Friday, October 27, 2017

Feeding the Monster ~ Violent Protests Give Agitators Power

In this current environment of campus protests of speakers that allegedly offend the sensitivities or ideals of students and the surrounding populace and often turn violent or at least result in criminal attacks on personal or public property and which has significantly inflated the cost of security, the protesters do not fully appreciate how they give the agitators power. 

There is a time and place for peaceful protest. Peaceful protests about social injustice paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII and equal rights for GLBT individuals. In these situations the agitators were violent; the protesters were peaceful and achieved change. 

The Bill of Rights gives every citizen of the USA a right to free speech, which is the foundation of life in America. We cannot be persecuted by government for speaking out, disagreeing with  our leaders or expressing views antithetical to all that civilized people hold dear.  As a believer in the brilliance of our Founding Fathers and the sanctity of the rights afforded by our Constitution I adhere to the premise that I may abhor what another person or group may espouse; however, I will support with all my being the right of that person or group to say it.

Anybody who argues that free speech should be suppressed, that offensive books should be banned, or that public institutions of higher learning should protect the student body from controversial speakers should consider relocating to Russia, China or North Korea. It is a slippery slope to begin banning free speech. Look to the book burning of the Nazis in the 1930’s as an example of how rights are slowly revoked until the unfavored end up in a slum or camp. 

Those students who protest free speech by speakers they believe may be “dangerous” only give those speakers or demonstrators what they seek. Controversial individuals or groups want attention. Protesters give these people or groups the media attention they crave. Furthermore, by committing vandalism or assault & battery, protesters anger all law abiding citizens. Most of us believe that those who vandalize cars, buildings, statues, stores, trees, street signs, parks, or anything owned by another individual, organization or government should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and ordered to pay restitution. If a student he/she should be expelled and be ordered to pay for the costs of the additional security required. As a taxpayer I am not amenable to paying for the extra security needed to protect the rights of others just because a student is offended by a message.

IGNORE those with whom you do not agree. It takes away the power. By ignoring those one finds offensive, one deprives the agitator of what he/she seeks - media attention. If nobody shows up for a speech and nobody protests, the agenda of the agitator will dissipate. What does it hurt to allow the agitator to speak to a small group? Nothing?

Ultimately, violent protest changes nobody’s mind.  It only feeds the monster. Slay the monster by IGNORING it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Revisiting the Classics ~ Because Recent Books Don’t Have Resonance or Timelessness

This evening during my post aerial yoga dinner and wine with a friend we began to discuss our mutual love of classic literature and the dissatisfaction we have experienced with recently published fiction. Modern authors of fiction who are lauded by reviewers and the media rarely satisfy those of us who appreciate the prose, turn of phrase and plotting of the finest writers of the past. We both admitted we have begun rereading the books that previously filled our hearts and minds with wonder and have vowed to read those we missed.

One of our greatest criticisms of books published during the recent past is the formulaic plots that place the same characters in similar circumstances following recognizable paths that lead to essentially the same conclusion. This treatise pertains only to fiction - including those offerings styled as “literary fiction”, which are often purchased merely because of the hype but not actually read by those who buy them.

Alternatively, non-fiction books (particularly historical studies based upon new sources of research) provide fascinating insights into people who lived in medieval through modern times.

Most recently released fiction I have termed “mind candy”. Even those authors who have previously delivered really good reads seem to be resting on reputation. And I am still puzzled by the extraordinary hype surrounding moderately interesting but flawed offerings such as “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train”. These stories just do not measure up to the brilliant novels of Steinbeck, Dickens, Melville, Dostoevsky, Dos Passos, Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Tolstoy. 

Instead of researching the latest books on Goodreads or Bookbrowse, I plan to look for copies  of the classics I loved or always wanted to read such as:

  • This Side of Paradise, Tender is the Night, The Great Gatsby
  • Little Women
  • Crime & Punishment 
  • The Woman in White 
  • East Lynn by Ellen Wood (1861)
  • A Tale of Two Cities & David Copperfield 
  • Moby Dick 
  • The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls,  
  • East of Eden
  • Pillars of the Earth & World Without End
  • Tanamera, A Farewell to France (Noel Barber)
  • Shoes of the Fisherman & The World is Made of Glass (Morris West)
  • The Charm School & Word of Honor (early DeMille)
  • The Prince of Tides
  • Noble House, King Rat, Tai Pan 
  • Everything by P.D. James
  • Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma
  • The Name of the Rose
  • King of the Confessors (Thomas Hoving)
  • Fanny, Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout -Jones (Jong)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Too many topics ~ Not Enough Motivations

Sometimes I’m stymied by too many options about which to write rather than writers block. Perhaps that has been my challenge in recent history. These are the topics that currently resonate with me:

* Tax Reform
* The media trying, convicting, tarring & feathering flawed individuals and jumping on a bandwagon of vilification instead of unbiased reporting of actual facts;
* Remembering Mom on her first birthday following her death;
* The passing of family friend, former Indiana State Treasurer, and one time         neighbor Julian Ridlen;
* Home grown terrorism in Las Vegas;
* Apologists & psychologists that blame the growing problem of teen and young adult depression & anxiety on the evil world we live in, 24/7 news & social media instead of helicopter parents, participation trophies, a lowest common denominator focused school curriculum, safe spaces, trigger warnings and over protectionism that prevents young people from learning life skills, rebounding from failure, accepting responsibility for actions, acceptance that life isn’t easy or fair, that decisions have consequences, that few things in life are free, and that sticks and stones can break your bones but names can never harm you!
* That statues or other inanimate objects have no power to hurt;
* History is in the past; revisionist history doesn’t change what happened in the past;
* The world today is safer, significantly less violent, richer, healthier, more accessible, cleaner, longer lived, more compassionate, better smelling, with greater equality than at any time in history;
* Leftist agendas inspiring anarchists and home grown terrorists to place pipe bombs at Civil War reenactments with the apparent small minded intention of preventing living historians from educating the public, families from gathering to remember a time before electricity, telephones, refrigerators, stoves, air conditioning, washers & dryers, mass produced clothing, vacuum cleaners, dry cleaning, indoor plumbing, and individuals from honoring his or her ancestors.
* The KonMari Method can also be used to clear one’s brain of clutter;
* Sometimes it is necessary to cut the ties that bind one to an acquaintance of family member for peace & serenity;
* I want a Siberian cat;
* The business philosophy of Bombas, a premium sock company that donates socks to the homeless; 
* Zombie targets are awesome!
* My favorite Netflix DVD binge watching;
* Still obsessed with Game of Thrones;
* The Well Armed Woman - a great organization that promotes firearm training & safety for women;
* Family dynamics;
* Healing spaces 
* Priorities change with wisdom & aging;
* The importance of trying new things, evolving, embracing change;
* The meaning of true friendship;
* An opinion isn’t facts;

* Facts can be manipulated;

This is only a partial list of what calls me to write. What would you like to see? 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

In Furtherance of Mediocrity, Participation Trophies & Pandering to Underachievers - High Schools Drop Tradition of Naming a Valedictorian~

This morning I read an article in the Wall Street Journal, one of the few news outlets that doesn’t tend to skew right or left and reports on the absurdities of life in modern America, about the trend that public high schools have taken towards eliminating the naming of Valedictorians and Salutatorians as hurting the feelings of those who just barely managed to graduate. 

Knowing that my posting the link to the article on FaceBook would cause a knee-jerk reaction among some liberal educators that believe in group think, dumbing down curriculum, giving participation trophies, passing students who should be flunked, grade inflation, and eliminating competition at such a tender age, I proceeded with some amusement. 

Most of my peers agree that actions such as this, which masquerade as fairness, only serve to continue the downwards slide of the education system in America that was once the envy of the modern world. The USA spends more per capita on education than any other first world nation; however, we rank far down the list on the success of our students. The skidding towards the bottom can be attributed to the changes in the system which promotes mediocrity, insists on teaching to the lowest common denominator, inflating grades so that an underachiever doesn’t feel like a loser, passing those who should be held back in an attempt to increase self-esteem, and creating a curriculum that panders to special interest groups. 

The system is broken when it becomes paramount to focus on the psyches of those for whom a high school diploma is the highlight of his or her life. No wonder people want to send their children to private schools where the students are challenged and where success actually means something. 

To me it is tragic that one would even suggest that graduating from high school at the age of 18 should be the pinnacle of one’s existence. I personally know and love numerous people that graduated from high school, did not go to university and still succeeded because of hard work, intelligence, a drive to be accomplished and better oneself and the acceptance that nobody owes us anything. Why should a school system eliminate an award to help underachievers feel good? I am appalled and perplexed.

In the REAL WORLD there are no participation trophies. If 30 applicants post for a position in the corporate world a company doesn’t find the room or the budget to create 30 vice-presidents. There is one successful applicant and 29 that must accept the reality, refrain from complaining, and keep on working, and work harder or smarter for the next opportunity. 

The local Winchester Star recently wrote about an organization holding classes to teach millennials life skills they didn’t learn in school. The American education system should be embarrassed that 30 year old educated adults need to be taught life skills because the students were so coddled that they didn’t learn how to lose, fail, fall, get back on the horse, find resilience, rise from the ashes like a phoenix, grow a pair, understand that life isn’t fair, that there are consequences for action and inaction, that money doesn’t grow on trees, that parents can’t fix everything, that self-sufficiency is empowering, that credit cards eventually must be paid, that good credit is really important to get a mortgage, that the bank doesn’t care if you bought shoes instead of paying the mortgage, that tattoos really don’t help one get a job, and that somebody always winds up on top - the Valedictorian.