Month: July 2018

Bullying – Do Children Need to be Taught to Cope Better?

*Originally posted on the blog 10/21/2013

I had an interesting conversation with my senior students (this is a Contemporary Issues class) this morning. We were watching the NBC Nightly News broadcast from October 20, 2013. There was a story about a student who was bullied and how it was handled, including how it is helping others around the country. Following their viewing of the broadcast, I asked them if there was anything that that caught their attention, something that they wanted to discuss further. One student raised his hand and asked, “Should we be teaching our students to cope better with bullying?” What do you think? Is this a valid question or just insensitivity?

They are, of course, aware of the case, and others like it, where a middle school student jumped from the top of the abandoned cement factory because of the bullying she endured from kids at school.  Some of them also admitted to instances in their past where they were being bullied and how they dealt with the situations. But, many of the students agreed with the first student that asked the question. Many agreed that if students were taught skills to cope with adversity in life, kids might not react so drastically.

Before I get too deep into that part of the conversation, let me also mention that the students, nearly to the person, said that bullying was a problem in society and that is has rightly gotten the attention that is deserves. Several students brought up the fact that there is a fine line between playful teasing, something that can happen between friends or family, and becoming mean – usually where bullying resides. They acknowledge that students need to be sensitive to others’ feelings and they also agreed that laws protecting those who are being bullied are necessary.

However, many of the students said that we live in a hypersensitive society. Too many people today, they felt, are too quickly offended, too quick to sue, too quick to play the victim. They said that we have become “soft” and that one of the reasons we are this way is because we have failed to develop “thick skin” when it comes to what other people do or say to us. Several examples they used (again, we watch the news) to demonstrate their point were the case where a school banned balls of any kind on the playground, the school that banned playing tag on the playground because children get hurt, or even from their own school where a former superintendent banned dodge ball because a student broke his wrist in a freak accident be stepping on a ball as he jumped out of the way. All of these cases, they felt, were from people overreacting to incidents because they were afraid that someone might sue. While these cases don’t have a direct connection to bullying, the point was well taken. Adults have been a bad example of how do deal with instances of conflict and our kids see how it has been handled and they act accordingly.

So, how do we teach our kids to have thicker skin? Better yet, how do we, as adults, begin to demonstrate that trait? Surely there is a need in our society to have thicker skin.

I am short and I get short jokes all the time. I have always been teased, maybe even ridiculed. But it hasn’t ever bothered me. It is a fact of my life. It isn’t something I can change so I accept it and make jokes about my own height as well. How did I develop the skill to cope with such treatment? I am not sure. But I am sure that there must be some value in teaching others the skills to cope in similar situations as well.

Admittedly, we all are different and what might set one person off doesn’t set another off. We all have different “breaking points” or we all have a threshold for tolerance. But why is that threshold so low in some and so high in others?

I would like to hear your thoughts. What do you think? Did my senior student have a valid point or was he just being insensitive?

Not Just Fishing – An open letter to my dad

img_4935

Sunrise @ Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

7/22/18

Dad,

I just wanted to take a moment and let you know how much I really appreciated the fishing trip to Canada this year. I know I said “Thank you” in person, but it just didn’t seem like enough. I have so much gratitude for what you have done and the chance you have given me and my daughter to do this together. There are a lot of things I want to say, so I will do my best to convey them concisely so I get them all in.

Thank you for the work you put in so many years ago. Thank you because the work you did in the past, owning a business and investment properties, has paid off. Over the years there have been many fishing trips with you, and typically there is very little cost to me or my siblings when we have decided to go. You have always covered the majority of the costs, leaving us with minimal expenses to and from the fishing location. I realize this isn’t without a substantial cost to you. I also realize that you have the means to do it because of the wise choices you have made in the past and the hard work that was involved with that. God has blessed you because of your choices and your faithfulness. Thank you, because it hasn’t gone unnoticed

Thank you for the memories you created in the past. As I mentioned before, there have been many times in the past that you have taken me, my siblings, or all of us at one time

img_4934

Another sunrise.

or another on a fishing trip. Whether it was individually or together as a group, there was something special about it. We had time to talk, to share, to be in God’s great creation. We’ve seen the beauty of His wonder and marveled at the spectacular sights. We’ve laughed at situations we have found ourselves in, we have laughed at each other, we have grumbled a little (ok, sometimes a lot), and we have felt loved no matter what. As I sat on the boat, waiting for a fish to take the bait, I realized that all the years of trips to remote places are some of the best memories I have. They aren’t necessarily specific, though there are many of those, but they all just kind of blend together to create a collage of memories that involve a fishing pole, water, and fish. Whether it was standing in the rain next to a stream or baking in the sun on the ocean, those are memories to be carried for a lifetime. Talking about life, playing games together in the camper or lodge, dragging in small fish and big ones too, those are memories that have an impact.

Thank you for letting me include my daughter this year. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive to have her come along since she would have to get up early, not have much access to the internet and her friends, and that sometimes fishing can be boring. I know she can be difficult, especially now in her teen years, as the attitude can run amok and make things not so enjoyable for those around her. I was excited, however, for her to experience the things I did when I was a kid. I have memories of fishing with you, obviously, but there are also memories in my head of fishing with grandpa and grandma too. Those memories are a little fuzzy as I was really young, but they are there nonetheless and they make me smile. So, I was anticipating this trip and having a chance for her to fish with you. I could not wait for her to have what I had as a kid.

As the trip unfolded, and now as I look back, I think there is some obvious evidence that she had a good time, despite the challenges I was anticipating. There was some grumpiness, but not nearly to the level that I feared. I think a large part of that was because of you. You were patient with her, spoke to her with love, and didn’t push her to do too much. How do I know she had a good time? Did you hear those giggles and see those smiles? She did a lot of laughing, at us mostly, but it was worth it! And the smiles? img_4932Well, who can’t help but smile after working hard to get a fish in the boat? The fact that they were her first ocean fish makes it even better! She reeled in by herself a giant Yellow Eye she couldn’t keep (and her disappointment in that) was surpassed by the joy in getting her first King salmon. Regardless of whether she did it by herself or not, you were there the whole way and coaching her with patience and love. It was awesome to watch you two, working together, to make that history happen. Thank you. It is another special memory for me to tuck away and hold onto. I also know that she will do the same, though she may never express it.

Another thing I realized while sitting on the boat this time around is that we weren’t “just fishing.” I couldn’t help but think of a country song by Trace Adkins that has been on the radio for some time now and as I ran through the lyrics in my head I couldn’t help but relate to the song on a deeper level. I think it not only relates to the experience my daughter just had, but I think back over my time fishing with you and it also applies to me (though the details are obviously different). Sure the words may not apply directly to her, or to me for that matter, but the message of the song clearly does. There was always more to this trip than just fishing. In fact, it has always been that way but it took this trip for me to see it. This time for me as the father.

The fish were not plentiful this time and the frustration of not getting them in the boat may have shown a time or two, but what was plentiful were the memories being made and that is what really lasts forever. Thank you for taking the time to make those memories with me so long again (and continue to make) and for taking the time now to make those similar memories with my daughter, your granddaughter. They are incredibly special and I appreciate the chance to make them with her.

img_4933

First King salmon (Chinook). 16 pounds of rod & reel fun! Look at the smile!

Who knows what the future holds? No one. We may never get to do it again, or at the very least she may never choose to do it again, but either way the memories will endure. There will come a time when we can look back and remember those times, those laughs, those smiles, those giggles. I hope there are more chances in the future to make more memories like that, but if not then I am happy to tuck these away and cherish them as priceless treasures.

Thank you. Thank you from me. Thank you from my daughter. Thank you.

Love,

your son

 

Accountability of Weight: Update #5

7795695

This is the fifth update for the year-long project of returning my physical self to a much lighter, and healthier, version of the past.

I’ll try to keep it short so as to not bore you with lots of details and try to just cover some of the lowlights and highlights, cutting to the chase at the end.

Lowlights:

Guys, I am not gonna lie, progress has been terrible. Actually, even using the word “progress” is wrong. Since the last update a month ago, I have gained some of the weight back and I am just not seeing the results I hoped for. Of course, we aren’t talking about a huge amount of weight gain, but when you are trying to celebrate positive movement it is hard to be happy about this.

Circumstances aren’t supposed to dictate how we feel, but right now I am not happy about my progress, or lack thereof. The last month has seen a change in the way I eat (as in I am eating more than I should) and there has been less activity (which is minimal already).

Highlights:

  1. Ummm….
  2. I am not dead yet.
  3. The scale sighed when I stepped off…

So, that wraps up this portion of the show. Let’s cut to the chase…

The Chase:

210.0  = official starting weight 2/15/18

    3.4  = pounds lost as of the morning of 6/10

206.6  = current weight

Thanks for you thoughts and encouragement as the journey continues! Lack of progress doesn’t feel good and so that should encourage a change. If you have ANY words of wisdom, it would be much appreciated at this point.

It may be an uphill climb most days, but the view at the top is usually worth it!

The American Oligarchy

American democracy, as it was designed, is dead. At the very least, it’s on life support and has been for a while. If we aren’t careful, we aren’t going to be able to revive it and the Founding Fathers’ efforts to give it to us will be lost.

As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and was asked by a woman if the new government was a republic or a monarchy. It was reported that without hesitation he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” So, what exactly did he mean and do we need to heed his warning today?

Today, if you walked down the street of any American city and asked any average citizen what kind of government we have in America today you would likely hear from nine out of ten people, “A democracy.” That answer, to a degree is correct. A democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.” (1b) That other person (I am being optimistic here), the one out of ten, would answer “a democratic republic.” This answer would be more correct. A republic is “a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.” (1b.1) America is both a democracy and a republic. Or, at least it was.

I say “it was” because I am beginning to believe that it may no longer be. We the people, I think, like to pretend that we still have a democratic republic but does the “supreme power” really rest in the hands of the people? I would argue that it does not. What do we really have? It is now more of an oligarchy. An oligarchy is “a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” (2)  Thomas Jefferson once said, “Liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it [be]comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of the government by an individual, by a group.” (NOTE: Jefferson was not talking about fascism in the WWII sense that we tend to think of it today. He was talking about it more in the economic sense.)

The key part I want to focus on is that our government is now run by a small group of elites, by a group of people who have tremendous economic wealth and through that wealth “own” the government. Let’s first start with the distribution of wealth in our country. To understand this argument, you have to start here because wealth is the means to power.

Did you get that? The richest 1% of the country has 40% of all the nation’s wealth and they own 50% of all the investments in the stock market. What do they do with all that wealth? Well, they invest it of course because that generates more wealth but they also put it to good use by buying elections. Yep, I said it, they buy elections!

This is where the oligarchy of our government comes in. Our government, Congress and the President, is “owned” by private power, a small percentage of super rich elites, who use their wealth to perpetuate what is best for themselves and their friends. The last presidential election cycle is a good example to show my point. Why? Well because we are seeing it happen before our eyes. One thing that I have become keenly aware of is that in order to run for a political office, you need a pretty substantial stack of cash along with some pretty hefty backers as well. If you don’t have the financial support of a few big donors or the very influential party you choose to side with (who also have their own big donors), you likely can’t win an election in America. Running a campaign has become extremely expensive and it has gotten worse over the years. As a result of the media exposure, costs have gone through the roof. How do you make a win happen? Find and use a money source. Well rather, in many cases, they find you. If you don’t find yourself in the “favor” of those with the wealth, you probably don’t stand much of a chance on winning.

The total cost for the federal election cycle of 2012, Congressional and Presidential, was just under $6.3 BILLION. That’s a big pile of dough! If you click on those links, you can see that being a politician is an expensive venture. So, does all that cash come from their pockets or do they have help? Many of those who ran for office did have their own wealth, and collectively the 535 Congressional members have a net worth of more than $1 million each. The millionaires’ club has now gone over 50%. So, what does all that mean? The group of rich people in Congress, those men and women who make our laws, don’t get much competition when it comes to running for office because the average Joe can’t afford to run. Yes, there is competition and in some cases it was a very fierce competition (just look at the top 11 campaigns for self funding) so money doesn’t always guarantee a win, but it does certainly help in a vast majority of campaign races. And, of course, there is help from many other sources as well, all of whom represent a small percentage of the population but a large percentage of the wealth.

Oligarchy.

Thomas Jefferson spoke of it, and Ben Franklin warned us about losing control of the very government the Constitution set up. We have not heeded the warnings of our Founders. We the people are all created equal but if we don’t keep private power from controlling the government, equality of opportunity isn’t going to survive in the land of the free. Instead, those who have the wealth and the power control opportunity and access will be severely limited to those who can afford it. We already see this in practice as the costs of college have gone up in the last decade. Not just slightly, but by leaps and bounds.

The American government can’t be allowed to continue towards a more powerful oligarchy, but we are well on our way down that road. We have to fight the rise of private power by being educated in our voting and not merely settle for whom has the best commercials or most striking mass mailers. We can’t rely simply on the incumbent, who often becomes entrenched with tenure and power, or vote because it is the only name on the ballot we recognize. We can’t just let those with great personal wealth or with seemingly unlimited backing from a small percentage of the population continue to gain control of our government. For if we do, it will no longer represent us – as many have made the case for already.

Our democratic republic is in danger and our Founder Fathers would be disappointed in us.

Conquered, not stolen

Misappropriation of history.

This has got to be one of the dumbest images I have seen. Not only is it inaccurate about immigration (if you didn’t follow the law, you’re illegal), but also about history and the Native Americans.

The land (and people) was not stolen, it was conquered.

It was conquered. Let’s be clear, it was conquered. The people who lived here before the Europeans arrived were conquered and there is no disputing it. That’s not to say there weren’t ugly periods of time where we, as a (formerly) Christian nation, shouldn’t be upset about the treatment of people. However, war is war. When you are trying to conquer a people, a land, a continent – there is really no fair play. Before you get all up in arms about that statement, remember that even the people who lived here before did exactly the same things now being misrepresented. They fought, the pillaged, they slaughtered, they enslaved, and they assimilated. This it not new history, so the image above is inaccurate at best and a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

If you look at world history, there were only several outcomes possible for a conquered people: total annihilation (as in death of the people, society, and culture), slavery, or assimilation. Name a civilization, or nation, that didn’t do this? The greatest (at least in the classical sense) nations and peoples have always done this. It is human nature. From the smallest tribes and clans in third world countries to the biggest and most powerful empires known to man, the quest for power and more land has been the same. As such, the quest to conquer has been the same.

So, let’s get history straight, shall we?