ALL TOGETHER NOW!

We’re locked in a war that’s making us all hostages.   We ‘re all scared. Politics has swallowed up everything else that matters, it seems, until there is no oxygen or energy left for anything else. Some may enjoy the constant combat, but most of us want things to calm down. It’s like the Talking Heads song: How on Earth Did We Get Here? We can blame the politicians, who richly deserve it, but nothing will ever change if we do that.  Politics is about pointing and blaming, to some extent. Maybe, it’s time for us to look at us? If experience is our teacher, what are we learning? What are we teaching? How much of what we’re experiencing in our political system today is about what we choose to see and the meaning we choose to give it?

  This may seem a radical statement, but I don’t think my Liberal Arts Degree was the cakewalk for stoners it was labelled to be. I’m more convinced of this every day. In many ways it’s exactly what we need today. It teaches what so many are looking for: that we’re not alone, that we’re not meant to be, and that we, in fact, never were.  Liberal Arts means a generous, extensive course curriculum. —the big picture. The more information is fragmented and aligned with our preferences, the less useful that information becomes. It provides no navigation tools for turning off the fear, the rage, the confusion we are being fed by our televisions.  But my liberal arts education taught me all I needed to know to combat all of this noise.  Here’s how:

I learned that troublesome people are often my teachers, particularly those I wish I’d never met. When I was at the University of Texas and Vanderbilt University, the schools deliberately paired Engineering students with English majors as roommates.  We thought it a sadistic exercise of power, but this simple practice was a deliberate part of our education.  We mocked each other’s chosen careers and thought the people with whom we had been paired extra- terrestrials. I, as an English major, was in “Arts and Crafts” and “Finger-painting”, and my roommate’s future vocation of Engineer was labelled “Robot” and “Gearhead.”  But when our own skills, mindsets, emotional intelligence, and aptitudes weren’t enough for an educational or life challenge, we borrowed those of our roommates and increased our arsenal for taking on the world. My engineer roommates taught me women could be tough and compete in male- dominated fields, and gave me organizational skills that made me more productive as a writer and artist and eventual lawyer.

I learned the real, comprehensive story of America and its place in the world through the study of world and American history.  I learned how a multitude of disciplines and points of view made us an indomitable whole.  I learned that America had help from other countries, particularly France, in becoming America.. I learned our American system of government, how the branches of government are designed to work, and when they don’t.  History reaffirmed our American values and explained why they were our values in the first place. It gave profiles and examples of courage, heroism, service, and sacrifice. It chronicled our mistakes and recorded them for posterity, so future generations wouldn’t repeat them. Attempts to correct these mistakes are the beginnings of policy.  In the study of history, we got to stand on the shoulders of millions who went before us and learn what their lives taught us, without having to suffer their tragedies. Our history is a gorgeous, unlikely miracle illustrating how the sum of our many parts made a whole of incalculable beauty.

Those “useless” English Literature and foreign language courses gave me the most precious thing possible:  a way to disagree with my friends, and still keep them as friends. They did this by giving me a bridge of language I could use to reach and learn about people unlike me.  Friends did not used to ask each other who they voted for before becoming friends in the first place. It made life so much easier. We had other things to talk about. We were focused on learning each other’s story and walking with them as it unfolded.

A broad- based education has served for generations to be an orientation on everything you want or need to know about America; our history and why it’s important, our heroes, and our children’s potential place in all of this.   It gave me a common story with every other American and gave me the gift of being  part of a giant family, all working together. It’s always the story that matters, that transforms and changes, not whatever technical information we may learn.

My education taught me to stay curious and dive in. That’s the magic bullet for fighting fear. I can say this from personal experience, as a naturally fearful person. For this reason alone, a broad education is worth its weight in gold.

Curiosity allows the mind to open just long enough for it to assimilate new information before fears sets in and stops us. It allowed me the space to ask the 3 questions that keep propelling me forward: What if? Why not? and Who says? I never would have gone to law school if I relied on polling to make my decision. No one thought I could do it, and that made me curious to see if I could. Even more importantly, how can I progress spiritually if I don’t wonder and question?

 Fight or Flight does not provide insight. 

  The antidotes to the terror we all can feel when we look at our world and the safety of our children in it are love, curiosity, and engagement.  The cure for our world and our politics is us—daring to live without fear and throwing ourselves into humanity and watching for what unfolds. No one mentors or transforms themselves.

It all comes down to the two roommates I described in paragraph 3 of this essay. Are they fellow travelers and friends, or enemy combatants? Is life a never-ending adventure and classroom for them or a sentence only to be endured? Is the world something benign and beautiful, or is it menacing and dangerous? Are there infinite possibilities for them? Do they stay in touch? I’ve got to believe that everyone we meet is our teacher, especially those we may wish we never met, that all things and people work together for our eventual good, that our purpose is to keep learning, and that life is most definitely not over after High School.

There is a way for all of us to come home.

6 Keys To Make America America Again

We’re locked in a war that’s making us all hostages.   We ‘re all scared. Politics has swallowed up everything else that matters, it seems, until there is no oxygen or energy left for anything else. Some may enjoy the constant combat, but most of us want things to calm down. How on earth did we get here? We’re here today, in part, because we did something willingly and enthusiastically for the good of our children that had nothing at all to do with politics. And that changed absolutely everything. Because that original decision had nothing to do with politics, I am hopeful it holds the seeds of a cure.

  We didn’t know what we didn’t know.   We were being offered  6 keys to civil and productive discourse, politics and society. They were commonplace, and now they’re edging to extinction.

 I must go way back in history to describe the first key. When I was at the University of Texas and Vanderbilt University, the schools deliberately paired Engineering Students with English majors as roommates.  We thought it a sadistic exercise of power, but this simple practice was a deliberate part of our education.  We mocked each other’s chosen careers. I, as an English major was in “Arts and Crafts” and “Finger-painting”, and my roommate’s vocation of engineer was “Robot” and “Gearhead.”  But when our own skills, mindsets, emotional intelligence, and aptitudes weren’t enough for an educational or life challenge, we borrowed those of our roommates and increased our arsenal for taking on the world.  It turns out that seeing the totality of a thing, a person, or a situation is essential to correctly perceiving it or them, and that’s the first key— perspective—our ability to change our view, depending on what comes to light.

It turns out that the comprehensive study of History, particularly American and World History, gave us something priceless we no longer have—the story of America and where we fit in, the key of context. It taught us we aren’t the whole story. We learned how a multitude of disciplines and points of view made us an indomitable whole. That’s how America works, when it works.  This study taught all of us how we fit into the grand scheme of a thing. It taught our American system of government, how the branches of government are designed to work, and when they don’t.  History reaffirmed our American values and explained why they were our values in the first place. It gave our children profiles and examples of courage, heroism, service, and sacrifice. It chronicled our mistakes and recorded them for posterity, so future generations wouldn’t repeat them. Attempts to correct these mistakes are the beginnings of policy.  In the study of history, we got to stand on the shoulders of millions who went before us and learn what their lives taught us, without having to suffer their tragedies.

It turns out that English, Literature, and foreign language courses gave us the most precious thing possible:  a way to disagree with our friends, and still keep them as friends. They did this by giving us a bridge of language we could use to reach and learn about people unlike us.  The study of language and literature gave role models of how to communicate civilly with people who are strange to us.  They gave us the keys of vocabulary and civility. You can’t have one without the other.

Guess What? It turns out our Liberal Arts educations weren’t in any way useless.  Won’t our parents finally be glad? Probably not.  A broad- based education has served for generations to be an orientation on how we Americans work; our history and why it’s important, our heroes, and our children’s potential place in all of this. All of these seemingly unrelated courses gave us the ability to see the whole of our political system and how humanity fits in—how we fit in. They gave us the ability to assimilate, analyze, and prioritize information to decide for ourselves what’s  valuable knowledge and what isn’t; what’s true and what’s myth.  The word, Liberal in terms of education or knowledge means generous, extensive, the whole enchilada, the totality. It has no more political connotation than the word, pipe wrench does for a plumber. This type of education teaches the key of detachment- the ability to detach from our own emotions. How we feel about something doesn’t alter what it actually is.

Who wants to raise kids who are scared of everything?

All of these keys together give us the magic bullet thatstops fear dead in its tracks: curiosity.  For this reason alone, a broad education is worth its weight in gold.

Curiosity allows the mind to open just long enough for it to assimilate new information before fears sets in and stops us. How can a person change, if they’ve never wondered if they could, or wondered how? How can a person pursue their dream and catch it, if they never wondered if they could, or felt safe enough to wonder anything at all?

Curiosity leads to questions without fear, and permits us to ask the three questions that change absolutely everything: What if? Why not? and Who says?

If we look at every new fact through a lens of terror because curiosity has died, our emotional state prevents us from seeing anything at all.  Fight or Flight was not designed for providing insight.

This is how we got here: our kids were getting left behind in math and science, so we devised standardized tests to catch up.     But this change in emphasis went all the way up and down the educational ladder, and affected whether kids could learn how to think critically, without fear.  The emphasis became turning out perfect technicians. Ask any parent about “Teaching to the Test” and you will get not only an earful, but a sermon on how not to teach a young child anything that matters at all. 

  Polarization means concentration at one end.  I’m not saying that jobs don’t matter or competition is a bad thing. We just went a little overboard, and now we have to cultivate a balance.

When we turn out technicians, without also teaching our children how to utilize and enjoy the right sides of their brains, we lose the artists, prophets, and sages. We can get the outcome of citizens trained to be richly rewarded for thinking in only 1 way. Eventually, we lose the ability to even hear someone else’s way of thinking, much less accept it.  

  If you only take away one point from this blog, let it be this: Curiosity must be taught and rewarded in a world that is changing every second, because if it isn’t, we are creating kids who can’t self-soothe and look beyond the chaos. Curiosity is the lens through which we look at our lives and the world and its inhabitants, and choose for ourselves what definitions we use. We have a choice about what kind of world we want to live in every day of our lives, not just in election years.

It all comes down to the two roommates I described in paragraph 2 of this essay. Are they fellow travelers and friends, or enemy combatants? Is life a never-ending adventure and classroom for them, or is it’s all-out war, a sentence only to be endured? Is the world something benign and beautiful, or is it menacing and dangerous? Will they continue to complain as every aspect of the political system devolves, or will they dedicate themselves to becoming educated citizens? Are there infinite possibilities for them to invent and re-invent themselves, or is life over after High School?

There is a way for all of us to come home.

WHAT & WHO THE “NEW” CHRISTIANITY LEAVES BEHIND–ME?

 

 

I thought we Christians agreed on the things that Jesus said and did, and the attributes he embodied and wanted us to strive to achieve.

I ‘m going through a second puberty, much uglier and scarier than the first. At times, my faith’s new terrain is unnavigable and unrecognizable, because of the fusion of politics and religion by some.

Where is my Jesus?   

This is important for so many reasons.

When was the last time you heard any Christian politician talk about Jesus, or these very simple cornerstones of our faith?

 

Whenever you help the least of these, you help me.

 

They will know you by the way you love one another.

 

 Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and don’t hide from relatives who need help. Then, your salvation will come like the dawn, and . . . when you call, I will answer. (This particular quote is from Isaiah, not the New York Times).

 

Don’t steal.

Don’t lie.

Don’t want to take what belongs to your neighbor.

Don’t commit adultery.

Don’t kill.

Honor your father and mother.

Judge not, or you will be judged

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.

 

 All of us, Christian or not, are losing when Jesus and the things he stands for are dropped from the equation.

 

 We lose peace and solace. Our faith is where we turn to get away from the ugliness and endless blame game of this world—our sanctuary.

In terms of Christianity, Jesus was supposed to be what Christians agreed on. It was the beginning of all further conversations. In terms of other faiths, see the point immediately below.

We lose identity and our voice. The Christian Evangelical political movement has become so powerful that non- Christians equate” Evangelical” with all of Christianity, and we non- Evangelical Christians feel like an endangered species.  No one is listening to us at the moment. But, maybe they should. We’ve been walking in our faith since no one knew what Evangelical was.  We’ve seen and learned there is a vast difference between attempting to vote ones

Christian conscience as a factor in politics, and allowing politics to dictate the very tenets of our faith, or what we are allowed to believe.

We lose leadership. If we’re the peacekeepers, and we don’t love, agree, or even tolerate each other, why on earth would anyone listen to us?

Ask yourself, who wins and profits if the Body of Christ is at each other’s throats?

As long as the politically powerful control the narrative and tell us what Christians are and aren’t, they retain power.

Power always acts the same.

Who decided Christianity was a “winner- take -all” full contact team sport?

The discord, “the all or nothing”, “you’re with us or against us ideology” is false, perpetrated by those who know better. If we buy into it, we lose the ability to be effective or solve problems. We lose compassion and grace for those who threaten or challenge us, and thereby lose Jesus himself. We lose our moral standard. We no longer know what’s over the line, because there is no line.

 

 

But, if we can agree on just these few things, we can solve a great many insurmountable” problems within and without our faith:

 

 Jesus isn’t for sale

Hes not a political prop.

He stands for certain things, none of which is being in the elite 1 percent.

He is the standard.

He isnt ego or economically driven.

As the body of Christ, it isnt helpful or effective to cut off limbs.

 

If we dont allow others to dictate membership in our faith, drown different voices out, or dictate what we believe and what is possible, we can’t lose, because we realize it isnt winner take all. We can all rise to the greater world vision Jesus called us to have. We can see that the narrative saying its impossible to have compassion and care for the powerless is just thata narrative.  We know who we are and who we stand for.

 

Im not abdicating fiscal responsibility for the nation, but we must hold true to the example and teachings that underpin our faith, as we make the difficult decisions.

The entire world is watching us after our crazy election.

The oppressed still need justice. The starving still need food.  The lost, marginalized, and hopeless still need a beacon. We can stay humble and caring, or we can devolve into us vs. them, all adrift on individual life preservers, with no shore in sight.

Isn’t it ultimately what’s in our hearts that counts? Are they still open and hopeful, or are they closed tight? Can we expect our prayers to God for mercy, forgiveness, and justice to be answered, if we dont allow others to receive those things? The answer determines the fate of the soul of a nation.

L E Kinzie

“A spiritual journey is a terrible thing to waste.” 

 

ARE WE THERE YET?

 

The destination we have craved with desperation for over 2 years has arrived, and yet we are nowhere near “there” yet. There was a collective expectation that when 2017 finally came, decency, courtesy, civility, and normalcy, would return to us.  But, it dawns on all of us political trauma victims that was a fantasy we created to cope. Normalcy cannot return, because normal has been redefined. I have been silent, because I didn’t want to write anything that wasn’t unifying and solution -oriented, thereby contributing to the divisive, somewhat unhinged state of things.

 But, I’m Baaaack! — rested, with a new perspective and new hope.

Strangely, the worse things seem to get, the more there is to unite us, because it pushes us to return to our core values—not talking points, but values. When we get down to our values, we agree on solutions. Here are some examples.

  • We all agree that we don’t want our own behavior, biases, and beliefs to make our children ashamed of themselves or of us– ever. We can’t encourage our children to participate in a political system, if we believe that system is a cosmic joke. Most of us can agree that it is a cosmic joke at this point. But,

 

  • the problems aren’t insurmountable despite all being said to the contrary. To say so is an insult to us and our children. We deserve more than a group of politicians who create division and promise solutions only to throw up their hands and punt. It’s lazy, craven, and cynical, and isn’t us—even now.

 

  • If we look to the motivation for saying things are so forgone they can’t be solved, we see how false those claims really are, because we can see the motivation behind the words. Political platforms need problems to solve. So do re- election campaigns. If we believe there are no solutions, we get compliant, we stop making demands. We turn our lives over to our leaders. That doesn’t benefit us, it benefits them. FDR solved problems. Was he an alien from Mars or a special one -of -a -kind breed of human? Was Reagan? They listened to the people. We can still do that.

 

  • We can agree that our leaders to a large extent just don’t seem to care about us anymore. It’s like they have terminal narcolepsy: they’re not waking up anytime soon. They are focused somewhere else on something shiny.

 

  • We can all agree that there is a real resurgence of activism and involvement, and we need to keep it going. It is very, very early in the game.
  • We all agree that it is more important than ever.
  • We can all agree that  the preceding 6 points  lead to the inevitable conclusion that the solutions are up to us, the reasonable people left when you subtract the professionally angry and ideologue politicians.

 

 There is a hairpin turn in this plot: All of these problems effectively are one problem, which points to its own solution.

Our political discourse has been stripped of any and all language relating to possibility, tactical solutions, timelines, goals, and mission. It is a hopeless, barren landscape populated by people spouting ideologies without actual values. Our politics doesn’t know who or what it is, or who it’s for. It has been stripped of its very identity. Our political system, the system that finances that system, and the parties themselves are now biased against solutions and problem solvers. Language for policy drafting isn’t making it into our political campaigns, and that language is the beginning of the negotiation process necessary for lawmakers to propose and adopt solutions. How can anyone meet in the middle, if there is no middle?  So, people who know how to solve problems and want to, look strangely out of place, and are run out of the race.

Look at what happened to Bernie Sanders. Agree or not, this guy had solutions. He had thought seriously about the problems and had policies to solve them.  He was earnest. He was beloved by the populace. They had no idea what to do with him. The democratic party viewed him as a threat to its viability, because he pointed to its shortcomings. He transcended party politics, because that is what is required to solve problems, and that transcendence was viewed as a threat.

 Well, if one person can transcend party politics, what kind of effect would millions of us transcending party politics have? Significant. Maybe we should all re- register as Independents. Suddenly, the party hacks are automatically out of the loop.

  A problem this huge can only begin with a spiritual solution. Spirituality is about what is possible, and language follows that sense of possibility. Until we shift and lift our focus above the differences and the problems, unity and therefor solutions, will be impossible. The very language necessary to devise solutions will be impossible.  

Focusing on the problems effectively shuts down the higher consciousness that creates solutions, finds points of unity, and forges alliances, agreements, and treaties. There is a reason why the politicians, most of them, keep harping on our differences: as long as we perceive them as insurmountable, they don’t have to lift a finger to solve anything. It is up to us to drive it from the grass roots up. Let it begin with us.

Spirituality points to our common humanity, and embraces solutions and people. There aren’t two different Americas: there is one united America with a multitude of different perspectives and experience.  THIS IS NOT THE PROBLEM. IT’S THE SOLUTION. This is where creative solutions come from: Outside.

The key to happiness is said to be a sense of purpose. Well, now we all have one!

So, whoever you are, whatever you believe, wherever you get your news and info, you alone have the power. You have the power of the pen, the phone, your feet, your friends, your constitution, your memory (remember the names of the politicians who broke their promises or betrayed you) and your vote. We have the power of infinite creativity and possibility, and we don’t have to concern ourselves with re- election. It’s a swamp, but we aren’t in it. We are standing with clear eyes on dry land.

 

*****

 

 

MY CHRISTMAS WISH FOR CHRISTIANITY

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It’s been a heck of a year.

At many times, I was afraid for the state of Christianity.

2016 was the year of shouting, and softer voices temporarily got drowned out. This was also the year of labels. The candidates had labels and so did Christians. The media spoke of “the Evangelicals” as synonymous with “the Christians”, which was simplistic and false.  It had its place in election reporting, but it was a form of shorthand that was deceptive, leading people to believe that there is only 1 kind of Christian and there is a checklist to be followed. Call me Pollyanna, but I think there is as much diversity in Christianity as there is in any other area, and I think that is a fantastic and necessary thing for actual unity to occur. I think that what we non- Evangelicals bring to the party is also valuable.

I have been a Christian my whole life, but not an Evangelical, because my personal belief it that religion and politics is a bad pairing. Politics is a tribal blood sport! It’s “our team” vs. “their team.” It, of necessity, relies on soundbites, shorthand, and over- simplification and generalization of issues and the categorization and labeling of people. I think we can all agree that we have had enough of that.

My first  Christmas wish  for Christianity it that we drop the labels and checklists! Stop the madnessJ It is what is in our hearts, that only God himself knows that is what matters. We can’t attribute intent to someone because of how they voted.

Allow me to use a little humor to make my point. Is God a Republican? Is he an Evangelical? Did he have a favorite in the election? Was he rooting for Hillary or Bernie? Or Russia?

Though a registered Republican, I have voted Democrat or Independent in the past 3 elections, because I don’t want people in Washington that I have never met telling me how to be a Christian. Am I still a good Christian if I really don’t like Congress or the President telling me how to live my life?

What if I believe in separation of church and state despite the fact that I’m a Christian?  Do I forfeit my faith card?

Yes, these scenarios are ridiculous.  Can we stop pretending that they aren’t?

There are as many shades and flavors of faith as there are people professing it. There is not only room for all of us, but all of us are needed to raise our voices during this Christmas season and be reminders of what we actually agree upon, and it is a lot, despite what we see on the news and our Twitter and Facebook feeds. So, my second Christmas wish is that we ,put those sources of division away for at least some of each day during the holidays and focus on what draws us together.

The following are the things that we agree upon: We believe in loving our neighbors as ourselves and at least attempting to see them with understanding. We believe in peace and compassion, good will toward men, assuming the best until proven otherwise. Each of us, not matter what our faith, believe it is sacred and not something to be exploited by anyone –ever. We believe in extending grace, because we have received it. We believe in opportunity and optimism.

We are still the most compassionate, generous, open minded and open hearted nation on earth. The labels don’t matter. We know who we are. And I think God’s still rooting for us.

Pollyanna.

 

THE LIES OF SUPER-TUESDAY

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We all know what “ American Values” are, right? In this election year I’m not so sure.

As a nation, we seem to have lost our own identity, and found nothing but a deep, blinding rage. I must confess to having the same anger. The only people who truly don’t entertain the possibility that this whole system is rigged are the 1 percent benefiting from that same system and the politicians, of course, breaking America, so they can promise to fix it. Each candidate seems to espouse values that are different from the candidate next to them, and many are advocating positions that fly in the face of our constitution, our treasured right of freedom of speech, the rule of law and one of the founding premises of our whole way of life- -separation of church and state. We have one candidate who has all but told us outright that he wants to be a dictator, who has refused to disassociate himself from two white supremacist groups . . . and we love him. But our anger may be blinding us to reality and placing us in the alternate universe of reality TV –only we won’t get to turn it off.

For instance, I am a Christian, but I don’t want a theocracy, and I’m really wondering if that is where we are headed. I think part of the reason there is so much support for Trump is that he seems to be the only Republican candidate that is not intent on building a theocracy, and many of us are frightened of such an occurrence.

America was founded based upon freedom from religious dictates and religious persecution coming from the State. America was originally populated and governed by devout persons fleeing state established religion, and was created with a very important safeguard of our liberty- separation of Church and State. My being a Christian does not free me from that history.

We poke fun of and decry Sharia law, which is the product of melding religion with the government. In fact, we regularly send our soldiers in harm’s ways to fight the injustices and carnage brought about by such regimes. But, if you listen to some of the campaign rhetoric, this is exactly what we want to become. When we don’t agree with the Supreme Court and the law, we will simply ignore them, because “ God’s law is a higher law.” If we suspend the rule of law and the very structure of our government because some don’t agree, what happens to a land by and for the people?

More importantly, do you want the President or any government official interpreting the word of God for you and your life? What if you are an atheist? What if you are Jewish? Do you want a government with the attitude, “ It’s Christianity or the highway?” Ted Cruz being the arbiter of what is right and fair according to God… No, thank you. I’m sure he is a great guy, but no. Not even Rubio, thanks.

The one word all of us can still agree on as an American value is freedom. Freedom to say and do as we please. Freedom to associate with whomever we want. Freedom to gather in protest…unless at a political rally? All of us remember and want to keep the freedom to practice our religion, but with that same freedom, goes the equal freedom from religion, meaning government cramming certain religious beliefs or practices down our throats. Here, the definition of “freedom” gets murky.

In this very scary campaign “ freedom” has come to mean freedom from all laws we don’t like. Freedom from Supreme Court decisions we don’t like. Freedom from the duty of our elected officials to work with and compromise with each other for the greater good of their constituents—us. Freedom from standards or statesmanship. Freedom from facts or scientific bad news. Freedom for scientists themselves, their research, and their curriculum in our schools. Freedom from having to be concerned about our fellow man. Haven’t we had enough of this? We all have to work with people we don’t like. We all work with and live with people who have different ideas and values than we do. Why can’t Congress and the President do what all of us do every day?

Healthy skepticism of science is a good thing. Remember the nutritional pyramid, that’s been turned upside down three times? Statistically, one can prove anything.

But, that’s different than ignoring what our own eyes can see all around us. How can our children grow up to make the world a better place, if we tell them not to believe their own eyes?

We are all angry to the point of rage at what our Congress and government is doing to us and instead of what it should be doing for us, but if we let our anger blind us, we could get anarchy… or even worse—a dictatorship, in the bargain.

I’ve heard a lot about the American value of respect in this campaign- getting it, not giving it. “No one abroad respects us anymore.” America isn’t “ great” anymore?

I went to the latest Michael Moore film recently, Where To Invade Next. I prepared myself for an anti- American piece of propaganda. It was exactly the opposite. It was a love letter to America and a reminder that we can solve problems- we’ve been solving other people’s for centuries, and a suggestion that we take that wonderful American can-do value, and apply it to our own country. He pointed out that the countries that are “ beating us”, in education, standard of living, health care, and putting financial criminals in jail, never set out to “ beat us”. They set out to borrow our values and applied them to their own people, usually with our help. The most poignant scene in the film comes when a group of Italians are asked what they think of America. The answer was quite a jolt: “ You couldn’t pay me enough to live there. You act like you hate each other. I wouldn’t want to be treated like you treat each other.”

This is what makes America great: we still rush to aid virtually anyone in need or who is being oppressed… somewhere else. Can we at least focus for a minute on ourselves with clear eyes and see the millions of people who don’t have enough to eat, our crumbling bridges, our poisonous water and the college graduates who can’t find work at a living wage? I believe we still have the will to dig in and fix our problems and to hold our “ leaders” accountable if they will not help us do this, because America never stopped being great.

It is still great because the average American is a pretty great person. Though facing unprecedented challenges, the average American cares about the poor, the oppressed, racial and criminal justice, his neighbor across the street and last, but not least, peace. We’ve exported the best parts of America: fairness, justice, hope, the ability to look at ourselves and change for the better and the American Dream itself. Let’s re-patriate them!

 

4 THINGS MILLENIALS SEE THAT WE DON’T

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(image by David Eyestone, used with permission.)

I view the Millenial perspective as especially urgent this election year.

As the parent of two Millenials, what they see makes me sad.

They are still fresh enough to see the discrepancies between what they are being told and how they are actually living, and they still care enough to take it personally.

They don’t believe what older generations are saying about America, specifically the following points:

1) America is the greatest nation on earth.

I remember the night Obama was elected for his first term. My kids were crying with joy, and my daughter said, ” Mom, tonight America lived up to the hype!” Whether one agreed with the results that election night or not, all came together to do something historic. France said, ” This is the America we love!”

Since that time, I’ve lost count of the number of times my children have seen the entire government shut down due to Congressional petty politics. We have been at war their whole lives. This generation has no reason to have faith in their government, charged with running the country.

More importantly, these kids understand how interrelated and interdependent every country on earth is, and feel they are citizens of the world. They will not buy into the us versus them mentality.

They know social security, job security, and perhaps a middle- class existence will not be there for them. They understand they will have to hustle their whole lives, and stand out in every way from the pack. There is a reason for their drive to be famous, to be a brand, instantly recognizable.

 

2) We are the land of opportunity.

Not for them. A large number of them are working minimum wages, after shouldering mountains of debt to get the college educations they were told would assure their futures, and from their perspective, no one seems to care if they can live on that wage or ever pay off the debt.

In fact, Congress declined to lower the interest rates for college loans, and minimum wage has been nothing more than an election year hot potato.

Employment figures include any job; so yes, my daughter, who graduated with a Fashion Merchandising Degree, with a minor in business, is employed– but she works at DSW for $9 an hour, which is two dollars more than most local retail stores pay. So with a college degree in her field, she is worse off than if she had skipped college and gone to work in a retail store straight out of high school.

Ditto for her friends. One worked for free in an internship for two years until finally getting a job, with sizable debt to pay off. Another left the country.

Increasingly the land of opportunity is someplace other than America, for these graduates.

It really hurts me to see that some in this generation believe they are a permanent underclass, with diminishing chances of rising. That may seem very fatalistic, but how does a person making $8 an hour plan or invest for their future? No one is saying social security or Medicaid will be there for this generation, not even the politicians. No one is talking to or about this generation at all.

I know the results for graduates of Ivy League schools are very different, but most people don’t go to Ivy League schools. Perhaps even more importantly, this generation wants to be out in the world, and feel a part of it. They aren’t afraid of places they’ve never been.

3) America is the safest nation on earth.

For whom? This generation was in elementary school or younger on 9/11. Safe, impregnable America does not exist for them.

While we may deny, our children have been watching. We keep talking about our enemies over there. We are more likely to be hurt by our fellow countrymen then anybody over there.

How many mass shootings have there been just since Sandy Hook? This isn’t a political piece about guns or mental health; it’s about our children, and so, it’s about both guns and mental health. What do these young people see being done about these two huge looming issues? Nothing. What we do is less important, than our willingness to do something.

4) You are the hope of the future. We want to hear your voice!

Really?

I don’t know if it was coincidence, ” election fraud reform”, or something else, but both of my kids, who were in college, attempted to vote in the last election and were turned away. Both, like very many college students, were going to college in cities other than the city they were born. They had their voter registration and their IDs, and were told “You must drive back to the county where you registered to vote.”

We vote on a Tuesday, and classes are held the next day. If the voice of young America matters, why not make voting day a student holiday, so they can get to where they need to be to vote?

We want to teach this generation so many things: the value of a work ethic, actual face- to face conversations, independence, simply being happy in one’s own company, and yes, how to get out of their parents’ basements!

But perhaps the student is also the teacher. There have been tectonic shifts in our world, and it is we who need help adapting.