Monday, March 28, 2016

Children Are People Too

I grew up with parents from the old school regarding the way children are to be brought up.  Summed up by the phrase, “Children are to be seen and not heard.”

In the old school, children were taught to respect and obey ALL adults without question.  They were told to say, “Yes Sir or no Mam,” when answering an adult speaking to them.  They were taught to patiently wait their turn to speak and not to barge in and rudely interrupt parents while mom or dad were having a conversation with other adults, and to politely say, “Excuse me” or “Pardon me” if they felt that it was urgent enough to interrupt.  They were taught to sit still and be quiet in public settings and to keep their hands to themselves and not touch things that didn’t belong to them.  They were instructed to get up and let an elderly woman (or man) have his or her seat in a bus or train or in a waiting room.  They were taught respect for their elders.

It seems different today, children now command the day.  They are allowed to interrupt whenever they want and believe they have the right to demand attention.  Children are now given priority in terms of service and needs before anyone else.  Children now feel free to dismiss adults in general, other than their own parents, and freely ignore any corrective word or admonition that another adult may wish to offer them (sometimes even dismissing their own parent’s admonitions out of hand, without consequence).

As societies go, we humans tend to swing the pendulum back and forth, react and overreact.  Instead of keeping what is good and making appropriate adjustments along the way, we jump to the other extreme for correction.  So, in previous generations, adults ruled children.  As such children were often treated as mere objects, as playthings or little servants, often used, abused, or controlled by unkind and domineering insensitive adults.  Today it seems the opposite is true: children rule the roost.  Children are to be seen AND heard and adults must cater to their every whim and fancy, and be given priority over anything else adults may be doing.

As an adult looking back to my childhood upbringing, I could say that there were many things that needed corrective adjustment in the way I was treated as a child.  I could argue that I was not fully respected as a person, because I was a child.  I could point out how many adults in a position of power and authority over me were in fact unkind, insensitive, mean spirited, selfish and/or even abusive toward me and/or other children, in the use of their adult position of power and authority.  Such abuse, and/or insensitivity toward children, does call for corrective action.  Thus, for example, children should not blindly obey all adults just because they’re adults.  Yet, neither should children learn to ignore any and all adults who would dare admonish them, just because they are not part of the nuclear family system.  (Indeed, this is not always an easy balance to practice.)

So, I’m not saying that we should go back to the “good ole days” where children are to be seen and not heard.  Indeed, there really is no such thing as the so-called “good ole days.”  For, every generation has its problems, shortcomings and ailments.  Nevertheless, each generation does need to keep aiming for balance and systemic health, especially with respect to intergenerational relationships.

A key word is respect.  For example, adults and children are to be treated with respect in accordance with their age, place, and role.  Adults and children are to be mindful of their respective boundaries, for example.  Each is to respect the other’s personal dignity.  Adults should not talk down to, shame or belittle a child.  Children are to honor and esteem adults and accept the fact that, generally speaking, adults are more knowledgeable and experienced in life, and are therefore wiser and should thus be heeded and/or listened to.

However, adults must learn to listen to children as much as children are expected to listen to adults.  Children also have thoughts, feelings, ideas and perspectives, including personal interests and curiosities.  Adults must learn to respect this in children.  That is, children are little persons too (not just cute little play things for adults to bemuse themselves with), and so they too want and need trustworthy guidance, support, and influence for their growing personalities.

Adults must also learn to “play by the rules,” and follow the same guidelines and principles that they presume to be teaching their children: This authoritarian idea of saying to a child, “Do as I say and not as I do; or else!” just doesn’t cut it these days.  Such authoritarian posturing is an offense to a child, and always has been.  Likewise, adults must not unfairly manipulate or unjustly control children either.  Rather, adults are to empower and encourage a child’s individual growth toward accepting personal responsibility and receiving the personal empowerment that comes with it.

To empower a child one must not only respect a child’s personhood but do so by being honest and true to the child at all times.  No deceiving or telling little white lies to cover up hard truths.  Recently my granddaughter, a week before turning the ripe old age of three, noticed by the tone in my voice that I was irritated.  So, she asked me directly, “Pop-Pop, are you mad?”  Her direct and straightforward question to me caused me to pause and reflect a bit—as to how I was emotionally handling myself (I wasn’t being calm, cool, and collected as I probably should have been).  “Yes,” I said.  I was honest and answered her question simply and directly.  That was the healthy honest and most empowering thing for me to do for her at that moment; for, given the context and situation, she instinctively knew that my irritation was more about me than it was about her.  I simply had to own it.  My honest answer validated her sensitivity and observational skills.

Likewise, children must learn to accept the reality of social hierarchy.  The elderly are to be deferred to and, in general, adults are to be given a type of respect that children will earn as they mature.  So, for example, parents get to sit at the “head of the table.”  Mother may have her favorite seat that all the children are expected to give up when she walks into the room.  Or, the eldest child may get to stay up and stay out later than the younger children do.  The elderly may sit when they wish even though everyone else is expected to stand.  A two year old child may be given leniency while a seven year old will be held to a stricter standard of behavior.  In short, justness or fairness does not mean everyone and all ages are treated exactly the same.

In a final note, we need to realize that we’re in this together.  That is, it takes social and communal cohesiveness to properly instill in our children the kind of wisdom and respect and self-confidence and maturity and responsibility that we want our children to have and to apply in their lives.  All these things are best taught and caught in a social/communal environment that extends beyond the immediate nuclear family.  That is, a whole community has to play its role in raising healthy children.  It begins with one’s nuclear family, and then extends into the church family (or religious community), and then beyond that.  In short, we must not only be concerned for our own children, but for all children.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mitch McConnell: What Principle, Who’s Rule?!

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell halts the Supreme Court selection process.  He claims that it is based on principle (not person): “The Biden rule reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person.  About a principle and not a person.”


And exactly what principle is that?  Is it a constitutional principle?  Is it a legal principle?  Is it an old British rule, governing principle?  Is it a Biblical, moral, ethical, or otherwise religious principle?  NOT!  None of the above!!

It is a political principle that Mitch McConnell has created in order to block, obstruct, and deny the normal constitutional right and obligation that the president of the United States has in nominating someone to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat.  It is a political principle that Mitch McConnell has created solely because he, along with other Republicans, is hoping that a Republican president will fill that vacant seat rather than a Democratic one.  It is as simple as that.

McConnell speaks of a “Biden Rule” as if there is some long standing operative rule, procedure, or law that the Senate is obligated to abide by.  This is nothing more than fancy political rhetoric to make it appear as if he is speaking with legitimate and sound legal constitutional authority.  He is not!

This is politics at its worse!

McConnell is actually stopping the machinery of constitutional government!  By such a move, Mitch McConnell is unilaterally modifying and amending the United States Constitution.  McConnell is the one that is politicizing the selection of a Supreme Court judge, and in a most egregious manner.

Republican or Democrat, all elected officials are elected to do their constitutionally required jobs until their appointed time is over.  They are not to use election years to avoid their responsibility simply because they hope for better election results!

Does Mitch McConnell even realize the damage that he is doing to our system?  Does he even care?  No.  He must not care. He is obviously more concerned about politics and preferred outcomes than he is about the operative integrity of our constitutional government.

Shame on YOU, Mitch McConnell!!

Monday, March 14, 2016

An Unsung American Hero

It would seem that we have few heroes these days.  So I want to offer up an American Hero that I am sure few would think of as having hero qualities.  I offer to you the late Mr. Fred Rogers.  Yes!  The very same Mr. Rogers, creator of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood children’s program.

Americans tend to think of heroes as Rambo types—huge, mean, lean, muscular, no-nonsense, winner-take-all, fighter-types that kill off and completely demolish their enemies.  By the way, given the dynamics of this election year, it is obvious that we carry over that kind of killer-instinct attitude into the political arena.  It sort of defines the American psyche.

So Mr. Rogers is more like an anti-hero.  He is the very opposite of what we think of as hero material.  Yet, that is precisely what makes him all the more a genuine hero.  He had none of that in-your-face, bravado attitude, no killer-instinct.  Mr. Rogers was always kind, soft-spoken, respectful, considerate, and totally affirming of others.   There is no one that he did not applaud and/or appreciate.

If you know of Mr. Rogers, you may or may not have known that Mr. Rogers was also an ordained Presbyterian minister.  Thus, Mr. Rogers studied the Way of Christ.  And so here’s the irony.  Many Christian men and fathers ridiculed the program called Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and/or flat out rejected Mr. Rogers’ style and approach to childhood development and affirmation.  Why is this ironic?  It is ironic because the Spirit of Christ, the Way of Christ, and the teachings of Christ was Mr. Rogers’ guiding light.

To further make my point, let me put it this way.  Using our imagination, for this election year of 2016, if the battle for the Republican ticket was between Fred Rogers and Donald Trump rather than between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, yes, imagining a contest just between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rogers, I have no doubt that Donald Trump would still have the Evangelical Support.  Yet between the two men, Fred Rogers and Donald Trump, who really is authentically and genuinely the better man in terms of spirit, integrity, attitude, judgment, and character?

This is why Christianity, and the so-called Evangelical Christian conservative voting bloc, has lost and/or is losing credibility with the new generation of voters.  Evangelical Christians no longer seem to take their lead from the Lord they claim to follow.  Where is the Spirit of Christ in the attitude and character of a politician like Donald Trump, given his support by conservative Evangelicals?  Yet, when such an attitude and character is in fact demonstrated, as seen in the person of Mr. Rogers, it is rejected and ridiculed as weak and sissified or worse.

Nevertheless, contrary to Mr. Rogers’ demeanor, Mr. Rogers’ was a rock-solid strong man, firm and true and honorable in his manliness.  Mr. Rogers had true inner strength, integrity of heart and soul, with clarity of mind as to intent and purpose, and demonstrated an unwavering commitment to his values and principles without ever hurting, attacking, or striking down others in maintaining them—very Christ like.

So, yes, Mr. Rogers was a true American hero.  Unsung, mostly unrecognized, even sometimes laughed at and ridiculed for his ways.  Yet few men will ever live up to his stature as a man of integrity, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and love.  Mr. Rogers is an example of one who truly took Christ seriously took Christ at His Word and actually lived his life in the Spirit of Christ.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Politics of Desire and Self-Interest

Ancient Wisdom warns us: “A people are known by how they treat the weakest and poorest among them.”  And, “The strength of a people is not measured by their power and wealth but by the integrity of their spirit and the compassion of their hearts.”

This election year is quite revealing about who we are as a people.  We are angry.  That is a given.  We are fed-up with politics as usual.  That’s a no-brainer.  We also can’t stand “Professional Politicians.”  That’s obvious.  Indeed, we seem to be more politically driven by the things that we can’t stand rather than things we might stand for.  We are more impassioned by that which we hate and distrust and fear and dislike than anything else.

We like the so-called political “outsider,” the non-professional politician.  Why?  Apparently we like the politician that looks and talks and acts like us—one that reflects what we’re feeling, how we’re thinking, what we want.

And what exactly does that look like? 

Like this: rude and crude, fearful and defensive, distrustful and alienating, selfish and self-centered; also proud and arrogant, grasping and protective—looking out for one’s own rights and one’s own privileges, and to hell with everybody else.  Apparently that’s what such a politician looks like, when reflecting who we are as a people.

We want safety and security.  We want to prosper.  We want happiness.

Therefore, we will apparently elect anyone willing to do anything it takes, to give us what we want.  This is the politics of desire and self-interest and it is a recipe for disaster.

When we are more concerned about getting money than we are about how we are getting it; that is, when we are willing to prosper at the expense of others, we are heading for trouble.

When we are more concerned about our safety and security than we are about being compassionate, merciful and just, we are heading for danger.

When we are willing to oppress and dispose of the weak and needy among us, in order to ensure our own prosperity, we are surely heading down a self-destructive path.

And when we are quick to judge, condemn, reject, and cast out those who think, believe, and feel differently than we do, heaven help us.