked him based on the color of his skin. Much changed during his life, but not the ability of many to hate those they do not know. The Seattle Times wrote the following on Dec. 18, as news of his death spread, “While beloved by his congregation, many hated the pastor for his stand on homosexuality.”

I can’t speak for our dear friend, Hutch, but I can convey what I understood after spending much time with him over the years. Ken Hutcherson hated nobody. He completely dismissed the idea of comparing the Black struggle for equality and respect with the homosexual movement. He lived under Jim Crow in the south, barred from certain areas, confined to specific water fountains and at the mercy of a corrupt justice system. Racism was a reality to him. Equating that with a demand for the legal system to change a millennium old religiously based definition of marriage demeaned the suffering and struggle of his family and race.

Pastor Hutcherson’s early years trained him to be a hater; his acceptance of Jesus turned him into a man who loved all people. This love stemmed directly from accepting Christianity as the guidepost in his life. As social mores changed in the past few years, he refused to abandon that guidepost’s teachings on homosexual behavior. He was a man who truly did hate the sin while loving the sinner.

Those of whom the Seattle Times wrote hated the man Ken Hutcherson for his ideas and beliefs, not for who he was.  Had they reached out to him, they might have increased their understanding of humanity. They certainly could have come to know a special person. Instead, they tricked themselves into thinking that they alone have access to truth and projected the animosity in their hearts onto others.

There is a saying in ancient Jewish wisdom that a man should not trust himself until the day of his death. None of us should feel smug that we have battled our bad character traits or overcome temptation; tomorrow more challenges face us. My husband and I visited with Hutch and his wife, Pat, shortly before he died. No matter what those who opposed his beliefs might desperately want to believe, he was still full of love. The world would be better off with thousands of people like Ken Hutcherson, rather than with more of those who choose to hate while spouting words of tolerance.

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Still Different After All These Years

December 17th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

Recently, the New York Times ran an article featuring highly successful women on Wall Street and their stay-at-home husbands. I found the piece annoying, not because of the couples themselves, but because of what I, correctly or not, read as a patronizing tone by the journalists.

In an age where marriage is optional and having children is often derided, I applaud the profiled couples for organizing their lives so that earning money, marriage and raising a family coexist. While I personally think that in most cases marriage and parenting partnerships works best with the man being the main income earner and the woman the main homemaker, if the opposite choice is working for these couples, I wish them success.

My problem lies with what I perceived as the snarky tone of the piece. I’d appreciate hearing feedback from others, but I picked up an underlying air of irritation on the part of the reporters.  The New York Times authors seemed to radiate anger that even in these “enlightened” families, men and women aren’t interchangeable.  Here’s an example:

The husbands often feel excluded from the social infrastructure that women have built up over generations to make stay-at-home life more manageable and fun. (“You want awkward? Try a swim play date,” one father said.) Every man interviewed said that many school notices, invitations and Girl Scout troop updates were still sent to their wives, a river they are constantly trying to divert.

When Ed Fassler, married to Marcie Fassler, a vice president of operations at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh, was helping out with a school wrapping paper sale, the mothers gathered to go over the order — and excluded him. “My husband wouldn’t be happy if you’re in my house with us,” the organizer told him.

Firstly, I don’t think that women have built up a social infrastructure “to make stay-at-home life more manageable and fun,” in the same way that hospitals might have a lending library to make a difficult experience less dismal. For many mothers raising a family is not a miserable experience that requires “treats” to endure; the social infrastructure is an enjoyable bonus, not needed compensation.

Secondly, while adjusting an email list so that notices are sent to the parent at home seems reasonable and shouldn’t be difficult to engineer, wishing that mothers and fathers could freely mingle at activities ignores reality. A friendship that sprouts from sharing school-related tasks such as a wrapping-paper fundraiser can easily become problematic. With so many forces pushing against successful marriage, it isn’t unreasonable that some husbands or wives don’t want to increase the peril.

A coed swim date is awkward – and it should be so. For some women, having a man present will cause them to focus on the ten extra pounds they are trying to lose, lessening the relaxed enjoyment. Unless you blindfold the man, he is biologically programmed to focus more on swimsuit-clad women’s body parts and not on their personalities. If you remove that tendency, he is also less likely to enjoy a conversation that entertains the mothers. Expecting him to relate to the other women as if he is one of them, and vice-versa, is absurd.

Was I simply being curmudgeonly as I read the article? Or did it actually reveal less about the highlighted families and more about the authors’ wish to remake human beings in their own desired image?

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How Can I Keep Track of Ukraine When I Can’t Get Through Dickens?

December 10th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

It boggles my mind sometimes to think that Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense or Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison’s Federalist Papers were aimed at ordinary men and women. Do you know anyone who thinks their modern equivalents would achieve best-seller status if issued today, as they did in their time? I think it more likely that most Americans, longer schooled than the populace of colonial times, are incapable of understanding these writings.  The American Revolution and our system of government were not initiated by those who looked to late-night comedy shows for insight.

Nevertheless, that is today’s reality. I am not immune. I look at substantial books I once read, both fiction and non-fiction, and am somewhat in awe of my previous self. Too often, when looking for something to read, I reach for something light and distracting rather than weighty and valuable. I’m even nervous about watching classic movies I enjoyed years back for fear that I will find them ponderous and slow moving.

I sat at a Shabbat table this past weekend where the discussion centered on what was happening in Ukraine. While I quickly looked up the news after Shabbat was over, up until that point I didn’t know that anything was happening in Ukraine. (This was before Ukraine became front-page news on Sunday.) Admittedly, keeping track of crisis points in the world could be a full time job, but still, how could I be so out of the loop? At least if I watched late night comedy, I might know that there was something to research.

Like all of us, the more personally affected I am by a topic, the more I pay attention. In today’s world, however, almost anything, anywhere can get personal very quickly. I can’t be the only one who cringes when late night TV hosts send proxies to ask people on the street to name a Supreme Court justice and Judge Judy’s name is the answer. Part of the cringe factor, however, is self-directed. How much less do I know than I should, and to what in my life should I devote less attention so that I can spend more time keeping current? How much worse do things need to get before ignorance and misinformation lead to a reality that is too painful to ignore? At that point, how many of us won’t have the attention span necessary to make a difference?

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Huff, #%&(%#, Puff

December 3rd, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

When I signed up for an exercise class, a number of things worried me. Would I end up wasting money by paying a monthly fee and not attending? Would my ratty T-shirts brand me as a fashion nerd? Would the class resemble elementary school gym, where a misstep made you the butt of cruel laughter?

None of those things happened. Fortunately, I saw a Jazzercise class advertised at our local community center and after attending my freebie introduction, I was hooked. While I miss classes when I’m out of town, I am amazingly regular when at home. The group of women I exercise with is friendly, non-judgmental and too busy having fun to be competitive.

It turns out that I didn’t even realize what should have been worrying me. Being somewhat out of step with the culture, I was unaware that much of popular music was becoming increasingly misogynistic, profane and violent. I never thought to ask if songs were screened and while I combat the volume with earplugs, nothing I have heard at Jazzercise has ever made me uncomfortable.

Not so for my friend, Judy. Despite having a few less than stellar experiences while visiting all sorts of gyms and classes, and writing about them in her humorous book, Till We Eat Again, she keeps on trying. Her latest venture resulted in article published in the Wall Street Journal, lamenting how the almost maniacally environmentally conscious gym she joined showed no concern for bombarding its patrons with offensive, demeaning lyrics. When Judy objected to the obscene lyrics of Robin Thicke’s song, Blurred Lines, the owner sympathized, but was unwilling to remove the song from her playlist. Three supportive letters to the editor that the Wall Street Journal subsequently published suggest that Judy isn’t alone in her discomfort.

What I especially appreciated, though, was a personal letter Judy received and shared with me. Another Judi, this one Jazzercise’s founder, Judi Sheppard Missett, wrote to Judy, complimenting her on the article. It turns out that she too, struggled with Robin Thicke’s song. Here, in part, is what she wrote:

“…Most recently, I had choreographed a routine to “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. It had the perfect beat, was dancing to the top of the charts and we were getting numerous requests from our franchisees. It had all the elements I typically look when creating a fabulous routine. I worked on the choreography and was ready to kick off our Jazzercise Fitness Convention in Palm Springs, Calif. with the new “Blurred Lines” routine. The week of the event, I had a change of heart. I listened to the lyrics, thought about the true meaning behind the words, and considered whether this song was in line with the philosophy of the Jazzercise business.
My gut said, “no.”

I decided to change the song in the final hours before the event. I also filmed a video message to our 7,800 franchisees worldwide letting them know the reasons behind my decision. I had received so many requests, I thought they might be disappointed. But guess what? The positive feedback poured in! They understood and embraced my decision to continue to put out positive, uplifting empowering messages, as that is what Jazzercise classes are meant to do.

Since then, we have put more strict quality controls in place to ensure we select the right music for our classes. We screen every lyric to make certain our music feeds the minds, bodies and spirits of our customers. I’ll admit one gets by us every now and then but we are doing a much better job at it…”

So many times, those of us who advocate for decency in popular culture are portrayed as prudes, dinosaurs and completely out of touch with reality. If promoting respect for all people earns that label, I will proudly wear it. Actually, those who think that glorifying profanity, violence and misanthropy has no effect on our standard of living are the ones who are truly out of touch with reality.

For years, I have loved and appreciated my morning Jazzercise classes. While I knew the founder’s name, I knew little else about her. Judi Sheppard Missett’s letter delighted me while reminding me that each of us has multiple moments in our business and personal lives where the decisions we make matter on a larger scale than we might know.


What’s in style one year may be out the next


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