Sometimes it is important to establish what you’re not saying before you say what you are saying, lest bad feelings set in before understanding. This is especially true in delicate matters and tough times—both of which apply here. After religion and politics, there is nothing more sensitive to discuss than the economy, especially when so many are suffering.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford can probably claim with conviction, “I know Rod Blagojevich and I am no Rod Blagojevich.” But, does one have to be as bad as the disgraced former governor of Illinois to be impeached?
I had a horse. I attended high school at a private boarding school. I paid for less of my relatively expensive college education than any of my seven siblings. Throughout college, I was taken out to dinner by those siblings and borrowed their cars. I not only had a silver spoon in my mouth, I had collection of them as a kid. Oddly enough, all of this is why I am a missionary today. I was spoiled good.
What a troubling world we live in! On our side of the globe, a politician can submerge his family in public embarrassment and not suffer even as much as an official slap on the wrist. Worse, lacking court adjudicated punishment, some of the fallen choose to inflict their own punishment, meting it out in periodic, public self-admonishments that cause us to suffer more than they. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a Muslim woman, having audaciously consumed a beer in a bar, awaits six whacks with rattan rod for her perceived indecency. Having been awfully wet once, it is a wonder that the world has not been lost again.
“Mr. Owl, How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”
"You are a foreigner." I hear this occasionally. Sometimes, it is a simple statement of fact. Other times, the speaker means to suggest that I couldn’t possibly understand his or her reality. After 13 years of working in Haiti, I have to admit that I bristle a bit at the suggestion that my comprehension of the country is interminably congenitally limited.
Imagine how proud you would be if you were the first and only democratically elected president to complete a normal term of office in the second oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere. Imagine how much prouder you would be if you were elected to a second term. On the other hand, imagine how you would feel if the country you serve were unable to establish a minimum wage equivalent to five U.S. dollars per day.
Technically, I qualify as a Baby Boomer since I was born in 1964, the last year of the swell of births that marks the post-war generation. I am also the youngest of eight children, so I can claim membership by association. Thanks to my siblings, I grew up listening to albums like Hair without a clue as to what psychedelic meant. You might say that I got the culture of the Baby Boomers without the chemical and psychological damage.
I have worked for over a decade in a country with no real public health care program. Without the medical relief provided by missionaries and world health organizations, tens of thousands of people would be lying in the streets of Port au Prince begging for help, instead of the hundreds who do. No country wants to be without health care for its citizens—rich or poor. It is demoralizing and destabilizing.
I don’t want to appear to be stuck on a theme, but I have found another industry that we can do without. According to Time Magazine, AshleyMadison.com, a website dedicated to helping patrons commit adultery, has four million subscribers. Time reports that nearly seven hundred thousand people have made a connection through the site. Time also reports that recent upgrades to the site’s iPhone and BlackBerry apps make using the site even easier to hide. This company is beyond counterproductive—it’s downright cynical.
For national and international news, I read the New York Times. In the interest of full disclosure, I am also a shareholder in the New York Times Company. Fearing the demise of yet another newspaper, I was moved to buy stock in the Times when its share price fell below the newsstand price for the Sunday edition. Unfortunately, that bargain is back. I take a bit of heat from some of my friends when I admit to reading the Times. But, I also read the Wall Street Journal. I like a balanced diet.
I was eleven in 1976. The Bicentennial is my earliest memory of a national event. I remember it more clearly than any of my early birthdays. Everything was red, white and blue. Every commercial was patriotic. Even fashion focused on the flag. Eagles appeared everywhere. The Bicentennial was like a sweet sixteen and a fiftieth birthday rolled into one. On the one hand, the nation was absolutely giddy with excitement about the future. We were a young nation with tremendous prospects. On the other, we were a middle-aged parent looking back proudly at our national accomplishments.
Whether one believes that God created human beings directly from dust or imbued one of His bipedal creations along its developmental path with self-knowledge and a soul, Judeo-Christian theology and science both agree we all came from a common ancestor. It is not different origins but our migration to different climes and later minor developments that have given us our diverse and beautiful phenotypical distinctions.
Like Pavlov’s dog, we have become conditioned to respond almost mindlessly to the question: “Debit or Credit?” Yet, this question—or at least the answer to it—impacts the health of our economy everyday—especially when it is the President answering the question on our collective behalf. For households and the nation alike, credit is definitely the weaker answer.
Having previously highlighted empathy as an essential quality for a Justice, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. Calling her inspiring, he stated that Ms. Sotomayor’s life experience will help her to appreciate how the law impacts ordinary people—something the President clearly believes is important for a Justice. He ranked Ms. Sotomayor’s extraordinary journey from the housing projects in the South Bronx to the hallowed halls of our nation’s finest universities as equally important to her extensive judicial career in prompting his selection of her to replace Justice Souter. He is confident that Ms. Sotomayor’s inspiring life’s journey will provide her the experience necessary to be empathetic to those who appear before the court.
I have had the privilege to work with some of the rarest high school graduates in the world. I say this with pride as well as sadness since few children in Haiti have the opportunity to attend school, let alone graduate. In fact, a child in Haiti is more likely to die before turning five than graduate from high school. In the United States, even incarcerated youth have access to education, which is good. In Haiti, a perfectly well-behaved elementary student might never be given the opportunity to continue onto high school. This is deplorable. Given the odds, I feel lucky to know 44 more graduates this year!
“Kharmadharaya” is a grammatical term taken from Sanskrit which refers to a particular type of compound word. Albeit a bit obscure, it is an actual English term. It’s even permissible in the game of hangman for those who really like to torture their opponent. I would suggest looking it up, but only a dictionary heavy enough to keep a vault door open will have the entry.
A quick Google search of just about any noun followed by the words ‘Bill of Rights’ yields a hit. There are the Student Bill of Rights, the Animal Bill of Rights, the Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights and the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights. There is even the Physicist Bill of Rights; although, I don’t think that one was actually passed by Congress. The Credit Card Holder Bill of Rights is the latest mundanization of our hallowed national document.
Ever dreamt that you were called back to high school because of a missing credit or a failed class? Not in your pajamas necessarily, just recalled due to a hole in the record. I have this dream at least twice a year. Sometimes, it comes when I am struggling with making a decision. Other times, it just pops up like a re-run on cable.
President Obama deserves our praise and support for his leadership on the issue of torture. Closing Guantanamo, ending the use of secret detention centers and the promise that the United States “without exception or equivocation…will not torture” are three steps in the right direction toward reaffirming the values of our nation. Mr. Obama must feel a bit like Sisyphus. Political pressure and the temptation to bow to pragmatism make the climb back up the hill to higher moral ground difficult, especially when national security is at risk.