Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Run, Hide, Tell? How about fight?















Terrorism is not going away anytime soon.

First off, let's not kid ourselves . . . it's not terror, it's war.  

Terrorism follows the pattern of frightening the public with a repeated list of demands.  It is meant to wear down a public through fear and eventually get them to the point of capitulation to an organization's goals.

So what are the jihadist's goals?

Yesterday a man in France used a hammer on a policeman in France saying, 
"this is for Syria."

Yesterday was about Syria.  Last week it was about God being great.  The Manchester bombing was believed to have been planned on the anniversary of the death of Lee Rigby.  There are no unifying aims coordinated to pursue a single goal of the Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Saudis, Hezbollah, Al Aqsa, ISIS or just those that hate Israel.  The purposes for these violent outbreaks are all over the map.

That is not terrorism - that's war.  These are battles.  Radicalized Islam is at war with the Western World or the Western World is in the crossfire of Jihad in the most bizarre way - it doesn't involve holding land or claiming countries.  It wages war by never going away.  

It is never going away.  We can't run from it.

Which brings me to the "Run, Hide, Tell" policy of the London police.  An adaptation of the American, "run, hide, fight" protocol of an active shooter, the police are advising the public to have a response ready when terrorists strike.  Instead of freezing up, they want people to run or hide (or do both) and then let the police know what is going on.

The plan saved many lives in the latest waves of attacks in England because people actually had a plan.  No one played the hero - they got out of the way for the police to do their job.  

I don't disagree with the basic idea - but there is something that just doesn't sit right with me.

If we are in a war, maybe this is the time to be a hero.

If they are never going away, then why are we running?  Maybe we should aim to stop the attack the second it starts - with as many bodies as possible smothering the attacker.

I think of almost 75 years ago yesterday how tens of thousands of our young stepped onto a beach and ran into gunfire because we were at war with evil.  2500 men died that day, but tens of thousands lived on to defeat Hitler.  We changed the world by stepping into danger.

Those were soldiers, not civilians, I get it.  

But if this is a war and they are bringing it to our cities and civilians, then maybe we shouldn't be running and hiding.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

When your biceps aren't big enough . . .



Ok, so I'll ask the question . . .

"Have we become way too sensitive about everything?"

And it really is a question.  I am open to hearing from everyone on this.  I just wonder if we are becoming way too sensitive when someone makes a comment about our bodies that it becomes 'body shaming.'

Here's the situation:

Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman sent out a series of tweets about her experience at the airport.  Going through security, a TSA agent recognized her as a gymnast.  In response,  a male TSA agent remarked that it couldn't be her because her arms didn't look big enough.  

Her full Tweet:

“I work very hard to be healthy and fit,” she tweeted. “The fact that a man thinks he [can] judge my arms pisses me off. I am so sick of this judgmental generation. If you are a man who can’t compliment a girl’s [arm muscles] you are sexist. Get over yourself. Are you kidding me? It’s 2017. When will this change?
”

Back up.  This is sexism?  According to Raisman, if I can't compliment a woman on her arms I am sexist?  If the comment came from a woman would it still be sexist?  Perhaps the TSA agent was making an assumption about gymnasts, not females.  Again, I could be completely wrong about this, but making a remark about whether you look strong enough to be a gymnast sounds ignorant and weird . . . but sexist?

Rule number one for a TSA agent should probably be: "Don't make remarks about other people's bodies."  I think that this guy should probably have some kind of re-training.  Especially if the guy has creepy stares - I would think you would get rid of someone for creeping people out that just want to get through security.

But to make this about sexism makes me wonder if there is something else at work here.

In my own life, I have seen this first hand.  I am a thin person and sometimes women will say something like, "yeah, but you're so skinny."

Skinny?

Ladies - heads up - skinny is not a compliment for a guy.  Maybe it is for women, but no guy wants to be known as skinny.  Like, ever.  Same goes for beanpole, scrawny, gaunt and bony.   I have heard all of these words in my life but never once equated it with sexism.  In fact, I figured it had more to do with their own waistlines than mine.  

So having experience in this area, I don't think I am blind to it.  To equate this with sexism because some guy thought that gymnasts have bigger biceps seems like we have wandered way too far into ultra-sensitivity.  Aly - you had a conversation with a creepy guy who lacks social grace - to apply this to an entire generation and say that you were judged seems like overkill.

But maybe I am wrong.  I am willing to be taught.  What say you?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What if integrity and character all of a sudden mattered?



Twitter is lit up right now with talk about impeachment.

Yes, I know Twitter is the social media equivalent of Dad jeans, but there is a lot of buzz about this.

Remember - impeachment doesn’t remove someone from office – it just puts them on trial (and it looks like for better or worse it might happen at some point in the next three and a half years).

Not being a fan of the right or the left, I find it interesting to watch it all – especially all the talk about things like honesty, integrity, diplomacy and intelligence.  Is Trump being honest about his dealings with Comey?  Is Trump stupid enough to leak our secrets to the Russians?

Wait, we care about this now? 

Have you ever noticed how all this talk switches sides based on who is in office?  We don't really care about intellect and integrity - it's all a game.  And those of us who don't play politics are done with it.

Remember how important integrity was when someone was caught with an intern in the Oval Office?  Funny how that evaporated in this last election cycle . . .

Remember how important intellect was when we learned our president skips intelligence briefings?  Funny how we never heard the last one skipped two-thirds of them . . .

It's a big game.  This is why we don’t like politics.  Attention to character and values is selective. 

So if we are serious about impeachment, then let’s make sure that character and morals and values matter once and for all.  We should sign a document that says, “we are done with politics – these things are needed for the next president of the United States. – regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on.” 

The president needs:

1.      IntegrityIntegrity is having noble character whether or not you have an audience.  It means you have genuine values that are not for show or for sale.  Integrity means you really care.  It means you really want to lead through serving.  You take one person’s concern about pre-existing conditions just as seriously as another person’s concern about what gender shows up in their bathroom.  If you are smirking at this, you are not fit for the job.

2.      Real World Experience.  The next president has to have held a job – like a real job.  The next president needs to have been a teacher or waitress.  They should know what it is like to save up for something.  The next president cannot have gone through life as a professional politician or living off of a family fortune.  They need to know how much a loaf of bread costs.  They need to have experience comparison shopping for cheaper hotel rooms for their family vacations.  If this is foreign to you, keep your seat on the board of directors.

3.      WisdomThere are lots of measures of intelligence.  Book smarts.  Emotional IQ.  Analytical ability.  These are all pre-requisites but it must be paired with wisdom.  Jimmy Carter was a grad student in nuclear physics but you don’t hear anyone clamoring to return to the Carter age.  Our current occupant could be the diametric opposite with a similar result.  You need wisdom to lead.  Anyone can know the truth.  The wise person lives it out (which takes us back to no#1 above).


What if we did pursue impeachment?  If our culture really decided that truth and integrity matter, how could any of us disagree?  As a culture, we could deeply benefit from a return to character.  How wonderful would it be if we could all agree that those who serve us in government need to be people of noble character?  That is something all of us could get behind.  A nation thrives when its leaders have integrity.  

What I fear is that we are using this kind of language to get rid of someone because we don’t agree with their politics.  This is game-playing.  Let’s stop the games.  



When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.  Proverbs 29:2

Monday, May 8, 2017

The fraternity system needs to change now.


What in the world are fraternities good for?

It's actually a question. 

Yes, I will respectfully listen to your answer, but you are going to have a hard time convincing me of anything good in light of what we learned from State College last week.

Back in February, Nineteen-year-old Tim Piazza was just celebrating being initiated into Beta Theta Pi at Penn State.  He and some other initiates were 'running the gauntlet' - an activity that included guzzling beer, wine and vodka.  Receipts from the house show that thousands were spent on alcohol.  Thousands spent on alcohol from the model fraternity at Penn State because of its strict rules that stated members were to be expelled if they drank.

They obviously were lying.  

With his blood alcohol level at .36, Piazza fell down a flight of stairs and hit his head.  He was taken to a couch and he laid there unresponsive just after midnight.  Security cameras show 'brothers' pointing and laughing and eventually pushing away the only person who was adamant about taking him to the hospital.  

Instead, he laid there for 12 hours.  

Twelve hours.  Twelve hours of hand-wringing and arguing about what to do next.  Twelve hours of worrying about how this would look and what it would mean legally for the rest of the 'brothers.'

Piazza attempted to get up multiple times and through the night but kept falling and hitting his head.  Fraternity 'brothers' even loaded a backpack with books and laid it on his chest to keep him from moving.

Early the next morning Piazza fell down the basement steps and laid on the floor before fraternity 'brothers' brought him back to the couch and agonized about their next steps for almost an hour.

At that point, they googled how to cover up their negligence and sent Group Me texts to everyone in the house to get rid of the alcohol and clean up the blood.  Then they took him to the hospital.  

He died the next morning.

I went to Penn State.  I have been at those fraternities.  It is a miracle that we don't have more of these incidents happen every semester.

I am not saying every fraternity or every fraternity member is a liar or guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  I am saying that the fraternity system I saw at Penn State is a breeding ground for this kind of negligence (and I've said nothing of the pernicious and often times predatory sexual practices employed by fraternities).  

This is usually where those who support the fraternity system talk about how community minded these organizations can be and to look at how much good frats do in events like THON.  

I agree - fraternities have some great sides to them.  They can bring out some of the best in young adults.  It just seems like over and over again we wind up in situations like this where alcohol plays such a devastating role in a young person's life.

So let's do something.  Let's focus on the good and get rid of the bad.

Get rid of the fraternity house.

Let's get rid of frat houses that hide parties like this.  There is no way that Tim Piazza would be dead today if he was lying on the floor of a dorm lobby.  Too many eyes would have seen it and done the right thing.  It is under the cover of these frat houses that this kind of thing happens. 

So get rid of the house.  Keep the frat.  You can still have THON.  You can still do all the community work.  You can even have the parties - you just have to have them where everyone else can see what it going on.  Accountability.  That way you can't have the privacy of getting someone so drunk they can't say no.  That way you can't haze young initiates.  That way you don't have to rely on frightened nineteen-year-olds to do the right thing in the middle of the night.

My guess is that if you got rid of the houses, you would destroy the system.

Which tells me it never was about 'the community' in the first place.



Thursday, May 4, 2017

If you think the election was stolen by Russians, it wasn't.



Live your life in such a way that you never have to hide anything.

If there is one lesson I think we can learn from the last six or seven months – it is that living with secrets is no life at all.

This week Hillary Clinton talked about her loss last November.  Honestly, I don’t think it really matters to me who is president.  I stay out of the politics of it all.  I would still be happy regardless of who is claiming to ‘run the country.’  But Clinton’s interviews are stirring up all kinds of talk about how the FBI or the Russians stole our country’s election last fall.

Stolen?

Maybe I am missing something here.  How did anyone steal anything?
Did the Russian government hack into our voting machines?  Were vote tallies tampered with?

Of course not - the only things stolen were emails that discussed the illegal behavior of the Clinton campaign.  Apparently, the Clinton campaign rigged the primary and stole the election from Bernie Sanders.  Some hackers got a hold of these emails and showed us the truth.

This and the FBI investigating some shady deleting of emails is what Clinton says led to her demise with the electorate.

If there were no secrets to cover up, there would never have been an issue.

No one did anything to Clinton – she did it to herself.  If there were no lies, there is no story.  Lies and illegal behavior can’t be blamed on the person that brings them to light.

Again – I don’t think our lives are that much affected by who is in the White House, so I’d be happy regardless.  What I am impressed with is how much easier life is when you don’t have anything to hide.  The moral of the story is living in the truth.

Jesus said that the truth will set you free.  This only applies to people that embrace the truth.  The opposite takes effect if you try to hide it.  Once you have secrets, the truth will only hurt you.  You become a slave to the stories you invent to keep the truth hidden.

Or eventually you lose.

So you can’t blame others for your own shady practice.  In the end, the lesson for me is that unless you want to be a slave to your secrets, try as best you can to live in the truth.



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Stepping on the toes of the anti-college movement



I’m going to say something that will probably make you upset, but we can hug it out later:

If you think college isn’t worth it, you’re wrong.

Yes, I’ve heard the “college does nothing for you” speech thousands of times.  I just smile and nod because if I disagree I look like an insensitive child of privilege but at some point I just have to say, “that’s not true.”

If you know what you want to do and you have a solid plan, college is worth every penny you invest.

Read it again – I’m not saying college is for everyone – but I am saying that if you are saying college isn’t worth it, you are wrong.

I was raised by teachers so I didn’t grow up wealthy. I amassed a significant pile of debt on the way to a doctorate . . . I knew I would . . . but I also knew my education would help me pay it off in under five years. 

College may not be for everyone – but if you know what you want to do and you have a solid plan, college is worth it.  The debt incurred is worth it to achieve the goals you have.

Yes, I know the horror stories – $200k in debt and no jobs available, but is that really about college or poor planning?  Maybe someone needed to tell you that majoring in leisure studies at a university that charges $50k a year is a bad idea.

And now I have just picked a fight with the leisure studies major reading this blog, but I stand by my statement.

I read about a young man who, under the advice of college counselors, majored in history.  The ‘experts’ told him companies like to hire people who think and write critically. Not his passion, but not knowing what else to do, he completed the major.  He now manages a dry-cleaning store and struggles to pay a $300 monthly loan payment because no one is hiring history majors.

He should have waited until he had a better plan.

On the other hand, his friend skipped college and got a job with a local oil company at $18 per hour.  Four years later he earns $60,000 a year.

Stories like this are often used to illustrate how a college degree is worthless.

First of all, it is a lazy argument.  We’ve stacked the worst case scenario alongside a best case scenario.  How different would the comparison be if instead of a history major we selected a brain surgeon?  An electrical engineer starts around $60k and over a lifetime leads to double that amount.  That takes nothing away from the guy working at the oil company, but at least the comparisons are equal because both had a good plan.

There are plenty of careers that involve trade schools, apprenticeships, technical schools.  Knowing what you want to do and then developing a solid plan means more than a college degree or a high paying job.  Most people arguing against a college education are actually arguing against poor planning.

The two are different.

In terms of opportunity, however, you can’t argue with a well-thought out college education:

-        - The rate of unemployment for non-college grads is nearly double the rate of college graduates.  [1]

-        - More employers are looking for college graduates.  In the STEM field alone (the fastest growing job field), employers are looking for college graduates versus non-college graduates 3-1.[2][3]

-        - As a whole, salaries of college graduates nearly double those of non-college grads.[4][5]

-        - During a forty year lifetime of work, some estimates show that college graduates earn about one million dollars more than non-college graduates. 

But what about the debt? 

You are right – getting into tens of thousands of dollars in debt in a field you don’t really like is no way to go about planning your future.  Perhaps take a few years to earn money and explore life before so you figure out your calling. 

If that calling involves eventually making $200k a year, then a $200k debt is an investment.  If that calling involves making $20k a year then maybe looking at more economical options like community college is a better plan.

It really doesn’t matter if your calling in life pays you $20k or $200k – what matters is whether you have a good plan.  Going to a college that gives you $200k debt for a $20k calling is not a good plan.  That doesn’t mean college is worthless, it just means your plan was worthless.

Forget the money and the statistics for a moment.  I work with college age young adults.  Many (but not all) would benefit from an environment that stretches them intellectually.  Having to room with people that are different from them.  Figuring out their worldview from all the hodge-podge of ideas in an academic community really makes you grow if you are mature enough to seize the opportunities.  Having to negotiate and work with difficult professors and advisors - all the education that goes beyond the classroom - that is what makes a college education worth it.   

So please, enough with the “college doesn’t do anything for you.”  Arguing college isn't worth it is the same as saying everyone has to go to college.   It all depends on the person.  In the end, nothing takes the place of maturity and having a good plan.





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Need to be In The Room



It seems like everyone is talking about the Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why.

Originally a New York Times Young Adult Bestseller written by Jay Adams, the Netflix series adaptation of the book has gained critical acclaim and mixed reception about its treatment of teenage suicide.  

The story is about Hannah Baker, a young girl subjected to ruthless bullying and abuse by her peers.  This leads to her decision to end her life, but before she does, Hannah makes a series of recordings aimed at the people in her life that have hurt her.  These become her thirteen reasons.  The series explores how these recordings impact those left behind.   

The series is raw - not the kind of stuff for pre-teens (or, in my opinion, even young teenagers).  It seems more like a series for young adults and professionals who work with students.  

The storylines are layered with the deep introspection of a dead teenage girl and how the people in her life deal with guilt.  The series visits the issue of blame repeatedly (and heavy-handedly).  

Clay wrestles with his silence . . . should he have spoken up more?
    "You could have stopped it and I could have and a dozen other people . . . we all killed Hannah."

Or is it Courtney, who threw Hannah under the bus to hide her sexuality?
    "Its on you because she thought you were her friend and you sent one more [person] in her direction just to cover the fact that you are gay.”

It should fall on Bryce, the one who raped her, but he is disturbingly cold-hearted.
    "You made it open season on Hannah Baker."

We meet the people in her life that share the blame.  However, the series seems to argue that the real blame is to be put on our culture - a world in which young people ruthlessly hurt each other while adults, consumed with their own dramatically vapid lives, stand at a distance and watch it happen.

At one point, the camera sweeps over pictures of Hannah with Angel Olsen's haunting song Windows playing softly:

Why can't you see
Are you blind?
Are you dead already?
Are you alright?

It is a pretty intense series . . .

To be fair, subject matter like this should be intense.  We operate in a cultural system where our young people and their hurt lives live below the adult radar.  The savage way that students bully and abuse each other needs the serious attention that a series like this gives.

And the producers of the show have voiced their intent to portray suicide as a non-option:

“We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest, and we wanted to make something that can hopefully help people, because suicide should never, ever, be an option,” (1)

Co-producer Biran Yorkey said, "we worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch, because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide." (2)

But has this series inadvertently made suicide a tempting idea to younger viewers who don't understand the subtlety of the series' depiction of guilt?  

Have we made suicide imaginable in the vengeful way in which each recording causes a different character to examine their own culpability?  At times it feels like, "we did this to her" which I fear could empower younger viewers to see this as a possible path to take to make a point. 

Dan Reidenberg, the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, shares this concern saying that "The way things are portrayed in the media does have an effect on the way suicides can happen. This is particularly true for young people that are very vulnerable and at risk of suicide."  (3)

The real question is, "where are the parents?"  

Not just in the story, but in real life.  No kid should be watching this without a parent nearby to help them answer the questions this series raises.  Each episode asks questions about self-worth, hurt, love, hate and how to deal with fear and anger during the hardest time of adjustment in our lives.

You should be in the room.

We need to remind each other that kids are watching this and they need to hear the calm and reassuring perspective of an adult.  In all of its emotional realism, Thirteen Reasons rarely reminds the viewer that no one makes someone else decide to end their lives.  Not only do young ones need to hear that they are not to blame for something like this, but also that suicide will not get you the justice you are seeking.

Thirteen Reasons raises some good questions but parents need to be there for the answers.