Sunday, March 5, 2017

We are American

So, yesterday, an American boy told my oldest son "sometimes I forget you are an American because our beliefs are so different." My son replied, "that is the point of America, we each have the freedom to our own beliefs." Among many other things, the boy insists that supporting our President is our duty as an American, which to him means we are not to question anything our President says or does (of course, somehow the same was not applicable to President Obama). I think the following quote from President Theodore Roosevelt sums it up quite well.

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else. -- President Theodore Roosevelt. The Kansas City Star, 18 May 1918

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Education

When my husband served for a year in Iraq, we used his extra pay to send our kids to private school because our local schools back home were overcrowded and underfunded. When looking at school vouchers and private charter schools from a purely self-interested point-of-view, it is easy to like the idea of having help sending our children to the private school of our choice in such a situation. But, when you scratch beneath the service, it leads to some very concerning issues and questions.

The reason Obama required all people to buy health insurance was to ensure the pool of insured was large enough to even out costs. If healthy people avoided buying insurance until they were diagnosed with a major health problem, insurance companies would be left covering largely only the most expensive to cover. Now, let us think about this issue in terms of our schools.

Under school choice programs, the money follows the child. The money can follow the child to a private school.

Who sets private school admission policies? Would such schools be required to admit students with disabilities? If not, what happens to such students? If those with IEPs are not able to gain admission to one of these publicly funded private schools, our public schools are going to be left providing for those students. Just like the insurance pool, our schools will be left with much less money to support those with greater needs.

There are many other questions to consider as well. Who sets the standards for education for each of these schools? Would private religious schools, accepting state and federal money, guarantee that the education provided meets the standards for separation of church and state? Who sets the tuition rates? Would such schools be required to admit students who cannot pay beyond state and federal funds provided? Who determines where such schools are located? Would such schools be equally distributed across communities? Would rural communities have such options? Would lower income communities have such options? Or would we end-up finding such schools targeting higher income areas? How does this help our society improve? The best thing we can do to make America great is to provide quality education for ALL of our children! I fear school choice works against that goal.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Faith

I know I am talking about religion a lot lately. It is because I am being confronted by just how pervasive evangelical Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is around me. I have never been in a community before where such beliefs were so insidious. It is the cause of much cognitive dissonance for me as I interact and befriend those who seem like good, nice people and then find I'm being sent Christian scripture (Romans), which leaves me explaining that we don't believe in Jesus and never will. We do not believe in the concept of needing to be saved and never will.

I've always believed that being friends with those who have differing views, religions, cultures was a wonderful experience to truly understand each other. And, it always has been. So, I am sussing out my beliefs in a more concentrated way to help me figure out why I find myself uneasy with all of this. Here is where I am at so far.

My Jewish identity is very important to me. Not because of some fear of G-d, but because for millennium my people have been persecuted, killed, or assimilated into near extinction. And, even years after the holocaust, there are fewer Jewish people today (2014, 14.2 million worldwide) than existed in the 1939 (16.6 million worldwide). I want to continue to build my people up. These feelings have grown stronger through the years, really taking shape upon the birth of our first child. I want for our children to have a Jewish identity and pass that on to their children.

All that being said, I do not believe that whatever higher power exists would be in the form of a corporeal being of some sort. I do not believe the bible is the inerrant word of G-d. In fact, I was taught that the reason we use a hyphen when spelling out G-d is that humans are not possibly capable of capturing the essence of G-d in a word. So, if we cannot capture the essence of G-d in a word, how arrogant must we be to believe that humans could possibly capture this higher power's message, meaning and full intent in the form of a group of words (a bible). Even if assuming various bibles were based on historical events thousands of years ago, these stories have been passed down from one generation to the next, from one language to the next, with human interpretation and agendas at each step of the process.

Whether the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Shruti, or some other text, each bible has a place in its community as a guide for family, community, and individuals. Still, these guideposts were a product of their times, based on the customs and ideals of the community and political/religious leaders at the time each portion was told, written, translated, and/or re-translated. Far too often, this has resulted in biblical text being used as a weapon against those who believe differently. In my opinion, that is not a valid or appropriate purpose for any biblical text. Bibles should be a guide toward our humanity, not away from it.

So, I find myself asking, "if you don't believe the bible is the inerrant word of G-d, why work on keeping more and more kosher with each passing year? Why work on following the mitzvah more with each passing year?" I think it is because, more than anything, it is about keeping and growing in my Jewish identity and passing that identity on to our children. It is about celebrating, honoring and educating our children on our customs, stories and traditions and helping rebuild our community. But, it is never about using our customs, stories and traditions as a weapon against those who believe differently.

So, where does this leave me in my current situation? I don't really know. I'm still trying to work that out!

Friday, November 11, 2016

I cannot hide from it any longer

I grew up in a very liberal Democrat family. My parents were raised in middle class (mom) and upper middle class (dad) suburban homes. They were both spoiled by their parents. As a married couple, they were a disaster, always taking risks that they could not afford to take. Often we were on food stamps, and ended up evicted more times than I can count. I blamed the safety nets and the bail-outs (government and family) for enabling such behavior. I blamed the Democrats.

When I was a teen, my mom put my name on a mall Christmas tree for poor kids. She suggested the game Clue and a sweater for gift ideas. I had been teased at school for my off-brand and/or ill fitting hand-me down clothes or wearing sweats, worn because it is all I had available to me. A mom and her two teen daughters pulled up to our little dingy apartment. Driving in their Volvo, wearing their name brand clothes, they knocked on our door bearing gifts. They gave me the game "Who Dunnit," a knock-off of Clue, and a sweater from Woolworths. I know I should have been grateful. I tried to be polite, but I was seething inside feeling as if I was a stop on a poverty tour to both pat themselves on the back for "helping" and for the girls to learn a lesson about how lucky they had it. I saw that as the way of the Democrats.

I refused to be a Democrat and instead became a Republican, of the Rockefeller variety, always socially liberal, environmentally concerned, etc. Living overseas in the developing world softened my bitterness in many ways. As the Republican party moved further and further away from anything I could recognize as good for our country, I became an Independent.

I don't want a vision of America based on fear, hypocrisy and inequality. I have a hard time understanding how anyone can say a candidate using bankruptcy laws to his advantage is a talented businessman and yet, at the same time, complain about the poor taking advantage of "the system." Equality of opportunity regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status has to be the prime objective now. Knowing that objective makes this all very clear about who I can and cannot support.

This is not to say I will not listen or be friends with those who share different opinions. I will not patronize those different from me, nor pretend that these are easy topics where finding common ground is easy. But, I know the direction that I feel is right for me, my family, our community, our country and the world at large. I will live authentically, not hiding from our differences, but working to bring us together to move forward in a positive direction.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Are we the fringe?

We have friends, wonderful beautiful friends, on both sides of the aisle. I have never and never will allow political differences to determine my friendships. If we divide ourselves based on such things how do we ever hope to come together to find common ground and find solutions. I believe that, more often than not, we want a similar ultimate outcome, a better and brighter future and healthier world for our children and generations beyond. However, I will admit to you that right now I am filled with fear. I have never seen today's America as a white Christian nation that simply tolerates differences. But, rather, a nation based on equal footing for each of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. I thought this, at least, was a common ground statement among the majority, except for the fringes.

We look upon our family as a shining example of America. Our children are 100% American, 100% Jewish, with Japanese, Swedish, and Hebrew ancestry; truly the melting pot of America. We thought our family a shining example of the American melting pot, both honoring our ancestry and still being fully part of the American fabric. I am scared to think that such a belief is actually the fringe belief.

And, whether or not Trump truly believes his words, was misquoted, misspoke or anything in between is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that the Alt-right has been emboldened to believe they are the majority, not the fringe. And, that is what scares me most of all.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A new year ahead, an update and a look forward

The year ahead promises many changes. Some much sooner than others.

My old (pre Foreign Service) firm recently offered me some work, as a contractor on an ongoing basis. I would work from home, so the job can move with me.  And, I can work as many or as few hours as I want per week. I will be sent a list of things needing to be done and will let them know what I can do each week. This will allow me to work around my and my family's schedule. The only thing is we have not yet discussed pay. I'm a bit worried of being low-balled. I need to figure out how much is too little. I think I will look at what my salary would be working as an EFM at the Embassy and then use that as the lowest rate I will accept. I don't know though, again working from home on my own schedule is worth a lot. And, the other issue is that this work has nothing to do with my MBA, it is going back to government relations research. I have to figure out a way to meld these two worlds together, otherwise I'm afraid I'm going to have wasted all this time and money on getting a degree I will not use. But, there are certainly worse problems to have. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity. Hopefully, they will offer me more than I could make working at McDonald's in Seattle. ;)

In February, I will start my capstone for my MBA. If I understand correctly, I will be creating a business plan as my capstone project. I don't know any more than that right now though. After that class, I am done and will have my MBA with a concentration in finance. Woohoo! Now to find a way to use it!

This summer, T will have his Bar Mitzvah a week before we move, so he is preparing for that as we speak.  He is involved in TKD and Math/Engineering club, both of which he loves. He is such a techie. With Code Academy, he already learned CSS, HTML, Java, and JQuery. I am so impressed. My little, almost, teenager is about an inch shorter than me at this point, soon he will tower over me, thank goodness. Still, a little bittersweet too.

K is doing Hebrew school, TKD with his brother and decided to join swim team too. I worry it is all too much, but he loves both TKD and swim and couldn't decide between the two. He is a fantastic little swimmer. He's not the fastest or the strongest, but he has such focus! I am so proud of him.

I've been absolutely horrible with going to the gym and have gained way too much weight. S and I go for 30 minute walks almost every day, but clearly it is not enough! I need to dedicate myself to some gym time each day. I have the membership, just not using it. No resolutions, but just going to try a bit better to get there. I want to fit into one of my Marine Ball dresses come next November, so at least there is something to motivate me. That and I just need to get a handle on this weight gain, grrr!

And, yes, this summer we are moving to the Persian Gulf. S will continue on with similar work as he is doing this tour. He does enjoy the topics immensely and it has been a good tour for our family as well. We hope that job/work hour conditions will be similar at our new post, but it sounds like there will be more travel involved, so must admit I am not looking forward to that so much. Still, overall, we are very excited about the new posting, minus some worries about the dog.

Oh, in one other bit of news, I won $45 playing fantasy football. I know NOTHING about football. After draft pick, the Yahoo site said I threw the draft. And, yet, I ended up the winner of the regular season, with a regular season record of 12 wins and 2 loses, then lost in the finals. :( Still, I cannot believe I even made it to the finals. Weird. But, I certainly won't turn down the winnings. :)

We hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and many blessings ahead in the new year!



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Selfishness or love or both

Our beautiful old girl is at least 15 years old. We believe she is part Belgian malinois (shepherd) and part Portuguese podengo. We found her on the streets of Portugal in 2001 during our second tour with the State Department. Since that day, she has followed me around like a little kid follows her mommy. And, when I had my oldest child (who is now in jr. high), she followed him around like a protective mamma. We went through a few years of separation anxiety with her, but she has calmed on this in her older years. I think after years and years of seeing we will not abandon her, she trusts in us, she believes in us and she believes in our family. She knows that she is a part of us, a part our family.

This girl traveled with us and/or moved with us from Portugal, to DC, to Senegal, to Oregon, to DC, to East Timor, to Oregon, to DC, to Bulgaria, to Oregon and to Florida. We were fully expecting to take her with us to the Middle East, for what will likely be our last State Department tour.

I took her to the vet to get her prepared, starting the long process with a rabies titer test, which by the way is astronomically expensive, not because of the actual test, but because of the guaranteed overnight shipping! The vet then tells me that flying a dog her age is likely a death sentence. I was shocked. I know I shouldn't be surprised, yet I was. I sought opinions of other foreign service spouses with old dogs.

A few said they took the dog with them and the flight was difficult, but their dog made it. Some FS spouses mentioned leaving their dog behind with family. None of our family can take her. Even if we found someone who could take her, I could never leave her behind with someone she doesn't already know and love. We cannot bear the thought of giving her away. I just cannot help but think that losing us would be more painful to her, in the long-term, than any plane ride. Though perhaps the truth is that leaving her behind would be more painful to us. Perhaps it is selfishness, perhaps it is love, perhaps it is a little of both. Putting her down is not an option I want to consider, not unless it is because of a health issue that is causing her quality of life to truly suffer.

We keep the preparations going to take her, leaving all options open. She is old and it shows more and more every day. But, it is old dog stuff. I really don't know that she will live until this summer, but then again she could live another year+. The vet told us that it is amazing she is as old as she is, because most shepherds don't live that long.  She stays with us and we stay with her. We made her that promise, I know she doesn't understand our words, but I do think she understands our hearts.

Yes, the plane ride will be difficult. We will have an overnight at one of the best airport pet facilities in the world, and that will give her a nice break. But, there are no guarantees. I know. We are keeping all options open. Admittedly, the one I want most is to take her with us. And, I do believe that would be her preference too. Maybe, though, that is just me projecting?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dolphins?

We live one block from a large beautiful bay. In our neighborhood, there is a tiny beach on the bay. We often walk to the beach to watch the sunset and sailboats; it is just so beautiful. Sometimes, we even see dolphins!

About a month ago, we bought some highly rated inflatable kayaks. We are here only one more year and decided spending the money on two pvc two-person kayaks was too expensive, but renting each weekend was also getting expensive. I calculated that if our inflatable kayaks last six times they will more than pay for themselves. More than that is simply cake.

We take our kayaks to our little beach one day each weekend. Last weekend was no different. We got all set-up and as we were putting our boats in the water, we saw two dolphins, or at least we assumed they were dolphins. They swam far ahead pretty quicky, never jumping out of the water. They appeared to work together to corral the fish, each coming in at a 45 degree angle from each other. This was followed by a big commotion in the water, then by a huge flock of birds settling on that area of water. We turned off before reaching that area. 

As we talked more and more, we thought the fins were not actually bent like dolphin fins, though maybe they were? We never saw the animals jump out of the water. And, they actually swam rather straight and fast. Apparently, sometimes smaller bull sharks make their way into our bay. Now, we are wondering???



Wednesday, August 12, 2015

We are not a Christian nation.

I recently joined a friend's conversation about whether or not America is a Christian nation. He had one responder with whom I began a bit of a debate. I don't know what possessed me really. I guess when it comes to this issue, I must admit it is one very personal to me having grown-up as a religious minority in our country, having my kids grow-up as religious minorities, and my husband as well has experienced similar issues coming from his mixed background and being raised in Southern Idaho. So, yes, I do feel the desire to speak out on this issue, for better or worse. . .
Responder: It is no longer a Christian Nation religiously. But it was founded on Judeo Christian principals. That is what makes it a Christian nation. Once we adopt Sharia, it will be a gunsmoke nation.


My response: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. . ."‬

‪Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli, Ratified by the United States June 10, 1797. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/bar1796t.asp‬

‬



Responder: Correct, it was not founded on the Christian Religion, it was founded on the Principals of the morals that come from the Christian Religion. Just as ISIS is founded on the morals of the Radical Islamic Religion, and the old USSR was founded on the Morals of the Atheist (Religion, for want of a better term). A civilization is going to be directed by its moral foundation. Ours was Judeo Christian.

My response: You said "Judeo-Christian" principles. So then, why are we not a Jewish nation by your reasoning? Our founders were also guided by principals based on white male supremacy. So, because of that, would you also say we are a white male supremacist nation?


Responder: Methinks you put too much into the society at the times as deliberate. If you asked Abigail Adams if the society was White Male supremacist you might get a different answer. To judge that society with today's cultural expectations does not do justice to the radical freedoms gleaned at the time. The very fact the our founding fathers moved away from Monarchy to a representative form of government was very radical indeed. Granted, only men could vote. But what was astonishing was that any free man could vote, not just landowners. (We can discuss the Slave issue at another time as that will take pages to devote to the cultural deprivations and antagonistic conflicts aroused by that disaster.)

As for the Judeo in Judeo-Christian, both are based on the same fundamental religious tenets. In fact there is no Christianity without the Jewish ancestry of the religion. There were many Jewish communities in the colonies, especially around New York City. Just as there were Catholic and Protestant sects. The radical ideas that the Freedom of Religion propagated, such as tolerance of other religions, was something not seen before in the colonization of English domains. The Anglican Church was required as the King was the head of that organization... 



My response: You completely missed the point. As a Jewish person, the idea of a Christian nation scares the bejeezus (pun intended) out of me. The fact that you can tout Judeo-Christian principles and then morph that into meaning "Christian nation" only serves to solidify this worry. My point about white male supremacists principles is that our country evolved (I know, evolution is probably not your thing), and continues to evolve (we certainly have further we can go). In the end, "Christian nation" only serves as a tool to disenfranchise non-Christians of our country and that is completely counter to American principles. By the way, thanks for "tolerating" me. Silly me, expecting that religious freedom actually meant more than tolerance. I've said my piece. Peace out!

Responder: So much for a nice conversation. Have a nice day.‬

Perhaps, I crossed a line with my comment about “evolution is probably not your thing,” but the jab (yes, I admit it was a jab) was based on the worry, idea, thought that often those insisting that we call our nation a Christian nation have an agenda and purpose for doing so, including dictating what our public schools can and cannot teach based on the bible. And, my comment regarding tolerance not being the same as religious freedom is getting at my feeling that those calling for the US to be considered a Christian nation are not getting the fundamental difference between tolerating other religions and actually protecting and ensuring that religions in our country are on equal footing under the law. 
As Mr. StoneRabbit said to me after telling him about my conversation above, "not eradicating another is too low a bar for a free society."

I would be curious to hear my reader’s thoughts.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Not Mutually Exclusive

My outrage over Cecil the Lion's death is not because an animal was hunted in and of itself. I am not a hunter and never will be. But, I can certainly understand the hunting for food as part of an organized season to cull the overpopulation of a species that would otherwise die of starvation and/or disease due to this overpopulation. I may even be able to understand hunting to protect hearth and home, though I do think there are other measures that could be explored. I am willing to have the conversation.

What bothers me about Cecil's death is not that he was some famous or beloved lion. No! It was the way in which he was hunted, dying 40 hours after being hit with an arrow. It was the purpose of the hunt, simply for a trophy. And, it was the way of the hunt, luring an animal out of a protected park.

Some are saying that we are spending too much time focusing on the death of a lion. My outrage at the lion's death does not diminish or replace my outrage at girls being stolen and sold into slavery or for innocents being killed for not following ISIS dogma or for too many children of the world living in poverty with little chance for education or upward mobility. Disgust and outrage over one inhumane act does not negate nor diminish my disgust and outrage over other inhumane acts in this world. These things are not mutually exclusive!