Hey, lots of you have been sending me your comments on Facebook. That's fine, but...

... I'd prefer if you embedded the comments below the articles. That way we can see more fights when people disagree!

And besides, I do my best to respond to all your comments, so check back often for what I say about you behind your back... and tell your friends to come along, too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Presidential Indoctrination

Okay, I know... when I heard that some people were saying that President Obama was trying to indoctrinate people, I had the same reaction everyone else had: "What the heck? He's already President, why does he need to be a doctor, too?"

Then I took a step back and realized that this wasn't about whether he wants to be the first African-American Doogie Howser, M.D. (yes, I know there have been doctors of color, but have any of them been named Doogie Howser? I don't think so).

Instead, it seems that there is some hoopla going on over the fact that he is addressing our children.

"Egads," methought. "How can he have the unmitigated gall to want to talk to our kids! Next thing you know they'll all be wearing brown shirts and talking about 'our leader' and stuff." Then I added another "Egads" to my thoughts just to drive home the seriousness of what was going on.

First of all, I have to admit that this one just barely misses me. It's like in Indiana Jones when he gets in the refrigerator and the nuclear blast goes off and he flies like three miles through the air 'cause of the blast wave and then gets out and dusts himself off because phew! he didn't get radiation poison. Yeah, I feel like that because my kid starts school tomorrow. That's right, the day after the indoctrination is set to occur.

Still, he does have relatives in other locales, and I'm sure he's going to wonder what happened to them at his next phone call:

MY KID: Hey, Cousin!

COUSIN: Hey, Cousin!

MK: I got some new megablocks for my birthday!

C: Have you thanked Obama?

MK: What?

C: All good things flow from Obama.

MK: What?

C: Have you not heard? Did you not hear THE SPEECH?

MK: What speech?

C: [indistinct muttering in the background] Don't worry. Re-education teams will arrive shortly. When they do, please assume your "I'm having fun" position.

MK: What's that? [sound of choppers in the background]

C: Lay down flat, arms outstretched, fingers spread.

MK: I have to go. Guys in black just crashed through my windows on ziplines.

C: All hail Obama!

I know, you're thinking the above is a little ridiculous: after all, my kid is only five years old. So how the heck would he even know what a zipline is?

But I see the fear that a lot of people have. Because they disagree with the president's views, and they worry that their children will hear something that makes them question the views that Mommy and Daddy want them to have. And I understand that. I really do. It's the reason I don't let my kid watch certain shows.

At the same time, though, I have to wonder if the real reason for so many people's concern isn't the message itself, but rather the fact that so many of us have essentially delegated our parental communication responsibilities to the television. And President Obama will be seen by most kids on a television. So he's coming from the Box of Authority. And therefore what he says must be true.

You see where I'm going here?

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of President Obama's, but nor am I a big "hater," either. I'm still kind of waiting to see if he does anything that actually impresses or disgusts me. But even if I was a "hater," and my kid had to see him at school, I don't think I'd be too worried.

Why not?

Because I believe Truth (capital T on purpose) usually wins out.

Because I believe my kid (no caps, he's only five) is not going to believe everything he hears. In fact, he doesn't understand a lot of things, and so...

He will ask me or my wife about it. Because we've managed to maintain our positions as his primary teachers. The Box of Authority is strictly monitored in our house, and that leaves him with no alternative but to talk to us.

I know, it's horrible how we're raising him to turn to us before all others. What lousy, fascist people we are.

But it keeps my blood-pressure down on days when I worry my kid is going to hear something incorrect, improbable, or just downright stupid. Because I believe that he'll talk to me about it. Before bed, when we have our nightly talk, over the dinner table, when I always ask what he did that day, or in between wrestling matches (the kid can do arm bars like a Cage Fighter!).

To sum up: I have no idea what President Obama is going to tell the kids of the nation. But I do believe it is a good idea for them to have access to the political process, and if that's one way for it to happen I'm all for it. And I do believe that any parent worth their salt should be able to sit down and reason with their kids over things that are said to them, over whether or not they're true.

And I do believe that Truth wins in the end. Every dictator or would-by tyrant falls in the end. Not calling President Obama that, just counseling for a little bit less hand-wringing and a little more sitting down with our kids to talk about what they learned in school today.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The High Cost of Living... and Dying on the Cheap

In an unusually somber tone, I am writing today about a visit that I made to the Museum of Tolerance.

For those of you who don't know, the MOT is a museum in Los Angeles that is dedicated to the survivors and victims of the Holocaust of World War II. There are various exhibits about the effects of intolerance, some fairly nice interactive exhibits, and a number of films and room layouts designed to make a person appreciate the total hell that people went through if they had the misfortune of being the wrong "kind" of people during a time which will always stand as a watermark of horror in our histories.

However, though touched by what I saw, I must admit that I am an avid reader and researcher of that period: World War II is, in many ways, an almost archetypical example of good vs. evil. And it is so extreme that if it had not actually happened, I suspect many of us would have walked out of any movie about it for being too "unrealistic" for the excesses of both cruelty and heroism portrayed. At any rate, as a result of my reading and research, I was perhaps not as overwhelmed by the horrors as some who visit the museum might be. At least for me, they were not "news" or a surprise, but something I went in knowing of.

What did get to me, though was a small moment in one of the exhibits where it talked about the 33 million (yes MILLION) refugees in the world today. It asked what we (the audience) thought the leading cause of death for these people was. I guessed starvation (a no brainer).


The answer was landmines.

What?? Landmines?

Kee-rect. And many - if not most - of the victims are children.

Then the exhibit film went on to explain the cost variables: a landmine can cost as little as $30 to make, as much as $1,000 to defuse, and many times that to care for a human being injured by one.

This really hit home. Not because I've been victimized by a landmine, but because my wife recently had surgery which will cost (when all is said and done) several hundred thousand dollars. And so it occurred to me how very frail we all are in some ways. Think about it. Buy a set of drinking glasses for $5 at Target, shatter one on the ground, pick up a piece, and you have a weapon capable of ending a life. Slash someone with it, and if they survive the costs to keep them alive could be astronomical.

Point being: we have to go to extraordinary extremes to keep ourselves - as individuals, as a culture, as a race - functioning and surviving.

We are such fragile creatures. Easy to break, mentally, physically, emotionally. And yet...

And yet we built the pyramids.

And yet we have written literature that will survive across millennia.

We have learned to live.

What is next, then? Have we conquered our infirmities? Surely not. We have taken steps in the right direction, but as a race we are still babies, taking our first halting steps toward what I hope and pray will be a better future.

Will there ever be another tragedy of pre-planned malice and horror like the Holocaust? Will there ever be another slaughter to compare with the 20 million Russians lost during World War II?

I don't know. It's easy, sometimes, to devalue life. Perhaps because it's so cheap to end it.

But then, wouldn't the expense involved in maintaining it point to its inherent value? Like a Ming vase, like an original draft of the Declaration of Independence, like a symphony page handwritten by Beethoven, we are of inestimable worth. Like those things, when damaged our repair is difficult and sometimes impossible. And so does it not make sense, then, that we treat each other as the priceless objects of value that we are?

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