Monday, May 30, 2016

What makes a Great America?

Trump wants to make America great again.  But, what does a “Great America” actually look like?

First, a great America is about the PEOPLE of America.

Thus, a great America consists of a people who…

Are honest and trustworthy: for example, a simple handshake is as good as a contract.  Men and women can be trusted in word and deed; they mean what they say and say what they mean.  They are a true and honorable people.

A great America consists of a people who…

Are able bodied and hardworking: strength and stamina come from good ole fashion hard work not just from a hard workout at the gym?  A great people are neither lazy nor self-indulgent, but are diligent and hardworking.  As a people who earn an honest living, they also lend a helping hand when others are down, lifting each other up along the way.

A great America consists of a people who…

Are respectful and considerate: People of all ages will say “Yes mam or yes sir; no mam or no sir”?  The young are taught to stand up and give their seat to the elderly.  Or, when seeing someone carrying a couple of bags to their car, it is as natural to say, “Here, let me help you with that bag,” as it is to say, “Hello, how are you?”

A great America consists of a people who…

Are frugal and waste nothing: They consider it a good thing to make something last for as long as you can.  But, taking good care of one’s things also means appreciating and taking care of one’s home and environment—NOT as a New Age, left wing, progressive political tree-hugging act, but as a natural extension of valuing Mother Nature’s gifts—arable and tillable land, pure water, clean air, and natural wild life.  Hence, a great people will respect their homeland, along with its environment, preserving its use for future generations.

A great America consists of a people who…

Are friendly and neighborly: They have a sense of community and know what it means to work together to build a better future, to adapt and adjust in order to accommodate and live peaceably, side by side, respecting and appreciating differences and individual uniqueness.

A great people…

Value integrity and character above monetary success: They measure one’s significance by what kind of person one has become, rather than by the size of a person’s pocket book.  They respect business people who make an honest and reasonable profit and actually trade goods and services that help a community thrive rather than exploit and use-up a community’s resources.

A great people…

Respect law and government as a good thing: They respect the electoral process and sustain a just and fair democratic system.  They seek honest and upright citizens to run for office.  They play by the rules and change them through due process, if they find certain rules are not working for them.  They demand a just and fair system at all levels of government.

A great people…

Believe in and support good solid public education for all.  A great people are an educated, intelligent and knowledgeable people as a whole. 

A great people…

Have respect for Faith and various religious traditions.  A great people neither control nor exclude religious values and practices in the public square, but neither does it require religious faith of anyone.

In short, Greatness is in the people.  Is America great?  How should it be great; that is, by what standard do we measure the greatness of America?  Is America’s greatness to be measured only by its wealth and power?  What if greatness is to be measured by the quality of its people?  What kind of people are we?  What have we become in the last decade or century?  Are we satisfied with who we are?  Can we actually say, without self-doubt or second thought, that we are a great people—because of who we are as a people?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Money! Never Enough?

Money can make you or break you—even if you have a good income.

It’s been said that financial problems are the number one cause of marital breakups and family disintegration.

Of course, many working U. S. citizens can’t even earn enough to live-on these days—which is rooted in bad national economic policies—which also then results in family and marital instability.  (When will politicians get this?)  But that is an entirely different topic altogether.

The sad fact is that even when there is a steady livable working income, families may still be heading toward financial disaster.  Why?

For one, our consumer economy teaches us from childhood that we can never have enough of a good thing and should never be satisfied with what we already have.

We are taught to want more and are encouraged to indulge ourselves.  We owe it to ourselves, we’re told.  We deserve it, they say.  And, we should have it NOW, commercials often ending with: “Call right now.  Don’t wait!”  We’re trained to expect, want, and demand immediate gratification and to believe that we can, and should, HAVE-IT-ALL!

Result?  As a society, we lack healthy financial boundaries.  We subconsciously learn to resist proper financial discipline and avoid financial accountability for the sake of total self-gratification.   And we begin to assume that we have the right to posses, exploit, and consume any and all resources, natural or otherwise, to that end.

This attitude affects all economic classes—upper, lower, and middle.  It is also a core reason why the top one-percenters, in our present economic system, justify their position, believing they have a God-given right to amass the great wealth that they have and to control most of the money that flows within the system.  We really all have the same mentality, the same mindset when it comes to money—get rich, if you can, to live how you want, buy what you want, and do as you want.

This attitude affects our politics.  A politician that promises to gives us what we want and promises to deliver it when we want it—which is always RIGHT NOW!—will have our vote.  (Hence, e.g., a Donald Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee for president because he promises to “Make America Great Again” (seemingly overnight), if elected.  And, for most Americans, especially for Donald Trump, “greatness” simply means more money, wealth and riches.)

This attitude affects our relational commitments: “You don’t satisfy me anymore; I want out of the relationship.”  “The kids are too time-consuming and too needy, I’m out of here.”  “This work is too hard and demanding; I quit.”  It affects our personal growth: “I would have done better in that class, but the professor actually expected us to read two books during the semester AND write a weekly journal.  Imagine that!”

It’s an attitude that says, everything should come to me fast and easy, and exactly tailored to my tastes and wants.  It’s an attitude that says that I should NOT have to work very hard for the things I want in life.  It’s an attitude that says, “I deserve the best, whether I earned it or not.”  Or, “I deserve honor and recognition, whether or not I’ve actually accomplished something and/or truly improved my skills and abilities or talents.”  It’s an attitude that says, “It’s all about me.”

So, how can a family stay afloat financially (assuming that there is sufficient income to make a living) within a culture of economic greed, selfishness, and immaturity?

First: keep it real and do the math.

Five minus four equals one.  Five minus seven equals negative two.  Realistically face the difference between your income and your expenses.  Add your income and subtract your expenses to know where you stand.  Many families and individuals fail to do this basic fundamental step (Reality Check avoidance?).  And thus, they run into financial trouble from the get-go.

What this means practically speaking is becoming intentionally aware of one’s income, expenses, cash flow, level of indebtedness, and net worth.  To some this may sound difficult to do, but it’s really not.  Anyone who can pass the fourth grade has the ability to learn how to do this.  What is really required here is the desire to “get real” about one’s financial status.

Second: make the use of money a head thing, not a heart thing.

Money is a very emotional thing.  So, for example, many of us buy things because of the mood we’re in rather than because of a need we have to take care of.  We don’t “need” to make that purchase, we “want” to make the purchase because it will make us feel better—a feeling that will last perhaps as long as a day, usually no longer than it takes to get the item home.

Third: be transparent about money with your close loved one(s).

If you’re hiding money spending habits, there is a problem.  Don’t hide, don’t run, but openly address money spending habits and desires with your loved one(s), spouse and/or family.  It’s not unlike the use of the name Voldemort in the Harry Potter series.  The more you refuse to identify and name it, the more power you give to it—negative destructive power.  Defuse the power the money may have over you by talking openly about it with your loved one(s). 

In short, moving toward monetary financial health may also mean moving toward personal emotional or psychological (even spiritual) health.  Or another way of saying it is this: Though we all need money to “make a living,” money is not the source of happiness.  Something else is.  We need to get in touch with what that “something else” IS.  When we learn to find the true source of inner, personal, and spiritual or psychological wholeness, money management and financial stability will be a synch in comparison.  But the two are often intertwined.  It’s difficult to work on inner development with financial woes hanging over one’s head.  Yet, in order to tackle financial woes properly, one must also be ready to take a serious look at one’s inner life.  It takes growth, maturity, courage, and will.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Win the Lottery? What Now?

I recently saw a news story about a family that won a lottery worth over four hundred million dollars ($400,000,000 plus).  That’s a lot of money!  Of course it is.  And it’s that kind of winning that keeps people buying lottery tickets.  But I can’t help wondering: how will this financial windfall change them?

Will coming into this immense amount of money be good or bad for the family?

You think this a dumb question?  I beg to differ, if you do.  For, my question does NOT assume that the sudden and delightful receiving of lots of money in the short term, will mean lasting joy and happiness in the long term.

Why not?

For one, money is a powerful thing.  And so the question is: will this money have power over them or will they have power over it?  How will they manage this money?  Will they have an investment strategy and a spending plan?  All their lives, they have worked for money.  Do they now know how to make money work for them?

They want to do good things with this money.  That’s great, because everyone needs money.  And there are a lot of needy people out there, many who honestly deserve a helping hand.  But then there are the moochers and freeloaders out there as well, those who want a free helping hand without obligation or responsibility or accountability.  So, the family will have to learn when and how to say no as well as yes to a need.  How will this now wealthy family discern the difference, when the needy come knocking at the door for a helping hand?  That is, how will they properly manage charitable giving toward beneficial causes and needy cases without being hoodwinked and swindled?

Knowing how to properly manage wealth toward long lasting prosperity involves a learning curve.  Families that are born into money learn from childhood how to own, live with, and manage their wealth.  Or, successful entrepreneurial type individuals who demonstrate creative and talented business acuity are sharp enough to learn how to manage their financial success along the way (I think of a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg for example).

So, here we have a working class family that is suddenly catapulted into millionaire status.  If this new money is going to last into the next generation, they have some homework to do.  Before they make any promises or commitments to anyone, they need to speak with some professionals.  They need to meet with financial experts, financial advisors and planners.  They need to meet with a good and trustworthy financial accountant and lawyer.  They need to learn about financial investment strategies and become informed about State and Federal tax and inheritance laws.  And it wouldn’t hurt for them to do some millionaire social networking to meet other millionaires so as to find out how other wealthy people manage their wealth.

More importantly, they need to keep their heads and nurture their hearts so as to continue to be a family of faith, love, honesty, and integrity.

So, what will this money do to them?  Only time will tell.  I pray that it is truly a blessing and not a curse upon them.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Electing Attitude For President

It's not substance that counts, it's attitude!

This is why Trump has become the presumptive Republican nominee for president—people like his attitude.

They don’t care that he contradicts himself left and right.  They don’t care that his promises have no realistic substance to them.  It’s not what he says, it is how and why he says what he says that people like about Trump.  Trump boldly and unapologetically speaks people’s politically incorrect thoughts.  This they like about him.  So, to hell with substance; it’s the thought that counts!

Trump says things like ban all Muslims from entering the United States and build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and make Mexico pay for the cost of building such a wall.  Reality check: Can’t happen and won’t happen—even if Trump were to become president.  But hey!  It doesn’t matter that Trump can’t really do these things—it’s the thought that counts!

This is why people are willing to take a risk on electing Trump as president.  (And yes, it is a huge risk.)  I have no doubt that Trump supporters know that his ideas or so-called plans to “Make America Great Again” lack actual detailed substance in terms of realistic workable steps.  But for them—so what!  They trust his attitude and believe in his spirit.  And that’s good enough for them to give him their vote.

Thus, Trump supporters are voting for attitude not substance.

For example, Trump supporters love Trump’s characterization of what America should be.  Trump is saying that America should be numero uno in the world—unbeatable and unapologetic about anything America does in the global scene.  That is, America must be first among all other nations: First in power; first in prosperity and wealth, first in action and in results, first in resources and influence, first in everything.

Thus, Trump supporters are inspired by Trump’s passionate call to make America great again.  And they are excited by Trump’s apparent willingness to say and do anything—anything at all, no matter how outrages it may sound—in order to make America great again.  Hence, Trump’s attitude alone has won many over to his side, giving Trump the benefit of the doubt (as to unknown substance or details), rallying behind Trump with their whole hearted support.

Okay, Yes!  Trump has attitude and spirit.  But Trump is also a topnotch salesman with a topnotch sales pitch.  And what is Trump selling to the American people?  American Greatness!  But he is selling it for a pretty penny.

For, buying American Greatness on Trump’s terms will cost us.  It will cost us our integrity, our honesty and honor, our mutual respect and trust and belief in equality; it will cost us our sense of just and fair play.  It will cost us our self-respect.  For, these core values will be charged against our national account if we elect a man like Donald Trump for president.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Kid’s Are Arrested for NOT Getting Involved in Criminal Activity?

Did you hear about it?  Elementary school aged children were arrested for NOT intervening in a fight!

Murfreesboro, Tennessee: police officers went to Hobgood Elementary school, arrested, handcuffed, and took into custody a few of its students—apparently for failing to break up a fight that took place at a house nearby.  The charge: “Criminal responsibility for another.”  Say what!?

It is said that some of the children that were arrested were simply “innocent bystanders” that were not even near the fight when it took place.

Later, at a community meeting an Officer, Christopher Williams, apologized.  In short, arresting and taking these children into police custody should never have happened.

At the meeting the chief of police also promised an investigation into the matter (1) to determine whether or not the arrests were legal and (2) if so, whether or not such action was in fact necessary.

It sounds to me as if, if it was legal, we’ve got a problem with our laws.  And, if it was determined to be “necessary,” we’ve got a problem with our processes and procedures in the implementation of our laws.

Arresting children for NOT intervening in a fight that is taking place as “criminal responsibility for another”?  We’re talking about 9, 10, 11, 13 year olds.  Please!!

Murfreesboro police remarked that there are always two sides to a story.  Indeed!  Nevertheless, this kind of arrest stretches the imagination to make any reasonable or justifiable sense of it.  It would indeed be interesting to know how the arresting officers justified their action; however, due to the fact that we are dealing with “juveniles” (children not yet even in their teens), details cannot be disclosed.

Last point: these are black families and black children that are involved.  Again, black lives matter.  Is it any wonder that we have explosive tension between black communities and law-enforcement?  Question: Would this kind of arrest have taken place in a white community?  Answer: I doubt it.

Here is the response by the local community pastor, Pastor James McCarroll of First Baptist Church Murfreesboro (who is also black): “It’s hard to see a child arrested when they do something wrong being a child, but it’s even that much harder, and that much more difficult to stomach, a child being handcuffed that has done nothing wrong.” The spirit with which he said this is praiseworthy: “We are not looking for some radical, uncivil response to this; we, as a community, are looking to come to a peaceful, respectful, and communal response.”  Amen!

Would that people from all sides of all issues (especially when “mistakes” are made by those in authority) would have such a spirit as pastor James McCarroll’s.