Tuesday, December 27, 2011

As Clear As A 2x4 In The Eye

So by now, probably everyone has heard about the big flap caused when Lowe’s removed all its advertising from the Learning Channel show All-American Muslim because of complaints from the Florida Family Association that this show was showing Muslims as normal Americans who just happened to practice a different religion, and not as the terrorist threat that they really are.


And by now, a lot of people may have heard the response from Lowe’s, that they had pulled the ads from future episodes even before the FFA (sorry about that, Future Farmers of America) contacted them, because they try not to advertise in controversial programs.

Well, OK…I can maybe see that.

Some of you have even seen Jon Stewart’s coverage of this whole disaster, and if you haven’t yet, here’s the link for it: John Stewart on Lowe’s

But you know me…I can’t just hear a little about the story. I want to know a little more about the people behind it. So I went to the website of the Florida Family Association, where I found this statement:
The Learning Channel's new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.
And then it hit me in the head like a 2x4…the very kind you can get at Lowe’s.

The FFA and its followers seem to be a group of right-wing, conservative Christians who are as worried about fundamentalist Muslims trying to inflict their rules on the rest of us as many “liberals” are concerned about fundamentalist Christians trying to inflict their rules.

Calling Matthew 7:3.

Now, for those of you who aren’t the “right kind” of Christian, and therefore didn’t immediately know what it was, because you don’t have the entire Bible committed to memory (and shame on you for that), this is one of the times when Jesus asks, “How can you try to take a speck out of your neighbor’s eye when you’ve got a freaking 2x4 in your own?”

A 2x4, which, by the way, came from Lowes.

Think about it. For all practical purposes, the FFA is afraid of Muslims doing what they already want to do themselves, and they want to warn us about the Muslim danger without being aware of the Christian danger.

And I say this as a card-carrying Christian.

They don’t see that their desire to codify their Christian religious beliefs into civil is just as scary as the idea of Muslim religious beliefs being codified into civil law. They’re so focused on “the Muslim issue,” that they don’t notice the 2x4 in their own eyes.

So let’s look at a few simple facts here.

  1. Religious fundamentalism of any kind is scary. And whenever any religion seeks to have its rules codified into civil law, it’s time for the people to be concerned.
  2. Most people of any religion are not fundamentalists, and we have nothing to fear from them. That’s the point of All-American Muslim, and I often think that we need a show like All-American Christian to show the everyday Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and so on, who are perfectly happy to follow their own religious rules without trying to inflict them on others.
  3. We all need to learn a lot more about each other. Christians need to learn about Muslims, and how many different varieties there are. Non-Christians need to learn about the different varieties of Christians. 
  4. We all need to take the time to learn about a little place called Manzanar, which is what happens when people are filled with the kind of fear that the FFA seems to be spreading.
 And as for me and my hardware needs…I’ll be satisfying them at the Home Depot.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Not For You

Just after Thanksgiving, I was sitting around with some friends of mine, and somehow the talk turned to the subject of cell phones.

Someone asked how it was that I, “Mr Tech-Head,” didn’t have a smartphone of some sort, but only had a $10 flip phone on a pay-as-you go plan. I said that I only make about four calls a day on it, if that many; and all of my other PDA functions are taken care of by my iPod Touch. But even more important was the fact that I really hated using the cell phone on a regular basis. I much prefer to use a landline – the sound quality is much better.

Then Kathy said something that I hadn’t thought of. She said that one of the things we’ve lost with everyone having their own personal phone number is the possibility of surprise…the idea that without it having been a wrong number, we might initially get someone other than the person we had called to talk to. She’s right; with just about everyone having their own personal phone number, you’ll almost never get anyone other than the person you called for.

But when Kathy said that we had lost this possibility of surprise, she didn’t say it as if it were a good thing, like we’ve lost the possibility of getting smallpox. No, to her, and I suspect many other people my age, this loss is a real loss; it’s something that we’ll miss, and that we feel that the world has become a poorer place without.

Why? Because as she said as we sat around the kitchen table, when you called up and got someone other than the person you really wanted to speak to, generally got 10 to 30 seconds of a short conversation with the person who answered the phone while you waited for the person you actually wanted to pick up. When you got someone other than the person you called for, you formed a brief relationship with that person by asking about them and finding out what they were doing; and maybe from that brief conversation, you’d find out that you had a common interest…something you could pick up on the next time that person answered the phone.

And at the very least, it forced us to be polite. We knew that we couldn’t just call up and say, “Hi, lemme have Sue,” and wait silently until Sue came to the phone. You had to learn to carry on a conversation with someone that you might not have really been interested in talking to in the first place.

OK…so I can see that certain members of this generation might not think that that was such a big loss, but it is. We’ve forgotten how to talk to people we’re not interested in. We’ve lost the skill of being civil to people we may not normally want to talk to.

But the most important thing is something I mentioned earlier, the loss of the serendipitous discovery that maybe we had something in common with the person who answered the phone, and that perhaps a friendship could develop there too.

As we talked about this, my wife Cheryl (as opposed to my other two wives) mentioned something that we hadn’t thought of. She said that maybe the role that having someone else answer the phone played in creating those serendipitous matches is being played by Facebook now. I thought about that for a moment, and mentioned how a chance comment by one of my FB friends about her gluten-free diet caused another one of my friends, who also has gluten issues, to contact and friend her. When Kathy, a long-time Facebook holdout, heard this, she decided that maybe she’d have to finally join it after all.

But you still won’t get either one of us to give up our landlines.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

But Is He Really Theirs?

This past weekend, my nine-year-old daughter had a babysitting gig for some friends of ours. Actually, it was more of a mother’s helper gig. It’s sort of funny, because this friend used to babysit her older sister. My, how time flies.

When she came home, she had a lot to say about the experience, since it was her first time actually being in charge of kids. And then she said, “They said that the adoption becomes final on Friday. What does that mean?”

So I took a moment to explain to her what adoption was, even though I was pretty sure she should be familiar with the concept since one of her friends from school is adopted from China, and everyone knows that.

After I explained, she said, “So he didn’t grow inside of her?”

“Well, no,” I said, “he didn’t.”

“So he’s not really theirs then?”

I froze. I knew what she meant, but I knew that this question, this statement, and the potential answer, is a big issue to adoptees and adoptive parents across the United States. It may even be an issue around the world, but I’m not familiar with their cultures. How was I going to handle this one?

I said, “Well he’s not theirs yet, but he will be on Friday, after the ceremony.

“But he still won’t really be theirs,” she said.

I tried again, “After Friday, he’ll be as much theirs as you are ours, except that he will have come from other parents.”

At that point, her brain exploded…followed quickly by her face, as she ran off in tears, saying, “Stop confusing me!”

I saw this coming the minute I had to answer the question, and that’s why I froze when she asked it. To the mind of a kid who knows where babies come from, and is trying to make sense of the world around her, saying that our friends’ baby was really theirs when he actually wasn’t theirs biologically was tantamount to dividing by zero, and in trying to deal with the emotional issues held by so many adults in the adoption community, I fried all of her little kid circuits. I was telling her something was that clearly wasn’t. I knew what she meant, but she wasn’t able or ready to understand what I meant. Nor did she understand the emotional weight of the simple question she asked.

And maybe that’s OK.

You see, for kids it’s OK to “not really be theirs” and still be part of the family. They don’t have a problem with that at all. Their terminology is not about exclusion, but of making sense of what to them is a very simple, and often binary, world. To them the baby is yours if it came out of one of you. If it didn’t, then it’s not. No value judgment there, just simple, biological, fact. To them there’s no problem with being “someone else’s baby” and a member of this family. To them, being someone else’s baby doesn’t mean being loved any less. It simply means that this one came from somewhere else. And when they ask about the baby’s “real parents,” they’re not making any kind of statement about the adoptive parents, they’re simply being curious kids, working in that simple binary world. So responding to a logical kid question with an emotional adult answer doesn’t do anyone any good. It sends them screaming from the room, circuits fried.

And it makes a bigger deal out of it than it should’ve been in the first place.

So is he “really” theirs? Well, no, not biologically. But on Friday he’ll be officially theirs.

And that will make a lot of people happy.

Even the kid whose brain exploded.