Life

The Ministry of Objectionable Materials

prohibited

Doesn’t it seem as if life in the United States is getting more and more surreal every day? It almost appears that we are watching scenes from a movie unfold before our eyes. Movie scenes we thought we would never see in our country. The events on the East coast over the last couple weeks just make it more and more clear we are headed for a change and I don’t think it is a good one.

As most of my readers know (at least I hope so), I am a history guy. I think it can be very useful to study it and think it is more important than ever to teach it (something our schools and society doesn’t think is important any longer, but that’s another discussion). No, I am not in the classroom any longer, but there are times like the last couple of weeks that make me wish I was still there.

History is being made. Every day. Good. Bad. Ugly.

At the moment, I believe we are headed into the bad…into a scene from a movie I never thought I would see in real life. I used to show it in class because it provides a good example of how a government can become oppressive, but also how the people of a country can allow it to get that way – mostly because they DEMAND it to become that way.

I used the movie V for Vendetta in my classroom as I wrapped up my unit on the Constitution with my seniors. It is an awesome teaching movie as it uses lots of references and allegories that are historically based as well as great examples of what a government shouldn’t be (and how our Constitution should keep it from getting that way). Plus, it’s just kind of a cool but that isn’t really for discussion here.

What is important is one of the things it references in passing, a government organization called “The Ministry of Objectionable Materials.”  The female lead character asks the main character where he got all of the works of art, film, music, etc. (because she obviously knew they were all banned materials) and he responds by saying he stole it back from the government (see clip).

Apparently we are demanding this of our government now. Any by this, I mean that we are asking out government to protect us (or better yet, others) from things we find objectionable. We are doing it because we have many in society who can’t handle our own history. We would rather run and hide from our history than learn from it or, perhaps we’d rather run to hide history because we’ve still not learned from it.

lenin-statueThis is offensive,” said Tony Barger. “This should be taken down. This is an actual Russian relic and should not be here on American soil.”

History is beautiful. History is ugly. History demonstrates many successes, but it also exposes many failings too. That is why it is important not to hide it away. As Americans we should certainly want to learn from the “historical black eyes”, we ourselves have put into our own history. We certainly shouldn’t want to tear down or hide our history. As Americans we should celebrate the successes we’ve had, and I honestly believe we have had more success than failure.

Tearing down our past and hiding it away isn’t going to make our history any better, but it just might make it worse. Public memory fades fast, probably faster than any of us would really like. If we don’t have reminders of the past before us, we will forget it. Does that mean we should keep monuments commemorating our “historical black eyes”? Yes, even if they offend. They are important reminders to times that were not so good and they also represent mile markers in our road to success.

There will be some who use those monuments as a rallying point to their agenda or beliefs, but they typically represent a minority point of view and while it may be disgusting they are within their rights to believe, and assemble, as they wish (the Supreme Court says so and the ACLU helped, surprisingly). As a society we need to work to change their views, but we can’t do it the way it is being done right now. The more attention you give it, the worse it will get. Think of it along the lines of a bug bite – if you leave it alone (not ignore it) it will go away faster but the more you scratch it, the longer it sticks around (sometimes opening it up so it can fester into something more/worse).

Obviously, we can’t ignore it. Nothing just goes away on its own. Hostatues-removed-at-ut-austin-20174518-700x467wever, if not given attention on a grand scale, it will diminish. Fire, as destructive as it can be, if left alone eventually burns itself out. The president of the University of Texas wrote a letter to students just before classes resumed for the fall. He made some good points, but I can’t help but think he only provided fuel for a fire that wasn’t burning (at least not brightly). Instead, by giving a voice to the small fire that may have burned there on campus, he most likely made things worse.

Where should the Ministry of Objectionable Material stop? Where does the line get drawn? Who gets to decide where the line is drawn? When do we stop getting our feelings hurt? When do we stop getting offended by nearly everything around us?

For some more food for thought, check below.

Truman and Free Speech

Image result for harry truman

“There is no more fundamental axiom of American freedom than the familiar statement: In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have. And the reason this is so fundamental to freedom is not, as many suppose, that it protects the few unorthodox from suppression by the majority. To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…But we would betray our finest traditions if we attempted…to curb the simple expression of opinion. This we should never do, no matter how distasteful the opinion may be to the vast majority of our people…We need not fear the expression of ideas—we do need to fear their suppression.”

– President Harry S. Truman

Context: fighting communism in the United States and around the world.

The emphasis above is mine. One of the most important freedoms we have is under attack and I’m afraid it will only get worse. The attacks are coming fast and furious and from every side. I doubt there will be a turn from this trend, only a charging straight into an unknown and dark future.

“We punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have”

We have sunk so low these days that we are punishing people for their opinions. I don’t mean we are legally punishing them, though I suspect we aren’t far off from this. (On second thought, maybe we are – see the baker, the florist, the photographer, the wedding venue, etc. being prosecuted because of their beliefs and opinions.)

We are now punishing people in the public arena via social media, sometimes even to the point of violence off-line. There is no crime in holding an opinion and expressing it, yet many people apparently believe it is these days. The trend to punish people for their opinions has gone to name calling, bullying, harassing, taunting, threatening, unfriending, embarrassing, humiliating, and in some cases even following through with physical violence simply because someone disagrees with another person’s opinion or disagrees with their extreme viewpoint.

Take this student photo article as an example. No harm done, to anyone, by her posting a photo she is proud of. It is easy to imagine that anyone would post a picture they have when they got it while interacting with someone famous. So, when did it become acceptable to treat someone so poorly because you disagree with them?

We teach our kids in school not to bully, harass, threaten, or otherwise make someone uncomfortable (Really? Because that’s reality…). Yet, there is no reasonable expectation among the adult world that this will carry forth into daily life. We aren’t practicing what we preach. It brings to mind that whole “Do what I say, not what I do” adage.

Now, it appears at least as adults, we celebrate people who go out of their way to bully, harass, or even attack others who have opinions that don’t line up with mainstream opinion. We are teaching our kids that it is ok to fight detestable and offensive opinions with violence and intimidation and bullying and harassment, etc. as long as we believe it to be repugnant.

The whole point of the United States and it’s foundation was to protect free speech, even the kind we find repugnant. Our Founders, who were persecuted for their beliefs and opinions, are celebrated because they fought against a society that believed their ideas were repugnant. (Back to the whole historical argument – were our Founders patriots or terrorists? It depends on your point of view.) Our Constitution is meant to protect all ideas and opinions, even the ones we don’t like, because we are supposed to have a “marketplace of ideas”. Take the ones you like and leave the ones you don’t. There is nothing in the Constitution about convincing others they are wrong by bullying and harassing them into changing their idea.

Truman understood that “To permit freedom of expression is primarily for the benefit of the majority because it protects criticism, and criticism leads to progress…”  He understood that if there is a problem in society it needed to be discussed and worked on until it was fixed. If there is a belief that our country is going in the wrong direction, then there needs to be open dialogue about it not suppression and violence.

If we become a society that suppresses ideas we don’t like or find repugnant, how do we move forward? Censorship at every corner and in every facet of life? I know everyone hates the cliche “slippery slope,” but we are seeing some prime examples these days. Where does the suppression of ideas or thoughts, or opinions end? What one person finds objectionable, another finds acceptable. Who gets to decide in a open and free society?

 

 

 

“Can you please call the police”

I think we are far enough removed from this event that I can finally write about it. Probably. I mean, it was a bit traumatic at the moment but everything ended fine.

wife email.png

The screen shot above is an email from my wife. It was sent to me while I was at work, coming from her while she was at work. I froze and my heart stopped…

Was she serious? I wasn’t sure. It had come in 10 minutes prior to me seeing it in my inbox. Was it too late? I needed answers, but I was frozen and I’m not sure my heart was beating…

I grabbed my phone. Texted her:

“Are you serious? Or are you joking?”

“Not joking,” or “serious,” was the quick, short response that flashed onto my screen. To be honest, I am not sure I remember what her response was. All I know is that it confirmed my fears.

At the time I received the email, I was in my classroom teaching history to juniors, or seniors, but that doesn’t really matter. What mattered was my wife was in trouble and I was at least an hour away, I had a room full of students, and I couldn’t panic in front of them or really even alarm them. So, I stepped out of the room with my phone and called the police.

The 911 operator answered and I explained what what going on. That my wife and the other woman in her office were in a situation they didn’t know how to get out of and they weren’t sure how the man would react if he was provoked. The operator asked for an address and said the officers were on their way.

One problem, among many, is that mental illness isn’t dealt with. Often it is ignored, especially in the homeless society that lives right under our noses most days. Is there a better way to help those who need it? Are we wasting money on social services that aren’t needed instead of spending it on social services that are? If someone has a mental illness and they are homeless, are we doing them injustice by allowing them to fend for themselves instead of institutionalizing them and getting them help? Hard questions.

As it turns out, but the time the police got to my wife’s office the man had already stepped outside and was standing out front of the building. When the police arrived, they talked to him out front and they talked with my wife and the other woman in the office. They knew him. They had dealt with him previously, and according to them he was harmless. They talked to him some more and then he walked away towards the bus stop near the office building. The police left.

That was it. It was over. Nothing happened.

Needless to say, the women in the office were a little shaken but they continued to work. They have seen many homeless people wander through the parking lot of that office building. They continue to do their job.

That moment in my classroom, looking at an email from my wife who was in trouble, has stuck with me. Talk about a helpless feeling. Talk about thoughts of the worst going through your head. Panic.

I can’t help but wonder, are there other stories out there like mine, like my wife’s? Tell them to me in the comments. What would you do if you received a message like the one I got?

The Day Independence Didn’t Begin

While many in the United States celebrate Independence Day today, one thing we need to remember is that July 4, 1776, was only one day in the long struggle for freedom. In fact, it was closer to the end of the struggle instead of the beginning, as most people think.

Americans (known as British subjects back then) began the struggle for independence while they were fighting next to British troops in the countryside against the French (we know this conflict as the “French & Indian War”, the Brits know it as the “Seven Years War”: 1754-1763) It was during this conflict that many of our future nation’s leaders were born. For they saw the policies and practices of the British and realized then that they were going to be treated unfairly, even if they won the war. George Washington became our nation’s first leader because of the failures, which in some cases were horrendous, and successes. This conflict was his training ground! After the war was over, it was the actions of the British parliament that led to the American leaders protesting the unfair taxes placed/forced on them to pay for the war. It was through these protests that our pursuit of freedom really began.

July 4, 1776, was the culmination of our frustrations with the British. What most American forget is that we almost “kissed and made up” with the British in 1775. Had the British government accepted the “Olive Branch Petition” from the colonies, we could very likely still be subjects of the crown. Oh how different our lives would be, right?

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, almost 10 years after it began. So, let’s not take our freedom for granted on this day. The battle wasn’t won during a short fight, it was won over a long period of time. Many sacrificed all – both then and now. There are many who are sacrificing even now so that we might remain free. Don’t let us take it for granted!

I want to end with a smattering of quotes. I end this post this way because I feel we, as a nation, are headed into dark times if we continue to dishonor our heritage and the sacrifices of those who came before us. We are giving up on the ideals and principles that our country was founded on. Maybe we aren’t giving up on them, maybe we are just ignoring them. Or maybe we just don’t care because we have become too selfish and too apathetic, I don’t know for sure. But what I fear is that the road we are on will not perpetuate the greatness we have known in the past. Ben Franklin is famous for saying after the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, in response to a question about the kind of government we would have, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Today, I think he may be right. The challenge is to maintain it and those WE have elected over the years are eroding the foundations of our house. Let me be clear, WE the people are the problem, not our politicians. WE put them in office and, unfortunately, they do what WE want them to (even if is seems dysfunctional).

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
–Ronald Reagan

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
–George Washington

“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.”
–Woodrow Wilson

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
–Benjamin Franklin

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
–James Madison

“I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.”
–Malcolm X

If we don’t hold onto the freedoms and traditions we have been given, they will slowly be taken away. Like cooking a frog in a pot, it won’t jump out of the pot if the water warms slowly. Our environment in the US these days is a lot like the pot…

Missing the Good Stuff Sucks

Missing the good stuff in life isn’t something I relish, especially when it involves my kids. I want to be there for the things they do, whether it be sports or drama or choir or a community function or major things like graduation and moving up ceremonies. Those things are important and the support of knowing your parents are there to support you is one of the best things to help your kids feel safe and secure in this world. I know I really appreciated that my parents made it to as many things as possible when I was a kid. I didn’t always express my appreciation like I should have, but it did mean a lot.

Today is tough for me because I am missing something I feel I should be at. Instead, because of my job, I am missing it. So, instead of doing what I should be doing I am taking a moment to vent my frustration. I doubt it will help me feel better, but I just can’t help it. What’s worse about this whole thing is that it is because of my job that I am missing it and it is my profession that makes it more difficult on people, specifically parents.

You see, today my son is “graduating” from the 8th grade. It is really just a moving up ceremony and in the grand scheme of educational things it isn’t that important. BUT, it is important to him! Unfortunately, I am missing it. Missing the good stuff sucks.

Why am I missing it? Well, I am a teacher and work for a completely different school district than both of my school aged children. What that means is that I end up missing many of their school related activities. Parent/teacher conferences, concerts or performances that take place during the school day, celebrations at school, graduations/moving-up ceremonies…you name it, I probably have missed it because I was fulfilling my teacher duties somewhere else. I am not sure why school districts schedule things during the work day. It doesn’t make sense to me and I am sure there are reasons I don’t know of, but either way it is frustrating. I am sure there are many parents who are missing the ceremony today because they have work obligations, that is the unfortunate thing schools do.

Anyway, all that to say I am proud of you, son. You have grown up so much over the last few years and this transition will be a big one for you. You worked hard this year, made some mistakes and grew from them. You worked hard this year, learned some new things about yourself and the subjects you were studying. You worked hard this year and experienced some great successes as well. You have tried new things, some you liked and some you didn’t. You are moving up in this world and I can’t wait to see where life continues to take you.

Congratulations, and I love you.

Change Is In The Air

Sometimes, you just get tired of doing things the way you have always done them.

Sometimes, you realize nothing will change if you don’t have the guts to risk something hard.

Sometimes, you’re just tired.

Change is in the air. Not something as simple as moving the furniture around the living room, going to bed earlier to get more rest, or working out more to lose some weight. No, this change is intended to put my (our) family and future in a better place.

Sure there will be people who say it isn’t smart, or wise. There will probably even be people who say I’m (or we’re) stupid for even trying. But, what about those people in history who didn’t listen to the people around them, even the ones they respected and looked up to the most? What if those people never made a decision to step out and risk something in order to get to something greater? Where would we be without them? How different would our lives be then?

So, for now some encouragement to take hard, positive steps and make harder long-term decisions. In the end, the road may be long but anything worth having is worth working for, right? At least that’s what our parents told us when we were kids and wanted something right NOW. Time to put those words into action and see if mom and dad were right…oh, and they were. I am not where I am today without listening to them once in a while. However, we need reminders of these things once in a while and now is as good as any.

There is more to come…

PS: If you needed some encouragement today to do something hard, then you can take some from me. You’re welcome!

A Forever Family Needs Help!

Help bring Chloe home!  *Regulations say I can't show you her face yet*

Help bring Chloe home!
*Regulations say I can’t show you her face yet*

The beautiful little girl above has the opportunity to go home to her forever family this year! But, she needs help. FAST!

I have written about this adoption before, If Ever There Was A Good Cause, but that was before there was an actual, real face and child to think about. The idea was there and there was a goal, but it was just so unreal and seemingly intangible. Well, things have changed and there is now a very real, very tangible goal in mind. But time is short, so anything you can do (no matter how small it may be) helps bring this pretty little girl one step closer to her new home in Hawaii with an amazing family.

They are trying to raise funds in a very short amount of time to help defray the costs of the adoption, which includes traveling to China to meet her for the first time and bring her home. With about two months to go, they could use some help, like right now!!

I am including the links to their fundraising efforts so that you can help them be successful! But most of all, for a little child of God to come home to a family that has loved her for a long time without even knowing her. Again, there can be no greater cause than this.

GoFundMe

MyThirtyOne.com

purecharity.com

Thanks so much for considering this as a way to change the world, one life at a time. Be the difference in one life.

Earth Day? Pshhh!

I celebrated Earth Day today…NOT!

Instead, I used extra water to shave this morning.

I flushed the toilet two extra times.

I let the water in the shower run a minute longer than necessary.

I left a light on in a room I didn’t occupy.

I let the furnace in the house run when it didn’t need to.

Then I left the door open to heat the outside too.

I commuted a long distance with only myself in the car.

I made 10 extra copies just because.

I had tuna for lunch.

I am going to burn wood in a camp fire and then not make s’mores.

I am going to sit and let my car idle for an extra three minutes while I check my Instragram feed on my phone.

I am going to stand outside my fridge with the door open and stare at the contents trying to figure out what I want.

I am going to only drink half a glass of water and toss the rest.

I am going to fill up my garbage with recyclable materials and put garbage in my recyclables.

I didn’t remove the cap from a bottle I threw in the garbage.

I might even burn some plastic.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back to doing what I normally do. I’ll be conscientious, maybe.

Easter is Better Than Christmas – Why?

Is this even going to be a close match?

No, this isn’t going to be a debate about the worldview between Christmas, where mounds of presents are under the tree, and Easter, where mounds of candy and eggs can be found in a basket. Obviously, in most cases, the “ME” culture says, “Christmas is better because I get stuff and I can get candy any day of the year.”

This post is simply a statement of faith…Easter is better than Christmas.

Why? Well, there are reasons why Christmas is necessary. It is, after all, the celebration of the birth of Christ. This is an important event in the life of Christians everywhere because we recognize that without a birth there can be no death. Death is just as important as birth in this case.

The death of Christ, some would argue, was more important than the birth. He had to be a sacrificed. He had to be found guilty for all my sins, your sins, and everyone else’s sins. He certainly didn’t deserve it and he certainly didn’t have to do it. He displayed no greater love by accepting death, a sacrifice of life so that others might live.

But the cross is not where the story ends. If it were the end, there would be no hope. No hope because death would have won and then Jesus would only have been a martyr and nothing more. However there is so much more! Easter is better than Christmas because there is life in His death. The story doesn’t end with death but only begins, again, with life. An empty tomb is the story of Easter…the resurrection of Christ and victory over death. Because He died, I live. There can be no greater sacrifice and no greater victory! In Him I am free from death, and you could be too.

Mark 16:1-8 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Has Risen

16 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Easter is better than Christmas. Period.

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If you have questions about this post, or would like to know more about how you too can have hope through faith in a risen Savior, let me know.