Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Power’

Criminal Government

To say I am outraged by the inactions of the government in Burma would be an understatement. Their actions over the last six months – really, over the last 56 YEARS – have been deplorable. But their actions over the last six days are crimes against humanity.

Some of the horrors these people were enduring BEFORE Cyclone Nargis are recorded here. “A young woman, a domestic worker in Rangoon, described how one woman bystander who applauded the monks was rounded up. “My friend was taken away for clapping during the demonstrations. She had not marched. She came out of her house as the marchers went by and, for perhaps 30 seconds, smiled and clapped as the monks chanted. Her face was recorded on a military intelligence camera. She was taken and beaten. Now she is so scared she won’t even leave her room to come and talk to me, to anyone.”

“Another Rangoon resident told the aid worker: “We all hear screams at night as they [the police] arrive to drag off a neighbour. We are torn between going to help them and hiding behind our doors. We hide behind our doors. We are ashamed. We are frightened.”

It sounds a lot like a holocaust to me.

And there’s more recorded here: “As reported in The Gathering Storm, the junta spends 40 percent of its annual budget on the military, with only 3 cents of every dollar going to healthcare – an average of about 40 cents per citizen.”

“In 2006, observed Beyrer, Burma’s military dictator, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, spent some $40 million on his daughter’s wedding, a short (but damning) video of which was later posted on YouTube. That compared with $137,000 for a nationwide program to combat AIDS.”

But when I read today on CNN that the government literally STOLE two plane-loads of food from the U.N., I about lost it. Now the junta is saying that they’ve reconsidered and are willing to accept aid. Well, sure they are – so they can steal it for the wealthy government officials. And listen to this: “Officials plan to go ahead Saturday with a national constitutional referendum aimed at strengthening the power of the military junta. The government has delayed voting in areas most ravaged by Saturday’s cyclone but refused to cancel the balloting countrywide.”

These government officials are utterly corrupt, unbelievably greedy, and criminally self-centered. The UN should go in there and take over Burma by force. Forget respect for a sovereign nation, this is cultural abuse on a massive scale and should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

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Neither Judge nor Jury

Obviously, the Dumbledore revelation has the world plugging its ears and shouting at the top of its lungs – again (still?) – about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of homosexuality. It is interesting and sad to me that so many religious people who have strong opinions on this issue (either way) have not taken the time to study for themselves what the Bible says nor to pray for the wisdom to interpret the scriptures with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Several years ago, my husband and took a class studying what the Bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality. Or more precisely, we took a class that discussed how various interpretations of the Bible apply – or not – to homosexuality. The intent of the class was to present, in as balanced a way as possible, the views and arguments on most sides of the issue. I personally did a 360 in the class – I ended up with the same opinion I had when I came in, but for a totally different set of reasons! These were my conclusions from the class after 6 weeks of study:

1. There are just a few versus in the Bible that even obliquely reference what we know as “sexual orientation. ” None of the passages explicitly references homosexuality – a term not even coined until the late 1890’s – and condemnation of that particular sexual orientation (whether genetic, as I believe it to be, or chosen) doesn’t seem obvious based on the text when Biblical textual context, historical/cultural context, and nuances of the original Hebrew language are considered.

2. At Baptism, we are adopted as children of God. Although we may turn from God, God will never “unadopt” us.

(I think all people do, by virtue of our human nature, turn from God. I believe this is a consequence of the free will with which were were endowed by God.)

3. ALL sin is regarded equally before God and that ALL people fail and fall short under the Old Testament law. No one can redeem him/herself in God’s eyes by adherence to the law or through actions taken on earth.

4. Jesus’ life shows and the Word tells that the most important commandment is to love: God first, yourself next and your neighbor as yourself. Over and over again, when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with questions of law, he responds in love, regardless of the law, for the people affected. Love truly is the answer!

Generally speaking, Lutherans believe that to go to heaven, you must believe and be baptized. Since faith itself is considered a gift, and baptism represents God’s adoption of us into God’s family, both “belief” and “baptism” are really acts of God, not acts of humankind.

gavel.jpgPersonally, I am at peace with my current stance on homosexuality, though I will continue to seek input from others who disagree or have differing nuances of opinion.

I am so thankful that I do not need to judge for myself who is or isn’t going to heaven! I am so often wrong at unimportant things that I would never trust my own judgment on something so important. I feel that my job is to do my best to reflect Jesus’ love for me by loving and showing love to everyone through word and deed (more than enough work there to keep me busy for the rest of my life) and leave the judging to God.

Invisible Women

I don’t know where this story originated. If anyone finds (or is) the author, please let me know and I will happily give credit where credit is due! The piece was emailed to me and I thought it was too good to keep to myself. (For the record, I did correct a few grammatical mistakes in the original sent to me.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: “Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?” Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Pick me up right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude — but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going … she’s going … she’s gone!

One night, a group of us was having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean.

My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

20050705_sprinklestchapelle.jpg

In the days ahead I would read — no, devour — the book. And I would discover what would become for me four life-changing truths after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals — we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’

And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’ely4.jpg

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder, as one of the people who shows up at a job that she will never see finished, to work on something that her name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

If You Don’t Like the Weather…

I live in Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron. Although the last week has been uncharacteristically sunny, Cleveland is statistically one of the top 20 least sunny cities in the continental US. (http://www.weathertoday.net/weatherfacts.htm) The two funniest Ohio weather jokes are “We have 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction,” and “If you don’ t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.”

Like all jokes, these have a ring of truth to them – particularly the last one. The crux of the joke is that the weather can change quickly around here. Political events over the past few months have shown that the winds of political change can also quickly shift direction.

Just a few months ago, I was blogging about the President Bush’s blatant disdain for the Constitution and my fear that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him. Now it’s early April and Congress – after what I consider a rocky start – is finally starting to challenge the President.

Have you heard of “Sunshine Week”? No…it isn’t a description of last week’s Ohio weather. According to CNN, Sunshine Week is, “a three-year-old national initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It is intended to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.” During Sunshine week this year (March 11 – 17), the House passed three bills designed to open more government records to the public.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/03/14/congress.sunshine.ap/index.html

“For the past six years, we have had an administration that has tried to operate in secrecy, without transparency, without the public having knowledge about their action,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Well, this week, Congress is finally pushing back.”

All I can say is “amen” to that and what TOOK you people so long to get moving!

From the FBI’s abuse of the patriot act provisions (really now, is ANYONE surprised at THAT revelation?) to the deepening hole in which the Attorney General finds himself, the actions of this administration are finally being examined in a way they haven’t been since Bush first took office in 2000. I predict that future investigations will turn up even more egregious violations of the very laws and liberties Bush pledged to uphold and protect.

And, much to my relief, Nancy Pelosi is proving that you don’t need to be a man to have the …um… kahunas to stand up for what is right. From leading the charge to cut off funding for Iraq to visiting Syria in defiance of White House middle eastern policy, she is a strong symbol for the taking back of power by the people – the balance that the founders of this nation intended us to exercise.

According to CNN, Vice President Dick Cheney today said that Democrats are essentially telling U.S. troops to “retreat — with no regard whatsoever for the actual conditions on the ground in Iraq.” For once, Cheney has it right! The Democrats are simply reflecting the popular majority of the American people, who want a retreat – now. Congress is simply doing its job in representing the will of the people by voting to cut off funding.

For us in Ohio, it’s predicted to be a snowy Easter this year, but it looks like the sunshine is going to continue for a while in Washington D.C.. Let’s hope that it stays that way for more than the next 10 minutes, because we’ve been waiting a long time for this kind of political weather.

Knowledge is Power

My husband John makes an interesting observation on the dilemma of internet filtering in schools (http://staff.bbhcsd.org/schinkerj/archives/2007/03/23/protecting-our-students/).
He notes that, “Our schools are supposed to provide adult supervision in all areas where students are using the Internet.”

But what does “adult supervision” mean – an adult simply present in the room (completely ineffective) or an adult actively engaged in looking over kids shoulders as they are online (completely unrealistic). How does this “rule” apply in an age where school campuses and other public areas are increasingly wi-fi enabled and internet devices are increasingly smaller and more convenient? If a student could use her cell phone to access the internet in the bathroom, could the school district be held liable if there is no adult present there at that time?

John also writes, “It may be time to stop relying on the technology to protect them.” I would argue that technology cannot really protect them. One of the most critical roles technology plays in our society today is expanding and organizing our access to data, information, knowledge, and opinion. Filtering software on an institutional level makes no sense because members within a large group of people will rarely agree on what should be filtered.

I access the internet every day. With my filtering limited to pop-up blockers, I very rarely “stumble” across what I consider to be inappropriate sites. In fact, I’m more likely to be surprised by inappropriate content in my email in-box (despite the use of Popfile to filter incoming messages) than online. I think the problem of inappropriate material coming in from outside is exaggerated. The larger threat may be students from seeking out this content from within and sharing it with other students. It’s very difficult to stop the spread of knowledge.

From an administrative perspective, I will admit that it is difficult to address the issue of appropriate content in a blanket way for all age groups. As a parent (essentially a family administrator), I do not ultimately want to limit my children’s access to or discussions of knowledge on any topic. However, since they are currently only 5 and 7 years old, there are definitely some issues to which I do yet not want them deliberately exposed by others. Interestingly, I am not worried one bit about what they might encounter using the internet at their school. I am, however, somewhat concerned about what their teachers might do, say, or model. And I am greatly concerned by what they learn from contact with other students.

My mother has said that we should have taken greater care to live in what she considers a “better” school district, implying that somehow a higher percentage of college-educated parents, greater monetary wealth, or less ethnic diversity makes a school district “better” and would eliminate my concerns. Obviously, there is no place we could move where everyone would agree with my specific views on what is appropriate.

Even though exposure to a large variety of ideas and values could be considered one of the downsides to living in a society with human contact, I personally consider it one of the upsides! As much as we want to protect our children at all costs from all “evil” influences, such contact ultimately works for good by testing and strengthening their character, their sense of self, and their personal ideas of right and wrong.

John writes that, “But maybe it’s time to stop worrying so much about what someone might post online, and start teaching our students how to behave responsibly — as both information creators and information consumers — in this environment.” Ah…the true power of education! On the whole, knowledge is freeing, and attempts to limit knowledge usually indicate an underlying insecurity and/or an attempt to wield power over another. In so many areas of life, we’d be better off acknowledging what we each perceive to be reality and discussing it, rather than trying to ignore, deny, or hide from it. It is a worthwhile exercise to consider why any particular subject is considered taboo – and to realize that such subjects will always be the ones that young minds eager for knowledge of any kind will seek out.

Whoa, Man!

Looks like 2007 is set to be a banner year for women in power. Today, Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female House Speaker in history, putting her 3rd in line for the presidency.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/03/female.speaker.ap/index.html

This is cracking a 200 year old tradition of men in power in the United States, but the breadth of British history has trumped us in this feat. For the first time in 522 years, the historic Yeoman Warders (also known as Beefeaters) have appointed a women to serve in their ranks.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/01/03/beefeater.reut/index.html

There are even rumors that Hilary Rodham Clinton might start a serious bid for the U.S. presidency. Although I don’t particularly like her stand on many issues, I would feel it necessary to strongly consider voting for her in order to create history and further deteriorate the historic stranglehold on power men have and do hold in this country.

Shamefully, countries such as China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and even Iraq have a larger percentage of women involved in positions of governmental power than the United States. It is definitely past time for a change, but we do need to be careful as women HOW the change happens.

According to the CNN article, “Pelosi embraces her role as the first female speaker, but she wants to be judged by the same standards as the 51 men who came before her.” Unfortunately, this desire to conform to the standards already in place for men will simply propel women into roles that harbor the same stereotypes men currently face. What we need is a new set of standards!

The generation before mine came of age at a time when women were thought to be able to do anything and everything. Lost in this message of empowerment was the simple fact that everything cannot be done and had at the same time. The result was a generation of women burning themselves out trying to do it all and be it all.

My generation still struggles with these unrealistic expectations. Can we have a career. Most definitely – and with a variety that exceeds any other generation history. Can we put our children’s interests ahead of our own during the critical years when we are teaching them to be the best people they can be? Of course – no one can do it better than a motivated parent. Can we do these things simultaneously AND effectively? The way the business world is structured, I say no – not without breaking some pretty strong traditions. Just try looking for a job that fully utilizes the skills of a Case Western Reserve MBA graduate (with a 4.0 GPA) that allows a 9 am to 3 pm daily schedule and summers off. (And if you know if one, please let me know because I’m still actively looking!).

So yes – I’m happy that women seem to be making greater strides than ever in 2007. But I hope that we can use our new-found power to reshape and redefine the system rather than simply falling into the same old traps and pitfalls in the name of equality.

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