Thursday, March 22, 2007

What's Happenin, my peeps?

Life being what it is, I find myself typing my first post in almost a year. Without the outlet of this blog, I've had to regale Chris repeatedly with my sundry rantings on the current state of affairs.

For instance, I recently heard the following sound bytes on Headline News:

Dems are tickled pink because Ol' Dubya finally agreed to sign a bill requiring automotive manufacturers to comply with a new 35 mpg requirement on all vehicles, with a gradual implementation over the next however many years. Yes, W finally agreed to sign the bill after Dems agreed to put in a new tax break for those poor, poor oil companies (who continue to post record profits in the BILLIONS each quarter, because if anyone needs a tax break, it's those hardworking Oil execs). Meanwhile, in other news, Congress suddenly realized that they made a mistake about five years ago and forgot to put a new tax law into the tax code which would have raised taxes for the average middle income family about $2500 a year. Oh, no! Well, they've decided to be nice about it and give us this year to adjust our withholdings to make sure they get that money next year. The dears! How thoughtful of them to give their oil buddies a tax break while increasing the tax burden for us middle income folks. After all, we shoulder the majority of the tax burden anyway! 'Nuff said, I do believe, on that account.

Ok, onto other news.

I'm dying to know what is happening with Scott Peterson! If anyone out there can stomach Nancy Grace, give me the recent dish! I haven't heard a thing since the pesky old mall shootings out West wiped his beguiling face off the tube.

And what about that Britney? Loved the wacky pics in the back of the ambulance. It was like stills from a soap opera audition.
And speaking of Spears....who out there agrees with me that if Jamie Lynn Spears really wanted to set a good example for young girls out there, she'd give her kid up?! All three girls here watch Zoey 101 religiously, and I'm not too pleased with her new slut stunt and the fact they happened to be in the room when some newswoman was loudly proclaiming the *shock*of her teenage pregnancy! We never even had a chance to keep it a secret or come up with a good explanation. And that's another thing, thanks for making us have to explain it! "Well, girls, no she is not married. Yes, I know we said that only married people have babies, but we lied hoping it would keep you from having premarital sex." Makes you pine for that fly-on-the-wall experience, n'est ce pas?

Alright, folks,I've given you a few of my latest rants. Now it's your turn!

Comments, please.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Sexual Revolution Ruined Everything

Back in the 50's or the 60's or the 70's when birth control was invented, it spawned the inception of the Sexual Revolution. Up until that time, men could pretty much have sex with impunity. It didn't show. They could have sex with five different girls, notch up their belt or their bedpost, brag about it and everyone would slap them on the back. A woman, however, didn't dare. Why, what if she got pregnant? Her rapidly-expanding belly would tell the story of her deteriorated morality. The slut!

But, lo....the condom or IUD or birth control pill or whatever it was got invented. Suddenly, women could have sex with the same impunity that men had enjoyed thoughout the history of Man-as-Race. Yay! Now women can have sex with five different men, notch up her belt or bedpost and brag about it. She may not get a slap on the back, but one on the rear cheek hints that another notch is due in short order. Yay for women!!!!!

But that whole chaos theory threw a wrench in. Cuz sometimes that ol' birthcontrol don't work! (My OB told me flatly that condoms fail 75% of the time within the first year when used as the only method of birth control - and now we have Emily!) Oh, and other times....when that birthcontrol didn't work....that ol' guy you banged back behind the bowling alley didn't wancha. Or the baby you are carrying. And he even had the audacity to say it might not be his! After all, what with all that sexual revolution going on and all the notches on your bedpost. Hm. He might have a point!

Oh, and let's not even get started on herpes and other forms of sexually-transmitted diseases. Hey, did you know a condom won't protect you from AIDS when you are giving your boyfriend a blowjob? Just thought I'd mention it.

You see, having sex with impunity as far as diseases and pregnancy goes does not remove the hardship or pain or humiliation or difficulty with sexual relations by a long shot. Because shit happens. Diseases get transmitted and babies get made - not to mention the emotional entanglements. And when you equate having sex with playing X-Box or seeing a good movie (i.e. just another way to have a good time), you get a little sloppy about who you are having sex with. You are not thinking about having to look at that person over the breakfast table 35 years from now. You are not thinking about how the fact that he violated probation and had to go back to jail (oh, but those cops had it in for him!) might affect the way he is/is not capable of helping you raise your love-child together. Yeah, you are pretty much not in thinking mode, merely in feeling mode.

And the fall out of all this is the rampantly-growing number of single parents working all day long to try to get enough money to raise their children while some daycare place or neighbor does the actual raising. And the absent parents - do they think of the impact on the children? Or are they too busy thinking about who they will have sex with sans impunity next?

I think that this conversation has a direct bearing on the conversation below, regarding race. Well, not the race aspect so much as the lack-of-child-rearing evident in our society at large. Why is there the logical disconnect between having children and not raising them? Why don't we see the correlation between rising numbers of unwed mothers and rising numbers of juvenile delinquents? Human beings will always have problems with delinquents, but not having a good set of parents around to correct them will likely increase the number of delinquents, right?

Ah, there is so much to say about this question and it is all so controversial. So, as time is short and I am curious what you-all think, I'll let you say the rest. Have at it!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

still thinking race

I am going to go out on a limb and tell you something that may make some of you very angry at me for even uttering the words. Are you ready? Here goes.

I'm a prejudiced, bigoted racist.

I didn't used to be. I was raised to accept people of different races and cultures and beliefs and to view them as just people with the same thoughts, feelings and desires as myself. Well, maybe not the same, but similar. You get my point.

Ok, then a funny thing happened. I moved to a highly racially-charged town. Now, I remember hearing about race riots occuring back in the early 90s, but that was a long time ago, and I pretty much figured that it was because of the Rodney King trial and had nothing to do with the town itself. Wow, was I wrong.

After living there for over two years, I can tell you that racial tensions are high because of the blatant bigotry and racism exhibited by the city council (raising their salaries, refusing to increase police patrols in “at risk” neighborhoods, kicking the last remaining black man off the city council, etc.) And because of the perceived racism by the "priveleged" class in town. It is almost a "I'll get you before you get me" mentality.

Now, not realizing the racial undertones in the community, I went about my business as I had always done. However, it did not take me long to realize that something was amiss. As groups of black middle school students would walk down my street, a tense silence was all that my cheery hello elicited. On one occassion, a black boy was scattering paper from a folder every few steps and had created a minor paper snow bank for over a block and a half. When he got to the area in front of my house, I said, "Hey, why are you doing that?" The other middle school kids that were with him ignored me completely, and he only looked at me with the utmost contempt before telling me, "Shut up, cowgirl." You can imagine my shock. I'm not used to kids acting like this!

Over the two plus years I lived there, I came to feel resentment and frustration as groups of young black kids roamed basically at-will throughout the neighborhood, harassing the younger kids, stealing anything that was left unattended in someone's yard, and raising general havoc. My house was hit with paintballs and eggs. My bike, Birkenstocks, basketball, and various other items were all stolen right out of my yard. My car was broken into twice. My children couldn't even go to the park that was in our neighborhood because of the large groups of unaccompanied minors behaving badly. I began to feel like a prisoner in my own home. I couldn't wait to get out of that town.

So, in the course of living there, I came to be prejudiced. I learned that young black kids had no respect for me. They would steal from me, ignore me, and tell me to shut up. They would vandalize my house. And in all of these interactions, parents were no where to be seen.

It wasn't just the kids. The adults were just as bad. I had a scary incident outside my home where a truck came to a screeching halt and tried to drag a woman into it. I called the police immediately and ran outside to see if I could help. The woman, who apparently knew the man, refused to acknowledge my offer for help and the guy jumped back in his truck and drove away. About fifteen minutes later the cops trolled on by in response to my call.

If I were black living in that town, I might resent the white people, too. After all, there's a long history there. However, I guess there comes a point where a person is responsible for their own behavior regardless of what other people might think about them based on the color of their skin. They don't have to roam unaccompanied or steal or sneak into my yard at night or yell profanities up and down the street or go by with their stereo cranked up and "nigga" being thumped out for all the world to hear. These are cultural behaviors that are being virtually ignored by the elder blacks in the community. I didn't see any black adults or parents correcting these kids or taking notice of their behavior. So, if the kids are this way, they'll eventually grow into adults and then how are they going to act?

I don't believe it is right to judge someone by the color of their skin. But when a particular race continues to act in a certain way, it becomes characteristic of that race. So now when I see a black person, I have certain expectations about their behavior based on these experiences. And because these experiences have been for the most part bad, my expectations are wary at best. And that, folks, makes me a bigoted, prejudiced racist.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's a Black/White World

With all the hype about MLK's birthday on Monday, there has been a lot of talk about race recently, and the conversation here in Michigan is probably more interesting than most. In November, Michigan voters repealed the Affirmative Action amendment to our state constitution, sparking huge debate over what really constitutes fair and equal. For those that are unfamiliar with Affirmative Action, it basically states that governmental institutions are required to hire or accept minorities in certain percentages thought to be representative of their population.

The proponent of the Affirmative Action appeal (and please forgive me, I've heard him in an interview as recent as earlier this week, but I can't remember his name) is a lawyer who represented a white female who was refused admittance in University of Michigan while minorities with lower grades and test scores were accepted due to Affirmative Action. It was not a question of scores 50 or 60 points lower...the scores were hundreds of points lower. Hundreds. Not only were their scores hundreds of points lower, but U of M actually had a completely separate application process for minorities. Instead of being presumptively handled as "assumed rejection" as all other applicants were, they were handled as "assumed acceptance." This meant that while non-minorities had to build a case for acceptance at U of M, minorities had to merely exhibit a pulse and proof of their minority status. Well, that is the way he made it sound, anyway.

To make matters even more insulting, he used Martin Luther King's own words to defend his stand against Affirmative Action, saying that because MLK dreamed of a time when his children would not be judged by the color of their skin, he would applaud the repeal of Affirmative Action as a step in the right direction of minorities being judged according to their accomplishments and not by the color of their skin. To me, that appears to be a deliberate distortion of MLK's intent: he meant that his people were being detrimentally judged by the color of their skin. Duh.

Now, even with Affirmative Action, the number of minorities attending such colleges as University of Michigan did not match the percentage of minorities in the population at large. So, even with Affirmative Action, there were simply not enough minorities applying to colleges. That, to me, is the crux of the issue. Affirmative Action applied to the college enrollment process made the correct assumption that standardized tests are racially homogenic - that is, the way the tests are administered, worded and graded favor the predominant cultural characteristics of white people. This happens to be true. How do I know? My children went to school with black kids, and my brother and I both taught black kids in Sunday school at church. Their culture is very different from ours, and the way the black children are taught to view the world and the way they interpret the world around them is considerably different from that of a white child.

By making that statement, I do not mean to say that they are less intelligent or less capable of learning the material. But what I am saying is that we teach and preach and write textbooks and devise learning strategies around certain cultural assumptions. For instance, we assume that the students will understand the highly anglo-saxon language. Well, guess what? Black people don't talk like white people with the consequence that many times, teacher lectures go right over the heads of their black students.

Another assumption related to the education of our students is that they will sit quietly and pay attention while the teacher goes through a lesson. In my experience, both in Sunday school and observing the classes my children attended at public school, this is something that is very difficult for the black children to do, probably because the lesson doesn't appear to relate to them when it is delivered in such a whitey-white way.

Given the cultural assumptions that go into creating a school atmosphere and curriculumn, it is not surprising that many blacks feel educationally disenfranchised in our public education systems and consequently, test lower than white kids. Does that mean that Affirmative Action was working? I really don't know. But I do know that black kids deserve an education as much as white kids do, and the lower academic standards applied to black college applicants to some degree offset the extreme cultural biases in our educational system. But is it fair? Well....probably not. The concept behind Affirmative Action is noble, but the application is flawed. But clearly there is a problem to be addressed, and eliminating Affirmative Action does not make the problem go away for the black population in Michigan. The conundrum it leaves us is that black people either need to conform to the anglo-saxon culture to get ahead (which is obviously not right nor likely to happen) or end up disenfranchised educationally and economically. At least, that is the way it appears to me.

If I were a minority, I can tell you right now I would be making a beeline for another state. It used to be Michiganders kept their racism carefully concealed under a sheen of acceptance and "Some of my best friends are black" declarations. Now, we appear to be saying, "Hey, you ARE black! I didn't notice before, but now that I do, it's back to old Jim Crow!"

Monday, January 15, 2007

Check Up

Just in case any of you are wondering how I am doing on my non-resolution resolutions to get organized at home and at work....well, there's been mixed results. I have yet to clean out the utility closet or the front coat closet, however I have put away the Christmas decorations. Except the wreath which is still perched prettily over the fireplace. Oh, and the candle my mom got me for my birthday nearly started the damn thing on fire, but that's another story.

Work is perhaps a bit better. I have remembered some days to put my mileage on my daily planner. I think I've done that twice. I have also been putting papers in files, but one result of that was I told my boss I never got the month-end report when in fact I had got it but filed it away. Out of sight, out of mind.

I did manage, however, to clean out and organize the junk drawer in the kitchen. You know this drawer; the one that ends up with all the junk mail, scissors, calculators, phone book, twist ties, pencil sharpener, toothpicks, birthday candles, tacks, tape etc. Yes, well....last night Chris had to dig through it looking for a ruler - which wasn't there.

Hm....I'm thinking that it takes more than just a one-time effort to get organized. It's that whole staying organized thing that really throws a wrench in!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bad Drivers be Damned!

So I'm merging into traffic with plenty of room. It's a clear day, so other drivers can see me from a mile away. Ok, maybe not a mile away, but at least a block away, which is the distance which we are talking about here. Ok, so I'm merging into traffic and the vehicle that is in the lane I am merging into slams on the gas! I don't notice until I am almost in his lane with his stupid SUV bearing down on me at 55 miles an hour. Had I completed the lane merge, he would have slammed into me. As it was, I slammed on my breaks and veered back into the turning lane. The jerk!

Here's what is so frustrating about that encounter. It is so-so-so-so typical of what I see everyday. As I'm out and about making my sales calls, I spend a lot of time on the road. I make countless lane merges and turns on and off roads. What I see on a consistent basis is other drivers SO inconvenienced by my traffic maneuvers that they feel compelled to try to stop me, even at the risk of causing an accident - or at least prevent me from getting ahead of them. God forbid!

I'm just not used to this. I live in a small town where people are by general rule very courteous drivers. They do not feel compelled to speed up to keep you out of their lane when they see you have your blinker on and are attempting to merge. In Holland it is almost a given that they will act this way. In Grand Haven where I live, however, people are actually quite likely to politely let you into their lane - even when traffic is backed up!

Now, some of you may be wondering if I am bringing this vehicular aggressiveness on myself. Well, that is a fair question, but one I must answer with a resounding NO! I do not drive like a grey-haired granny. I do not break when I change lanes, I speed up just like I was taught in driver's training all those years ago. No, my fair readers, I am not bringing this on myself. People here are just cranky road-ragers!

I will tell another story that will prove my point. I pulled up to an intersection to turn right. The cross-traffic was stopped on a red, but my light had just changed from green to yellow. So, being a normal red-blooded American driver, I pulled through the intersection and made my turn as the traffic light for the cross-traffic turned green. The gentleman - and I use that term out of political correctness, not actual fact - whose lane I had pulled into crammed on the gas pedal and zoomed right up on my bumper, honking his horn. I could see in my rear-view mirror that he was cussing me out and waving his hands in the air. He was one mad Dutchy-boy. As a matter of fact, his driving behavior was so aggressive, I became genuinely frightened. I was sure he was going to plow into my vehicle any moment, so I quickly pulled off the street at the next intersection hoping he'd just drive on by. Luckily, he did, cursing and honking and flipping me the bird. It was truly frightening.

Why do people have to behave so aggressively in situations that could cause serious bodily injury? So what, I pulled into your lane. Grow up! Is it really worth blowing a coronary artery over?

Bad drivers be damned!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Further thoughts on Resolutions

I keep thinking about this topic....maybe because so much in my life could use the revolution of resolutions! But if you think about it, New Year's is the worst time to make a resolution. If you are like me, you stayed up too late and got up on New Year's Day feeling like a truck just used your ass end for a parking garage. Ok, maybe you didn't feel like that (because that's graphic and gross), but maybe you just feel like you got hit by a truck. Either way, you are not going to bounce out of bed and say to self, "Self, you know what I really feel like doing? Depriving myself of the crutches I've been using to make my normal days tolerable. No, today on this utterly draggy day I am going to forego my usual crutches and make everyone around me completely miserable!" Thanks, self.

Now let's be honest. We all got up on New Year's Day and stumbled out for our cigarette or coffee or glass of Pepsi or whatever our usual wake-up was and then we lounged in our pajamas complaining about not feeling like doing anything and it was probably nigh on three o'clock before we even remembered our New Year's Resolution. And far too late to count that day in. So we get up the next day with the best of intentions.....

Or maybe we made it. Maybe we did get up and make strides toward our New Year's Resolution. Line those people up and shoot them, please. They are messing up my whole blog post.

Ok, back to my original point. People suck at making January 1st the first day of a new era in their lives. Here's what I think is a far better approach: make any day a resolution day. You know what, if we wait until January 1st to start all the positive changes in our life, chances are Chris would still be wishin and hopin and prayin for a certain something - well, that's beside the point. The point is that so what if we've already given up on our New Year's Resolution (not that I am admitting anything here.) Make today your resoltion day! Start a new era today! Make today the first day of the rest of your life! Make something happen!

Or not. Myself...I'm just gonna sleep in tomorrow, get up and have a cup of coffee and yawn and stretch and stare into space. But hey, there's always the next day, right?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New year, new you? Yeah, right.

I'm not exactly a fan of New Year's Resolutions. I believe the people really don't change that much and that for the most part, New Year's Resolutions are the evidence of people's foolish optimism. Boy, that sounds nice, doesn't it. What a pessimist I am!

But here's my logic: change is hard. People tend to take the path of least resistance. So, when they go about changing, they...take the path of least resistance. Take the resolutions people make to stop doing something like smoking or in my case - as always - sugar and caffeine. We quit imbibing and then suffer extreme withdrawal and get cranky and make everyone miserable for a few days to a few weeks (depending on how high our families tolerance is for our hootenany) and then give up and go hog wild.

Not good, people.

All the experts agree - to truly stop indulging in a particular action requires either extensive psychotherapy (or self-evaluation, I guess) to discover why the heck we do it, what childhood trauma we are trying to ameliorate and go back to "heal" our inner child -OR- we can have one of those nice cognitive experiences where it all becomes so clear and our paradigm shifts in a moment and we suddenly have The Insight that enables us to forego what had heretofore been a major crutch. Ok, so most of us would agree we don't often get those cognitive experiences. I had one once and was able to quit smoking. However, no amount of cognitive-conjuring has enabled me to successfully once and for all quit indulging in sugar and caffeine.

So, like the majority of Americans, I make feverishly optimistic resolutions without a chance in hell of actually succeeding. Considering my high likelihood of failure, I have given up the whole freaking exercise of resolution-making in previous years. This year, to your utter surprise no doubt, I have opted to do some slight self-evaluation and decided on a few modest resolutions related to organization at home and at work. Nothing major, just slight alterations of what I am already doing to make my life easier at home and at work. Let's see if this works.

Oh, and did I mention - bah humbug?