Thursday, April 10, 2014

Home of the Free and the Brave

Recently, I've seen a lot of negative posts on Facebook from more and more friends, "liberal" and "conservative", about the American Dream.  OK, I'll admit I'm still a "registered" Republican, but that was when I was 18.  The world was still in awe of one of the greatest Presidents of the last century, Ronald Reagan.  President Reagan was the embodiment of the American Dream--a man from humble beginnings, faithful to his wife (although a man who likely made mistakes in previous marriages), and a true believer in the United States of America.  I grew up on his version of the American Dream.  I get all teary-eyed at the sight of Old Glory going into battle in old Civil War and Revolutionary War films.  I still shed a tear by the end of the Star Spangled Banner and cry at the end of "The Cowboys" when John Wayne dies.  I still believe in the American Dream of the beginning of the last century, because I drank in the Kool Aid of what that Dream is.  No matter what anyone wants to post on Facebook, the American Dream is not in Denmark or Greece or even in England.  It's not in Japan.  And, it most certainly is not in China.  No, to understand the American Dream, there are two fundamentals that none of those countries, that no other country offers so completely than the United States of America.  Those my friends are freedom and bravery.  That is not to say that other countries don't afford their citizens some freedoms or have just as brave of citizens as our young men and women that volunteer to serve in our military.  It's just to say that when it comes to freedom and bravery, we are overrun with it compared to other countries.  That's got nothing to do with politics.  It's got nothing to do with economics.  It's who we are as a people--American.

First, let's deal with politics.  I'm mortified that the first black President has created more racial divide than any other President in history...and in 1928, the damn Ku Klux Klan had their "million man" march on Washington DC.  I don't give a rat's *ss if someone is Republican or Democrat, Libertarian, Tea Party, Fruit Loop in a Basket, we are American.  The American Dream really requires us to understand that over all of our political wranglings. phony debates that no longer even follow true debate standards, a ton of rhetoric that we all make jokes means nothing after a jerk-off is elected, the American Dream is to be American.  As Americans, we refuse in general to be spoon fed our information, although we are pretty fond of bandwagons.  We're a confusing breed to the rest of the world because we simply always seem to be arguing about something.  That's part of who we are.  We are always arguing about something.  Taxes is a great example--a fundamental debate ingrained into the very fabric that Old Glory is made with.  Come on now, we rebelled against the British Empire over it.   There were always supporters of the British Empire, even after we had won the Revolutionary War.  They called themselves "Loyalists"; the Continental Congress called them "traitors".  Toe-mae-toe, toe-mah-toe.  We didn't punish them worth a diddly.  They became loyal Americans, albeit eventually.  There's not a "loyalist" family left now, but I guarantee they are all interwoven into our society and proud to be American families that date back to pre-Revolutionary times.  We set our own standard that we would always be at odds with one another from the jump.  The Continental Congress, the Presidents that followed could have squashed any "resistance", instead we simply took their points of view and ultimately, decades, even a century would go by in some cases, and each issue resolved itself.  The issue of slavery was in great debate even as the Constitution was finalized.  Senator John C. Calhoun threatened President John Quincy Adams with secession from the Union forty years before the Civil War.  (History refresher:  John Quincy Adams was the 6th President.)  We are full of idol threats and bashing our own government, but we still participate and throw ourselves into the arguments, sometimes just for arguments' sake.  It's what makes us American.  The great Civil War was fought over a great debate...a great debate over freedom.  What many fail to recognize is that our great Civil War was the point in history where for all our arguing, all our debates, the American Dream of freedom would not be stricken from this earth.  American Politics has been full of rhetoric, back room dealings, bullsh*t frankly, from the start.  It has always been polarized whether debate of a national currency and a national bank--what would eventually become the Federal Reserve and Treasury--or whether to enter World War Two and smite the Nazis back where they belonged.  Make no mistake our politics is not changing and yet over decades, even a century or more, our politics is constantly changing.  We are the world's leader in change.  That change is driven by how our political system works, no matter how ridiculous it can be sometimes.  We're not going to have another Civil War over damn politics.  There's no one's freedom at stake.  There's taxes and how those taxes are going to be distributed.  The one fabric of American politics that hasn't changed since day one.  We'll debate wars, because it's what we do.  We'll debate welfare because since the 1930s it's what we do.  We'll debate whether the sky is blue if we think it will make our point.  We're Americans, and for better or worse, it's part of what makes us American.

The economics of being American is varied.  I mean we are truly the first country in the world to ever have a "middle class".  Karl Marx's theories on the class wars never accounted for us.  Thus, his "theories" were based on inaccurate and incomplete data.  The middle class in his eyes was the poor and downtrodden, just as the poor and downtrodden were in Europe in the 1800s.  He did not see the emerging middle class of Europe holding any real power and therefore the classes would still be ultimately divided into 2 simplistic sides--the haves and the have nots.  It's sad that our current President doesn't actually understand the middle class, but coming from money does make that a bit difficult just as it was difficult for Marx to see the middle class as anything but part of the servitude class of his Europe.  The American Dream isn't to be rich.  Money really has nothing to do with the American Dream.  "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is an American saying.  Each American has their own version of the American Dream from a financial standpoint.  It is a different picture from one person to the next.  To some Americans, the financial portion is to own a home and retire comfortably.  To others, it's to be a Wall Street tycoon.  Like our view of politics, this is not the same for each and every American.  It's more of a myriad of mis-mash expectations that vary as much as the branches of one tree to the next.  It's kind of the same, even can be the same type of tree, but each American has their own expectations of what their Dream means.  No two are exactly the same.  It is a moot point to try and tell most people this, but the American Dream has nothing to do with money because each of our definitions of wealth vary so greatly.  For some true wealth is just good health, great family and friends and being happy.  For others, it's a large mansion with all the bells and whistles and good health, great family and friends and being happy.  Money cannot buy great family and friends or happiness, and very, very few do not include family, friends and happiness in their version of the American Dream.  The class warfare of 1800s Europe is just that and the fact the current President and many Americans don't understand that money isn't the American Dream is mortifying.  But think about it.  Please.  The American Dream was and will never be about money.  That just isn't the American way.  The American Dream's finances is on a case by case basis, and each of our cases has a different view.  The freedom to define our own American Dream's finances is one thread in the fabric of each individual American Dream.  It has never been the dream to have someone else define the finances for us.

In spite of what some Europeans and Asians think, the American Dream is not always to get what we want or what we don't want.  It's the freedom to choose what we want and having the option to fail or succeed on own merits.  This is an exclusively American thing.  We do get "free" education to our senior year in high school.  Our parents are free to choose to try and provide even better education if they want.  We are in fact the first country to offer "free" education to all.  Yes, I'll state it again.  We, the United States of America, are the first country to offer "free" education to all.  This is OUR brain child.  It comes from our fundamental belief that all of us are equal, and as all of us are equal, we believe that all should be afforded a basic education.  And guess what else, we are also the first to believe that is afforded all the way through high school for ALL.  In Europe, this stops a year or more short of our educational systems.  We can debate all day long about who has the better system, but bottom line, education is also what the student makes of it.  "Free" college?  Look at the countries that offer truly free university level educations.  They have massive exams for college entrance that failure means no college education at all.  In fact, in most of those countries, if actually researched instead of sound bite snippets of only the good stuff, do not offer truly free education to all.  If we were to fail in their systems let's say in the 8th grade, our education ends.  That's it.  No repeat of the 8th grade.  No, no, out into the workforce with a 7th grade education, because in order for their systems to remain "free" for those attending college and pursuing advanced degrees:  A failure means that a child is "left behind" so that others may achieve.  Yes, that sounds like the American Dream to me (feel the sarcasm).  One failure means that our whole lives are predefined for us.  So much for our precious freedom to choose who we want to be and whether we can achieve.  Our mistakes do not overrun our potential like it does in other countries.  Our education system, for all its flaws, is still the only one that "rewards" students with multiple chances to succeed.  Would I trade that for "free college"?  Would you?  Consider that those college entrance exams take days and in most cases only half of the applicants are selected.  Yes, really.  Is that what you would want to hang your kid's hat on?

One of the more recent posts was from a supposed Danish woman claiming that she'd rather pay 70% taxes and have "free" healthcare, college, et cetera.  "Free"?  Well, yes, free, if she can get into the college she wants, but if not, then she is paying for someone else.  Free healthcare?  There's a reason that the rich from all over the world come here for surgery for major life threatening issues.  Newsflash:  it is rocket science and you get what you pay for.  Over-inflated drug costs?  Yes, we Americans do pay over-inflated drug costs and often are the last for the FDA to give approval.  All that red tape costs money.  All that red tape is supposed to protect us too.  I took Depo-Provera during the drug trials as a US military guinea pig.  I had anti-periods for over 9 months.  Anti-periods:  3 weeks on flow and one week off.  Make jokes about not trusting something that bleeds for 7 days all you want, but it wasn't natural.  The studies were being pushed and the Naval Hospital pushed and pushed for me to take another shot.  I refused and withdrew from the trials.  The drug based on those trials was eventually released to the general public.  Those shots have made women ill and have a myriad of side effects that were, or at least should have been, caught in those trials.  Thousands of women experienced anti-periods, amongst other symptoms.  I'll take the costly red tape any day.  I'm sure there's a happy balance somewhere, but I have faith that the politics of it will eventually meter it out albeit probably not as fast as I would like.  The Danish woman claimed that she's OK with her 70% taxes, because she has all this "free" stuff.  It's not "free"--it's her 70%.  And she doesn't have the freedom to choose where to spend that 70%, because those options have already been chosen for her.  Guess what else her 70% doesn't get her?  Her freedom.  What freedom?  She probably doesn't own a house and if she does it's less than half the size of the same home that her income could buy here in the United States. Denmark isn't even in the Top 5 for square footage of a home.  We Americans are always accused of liking our space, unless we live in major cities.  Most of us freak out at the pictures of micro-apartments that are under 300 square foot (average 173 square feet) for an average of $1500 rent in major cities like San Francisco or New York.  The average American house is 2170 square feet, only second to Australia.  UK, aka. Britain, is the highest in Europe with the average house being 818 square feet.  Yes, deary you can have your 70% tax and live in a smaller house on average than 800 square feet and pay through the ying yang for the sardine can.  That's a family home, 2 or 3 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, bath.  And, consider that we have a slew of prices for a 2000 square foot home.  Depending on where we live, the same 2000 square feet could go for $100,000 or $400,000.  In Europe, what we can afford basically defines how much house you can have.  Yes, my fellow Americans post that all over Facebook, but only an unaware buffoon would post it unless living in a micro apartment.   But, hey why stop there?  Go outside to that driveway--the one that really doesn't exist for most European homes.  Look at the 2003 Explorer, the 2009 Dodge Ram, or even the brand spanking new turbo 350 hp Audi in the drive.  We're used to paying personal property tax on our vehicles in most states of the Union.  The average property tax for a brand new car is $600 a year.  The average annual tax in Europe for a car is $2000, and that's not for brand new.  In Europe, they pay tax on horsepower....can you imagine?  On horsepower.  No wonder the most popular vehicle in Europe is a Vespa.  But, hey not just horsepower--add onto that age (so what, so do we), fuel type, fuel economy, engine cc (yea, because the size is just as taxable as the horsepower, let's not get into a debate over the whole double taxation thing), how many miles driven in the year (it may depreciate the vehicle, but it was being driven--let's not go into the double taxation thing on the exorbitant fuel taxes added at the pump) fact, they tax their vehicles so much that when the EU commissioned a study on taxes in the EU, more than a third of the study was on the taxation of vehicles.  Yep, just vehicles.  Denmark leads the taxes on vehicles in the EU.  In fact, let's close this particular point off with the study's conclusions.  Denmark is the highest in the EU for taxes period--vehicle, income, real estate, et cetera.  That Denmark sweetheart bragging that she would love to continue to live her supposed "American" Dream with her 70% tax burden?  The study concluded that the average percentage of taxes paid in Denmark per person was 218%.  I'm not even sure how in the hell Denmark can get 218% out of the average Denmark worker.  Oh, right.  It probably comes out of the corporations that do business there; they take 70% from her and 148% from her employer.  What does the corporation do to her salary to make up that 148%?  And, where do you suppose those companies make up that profit margin?  Oh you bet your sweet Denmark *ss where.  Right here darlings in the land of the Free and the Brave.  So yes, take that Denmark Dream and shove it where the sun doesn't shine.  I'll whine and complain about our average 30% tax burden, but I'm free to choose where 60% more of my income gets spent or saved because it's sitting in my bank account and my salary is higher in a cost of living comparison.

We have our American Dream, whatever our individual version is, because we are the Free and the Brave.  We've fought wars that were not our burden not because we had to. but because we are the only country in the world that truly 100% believes in freedom.  Yes, I know that most of Europe has come to a version of freedom, but most Americans, regardless of their politics, don't like the idea of flying cameras used by police to monitor our backyards or a Federally run camera system that tracks almost every movement of every citizen.  We don't like the idea of mandatory DNA tracking systems, I mean *cough*, identification.  We still believe our homes are our sanctuaries and we don't want someone coming in and searching through our undie drawers without true justification which we define as a warrant issued by a judge.  We still scoff at mandatory finger printing of our children and most of us freak out at the idea that we all have retinal scans that would identify our every move from any camera with the video viewed with the right surveillance software.  Yet, these things are implemented all over the world in some of the countries that some Americans think are great.  Ignorance is bliss, but as Americans we can be blissful because none of that nonsense is implemented here.  We have lead the charge to save Europe from themselves, twice.  We have answered attacks on our own hollowed ground only twice.  Pearl Harbor and 9/11.  We have argued and argued and argued till the cows came home on all four occasions after we were wearied from the fight.  Old newspapers can be researched to see the rhetoric as it played out.  Of course, during World War Two freedom of the press was limited by President Roosevelt himself.  Good luck doing that now with the internet.  In World War 2, Japan employed a woman known as "Tokyo Rose" and broadcast her over the airwaves hoping to incite American sailors and soldiers to abandon the war effort.  Not much of her made it stateside until after the war, and by then it was all laughable.  Nowadays every two bit moron with an opinion, including yours truly, can share their opinion on the internet and anyone could read it.  Propaganda is nothing new and the fact that we weary of a fight whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, the fundamental truth is that we are there because we truly believe in freedom.  We question ourselves because we are human and we find our resolve in the American Dream.  The Dream of Freedom for All resounds in the lengths that we will go to secure it for others, and the Bravery we have shown and continue to show in the belief that we are all free, or should be.

We may be overstretching our bounds.  It is the American Dream to be free--to live our lives as we choose, whether how we spend our money, which religion we follow, where we live, whether we go to college or not, or who are friends are or can be.  We all believe that Freedom is not exclusively American either.  We as Americans have all drank the Kool Aid that we, all human beings, are born entitled to live free to achieve or fail on our own merits.  This is not a fundamental in any other society, in any other country.  Some of us think we should help the downtrodden; some don't.  Some of us think animals are equal to human beings; some of us don't.  Some of us think that insurance should be guaranteed; some of us think it's a waste of money, but a necessary evil.  None of us have come up with a better way, yet.  But, the fundamental truth to every American is all people, not just a chosen few, should be free.

A friend of mine from Italy once said to me that he didn't really understand Americans.  We are so different from anywhere else.  We are.  Take the EU.  Italy is part of the EU, I had explained, but is there a part of him that thinks of himself as German?  No, of course not.  For Americans, we may be "French", "German", "British", "Chinese", "Native American", "Italian", "Japanese". "Irish"....New Englanders, East Coast, West Coast, Great Lakes, Mountain people, Southerners, Texans, Westerners, Mid-Westerners..., but we are all American.  The EU has no bond.  We argue much like the EU countries argue and debate with each other, but our sense of belonging is always bonded to the United States of America.  In EU countries, the EU flag, if flown at all, flies below the country's flag.  In the United States of America, Old Glory flies over all other state flags.  No state claims the most freedom or the most brave.  When we mourn a fallen soldier or sailor, we do not mourn them because they came from a state, but from our country.  When a fallen Brit is mourned, he or she is mourned as a Brit, not as a European.  To understand us, the Europeans would have to turn themselves inside out, because we are that.  We are not comparing two of the same trees, let alone branches.  Europeans have been given, allowed, even taken and crushed, the freedoms bit by bit, ounce by ounce.  We have taken freedom, all of it, as an inalienable right from inception and as such we are mortified whenever we find freedom being taken from anyone.  "Liberals" are worried about the lack of freedom in Africa, yet are upset that "conservatives" do not want to leave freedom to chance if we pull out of Afghanistan.  We are by best terms, an odd bunch, but freedom and the lengths that we go to ensure it and even secure it for others fuels the bravery of not just our military, but every American as we live and breath.   Our inherent weakness is that we'll debate to death until we come to a compromise on how much, how little, too this, too little that.  If Vietnam should have taught us anything, if the enemy can ride out until we are exhausted from the debate, we will let them get away with murder.  Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, fruit loops in a basket, all Americans should consider that as we post stupid unproven, unsubstantiated, non-fact supported rhetoric on the open internet (Facebook, Twitter, et cetera) unless we have the research and understanding why we stand where we do.  The debate shouldn't be about winning for us individually, but making the right decision as a whole.  Frankly Europeans don't understand us, because often we don't even understand ourselves.

To that end, our freedom is the only thing that we understand universally as Americans--we are the Free.  Our American Dreams, no matter the individual specifics, is the freedom to live as we choose.  We only limit that we cannot infringe on someone else's freedoms in our quests for our own.  We are really quite simple that way.  We would like to spread that American Dream and we will go to great lengths to protect it for ourselves and even to secure and guarantee it for others--the Brave.  I'm quite proud of all my friends that even have opinions about anything, but I'm also painfully aware that sometimes regardless of where their opinions fall that they have done no real research before they post the rhetoric.  If we are truly fond of the American Dream, then it's time that we acknowledge that it isn't about taxes, who we pay for or don't pay for, it isn't even to own a house.  The American Dream is not that shallow.  More American men died in the Civil War than in any other war in the history of our Great Nation.  They hollowed the land with their blood that we would serve one ideal and one only--Freedom, and we would give our last drop of blood for it--Bravery.  The American Dream is Freedom and it is fueled exclusively by American Bravery.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Still haven't found what I'm looking for...

I've debated a bit on what to write about this time around, but with recent focus by the President on a couple of women's issues I feel like it's more important than how I feel about coming home.  However, I suppose it's a cross based on conversation that I had this past week that really "hit home" so to speak and that President Obama has decided, much like all his predecessors to talk the "good talk" when it comes to women's rights.  After a meeting with Maria Shriver and the scathing study that she conducted into women making lower pay, an average of 70 cents on the dollar to our male counterparts, he came out and said he would "fight" for an equal pay bill for women.  Right, so did Clinton, so did Bush Sr.  The President, now faced with teenage almost college age daughters, is now concerned with the fact that 1 in 5, 20%, of all college women are sexually assaulted.  The last President to really care, President Reagan, put Nancy Reagan in charge and reduced those "problems" from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5, from 25% to 20%.  It's been this way now for over 20 years.  While I'm super impressed (feel the sarcasm) that yet another male President wants to fix the issue--or at least seems motivated to improve it--I am loathe that men think that they can fix the problems that affect women.  Don't get me wrong.  It's awesome to want to help us fix the problems that have plagued women for decades, if not centuries, but here's the thing:  Women have to be willing to start helping each other, stop beating each other down, before anything men are willing to do to help ever amounts to anything.  Many white Americans were unsettled by what was happening to the "negro" Americans at the turn of the last century.  They were in most cases the silent minority.  Over decades, the African American community had leadership step forward and take the reins for equal treatment--Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin.  (Look them up if you have no idea who I'm talking about.)  Simply put, the African American community had leadership emerge that wasn't about themselves, but just simply tired of the unfair treatment and were in many cases willing and/or forced to give up their lives for their cause.  I would hope that a women's movement in this day and age would not require such a drastic sacrifice as the first three named, but the truth is that Maria Shriver is the first since Nancy Reagan to "take up" the women's cause.  Yes, I will be so bold.  If we wish to be equal, we must first learn to treat each other equally and stand up for ourselves, and most importantly for each other.  Maria Shriver is the first in years, if not decades, to make any true effort.

First, let's review what so called women in power have done for other women.  Nancy Reagan was from the Silent Generation.  The women of the Silent Generation won the right to vote, became Rosie the Riveter and helped the United States become the most powerful country in the last century and ultimately earned us the rights that we have now. Nancy Reagan was the epitome of what women could be, a great wife, a great leader in her own right in a day and age where the only way women were "great leaders" was in the shadow of a great man.  Regardless of your opinion of the day and age that she grew up in, a different time and a different place, the causes she took up saw results.  Ronald Reagan may be the Great Communicator, but his wife was equally formidable in making further positive changes to equal rights, children's rights (although in the 90s we may have taken that a little too far), and even women's rights.  I find it laughable when you compare her record to Hillary Clinton.  Hillary has never done anything for women that didn't benefit her and I would expect nothing less, as her and her husband seem to both be a bit narcissistic.  He cheated with the ugliest women he could find and she played "Stand by Your Man" like a bad 50s song to get what she wanted.  And make no mistake, Senator Clinton, Secretary of State Clinton, definitely got what she wanted.  I'm loathe that some women would give her the Presidency on her record of self absorption.  Don't get me wrong.  I am impressed by the fact that Secretary of State Clinton took the blame for Benghazi, but that's about it.  Worse yet, I believe she fell on that sword as a calculated move for the Presidency.  She and her husband are definitely the Queen and King of how to manipulate the public.  They like no others have Political Marketing down to a fine science.  I daresay even better than the Reagans.  Nancy Pelosi is another huge disappointment.  Speaker of the House with no clout.  I remember watching her talk about something to do with the Gulf War and thinking she has the strength of a token.  She's so hyper focused on the issues with who she defines as "poor" she can't see the forest through the trees.  Everything for her comes back to the precious "poor" subsidies.  Nancy, you've never been poor, so shut up already.  I've said it before the poor that have any pride don't want handouts and the ones that do only do so because they have no other options.  The subsidies that keep them there are not accomplishing changing that.  Barbara Walters also seemed like a good candidate to bring the women's issues to the forefront, but really she has earned her place as a journalist and since she's never acted like she had any political aspirations that should be plenty.  She's never focused on women's issues exclusively, but she has held her own in her field that has been dominated by men.  Her professionalism has opened the door for the larger number of successful, respected in the field of journalism and we cannot fault anyone that has earned that respect.  Unlike that obnoxious phony, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo.  See my blog about her if you don't know.  She wrote a horrible book blaming women for holding ourselves down, which is partially true, but she herself is one of "those" women.  I hardly find her inputs valuable other than proof that some women that get "there" should have their teeth knocked in.  I half suspect that Marissa Mayer would be that woman who would sexually harass men in the workplace to prove that she was the alpha after reading her book.  That's not exactly what my Grams and her generation dreamt of a hundred years ago for women sweetheart.

So what was it that the Suffragettes dreamed of?  Equality.  Men and women working together equally.  We are inherently different, but that's what makes men and women stronger.  I've known couples that work together to achieve.  Some are more traditional--the housewife and the husband as the bread winner.  Some, far more rare, are the wife as the primary bread winner and the husband as the primary care giver for the children.  Some are a completely equal split, interchanging the roles as needed to survive in this economy.  That seems to be more and more of the middle class and thus why it really is becoming important to address that 70 cents on the dollar incongruity.  For hourly jobs, this isn't an issue, but for most salary, the educated women, are making less and doing more.  This hasn't changed from the 70s and 80s.  I know I wasn't working then, but the numbers really haven't changed.  We've covered it before, but the basics are women were making about 65 cents on the dollar then.  That's not much improvement.  Women made up 2.9% of Corporate America executives back then; we are 4.0% now.  Again, not much improvement.  We can blame men, but that's ridiculous.  Women like Marissa Mayer are part of the problem and I think she pissed off enough women that the Maria Shriver's are just beginning to rear their heads.  Equality is only as good as we are willing to give each other.  Women cannot have separate bars for men than we have for ourselves.  If it is inappropriate for a man to say to a woman, then it is equally inappropriate for it to be said by a woman to a man.  Believe it or not, about 15% of all spousal abuse, reported anyway, is women on men.  Yes, I'm serious.  We cannot act as the abusers.  We cannot stereotype what is inappropriate for men and then commit those same inappropriate behaviors in reverse.  My Grams used to say "good for the goose, good for the gander".  I couldn't quite figure out why the goose came first when I was younger.  It always seemed like the gander had the better hand to start with.  Recent studies do show that men still have the better hand coming out of the box (70 cents on the dollar afterall).  But, we must consider ourselves equal, treat each other equally, and hold ourselves to the same level we expect men to behave at.  Good for us, good for them.  If we can say rude things to men, then we shouldn't be surprised that they can say rude things to us.  In a conversation with one of my best friends, she pointed out that it may be the men that start it and it's a vicious circle.  Perhaps, but it is equally likely that we started the circle also.  It's a chicken and egg argument that doesn't accomplish anything.  I'm not stating that we don't joke around with some people and that we might say things that a strict review of would deem inappropriate.  I'm stating that we cannot forget that sometimes men are equally offended and I suspect less likely to tell anyone that they are offended than we are.  "Good for the goose, good for the gander."  Those protections that we would afford ourselves should apply to men also.

Another pet peeve about the older generations view of women is the Sexual Revolution.  It was important to the Silent Generation that birth control be readily available.  Yes, the Silent Generation.  If you think pre-marital sex wasn't happening in their day and age, you seriously need to take a long look at some of those flapper dresses of the 1920s.  Grams told me how a friend of hers died after a botched backroom abortion.  A college girl, a college boyfriend who didn't, couldn't, marry his college sweetheart, died of hemorraging after aborting, illegally, a fetus.  She could've had it done in a hospital, all quiet and less risk in spite of it being illegal because her family had money, but Grams' friend didn't want to admit the shame to her father.  Grams and her friends were fighting for legalization of birth control pills and abortion rights way before the Baby Boomer generation was a twinkle in anyone's eyes.  The Baby Boomer women can talk about the sexual revolution all they want, but let's be frank.  What they did with the birth control pill was have key parties, spread sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and blame gay men, and increase the divorce rate to more than 50%.  The impact of their "free love" is 7 year olds baring their mid-drifts and looking like prostitutes and eighteen year old women like Mylie Cyrus acting like whores on stage and baring all in videos trying to define themselves as adult women.  I seriously doubt that is what the Silent Generation had in mind, especially since I would sit and listen to my Grandmother and her friends talk about their view of the successes and where the Boomers were taking it.  Divorce was supposed to be for not having to be abused, physically, emotionally or sexually.  Well into the 70s it was still legal for a man to rape his wife.  The Baby Boomers were not the ones to put those blue book laws to bed; they were busy with "key" parties.  The Silent Generation did that as one of their last gestures.  The good to come of the Sexual Revolution is that women are more in tune with our own bodies.  Yet, it hasn't done anything in the medical field for us.  We know more about the G spot and orgasms, but a doctor can't tell you exactly why we have PMS and why the symptoms vary so much from woman to woman.  They can't explain why some of us have debilitating cramps and others have none.  They created awesome replicas of breasts for women who suffer from breast cancer, yet the majority of women that have implants today are for their own vanity not because they survived some deadly disease.  Doctors have spent a lot of time figuring out how to make us more vain and make money off of the vanity of women rather than help solve why women have mood swings and migraines.  They know that some diseases affect women more than men and yet type a Google search on it and find nothing.  Go to WebMD and study the diseases that say they are more likely to affect women than men.  The number is staggering compared to those that affect men.  In addition, the treatments for ailments that are exclusively female are far more barbaric because, well honestly, they've done more research into those diseases that affect more men.  Endometriosis is one of the most dibilitating of women's diseases.  It affects the reproductive system.  It affects most women that get it in the child bearing, or pre-child bearing years.  The main solution is to take the uterus.  It means no children in many cases or a rush to have them before they take a woman's uterus to save her life.  Yep.  Years and years and years and hardly any focus on resolving a disease other than cutting us open and taking one of our most precious gifts.  Have we demanded they focus on it?  I doubt it; at least not the way they worried about ED.  Doctors and scientists are focused on male issues, except breast cancer for the most part to this day.  The Sexual Revolution was a waste of time.  Medically, we still know very little about our bodies.  Thanks Baby Boomers.  We know all we need to know about our bodies sexually, but 3 of my friends will never have children of their own because endometriosis and other diseases that are exclusively female weren't as important yet.

So I look at my own generation, GenX.  The men are better men.  No offense to earlier generations, but they are.  They were raised by single moms or they almost all had friends that were.  They have a better grasp on the plight of women and children than men of previous generations.  Not sure if that is by choice or not, but not relevant.  They just overall are better men when it comes to women.  They might have forgotten how to open the door for a lady, but I again view this as a problem with the mixed messages from the Baby Boomer women.  I want in a social setting to be treated with the respect that my grandmother's generation was treated with.  In a work setting, I want to be treated equally and fairly.  It's not as confusing as the Boomers have made it sound.  A football player doesn't tackle someone in a restaurant (well, shouldn't).  Why would a man treat his date like he's in the workplace?  Yet, I've heard women get pissy when a man opens the door for them.  Let them.  It's a nicety in a social setting that shows he's a gentleman.  It's a show of respect.  It's equally a show of respect to the gentleman to say "Thank you" not cuss him out for being a cad.  A cad would've walked in before us and let the door close on us, and I wouldn't hold it against a gentleman for telling you politely that perhaps your date was a mistake and take you home immediately.  Still in our generation, that girl-on-girl crime still is prevalent.  I'm ashamed.  Grams used to say, "if you've got nothing nice to say, don't say it at all."  It's easier said than done, to be sure, but after 45 years, I know exactly what she means.  We, women, cannot put each other down and not expect that to have an impact on keeping us in "our place".  Telling other women that they can't achieve, that they are shooting above their place, trying to be more than they should be, these are things that Grams loathed.  I suppose that's where I got it from.  I can't stand to hear another women say that another woman shouldn't try to go to school, shouldn't try to succeed, shouldn't be the person that is doing this or that.  If we feel that way, we shouldn't tell others what they should or shouldn't achieve, but ask ourselves why we are angry that they are achieving and not ourselves.  We sometimes like to place blame on others for our failures.  It's not a male or female thing; it's a human thing.  But, it's a maturity level thing to reach a point where we acknowledge that some things are our own fault even if we were provoked.  Getting even with the "mean" girl in high school might seem funny when at your 10 year high school reunion, but it shows that you never grew on your own.  That "mean" girl will always have her own cross to bear and it's not really going to make us feel any better long term if we haven't already found a way to feel good about who we are.

I said earlier that this wasn't about me coming home, but that it somehow became intertwined with it.  I was recently insulted by a late 20-early 30 somethinger.  I'm fat and ugly and jealous of her.  A daughter of a drug addict who looks like she's almost in her 40s who was a stripper, might still be.  Most people back home aren't like that.  But it's indicative of what kind of women we are still creating by the way we raise them.  "All we are is all we know."  I suppose I could still be pissed that she blew up my phone for a couple hours in the middle of the night.  But then I realized that she knows what she is and wanted to try to make me feel bad about myself.  It's a damn shame that's how some girls are still raised but it is still the big problem in our society.  I think like a guy most of the time so it was all I could do not to go jerk her up and teach her to have some respect.  But considering who she is, her family's issues, no one could expect her to grow up right.  She would not have needed to blow my phone up if she hadn't been intimidated by who I am.  All she did was brag and pretend to be something she's not.  I didn't.  Not my style but I was raised to try to see the other person's point of view.  I can't imagine what a crappy life she's probably had.  Doesn't change it's probably too late for her. 

How will we fix people like her, society as a whole, the inequities that still exist?  I suspect there's some things we will never fix.  Nothing will ever be 100% equal.  There will always be children that have had parents that might have drug problems.  There will always be gold diggers.  There will always be rapists, spousal abuse and yes pay differences.   Maybe we make a law that makes it more even.  Maybe we throw addicts and child abusers in jail.  All we can do is grow ourselves and then society by sheer numbers will get better.  Not because of some stupid political agenda.  But because we have become better. 

That which doesn't kill us will make us stronger.

Very recently, a friend's daughter committed suicide because of bullies.  A little sister to me posted a video of several kids that had committed suicide because of bullies--the link is below.  We would like to think that the kids that are not bullying will stop videoing the actions and start stopping it.  We are shocked that they post these escapades on YouTube or their Facebook pages.  I'm not really sure why.  Think back in time.  We all witnessed bullying, were the bullied or sadly, may have been the bullies.  Did you do anything when you were a kid?  A teenager?  Probably not.  Sad, but true.  You sat in the cafeteria or study hall and either laughed about it as you repeated what you saw or you kept your mouth shut because you were just happy it wasn't you.  There are very few of us that ever stepped up to help the kid being bullied, and if that kid was the new kid, it almost never happened.  They were on their own.  The bullies were sometimes one large boy with a small following, or a gang of mean girls with a ring leader.  They were often the "most popular" in school.  Even if you did tell someone, the retaliation was going to be extensive.  It was better to keep your mouth shut.  Sometimes, even if teachers got involved and tried to stop it, the bullies felt so empowered that they began harassing the teachers that came to the defense of the bullied.  The solution is not to ask the kids to fix this.  They won't.  We treat them as if they are adults in some cases, but recognize that they are not by various laws that restrict them more and more.  We cannot have it both ways.  But the worst part about it isn't the bullies still bullying.  The worst part about it isn't that we let them.  Yes, we should stand up for the kids being bullied.  Those teachers are to be commended.  But we have to realize that the kids that aren't standing up, lack the strength themselves.  They're kids too.  As adults, we cannot ask them why they don't stand up.  Teachers and administrators should recognize and put a stop to it.  That is so much easier said than done.  Bullies cover their tracks. What we need to do is teach our children to have the confidence in themselves, because the bullies will be bullies throughout life.  Mean girls will almost always be mean women.  Bully guys will almost never recognize 20 years later that they did anything wrong.  It was all fun for them.  The bullied have to be reminded that they are not alone.  The question is how to do that?

We often forget how bullies work.  They are never the one standing alone.  They need minions.  They must have minions.  They'll show up in the principal's office teary eyed, scared themselves and put on one hell of a show.  The minions will too.  The one standing alone is the one being bullied.  The odds of kids that are not the victims coming out and volunteering to stand next to the sacrificial lamb are slim to nil.  They don't want to be next.  Who can blame them?  They're kids, not adults.  They may laugh about it, post videos about it, or they may just keep their heads down.  Depending on how they deal with stress, how they've observed their parents dealing with stress, they will do the same.  We shouldn't automatically punish those posting the videos.  It may be their way of trying to warn someone, anyone, without having any repercussions from the bullies.  Bullies love to brag when they can.  Eventually, they can't help themselves.  Once they have someone terrified and they are winning or feel they have won, they can't help but continue to escalate.  The empowerment is scary.  So posting the video is either bragging or kids who know that won't come with repercussions.  But we forget.  Heck, most of us don't even know.  Most were not bullied as kids.  We are worried now, because the kids committing suicide do so with videos and post them for all to see.  We are now more sadly aware of the pain these other children cause.  But make no mistake a bully will continue to be so well into their adult lives...maybe the entirety of their adult lives.  The one thing that remains consistent with these types is they never, never stand alone.

Bullies are basically cowards who have to have others involved in their schemes.  Recently someone I respect explained to me "negative" versus "positive" leaders.  Positive leaders are those that improve the atmosphere, motivate, care.  Negative leaders are the opposite.  As kids develop, these tendencies emerge, but what I've noticed even in adults, in retrospect over the years, is that negative leaders must have a hoard.  They need more than one.  They always have to have a minion.  Bullies have to have minions.  Nothing has changed for them since they were kids.  When we consider how the adults like this act and the possibility that nothing has changed for them, then we can understand the dynamic of how this is with teenagers and kids.  They do not stand on their own.  They must have others and they need those others to help solidify their power.  Make sure the rest of the masses that are not part of their clique fall in line, move out of the way, remember who's in charge.  We can't expect kids to stand up against that.  Think about every single teen angst movie you have ever seen.  That isn't how kids handle bullies.  It's always one.  Maybe one with a couple of scared friends.  But they always are the minority, the small numbers.  The strength to stand up to that behavior, to bullies, is rare.  Where does it come from?

Really, that is the question.  I was a tiny kid.  I was still wearing 3T when I was 5 and started kindergarten.  I like to tell a funny story about kindergarten about storytime.  My teacher was reading us a book, and I didn't realize that I was not to read along aloud since my mother expected me to read with her growing up.  My teacher was reading us Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.  It was colorful, with pictures, big broad type.  I was enamored.

"Alexandra," my teacher paused in the middle of the book.  "You cannot read along with me.  I know this is one of your favorite books, but please stop."

"This isn't one of my favorite books," I replied.  "I've never read this."

"Alexandra, what is rule number one on the classroom rules?"

I glanced over at the wall where they were hung and read it to her.  "Lying is bad.  We do not lie."

"That's right."

"But, I'm not lying.  I've never read this book."

"Alexandra, we do not lie."

"I'm not.  I've never read this book."  At that point, she motioned to the teacher's aide and took me to the principal's office.  I sat there mortified while she talked to the principal in his office.  My mother and Grams came and the secretary motioned them into the principal's office.  My mother shot me a look like she could crown me royally.  Lying wasn't tolerated in my house either.  My family had a strict view that the truth may hurt once but a lie would hurt at least twice--once when it was told and again when the truth came out.  I hung my head.  I thought that I was going to be in trouble, not because I lied, but because disappointing my Grams and my mother was a big weight on me.

After a few minutes, I was called into the principal's office.  You remember those old offices.  The big leather wing back chairs.  The giant dark cherry or mahogany desks and bookcases.  A very formal setting for a tiny kid.  I climbed into the open wing back to the left of my Grams sitting in the other one and my mother standing behind her.

"Alexandra, I understand from your mother that you can read?"  The principal sounded more doubtful than confident.

I looked over at my mother; she nodded at me.  I looked back at him, looked him in the eyes and told him, "Yes sir."  I hung my head.  I was pretty sure I was in trouble--just not for what yet.

His tone softened and he asked what I was reading now.  I replied that I was reading Huckleberry Finn.  He explained that is what my mother and Grams had explained.  How did I like it?  I didn't like the slavery.  Didn't seem right, but other than that it was a really good book.  He glanced at my Grams and mother.  He turned around to the bookshelf behind him and grabbed a book, the book we were talking about.  He opened it up randomly and stood and leaned over to hand me the book.  I took the book and he asked me to read it to him.  I glanced for approval from my mother and she nodded at me.  I looked up at him probably looking pretty sheepish.

"Um, where do you want me to start?"  He and the teacher glanced at each other. "Do you want me to start at the top of the page, at the first full paragraph, at the break in the page?"  They exchanged glances again.

"Start at the first full paragraph."

So I did.  When I got to the break in the middle of the page, I paused and looked up.  He and my teacher looked pale.  I remember thinking that they probably thought I was an alien.  Too many "Star Trek" episodes, I guess.

"So," he finally said.  "This is like the book you've been reading?"  I looked at the page on the left.  It was a lithograph of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

"No sir," I replied and shot my mother a look.  Then looked back at him, "my book doesn't have any pictures."  He and the teacher exchanged a glance again.  Then they dismissed me.

Hilarious when I tell it. Probably not as funny on paper.  I was skipped to the first grade.  I was placed in second grade English and eventually Math also.  I was a size 3T going to class with kids that were wearing their right sizes in most cases, or even larger--7 or 8 years old.  I was shoved in lockers.  Pushed down.  It was never noticed by anyone.  I remember a boy, Walter, pooping his pants in class the next year.  We were in second grade.  I remember being relieved because now instead of picking on me the mean kids picked on him.  The boys I was friends with became protective of me and I wasn't bullied again there.  But after my mother passed, my father moved me.  New schools, every couple of years.  Still two years tinier than my actual age and in English and Math classes with kids two years older now.  I was picked on and picked on and picked on.  My mother used to tell me to hold my chin up, take it, be the better person.  That which didn't kill me would make me stronger.  Someday, she would say I would be the one to be able to protect others because I would understand their plight better than anyone else.  Never give up because that is what they wanted.  I didn't understand it.  Even as a teenager.  But, I did as she advised, even though she was gone.

My observations are that she was right.  She told me to face it with my head up and I did.  Retaliation was not an option, nor should it.  We don't want our kids turning into that which they deplore.  But be who you are, never forget your own self worth, and no matter how many are in the hoard, you are still you.  That is what we need to tell these kids.  Bullies will come and go in life, even as adults.  It's the nature of the beast--human nature.  It's unfortunate, but less confident people will always try to tear someone else down that they perceive as better than them.  We don't like to admit that as adults.  We try overall to be better than that and ignore that bullies can still be bullies even as adults.  They will still get the hoard involved.  Attempt to make one person look bad, pick and pick and pick.  No different whatsoever than pushing a kid into a locker and locking them in there, walking away with their minions laughing, and some kid who felt bad either sneaking back to let you out or a teacher finally realizing that you're in there.

Why did I survive?  Why wasn't I one of those sad statistics?  Why didn't we realize then that bullies were the main reason for suicide?  Because we didn't have videos.  We didn't have YouTube.  The focus on teen suicide was why didn't some kids have self worth.  Now we know why.  But most haven't got a clue as to how to fix it.  We won't fix it by asking the other kids who aren't being bullied to stand up.  They usually are the minority too, or at least feel like it, and they won't stand up.  We even have adults that can be bullied into not doing the right thing by a hoard.  Why should we expect that teenagers, basically kids, would stand up?  The strength to stand up sometimes eludes many adults.  To put that weight on kids makes no sense whatsoever.

There are three very important things that have to happen.  Parents and teachers need to create avenues of reporting this without anyone knowing, but need to be very aware that bullies often portray themselves as the victims.  If the kid standing in the hoard is claiming to have been bullied and the other kid is standing alone, odds are a million to one that the one standing alone is the bully.  The bully doesn't ever stand alone.  They are cowards.  Cowards never stand alone.

Two, parents need to tell our kids to be better than that.  My mother said that which didn't kill me would make me stronger.  We've had bullies actually kill other kids before.  It's a huge tragedy.  But most bullies are not going to get the minions to go that far.  We have to feed our children's confidence, make sure that they can hold their chin up even under the worst of adversity.  Life throws us curve balls all the time and sometimes they come from even adult bullies.  "Smile, chin up, poise and grace," as my Grams used to say.  Easier said than done sometimes, but the victims need to remember, need to be given the confidence to stand on their own.  In junior high, a team of 5 girls beat me to a pulp.  The ring leader was Dieta.  I still remember her face, her name, everything about her.  She was jealous, in hindsight, because I was friends with a boy she didn't think I should be friends with.  The entire one side of my face was swollen and black after they got done with me.  The bruises up and down my sides from being kicked were temporary.   The swelling to my face, also temporary.  My father never knew since he was away and my aunt and uncle were watching me.  My aunt didn't want me to go to school that next day.  I looked like hell warmed over, to say the least.  I would turn the other cheek.  I had no choice.  But I wasn't going to miss school that day.  My aunt said she'd drive me.  No, I would walk my normal route, the one that I had just taken the beating on the afternoon before.  When I walked into school, as I walked down the hallway, everyone and I mean everyone stopped and stared.  I was a mess.  I walked to my locker to put my things away.  In the corner of my good eye, I saw Dieta and her friends.  They came towards me.  I was terrified, but I wasn't going anywhere.  That which doesn't kill me will make me stronger; I could hear my mother's voice in my head.  As Dieta reached me, a voice on the other side, Renee, a ninth grader in my advanced arts class.  (I was a sixth grader in 9th grade Math and English too.)  No, Renee had said.  You leave her alone I heard from my good ear.  They had already been bragging about beating me to a pulp.  Renee was a little scary herself, but really cool in class.  She told Dieta that she would answer to Renee if anyone touched me again.  There aren't a lot of Renees in this world.  It's too bad there aren't more, but it wasn't Renee who got me through that day.  It was my mother's words.  Her confidence gave me confidence, even though she wasn't there and never would be.  We need to tell our children that they have strength, they can achieve in spite of adversity, and that no one but themselves can hold them down.  That which doesn't kill us actually does make us stronger.

Finally, we as adults need to stop looking for the easy solution and trying to put the weight on other kids.  It's not going to happen.  We have adults that get scared of a hoard.  Fight or flight instinct is almost always flight, unless former military and even then, trust me, the flight instinct can be strong even with all the training.  So expecting some other teenagers, kids, to be like Renee.  Good luck with that.   They might post the video because they know the kids, the hoard, will love to see its own works and in hopes that we see it in time and intervene.  They are kids; they expect adults to fix their problems.  We're adults.  We should know that sometimes adults won't fix the problems that they observe with other adults.  What would make us think putting that weight on kids is going to work?  We need to build the confidence of our kids to stand alone if needed.  We need to remember that often the biggest bullies are the ones that are kissing the teacher or principal's proverbial *ss.  None of this changes in adulthood.  We all know it, but we don't even talk about it at dinner parties.  We remind ourselves what it was like to be them, because we all know that most of us didn't want to be the bully's target in our own high school.  Better her or him than me.  Human nature.  To be honest, bullies are cowards.  They're sneaky cowards as kids and they're sneaky cowards as adults.  We all know this.  Cowardice is from a lack of confidence also.  We need to instill confidence in kids, the bullies too.  With confidence, we also have the ability to self analyze.  Bullies need to be able to self analyze and decide whether they like what they see.  They can't do this if they lack self confidence, so they can't change their behavior without self analysis. Confidence is the real solution.  Parents, teachers, adults in general, need to understand this and try to help instill it in our kids.  Not false bravado, but true confidence.   How to do that?  Tell your kid everyday that they can achieve, they are great and they have great potential.  It may or may not work.  But God willing, in the back of their minds, even when they are faced with the hoard, they will hear you in the back of their minds, your voice strong and clear, "that which doesn't kill us will make us stronger."


The link to the video I mentioned earlier.  The advice may not match mine, but think about the pain you inflict when you join the hoard.  Even as an adult.  *hit the Post link*

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Most go through life with blinders on...

Recently, people have been "bashing" sometimes jokingly, sometimes passed the point of joking other people about the weather.  It's hilarious, tongue in cheek, that 50 degrees Fahrenheit means shorts weather to some and fur coat weather to others.  Generally it seems to be a regional thing.  Not surprisingly though.  Our bodies acclimate to the ambient average temperature and the average persons will have similar adjustments.  It's also so funny when people are warned to stay inside.  People from regions that are buried in snow for months at a time poke fun of people in regions where snow is a one or two day occurrence because look at how they live in it day in, day out.  First, the first couple of weeks of any snow season for the areas that are covered for months at a time have a huge spike in car accidents for the first couple of weeks and weather related deaths are not uncommon through a snow filled winter.  The fact that it happens only a couple days somewhere else should give those people more pause.  Two days to adjust to driving conditions when the average time to adjust is two weeks?  But hey, that doesn't occur to them.  They've been living in it for months so everyone else should have the same adjustment as them, right?  Tunnel vision, that inability to see anything except as it affects our own little worlds, is paramount in this misconception of the weather, to the plight of others, and honestly shows a lack of empathy--a breakdown in what actually makes us human.  Dogs can show empathy within their own pack, even dog to dog, sometimes even dog to other animal.  Perhaps, the breakdown of the ability to see the world from someone else's point of view, to show any empathy at all, stems from the fact we are human.  Perhaps in our self grandeur we have started to give up what makes us a group as a whole and place ourselves not just above the animals, but above each other.

In an interesting twist to seeing ourselves "above" each other, I had a conversation with someone that worked a plant floor.  They told me what a supervisor's job was by their perception, what the manager's job was, and what they perceived as their job.  Their perception of their job was incorrect.  The job as expected by management was different than what they thought their job was, but they were also adamant about what others' jobs were.  Where was the breakdown?  In this example, the breakdown was for various reasons that were not necessarily the person's fault.  However, the inability to see that other people have different roles to play, different responsibilities, that all drive to accomplish a goal for the group as a whole is part of that tunnel vision also.   Not all of us can do the same job when we are trying to make a product because there are various things that need to happen when we make anything.  Someone has to design it--not everyone has the talent or ability to design something.  Someone has to sell it--no use in making something if we can't sell it.  Someone has to manufacture it.  It might be easy for one person to do all of this if we are talking about handmade goods that are sold at a bazaar or farmer's market.  But a mass consumption product, like a car, is going to take a mass amount of people to assemble the car, let alone design and manufacture the thousands of sub-components that make up a car.  There's nothing wrong with being happy with our particular lot in life, but there is a problem with projecting our perceptions onto others.

In that above example, the person had a misunderstanding of what job they played, but the misunderstanding of what roles others' play is tantamount to the real problem.  We have a problem "walking" in someone else's shoes, and unfortunately, it's a mass majority of us.  Take Congress and our current President.  The mass majority, a large mass majority of them, have absolutely no idea what it is to be poor.  The President (I cannot stand a liar) tries to portray himself like he has any clue.  A little rich boy, black or white, son of a wealthy African and upper middle class white mother, stepson of a foreign, he has no idea what it is like to be poor.  His solutions are catastrophic not just to the poor but the middle class, because in reality, he has no idea what it means to be either.  That would be fine if he actually had people advising him that came from the ranks of the poor and middle class, but no.  His wife is from an upper middle class family and they surround themselves with more and more wealth and extravagance.  They have no idea.  "You can never know what it's like to be in another man's shoes until you've walked a mile in them," my grandfather would say.  Truth be told, most of us would never want to walk in anyone else's shoes, and those of us that have a rare glimpse into the different worlds become hopeful and dismayed at the same time.  No one in my family has ever been poor, excepting me (see one of the previous blogs).  I was raised with empathy by my grandmother, but to be quite frank, even my Grams, my wonderful empathetic Grams, had her limitations to what she could see.  She believed in helping the poor but was reside to leave them there.  To her they should learn, educate themselves and thus elevate themselves.  It seems highly reasonable from a logical point of view.  It is true that education can elevate, but there have always been plenty of self made men that have no formal education.  Hell, even Einstein never actually "earned" a college education.  Yet, a little known fact is that he taught at Princeton, one of the finest universities in the country, let alone world, with little more than an 8th grade formal education.  However, Einstein and other self made men, were the exception then and remain the exception now.  "All we are is all we know," as a Nirvana song says.  The poor should not be looked down upon with pity and handouts, but given an understanding of how to achieve, a different picture than the only one that they know, and not just a perception of what they see to be different, but what it means, how to get there, and an effort, not mouth pieces, to make the system help them elevate themselves.  Most in Congress can't see that, because they lack the ability to empathize the real situation that the poor experience.

Still work and financial situations are so easy to see.  We know basically how much money someone has by the car they drive, the neighborhood they live in, and the company they keep.  Yes, we are as a whole that shallow.  A really good friend of mine has no friends that don't have college educations.  I find it unfathomable.  How could she go through 20 plus years as an adult and have no friends that are no college educated?  Only a third of people in the United States are college educated.  (Yes, a third, and some age brackets are lower.)  How has she avoided ever making an acquaintance that became a friend that wasn't college educated?  She kind of looked at me with this incredulous look like I had lost my mind when I asked.
"I've made acquaintance with plenty, but why on earth would I need to socialize with a clerk at Walmart? What could we possibly have in common?"

Really?  I explained that probably over half the people that I knew and that I was friends with didn't.  Well, of course, because I had served in the military and to her point, I had chosen to "live like that". (Ok, we're not really friends anymore.)  Her view was that I was a bit too much like my mother in trying to empathize with people and that was a bad thing from her perspective.  I didn't know my place.  There might be some truth to that--the not knowing my place part.  My mother and father were not exactly the types that treated people any better or worse because of their lot in life. I was always told to treat others as I would want to be treated. Of course, I pointed out that I wasn't a college graduate most of the years we were friends.  The conundrum was ignored.  I was her exception to her rule.

Yet, to a deeper problem, many of us turn away from those in need.  We would rather not look, pretend not to see, than to have to feel any emotion for another person, a random stranger.  The financial issues could affect anyone.  There are plenty of homeless people that are so simply because they lost high paying jobs, were in hock to their ears, and everything hinged on them keeping that job.  They've lost their homes, their credit to find another place to live, the phone to get another job, a stable address to put on a resume.  Somehow, the friend above is sympathetic in those circumstances.  But not for the homeless vet.  Where's the VA?  Have you ever been in the VA system?, I countered  Helpful yes, able to take care of the mass number of vets with what Congress gives them?  Veterans' benefits are often the first cut.  A homeless person who's mentally incapable?  Her response is that they should be placed in homes, asylums, they don't belong on the streets.  With what money?  In what homes?  Asylums?  Seriously?  I asked her what if it was her.  She had lost her mental facilities and became homeless would she want to be in an asylum?  Well of course not, but she has family.  They would take care of her.  What if they were gone, no family to help?  Don't be ridiculous, was her reply.  Just trying to get her to the point of being able to empathize was like taking a pair of pliers crushing my own teeth and then pulling them out piece by piece.  She wasn't going to ever understand.  She just was never going to care unless it was her.

There are so many commercials for us to help dogs and help starving children overseas.  Why none for the children here?  How about commercials for 18 cents a day to help house children that have no parents and no family for whatever myriad of reasons that they have no one?  Oh, right, because it's not just 18 cents a day.  The average foster parent gets less than $104 per month per child.  That's just $3.47 a day.  How about we have a commercial for that $3.47 a day?  Half a value meal, a small latte, what price is that to pay?  Yet, we don't have the empathy for our own as we do for people completely around the world.  Why?  Because we don't like to empathize with people that could be us.  There by the grace of God go us and we don't want to have to look that cyclops in the eye.  

Should trying to empathize with others be the exception instead of the norm?  The Nazis convinced an entire country to turn on a race of people, turn their heads away and even participate in mass genocide.  There are various psychological models that explain the behavior.  But take away all the mumbo-jumbo and we are left with one sorry fact.  The German populace was unwilling to see it from the Jewish people's eyes.  They couldn't imagine that they might be the ones in such a position.  They were more than willing to think of themselves as superior.  They were more than willing to think of others as inferior.  And in that, they were more willing to give up their ability to empathize and reduce themselves to lower than human.  If animals can empathize and we cannot, who truly is the greater being?

I know this all started with some jokes about some Southerners freaking out over a major snow storm.  Truth be told, most, even the ones that are tasked with the safety of others down here, really don't know how to drive in the snow.  Some of the pictures of jackknifed semis were semi drivers from regions with snow that assumed that it was like all other snow storms they've experienced.  It is, but it isn't.  People here see it once or twice a year and a couple days later it's gone.  No one is prepared or ever acclimates.  But that really isn't the problem.  It's the surface of a bigger problem.  The inability to empathize.  There are just way too many people anymore that have given up trying to empathize, let alone can do so regularly.  So isn't it funny how stupid those people are acting in the midst of a snow storm that we've been living with for months?  No, it's really not funny and it's really not "them" that are stupid.  Stupidity is assuming that you understand something that you don't.  Assuming you understand the circumstances because you project your own circumstances on to someone else's is stupid.  Empathy gives us the ability to discern the people who need help from the people that don't.  Empathy keeps us from being stupid by assuming that we understand.  Empathy gives us the ability to grow not just from one freak moment, but when applied regularly, the ability to gain perspective all the time.  Roddy McDowell played a butler who advised Goldie Hawn's character, a rich woman who lives for a brief period as a poor middle class woman in the movie Overboard, with the following:

“… most of us go through life with blinders on. Knowing only that little station to which we were born. But you madam, have had the… rare privilege of escaping your bonds for just a spell. To see life from an entirely new perspective." 

Not many of us have the opportunity to actually "walk" in another's shoes, live another life, but we all have the ability to acknowledge that our own limitations are not the same, our own circumstances vary for numerous reasons not just the reasons that we would project onto others, and more importantly, while we may never have a full grasp, we can empathize and learn to care quite a bit more than most of us are trying right now.  We can live with blinders and judge others as we would judge them or we can become the greater beings that we like to believe we are and not only "judge not" but learn to feel and show compassion for what others are experiencing.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I know you're lonely...I know why you're lonely....

It's too bad that there is no font selection in Blogger for "Comic Sans", because honestly, as usual, internet dating is proving to be downright comical.  It's not just the stereotype of the desperate or phony types.  I signed up for 4 sites, closed out 3 within the first 24 hours and went ahead and joined one for a month.  It's painfully obviously that you will get more options from the "free" sites, but those options tend mostly to be men (and women most likely) that haven't got the funds to spend on the site--either because they are married.  Something about those stray dating site charges on a card are a big red flag to a spouse... Or, they are too cheap or can't afford it in the first place.  If someone is too cheap or can't afford twenty to twenty five bucks, yea, not to sound a little picky at all, but how are you going to afford a date?  But, hey you're not reading this except for laughs, right? Here we go:

80% are lying about their age by 5 or more years.  Since only 10% of us look better than our age and 10% look worse, yea, no way 80% of them look 50-55 and are 45.  Uh yea.  

Seriously, some of the "45" year olds look like they are trying to relive the 70s in their pictures, particularly with their hair.  Yes, darling you still have hair but you are not Justin Beiber.  Look like a damn adult.  

Ok, a goatee is so 10-15 years ago.  It can look hot on a biker.  If you're not a biker, it just looks like you can't afford a razor. 

Likewise with mustaches.  Stuck in the 1880s, a 1970s porno, or a bad rendition of Hitler.  Next.  

Guy posts in his profile "looking for a good woman" but selected that he's looking for "casual fun".  Ummm, yes, darling, you do realize most "good women" are not the "casual fun" types.  Translation.  He's not looking for a good woman.  He's looking for whatever will fall on its back on the first date.  

46, never married, no children and posts he's "not picky".  Ok, he's never been married and never had any kids and he's not picky?  So he's still in love with the game, he really is picky or he's really a total loser and you seriously don't want to know how bad.  

All head shots from his computer.  Big smile, good looking, a pretty husky in the background noise, nice touches in the background picture that scream woman's touch.  Married, physical issues he doesn't want you to know about and/or living at home with his parents.  Next.

Half of his pictures are sideways.  Not smart enough to flip his photos 90 degrees or to even notice he needs to.  Next.

"2hard2handle"...either reference is ridiculous.  Since he's not that good looking, let's go with he a difficult *ss that has issues.  Not really interested in what those issues are. 

Separated.  The word alone screams issues.  Period.  Separated means not currently emotionally available and looking for tail, hoping that you will fall on your back in the first 5 minutes of the "date" because he's paying legal fees on top of whatever expenses he has.  He can't afford a cheap prostitute; he's hoping internet dating means he can find a free one.  

The LL Cool J look.  Come on we all know it.  The hand to the chin.  The solid player pose.  Even white guys use it in their pics.  Player or wanna be player.  Either way, he thinks he's a player.  Next.

No.  Black & White photos do not hide your crow's feet that are moving down your cheekbones to your ears.  (45 my dying *ss.)

Grizzly Adams was not "sexy" in the 70s.  He's still not sexy.  That mountain man look is amusing, but most women do not want to be turned away from a nice restaurant because the hostess thinks something is going to crawl out of your facial hair.  

Post "family oriented, faithful and believe in karma".   Translation.  My wife cheated on me, I wasn't the reason (at least not from his point of view) and more importantly it screams:  "Still not over it!"  Next.

"I enjoy church" and 4 out of 5 pics are drinking with buddies and in bars.  Yes, dear, I'm sure you enjoy church, but something in the pics screams hypocrite.  

Harley pics.  I'm just amazed at how many guys, particularly the geeky looking ones, that have their main pic of them with their bikes.  It's not working anymore in the bars; it's probably not going to work online.  

Pics with the former (or current for that matter) girlfriend or wife cut out.  Her hair is the same in all 3 photos.  Yes, either a cheater or recently separated or divorced or has no life and is hoping for you to make all his dreams come true.  Phew.  That sounds like too much work.  

Pics of tattoos.  I've seen some awesome ink work online and a lot of it, most of it, has been on dating websites.  I get it.  You don't want to be judged, but some of the things people tat themselves with are really too weird without an explanation of why you have it.  A giant squid crushing something?? No matter how cool looking, it's also little creepy without explanation.  Yea, should've stopped at blurb "have tattoos".   

Asked to describe his "perfect match":  "a young lady...who isn't influenced by books, doesn't say how independent she is...would prefer someone at least 21."  42, never married, never had children.  I'm shocked!!  Never married and never had children?  Translation:  "Looking for dumb 21 year old, who isn't her own woman, who can't read and preferably does exactly what I tell her to do."  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  Thanks for the wink, but I'll pass.

"Stubborn but very devoted".  But?  So stubborn and very devoted.  Translation:  Stalker. 

"Just split up from the "one"...looking to pick up the pieces."  Don't have the time Humpty Dumpty.  On the bright side, he's honest.  Pass.

And for the finale, my personal favorite:  "Open marriage and looking...even the best relationships are only satisfying to a certain degree.  I need you to be the other 5-10%...pic is not really me, for obvious reasons."  WTF?!?!  Ok, I appreciate the honesty, but WTF?!?!  And if the wifey knows, then why pic not really you?  WTF?!?!  Buy a hooker sweetie.  If you were good looking enough and had enough money there would plenty of women you could find that would be ok with that arrangement.  I know you're lonely. I know why you're lonely.  Now go away.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jump on the Bandwagon Sheeple

I'm really not sure why some of us are more prone than others to jump on the "bandwagon" as my Grams used to call it.  Maybe that's because I've always "marched to the beat of my own drum" as she would say.  It's pretty difficult to get me on board with what you want if there's not logical course to come to that conclusion.  A lot of things in our every day lives are based solely on opinions, and I think for some people the lines begin to blur between opinion and fact.  Let's take President Obama for example.  There is by facts very little that he has actually been "successful" with, although prior to his first election he was extremely effective in presenting himself and in the second election he was clearly successful in sabotaging his opponent.  It was, for an election--regardless of your personal opinion of sabotage, seemingly effortless for him to orchestrate the British press against Romney.  The comments Romney was purported to have said in fact not even slightly resembling what Romney actually said, yet the British press was all over Romney due to a couple of snippets of what he said presented together with the middle cut out sounded heinous.  When the middle of the interview was added however, voila.  A totally different version of events.  In spite of multiple failures at home, the same thing.  Dedicated people that refuse to jump off his bandwagon because he's...well, no one can really ever tell you a tangible fact about him to back up their opinion.  He went to Harvard.  Yep, lots of Presidents did--that in itself is not a tangible fact making him presidential material.  He's the first black President--yes, but Kennedy was the first Catholic President and now some of his legacy is under question.  The facts released at the 50 year point due to national security (ok, not commenting since I have no facts to back up this information could have been released sooner) don't support that Kennedy was a great President--in fact, they really don't even support he was a mediocre President.  I'm just not sure about how people get on these bandwagons myself.  I've caught the facts and the opinions of both of these Presidents.  They have a lot in common and the opinions seem so much better than the facts would lead us to believe.  We, in we I mean people in general, seem overly eager to jump on the bandwagon, the popular course of action at that moment--or should I say the action that we perceive as the popular course of action at that moment, set ourselves down on the bandwagon, and in spite of sour notes over and over, refuse to admit that the band sucks.

I eluded to the problem with President Kennedy.   He was most beloved by his family, to be sure, but with the death of the last major patriarch of the Kennedy family, the "Camelot" bandwagon is falling apart.  The truth be told for all of President Kennedy's great ideas what he near brought to fruition was World War 3 and the end of the world as we know it.  The Bay of Pigs and other mistakes during his short Presidency downplayed over the last 5 decades, not just because of the patriarch Senator, but also because much of the documentation and tapes that were released at the 50 years point, as is with anything classified as national security, were not available for public consumption.  We now know the whole of President Kennedy's story and he was probably not right for the job at the time.  He was immature and impetuous.  His affairs were numerous and very indiscreet for a man at the time, and particularly for a man of such immense power.  The Marilyn Monroe affair being a prime example and that has always been out there in the open because her star status made it impossible to keep under covers, excuse the pun.  President Kennedy was untested, unproven, youthful, the youngest President in history at the time and by quite a large measure compared to his predecessors.  The USSR definitely took advantage of his inexperience.  In spite of all that, the image that was created by the Kennedy money and a strong advertising program was of "Camelot"--a pre-packaged beautiful young couple with young children, the epitome of hope and a fresh start.  The packaging was ludicrous compared to the facts.  Even in that day and age, women were usually pretty irate about a man cheating on his wife in such a public fashion, particularly if she had young children.  Men might have thought the opposite, but at the same time a larger percentage of men had served in the military and the Bay of Pigs would have normally set them in an outrage.  The image was of a dedicated, intelligent, thoughtful family man.  The truth was he was a haphazard, intelligent, callous, philandering man.  The funny thing isn't that this picture is the one that more and more facts support.  The funny thing  is the sheer dedication of following.  Many people are shocked now to learn the details, assuming they were even alive back then, of the Bay of Pigs.  What idiot would do that one man said when he was posed a scenario without who.  The "idiot" was Kennedy.  Yet, this same man upon finding out it was Kennedy scoffed and hem hawed (as Grams would say) that couldn't be right.  He was shown some of the Kennedy Oval Office Tapes and documents that were tangible proof.  "No, no, that can't be right," he iterated.  Seriously.  The man had been in an outrage when it was some random idiot that had been elected President in some future possible scenario, but when faced with the facts that it was one of his beloved Presidents, well, that just couldn't be right.  No way could someone he had jumped on the bandwagon for so many years ago be the person that he thought would be an idiot.   

Frankly, I'm not really surprised by it.  Think about Global Warming for a minute.  How's that playing outside your window right now?  Over 10 years ago, the scientific community had become a 50-50 split on whether global warming was a hoax or not.  The originating scientist had conducted his studies on his own, which honestly is unusual.  In addition only a couple years later when asked for his data used for other scientists to independently verify his conclusions (another words see if they came up with the same results or whether he had made an error in his calculations), he had lost his data.  No disc backup, no mainframe backup, he couldn't even say where he had pulled the data from.  That's right.  He could not even tell the other scientists what window of time he had used for his calculations and where he had pulled the temperature data from.  Even if he didn't have the actual data, he wanted everyone to believe that he didn't remember whether it was 1800 to 1980 or whether he had gotten the information from newspaper archives, the Farmer's Almanac or where.  Really.  Within 5 years, other respected scientists had run various statistically sound data analyses and had come up with different results.  The results were published by many of them.  The planet appeared to be in a cycle and the warming we were observing was in a cycle around 80 years give or take.  Had a "greenhouse effect" been present?  The results by credible scientists were inconclusive.  There was not enough data one way or the other to support the hypothesis.  Yet, Al Gore and especially the media, jumped on that bandwagon so fast it would make your head spin.  In fact, many people it did spin them, right on to the bandwagon.  The media for the first time this year has stopped saying that this cold weather we've had for the last decade is "greenhouse effect" because they finally, finally, finally are starting to see that bandwagon wasn't a band.  It was a one man "band" playing a guitar with one string.  In fact, those other studies, suggest we are basically on target for the 80 year cycle.  The last time this happened--extreme hot summers, drought, followed by extreme cold winters and high precipitation (snow, sleet and rain)--the 1930s, the Dust Bowl era.  Right on target with the real scientific data, not the one that some guy made up and couldn't even remember what data he pulled from where or for when.  How many of your friends are still on the "global warming" kick?  They've heard these arguments.  Why are they still on that bandwagon when it's clear that band couldn't carry a tune if you gave them a drawing of Bugs Bunny?

Likewise, people often misjudge other people and the bandwagon runs rampant.  The "facts" presented are always opinions in the case of two individuals.  The "facts" are as the person presenting them either views them through their eyes--which can sometimes be more like kaleidoscopes--may not even truly be facts.  I've always been loath to judge a book by its cover.  So many people are just so much more.  How to decide what is fact versus fiction?  What facts are skewed by the view of the individual and which facts are the truth?  Recently I've been bombarded by people's views of each other and I think it is fortunate for the majority I am pretty fact oriented.  Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is entitled to their opinion, yet so many people are frustrated to no end if you don't share their opinion--doing whatever they deem necessary to sway your opinion to theirs.  Yet, they don't seem to respect that we as human beings are entitled to our own opinions.  I'm always cautious of people that seem overly insistent that I share their opinion of someone else.  I've said it before--I can make up my own mind and I don't mind if my friends and I don't share the same opinion of another acquaintance or friend.  For example, my sister does not care for one of my friends.  She thinks this particular friend is a judgmental, obnoxious b*tch, not exactly my sister's words but I don't want to waste a paragraph.  Well, yes, she is judgmental and a lot of the time, and I do mean a lot of the time, when she's drinking alcohol she becomes obnoxious and difficult to be around.  It's why a couple of us that are her friends avoid pretty much all situations with her where alcohol might be involved.  Okay, and yes, she's a total man hater.  On the other hand, she's charming without alcohol.  Her "judgments" in many situations are helpful particularly in finance and real estate; she's extremely astute.  And in her defense, she was raised a man hater (unfair to her or any child), and of the men that have come and gone in her life, some have deserved that ire.  Not all, but enough to reinforce that incorrect upbringing.  My sister isn't going to go shopping with her or go have lunch with all of us.  In fact, the only time she would ever interact with this friend of mine would be if alcohol were likely to be involved because the only social setting would be at a party or other social gathering.  Yea, my sister's opinion is going to hold firm and I'm not going to "try" to change her opinion, because from my sister's point of view, my friend is simply a pain in the perverbial *ss.  However, I'm going to have lunch with her and our other friends and go shopping or to a movie with her.  She's bright, sweet and fun to be around in those social settings, and we've been friends for years.  She's one of my friends that kept in contact with me over the years since I left--not out of some necessity, but because she's genuinely a caring person.  She's also been through a lot over the years and hasn't always been dealt a fair hand.  Would I have become who she is if I were dealt the same hand?  I'm not sure.  My personality is quite different, so it's probably not likely.  Are there certain settings that I avoid with her?  Actually yes, but the facts are that there are certain settings where it's just better to avoid the situation to prevent any strain on the friendship.  I'm not inviting her to be around my sister if I can avoid it.  I'm making sure that in those instances our mutual friends and I have an exit strategy to minimize any issues.  Yes, it's a lot of work.  If I met her today, I'd probably not go through all that work, but like I said, we've been friends for years and I know her heart in spite of what she's been through.  If I hopped on the bandwagon of people against her, even years ago, what kind of person would I be?  

Of course, like I eluded above, if I were to meet that same friend now, not have the years of friendship, would we be friends?  Probably not.  I just don't have the energy or patience for all that drama anymore.  I'm willing to deal with hers because I know all about it--every last bit of it over the years.  I know about the abusive ex, the health problems, the upbringing, all of it.  It's a big pill to swallow for someone who hasn't been there over the years.  She's never gotten counseling for it, and of her friends, we have simply given up trying to get her to go.  Again that upbringing rearing its ugly head.  So, I've digested that pill bit by bit over the years as she has accumulated it.  Likewise, say what you will about me, she will always have my back because I have always been there for her in a time of need and she is a dedicated friend.  Friends like that are priceless, proven over years through thick and thin.  She won't be jumping on any bandwagon to lynch me, nor will she turn on me and lead the lynching.  Have people attempted to get some of us on the bandwagon to dislike her?  Yes, I've had plenty of people, even my sister, tell me I don't need all that drama.  No, I don't.  So, I meter out the time with her and pick and choose when I spend time with her carefully, but I love her just the same.  I've heard a woman I recently met described as some would describe my friend.  I have observed that she is bit more extreme than my friend, as alcohol does not need to be added to the mix for this particular lady.  Would I be friends with her?  No.  Definitively no.  Am I judging her and jumping on the bandwagon?  No.  I feel for her and her circumstances and suspect that whatever life has dealt her it's been very difficult for her.  Would it be difficult for someone else?  Well, likewise to my friend that my sister abhors, no two people are alike and we can never be sure how we would handle someone else's circumstances.  I'd like to tell the lady she should get counseling, but there are two problems with that.  One, I don't know her well enough and two, therefore it's none of my business.  I suspect even if I did know her well enough to make it my business she would simply ignore the advice like my friend has ignored our suggestions over the years for her to go to counseling.  We can lead a horse to water, but it's not going to drink until it's thirsty.  Some people are either stronger or more stubborn, perhaps both, and refuse to drink.  There's a point where we choose to not have someone in our lives for whatever reasons, but it should never be from others' opinions but from the facts that we can discern from those opinions and our own unskewed observations.  I'm not sure that most people know the difference.  

The worst part about the bandwagon mentality isn't that it's always wrong.  It's that by "jumping on a bandwagon" we unwittingly give up our freedom to form our own opinion.  We differ to someone else's opinion without taking the time to form our own.  Some might say it's out of laziness, but I tend to believe from observation over the years, that it is mostly out of fear.  We may fear retaliation from the people that are pushing their opinions.  We may in some cases be afraid that we are not "smart enough" to ascertain the facts for ourselves so we defer to the first person that we or someone else acknowledges as an "expert".  Even when that "expert" is proven to have been mistaken, we are slow, sometimes very slow, to admit that we followed along in mistake, not because we are truly obstinate, but it would require us to not only to admit to our mistake in following but perhaps the mistake of not doing our own research--like being sucker punched twice for the same error.  How do we rectify this "bandwagon" mentality?  I don't know.  I suspect that over time people either make their own opinions or they don't.  It's such a weird part of human nature--taking someone else's opinion for your own.  Why do you think you put up signs in your yard for the politician that you've decided to vote for?  Because studies have shown that a lot of people vote what they think other people are voting.  That's not a real reason to vote for anyone, but when trace-ability studies have been conducted, we know that people will restate another person's opinion as their own with "facts" that they have not verified and that they have no basis for other than what they heard.  Very scary when you consider the power that this gives the media.  They tell us something, we accept it as "fact" and we then myna bird it to others like it is our own "facts" and our own opinions.  I wish I could wave a magic wand and make everyone start to realize that they can and should form their own opinions.  That they are more than capable of looking at facts and other people's version of facts and discerning which are which and then forming their own opinions.  My one friend doubts this.  We'll never know for sure.  The facts are that most people don't and no matter what no one can unwittingly conduct a random study and establish that all people  are actually capable in spite of them not taking the time out to do it.  It's just a debatable issue that's interesting over a drink or two that simply has no definitive proof one way or the other.  Are some people just going to be "sheeple" no matter what you do or do they choose the bandwagon because of fear or confidence in themselves?  Yep, we'll talk over a bourbon and coke later and we'll never come to a true conclusion.  


END NOTE:  For those of you that really don't know where the term "bandwagon" came from:  Bandwagons were literally that at one time.  Bands would ride around in their wagons from town to town.  As they would ride into town, they would pull the tarps off of the wagons and start playing in order to encourage people to come out to dance and listen to them.  People that liked the music and more often than not even people that didn't like the music would jump on the bandwagon as it rode through the towns.  Yes, those people who didn't even like the music they were playing were jumping on the bandwagon for no real tangible reason or for reasons completely unrelated to the band or music.   Voila, the phrase " jumping on the bandwagon" with the negative connotation that we apply to it was born.