Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Voting Conundrum

When I first started this blog I decided not to write about anything controversial because I didn't want to offend anyone. Obviously I've strayed from that decision, and any hope of clinging to it is about to go out the window. I still aim to not offend anyone, but straying from any issue that could be controversial would make this a very boring blog. So, let's talk politics.

It is political ad season, and I've noticed that the theme of many ads for Democratic candidates is, look how much like a Republican I can be! As a disclaimer, I don't consider myself to be a Democrat or a Republican. I am aligned with the Green Party, whose candidates, I realize, will probably never have a chance of being elected. But, they often represent my beliefs. Seeing as there are rarely Green candidates on the ballot, I often support Democrats. This creates a conundrum for me next Tuesday because I feel like almost none of the candidates represent my views. I am a huge proponent of voting, and making an informed decision not just voting for a strait party ticket without knowing the candidates or picking a name because you saw it on a sign on the side of the road. So, what do I do when none of the candidates espouse the values I believe in? I vote anyway, because I am proud to have that right as an American, but I pick the candidate I dislike the least, which is disappointing. I know I can be an idealist, and there may rarely be a candidate I can really get excited about, but I've had this quote from (what else?) The West Wing swimming around my head.

"Because I am tired of working for candidates who make me think I should be embarrassed to believe what I believe, Sam. I'm tired of getting them elected. We all need some therapy, because someone came along and said that liberal means "soft on crime." Soft on drugs. Soft on communism. Soft on defense. And we're gonna tax you back to the stone age because people shouldn't have to go to work if they don't want to. And instead of saying, 'Well, excuse me, you right-wing, reactionary xenophobic, homophobic, anti-education, anti-choice, pro-gun, Leave-it-to-Beaver-trip-back-to-the-fifties!' we cowered in the corner and said, 'Please. Don't. Hurt. Me.' No more. I really don't care who's right, who's wrong. We're both right, we're both wrong."
We're both right. We're both wrong. Wouldn't it be amazing to have a true civil dialog between candidates who are firm in their beliefs instead of saying what they think people want to hear so that they can be elected? As I said, I'm an idealist, but at least that means I can always dream and always have hope for a better day.

My all-time favorite commercial, from 2000.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

*Please wear purple tomorrow, October 20, for Spirit Day. Show your support for gay teens, and remember the tragic loss gay teens to suicide.*

I was glad to read that a bit of progress has been made in overturning Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Pentagon told military recruiters to accept openly gay applicants if they meet all of the other requirements. There is still a chance of this being overturned, but I have hope.

I can't understand why we would want to turn people away from serving the country simply because of their sexual orientation. I am not going to address my views on war or the military in general in this post, but I will say that I sure as heck don't want to serve in the military. If there are people who feel that calling, please let them. I understand that it would be a change. In those close quarters, it could be difficult to work next to someone who might be attracted to you in a way that you do not return. But don't men and women serve together? Surely there must be some unrequited feelings among heterosexuals in the military. The West Wing (my all-time favorite show, as you have probably figured out if you've read some of my other posts) also makes a good point through Admiral Fitzwallace. The quality of the video below is poor, so I also listed the text of what I think is the most important part.

Sir, we’re not prejudiced toward homosexuals.

You just don’t want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?

No sir, I don’t.

‘Cause they oppose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.

Yes sir.

That’s what I think too. I also think the military wasn’t designed to be an instrument of social change.

Yes sir.

The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn’t serve with Whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I’m an admiral in the U.S. Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff...Beat that with a stick.

I don't pretend to know a lot about the military. But I do know that all people deserve to be treated with honor and respect.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Taking My Own Advice

On Tuesday, I took my own advice.

I think it is important to take time in our busy lives to rest. I have loved ones who are extremely committed to their jobs and volunteer work, and I encourage them to step away from the workaholic mindset and take time to relax and unwind. This is often counter-cultural, but I think it is important for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. God even thinks it is a good idea. The longest of the Ten Commandments is the fourth commandment, which says,
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
I think taking time to rest is important and I encourage those I love to do so. But this doesn't mean that I always take my own advice. I get wrapped up in work and grad school and church and family and friends and, and, and... These are good things, important things, but when all of my time is schedule, my brain starts to get fuzzy and my energy level goes down. I start to feel cranky and disconnected.

Early Monday evening I tried to figure out why I felt so tired and realized that I had a day free of work and school in at least 15 days. So on Tuesday, I took the day off. I read for pleasure. I took a nap. I did yoga. My husband came home from work late in the afternoon for a few hours before he had to go back for a meeting. This was when I started to feel guilty for taking the day off. I thought that if Jason worked all day, I should do something too or I'd seem like a waste. Fantastic husband that he is, he talked me out of it. I did tidy our desk with intentions a bigger cleaning project, but then I returned to my book instead. It was a wonderful day.

After my day of rest, I felt energized. I was more focused on my schoolwork and more alert when I was at work. I think taking a day away from work helped me to accomplish more in the days that followed. And I felt more relaxed, happy. Hopefully I'll continue to remember to take my own advice.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No Hate

My heart broke when I heard about Tyler Clement (this article explains), and I agree with Ellen. The bullying needs to stop. The hate needs to stop. I personally do not believe that being gay is a choice or a sin. Even if that is your view, I think we can both agree that every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of sexual orientation. In the articled linked above, Tyler Clementi's parents said that they hope their son's death "will serve as a call for compassion, empathy, and human dignity." I pray that it will be. 

To take a small step to help end the hate, you can add your name to this letter that will be sent to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking that gender identity and sexual orientation be included in anti-bullying programs. And check out the NOH8 Campaign because that is what we need - no hate.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's a Book

I was poking around the bookstore the other day and came across It's a Book by Lane Smith. It is a picture book about books and technology, and it is laugh-out-loud funny. The three characters are Monkey, Mouse, and Jackass (more on his name in a minute). Monkey is trying to read a traditional paper book, but Jackass keeps interrupting by asking questions about the book's features. "Can it text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-fi? Tweet?" Jackass asks. Monkey continually, and with growing annoyance, answers, "No. It's a book." I think my favorite part is when Jackass, thinking the book is a computer, asks where the mouse is, and Monkey lifts his hat to reveal the third character in the book, Mouse. Donkey finally takes the book from Monkey and becomes engrossed in it.

It is a fantastic picture book. I do think some parents will object to the character name of Jackass instead of Donkey, and because of this I was surprised to see that seven libraries in the Allegheny County system (including my own USC Township Library) have ordered copies in their children's sections. The first definition in the dictionary for the word jackass is "a male donkey," though.

I like Smith's humorous take on our increasingly digital world. I am obviously not anti-technology or I wouldn't be blogging on the internet, but I do think that we need to be aware that our lives are now permeated with technology. I also think that as great as e-books may be, physical books have a certain magic to them. In an interview, Smith said, "I wasn't trying to make a statement or get all preachy or anything. I just thought it [digital v. traditional] would make a funny comedic conflict." I completely agree.

Above is the trailer for It's a Book. Ironic?