The “Free Range” Solution

This is the third part of my posts about a “free-range humans” meme. The previous posts are

Today, I’m going to have the audacity to suggest a possible solution.

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Part of the problem is a hyper-focus on self.

As we have moved into a more modern world, we have become more focused on personal comfort and safety. While this is a sign of progress, it is also an Achilles heel. We have the luxury of becoming very self-focused and very irritated when someone trespasses our comfort zone. This has even extended into our parenting to a large degree.

Also, a focus on personal comfort makes it easier to stop thinking about the well-being of others. We isolate ourselves into our own little world, worry about our own problems, and miss opportunities to reach out to others. We let “somebody else” do that. Sometimes, we even expect everyone else to think about us, too.

Ok,  I admit that this is an overly simplified view. Reality is much more complex, but I feel confident enough that it applies enough that I’m going to move forward.

We can be part of the solution if we are willing to work and change.

I don’t believe in changing the government to change our culture. I think we will be more successful if we change our culture first because the government is a reflection of our culture.

So, I’d like to propose a four-part solution to the Free-Range Human problem:

  1. Return to personal integrity. As long as we are looking for ways to “get away” with something, willing to shortchange someone else for our own benefit, or retaliate because we believe that we have been wronged, we will continue to add to an environment that looks to bring in the government with its regulations as the “big guns” to protect themselves.
  2. Respond when you have the ability. In “Response-ability” I shared a video that challenges the viewer to consider that that if you have the ability, you need to respond. Waiting for someone else, whatever our excuse, allows people to fall through the cracks and creates more of the hopelessness and despair that has lead to so much tragedy in recent years.
  3. Stop and think before trying to ask the government to step in. Can the government really make a positive difference? Would this problem be better handled closer to home in a grass-roots initiative? Is it worth having a bigger government with more regulation and more taxes? The government doesn’t always make things all better. It might actually be better to live with some risk!
  4. Encourage others to step up with integrity and compassion. One person can’t stop a flood, and sometimes, all of our combined powers can’t stop the flood, either. But, together we can limit the damage and rebuild.

Have you been following this short series? What are your thoughts about being free-range humans on a tax farm? What ideas do you have for solving the tough problems that are facing our society today?

 

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Free-Range Paranoia

Last week, I posted part of my reaction to a meme which calls Americans “Free-range humans” on a tax farm. In that post, I suggested that part of the problem is that we have to decide how much government we want.

We live on a spectrum of personal responsibility and government involvement. The less responsibility we wish to take, the more government oversight we need. Of course, more government means more taxes. Personally, I question taking this path to “safety” because our politicians and government employees are part of the same culture that we fear and from which we are seeking protection.

paranoia

Paranoia

(Or at Least Fear and Distrust)

Let’s take a look at things that have been going on in the news over the past six months:

  • government officials, bosses, and even some of our favorite entertainers being accused (and even convicted) of sexual misconduct and abuse, especially when it comes to treating women like objects and inferior humans,
  • the opioid epidemic, with related drug violence, crime, and deaths,
  • continuing conflict between religious adherents and those who support expanding the rights of same-gender couples
  • mass killings, with continuing rhetoric over gun rights,
  • hate crimes and stereotyping people based on race and other innate, genetic characteristics
  • etc., etc., etc.

Each of these problems is big, complex, and scary. Even so, they are problems, and they are begging for solutions. Without solutions, there is a possibility that the safety and security of our society will continue to unravel and disappear.

When the brain goes into crisis mode, one of the first human instincts is to find someone or something bigger or scarier than the problem we are facing. We want to fight off the bully with the bigger bully.

So, we have created a political climate in which we expect our government to find and execute the answers, forgetting that these men and women are just as human as we are. There is no exceptional collection of intelligence residing in our nation’s capitol. There aren’t any superheroes on the other end of a secret presidential telephone line. It’s possible that our government is at just as much of a loss over what to do as we are.

But, having been asked to step in and “do something about it,” we get more regulations to try to keep the bad guys from being bad, the mentally unstable from doing crazy things, and so on. We also get higher taxes to fund the extra employees needed to enforce these regulations.

Reality

(Or at Least One Perspective)

When humans live in fear, we forget that each one of us naturally has quite a bit of innate power. We can make a difference for good if we really want to. Of course, that means we have to put in our own effort and stop blaming others for the failings of the world around us.

  • We have to educate ourselves well before we jump to conclusions about issues. Highlights from the 10 o’clock news aren’t enough.
  • We need to be willing to see slow progress, perhaps even just one person at a time.
  • We have to be able to collaborate with other good people, discuss differences in opinion reasonably and appropriately, and work together to create more powerful solutions.
  • We have to (at least figuratively) get our hands dirty and get to know the people around us.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, we have to hold ourselves to the standards we want others to live by. No one wants to hear the talk of someone who isn’t walking the walk.

 

Share your thoughts: what do you think has caused our government to become so big? Would a smaller government be better, or is a bigger and more involved government better? Should we look to the government for social solutions? What responsibility should each person feel? Comment below.

Free-Range Humans?

I’m drawn to memes. I like to look at them, see the perspective the creator intended, and then try to follow that logic as far as I can. That’s what I did with this one:

free range humans

For a people who rally to the phrase “Land of the free and home of the brave,” we really do seem to have a lot of government regulation in our lives.

How did we get here? How much government regulation is necessary? Is it really all about taxes?

Hmm.

Some laws and regulations are necessary. Without accepted laws, homeownership would be impossible, because anything could be taken from us by force, coercion, etc. Driving would be one of the most deadly things we could do — kind of along the lines of sleeping with rattlesnakes. Of course, we also want some oversight on the items we buy. There are already enough questionable substances in the boxes and cans on the shelves now. Without some government oversight, shopping could literally become a gruesome game of “choose your poison.” Imagine how dangerous buildings could be or how little use we would get out of a riding lawnmower.

However, it seems that we may have gotten a little carried away. Sometimes, it’s like we’re collectively a group of toddlers running to the government every time another kid sticks their tongue out at us!

Someone gives us a bad haircut? Make the regulations for graduating from hair school and getting a beautician’s license harder!

Another country’s kids look like their smarter than the kids are in the U.S.? Make some more laws to regulate the schools!

We don’t like the way our neighbor cuts his lawn? Get the city to enact a new ordinance!

The bottom line is this: if we don’t want to do some of the hard work of thinking for ourselves, working for ourselves, and disciplining ourselves, we’re going to have to have a government that tells us to do it or else.

But is it all about taxes? It’s possible, but I doubt it. The more regulation we have, the more government employees we need to make sure those regulations are followed. This means more government paychecks, which are funded by taxes. Sure, we have greedy, undisciplined people who make it into office and either find ways to steal the money outright or divert it to their friends and comrades, but they may be a symptom of our cultural problems rather than the cause.

What do you think? Are we free-range humans on a tax farm? How much government do we really need?

Next week, I’ll take a look at how I think we got here.

Tragic Political Platforms

I hesitate to weigh in on a lot of “current issues” in my blog posts. There are already many voices stating their opinions, and the sound of those opinions is often forceful and even harsh.

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For instance, we just had another mass school shooting. Personally, I’m not sure which part of that sentence is the most horrific: “another,” “mass,” “school,” or “shooting.” American society seems to be crumbling rapidly.

Of course, everyone, from the POTUS to “great-aunt Betty” has voiced their opinion via social media. We are awash in a swirl of people vehemently arguing for more access to weapons and those who want to seriously restrict weapons. Somehow, we justify this behavior as part of grieving with the victims.

I think that’s our first mistake. If we want to grieve with the victims, we need to find healthy ways to support the students and families who have survived this tragedy. Maybe we should flood the school with letters and cards of sympathy and hope. We should listen as survivors become ready to open up and share the pain and trauma they are experiencing.

Instead, we are drowning out their story with our own flood of opinions.

The next thing that bothers me is that no matter what opinion is being offered, it is being offered as the “magic pill” that will solve all problems. Are we really that naive? Human beings aren’t that simple, so how could solving a societal problem be?

A whole school and community has had life turned upside down, inside out, and shredded. Life will go on, but it will never be the same again. How do we help this community heal so that anger doesn’t fester and create more acts of violence? How do we help children overcome the anxiety they must feel as they walk the halls and remember the events of that day? How do we support fellow Americans as they try to make sense of the senseless?

And, there is the shooter. What twists a young man up inside so much that he can cross a line like that and devastate an entire community? What went wrong in his life? How do we identify children who are at risk, and how do we support them and their families? How do we help them heal and make choices that will help alleviate family and personal stress in positive ways? How can we do this throughout our nation?

Should we look at entertainment? Is it possible that the life-imitates-art-imitates life cycle needs to be examined? Is there something to the philosophy that has been held by Suzuki and others that if you surround children (and adults) with beauty and character, you create people of beauty and character?

 

In my mind, there is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution to the hate and the violence that seems to be overtaking American culture.

I do, however, think that we each have a responsibility to think clearly and calmly about what we can do in our own sphere of influence to create safety and acceptance for anyone who is struggling.

It’s your turn: what have I missed in trying to create a better America? Comment below.

What’s Fair in History Class?

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St. Jude - Edited

The news article I’m mostly referring to today came to me via a friend on Facebook, but it was published on the PBS Newshour website. I was a little disappointed that PBS would support an article that was missing a huge necessary element of teaching and learning history.

On the surface, this appears to be a well-written, thoughtful opinion about how history has been taught incorrectly and our heroes aren’t heroes at all. The article even postulates that American history teachers have been lying to their students. Columbus and his successors kidnapped, murdered, enslaved, and even endorsed the rape of indigenous people in the Americas. In fact, the article even creates a connection with Dr. Martin Luther King — both Columbus and Dr. King have “personal” holidays, but Dr. King is presented as having higher moral character.

Ignoring allegations that have been levied throughout the years that Dr. King had his own moral failings, I still don’t think that teaching students about historical monstrosities through the lens of modern moral superiority does anyone any justice, either.

History has to be taught in context. 600 years ago, modern American and European men would probably be considered weak and effeminate. Serving one’s sovereign without question was a sign of good character. The rules of war and conquest were different back then. The list could go on and on.

I am not suggesting that we continue teaching fallacies: I, in fact, have occasionally referred to Pilgrim’s first harvest festival as the “original American redneck party” because it turns out that there were a bunch of (presumably) drunk men shooting guns for sport. It’s a conclusion I came to after reading a historical artifact at Plimoth.org.

I am simply advocating that we teach history in context, understanding that cultural norms and expectations have changed. We don’t have to agree, we don’t have to condone, but we do have to accept these differences and teach them appropriately. In my opinion, teaching history in any other way is irresponsible.

 

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is past, what are your thoughts on the history and the controversy of the holiday?

Why Thanksgiving?

St. Jude - EditedHappy-Thanksgiving-Wishes

In about five days, the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. In recent years, we seem to collectively become awkward with this holiday:

  • Five-ish years ago, retail stores began pushing Christmas sales right after Halloween to raise profits. This year, it appears that an increasing number of people have followed the trend and put up their Christmas decorations as soon as they removed the ones from Halloween.
  • Most of us now have to admit that our forefathers’ attitude of superiority and conquest causes us some measure of discomfort. While the Pilgrims opened a new era for Anglo-Saxons and America has been a great place to live and a game-changer for the world, this same series of events precipitated the decimation of thousands of unique cultures through the spread of disease, war, and brute force. From our cultural perspective, it looks like an overgrown case of “finders-keepers, and it doesn’t sit well in our psyches.
  • America’s current rhetorical about immigrants — legal and illegal — can be offensive to those in our country who are not of Anglo-Saxon descent. There is little in the holiday for people of other cultural heritages to connect to.
  • The traditional stories are actually wrong. The Peanuts movie is great for touchy-feelies, but it perpetuates myths about what really happened and why. These same myths have been perpetuated in schools throughout the nation for decades. (After doing a little historical research, I have sometimes found myself referring to the harvest festival as the first drunken redneck party in America.)

 

Since the Thanksgiving holiday is so politically charged and drags so much baggage with it, why bother to celebrate?

Here are my reasons to celebrate Thanksgiving:

  1. No matter how dysfunctional we may think our family is, they are our family. We have blood and common life experiences that tie us together. Even the most reclusive human is wired for some connectedness. Without a sense of connection, mental health suffers. We need each other, no matter how much we manage to irritate each other.
  2. Traditions connect us to our collective past and are passed down to future generations. Traditions create a sense of security and help us define where we fit. Traditions ground us and stabilize us.
  3. If we decide to leave all of the negativity and baggage surrounding the holiday alone for one day, setting at least one day a year aside to be grateful for all of the good that surrounds us is a beautiful thing. We pick and choose our focus, and our focus determines what occupies our mental and emotional energy. We can actually reduce the draining effect of negativity in our lives through practicing gratitude and appreciation. (Sure, the bad things are still there, but they don’t look nearly as bad.)

Do you have a Thanksgiving tradition or gratitude routine or habit that is special to you? Share in the comments!

Boy Scout Girls

379001Before I begin my post today, I would like to make it clear that I am aware that girls have been boy scouts for a while — generally at the venture level. So, in making the decision to open boy scouts to more generally include girls, it does fit (at least to a degree) with past practices.

I have seen several social media posts praising the decision and focusing on what a wonderful step forward this is for girls.

But what about the boys?

Yes, our history is largely composed of the exploits of white Anglo-Saxon men. Yes, women and people of other ethnic backgrounds have needed to struggle and fight to find equal footing, and there are indicators that we haven’t gotten there yet.

I am just concerned that we are trying to gain equal footing by tearing down what others have built. That logically appears to be a recipe to destroy everything. Building is what creates progress.

In cases where those social structures are deliberately freezing out others, I agree that working within the confines of the law to tear these cultural traditions down is probably the only way to fix things.

I’m just not convinced that most organizations are intentionally freezing anyone out.

Genetics

If I’m pulling the numbers out of my brain correctly, every human being on the planet shares over 99% of identical DNA. With less than 1% differing, look at all of the beautiful human variety that we have! Boys and girls differ by one entire chromosome, and yet we somehow convince ourselves that the only thing that this particular chromosome does is change a couple of body parts.

As a mother of two girls and one boy and a former teacher of 16 years, I beg to differ. From toddlerhood on, I have seen significant differences in the mental workings of boys and girls. My daughters took stuffed animals to bed at night. My son, no matter how hard I tried to convince him to choose a stuffed animal, slept with his toy cars and trucks. No matter how hard I tried to teach differently, boys are more likely to react physically to events in their world and girls are more likely to talk about it.

My experiences lead me to believe that boys and girls view, process, and react to the world differently.

Safe Spaces

Which takes me back to my concern about “equalizing through destruction.” Tearing down barriers and breaking down walls feels like a noble fight.

Apples and oranges are both equally fruit. No matter how hard we try, we can’t make an apple an orange or an orange an apple. We have to appreciate both for what they are and integrate them into our diet appropriately.

Separate is not necessarily equal, but boys and girls have different needs. Perhaps it is better to let an organization that has a track record of teaching boys to be good men alone and instead support and expand an organization designed to teach girls to be strong women. Maybe it is time to embrace our differences and wonderfully and wildly complementary and thoughtfully create safe spaces for boys and girls to become who they are in all of their variety and beauty.

What do you think about the latest decision of the Boy Scouts? Leave thoughtful insights in the comments.